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Wolf-Mythologie 2 // Wolf & Mythology II
Wolves in Creation Myths // Wölfe in Schöpfungsmythen
It is amazing to see that wolves play an important role in creation myths across the world. For example, wolves are considered the ancestors of humans, not only for the Ainu in Japan or in many North American creation myths, but also for Mongolians, Turcs, Chechens, Inuit, Senegals and ancient cultures, like the Hirpi, Dacians, and somehow also for the Romans.
For the Ainu (who live on the island of Hokkaido, North Japan), the wolf was an important god, Horkew Kamuy, the "Howling God" (also Horkew Retara Kamuy "White Wolf God" or Horkew Kamuy-dono "Lord Wolf God"; N.B.: kamuy is more or less equal to the Japanese word kami, 'god', 'divine spirit', etc.).
There are myths of a white wolf that mated with a goddess, and the offspring from this union became the ancestors of the Ainu people (also see below for comparable North American native and Mongolian creation myths).
According to Walker (2008): "Interestingly, in Ainu lore, wolves usually were friendly toward people, as in one story from Tokachi in which a wolf saved an elderly Ainu woman from an evil bear god while she picked wild plants". "In an earlier Ainu world, a world yet to be disrupted by the Japanese intrusion from the south, the landscape was alive with wolves, busily hunting deer, raising their young, and, at magical times, aiding people and descending from the heavens to inhabit sacred moutains and forests, much as wolves did in the tradition of some Japanese villages." (Walker 2008).
Ainu villages are also said to have raised wolf cubs and then used them as hunting companions. The spread of western influence and Japan's "modernisation" in the 19th century sparked off strychnine poisoning campaigns and the indigenous wolves of Hokkaido, like in the rest of Japan, became quickly extinct (1889).
On the other side of the Pacific, we also find the wolf as creator god, namely among the North American Native population. We are dealing with different forms of creation: the creation of the world and the creation of humans. In the Kaibab Souther Paiute belief, for example, the most prominent of all beings was the wolf, "the powerful one, as he was the People's Father" and created heaven and earth (cf.Handbook of N American Indians: Great Basin, p.638). And in the mythology of the Shoshone, the wolf was a noble Creator God. In one myth of the Shoshone, there was a (primeval) flood, and Wolf and Coyote were threwing down soil, from the upper world, into the world ocean, thus creating the earth (cf. e.g. Handbook of N American Indians, p.638 with further references).
Wolves are considered closely related to humans by many North American peoples. And acdcording to origin stories of some North-West Coast tribes, such as Quileute and Kwakiutl, people's first ancestors were transformed from wolves into men (see Ainu myth, supra). Among the myths of the Kwakiutl (British Columbia), we learn how the ancestors of that people took off their wolf mask and became humans (cf. Steinhart, Company of Wolves, 1996).
This mythical transformation from Wolf to Man can still be seen today in the rituals of the Quileute in NW America; there we find the Tlokwali, the "Wolf Ritual" which was held in winter; it seems to reflect this mythical transformation, while at the same time being an initiation (rite de passage) of new initiates/novices into the community (coming-to-age ritual). It is a long ceremony; among others, it started with the new initiates, on the first evening, imitating the cry of the wolf, outside the village or in a burial ground; the next day, all the members of the Tlokwali appear "behaving themselves as wolves", entering the specially built Tlokwali house crawling on their hands and feet, some covered in wolf skins, and wearing carved wooded headdresses (see images below). After some recitations, a signal from the Fathers is given and the "wolves", the novices, rush out of the Tlokwali house, throw away their masks, and get their everyday clothers on, then they re-enter and dance. The six-day ritual continues with numerous rites; at the end, each participant will have their "guardian spirit from the woods". All this reflects an initiation ritual, and the 'wolf' also, in a way, serves as model for family life (see detailed description of this ritual by Frachtenberg, in American Anthropologist).
And in Anishinabe myth, a wolf character is the brother and best friend of the culture hero. The wolf is often a "benign and responsible fellow", counterpart to the "supreme being" (cf. Handbook of N American Indians, p. 638)
The Pawnee were known as the Wolf People. The cyclical appearance and disappearance of Sirius, the Wolf Star, indicated the wolf coming and going from the spirit world, running down the trail of the Wolf Road (i.e. the Milky Way); the Blackfoot tribe also called the galaxy the Wolf Trail or the Route to Heaven.
