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Wolf Mask: "A Northwest Coast wolf headdress, probably Nuu-chah-nulth from Vancouver; used in a dance which referred to a story or stories involving the wolf" (R. Green, The British Museum Encyclopaedia of Native North America, 1999:177) (BM no. Am1939,11.3)
great study: Die Wölfe des Himmels - The Wolves of Heaven
Wolves in Creation Myths // Wölfe in Schöpfungsmythen aus aller Welt // Les loups dans les récits originaux
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 (see page 1).
For the Ainu (see Japanese Wolf Gods), the indigenous population on the island of Hokkaido, northern 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... (see 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 (already in 1889).
Inuit Mythology: Amarok
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).
Still essential reading!!! Fairley Mowat's "Never Cry Wolf"!
An Aztec deity depicted with the head of a dog. We find two interesting parallels with the role of wolves in other cultures: he accompanied the dead through the Otherworld, and he also carried the sun on its/his way through the night.
Moving south to "Latin America": a statue of the Aztec god Xolotl: a dog, not a wolf (Museo Nacional de Antropología, Mexico City)
Excursion to Africa and Eurasia!
Hier noch mehr Beispiele von Wölfen in Schöpfungsmythen und/oder als Ahnherrn von Völkern und Menschen. // A few more examples of wolves in creation myths or as ancestors of humans or peoples Siehe auch // see also:
Senegal: wolf as first living creature & seer // Der Wolf als erstes Lebewesen und Seher (Senegal) // Le loup comme le premier être vivant
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).
Chechenia: born of a she-wof // Tschetschenien: geboren von einer Wölfin
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.
Dacian Wolves // Dakische Wölfe
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 "secret wolf warrior brotherhood" (Eliade, Story of Religious Ideas, vol. 2, p. 481).
Mongolians & Turks: Wolf Ancestor Borte-chine "Blue Wolf" // Der Wolf als Ahnherr der Mongolen und Türken
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).
Northern Mongolia: "Totem" with grey wolf and white doe (Hun tomb, 3rd-1st century BC). Born according to the will of the Sky, Borte Chino (Blue Wolf) is the ancestor of the Mongolians; his partner/wife is Gua Maral (Red Deer).
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).
A bone depicting two wolves, discovered at the "Grotte de la Vache" (Haute-Ariège, France, dating to Magdalenian period, c.14,000 BC; see http://www.grotte-de-la-vache.org/).
Wolves in North American Creation / Origin Myths // Wölfe in nordamerikanischen Schöpfungsmythen / Les loups dans les mythes de création de l'Amerique de Nord
Among the North American Native population, we also find the wolf as creator god. 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).
Wolf-like mask and collar from the Tlingit people on the Pacific Coast of NW America (Madrid, Museum of the Americas).
Quileute and Kwakiutl transformation from wolf to human
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).
WOLF - MODEL FOR FAMILY LIFE
(Also cf. Stewart, H. 1979. Looking at Indian Art of the Northwest Coast. Vancouver.)
Wolf & Culture Hero in North America
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 (esp. by other peoples/tribes [cf. Swanton, Indian Tribes of N America, p. 289], and the wolf is today part of the Pawnee's nation seal). 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 toHeaven.(cf. e.g., "Wolf Legend and Lore" and http://www.native-languages.org/legends-wolf.htm). 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).
Postcard (c.1906) of a Northwest Coast "shaman" (Haida or Tlingit?) wearing a carved wolf mask on his head (B.M. no Am,B21.24)
Wolves & Shamanism // Wölfe & Shamanismus // Le loups & le chamanisme
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 something that we also find in other cultures, e.g. ancient Greek world (Dolon - see Greek Wolf Myths) or the Iberian herald dressed up in wolf skin (see Celtic Wolf Myths).
Another NW American wolf mask (Tinglit, Haida?). Made of wood, copper, haliotis shell, textile, skin (white weasel) (1870-1905; L.: 86cm) BM no. Am1944,02.132
NW America: A wooden mask of the Haida (Brit. Columbia), carved to represent a wolf, with shell inlaid eyes. British Museum no. Am,B44.19
NW America (Tinglit?): smoking pipe in form of a wolf, with long tail, sitting on its hind legs, front paws on knees (c.1780-1880; H.: 9cm; B.M. no. Am1949,22.80)
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