Faol, the Wolf
"The sign-bearing wolf shall lead his troops. And surround Cornwall with
-from The Prophecies of Merlin
The wolf is a powerful totem animal, embodying many od the qualities of the hound, but including a wildness not found in the domesticated dog. One of the Gaelic names for the wolf is Madadh-Allaidh, the wild dog, and the Celts were known for their cross-breeding of wolves with hounds to produce a powerful fighting dog for battle.
In Ireland there is a "Fort of the Wolves" and a legend which tells of a struggle between the hero Cu-Chulainn and the war-goddess the Morrigan, in which the hero, for daring to spurn her amorous advances, is attacked by the goddess who has taken the form of a she-wolf.
But despite these associations with fierceness, the wolf was valued more for its affinities with humans than for its wildness. In reality, the wolf is a highly social, intelligent and friendly animal. Fondness for the wolf in Celtic tradition is shown in the legend that as a baby King Cormac of Ireland was taken by a she-wolf while his mother lay sleeping. Reared with the cubs, he always had a soft spot for wolves, and even when he was made king a pack of wolves accompanied him where ever he went. One of the gifts to Wales of the goddess Ceridwen in her guise as Henwen, the great white sow, was a wolf-cub, and in Geoffrey of Monmouth's "The Life of Merlin", we read of Merlin finding companionship in a dting wolf during his time of madness in the forest. As winter begins, depriving him of food, Merlin turns to his animal friend: "You, O wolf, dear companion, accustomed to roam with me through the secluded paths of the woods and meadows, now can scarcely get across the fieldsâ?¦ You lived in these woods before I did and age has whitened your hairs first."
The Wolf As Clan Totem
In Scottish tradition a number of clans have the wolf as their totem: the MacLennans and Mac Tyres (both meaning Son of the Wolf) and the MacMillans (meaning Son of the Wolf Servant); the personal name Fillan comes from the Gaelic Faolan, little wolf. In Wales, names such as Bledyn, Bleddri and Bleiddudd all derived from the word for wolf - Blaidd. In Ireland one whole tribe claims to be descent from a wolf, and according to tradition wolves were tamed and adopted as godfathers and godmothers. In the late Iron Age wolves were favorite subjects in iconography, and in the high mountain sanctuary of Le Donon in the Vosges there is a sculpture of a hunter-god and forest benefactor who wears a wolf skin cape. The Celts used the pelts of wolves as rugs and sat on them while dining, and there was a folk-belief that the hide offered protection from epilepsy. Wolf teeth were considered especially lucky - they were rubbed on babies' gums when teething, and worn as charms and ornaments.
A wolf is one of the animal allies of the horned figure on the great Celtic cauldron found at Gundestrup in Denmark. The others are a stag, a snake, a boar, two bulls, two lions and a dolphin.
Despite all the positive associations with the wolf in tradition, it has also come to represent danger and evoke fear. In Anglo-Saxon times wolves were sometimes hung beside criminals, who were themselves termed wolves, and the Saxon word for gallows means "wolf-tree". Ever since the first century CE there have been tales of werewolves - humans who transform themselves into wolves. These stories probably arose from a variety of causes, and the many people who were burned alive as werewolves during the sixteenth century, mostly in France, probably suffers from porphyia, a genetic disease resulting in an aversion to daylight and the growth of facial hair, sufferers from rabies contacted through wolf-bites, and people showing symptoms of ergot poisoning, besides the truly criminal such as child and mass murders.
Certain tales of the predations of hungry wolves on livestock and from rabid wolves, made the wolf a hated and feared animal in post-Celtic Europe.
The lone and potentially murderous wolf became a symbol for all that was to be rejected and loathed - including man's own darkest urges. Despite the strongly negative associations of the wolf over the last two millennia, typified in the story of Little Red Riding Hood, the Big Bad Wold and other European folk-tales, sufficient connection with the true nature of the wolf and its ancestral totemic and positive associations existed for Baden-Powell, when founding the Boy Scout movement, to ask children to call themselves wolf cubs, and for the cub-leader, to be called Akela, the wolf-pack leader in Rudyard Kipling's "Jungle Book". Some naturalists believe that wolves use ravens to guide them to sources of food, and certainly raven will often follow wolves. There is a powerful connection between wolf and raven at the totemic level also. Just as Merlin found companionship in a wolf, so can we, if Faol becomes our ally, find closeness and spiritual companionship with this most faithful of animal guides. Above all, Faol will teach us, through our experience, to trust ourselves and not fear or reject those parts of us that we do not yet understand or know.
The wolf in Native American Tradition:
Wolf is the pathfinder, the forerunner of new ideas who returns to the clan to teach and share medicine. Wolf takes one mate for life and is loyal like Dog. If you were to keep company with Wolves, you would find an enormous sense of family within the pack, as well as a strong individualistic urge. These qualities make Wolf very much like the human race. As humans, we also have an ability to be a part of society and yet still embody our individual dreams and ideas.
In the Great Star Nation, Wolf is represented by the Dog Star, Sirius, which legend tells us was the original home of our teachers in ancient times. Sirius was thought to be the home of the gods by the ancient Egyptians, and is still considered so by the Dogan tribe in Africa. It stands to reason that Native American people would formulate this same connection and adopt Wolf people as the clan of teachers. The senses of Wolf are very keen, and the moon is its power ally. The moon is the symbol for psychic energy, or the unconscious that holds the secrets of knowledge and wisdom. Baying at the moon may be an indication of Wolf's desire to connect with new ideas which are just below the surface of consciousness. Wolf medicine empowers the teacher within us all to come forth and aid the children of Earth in understanding the Great Mystery and life.