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?