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Wolf-Mythologie 2 // Wolf & Mythology II
Wolves in Creation Myths // Wölfe in Schöpfungsmythen aus aller Welt
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 (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).
Wolves in North American Creation / Origin Myths // Wölfe in nordamerikanischen Schöpfungsmythen
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 (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 to Heaven.(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).
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.
Senegal: wolf as first living creature
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).
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).
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).
Wolf deities in Khotan, China
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)
Wolves as Gods & Divine Beings // Wolfsgötter & göttliche Wölfe // dieux loups
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.
オオカミ - 大口真神,
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)