wolves

Have you referred to yourself as a wolf recently? We’ve all seen the memes that read or imply that the sharer is a “wolf of Odin” or would rather be a wolf than a sheep many of us have shared some of these. They are often seen as embracing strength, and honor, and pack (tribal) ethics, but is that what the wolf represents to the heathen? I don’t think it is.

When we look at the wolves in our folklore, myths, and nursery rhymes the wolf rarely represents that which is noble and strong. Rather, we have Skol, who tries to eat the sun goddess, Fenrir who the gods feel is too dangerous and bind (at great cost to Tyr), the ‘big bad wolf” that eats a little girl, the other “big bad wolf” that blows down houses, and the two wolves who follow Odin. Odin’s wolves are often what is meant when these memes are invoked. There is an overarching idea that because they serve the All Father they are different from other wolves, yet look at what Grim has named his animal companions. Geri and Freki are not named “Cuddle Butt and Fido” they are named “Ravenous and Gluttonous.” Their names truly call to the heart of the wolf in heathen mythos, as does their association to One Eye.

Wolves represent the dangers of the wild, and for quite practical reasons. If we look at the heathen period of Europe, which is what I would call the period of time between the Indo-European the migration into the European continent and Christianization , most people would have been hunters and small farmers. They would have relied on their herds of sheep, goats, cattle, and other animals for food, clothing, and in the dead of winter heat. These animals were the lifeblood of early heathens, and their main competitors were their neighbors and the literal wolves at the door. Wolves were not only a danger for a man or a woman caught alone in the wild, they were a danger to entire families because of the easy meal a flock of chickens, herd of sheep, or even the young shepherd boy would provide to the roving pack. When we see that Odin is accompanied by wolves and ravens we are seeing that aspect, that piece of his person, that is death. Much like the Wolf Fenrir, he was chained not simply because he was large, but because he was a wolf who was beyond control. He was the ever hungry hunter who would, given the chance, consume all that is. Skoll in his hunger, with the instincts of the hunter, chases the sun across the sky. This is the nature of wolves.

When people make the claim, “I am a wolf among sheep.” They are claiming, falsely in most cases, that they are outside of and are a danger to society. What they are trying to claim is that they are strong and do not follow the herd(Ironic considering wolves are a pack animal…). What they end up claiming, from a considered heathen point of view, is that they are Predators as opposed to prey; that they are the ravenous pack that preys on the life blood of society. In our world this claim reeks of desperation and it carries the ripe rotten scent of fear. The common, though false, trope of “Finding the biggest baddest guy and knocking him on his ass” in order to prove you’re not to be messed with is apparent in this attitude of “I am a wolf.”

I want to share some comments I received after my articles addressed to Steve McNallen:

“You were going to write an article on the nature of the Wolf? LOL. That’s like asking a field mouse to write a treatise on the nature of the Eagle. You are a sheep, Josh, and will forever be so.” ~ Jogrimr Odinsson

“[…]People like you are the reason that others see us as weak and make our struggle that much harder. […]” ~ Charlie

These people were so moved by my words they felt the need to poetically tell my why I am wrong. Though they chose not to focus on why what I said was wrong, and instead cleaved to this concept of strength. Specifically, they see a call for temperance as a call to weakness. This is the attitude of the wolf. The wolf does not know when to stop, wolves in the wild will kill not only for food, but for the sake of killing. Their predator instincts are so tightly wound that any form of movement away from them is seen as retreat and weakness, the act of prey who only serves to be consumed. We are NOT wolves, we are heathens. We, for the most part, accept that right and good actions are ones that benefit our tribes. As heathens it seems the question must be asked,

“What benefits your people, measured and reasoned strength? Or the unthinking hunger of the wolf?”

I know that many of us have a fascination with the dangerous and semi-mystical nature of the wolf, and that our modern culture romanticizes all manners of outlaw culture, from pirates to MC’s we see nobility in existing outside of societies normality. This however would be a decidedly unheathen way to view the world. The outlaw, by definition, cannot be a benefit to the tribe or even society as a whole, their strength lies not in protecting their kin or society, but rather in preying upon the labors and gains of society. This is what the wolf represents, not strength, not kin bond, not nobility, but aggression, gluttony, and avarice.

