Descended from Wolves: Wolf Symbolism Around the World

For the purpose of discerning connections between different groups, here we explore the various wolf tribal legends, legends of races with the ability to change into wolves, groups with wolf festivals, veneration or shrines, and groups which have wolf messengers to their deities, sacrifices to wolf deities or groups that identify themselves as wolf peoples.

In Ethiopia, Tanzania and Morocca, the boudas is a sorcerer/blacksmith who turns into a werehyena  but who may identified from the human ornament that it wears from its human form. (Source: Werewolves – Lycanthropy)

In Egypt:

“In late Egyptian mythology, Wepwawet (hieroglyphic wp-w3w.t; also rendered Upuaut, Wep-wawet, Wepawet, and Ophois) was originally a war deity, whose cult centre was Asyut in Upper Egypt (Lycopolis in the Greco-Roman period). His name means, opener of the ways and he is often depicted as a wolf standing at the prow of a solar-boat. Some interpret that Wepwawet was seen as a scout, going out to clear routes for the army to proceed forward.[1] One inscription from the Sinai states that Wepwawet “opens the way” to king Sekhemkhet’s victory…

Wepwawet originally was seen as a wolf deity, thus the Greek name of Lycopolis, meaning city of wolves, and it is likely the case that Wepwawet was originally just a symbol of the pharaoh, seeking to associate with wolf-like attributes, that later became deified as a mascot to accompany the pharaoh. Likewise, Wepwawet was said to accompany the pharaoh on hunts, in which capacity he was titled (one with) sharp arrow more powerful than the gods. 

Ivory label depicting the pharaoh Den, found at his tomb in Abydos, circa 3000 BC. Originally attached to a pair of royal sandals, which is depicted on the reverse. The side shown here depicts the pharaoh striking down an Asiatic tribesman along with the inscription “The first occasion of smiting the East”…
Over time, the connection to war, and thus to death, led to Wepwawet also being seen as one who opened the ways to, and through, Duat, for the spirits of the dead. Through this, and the similarity of the jackal to the wolf, Wepwawet became associated with Anubis, a deity that was worshiped in Asyut, eventually being considered his son. Seen as a jackal, he also was said to be Set’s son. Consequently, Wepwawet often is confused with Anubis.[2] This deity appears in the Temple of Seti I at Abydos.[2]

In later Egyptian art, Wepwawet was depicted as a wolf or a jackal, or as a man with the head of a wolf or a jackal. Even when considered a jackal, Wepwawet usually was shown with grey, or white fur, reflecting his lupine origins. He was depicted dressed as a soldier, as well as carrying other military equipment—a mace and a bow.Wepwawet (Wikipedia)

[Note: For a deeper treatment of the motif of dog guardians or guides to the afterlife and in the Underworld, see Floating and “Flying”Boats of the Dead and why dogs stand guard at the entrance of cemeteries or the Underworld ]

In Sirius for Seekers: The Star Sirius in Astronomy, Religion, Myth and History, M. Temple Richmond writes:

“it is of significance to know that the Greeks and their neighbors most likely got their ideas about the star Sirius from Egyptian culture, for it appears that the linkage of the star Sirius with the dog figure originally arose in Egypt. There Sirius was from the earliest of times represented in hieroglyphics by a dog and associated with the god Anubis, a highly important member of the Egyptian pantheon depicted with the head of a jackal, which is a small wild dog related to the wolf.

The jackal (or dog) – the symbol of Anubis – represented the star Sirius in Egyptian hieroglyphics perhaps as early as 3285 B.C. Thus, through the connection of Anubis the Jackal-Headed god and Sirius, Sirius came to be called the Star of the Dog, or the Dog-Star. Eventually, this imagery imparted its name to the star grouping within which Sirius is perceived. Hence, the constellation of the Dog or Canis major. The Romans were said to associate Anubis with a star (Sirius) and called it a wolf star.”

The Roman empire:

Rome has one of the best known wolf-founding legends. As the legend goes, Rome is a city founded by Remus of the Romulus and Remus twin wolf children legend.

On the origins of the Romans, see Wolf Warriors


The Samnites were the ancient warlike tribes inhabiting the mountainous from the center of southern Italy. These tribes, who spoke Oscan and were probably an offshoot of the Sabini, apparently referred to themselves not as Samnite but by the Oscan form of the word, which appears in Latin as Sabine.
The story recounted by Plutarch that Romulus, the founder of Rome, invited the Sabines to a feast and then carried off (raped) their women, is legendary.
Four cantons formed a Samnite confederation: Hirpini, Caudini, Caraceni, and Pentri.
According to Heraclides Ponticus (Fragm. Hist. Gr. 218), the name of the Samnite tribe of the Lucani came from Lykos, meaning wolf. Their neighbors, the Hirpini, took their name from hirpus, the Samnite word for wolf.
At the foot of Mount Soracte lived the Hirpi Sorani, the “wolves of Sora” (the Volscian city). According to the tradition transmitted by Servius, an oracle had advised the Hirpi Sorani to live “like wolves,” that is, by rapine. And in fact they were exempt from taxes and from military service, for their biennial rite-which consisted in walking barefoot over burning coals-was believed to ensure the fertility of the country. This ritual was practiced in Thrace and, most probably, in Dacia. It survived up to now in Bulgaria in the form of nestinari circle dance.

The Volscians were living in central Italy, neighbouring the Oscan-speaking Samnites. Volscian was replaced by Latin in the 3rd century BC as the Volsci became Romanized after their submission to Rome (304 BC). Modern knowledge of the language is mostly derived from a single inscription from Velitrae (modern Velletri), Italy, dating from the early 3rd century BC.

The wolf was the symbol of the fugitive, and many gods who protected exiles and outlaws had wolf deities or attributes. Examples like Zeus Lykoreius, Apollo Lykeios, Romulus and Remus, sons of the wolf-god Mars and suckled by the she-wolf of the Capitol, had been “fugitives.


According to the legend, described by the Roman historian Titus Livius, Rhea Sylvia, beloved sole daughter of the so called “Denominator” King of Alba Longa and, simultaneously, a vestal virgin within God Mars’ Temple, is said to have suddenly become pregnant “out of the blue Moon” with Mars, the wolf-god, and eventually delivers twin boys. Her powerful uncle Amelia, apparently not “buying” her explanation, orders his servants to throw the bastards into the Tiber River. However, designated executioners would prove to have a heart and decide to better abandon both babies into a floating basket, going down the wild river’s stream only to be, subsequently, found by a “She-wolf”, meaning a woman from a neighboring wolf-named tribe, probably the Samanite tribe of the Lucani.
A similar legend is found in Central Asia, in several variants, where the marriage between a supernatural wolf and a princess gave birth to a population or to a dynasty. Most probably, the Romans adopted this legend from east.
According to the legend, Romulus established a place of refuge for exiles and outlaws on the Capitol (F.Altheim, Roman Religion, pp. 260, 261). Most probably, all of them were “wolf people” coming from Thrace and Dacia. Servius informs us that this asylum was under the protection of the god Lucoris who was identified with Lykoreus of Delphi, himself a wolf-god.
Every year on February 15 ancient priests killed a dog and two goats and smeared the foreheads of two boys from noble families with the sacrificial blood as part of the Lupercalia celebration. The ceremony survived until A.D. 494, when Pope Gelasius put an end to the tradition.

Archaeologists have unearthed Lupercale—the sacred cave where, according to legend, a she-wolf nursed the twin founders of Rome and where the city itself was born.
The long-lost underground chamber was found beneath the remains of Emperor Augustus’ palace on the Palatine, a 230-foot-tall (70-meter-tall) hill in the center of the city. The 50-foot-deep (15-meter-deep) cavity “show a richly decorated vault encrusted with mosaics and seashells, too rich to be part of a home. That’s why we think it could be the ancient sanctuary, but we can’t be sure until we find the entrance to the chamber” said Irene Iacopi, the archaeologist in charge of the area.

Rhea Sylvia, the mother of Romulus and Remus, being a vestal virgin, lived into the temple of Vesta, located also on the Palatine hill, just as the cave where she give birth to her twins.

The capture of the Sabines originates from the practice of the wolf-people to capture their wives.
After Romans raped their women, the Sabine tribes attacked Rome and in order to survive, the Romans asked their Sabine wives to intervene to prevent the seizing of the city. In accordance with a treaty drawn up between the two peoples, Romulus accepted the Sabine king Titus Tatius as his co ruler. Titus Tatius’ early death left Romulus sole king again, and after a long rule he mysteriously disappeared in a storm.
The capture of the Sabines remained in the custom of simulated capture in the Roman marriage ceremony. This custom is present today in the Romanian marriage ceremony, where the groom has to pay for having back the kidnapped bride.

The Wolf’s Priests

Lupercalia was an ancient Roman festival, conducted annually on February 15 under the superintendence of a corporation of priests called Luperci, from lupus (Latin: “wolf”).
Each Lupercalia began with the sacrifice, by the Luperci, of goats and a dog, after which two of the Luperci were led to the altar, their foreheads were touched with a bloody knife, and the blood wiped off with wool dipped in milk; then the ritual required that the two young men laugh. The sacrificial feast followed, after which the Luperci cut thongs from the skins of the victims and ran in two bands around the Palatine hill, striking with the thongs at any woman who came near them. A blow from the thong was supposed to render a woman fertile. The celebrations of Lupercalia featured wild group dances and orgiastic rites to insure the year’s fertility.
In AD 494 the Christian church under Pope Gelasius I appropriated the form of the rite as the Feast of the Purification.”

Wolf ornaments found on Caligula's ship

Bronze wolf ornaments found on Caligula’s ship now in the colection of the Museo Nazionale Romano, Rome. Photoss: S.P. Kershaw ,Creative Commons

Wolves are used in Roman ornamentation, see the wolf head ornaments from Lake Nemi – Caligula’s ships thought to be ceremonial ships in the cult of Isis. Mussolini’s draining of Lake Nemi in the late 1920s revealed the remains of two 70m long vessels, probably ceremonial ships in the cult of Isis. A lead pipe stamped Property of Gaius Caesar Augustus Germanicus revealed the owner.


