Wolf – The Call of the Wild by Judith Shaw

judith shaw photoHowling wolves on a winter’s night sets the human heart aflame with fear – their legends are terrifying. Yet there is another side to Wolf. Deeply relational by nature, wolves are highly intelligent animals, excellent hunters and devoted to family. Human connection to wolves dates back to at least 20,000 BC in Southern Europe, where cave paintings of wolves have been found.

Wolf, once the most widespread predator in the world, has been unfairly viewed negatively in modern times and hunted almost to extinction. Yet our ancestors saw wolf through a multi-faceted lens. Some associated Wolf with destruction, war and death; others saw Wolf as helper, guide and teacher; and some assigned Wolf the role of mother and creator.

Wolf -the-Call-of-the-Wild

Native Americans and the Celts associated Wolf with the winter full moons of January and February, inspired by the hungry wolf packs heard howling in the cold nights. 

Loyalty, Communication
A wolf pack is a complex social unit of many family members all within a set hierarchy.


Photo: Eric Kilby – Creative Commons

Usually only one pair of wolves in the pack breeds – the alphas. They, and in particular the female alpha – the mother of the pack, hold the pack together. Next in the hierarchy comes the betas, followed by mid-ranking wolves. Omegas, at the bottom in rank, play the role of trickster.

These structures can change. If a beta loses a challenge to rule it will probably leave, becoming a lone wolf. Adolescents sometimes leave, becoming dispersers – a role critical to genetic diversity. But no wolf wants to be alone. It will search for a mate to start their own pack. Like humans, Wolf forms lifelong bonds and works best in community.


Photo: Steve Jurvetson/Creative Commons

Wolf is extremely loyal. They interact constantly with movement, touch, eye contact and vocalization, greeting one another with enthusiasm after a separation. They howl to communicate and to set territorial borders. Wolf mates for life and rarely remates after the death of its partner. The whole pack grieves the loss of a pack mate..

Instinct, Intuition, Freedom, Intelligence
Wolf is magnificent and wild – roaming freely – untamable. Using instinct combined with intelligence and fortitude they are successful hunters.

Many Native Americans viewed Wolf as intelligent teacher and spiritual pathfinder. They saw themselves reflected in Wolf –  proud hunters and loyal friends.

When Wolf appears you are asked to tune in to your intuition; to look more closely at the situation as to whether or not it is trustworthy. Or you can change course, becoming a “lone wolf” – seeking your own freedom.

Teacher, Guide, Helper
To the Celts, wolf guides us through the mysteries of nature and our life path. Wolf was Cerunnos-Gundestrup-cauldroncompanion to Cernunnos, Celtic Horned God and to Merlin from the Arthurian legend.

The Wulver is a mythic creature from Shetland Island. With the body of a man and the head of a wolf he was often sighted fishing from the shore. The catch was left as a gift for the locals.

Wolf calls you to use your intelligence and your instincts when confronting difficulties, and to either seek help from one more knowledgable or to step into the role of teacher yourself.

Mother, Creator
According to legend, Cormac Mac Airt, mythical high king of Ireland, was raised by wolves and accompanied by four wolves.

Brothers Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome, were supposedly suckled and raised by Wolf.

Similarly the Turks believe the wolf Asena rescued and restored to health an injured boy. She then bore him ten half-wolf, half-human children, the eldest becoming Bumin Khayan, the leader of the Turkic tribes.

Anishinabe myth portrays wolf as brother of their benevolent culture hero, Nanabozho. The Shoshone, Bannok and Northern Paiute tribes depict Esa, their creator god and hero, as Wolf.

The Chechens saw Wolf either as Wolf Mother or equated Wolf with themselves and their nation –   intelligent with a clan social structure, loyal and brave.

In Japanese wolf means “great god.”

Wolf reminds you of the divinity that resides within each of us.

Protector, Hunter, Warrior
Though a wolf can kill its prey unaided, as a cooperating pack they hunt much larger animals successfully. What wolves lack in speed they make up for with endurance. With a keen sense of hearing and smell they detect prey – then follow all day and night if needed.

Native American tribes viewed Wolf as a model of courage, strength, loyalty and a successful hunter.

zuni-wolf-fetishSome Pueblo tribes of New Mexico see Wolf as the guardian of the east –  the Zuni, carve stone wolf fetishes for protection.

The Japanese believed Wolf would protect against disease, fire and other disasters.

The Vikings, fierce warriors feared on many coasts, wore wolf skins and drank Wolf’s blood, taking on Wolf’s spirit in battle. Their god, Odin was accompanied by the wolves Geri and Freki, who together with his two ravens helped with the hunt.

Wolf offers protection, reminding you that you can provide for yourself and fight your own battles by nurturing loyal companions for optimal success.

Death, Destruction and Rebirth
Due to its superior hunting abilities and perhaps the fear its howls induced, Wolf was seen as a portent of destruction, war and death.

