The lone wolf… I want to get this out of the way because I think the concept of the lone wolf is not a helpful one when it comes to this card. We have this idea of a rebellious, angst ridden loner but in reality wolves are social animals. A lone wolf may arise when an adult male challenges the leader of the pack and the loser is then pushed out.
The reality of this solitary existence is tough. It is much harder for a single wolf to hunt and to survive. For example, one on one a male elk would have the advantage; the wolf needs his pack to make this kill. Lone wolves are most likely to be looking for a new pack, the place they fit in, a tribe of other wolves who understand them. Have you found your clan yet?
“The strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack.”
– Rudyard Kipling
On the subject of packs, wolf packs consist of an alpha male, an alpha female and other wolves who all have a defined place in the team. This means that when they are hunting, they can carry out highly coordinated and successful teamwork. These loyal animals have a strong sense of brotherhood (or sisterhood) which helps the wolves survive and are much more nurturing than some stories would have you believe.
What can you do for your own tribe? Where do you fit in your tribe?
A lot of how we see wolves comes from our historic relationship with them as hunters. In some countries they are feared and seen as creatures of evil because they kill livestock. In other countries they are revered. For example in Japan, the wolf has been worshipped because it kills the deer which eat the crops. How you feel about the wolf depends on where you’re standing.
One of the many things I love about nature is the symbiotic and mutually helpful relationships that have evolved. The wolf is no exception, working with the raven to find prey. Flying overhead, the raven can spot prey that the wolf can’t and led the wolves to the food. In return, they get a share of the kill. There is no raven in the Wild Unknown Animal Spirit Deck but once I’ve made it through all the creatures, I may do a post about them as I think getting to know coexisting species adds to our understanding.
Wolves are in their prime during the colder months, utilising the weakness of other species during winter to bring them down more easily. As cubs, they play with each other to fine tune their hunting skills, this also serves to help strengthens the bonds between the pack. Their success as predators comes down to the combination of intelligence and their instinct. They listen to their gut and act, fast. They can’t sit around thinking and umm-ing and arr-ing and doubting themselves, they have to trust the feeling and go for it.
When it comes to communication, wolves are excellent. They have their well known howls which can be used to share messages with the pack as well as to mark their territory. This is very important for this highly territorial creature who will defend their space if it is encroached on. In terms of our own lives, most of us have very clearly marked physical territory – our home, our car, our desk at work – and these are generally not threatened. But what of our beliefs and our values? This seems particularly crucial right now given the world’s political situation. How are you standing up for your beliefs? For your values? When it comes to defending your territory, there is safety in a pack and strength in numbers, have you found yours?
We have this iconic image of the wolf howling at the moon. In terms of symbology, the moon is linked with our unconscious self, with mystery, with the shadows. To howl at the moon is going beyond glancing at the unknown, beyond saying hi to it and is full on shouting here I am, I see you and I’m not afraid of you. This echoes the strength, bravery and boldness of the wolf.
At the other end of the scale is silent communication through body language, essential if you’re trying to stalk prey! They also communicate through their sense of smell. Again, this is used to mark territory as well as communicate social position and as a signal that a female is ready to breed*. How are you communicating? What is your body saying that your mouth is not? Are you listening to what others are saying or are you too busy thinking of a reply to really hear them?
I was watching a documentary about wolves and a man who knew a lot about them said:
“the wolves are dust, they can neither be read, nor be captured”
I couldn’t figure out whether he said read or bred but both make sense, with “read” invoking a sense of mystery which surrounds the wolves. This unknown element of the wolf is probably heightened by their preference to avoid humans. In areas where wolves venture into human worlds, its generally because their own habitat has been encroached on.
If he said bred, that also makes sense – despite domesticating dogs, we haven’t been able to tame wolves. They remain wild and a symbol of the wilderness. Something which sometimes scares us, partly as it is unknown but perhaps because there is something uncontrollable about it. Something untameable. And yet, the wolf has tamed it, or at least found a way to live in this environment. I watched a great video about the wolf which unfortunately I can’t find and it talked of the contradiction between the wildness of the wolf and the order and organised nature of its pack. It can be hard to see how structure and the chaos of the wilderness can work together but the wolf shows us that not only is it possible, it’s advantageous. Without their pack system, the wolf would not survive in this habitat.
Like the fox, these enigmas have been associated with shapeshifters in folklore and it is possibly this which has led to the idea of the werewolf. In turn, this concept further enhances the idea of wolves as terrifying and dangerous.
Personally, I think this noble, loyal creature has had a bit of a PR nightmare and we should look past this to see it for what it truly is; an intelligent, highly skilled communicator with a dedication to family.
*random bit of information: when wolves mate they become locked together for up to half an hour…