Among the Pueblo tribes, wolves are considered one of the six directional guardians, associated with the east and the colour white. The Zunis carve stone wolf fetishes for protection, ascribing to them both healing and hunting powers (cf. http://www.native-languages.org/legends-wolf.htm).
And finally back to Eurasia where the Chechens are, according to national myth, "born of a she-wolf" (which superficially may remind us of the role of the Roman lupa). The lone wolf symbolizes strength, independence and freedom. A proverb about the teips (subclans) is "equal and free like wolves" (cf. K.S. Layton 2014. Chechens: Culture and Society, pp. 62–63).
We also find this story in ancient Italy: "Beyond are the Hirpini, who are also Samnites: their name they take from the wolf, which conducted their colony; a wolf being called by the Samnites hirpos" (Silv. 4.8.45): see section on Italic wolf cults.
According to the Serer religion of Senegal, the wolf was the first living and the first intelligent creature to be created by the supreme (creator) god Roog (cf. H. Gravrand 1990, La Civilisation Sereer - Pangool, vol. 2, 201-3): the wolf is seen as a seer 'who came from the transcendence' and who maintains links with it: therefore, the wolves' movements are carefully observed; it is believed that wolves know in advance who will die, and also that the wolves will remain on earth even after the humans (see Gravand 1990).
In the chapter "The Dacians and the Wolves", M. Eliade (Zalmoxis, The Vanishing God. 1972, 5-20) shows that the Dacians, Daci, considered the blue/grey (she)wolf their mythical ancestor (for blue wolf, cf. Mongolian/Turkish mythology). They called themselves "wolves" or "those who are like wolves"; the wolf provided an exemplary model of the warrior; imitating the wolves' behaviour was important, as well as initiation into "secred wolf warrior brotherhood" (Eliade, Story of Religious Ideas, vol. 2, p. 481).
Mongolians & Turks: Wolf Ancestor
Borte-chino, the blue(grey) wolf, was the wolf ancestor of the Mongols (according to e.g., the Bolar Erikh and the Nuuts Tovchoo). The Wolf and the Eternal Heaven constitue the beginning of a line that culminated in Chinggis Qan (Genghis Khan). With the adoption of Buddhism, Borte Chino was re-interpreted and became a descendant of rulers from India and Tibet (cf. D. Eisma, Chinggis Qan and the conquest of Eurasia, p.,138).
There are lots of similarities between Mongolian and Turkish: there, we also find the story of Ashina/Asena, "noble wolf" in Turkic languages, a she-wolf, from whom Turkish tribes descent according to myth: Asena founded the Ashina Clan who ruled over the Turkish empire (cf. al-Mas’udi text). (The Old Turkish word for 'wolf' is Böri, similar to the Mongolian Borte).
In Inuit mythology, we find the Amarok/Amaroq, a gigantic gray wolf (for the Inuit, the word amarok is only used for the legendary, mythical wolf). There are numerous stories about Amarok, like the one of the boy whom the Amarok instructs to return daily to him in order develop the boy's strength, or the story of the mourner who kills the Amarok's cubs; subsequently the Amarok, "from which nothing remains concealed", took the mourner's soul from his body (cf. H. Rink (1997), Tales and Traditions of the Eskimo).
Moreover, the Amarok plays an important role in Inuit cosmology. Mowat (1974) records this indigenous story: According to the myth, humans only hunted the best and strongest caribou (reindeer) so that finally only the weak and ill were left. The sky god, Kaila, had to intervene and went to Amarok, the Spirit of the Wolf. Kaila demands that Amarok's children, the wolves, only eat the weak and ill caribou, so that their herd becomes once again numerous with large and fat animals so that the humans ("the Sons of the Woman"), can once more hunt again. As a result, in Inuit cosmology, Humans, Caribou and Wolf are One: "Et pour les Fils, le Loup et le Caribou ne sont devenus plus qu'un. Car, si le caribou nourrit le loup, le loup conserve le caribou en bonne santé" (Fairley Mowat, Never Cry Wolf 1963; Larousse, s.v. wolf).
Wolves & Shamanism
Sorry, but this section is still rather incomplete. More as soon as I find the time.
We already have seen that people seem to (have) dress(ed) up as wolves during religious ceremonies, for example in the case of the Tlingit (see above). There is more evidence for this ritual from various cultures. For example, the Navajo word for wolf, "mai-coh," also means 'witch': a person could transform if he or she wore a wolf skin.
