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In Norse mythology, we find numerous wolves. There are the wolves Geri and Freki, accompanying god Odin. Skalli/Sköll and Hati are responsible for chasing the sun and moon across the heavens, and finally devouring them at Ragnarök when the world comes to an end (in another source, it is the wolf Fenrir). This "chasing of the sun/moon" is essential for Norse cosmology. It is an etiological myth that tries to explain the movement of sun and moon; the wolves Skalli and Hati, like their counterparts in other myths, are responsible for the movement of sun and moon; without them, day and night would not exist, and consequently they are create the cycles of the seasons. It shows the role of wolves in cosmology. A similar role can be found in Chinese mythology where Tiangou, 天狗 (meaning 'heavenly dog'), equally chases the sun, and is thought to devour it during an eclipse (hence, according to one myth, Tiangou is chased away by arrow by his arch enemy, Zhang Xian, 張仙 - see image below) (also cf. Celtic mythology, below); interestingly some Greek writers wrote that the Greek word for the "year", λυκάβας, was derived from λύκος “wolf” and βαίνω “to walk”, like the role of Skalli and Tiangou in chasing the son, walking over the sky/heavens... (cf. Ael.Nat. Anim. 10.26; Artemidorus, Onirocrit. 2.12; Eustathius on Hom. Od. 14.161, p. 1756).
A warrior dressed as wolf? Or Fenrir about to kill Odin? (Vendel era bronze plate from Öland, Sweden.)
Beowolf "Thor Wolf" / "Battle Wolf"?
Here, one might also want to refer to the famous Anglo-Saxon epos, Beowulf. Different etymolgoies have been suggested, but it seems certain that the -wulf does mean 'wolf'. One interpretation of Beowolf is Þórólfr ("Thor Wolf"), perhaps the wolf of the Germanic god Thor or Beow; or perhaps as beado-wulf, i.e. "battle/war wolf", similar to Icelandic Bodulfr "war wolf" (cf. Anglo-Saxon Dictionnary; Shippey, Beowulf).
Hittite Mythology / Hethitische Mythologie // le loup dan la mythologie hittite
We are still in the sphere of Indo-European religion, but moving back in time to the 2nd millenium BC and the Hittite Empire (the language is Indo-European and closely related to Germanic languages; we can therefore expect certain 'parallels'). There, wolves seem to have symbolised inter aliaunity and omniscience, features that we also find in many other cultures. In our ancient sources, we find for example king Hattusilis I, in the 17th century BC, urging his warriors to unite "like a wolf pack". We also find the Hittite term LÚMES UR.BAR.RA, "wolf people" or "wolf men" (pesnes ulipnes) (referring to certain dignitiaries or funcionaries in Hittite texts). Dressing in wolf skin seems to provide magical power, among others omniscience (also see the Germanic 'wolf warriors', Old Norse: úlfheᵭnar [úlfr, "wolf"], very close to the Hittite term). We also find the expression "You have turned into a wolf" in the Hittite Laws (§37 for the abductor of a woman) - similarly the Sanskrit "he is a wolf" for a special juridical status, or Old Icelandic "shall be called a wolf" (cf. Gamkrelidze et al., p.414; Lamb, p.63: in Old Norse morᵭvargr denoted a man outlawed for murder [vargr as synonym for úlfr, "wolf"]). There is also an allusion to a mythical capture of the wolf by myhical beings: "seize the wolf by his paws and the lion by his jaws" (Gamkrelidze et al. p.428, different translation in Lamb, pp.64f; KUB XII 63, 21-34). This may remind us of a much later coin from Tarsus, once part of the Hittite sphere of influence, depicting the god 'Apollo'(?) seizing two wolves by their front paws (see right column on this page). The Hittite story of seizing the wolf and lion relates to the house of the storm god. Unfortunately, our knowledge of the wolf in Hittite myth is extremely limited, and in iconography, the lion seems to have been more popular. But Lamb (op. cit., p.63) provides food for thought, based on a linguistic study: the Hittite term for god's creatures was siunas huidar; huidar can also denote a wolfpack as in huednas pankur (equal to ulipnas pankur, "wolf's family"). This might once again reflect a relation between wolves and creation that might have survived in an Indo-European language, even though the actual myths are lost (Lamb, p.63 also shows the linguistic parallels between the Hittite word for wolf, huidar, and the Norse god Fenrir). (For discussion and further bibliography, cf. Thomas V. Gamkrelidze, Vjaceslav V. Ivanov, Indo-European and the Indo-Europeans, a reconstruction...; Sydney M. Lamb, Sprung from some common source: Investigations into the prehistory of Languages).