The City of the Wolves

The Dacians excerpted below:

The name of Dacians and Getae was of Scythic origin (Vasile Pârvan, Getica, p.286). Dhau means to press, to strangle, to squeeze. It is the root for various words meaning wolf: Phrygian daoi, Illyrian dhaunos, Iranian-Saka dahae. This may refer to the anecdotal belief of pastoral shepherds that the wolf when it came after the sheep would seize them by the throat so that they strangled and could make no sound as it dragged them away from the rest of the flock.
A tradition preserved by Hesychius informs us that Daos was the Phrygian word for “wolf“. Still according to Strabo, certain nomadic Scythians to the east of the Caspian Sea were also called Daoi. This name was probably brought into Transylvania and Vojvodina by the Scytho-Iranian Agathyrs.
Dacian villages and cities had their names ending with “dava”, “deva”, “daba”, “deba” or “debai”. The southern limit of the Dacian territory is marked, on the map, by a dotted line.
A part of the Daoi settled into the Rhodope Mountains. Let us note that Spartacus, the famous ancient gladiator who freed himself only to assemble a huge army of hundred thousands former slaves, who scared even “the eternal city” itself, had been a Thracian, from the Rhodophe Mountains of Bulgaria. The Daursi lived into the Dalmatian mountains. Dausdava, or the “City of the wolves” is on the map of the Roman geographer Ptolemaios at the south of the Danube river.

Herodotus, wrote about Thracians: “…after the Indians, the Thracian people constituted the largest ethnicity among all the rest of the world’s races. Should they benefit from one ruling only and be spiritually united, they might succeed to become, in my opinion, absolutely undefeatable and to surpass, by far, the greatness of all the other Earth’s proud races. The Thracians bear many names, each one according to their living regions, yet all of them show, through almost everything, highly similar customs”.
Because of their philosophy and beliefs, Herodot described the Dacians as “the bravest and the most righteous of all the Thracians”.
Based on the above information, we can understand how was possible to find the basic philosophy and beliefs of the Dacian priests spread, throughout the Europe.

Towards the end of the 4th century ad, Nicetas the Bishop of Dacia brought the gospel to “those mountain wolves”, the Bessi.

The Celtic-Dacian carnyx , a horn variant of the Etruscan-Roman lituus belonging to the family of brass instruments, was an instrument associated with warfare and with sacrifices to the god of warfare, Mars. Archaeological finds date back to the Bronze Age, and the instrument itself is attested for in contemporary sources between ca. 300 BC and 200 AD. The carnyx was in widespread use in Britain, France, parts of Germany, eastward to Romania and beyond, even as far as India, where bands of Celtic mercenaries took it on their travels.

Gallic coins show the carnyx with its most prominent feature is the bell, which was constructed as an animal head, sometimes a wolf, or other animals (such as the serpent, a fish, a bird, a horse, an ass or a wild boar).


Some words are suggesting that the Gets/Getae were worshiping Apollo. The word apologetic (same in Romanian) stands from the Getic way of worshipping Apollo: they used to song into his glory. The Gets, through Aurelian, and later the Goths, who borrowed all Getic traditions and history, spread this way of worshipping throughout entire Europe. That’s why the word apologist is the same in Romanian and German: apologet (Apollo worshipping Get), while does not have a close correspondent in Latin or Greek. Apollo is the only God who has the same name both in Greek and Roman pantheon, and that’s because they adopted him from the same source, from the Daco-Gets.

Herodotus, wrote about a Dacian custom in Histories [4.94]: “when it lightens and thunders, aim their arrows at the sky, uttering threats against the (thunder) god; and they do not believe that there is any god but their own (sun god).” This tells us that Dacians had only one god, who was the sun god and they sent arrows into the clouds in order to clear the sky and make their god, the sun, to appear and shine. The oldest occurrence of this custom is attested at Yurakare, Semang and Sakai: they aimed their arrows at the sky, uttering threats against the thunder god. (Mircea Eliade, Notes on the symbolism of the arrow, pp. 465, 466). Similarly, the sun god Mithra was represented throwing arrows against the clouds (F. Saxl, Mithras, Berlin, 1931, p. 76; G. Windengren, Die Religionen Irans, p. 44).

In a Dacian relief, Apollo/Mithra is represented standing with his knee on his sacrificial animal, the bull. Into the corners are represented his symbols: a head representing the sun, a head having a crescent above, representing the moon, a wolf, symbolizing the death, jumping at Apollo/Mithra, and a snake, Python, symbolizing the false prophecies, the delusion. The latter two symbols were joined into the Dacian wolf-dragon banner, while the moon and the sun were carved on the Valach funerary crosses, as solar rather than Christian symbols, during the entire middle age. The relief shows Apollo/Mithra, wearing a Dacian bent forward cap, together with the lower symbols, the wolf and the snake, under an arch made of stone blocks, symbolizing the entrance into a cave, the place where his rituals took place, while the upper symbols, the sun and the moon are on the sky out of the cave. Like in the Corycian cave from Delphi, the priests of the sun god, always performed the rituals in caves. The same did Zalmoxis: “he was making for himself meanwhile a chamber under the ground; and when his chamber was finished, he disappeared from among the Thracians and went down into the underground chamber, where he continued to live for three years”. (Herodotus, book IV, 96) Strabon gives more information about this in Geographia (VII, 3, 5): “After he secluded himself into a kind of cave, inaccessible to the others, he spent a while there, meeting seldom with those outside, excepting the king and his counselors”… “This custom lasted up to our days; according to the tradition, always was found such a man who helped the king’s counselor, and among the Getae, this man was called god.” This explains why, the sun god’s priest Zalmoxis was also considered a god. Probably the priest was considered as merging with the sun god, just like, latter, in Christianity, Jesus merged with God. The prayers were addressed to Zalmoxis just like in Christianity the prayers are addressed to Jesus.

In a similar bas-relief of white marble found in Italy, at Bologna, are represented, below the bull, the wolf, the serpent and scorpion, the two torch-bearers, and above the one to the left the raven. Near each torch-bearer is a pine-tree (?). There were discovered two pairs of statues of these torch-bearers are accompanied by inscriptions, from which we learn that the one who held up his torch was called Cautes, and that the one who held down his torch was called Cautopates. Both names are very old and come from the Etruscan mythology, where the name of the sun god was Cautha. He is generally depicted as rising from the sea.

Long ago the learned French antiquary Montfaucon interpreted the three figures of these reliefs as the rising sun (Cautes), the mid-day sun (Mithra), and the setting sun (Cautopates). This would explain why in many reliefs the figure of Cautes, who holds up his torch, is accompanied by a cock, the herald of the dawn. In two Mithraic monuments the torch-bearer who holds up his torch in one hand supports a cock on the other. Hence we infer that this youth, named Cautes, was regarded as an emblem of the rising sun, and we may suppose that in the daily liturgy Cautes was invoked at sunrise, the bull-slaying god Mithra, at noon, and Cautopates at sunset.  Therefore, the sacrifice of the bull was performed at the noon. Should be mentioned also that the torch bearers have their legs crossed, the cross being a sign associated to the sun, fact proven also by Constantine’s cross.

On the upper border are the busts of the seven planets in the following order from the left: The Sun, Saturn, Venus, Jupiter, Hermes, Mars, and Luna. But the sun was rising from Cauthes (right) and was going to Cautopathes (left), so that the order of the planets is reversed when seen from left to right, following exactly the order of the weekdays: Luna-Monday (Moon’s day), Mars-Tuesday, Hermes-Wednesday, Jupiter-Thursday (Thor’s day), Venus-Friday (Frey’s day), Saturn-Saturday, Sun-Sunday. The seven planets are also corresponding to the degrees of initiation into the mysteries. A text of St. Jerome, confirmed by a series of inscriptions, informs us that there were seven degrees of initiation and that the mystic (sacratus) successively assumed the names of Raven (corax), Occult (cryphius), Soldier Lion (leo), Persian (Perses), Runner of the Sun (heliodromus), and Father (pater). The Dacian tribe called Apuli, also associated number seven to their Sun-God.

The seven planets represented on the Bologna relief raises the question: did Dacians have astronomical knowledge or it came to Roman empire from other populations like the Phoenicians, for instance. The answer is given by Jordanes, who speaks about the astronomical knowledge received by the Getae from Zalmoxis, long time before Romans had any idea about it.

The similarity of the Dacian bas-relief with the one from Bologna, which is more complex might suggest that Dacians borrowed the cult of Mithra from Rome. However, a unique fragmentary relief, discovered at Konjica, in Bosnia, which was part of Dacia, suggests the opposite. It represents six persons and a lion flanked by two columns having spirals carved in opposite directions. These columns suggests that the ritual took place indoors. The columns are also replacing Cauthes and Cautopates from the other Mithraic reliefs. The right-turned turned spiral corresponds to the rise of the sun (Cauthes) while the left-turned spiral corresponds to the sunset (Cautopates). In the center are two persons sitting at a table on which are loaves. Both have their right arms raised, as for a blessing, attitude in which Mithra and the Sun are regularly represented on the other monuments. The one holding the horn personifies the Moon, just like the horned head from the Dacian relief, while the other personifies the Sun. Before the two persons sitting at the table, is placed a tripod bearing four tiny loaves of bread, each marked with a cross, the sign of the sun. This is suggesting that the bread, symbolizing the food, are a gift offered and blessed by the Sun and the Moon.

The two deities are flanked by a soldier, holding a sword in his right hand, and by a priest having a Dacian cap and holding a big drinking-horn. The drinking horns are typical Scythian, this influence being transmitted to Dacians by the Agathyrsi.

