First Traces of Wolves and Men

The earliest Wolves depicted.


The fact that there are several words for ‘wolf’ of Common Indo-European date shows that the wolf was widespread throughout the Indo-European territory. It also indicates its cultic and ritual significance, which is clearly attested in the oldest Indo-European traditions.

– Indo European and the Indo-Europeans, Gamkrelidze & Ivanov.

The early Indo European (IE) words for wolf and their strong presence 10,000 years later is one of the first key indicators of the cultural resonance of Wolves and the Wolf.

Early domesticated dogs can be seen in murals from the Çatalhöyük site in modern day Turkey which has been dated at approximately 7000 years old.

The mural known as the ‘Shrine of the Hunters’ also possibly shows the beginnings of a ritualised form of hunt that becomes a recurring theme in subsequent Indo European daughter cultures. 

(Wolf/dog in mural detail from, “Shrine of the hunters”, Çatalhöyük, as reconstructed by James Wellaart)

The hunters/warriors are nude save for a clearly depicted (ritual?) belt. The hunters’ prey, a gargantuan auroch, is surrounded on all sides by the hunters as well as smaller animals that look remarkably like domesticated wolves. The animals are hunting side-by side with warriors.

Even further back in time, Mesolithic images of men hunting with wolves, have been found in the prehistoric rock paintings of Tassili N’Ajjer. The images have been dated to c.11,000 BCE.

Further cave paintings of hunters and domesticated canines have been found at Tadrart Acacus.

(Rock art depicting man hunting with dogs. Tadrart Acacus, Libya. © Peter Boekamp)

(Hunter and dog, detail of image from Tadrart Acacus, Libya)

However the earliest image of a wolf can be found in the font De gaume cave in the Dordogne area of France. The images date from the Magdalenian period approximately 15,000 BCE

It is also from this approximate culture that the first symbolic image of a half-animal/half-man figure is found. 

Often described as “The Sorcerer”, the image is in the cavern known as ‘The Sanctuary’ at the Cave of the Trois-Frères, Ariège, France.

The subtlety in the image is hard to discern in the photograph above, however artist Henri Breuil sketched a more vivid image in the 1920s:-

While accuracy of the image has been questioned, its authenticity was confirmed by Jean Clottes as recently as 2011.

If it is a human in a horned head-dress, it’s parallels with the antler headdresses found at StarCarr are unmistakable. 

The Iranian Männerbund and the “Two Legged Wolf”

The concept of a rage filled brotherhood coupled with wolf totemism is a recurring one throughout Indo-European history.

Ancient Dagestan Bronze Axe c300-100 BCE

While groups such as the Úlfhéðnar Wolf skin “berserkers” and the Old Irish Fianna warrior bands have been much discussed, a similar group can also be found in ancient Persian and Iranian sources.

In The Iranian Männerbund Revisited, Touraj Daryaee analyses Stig Wikanders neglected theories, finding a considerable body of intriguing evidence:

The Iranian texts sometimes refer to the “youth war-band” as two-legged wolves. Two names in the Iranian tradition are closely associated, like mairyō, with wolves, namely Arətat.aspa (Yašt 9.30) and Fraηrasyan (Yašt5.41, 9.18-22, 19.56, 19.82) (Wikander 1938: 35). Lastly, for our discussion, the mairyō are connected with the idea of aēšma, “fury” (ibid.: 58-60), which describes the state of mind for these young men when going into the fray of battle. Thus, we have a scenario in which the mairyō, that is the young men, in a state of wolfish rage or fury, enter the battle to defeat their foes.

The full paper can be read online hereännerbund_Revisited_Iran_and_the_Caucasus_Volume_22_Issue_01_pages_38_49

Lopichis, the Langobard

© Grzegorz Rosiński

Lopichis was guided by a wolf during his escape from Avaro-Slavic captivity in the 7th century. the story is described in History of the Langobards (Historia Langobardorum) by Paul the Deacon (Paulus Diaconus)(book IV, chapter 37). Lopichis was the great-grandfather of Paul the Deacon.

When he had gone and escaped, carrying only a quiver and bow and a little food for the journey, and did not at all know where he was going, a wolf came to him and became the companion of his journey and his guide.