Hittite libation cup, rhyton, probably in form of a lion (or perhaps a wolf?). Despite the frequent appearance of the word 'wolf' in Hittite texts, wolves are rare in Hittite art and iconography, while lions are a common motif (from Kültepe-Kanesh, c.2,000-1,700 BC).
In Norse myth, there is also Skalli's and Hati's father, the wolf Fenrir (or,Fenrisúlfr, Hróðvitnir - Old Norse for "fen-dweller", "Fenris wolf" and "Fame-Wolf" respectively). Fenris is the son of god Loki and destined to kill god Odin.
Possible depiction of ODIN and FENRIR. Thorwald's Cross (Kirk Andreas on the Isle of Man) (photo: Kermode, P. M. C. - Kermode, P. M. C. (1892) Catalogue of the Manx Crosses with the Runic Inscriptions and Various Readings and Renderings). On the right side, one can see a human (Odin?) holding a spear downward at a wolf (Fenrir?); his right foot in his mouth: Norse myth of the end of the world? Date: from a Christian context, 10th/11th century AD
Very similar: the Ledberg Stone (Sweden), 11th century AD? - again Fenrir(?) eating Odin's foot?
Photo: By Håkan Svensson (Xauxa) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC BY 2.5 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5)], from Wikimedia Commons
Lombards: Wolf as guide & divine messenger // Wolf als Führer & göttl. Botschafter bei den Langobarden // le loup comme guide et ambassadeur divin
Just a short note on the Lombards or Langobards, a Germanic people that had invaded Italy in the 6th century AD and created the Lombard Kingdom. In the 8th-century History of the Lombards, the Historia Langobardorum (IV.37), we are told that Leupchis had five sons, who, still children, were abducted by the Avars who had invaded the Duchy of Friuli (approximately AD 610); one of them, Lopichis, managed to escape and after a long odyssey return to Italy. On his way, he met a wolf who became his companion and guide: ei lupus adveniens comes itineris et ductor effectus est. As suggested by Carlo Donà (2003, 239-40), Lopichis still lived in a world full of 'pagan echoes': the wolf, "sibi .... divinitus datum esse", may well have been a divine messanger, perhaps of god Wotan.
As so often, also in Irish and Welsh mythology, written down in the Middle Ages, our texts were compiled by Christian/Catholic monks, hence they provide us with a re-telling of stories from a Christian viewpoint. Apart from serious misunderstandings and inaccuracies, this may imply deliberate or unconscious misrepresentations of 'pagan' understandings, knowledge of which might have got significantly lost by the time of writing. As we have seen earlier, wolves played various roles in Germanic/Norse mythology, and the pre-Christian Lombard "pantheon" might have been similar; we have seen wolves accompanying god Odin, for example, and the wolf as guide might reflect this role in Germanic/Lombard myth; in Christian texts, one favoured the Lamb [Agnus Dei], and wolves were automatically given the role of the evil spirit...).
(Cf. W. Haubrichs, 'Die "Erzählung des Helden" in narrativen Passagen der Historia Langobardorum', in V. Millet and H. Sahm (eds), Narration and Hero, 2014, p. 295, for a quote of the passage and a disucssion on the role of the wolf, cf. Carlo Donà, Per le vie dell'altro mondo: l'animale guida e il mito del viaggo. 2003, p.239).
Some CELTIC COSMIC WOLVES: coins depicting moon-eating and sun-eating wolves... CLICK FOR CELTIC WOLF MYTHS PAGE.
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