The Celts viewed wolf in this light but did not equate death and destruction with evil. The Celts honored the dark and saw death in a positive light – as simply another point on the The Morrigan, Celtic War and Fertility Goddess, painting by Judith Shawturning wheel of life. Wolf, who helped maintain the natural balance by delivering death to weak or sick herd animals was honored as a companion to the goddesses and gods.

Wolf ruled over the winter period, from Samhain to Imbolc, February 2, when Brigid took the reins as the stirrings of new life were first felt. February was called Faoilleach, the month of the wolf.

The Morrigan, War Goddess, could shape-shift into Wolf or Raven or was accompanied by them. She was the harbinger of death with Wolf/Raven at her side. Wolf in its association with The Morrigan and with the Norse gods reminds us that chaos and darkness are part of the cycle of life. For something new to occur, something old must die.

In Norse mythology Wolf through its role as destroyer, offers an explanation for the movement of the heavens – the cycle of life. Wolf Fenrir, son of the god Loki, was so fearsome the gods bound him to a rock. It is told that on Ragnorök, the end of the world, Fenrir would devour the god Odin. Then Odin’s son would kill Fenrir, ushering in rebirth. Fenrir’s sons, Sköll and Hati, chased the moon and sun across the sky, keeping the movement of time in order until Ragnorök.

A similar cosmic role is assigned to Wolf by the Celts. Coins have been found which depict Wolf with an open mouth together with symbols that depict the moon or sun.

In the Pawnee creation myth wolf was the first to experience death. The Wolf Star (Sirius) was not invited to a Council of Stars concerning the creation of Earth. Enraged, Wolf Star sent Wolf to steal the bag containing the first humans. Upon their release the humans killed Wolf and death entered the world.

Divinatory Meaning
Wolf calls you to trust your intuition and natural intelligence – a powerful combination of skills. With Wolf comes discernment – the ability to see the truth of situations and people.

Wolf, the pathfinder, leads you on a journey to the underworld to transform personal darkness and then back again to the land of light and rebirth – to a higher level on the spiral of change.

Wolf reminds you of the importance of community and cooperation in your personal efforts toward fulfillment, or calls you to break away when circumstances are binding – finding your own way and new pack.

Wolf affirms that you have all you need to handle difficulties, even if you feel unprepared. The call of the wild still echoes within us all. Wolf calls you to that awareness – that by claiming your wildness you discover freedom and the clearest path to infinity.

PostScript – Be sure to check out Wolf Matters for an in-depth look at the importance of wolves as a keystone species.

Sources: Fact Retriever, Wolf Matters, Living With Wolves, LonerWolf, What is My Spirit Animal, Spirit Animal Totems, Exemplore, Homepage Ralph Haussler, Native American Mythology, California Wolf Center

Judith’s deck of Celtic Goddess Oracle Cards is available now.  Celtic-Goddess-Oracle-cards-by-judith-shawYou can order your deck on Judith’s website – click here. Experience the wisdom of the Celtic Goddesses!

Judith Shaw, a graduate of the San Francisco Art Institute, has been interested in myth, culture and mystical studies all her life. Not long after graduating from SFAI, while living in Greece, Judith began exploring the Goddess in her art. She continues to be inspired by the Goddess in all of Her manifestations, which are found everywhere in the natural world. In recent years Judith became very interested in the Goddesses of her own ancestors, the Celts, resulting in her deck of Celtic Goddess Oracle cards. She is now working on her next deck of oracle cards – Animal Spirit Guides. Originally from New Orleans, Judith makes her home in New Mexico where she paints as much as time allows and sells real estate part-time. Give yourself the gift of one of Judith’s prints or paintings, priced from $25 – $3000.


Categories: animals, Earth-based spirituality, General, Goddess Spirituality, Paganism

Tags: , , , , , ,

17 replies

  1. Dear Judith,

    Great to read about so many wonderful wolves. I spent six months in Rome seven years ago researching wolves and lambs. Fascinating stuff. Out of that I wrote a poetry collection Lupa and Lamb. You can find out more here and t’s available on Amazon.com and other places:

    Or you can some sample poems on my blog listed below.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Fascinating! I didn’t know there was so much lore and wisdom about the wisdom of wolves. Thanks for writing this post.

    You saw wolves have been hunted almost to extinction. They’re not alone, of course. I think people who hunt for trophies should themselves by hunted all the way into and past extinction. Those people deserve whatever wolves and other animals with big teeth can do to them.

    I like the divinatory meaning, too. Many thanks!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Barbara, It is certainly disturbing how our culture seems to think it has the right to destroy whatever gets in its funnel vision way of greed and accumulation. I don’t know what is worse – the hunting of wolves to near extinction because they occasionally kill livestock (the animals that we raise to kill and eat) or the hunting of animals solely for the trophy value of a body part – disgusting!!!