This is also something we see in these 2,500-year old Greek vase paintings: a person wearing a wolf skin. But here we are probably dealing with Dolon, Hektor's spy in the Trojan war, if Homer's legendary epos, The Illiad: "He (Dolon) hung his bow over his shoulder, and as an overall he wore the skin of a gray wolf, while on his head he set a cap of ferret skin" (Hom. Il. 10.272).
Wolf & early (wo)man (17,000 - 10,000 BC)
And now for something completely different: an early cave painting from Libya (Tadrart Acacus; t.p.q.: 12,000BC), showing canidae hunting a deer. This is often believed to show dogs (since a human is depicted running behind), but is this feasible at such an early date? Like in North America (see above), the wolf teaches the humans how to hunt and how to work together. It therefore seems likely that humans watched wolves hunting, it made them think, and therefore they painted such hunting scenes: wolves as model for the early human hunter? And humans may also well have profited from the victim...
Le loup évanescent. Cave painting of a wolf, one of he more mysterious figures from the famous "Font-de-Gaume" cave in Aquitaine, located at a topographic crossroad of the cave; it dates to the Magdalenian period, c.17,000 to 12,000 BC (today not much of this painting is visible; this image comes from "La Caverne de Font-de-Gaume aux Eyzies" by Louis Capitain, Henri Breuil and Denis Peyrony, 1910, planche 37).
Wolves as Gods & Divine Beings // Göttliche Wölfe
Also see left column for the (divine) role of wolves in creation myths, sometimes even as god of creation and/or ancestor of humans! On page 1, we also saw the Greek gods Apollo, Artemis and Zeus as 'wolf-gods', and in Norse/Germanic mythology wolves are equally divine beings, like the wolf Fenrir, son of the god Loki.
Let us start with Japanese religion where the wolf had (and still has) various divine roles. Today, he can still frequently be encountered at Shinto sanctuaries, where the wolf, ōkami/狼, could be the divine messenger of the mountain deities (山の神, yama no kami). But sometimes he is more than just a messenger, he is actually a god. In this respect, we could also refer to Inari Okami, 稲荷大神, a poweful god, often considered the "kami of foxes". He was the god of fertility, rice, agriculture, general prosperity and success; some worshippers consider Inari to be a 'fox deity', hence the countless fox statues at the entrance of Inari shrines (see images at bottom of page).
The wolf as god is above all worshipped under the name of Ooguchi no Magami, 大口真神, the "Large-Mouthed Pure God" (magami まかみ/真神 [Kanji: 'true-god'] is also an archaic version of ōkami, 'wolf'); 大口, ōguchi means 'big mouth'). Once he was a very popular god and still today he is worshipped at some shrines, like Mitsumine, Ryogami Shrine and Mitake. There, the komainu - the shrine guardians - have the form of a wolf (see images below).
An important Wolf Deity Festival is the Ooguchi magami matsuri, 大口真神祭り. It takes place at the Musashi Mitake jinja (jinja=shrine) (武蔵御嶽神社) in January (amazingly, in other cultures January is also associated with wolves, e.g. it was the Saxon Wulf-monath, "wolf-month", and for North American Indians it was the 'wolf moon').
Ancient historic accounts from Japan report this mythical story how the wolf deity, a white wolf (白狼, shirōkami), in times of need suddenly appeared to Yamato Takeru, son of Emperor Keikko (around AD100). Takaru got lost on a road near Mitakesan (御嶽山) when a local demon shapeshifted into a white deer (白鹿) and obstructed the road. The white wolf showed him the way and let his army on the right path, "and Takeru commanded the white wolf to stay in Mitakesan as a true god, in order to slay any local demons."
(And here in Japanese: 「おいぬ様」＝日本狼ですが、狼が守り神となった由来が日本書紀に現れますが、御岳山では次のように伝えられています。 // 『日本武尊が東征の際、この御岳山から西北に進もうとされたとき、深山の邪神が大きな白鹿と化して道を塞いだ。尊は山蒜（やまびる＝野蒜）で大鹿を退治したが、そのとき山谷鳴動して雲霧が発生し、道に迷われてしまう。 // そこへ、忽然と白狼が現れ、西北へ尊の軍を導いた。尊は白狼に、大口真神としてこの御岳山に留まり、すべての魔物を退治せよと仰せられた。
- source: http://www.musashimitakejinja.jp/).
The wolf god, 大口真神, as Shirookami (white wolf: 白狼), protecter and helper in need, depicted on a 3x2m large wooden panel in the temple of the Musashi-Mitake Jinja on the 923m high summit of Mt. Mitake (nr. Tokyo). (Hiresaki Eiho's work entitled 武尊深山跋渉之図, "Takeru Miyama Bassho Noriyuki Figure" from 1909, siehe unten für Photo der gesamten Darstellung).