Dacian priests always had fur caps during their rituals, being called “pilleati” (from pilleus = fur cap) because of that. Meanwhile, the Romanian name for the priest’s cap is “mitra”. Most probably, Dacians used the same word. This explains the origin of the name Mithra. Most probably, Mithra was not the name of the Sun god, but the name of his priest, identified by his cap called “mitra”. The relief shows also two masked persons symbolizing the Raven and the Lion, probably the initiates of the first two degrees.

Some shrines, where Dacians worshiped Apollo, did not have any roof, in order to allow gazing at the sun. Surprisingly, sun worship was revived after 1980, not far from Konjica, where was discovered the above mentioned Mithraic relief. Since then, sun gazing was practiced by many pilgrims, at the holy site from Medjugorje.

The sacrifices, performed to worship Apollo, were at the origin of the epithet “Lykaios” (the wolf) attributed to Apollo, because the wolf was the symbol of death.  Apollo was also called the Lykagenet, meaning born from a she-wolf, because was born from Leto transformed into a she-wolf.

The Dacians performed sacrifices on the so called “sun of andesite”of Sarmisegetusa, the main Dacian fortress. It has a diameter of 7 meters and is composed of 10 identical blocks of andesite assembled into a “pie” shape. It is the most massive monument of the Dacian architecture. The blood of the bulls was flowing through the interstices between the 10 blocks into a limestone basin positioned bellow and from there it was drained to a channel. The 10 interstices between the blocks, forming the diameters of the circle or the “rays” of the sun, were precisely oriented towards the points of the rising sun during the solstices. Source: Vlachs 

“…Mircea Eliade points out in his essay “Dacians and wolves”, the early European warriors – using carefully orchestrated rituals involving wolf-pelts and psychoactive mushrooms – were able to undergo a total psychological transformation into wolves. The Dacians’ belief in immortality is the result of the experiences derived from the use of psychoactive mushrooms. During these altered states of consciousness they were able to meet their dead ancestors and to have premonitory visions. The most commonly used mushroom, for ritual purposes, was Amanita Muscaria. It was leading to a feeling of pleasant invigoration, and the individual would be prone to breaking into song, dance and laughter. This was accompanied by a marked increase in physical strength.

Dio Cassius wrote in Roman History, epitome of book LXVIII, 8: “When Trajan in his campaign against the Dacians had drawn near Tapae, where the barbarians were encamped, a large mushroom was brought to him on which was written in Latin characters a message to the effect that the Buri and other allies advised Trajan to turn back and keep the peace. Nevertheless he engaged the foe, and saw many wounded on his own side and killed many of the enemy. And when the bandages gave out, he is said not to have spared even his own clothing, but to have cut it up into strips.”
The Dacians warned the Romans that they have plenty of mushrooms to became fearless warriors and the outcome of the battle was a confirmation for that. The use of these mushrooms explains the remark of Trajan: “the Dacians go to their deaths, happier than in any other journey”.


Lup/lupul = wolf/the wolf in Romanian; lup/lupu = to die/dead in Etruscan. Similarly, haita = wolf pack in Romanian; Aita = the god of the underworld the equivalent of Greek Hades, for the Etruscans. Etruscan funerary paintings shows Aita wearing on his head the head and fur of a wolf! It is similar to the Egyptian jackal headed Upuaut/Wepwawet or Greek Ophois. Upuaut had a double role, being the god of war (just like the wolf headed Dacian banners!) and of the funerary worship, opening the way both for the troops and for the spirits of the dead.
Luptã (Romanian) = lucta (Latin) = fight. Note that the Romanian word stands from lup (wolf), the symbol from the banners of the Dacian warriors. It is not the case of the Latin word, which seems to be imported from Dacian, the Romans maintaining themselves the cult of the she-wolf, mother of Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome!
In the Balkan folk medicine and apotropaeic magic, the destructive aspect of the wolf’s mouth is symbolically turned around and used against demonic forces and diseases.
The magic act of pulling children through the wolf’s mouth in the context of birth ritual and infant care shows that the symbolism of the wolf’s mouth is connected with the female reproductive organs.
The wolf appears at the most important transitory moments in the human life cycle (birth – marriage – death).


The ability to change into a wolf by the power of certain rituals is connected with lycanthropy properly speaking-an extremely widespread phenomenon, but more especially documented in the Balkano-Carpathian region-or with a ritual imitation of the behavior and outward appearance of the wolf.
Mount Lycaeus was the scene of a yearly gathering at which the priests were said to prepare a sacrificial feast that included meat mixed with human parts. According to legend, whoever tasted it became a wolf and could not turn back into a man unless he abstained from human flesh for nine years.
Pliny relates from Evanthes, that on the festival of Jupiter Lycaeus, one of the family of Antaeus was selected by lot and conducted to the brink of the Arcadian lake. He then hung his clothes on a tree and plunged into the water, whereupon he was transformed into a wolf. Nine years after, if he had not tasted human flesh, he was at liberty to swim back and resume his former shape, which had in the meantime become aged, as though he had worn it for nine years.
Agriopas relates, that Demaenetus, having assisted at an Arcadian human sacrifice to Jupiter Lycaeus, ate of the flesh and was at once transformed into a wolf, in which shape he prowled about for ten years, after which he recovered his human form and took part in the Olympic games.

The essential part of the military initiation consisted in ritually transforming the young warrior into some species of predatory wild animal. It was not solely a matter of courage, physical strength, or endurance, but “of a magico-religious experience that radically changed the young warriors mode of being. He had to transmute his humanity by an access of aggressive and terrifying fury that made him like a raging carnivore.
The young warrior accomplished his transformation into a wolf by the ritual donning of a wolf-skin, an operation preceded or followed by a radical change in behavior. As long as he was wrapped in the animal’s skin, he no longer felt bound by the laws and customs of men.

The wolf-man survived up to now under the image of Saint Cristopher / Hristofor who is represented having a dog/wolf face. Such representations are found in Orthodox Church in icons and an wall-paintings. An icon of Saint Hristofor shows him with a staff that ends with a wolf- head, similarly to the draco/dragon of the Dacian banner. A wall painting from “Sfanta-Maria” monastery from Techirghiol, Romania, shows St. Hristofor having a cross in his hand. That indicates a Christian metamorphosis of a formerly pagan wolf-god.

Saint Cristopher/Hristofor is celebrated by the Orthodox Church on the 8th of May.

In the Romanian popular tradition, in January is celebrated the winter St. Peter, also known as the Lame St.Peter, the patron of the wolves, that protects people from wolves. In the Catholic Church, St. Cristopher is protecting the travelers from being attacked and robbed or murdered. That’s an interesting similitude with the Lame St.Peter, since the outlaws were called “wolves” since the ancient times.

Dacian Draco in relief from Trajan’s Column 113 AD, Rome, Italy


The old Dacian Wolf-Dragon banner, having a wolf head ending through a dragon tail had two significations: it showed that the bearer is initiate into the wolves’ brotherhood, therefore a brave warrior, and was meant to protect the bearer against the evil forces.
The dragon motif was also common to the Bathory family from Transylvania, whose crest showed a dragon encircling a wolf teeth and biting its tail, this being a symbol of immortality.
The Order of the Dragon was a branch of the “wolfs’ brotherhood” constituted by Slavic rulers and warlords and Sigismund of Luxemburg, the king of Hungary and emperor of the romano-germanic empire. All the members were sworn to uphold the Christian faith by fighting off the advancing Turks of the Ottoman Empire.
The famous Vlad “The Impaler” was born in the town of Sighisoara in the early fourteen hundreds. He was the second son of the Prince of Wallachia, Vlad “Dracul” (the Dragon) who was a member of The Order of the Dragon (a position from which he derived his surname). Vlad “Dracul” ruled between 1436 and 1446 AD, when warfare was almost continuous in Wallachia and the surrounding areas and the local nobles (boyars) were fighting for power. He wore the dragon medallion, showing a dragon swallowing its own tail, crucified on a double cross, which is the Slavic cross. Vlad received the three cloaks of the order: green for the dragon’s scales, red for the blood of martyrs, and black for the mystery of Christ’s passion, all of which he wore proudly.
Two of Vlad “Dracul”‘s sons, Vlad and his brother Radu, were kept as hostages in Galipoli where Sultan Mehmed II, conqueror of Constantinople, was trying to indoctrinate them into Islam, making allies of them. He hoped to use their claim to the Wallachian throne to his advantage. Radu converted quickly, and was released from prison. Vlad, however, was far more stubborn. It has been suggested that Vlad’s sadistic tendencies started as a result of his imprisonment by the Sultan.
Vlad “Dracul” fought aside of Iancu of Hunedoara, but in 1445 AD he was forced to make peace with the Ottoman Empire, because many local nobles were aside the Turks, who were ready to invade the country. As result, Vlad “Dracul” and his oldest son Mihnea were killed by Dan, who was supported military by Iancu of Hunedoara (John Hunyadi or János Hunyadi), the Vlach Governor of Hungary, the same person who introduced him to Sigismund of Luxemburg, who accepted him into the Order of the Dragon. At the time of his death, his son Vlad was 17 years old and was still the Sultan’s hostage.

After his father’s death, Vlad was released and is believed that he made a pilgrimage to the Order of the Dragon chapel in the imperial fortress at Nuremberg, where he joined the twenty-three other members of the inner circle, pledging to protect Christendom from the forces of the Muslims.
On July 22, 1456, Iancu of Hunedoara attacked the Ottoman troops having the Belgrade under siege. He won a famous victory, which saved Hungary from Ottoman conquest for 70 years. A few days later Iancu of Hunedoara died of an epidemic that had broken out among the troops. Less than two weeks after his sudden death, Vlad seized the Wallachian throne.

Vlad ruled for six years, spreading the terror among his enemies and was called Vlad “The Impaler” or Dracula (the son of the Dragon). In April 1462 he won a famous victory against Mahomed II, who led “the mightiest army after the conquest of Constantinople”, according to the chronicle of Laonic Chalcocondil. 