      I think the ongoing crisis of animals going extinct is part of the reason I feel compelled to speak out about animals by learning and sharing about their natures, the symbols folks have attached to them and their part in the cycle of life.

      Wolves help keep the world in balance by thinning the herd animals of their weak, old and sick – improving their strength as a species and helping avoid overgrazing by herd animals which then effects and changes their habitat in negative ways. I know many of us are uncomfortable with Earth’s predators but their place in the weave of life is important too.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Beautiful and haunting painting of wolf Judith. As a young mother I had malamutes who are part wolf.. I became intimately acquainted with this particular animal and dove into its ancestral mythology. These dogs are incredibly loyal to those they love. Protectors par excellence. I like the way you portray the wolf – the “both and” qualities of this animal mirror my experiences with wild wolves. They are wild – In BC when they were first introduced to people on an island everyone loved them – then these wild animals began to invade people’s yards, and threaten folks that were camping in the wild and all that sentiment changed…now folks keep their distance – In my dreams for years malamutes showed up as protectors but eventually “wolf” dreams indicated a threat that was present – and instinct seems to be central here… Thanks for this informative post and your beautiful paintings.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sara, That’s wonderful that you receive Wolf dreams warning you of a current threat – instinct is central for sure.

      Wolves are wild. I learned that though common knowledge claims that dogs are descended from wolf more recent research indicates that dog and wolf descended from some common ancestor – not known and now extinct. Dogs are omnivores with the ability to eat more than meat whereas wolves are true carnivores and can only eat meat – a fact that would make them very hard to tame. I guess they both got that ancestor’s loyalty gene.

      As the human population has grown so great we have left less and less space for the wild animals to be wild – they seem to be invading our territory like you mentioned – causing our fear to set in.

      Thanks for reading

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, dogs and wolves are both descended from a common ancestor… what fascinates me with my work with bears is that dogs and bears are also relatives that share a common heritage that goes back 50 million years!

        Liked by 1 person

        • Wow that’s really interesting Sara. Bears, wolves, dogs – all connected. I need to look more deeply into that – endless curiosity keeps going…..


          • Very cool – as a dog lover/keeper/mother all my life when I began to research bears in the wild I didn’t realize how many ques I was taking from my dogs. – example: positioning of ears, facial expressions, use of paws – I could go on and on here at these similarities. I can “read” wild bear behavior so well because my life has been filled with dogs!

            Liked by 2 people

  4. So exciting to have previews here of your animal oracle deck! Beautiful paintings as always and fascinating multi-cultural lore interwoven with information about their lives in the wild. Here is another book about wolves’ ecological importance: The Wolf’s Tooth. Keystone Predators, Trophic Cascades, and Biodiversity. She describes how their reintroduction to Yellowstone curbed overgrazing by elk, which restored the health of the forest and the rivers, and provided habitat to birds, and more….

    I have shared my life with three samoyeds, one of the dog species closely related to wolves. In addition to being reindeer herders, samoyeds were also baby sitters. All the samoyeds I knew took herding (alas not of reindeer where we live) and childcare very seriously. They could also be very humorous and they definitely smiled. We used to say that samoyeds were descended from silly wolves.

    Thank you for your tribute to these magnificent creatures. May humans learn to respect and treasure them.

    Liked by 1 person

    • PS: the book mentioned above is by Cristina Eisenberg


      • Elizabeth,
        Thanks for the info on the book by Cristina Eisenberg. The link I mentioned, Wolf Matters, gives good info on how the loss of and then re-introduction of wolves to Yellowstone made a big difference in the ecological health of the area. I’ll have to read her book as I’m sure it goes into much more depth than the internet post. Seems we humans think we are making ourselves safer by eliminating the wild but time is showing that belief to be false.

        How lucky to have had samoyeds in your life. I once had a Siberian Husky who was so beautiful but got stolen.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. There is an eerie resemblance between you in your photo and the wolf in the painting and I don’t think it is all down to the dark indigo sky background in both.


  6. Oh wow, I see this too! is the wolf special to you in some way Judith?


  7. Interesting question Sara – I find while creating my next oracle deck – Animal Spirit Guides – that to each animal I learn about and paint I feel a very strong connection which stays with me long after I’ve finished the work. Some I feel an even stronger connection to than others of course and I would say that wolf has touched me deeply though I’ve never seen a wolf in the wild, only her brother, coyote. Both Wolf and Bear speak to me strongly perhaps reflecting the many times in my life that have required that passage through the Underworld to rebirth that they both represent. But I’l save my hugging energy for trees – LOL!


  8. Thank you! At the end of our women’s circle last night I was pulled to draw a card from an ancestor deck and drew wolf. My late wise woman mentor worked on a white wolf sanctuary on the central Oregon coast. I miss her dearly and found and felt her presence last evening, and now again in these words today.


  9. K, That’s wonderful that wolf brings you into connection with your departed mentor. The ancestor deck you mention sounds interesting. Is it all animals or are there other elements in the deck?


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