Seeing that it proceeded before him, and often looked behind and stood with him when he stood, and went ahead when he advanced, he understood that it had been given to him from heaven to show to him the way, of which he was ignorant.

The Lombards or Longobards were a Germanic people (originally from the Suebi tribes) who ruled most of the Italian Peninsula from 568 to 774.

(Image is by Grzegorz Rosiński from the comic Thorgal.)

#paulthedeacon #PaulusDiaconus #wolf #odin #lombard #langobard #lombards #langobards #lopichis #lopi-chis #suebi

Tsarevitch Ivan, The Firebird and The Gray Wolf

A Russian folk-tale, first collected in the 19th century by Alexander Afanasyev, in his 600 tale collection “Narodnye russkie skazi”/«Народные русские сказки»

The eponymous Gray Wolf of the title accompanies, advises and guides the hero, Tsarevitch Ivan. It is a rare occurrence for a wolf to not be the antagonist in a folk-tale, but this story goes even further. When the hero is betrayed and killed by his brothers, the nameless Gray Wolf resurrects him!

“The Grey Wolf found Ivan’s body and caught two fledgling crows that would have eaten it. Their mother pleaded for them, and the wolf sent her to fetch the water of death, which restored the body, and the water of life, which revived him.”

The parallels and connections with Odin, his ravens Hugin and Muninn are intriguing, but it is more likely that the Gray Wolf is the Slavic God Волос / Volos. References to the God are found throughout Eastern Europe and he is linked to “earth, waters, forests and the underworld. He is described as being wooly, hairy, dark and is associated with cattle, harvest, wealth, music, magic and trickery. He is also believed by some researchers to be related to the Indo-European deities Mitra or Perun.”

Illustration by Ivan Bilibin

#TsarevitchIvan #Ива́нЦаре́вич #IvanBilibin #AlexanderAfanasyev #Народныерусскиесказки #wolf #graywolf #Волос #odin #huginmunin #huginmuninn #Велес #Weles #Veles #Велесъ #Вялес #Vialies

Wer-wolf Trials

Excerpt from Human Animals by Frank Hamel (1915)

Chapter VIII

“In Poitou the peasants have a curious expression, “courir la galipote,” which means to turn into a wer-wolf or other human-animal by night and chase prey through the woods. The galipote is the familiar or imp which the sorcerer has the power to send forth.

“In the dark ages sorcerers capable of this accomplishment were dealt with according to the law, and hundreds were sent to trial for practising black arts, being condemned, in most instances, to be burnt alive or broken on the wheel. One of the most notorious historical cases was that of Pierre Bourgot, who served the devil for two years and was tried by the Inquisitor-General Boin.

“Johannus Wierius gives in full the confession of Bourgot, otherwise called Great Peter, and of Michael Verding. The prisoners, who were accused of wicked practices in December, 1521, believed they had been transformed into wolves.

Full book here

Battle Trance & War Magic

Going Berserk: Battle Trance and Ecstatic Holy Warriors in the European War Magic Tradition

Woodcut of the image on the Vendel era helmet plate found on Öland, Sweden, depicting a weapon dancer followed by a berserker

“Largely ignored in transpersonal studies to date, dark magic involves socially-transgressive processes called becoming-intense and becoming-animal that produce non-ordinary states useful in the arts, hunting, sex, and fighting.

“War magic, a form of dark magic that involves powers of destruction and invulnerability, is ubiquitous and universal, and one of its primary features is the production of helpful, nonordinary states in combat. Berserkergang (going berserk) is one such state, the latest documented in a long history of Indo-European ecstatic warrior cults. Berserkergang was the battle-trance of the elite consecrated warrior-shamans of Odin, god of magic, poetry, battle, and death. Distinguishing features of berserkergang include invulnerability to fire and bladed weapons, shapeshifting, superhuman strength, laughing at death, and transpersonal identification with comrades and Odin.

“Cross-cultural interpretations have tended to denigrate berserkergang, including modern arguments that attribute it to intoxication, genetic flaws, or pathology. Not only are such arguments inadequate to account for the data, but also the features of berserkergang are considered signs of spiritual attainment in various traditions up to the present day, and the techniques for achieving berserkergang remain in use in many spiritual traditions as well as on the battlefield.

Full paper by Jenny Wade

Estonian werewolf legends

Collected from the island of Saaremaa

© Made Balbat

Estonian Female Werewolf folklore including primary and secondary sources compiled by Merili Metsvahi.