The ritual initiations in the Wolves’ brotherhood were passed from Dacia to the Germanic tribes through the Celts’ Druids and through the Goths.
An unamalgamated group of Baltic tribes occupied the area from the Warnow to the Rugen, round the Oder mouths and up the Peene. These were given the collective name of the Liutuzians (today’s Lithuanians) meaning “terrible” or Wilzians (from which comes today’s capital name Vilnius) meaning “wolf” people.
Valhalla or Valhöll, in Norse mythology, was the “hall of the Valks”, the wolf warriors, who live there blissfully under the leadership of the god Odin. Their feminine counterparts were the Valkyries also spelled Walkyries, Old Norse Valkyrja, the female wolf warriors, in Norse mythology. They picked up the heroes to fill Valhalla. A man choosen to die was said to see a Valkyrie just before the fatal blow. Valkyria is probably a compound name Valk + kyra meaning Valk lady (from Greek kyra, meaning lady).
The Valkyries also worked as Odin’s servants. They served food and drink to the warriors in Valhalla.
Valhalla is depicted as a splendid palace, roofed with shields, and having 540 doors, each big enough to let 800 armed men through, side by side. There the warriors feasted on the flesh of a boar slaughtered daily and made whole again each evening. They fight one another every day in order to be prepared to join Odin in the final battle against the forces of destruction at the time of Ragnarök.
Valaskjalf (meaning Shelf of the Valasks) was Odin’s other hall where his great throne, Hlidskjalf, stood.
The Vedic heaven, the “world of the fathers”, called Valak-Hilyah, was inhabited by the 60.000 deities of light, called Valakhilyas and presented in the Mahabharata and in the Puranas. It resembles the Germanic Valhalla, both names coming from the root Valak/Valk that might be of Scythian origin. Valakhilyas, the Lilliputian sages were said to be drinkers of Sun-rays (maricipah). They were worshipping the sun god.


Most probable, Adolf Hither was initiated into the Germanic branch of wolves’ brotherhood. The following facts are sustaining this assertion.
In an article in his party newspaper written in 1922, Hitler used an unusual metaphor to describe how the crowds began to react to him: they began to realize, he said, ‘that now a wolf has been born, destined to burst in upon the herd of seducers and deceivers of the people.’ He had his sister Paula change her name to Frau Wolf. The special agent he chose to supervise purchases for his Linz Library and Museum was a Dr Wolfhardt (literally, “hard wolf”). He approved of naming the Volkswagen factory “Wolfsburg”. When he telephone Winifred Wagner, he would say “Conductor Wolf”calling!’. The secretary he kept longer than any other (more than 20 years) was Johanna Wolf. She recalled that while Hitler addressed all other secretaries formally as “Frau” or “Fraulein”, he invariably called her “Wolfin” (She-Wolf). Hitler named his headquarters in France “Wolfsschluct” (Wolf’s Gulch), in the Ukraine his headquarters were “Werwolf (Werewolf)”, and in East Prussia “Wolfsschanze” (Wolf’s Lair) – as he explained to a servant, “I am the Wolf and this is my den.” He called the SS “my pack of wolves”. …”

The Greek tradition:

The Greeks, like the Egyptians labeled Sirius with various forms of the term Dog-Star(Alpha Canis Major), because of the star’s placement in the constellation Canis, which is Latin for Dog.  M. Temple Richmond draws a astronomical-astrological connection in Sirius for Seekers: The Star Sirius in Astronomy, Myth, Religion and History:

“The star Sirius was sometimes called The Dog of the nearby hunter, Orion… 

In this vein, it is of significance to know that the Greeks and their neighbors most likely got their ideas about the star Sirius from Egyptian culture, for it appears that the linkage of the star Sirius with the dog figure originally arose in Egypt. There Sirius was from the earliest of times represented in hieroglyphics by a dog and associated with the god Anubis, a highly important member of the Egyptian pantheon depicted with the head of a jackal, which is a small wild dog related to the wolf.

The jackal (or dog) – the symbol of Anubis – represented the star Sirius in Egyptian hieroglyphics perhaps as early as 3285 B.C. Thus, through the connection of Anubis the Jackal-Headed god and Sirius, Sirius came to be called the Star of the Dog, or the Dog-Star. Eventually, this imagery imparted its name to the star grouping within which Sirius is perceived. Hence, the constellation of the Dog, or Canis, using the Latin in which some constellations are designated. Today astronomy recognizes two dog constellations, the Greater and the Lesser, or Canis Majoris and Canis Minoris. The star Sirius is to be found in the Greater Dog…”

Although the wolf mythology is attributed to the Scythian influences from the Dacians:



According to Porphirios (Vita Pyth. 16-17), Phythagoras was initiated in Crete in the mysteries of Zeus, being purified by the initiates of Dactylus the Morget, using a meteorite. Then Pythagoras spent the night wrapped into a black sheep skin. This custom is similar to the account of Herodian (232 – 304) from his “Life of Pythagora, relatively to Zalmoxis birth”: “Pythagoras had another teenager from Thrace, called Zalmoxis, because, at birth, he was wrapped into a bear skin. The Thracian name for skin is “zalmos”” This confirms that, by being wrapped into a black sheep skin, Pythagoras was initiated into a Thracian ritual. This ritual was considered as a spiritual rebirth. Zalmoxis’ (re)birth as a bear, meant that he become a hermit, as bear is a well known solitary animal. Pythagoras was initiated according to a Morget (black Getic) ritual, by the initiates of Dactylus the Morget.
The ritual wrapping into a wolf skin had a similar signification: the person was reborn transformed into a wolf. He lost his previous human behavior and became a blood thirsty warrior. Probably, this practice was brought to Dacia by the Scythians.
Neuri is the name of an ancient tribe placed by Herodotus (iv. 1o5) to the north-east of Scythia. He says of it: “It seems that the Neuri are sorcerers, if one is to believe the Scythians and the Greeks established in Scythia; for each Neurian changes himself, once in the year, into the form of a wolf, and he continues in that form for several days, after which he resumes his former shape.” Pomponius Mela (lib. ii. c. 1) says: “There is a fixed time for each Neurian, at which they change, if they like, into wolves, and back again into their former condition.”
A similar signification of spiritual transformation was in the custom of the Dacian priests to wear fur caps during their rituals, being called “pilleati” (from pilleus = fur cap) because of that.

The custom of wrapping in skins was preserved until the 20th century among Aromanian shepherds.” … Source: The Vlachs

According to Greek tradition, as told by Ovid in the Metamorphoses:

Lycaon the King –  The story of Lycaon the king explains how werewolves first came into the world.

Lycaon was a very fierce and cruel king. His cruelty was legendary. When the powerful God, Zeus heard of his mischievous actions, he decided to come down to see for himself. To his surprise the truth was worse than what he had heard. Zeus went at once to meet with King Lycaon. When Zeus revealed himself at Lycaon’s kingdom, Lycaon’s servants got on their knees to pray. Lycaon however did not believe that Zeus was a god and made a plan to test him. Lycaon planned to kill him. If he was a god he would survive but if he wasn’t then he would die. First he invited Zeus to a feast that he had prepared himself. The feast was human flesh from an innocent messenger that he had killed. Zeus, since he was a god knew at once what was happening and was furious with Lycaon’s cannibalism. As a punishment Zeus turned Lycaon into a wolf. Lycaon’s entire body changed, only his eyes were human.” — excerpted from Werewolf Legends (Oracle Thinkquest website)


According to Norse folklore that told of the ancient Norse warriors called Berserkers:

As recorded by the Ynglingasaga, there was a band of warriors who were known to go without coats of mail and don instead “ulfheobar” or “ulfhedinn” which were wolf-coats or skins, and to take on the behaviour of wolves, acting “berserk” like mad-dogs or wolves, which is why they were called Berserkers.

 In “A Popular History of France”, the land of the Gauls, is described as  full of “inaccessible morasses and vast forests, as yet uncleared, given up to the chances of primitive vegetation, peopled with wolves and bears, and even the urns, or huge wild ox, and with elks, too—a kind of beast that one finds no longer nowadays, save in the colder regions of north-eastern Europe, such as Lithuania and Courland. Then wandered over the champaign[countryside] great herds of swine, as fierce almost as wolves, tamed only so far as to know the sound of their keeper’s horn.


In the Welsh tale of the Mabinogi of Math

In Math Son of Mathonwy, the third branch of the Mabinogion, each year Math turned his nephews, Gwydyon and Gilvaethwy, first into a stag and hind, then wild sow and boar, and then into a wolf and she-wolf. After three years punishment, he turned his nephews back into human forms.


By the middle of the twelfth century, King Philippe Auguste (1165–1223) turned Paris into a true medieval city with a protective wall around it. He built his castle, which was little more than a fortress on the site of the modern-day Louvre. No one knows what the word Louvre means, except that it is thought to come from the Latin word for wolves. Philippe housed his wolf-hunting dogs in the fortress. — Paris


It is said that when the Holy Patricius (St. Patrick) was preaching Christianity in that land, there was one great race more hostile to him than the other people that were in the land. And these men tried to do him many kinds of injury. And when he preached Christianity to them as other men, and came to meet them when they were holding their assembly, then they took this counsel, to howl at him like wolves. But when he saw that his message would succeed little with these people, then he became very wroth, and prayed God that he might avenge it on them by some judgement, that their descendants might forever remember their disobedience. And great punishment and fit and very wonderful has since befallen their descendants; for it is said that all men who come from that race are always wolves at a certain time, and run into the woods and take food like wolves; and they are worse in this that they have human reason, for all their cunning, and such desire and greed for men as for other creatures. And it is said that some become so every seventh year, and are men during the interval. And some have it so long that they have seven years at once, and are never so afterwards. — Werewolf stories

Historically, from two surviving Latin letters, it is known that St. Patrick was born in Roman Britain at Banna Venta Berniae, unknown or identified in one tradition as Glannoventa, modern Ravenglass in Cumbria. Calpornius, his father, was a deacon, his grandfather Potitus, a priest. When he was about sixteen, he was captured and carried off as a slave to Ireland. … After six years he heard a voice telling him that he would soon go home, and then that his ship was ready. Fleeing his master, he travelled to a port, two hundred miles away,[27] where he found a ship and, after various adventures, returned home to his family — St Patrick.   The race of “men who come from that race are always wolves at a certain time, and run into the woods and take food like wolves” of which he spoke may have been references to either the Irish, Roman Britain, or the Gallic-Celts of Indo-European lineages.