To appease 大口真神, the 'Large-Mouthed Pure' Wolf God, he received deer and wild boars as offerings. People used to live in co-existenvce with wolves for centuries; not only did wolves rarely show themselves (after all, they are very shy animals who avoid humans), but they also helped people to chase away or kill the "vermin that was roughening the fields", i.e. boars, deer, etc. (sorry for the term 'vermin', quote from http://www.musashimitakejinja.jp/ - 10/04/2016).
大口真神 therefore became a protector deity for good people, i.e. those who fed him, while he punished the bad ones. Indeed, wolves in Japanese mythology are often judges of humans, being able to tell who is a good person and who is a bad one. We also see this in other cultures where wolves are equally judge of character, see e.g. Amaroq in Inuit culture. The wolf was/is a popular deity as he/she prevented robbery and fire, and is therefore frequently depicted on votive tablets (so-called ema, 絵馬) (see images below).
The sacred Mountain Wolf, 山犬, is also called Oinusama, 御犬様 (O-inu-sama, "Honorable Wolf Deity": inu means dog, but the words for dog and wolf are often used synonymously). For example, the Yamazumi Shrine (Misakubo, Shizuoka Prefecture) has a long history of wolf worship; founded in A.D. 709 when Oyamazu no Kami, generally called Yamazumi Daigongen, a wolf deity (Yamazumisama, 山住様 /ヤマズミサマ, "Deity living in the mountains"), was invited here from Iyo province. The shrine is famous for its wolf cult and the legend/myth tell us that, "When Tokugawa Ieyasu took refuge in a mountain to escape from the attack of the Takeda clan, the mountain suddenly began to quake and he heard great roaring of a wolf, which drove away the enemy."
Interestingly, the word for wolf, ōkami (狼), is phonetically identical with the name of a great god or goddess, ōkami (大神: 大 (ō, “great”) + 神 (kami, “god, spirit”, as in the case of the great goddess Amaterasu, who is also called ōkami; however, she never seems to have been identified as wolf, only in 21st-century adaptations of her myth, though we should not make any assumptions ex silentio).
The wolf is a guardian when it is properly attended to and cared for. For example, he is a guardian who protects the traveller, as we can see in many myths and legends. Farmers used to worship wolves at shrines and left food offerings near their dens, beseeching them to protect their crops from wild boars and deer. Inu no ubumimai is a tradition in which one gives a female Honshu wolf rice when she gives birth to cubs; and in return she would protect the village and assist in danger (cf. Walker 2008). Here, we can also refer to India since Hindus traditionally considered that the hunting of wolves was a taboo since they feared that it may cause a bad harvest!
In Japan, talismans and charms adorned with images of wolves were thought to protect against fire, disease and other calamities and brought fertility to agrarian communities and to couples hoping to have children.
On wolves in Japan, cf. e.g. B.L. Walker, The Lost Wolves of Japan (2008), and J. Knight, Waiting for Wolves in Japan: An Anthropological Study of People-Wildlife Relations (2003).
I also found this story of a white wolf:
In the year 1164, Okubo Samanosuke (a samurai of Minamoto no Yoshitomo) was on a pilgrimage to the famous Mount Mitoku (in Tottori Prefecture, 990m; the "Mount of thee virtues", 三徳, santoku: Buddhism's three primary virtues: wisdom, renunciation & judgement) to pray for the revivl of his house/country. On the way he met an old white wolf, divine messenger of the god Myoken Daibosatsu (妙見山 - the originally Indian deity Sudrsti; also the deified polar star). Although he took up his bow to shoot the wolf, he decided otherwise, helped the wolf in distress and let it go. The following night the god Myoken appeared in his dream and told Okubo Samanosuke about a sacred spring at the roots of the old camphor tree (Kusunoki, 老楠). The god Myoken revealed its location to Okubo in appreciation that he had spared the white wolf's life. Next day, Okubo discovered the hot spring (kabu-yo) at the place which the god indicated, and its water would heal many diseases of the local villagers. This was the beginning of Misasa Onsen which still today is a famous "spa" where the myth has been immortalised by a sculpture: see http://spa-misasa.jp/eng/.