Werewolf folklore and legends from Saaremaa, the largest Estonian Island, comprise a 7th of the entire corpus of the 1400 texts in the Estonian Folklore Archive. Only on this subcategory of folklore do we find significantly more tales of Female Werewolves…

Read the full paper here

Music: Wolf Tribes

Recommended Listening

Ulf Söderberg (recording here as Sephiroth) released a series of Nordic influenced, tribal, dark-ambient albums.

Although no longer producing or recording music his immersive head-space music is ideal for introspection, meditation and conducive isolation.

Song: Wolf Tribes

Artist: Sephiroth

Album: Cathedron

#ulfsöderberg #wolfmusic #sephirothgroup #tribal #darkambient #nordicambient #ulfsoderberg #wolftribes

Of Wolves and Men (1978)

Barry Lopez classic non-fiction is a must for any wolf library.

Lopez book reveals the uneasy interaction between wolves and civilization over the centuries, and the wolf’s prominence in our thoughts about wild creatures.

Drawing on an astonishing array of literature, history, science, and mythology as well as considerable personal experience with captive and free-ranging wolves, Lopez argues for the necessity of the wolf’s preservation and envelops the reader in its sensory world, creating a compelling picture of the wolf both as real animal and as imagined by man.

A scientist might perceive the wolf as defined by research data, while an Eskimo hunter sees a family provider much like himself. For many Native Americans the wolf is also a spiritual symbol, a respected animal that can make both the individual and the community stronger.

With irresistible charm and elegance, Of Wolves and Men celebrates scientific fieldwork, dispels folklore that has enabled the Western mind to demonize wolves, explains myths, and honors indigenous traditions, allowing us to further understand how this incredible animal has come to live so strongly in the human heart.

Amazon (US)

Amazon (UK)

#wolf #wolves #reading #wisdom #ansuz #nonfiction #werewolves

Courtly Anger, Beastly Violence

The Animal-Affective Prosthetic

Curtis Thomas project is an examination of four medieval romances that feature human-animal contact:

  • Marie de France’s Lai of Bisclavret
  • the Latin Narratio de Arthuro Rege Britanniae et Rege Gorlagon lycanthropo
  • Chrétien de Troyes’ Yvain, le Chevalier au Lion
  • the Middle English Richard Coer de Lyon.

In imagining the human-animal contact found in these texts as an animal-affective prosthetic, he argues that their human characters (and authors) appropriate animal bodies—and the affective “freedom” that is ascribed to them—as tools to temporarily alter human bodies and thus make accessible new ways of performing affect.

Lion bodies and wolf skin become affective “limbs” with which the knights and kings in these romances can, through transgressively- performed anger, enact a fantasy of the perfect defense of normative identity.

And yet, despite the careful attempt in these texts to draw a line between the human and animal, the courtly body and beastly limb, the two nonetheless blur into one another.

These texts ultimately suggest that the transgressive performance of anger enacted by those animal bodies is in fact an essential part of chivalric—and, indeed, human—identity.

Full paper here:-

Love and Death in the Männerbund

An essay with Special Reference to the Bjarkamál and The Battle of Maldon

By Joseph Harris

“The ideal of men dying with their lord in the nearly contemporary poems Bjarkamal and The Battle of Maldon has for some time constituted a scholarly problem, though it is not thoughts of death among warriors that seem to need an explanation; rather it is the special form those thoughts take and the historical relationships implied. The interpretive hurdle seems less formidable, however, when this “ ideal” is not isolated, for the institutional context links death with other expressions of love and solidarity.

“The institution in question is traditionally identified as the comitatus, whether in first-century Germania or thirteenth-century Norway, but the continuity and distinctiveness of the institution are now in serious doubt. Yet all that was formerly identified as belonging to the comitatus can still be ascribed with confidence to all-male groups with aggression as one major function, and these, in turn, can be located under the umbrella of the concept Mannerbund in the extended sense in which the word is currently used. There is no doubt that the problematic ideas about warrior self-sacrifice were in the air in the hypertrophy of heroic ethos of the late Viking Age, but this essay, casting its net very broadly, will propose the importance of a timeless psychological context in terms of male associations.”

Full paper here:-