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Gray Wolf in folklore

Gray Wolf in folklore

Romantic image of a wolf couple. Gray Wolf in folklore

Gray Wolf in folklore

Wolf is a symbolic animal, as a creature that could see into the other-world. In some ancient texts we find references to wolves as shape-shifting people. The Irish legend tells of people who, descended from wolves, could still change into that form to prey upon their neighbors’ cattle, while another legend describes a family who turned into wolves every seventh year because of a curse, retaining human language and having prophetic powers. Julius Caesar reported that the Gauls believed themselves descended from wolves.
The wolf’s coat is usually tan or a grizzled gray and black. Some wolves are all black or all white.

Gray wolf

A lonely Gray wolf

The belief that a person can change into a wolf has not completely died out, though modern cases consist of individuals who are habitual drug users or who have been diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder, such as schizophrenia. Two cases were reported in the Canadian Psychiatric Association Journal in 1975. Another case was presented in the American Journal of Psychiatry in 1977. The medical term for this condition is lycanthrope, which is Greek for “wolf-man.”

Gray wolf

In the forest. Drawing

The ability to shape-shift into a wolf is a common element among many folklore traditions. In Saga of the Volsungs, composed in thirteenth-century Iceland, Sigmund and his son, Sinfjotli, became wolves. During their time as werewolves, they killed many men in the land of King Siggeir, who was responsible for the death of much of Sigmund’s family. Eventually, Sigmund and Sinfjotli removed the coats and burned them. As there were no wolves in Iceland, this story may be a reference to earlier initiation rites of young men into the wolf-warrior cults of Northern Europe.

Gray wolves

Closeup of a couple of Gray wolves

Most werewolf legal cases were recorded between 1520 and 1630. In that time, it is estimated that 30,000 people in France were identified as werewolves. Many were tortured into confessions, and many were executed. For those who survived, the stigma of being identified as a werewolf became a lifelong curse.

Gray wolf

Profile photo of Gray wolf

Those who did not belong to these societies and broke the laws of the tribe also were identified
with wolves. In Germanic areas, criminals were referred to as the “wolf in the temple.” These men’s lives were forfeited to anyone who caught them. In the Middle Ages, condemned criminals who had taken to the forest to hide were referred to as wolfs-heads. In Saxon, the gallows was called the varg treo, or wolf tree. The association with criminality and the wolf appears even in Sanskrit, where vrka was the word for a highwayman.

Gray Wolf in folklore

Sources:

Literature:
Endangered Species, 2nd ed. Vol. 1
An Encyclopedia of Mythology and Folklore, pdf
Images:
vk.com/public41592200