According to Slavic traditions:

Slavic mythology: Hors-Dazbog solar deity and wolf deity or lame “wolf shepherd”who rules the underworld


M. Presnyakov. Dažbog.

Dazbog, alternatively Dazhbog, Dazbog, Dazhdbog, or Dadzbóg, was one of the major gods of Slavic mythology, most likely a solar deity and possibly a cultural hero. He is one of several authentic Slavic gods, mentioned by a number of medieval manuscripts, and one of the few Slavic gods for which evidence of worship can be found in all Slavic nations.

Many mythologists also believe Dažbog to be identical with another East Slavic deity with possible solar attributes, Hors.   In Slavic mythology, Hors is the Slavic sun god. The name Hors comes from the Iranian languages (Scythian or Sarmatian) — see Avestan: hvarə хšаētəm, Middle Persian: xvaršêt, Persian: xuršēt‎ «shining sun».

Osip Maximovich Bodjanskij based this theory on a following passage from the Russian Primary Chronicle, in 980, Vladimir I of Kiev:

And Vladimir began his reign in Kiev alone and erected idols on the hill outside his palace with porch: Perun of wood with a head of silver and mustache of gold and Hors Dažbog and Stribog and Simargl and Mokosh.

Note that the names Hors and Dažbog are the only two not clearly separated by the word “and” in the text. This could be an indication of a compound deity, Hors Dažbog. On this basis, Toporov assumed that Hors could be an Iranian (possibly Sarmatian or Scythian) name for this god, and Dažbog a Slavic one.

«placed the idols at the hill outside the palace: wooden Perun… and Hors, Dažbog and Stribog and Simargl and Mokosh».

Based on the situation in the transfer of the gods of the pantheon of great prince Vladimir, the Hors was the second most important deity in this period. The author of Tale of Igor’s Campaign provides the name of the Hors epithet Great.  It is believed that the Hors was the god of the solar disk. Hors moved across the sky during the day, and under the ground — at night.  Hypotheses about the functions of the god Hors based on the interpretation of the text of the Tale of Igor’s Campaign.  Source: Wikipedia

Boris Rybakov compared Hors and Dažbog to Helios and Apollo, respectively, concluding that both of them were solar gods, but while Hors represented the Sun itself, Dažbog, as deus dator, rather symbolised the life-giving power of the Sun.[6] That Hors was indeed a solar deity was deduced from the following passage in the “Tale of Igor’s campaign”[7]:

Vseslav the prince judged men; as prince, he ruled towns; but at night he prowled in the guise of a wolf. From Kiev, prowling, he reached, before the cocks crew, Tmutorokan. The path of great Hors, as a wolf, prowling, he crossed.

In other words, prince Vseslav reached Tmutorokan before dawn, thus crossing the path of Hors, the Sun. In the mythical view of the world, the Sun has to pass through the underworld during the night to reach the eastern horizon by the dawn. This, and the fact that prince Vseslav is transformed into a wolf during the night, while “crossing the path of Hors”, draws a very interesting parallel with the Serbian Dabog, who, as stated already, was believed to be a lame “wolf shepherd” who rules over the underworld.

Although these medieval documents come from the East Slavic area, names similar to Dažbog/Dažboh have survived in the folklores of both West and South Slavic populations. Of particular interest is the Serbian Dabog or Dajbog (most modern mythographers take for granted this is the same character as East Slavic Dažbog/Dažboh), also known as Hromi Daba (meaning “Daba the Lame”), described in folklore as a lame “shepherd of wolves”, an ugly demon-lord who rules the underworld and travels through the world of men. Though not always evil in folk stories, Dabog/Dažboh is often presented as an enemy of the Christian God or heavenly saints.

… a short note in Herodotus’ Histories, mentioning a tribe of Neuri [who were Balts] in the far north, whose men, Herodotus claims, transform themselves into wolves for several days each year. Some researchers have interpreted this through the Slavic folk belief in werewolves, whilst others believe that Herodotus actually referred to ancient Slavic carnival festivals, when groups of young men roamed the villages in masks, sometimes referred to as vucari (wolf-humans).

Of particular interest is the fact that Serbian folk accounts describe Dabog as being lame; lameness was a standing attribute of Greek Hephaestus, whom, as we have seen, the Hypatian Codex compared with Slavic smith-god Svarog, father of Dažbog. (In fact, most of Indo-European smith-gods were lame; the reason for this was most likely arsenicosis, low levels of arsenic poisoning, resulting in lameness and skin cancers. Arsenic was added to bronze to harden it and most smiths of the Bronze Age would have suffered from chronic workplace poisoning.) The Serbian Dabog, being lord of underworld, was also associated with precious metals, and sometimes was said to have a silver beard. Veselin Čajkanović concluded that the cthonic character of Dabog in Serbian folklore fits very nicely with the solar Dažbog mentioned in Russian sources, pointing out that in numerous mythologies, solar deities tend to have double aspects, one benevolent, associated with the Sun during the day, and the other malevolent, associated with night, when the Sun is trapped in the underworld.

[The most interesting passage about Dažbog comes from the Hypatian Codex, a 15th century compilation of several much older documents from the Ipatiev Monastery in Russia. The complete passage, reconstructed from several manuscripts, translates as follows:

(Then) began his reign Feosta (Hephaestus), whom the Egyptians called Svarog… during his rule, from the heavens fell the smith’s prongs and weapons were forged for the first time; before that, (people) fought with clubs and stones. Feosta also commanded the women that they should have only a single husband… and that is why Egyptians called him Svarog… After him ruled his son, his name was the Sun, and they called him Dažbog… Sun tzar, son of Svarog, this is Dažbog.

Most scholars agree the root dažd- or daj- is derived from root of the verb dati “to give”. Thus, according to Dubenskij, Ognovskij and Niderle, Dažbog would be “giving god”, “god-giver, “god-donor”. The close related word to Slavic Dažd is in Avestian or east-Iranian language – dazdâ, dazda “gifts”.[1] This is particularly interesting since the Proto-Slavic word for god, *bagu (> Common Slavic *bogъ), the suffix of Dažbog’s name, is argued either to be of Iranian origin (being related to Indo-Iranian etymons such as Old Persian baga, Sanskrit bhaga), or being semantically influenced by Iranian source, both being ultimately derived from PIE root *bʰag-, whose reflexes in both Slavic and Indo-Iranian came to mean both “deity” and “wealth, share”.[2] Thus, translated literally, Dažbog would be “giver of fortune”. This echoes the ancient Indo-European concept that deity is, in essence, an entity which gives wealth and abundance, an indication, perhaps, that Dažbog is a relic from common Proto-Indo-European religion, or even that this was not a name for any particular Slavic god, but a general epithet of a deity.

… Henryk Łowmiański, however, theorised that Svarog was a Slavic sky god and personification of daylight sky itself, possibly a continuation of Proto-Indo-European *Dyēus Ph2ter, while Svarožič and solar Dažbog were one and the same deity, though, he concluded, two other aspects of Svarožič also existed: fiery Svarožič, as in the Sun (mentioned in Russian medieval manuscripts), and lunar Svarožič, associated with the Moon.[4] Franjo Ledic, on the other hand, simply assumed that Svarog and Dažbog are one and the same god.

Major works include a chronicle of Thietmar of Merseburg from the beginning of the 11th century, who described a temple in the city of Riedegost (Radegast) where the great deity Zuarasic (Svarožič) was worshipped. According to Thietmar, this was the most sacred place in the land of pagan Slavs, and Svarožič was their most important deity.

Another very valuable document is the Chronica Slavorum written in the late 12th century by Helmold, a German priest. He mentions ‘the devil’ Zerneboh (Chernobog), goddess Živa, god Porenut, some unnamed gods whose statues had multiple heads and, finally, the great god Svantevit, worshiped on the island of Rügen who, according to Helmod, was the most important of all (Western) Slavic deities.

The third, and arguably the most important record, comes from the Danish chronicler Saxo Grammaticus, who in his Gesta Danorum described the war fought in 1168 by the Danish king Valdemar I against the Wends of Rügen, the conquest of their city at cape Arkona and the destruction of the grand temple of Svantevit that stood there. Saxo meticulously described the worship of Svantevit, the customs associated with it and the tall four-headed statue of the god. He also mentioned multi-headed deities of other Slavic tribes; Rugievit, Porewit and Porentius.

The remains of several Slavic shrines have also been discovered. Some archeological excavations on the cape of Arkona on Rügen island have uncovered vestiges of a great temple and a city, identified with those described by Saxo.


Germanic traditions – Out of Germany come many tales of werewolves, particularly in the parts of Germany that are on the Baltic coastal plain that have and border Slavic populations, see Werewolves in Pomerania. Just outside of the town of Wittlich from which the Morbach Monster tale originates, there is a shrine dedicated to the last werewolf that was supposed to have been killed, with a candlelight that must never go out, if the werewolf is never to return. See also the  Werewolf Rock

The Werewolf of Alt-marrin and the Fox-hill near Dodow show that foxes and wolves were regarded interchangeable and attributed with the same qualities and magical powers, and there are many stories involving “wolf straps” that are magical in nature and that have certain mysterious powers or indestructible quality, and when a human puts on the strap or belt, he is turned into a wolf. Sometimes, the magical relic is wolf belt (see the Werewolf of Klein Krams), instead of a wolf strap.