So if the wolf represents the dangers to society, then what represents us as heathens, as “mann?” We do. We are mankind and what better representation could a heathen ask for. We are imbued with the gifts of Form, Spirit, and Breath, the latest in a long line of men and women who have built a safe and sprawling society, why not embrace this? Why not eschew the image of the wolf and embrace our humanity? I am not a wolf, I am not a sheep, I am not a “mouse,” I am mann. I was born of mankind, I live among mankind, and I will strive to protect my society, my tribe, and my community from the element of the wolf. Won’t you join me?

Posted by Josh

This article has 15 Complaints

  1. This is good. I’ve always said the people that consider themselves lone wolves, a lone wolf is an idiot creature that doesn’t survive in the wild. Thank you for this.

  2. While I completely agree there is another side to this. For some wolves became dogs, and chose to live with man and greet him as friend and not prey, and protect his new found companions from his former brothers. These dogs I speak of are former wolves who saw the error of their ways and refrained from preying and society and instead use their enhanced senses and predatory instincts to sound the alarm, fight off those that would prey upon it and protect and serve his tribe in much the same manner as modern police are suppose to. So in the matter of Man, Sheep, or Wolf. I choose dog because making wergild by pledging unyielding and unwavering loyalty and service to society is the most noble and honorable thing you can do and that is a display of true strength. To stand with man and sheep at your back and wolf before you and say unto the wolf not this day. That is what it means to be heathen.

    1. It may be that the wolves who follow Wodin are more like dogs than their wild brethren. I’ve had a few dogs in my life, and they will in fact eat..and eat…and eat if you let them and feed them. They always act hungry and are ready for a treat. I can see where they would then be called Ravenous and Gluttonous. But they are also family, I am their pack leader. No one threatens the pack without their coming to defense. They know what territory is ours and who is allowed on it, and raise alarm when someone/thing intrudes.

  3. Wolves mockingly preying on society is and forever has been a myth. Made up by angered farmers by the loss of sickly or otherwise weak stock. It became widespread because of the want of their furs.

    Wolves are hungry, yes. Because we’ve taken their territories. Gluttonous? Absolutely not. Wolves have been feared and misunderstood for time immeasurable. They’re tacticians, they’re real thinkers. They don’t care to lose pack members on a fools errand. Ergo, the weak prey is the best prey. There was a time when people were thankful for the wolves to have taken one of the stock, as it most likely wasn’t fit for human consumption. If a human is killed, where were they when they died? We need to go back to that.

    I am a heathen, the wolf is my ancestor. And I am the wolf amongst the sheep. I am not gluttonous, I am not noble, I simply survive and fend for my own. Regardless of outsider feelings.

    1. You’re very off if you think that wolves are gonna sit and watch a flock of sheep until they have spotted the weakest of the eves or something. Some farmers have literally lost close to 200 sheep overnight to wolves. I am not advocating hunting ’em to extinction or anything, but you are romanticizing wolves pretty hardcore here.

      To a wolf, all sheep is a weak and easy prey, no matter how healthy it is. Even a flock of big adult rams would be down to a pair of wolves in a matter of minutes.

  4. The outlaw most certainly can be a benefit to the tribe and the society, especially when the tribe and/or the society are corrupt. In a society like ours, outlawry is surely to be preferred to concordance with a legal system which supports neither the land nor the people. Or perhaps we could say that any tribe or society that diverges from the balance of nature has outlawed itself relative to the real world, in which case those who (rightfully) rebel against such a state of affairs are the true representatives of the law, while those who call them “outlaws” have simply misunderstood the matter.

    I don’t think this article is very well thought out – or if it is, it’s coming from what to me is a very, very odd perspective. The wolf was feared in Europe in post-agricultural times for its predation of livestock, true enough. However, as is still true nowadays, people tended not to be hunted by wolves. Contrary to some of the spin of the article, wolves are incredibly intelligent and strategic hunters, and will tend to avoid a struggle which might see one of their number fall. Humans are not easy game, and killing one tends to bring a whole bunch of them out after you, so it’s best to stay away from them unless directly threatened.

    Wolves were feared towards the end of pre-Christian times because they were a threat to society, not necessarily because they were a threat to individual humans. Society was increasingly settled and agrarian, putting more emphasis on livestock than on hunting: wolves were clearly a threat to this, hence the fear surrounding them. So sure, in olden times, wolves were a threat to “society.” And yet, the society which the wolves of old threatened is different from that which self-styled “wolves” of today (the kinds of people spoken of in the article) are faced with.