Here, at Misasa Onsen, we also find the Misasa Jinsho, the "Tug-of-War Festival", a folk ritual that takes places between two teams that are divided into "east" and "west". The shape of the rope, formed from the fuji-kazura trees, from the sacred grounds of Mount Mitoku, represents the harmonising of humans with nature.
Again my apologies for the unreliable source: http://spa-misasa.jp/eng/ and http://heianperiodjapan.blogspot.co.uk/2015/07/daibosatsu-legends.html and finally http://spa-misasa.jp/japan-heritage/en/spa-misa/ - If you know a better source of this myth, let me know please.
"Wolf Gods" in Egypt // Wolfsgötter in Ägypten
We should not forget egypt. The god Anubis was represented as a wolf (or human with wolf head). What used to be identified as a jackal is nowadays interpreted as a wolf (see the rather slender Ethopian wolf that is threatened by extinction today). Here, a recumbent statue of Anubis as black-coated wolf from the Tomb of Tutankhamun (photo: Jon Bodsworth, egyptarchive.co.uk)
The god Wepwawet (or Upuaut) was usually represented as a wolf. Wepwawet means "Opener of the ways", e.g. opening the way to the pharao's victory, also as "opener" of the sky, or guiding the deceased into the netherworld. He is often depicted as a wolf standing at the prow of a solar-boat (see image). His main cult centre was Asyut, called Lycopolis in Greek (the "City of Wolves"). (more info)
Also see page 1 for images of the goddess Isis and the wolf in Greco-Roman period.
We already talked of the 'heavenly dog' in China, Tiangou, 天狗 , comparable with Skalli and Hati in Norse mythology, chasing the sun (see page 1). There is also this enigmatic wall painting that was found in the Kingdom of Khotan (modern Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, China) which seems to depict what appears to be an anthropomorphic representation of a wolf deity (this is hardly a 'rat' as some have suggested!). If we follow Kothan legends and myths, then the wolf deity might represent "a spirit protecting the health of children" (Whitfield (ed.), "Khotan: a kingdom of remarkable diversity", in: The Sill Road: Trade, Travel, War and Faith, British Library, Chicago 2004: 137).
The wolf also plays a role in local dynasties; for example, the first kings of neighbouring Yarkand had the family name Gurga (perhaps from the Persian/Kurdish word gurga, “wolf”) (cf. L. Christopoulous, "Hellenes and Romans in Ancient China", Sino-Platonic Papers 230: 23).
Possibly a wolf-headed deity, polychrome wall painting from a Buddhist shrine at Tarashlik near Mayaklik (N. of Khotan, China): animal with open mouth and large fangs; left hand, possibly carrying a weapon (e.g., vajra?); image originally had four arms;. (H.: 34.5cm; 5th-6th c.AD; British Museum 2004,0510,0.1)
Wolf as guardian (otsukai), protecting the villagers and their lifestock, at Mitsumine Shrine, Oku-Chichibu (Saitama prefecture, Japan). Farmers feed the wolf kami with offerings of prayer, money and food. When the wolf is neglected, it starves and becomes weak. Misfortune falls on those who forget to feed the wolf kami (cf. Walker 2005: 71-74)
At IIitate we find a famous "wolf shrine", the Yamatsumi Shrine. The name Toratori-yama, „Tigerfang-Berg“, derives from the bandit Tachibana no Sumitora (橘墨虎, Sumitora, literally „Tuschetiger“ heißt) who was captured by Minamoto no Yoriyoshi (AD988–1075), assisted by a white wolf in whose honour the Yamatsumi-jinja (山津見神社) was founded in AD1051 (yamatsumi, the "mountain god"). In the haiden ("hall of worship"; Gebetshalle) there are numerous white wolf statues and 231 ceiling frescoes depicting wolves.(haiden). Every year, on the 17th day of the 10th lunar month, there is a religious festival in honour of this lupine "mountain god". See images below.
Another story from the shrine in Iitate Shrine, relating to Minamoto no Yoriyoshi, 源頼義, (AD 1147-1199, first shogun of the Kamakura Shogunate?), was fighting the Sumitora, 墨虎. The passage shows again the role of the white wolf as divine messenger, guide, and god: One night the god of the mountain appeared in a dream and said: "You shall follow in the footsteps of the white wolf (白狼)...". - ある夜、夢の中に山の神が現れ頼義公に告げます。「墨虎を獲んと欲せば白狼の足跡をふみ追うべし」,
(I still need to verify the source, sorry, just an Internet source: http://www5.plala.or.jp/m_kuro/soumanomaoi/2012gantan/iitate.htm)