The Werewolf in Hindenburg (J. D. H. Temme)

One still believes in werewolves in the Altmark. Even today in the village of Hindenburg they tell about a man who could turn himself into a wolf, and there are people still alive who knew him during their childhood.

He had a strip of leather made from wolf skin which still had its hair. Whenever he tied it around his body, he turned into a wolf. Then he had such extraordinary strength that he could pull an entire load of hay by himself or grab a whole ox in his mouth and carry it away.

In this state he had the nature of a wolf. He strangled cattle and even ate humans. He once pursued one of his neighbors, who narrowly escaped from him. But however furious he became, he did spare his wife. She knew a magic charm that brought him under control, a charm that he himself had taught her. Then she would take off the leather strip, and he would become a reasonable human once again.

Similar to the Germanic legends of werewolves, werewolf tales are also heard and found from France, see Tales of Werewolves where scores of people were accused of being and who admitted to having turned into werewolves through ointments of the Devil, and then burnt at the stake or mobbed to death.


North American Indians were said to associate Anubis with a star (Sirius) and called it a wolf star. And in ancient Mexico, the wolf was buried with human sacrifice so that it could guide it to the hereafter. — Sirius for Seekers: The Star Sirius in Astronomy, Myth, Religion, and History


In the jungles of Peru, natives use a potion similar to the “magic salve” used by the Medieval werewolves. The salve produces a hallucinogenic effect which puts them in touch with the spirit world. Once there they can take on the shapes of animals such as Tigers, Panthers, Jaguars and snakes.

Iranian traditional wolf cult and ideas (are significant here as they may have been a source of influence and provenance for Chinese ‘tiengou’ and Japanese tradition of wolf/fox/dog guardian-messenger icons)

On the wolf cult of the Iranians and of the Caucasus, the best treatise on this topic is Daniele Guizzo’s  work, “”Blessed and cursed: Wolf”s totemism and tabooisation between the Caucasus and Iran“(p. 117~) aims to discuss the position of the wolf and its symbolic value in some religious beliefs system and then consider the role that it plays in the Iranian and Caucasian (mainly Kartvelic) world.  Parts of work are excerpted below:

” 1. The relations between the peoples of the Caucasus and the inhabitants of the Iranian plateau date back to the 3rd millennium B.C., when north-western Iran formed a single cultural area with Armenia and southern Georgia (Lang 1983: 505). During the Achaemenid Empire Armenia fell under the control of the Persian empire, and was included, according to Herodotus (3.94), in the 13th tax district (nomós). From the same Herodotus passage Hitchings – quoting Kaukhchishvili – stated that proto-Georgian tribes were included in the 18th and 19th satrapies (Hitchings 2001). … The control, more or less direct, over these regions produced a high degree of iranization of local elites, especially Armenia’s. According to archeological findings, the kingdom of Iberia was more influenced than Colchis by the Persian Empire. Excavations in Central and Eastern Georgia provided good evidence of this long-lasting presence of Achaemenid representatives. Particularly impressive is the huge building found in Gumbati which dated back to 5th-4th century B.C. This palace was probably an official building with public and residential functions that has its prototypes in the royal palaces of Persepolis and Susa (Knauss 2006: 87-91). This long influence was also undoubtedly important for the formation of the first unified and centralized kingdom of Iberia under the legendary king Pharnavaz, whose name has a clear Iranian etymology (probably from a form farna-vāza- ‘carrying the glory’).1 … Under the Sasanian dynasty Georgia, namely Iberia, was one more time under the control of an Iranian ruling house, since in the inscription of Ka‘beye Zardošt Iberia (Wiržān in Middle Persian) is listed among the lands that paid tributes (Lang 1983: 519, Hitching 2001). Sasanids tried also to establish Zoroastrianism as state-religion in the country, but in 330 the Georgian king and nobles converted to Christianity, coming closer, consequently, to the enemies of the Persian Emperor, i.e. first the Roman Empire and then Byzantium. As in the case of Armenia this was mainly a political move aiming to resist the cultural assimilation by the Sasanian Empire and to enter the sphere of Syro-Greek civilization (Lang 1983: 520). From a religious point of view, ancient Georgia, i.e. Colchis and Iberia, was highly syncretistic, being at the crossroad of the great civilizations of the Middle East: Anatolians, Mesopotamians, Iranians, Greeks – as well as the Caucasian substrata – contributed to the formation of the religious shape of both Colchis and Iberia (Lang 1983: 532-533). For instance we have plenty of lexical items that testify to the penetration of alien cults, especially coming from Iran. At the time of the conversion of Georgia to Christianity, one of the local idols was Armazi, that one can easily identify with Ahura Mazdā.2 Further, Saint Nino, the converter of Eastern Georgia, saw the people of the city of Urbnisi worshiping images of stone and wood and the fire of the Zoroastrians (Lang 1983: 534). Demonology has also been influenced by Iranian beliefs since the word for evil spirit in Georgian, dev-i, derives from an Iranian language: Avestan daēvaOld Persian daiva-, Middle Persian dēw (Lang 1983: 535-536). However, what has been stated above probably reflects quite recent contacts and influences and in all likelihood concerned mainly the elites. In fact, the relations between Iranian and Caucasian people have to be dated back to the arrival of Cimmerians3 and Scythes in the Caucasus region. some way by Justi (1895: 92), seems more reliable. 2 In a recent article, Gvelesiani (2008: 177-178) pointed out the episode of Pharnavaz’s dream. According to the Georgian scholar, this dream is clearly connected to the tradition of Middle East and Iranian kingship and is to be related to the cult of the supreme divinity Armazi/Ahura Mazdā. 3 The problem of the ethnic stock of Cimmerians has a long history. Lately scholars are inclined to consider Cimmerians as Iranian, since they can not be distinguished from an archaeological point of view from the Scythians and their ethnic name could be Iranian as well; indeed D’jakonov has proposed an etymology from Old Iranian *gāmīra-/*gmīra“mobile unit” (Tokhtas’ev 1991). Even the names of Cimmerian kings seem to be of Iranian origin (Abaev: 1958: 125-127). For a long time the penetration of these Iranian nomadic people has been considered as a practice of uneven raids without a systematic character. On the contrary, archaeological findings and historical data testify to a continuous and influential presence of Scythians and Cimmerians from the 8th century B.C. onwards. Archeological evidence ascribed to Kuban Culture shows a quite clear influence of Scythian elements, denoting the progressive infiltration of Iranian nomadic people in Ciscaucasia (Vinogradov et al. 1980: 196). From the middle of the 7th century on, the Central Caucasus as well saw the penetration of Scythian fashion (Techov 1980: 256). Toponymy too points out the stable settlements of Scythians and Cimmerians in the Caucasus and Anatolia. For instance, one region of ancient Armenia – present day Azerbaijan – was called Saksen, probably after the Iranian Sakas (Artamonov 1974: 24) and the Armenian toponym Garmik‘, referring to Cappadocia, may derive from the Cimmerian ethnonym (Tokhtas’ev 1991). Cimmerians and Scythes were important actors in history and culture not only in the Caucasus, but in the Ancient Middle East as a whole. Indeed, recently Alexander Lubotsky (2002: 194-195) has pointed out to the possibility of some Scythian loanwords in Old Persian, among which °farnah- ‘fortune, glory’, that denotes an important concept in the Iranian idea of kinship. This possibility has been already raised by Lecoq (1987: 678), who noted that the Iranian names composed with farna- appeared only after Cimmerian and Scythian invasions. 2. Coming back to the main topic, in this paper …  The wolf is a universal symbol. It is present in many world cultures and often has not a univocal value. In the same society, in the same era, one can find positive aspects of the wolf’s symbology along with a kind of demonisation. Even a brief sketch about the importance of the wolf in human cultures would be an impossible task. I shall confine myself to some significative examples. In Hittite law a man guilty of murder “became a wolf”. Then, in Hittite society, the wolf represents the human who has set himself apart from society, but, at the same time, the wolf’s sociability is a model for the king’s court (Collins 2002: 241). In Norse mythology the symbology is equally ambivalent. The wolf Fenrir is one of the main figures of Norse eschatology, since at the end of the mythic order he kills the ancient gods: he is the slayer of Odin at Ragnarök (the end of the reign of gods), and the maimer of Týr. Two other wolves, Sköll and Hati, will swallow the moon and the sun (Chiesa Isnardi 2008: 578-580). As we have seen in the Hittite culture, in Germanic languages some words for ‘wolf’ and ‘outlaw’ are often synonymous.4 However, in the very same Germanic culture, Odin is accompanied by two wolves, Geri and Freki,5 and the warriors consecrated to him are called berserkir, a compound word related to ‘bear’, and úlfheðnar, meaning ‘dressed with wolf’s skin’. Then, it is quite obvious that the wolf has also a totemic value in the Germanic world. This is attested by the plenty of proper names bearing the word for wolf and by some traditions testified in the ancient sources. This is the case of the Longobards…they seem to be closely linked to the totem of the wolf. According to the description given by Paul the Deacon in his Historia Longobardorum (1907: 20), the Longobards cynocephal warriors seem to share the same feature with the úlfheðnar, since they were consecrated to Gotan/Odin. More important is another episode reported by Paul the Deacon (1907: 184-185) that shows clearly the totemic aspects of the wolf cult among the Longobards. The author’s great-grandfather, Lopichis, escaping from captivity, is guided to Italy, a kind of Promised Land, by a wolf. It is my belief that the last example is particularly important. In fact, if we look back to the Ancient World, we can clearly see that the figure of the wolf had a totemic role in many societies that often taken their name from the sacred animal. It is the case of the Hirpini, a Samnite people of old central Italy, whose name derives from hirpus ‘wolf’ (Ernout-Meillet 1951: 527). The same is to be said for other peoples of old Italy: the Lucani, whose name has been transmitted by the Greeks, in today’s Basilicata, and the Daunii, located in the present day Northern Puglia, whose name is very likely related to Phrygian daos ‘wolf’ and to the ethnonym of the Dacians. In the Celtic domain we find the Volcae of Languedoc. But the examples could multiply. 6 3. At this point one should wonder why an animal potentially harmful for human beings could have been considered in a positive way. The danger represented by the wolf as a killer of human beings is in some way an overstatement. Our modern perception of the wolf as a dangerous animal and a possible predator of human beings originated in the Middle Ages because of 4 See for instance Old Norse vargr ‘wolf, outlaw’ with the original meaning of ‘strangler’ (Orel 2003: 448, s.v. *warʒaz). In the Völsunga Saga, Sigi, having committed a dishonourable crime, is to be called vargr í véum, i.e. ‘wolf in the sacred places’ (Chiesa Isnardi 2008: 580). Pluskowski (2006: 27) stated that the wolf as metaphor for outlaw designates more the marginality than the animalisation of the individual 5 In this case the wolf has the same function as the Greek and Latin Cerberus. … In Europe, the transition from Antiquity to the Early Middle Ages is characterized by a loss of control on nature with the consequent increase of the wilderness. These phenomena ingenerated a concurrence between human beings and wolves, hunting the same game (Ortalli 1997: 10-13). The opposite trend is to be noted in the Later Middle Ages, when deforestation and the increase of grazing spaces reduced the wolves’ natural habitat (Pluskowski 2006: 94). However, the ultimate result was the same: the territories of men and wolves overlapped and their contact increased along with the possibility of wolf attacks on flocks. The wolves could attack human beings as well, but these phenomena occur in particular conditions, such as the spread of rabies infections, the lack of usual wolf prey etc. Attacks of rabid wolves are largely attested, but healthy wolves can attack too, individually or in a pack, even if this possibility is extremely unlikely (Linnell et al. 2002: 36). Given that premise, we can understand how a tale such as Little Red Riding Hood was born in a society of the European Middle Ages, in which the environment was no longer under the full control of an advanced agricultural society, as that of antiquity was, and consequently the wilderness was felt as a threat for human society (Pluskowski 2006: 5). In fact, the prototype of Perrault’s and Grimms’ Little Red Riding Hood seems to be the The Grandmother’s Tale in which the wolf is actually a werewolf who kills the grandmother and tries to have sexual intercourse with the girl. It is also noteworthy that in many variants the wolf – or the werewolf – is replaced by other supernatural characters, such as ogres etc. (Beckett 2008: 583). Thus, the tale of Little Red Riding Hood originally had more to do with a kind of passage rite than an alert to the harm a wolf could represent in a wild wood. 4. Now we have to consider the wolf’s symbolic value in Iranian culture. The wolf has an absolutely negative value in the main expression of the Iranian religious tradition, that is Zoroastrianism. According to Zoroastrian tenets the wolf is a daevic – ‘evil, demonic’ – animal because it is harmful to Ahura Mazdā good creation. The wolf is a xrafstra- creature, a category of noxious animals that includes reptiles, insects, felines and other predators. Since they belong to Angra Mainyu, killing them is one of the best actions. On the contrary, offering these animals in sacrifice is considered a kind of devil worship. However, this is the sense given to the world in the Young Avesta, while its original meaning in Old Avesta remains problematic (Herren schmidt Kellens 1993). In many passages of the Avesta the wolf is described as an harmful animal for men, animals, especially for the ewe flock, and crops: 110 Daniele Guizzo Yasna 9.21 This I ask you as my sixth request, O death-averting haoma: May we be the first to notice the thief and the robber, the first to notice the wolf. Videvdad 18.38 (then) he strikes wounds into me in the manner that a four-legged wolf tears a child out of the womb. Evidence of wolf’s tabooisation is also to be found in the Pahlavi religious literature of the Sasanian era. For instance: Pahlavi Revayat 46.15 First he fashioned a male and female of every species, and they multiplied. And they rejoice when they get water and fodder both summer and winter, but suffer when men kill them without law and order and give them no water and fodder and do not protect them from enemies, thieves, and wolves. From these quotes it is clear that we are a facing a total tabooisation of the wolf in the Zoroastrian tradition, both in the ancient texts and in the medieval ones. At this point, one should wonder if such a negative attitude towards this animal is still preserved in the culture of Iranian peoples or, at least, if one can find evidence – in the language or in the lore – of this Zoroastrian tenet. An important phenomenon of the wolf’s tabooisation – at least lexical – is found in some parts of the Iranian linguistic continuum. In the Pamir region the process of tabooisation is a largely attested linguistic feature. We found lexical items borrowed from other languages in order to avoid the original lexeme denoting the wolf. It is the case of Saryqoli _iθp and Wakhi Sapt, loan words from a Dardic language, perhaps an ancient Khowar word (*śappita-), nowadays spelled šapir, that means ‘cursed’ (Morgenstierne 1974: 104, Steblin-Kamenskij 1999: 342). In Iškašimi the word for the wolf is sabilɨk, a loan word from a Tajik dialect, meaning ‘cursed’ and used, according to Edelman (2003: 124), in the summer pastures. In Pašto there are two lexical items for the wolf with a clear tabooistic character: the first is lewә, from Old Iranian*daiwiya- ‘evil spirit’, semantically close to Pašai dēu ‘id.’ (Morgenstierne 2003: 45-46)7. 7 About the semantic chronology of this word, Edelman (2003: 125-126) questions whether the formation of this lexeme is relatively ancient or recent. In the first case, the wolf would have been identified as a “God’s creature”, since the semantic shift of the word *daiua- – from a positive to a negative connotation – due to the Zoroastrian “reform” was yet to come. Blessed and Cursed: Wolf’s Totemism and Tabooisation 111