    The old society was better balanced and more harmonious: it could be sustained for longer, and so was (arguably) a beneficial thing to have (I’d dispute that point, but whatever). Our current society is imbalanced and disharmonious: it can’t be sustained, and so is not worth having. It actively eats up time, resources, manpower, ingenuity and so on. If you look at European history matter-of-factly, the modern world has been built by and for the benefit of those who in our earlier culture would have been made “outlaws” through ill deeds resulting from ill character. The people who nowadays run our society neither contribute to it nor provide any service to the people, but sit parasitically upon the top of the pile like the suppurating spores of a toxic fungus. We have elevated our outlaws beyond the status of Kings, and suffer accordingly. Isn’t this a state of affairs to be called into question, rather than blindly acquiesced to? Would the heathen spirit not immediately denounce the modern society as corrupt, inefficient, anti-European and unsustainable?

    I don’t mean to be rude to the author, but this article does read like what his antagonisers thought it would read like – weakness. The crux of the argument seems to be that being (or wanting to be) an unsafe entity in a safe place is a bad thing, because safety is good. This kind of talk suggests – again – that our civilisation is a “good” thing, that our subjugation to a foreign culture is a “good” thing, that being smaller, weaker, and less worthy of mind than our ancestors is somehow “good,” and that even if these were bad things, we could do nothing to change them. Such a mindset and attitude seem absurd to me, indicative not only of a dearth of education but even of a dearth of guts or balls (take your pick). If you look into the history of modernity, you can’t help but become averse to it: and if averse to it, you can either ignore it or quell it. Is the former not an ignoble attitude, showing only weakness and apathy? Who, knowing that there’s a problem, doesn’t try to solve it? It stands to reason that the only sensible course of action for a modern day heathen is to strive against modern society and modern civilisation – not to regress to an age forgotten, but to transcend an age forgettable. “Onwards and upwards” implies “leave it all behind.”

    We’ve got to get beyond this pussy modern shit. Seriously. And that means we need to go back a lot further than 1,000 years if we’re to be looking at who we really are and what we’re meant to be doing now. To keep on track with the theme of the article: if you go back 1,500 years, people are calling themselves “Wolf” all over the shop (how many “Ethelwulfs,” “Wulfstans,” “Radulfs” and plain old “Wulfs” do you need?). 1,000 years before that, the very same is true – wolves are held in high regard, warriors are frequently lauded as “wolves on the field” and so on. A thousand years before that – well, who can say at that point? I reckon the men of Bronze fancied themselves a bit wolf-like at times, too. There’s something about smaller societies with real land-connection that makes people more prone to considering their kinship with animals.

    If you go back to pre-agricultural Europe, the wolf would’ve been seen like any other local predator: it’s an expression of both the destructive and rejuvenative aspects of nature, preying on the old and the weak to leave room for the strong. The wolf is a tool of population management, much like the human was. We would’ve learned from watching wolves how to hunt particular animals. We might also have learned about certain medicines from them. We would’ve felt a strong identity with a pack-based hunter, since we ourselves were pack-based hunters. Clearly we eventually worked with wolves directly, because we ended up breeding dogs. Our relationship with wolves has actually been good, for the most part. I should think that we’ve largely kept each to our own, enjoying the bounty of the natural world without stepping on each others’ toes too much.

    To my mind, it’s only in recent post-agrarian history that wolves have become maligned as some “outsider” force. When humans are trying very hard to manage their populations through food control (which is the basis for all agrarian societies), unpredictable factors are no longer as welcome as they might have been in an easier going hunter-gatherer society. That which lies “outside” the boundaries of the self-imposed “human world” becomes scary and uncertain, while that which lies “inside” those boundaries begins to seem more and more hospitable, more and more palatable, more and more comfortable, and more and more safe. We become progressively locked into our “safe” little human world, to the point where that “safe” human world now extends over much of the earth, and is proving to be quite disastrous in that regard. There’s now more “inside” than “outside” – the wilderness has been beaten back as far as it can be, and safe, hospitable, bubble-wrapped civilisation stretches for mile after mile to the detriment of the real world.