The other one, semantically more problematic,8 is šarmәx, analyzed with a process of folk etymology as šarm-mәx ‘shamed-face’, but it is more correct to suppose a process of loan from Brahui xarmā ‘wolf’, which is also found in Rakhšani Baloči as harmāg (Morgenstierne 2003: 80). On the other side of the Iranian linguistic continuum – the western, in some Taleši varieties a euphemistic lexeme denoting the wolf is found, this is neči (Pirejiko 1976: 150), widespread in the Central-Northern Taleši dialectal continuum, from a word cognate to Persian naxčir meaning ‘quarry, hunting’. The same is to be said for the Gilaki word jânvar ‘wolf’ (Sotude 1954: 62), derived from Persian jān(a)var meaning simply ‘animal’. Apparently, one could easily postulate a widespread process of tabooisation of the wolf, begun from the early Iranian times, largely testified by Zoroastrian texts and tradition, and so deeply rooted to be still preserved in contemporary cultures, clearly reflected by the process of replacement of the original word denoting the animal, i.e. *vṛka-. It should also be logical to expect the tabooisation of a predator very harmful for one of the main activities of Iranian-speaking peoples, namely sheep and cow-breeding. Nevertheless, such a positivistic explanation does not hold out if we consider data from the whole Iranian world. First of all, the tabooisation of the name of the wolf is quite an exception. Most Iranian languages – both Eastern and Western – preserve lexemes derived from the Old Iranian *vṛka-, see for instance Persian gorg, Sogdian wyrk- (Gharib 1995: 423), Šughni wūrǰ (Morgenstierne 1974: 91) and so on.9 Moreover, one can find in the lore of some regions evidence of a positive attitude towards the wolf. For instance, in Kurdistan, on the south-western shore of the Caspian Sea, and in the Yaghnob Valley – located in Central Tajikistan – it is considered a good omen to run into a wolf at the beginning of a journey.10 So, the above data contradict the positivistic thesis, since in Kurdish, Gilaki and Yaghnobi societies pastoralism has a paramount economic importance. Further, in the traditional Iranian folktales, the wolf is not the harmful animal par excellence, as this role is often 8 … With the exception of Waxi and Sarikoli, the other Pamir languages have the regular outcome from the Old Iranian root *vr̥ka-. The position of Ossetic biræq (бирæгъ) is more problematic. Abaev (1958: 262) wrote that the expected Ossetic form deriving from *vr̥kawould have been *wærx-/wærxæg, attested only in proper names. Confronting the Ossetic word with Khotanese birgga- ‘wolf’, he concluded that a tabooistic process occurred in order to blur the phonetic structure of the word (Abaev 1958: 263). 10 For Kurdistan see Bayazidi (1963: 44), for the Caspian region Massé (1938: 193), and for Yaghnob Peščereva (1976: 31). 112 Daniele Guizzo played by other animals, such as the fox, the bear and the snake.11 As in Ancient European literature, the wolf is harmful only to wild and domestic animals.12 Despite the above-mentioned wolf tabooisation by the Zoroastrian faith, we can find other evidence of a different attitude towards the wolf. It is the case of the toponym Varkāna-, cited in the Bisotun inscription of Darius I and known by the classical authors as Hyrcania. It was an Achaemenid minor satrapy located on the south-eastern shores of the Caspian Sea. This place name clearly reflects the Iranian name of the wolf (Av. vәhrka-, OP varka-, MP gurg, NP gorg) and is still used in its modern form – Gorgān – to name more or less the same region (Sergent 1991: 25). This evidence testifies quite clearly that in the Iranian world, from ancient times, the attitude towards the wolf has been ambivalent, both positive and negative, and not univocally tabooistic. 5. Striking parallels to this attitude, or to a real wolf cult, are to be found in South Caucasian culture, especially in the Kartevelian one. Although other etymological analysis has been proposed, it is possible that the very name of ancient Georgia, Iberia, goes back to the Old Iranian word for wolf, *vṛka(Gamkrelidze-Ivanov 1995: 416). The modern name, Georgia, is an evident exonym that appears in the European sources since the time of the Crusades and has been etymologized – in a Christian fashion – as a derivation of the name of the patron of the country, Saint George. A more tenable origin of the word is to be found in the Persian name of the Country, Gorjestān that spread also among the neighbor languages: Arabic Jūrjiyya, Turkish Gürcistan, Russian Gruzija and so on. The importance of the wolf cult in Georgia is also reflected by some names of Iberia’s rulers containing the word ‘wolf’. This is the case of the legendary king Vakhtang Gorgasali (446-510). I think it would be useful to make a digression about the etymology of this personal name. According to Abaev (1949: 187) the first name derives from a reconstructed Iranian form *vәhrka-tanū- ‘wolf-bodied’, and the second from gurg-sar ‘wolf-head’. Abaev’s explanation about the name Vakhtang is questionable. Following his analysis this name is puzzling, since it is semantically a kind of hendiadys, and from a dialectological point of view the first name shows a non-South-Western (non-Persian) phonology, while the second name shows the Middle/New-Persian outcome from the Old Iranian form.13 Vakhtang is rather to be related to Armenian Vakhtang – and probably to Vartan/Vahan/Vahagn/Vahram as well – that in its turn derives, through Parthian, from Old Iranian Vәrәθraγna- (Justi 1895: 338-339, 343-344).  One has also to consider that the reports about wolf attacks on humans in Iran are very rare, though not inexistent. Wolves are a real threat for flocks but shepherds are not afraid of them (Joslin 1982: 202-203). 12 For a review of the main tale types related to the wolf see Marzolph (1984: 298-299). …Pluskowski (2006: 2) noted that in the folk-tale the wolf is often an object of ridicule. …Probably the king was called Gorgasar “wolf-headed” by the Persians, because of the shape of the helmet he wore (Hitching 2001). Lang (1983: 521) and other sources reported the form Gorg-aslan which is translated as ‘wolf-lion’. This form, and the consequent interpretation, are quite untenable since the second element, i.e. aslan ‘lion’, is a Turkic word, and its presence in the anthroponymy of 5th century Georgia would be quite anachronistic. At any rate, it is more important to consider the place of the wolf in the system of beliefs and rituality. The cult of the wolf in Georgia, and in Svanetia in particular, as George Charachidze has written in his fundamental book about the religious system in pagan Georgia, has a strong connection with Saint George, and his Svan corresponding Džgyrag. Despite the attacks to flocks, Svans consider wolves favorable to human beings. They have magical power that they use to protect men. Wolves are considered very close to human beings, and probably because of their social essence they are considered as a brother or a member of the family. The Svans believe that wolves are organized in a clan society similar to that of humans: they represent a social organism in the wilderness (Charachidze 1968: 481-482). The Svan Saint George, Džgyrag, is the patron of hunters and wolves.14 He is the master of wolves and his connection with them in the Svan beliefs system is particularly close, since he represents for human beings a medium to approach and exploit the wilderness (Charachidze 1968: 482). The ancient cult of the wolf is well attested in Georgian folklore. In the story of Puldu Kaldana, the main character gives some starving wolves a goat for three nights in row. Afterward the wolves appeared to him in human shapes and gave him the knowledge of animal languages as a reward (Virsaladze 1973: 122-123). Another interesting tale, with an aetiological character, tells how in origin the bear, the wolf, and the fox were human beings and that they were later turned into animals because of their bad behavior (Virsaladze 1973: 270-271). Before the transformation the wolf used to be a shepherd. It is my belief that this is not irrelevant, on the contrary, it seems very consistent with the 13 Old Iranian initial v- became, in certain conditions, g- in Middle and New Persian, while it has been preserved in almost all Iranian varieties. 14 Patrons of wolves, often connected with wilderness and flocks and associated with saint George, are present in various cultures of the Caucasian region. This is the case of Ossetic Wastyrǵi/Wastergi (Abaev 1989: 55-56) and the Chechen Batiga-Shertko (Dalgat 1908: 732) and many other examples. 114 Daniele Guizzo abovementioned belief system, in which the wolf is a kind of totemic animal for shepherds too. In this context the theory proposed by Tuite seems very fitting. In his article the scholar stated the main social and religious feature of North-East Georgia is based on the opposition inside–outside (Tuite 1998: 1). Giorgi, the Khevsur name of Saint George, “is the patron of men in their role as exploiters, for the profit of their communities, of the undomesticated space outside the village. He is the protector of shepherds, hunters, travelers, and men carrying cattle from their neighbors on the other side of the mountains” (Tuite 1998: 3). Thus, we can assume that wolves, Saint George’s dogs, are his representatives and operate as a medium between man and the far-off Saint. Paradoxically, at least for our conception of this animal, the wolf is a sacred animal for shepherds, even if, occasionally, it could make an attack on their flocks. 6. In my opinion, this brief sketch about the wolf beliefs system in the Iranian world and the Caucasus elicits some interesting shared features. The most important is the function of the wolf as a medium for men through wild and undomesticated spaces. This characteristic is more visible in the Caucasian accounts, but the three reports from the Iranian-speaking world – collected in non-contiguous regions – relating that the running into a wolf at the beginning of a journey is to be considered a good omen, have a great value. It would be useless, and perhaps impossible, to demonstrate a direct borrowing of this system of beliefs from the Iranian culture by the Kartvelian one, or vice versa. In fact, as has been said above, the cult of the wolf is attested in many civilizations of the five continents. Gamkrelidze and Ivanov (1995: 415-416) suggested that the wolf beliefs system in South Caucasian and Indo-European traditions unites this cultural complex to a broader area reaching the Far East. At any rate, it is certainly true that the proximity of the two cultural areas and the prolonged contacts since Antiquity between Georgia and Iran, in a broader geographical meaning, could let us infer a certain degree of mutual influence. Thus, a deeper interdisciplinary research would be welcomed, in order to get a clearer picture of the possible cultural interference and religious communities between the Southern Caucasus and Iran. Folk-tales, for instance, represent an underinvestigated, but very important, field of research. According to Alinei (1984: 4), who refined a theory already suggested by Propp, folk-tales are more ancient than myths and they preserve a system of beliefs less exposed to alien cultural influences. On the contrary, myths, an expression of higher classes, are more susceptible of changes due to foreign ideas and intellectual elaborations. In fact the Irano-Caucasian religious contacts that have been more investigated, involved, in my opinion, only the upper class, the elites. Indeed, it would be hard to suppose that the cult of Ahura Mazdā or Mithra could ever have been widespread among the ordinary folks of the Southern Caucasus.