    For most of our history, there was no “inside” to have an “outside” – there was no “human world” apart from the “real world” of nature, so no need for any boundaries. For most of human history we’ve lived as an inseparable component of the natural world, and we’ve done really well in that regard. The distinction between “safe” and “unsafe” space occurs only after agriculture (civilisation) comes in, and it’s a sign of weakness, really: for man, who was once safe wherever he lay – like the wolf – is now safe only within his walls. Beyond the confines of his enclosure, he is confused and afraid: the wall has dampened his horizons as much as it might protect his grain. A lack of strength, skill, intelligence or experience would alone require such measures: in other words, to rely on walls requires a weakness that wouldn’t exist without them. The “in/out” game is not advantageous to human evolution: someone got gypped somewhere down the line, and we’re still paying for that mistake. The modern world is only the logical conclusion of the agricultural model.

    Anyway, the history of Europe extends a lot further back than one millennium. What people were saying about wolves at the end of the Viking era was likely very different to what they were saying a millennium before. I think until we get over this viking-boner that’s got everyone stuck in the 10th century, we’re going to have weird discussions like this. “Do we like Rome or not?” What a weird fucking question, but that’s basically all this amounts to. Are you a fan of “society,” of “civilisation,” of “high culture” and “infrastructure”? If so, you’re in the Roman camp. Are you a fan of “wilderness,” of “tribalism,” of “survival” and “self-sufficiency”? If so, you’re in the Barbarian camp. Which is more Heathen – Barbarian or Roman? (Maybe better ask “which ones brought Christianity” 😉 )

    I’ll finish by saying that the wolf is only as successful as she is because of her measured and reasoned strength and well-thought out plan of attack. And I’m not even one of your pro-wolf guys!

    P.S. Just re-read that BS about wolves killing for the sake of it – surplus hunting is literally just that, “surplus hunting.” It’s not irrational violence. When it’s the dead of Winter, everything’s frozen, and you’ve got a bunch of buffalo near you who aren’t going anywhere fast and who are all weakened, you kill them all, even if you can’t eat them right now. Give it a week, there’ll still be some around. It’s not about killing for the sake of it, but about making sure that you don’t have to expend too much energy in an overly harsh Winter tracking too many groups of prey of which you won’t get enough kills (statistically speaking). In other words, it’s about efficiency: get your Winter killing done in one fell swoop, come back for buffet when you need it. You’re also providing food for many scavengers and fellow predators. Contrary to the myth of nature as some kind of battleground, the varied species of an ecosystem tend to support each other overall, even if not in individual cases. If numbers of buffalo become low one year, wolves will tend away from buffalo – they’ll know from paucity of tracks that there aren’t enough to go around this year. Nature is smarter than limited human minds, whose faculties only allow a sliver of that intelligence’s light through at any one time.

  5. I share this view. I like wolves quite a bit, but they don’t have a good reputation in the lore. I’ve come to see Odin’s animals as the higher and lower aspects of action, in a lack of better words – the ravens are thought and cognitive function, the wolves are base action. The two are best working together. Thought without action is useless and makes you a dreamer who gets nothing done, while action without thought is what makes wife beaters, drunks, addicts, and so on and so forth. Unchecked by the thought that is the ravens, the wolves running rampant through a man is a destructive enough force to tear the same man’s life asunder.

    1. But when the two are working together, your life is gonna be like the actual relationship between wolves and ravens in the wild – the raven can find easy prey and carrion from the sky, but they can’t hunt, or open the skin of a dead elk. Wolves can. When ravens lead wolves, and wolves follow ravens, both get to eat.

  6. Your assessment about the role of the wolf in the heathen period, is quite correct. Heathens then didn’t ressent its raw strength though, they only ressent it in their enemy’s heart.

    But I think people mostly don’t refer to themselves as wolves out of fear. Fear has hardly anything to do with it. It is anger. And when you live in a society that is rotten at its core (in terms of its principles), you either stand aside, or you turn into a ‘predator’ to that system. Everyone has to make a personal choice regarding this issue.

    In my view the return of the wolf as a symbol is a good thing. But people still need to find their way out of modernity’s web, and onwards to something metaphysically different. And to break away from modernity, people need to pick up history and create a new chapter in our myth through their actions (in a spiritual sense).
    And in this new chapter I believe the wolf will play a different role. It evolves, hopefully.

  7. Your comments about the culture of “I am Wolf” in Heathenry are dead on; however, I think it’s negative to encourage a perspective of wolves as monstrous kill loving demons. Wolves will often go weeks without food in the wild and take down large prey due to their living in packs. As this is difficult even for a pack there is a necessary cruelty in the way they kill, cornering and hobbling the beasts before killing. I think perhaps it would be better for them to learn about actual wolves and not fairy tales, it will probably make the idea of being a wolf less cool.

How are we doing it wrong?