Source: D. Guizzo, Blessed and Cursed: Wolf’s Totemism and Tabooisation between Caucasus and Iran pp 107-115

On the impact of Indo-Iranian legacy upon Japanese traditions, see The She-Wolf and Werewolf Wife Tales and wolf shrines in Japan

The Chinese:

The Chinese tradition of the Canis major in the skies was probably a legacy from interactions with the Persian magi or Iranian astronomers, for they had a belief in the Heavenly Dog or Tian-kou, as well as from ancient interactions with Mongolic and Turkish nomads. The tengu of Japanese folklore is said to be derived from the tiangou, although we maintain here that the tengu which is usually depicted as a bird, or man with a long nose and other bird-like characteristics, has a different provenance from a raven rather than from a dog.

Chinese immortal, Zhang Guo shooting at a tiangou

From their interactions with the Northern nomadic tribes, they also inherited werewolf folklore.

The Chinese also have their werewolves called “langren”, as well as a popular fairy-tale called The Wolf of Zhongshan  that originally appeared in the Hǎishuō Gǔjīn as an anonymous text with no known author, although it has generally been attributed to Ma Zhongxi (马中锡) (1446-1512). It is a morality tale about ingratitude begetting its just desserts, that veers away from the others under consideration here, more akin.

Turk and Mongolian wolflore:

In Turkic mythology it is believed that a gray wolf showed the Turks the way out of their legendary homeland Ergenekon, which allowed them to spread and conquer their neighbours. Turkic shamans believed they were descendants of wolves.

The legend of Asena is an old Turkic myth that tells of how the Turkic people were created. In Northern China, a small Turkic village was raided by Chinese soldiers, but one small baby was left behind. An old she-wolf with a sky-blue mane named Asena found the baby and nursed him, then the she-wolf gave birth to half-wolf, half-human cubs, from whom the Turkic people were born.

The legend tells of a young boy who survived a battle. A she-wolf finds the injured child and nurses him back to health. He subsequently impregnates the wolf which then gives birth to ten half-wolf, half-human boys. One of these, Ashina, becomes their leader and installs the Ashina clan which ruled the Göktürks and other Turkic nomadic empires. The wolf, pregnant with the boy’s offspring, escaped her enemies by crossing the Western Sea to a cave near to the Qocho mountains, one of the cities of the Tocharians. The first Turks subsequently migrated to the Altai regions, where they are known as expert blacksmiths, as the Scythians are also known to have been The legend tells of a young boy who survived a battle. A she-wolf finds the injured child and nurses him back to health. He subsequently impregnates the wolf which then gives birth to ten half-wolf, half-human boys. One of these, Ashina, becomes their leader and installs the Ashina clan which ruled the Göktürks and other Turkic nomadic empires.[7][8] The wolf, pregnant with the boy’s offspring, escaped her enemies by crossing the Western Sea to a cave near to the Qocho mountains, one of the cities of the Tocharians. The first Turks subsequently migrated to the Altai regions, where they are known as expert blacksmiths, as the Scythians are also known to have been (Source:  Christopher I. Beckwith, Empires of the Silk Road: A History of Central Eurasia from the Bronze Age to the Present, Princeton University Press, 2011, p.9)

The Tibetans attribute their Grey Wolf traditions to the Mongol royal house, and not the Tibetans, see Mynak R. Tulku, “Grey wolf in Tibetan tradition,” Bulletin of Tibetology 1967 No. 2, or the Notes on The Grey Wolf Symbol, via Digital Himalaya:

“The Grey Wolf legend is of Mongol origin rather than Tibetan, although the Mongol historian Ssanang Setzen makes the Mongol royal house spring from that of Tibet. The ruler of Tibet, Dalai Subin Aru Altan Shireghetu, was murdered by his minister Longnam who usurped the royal power. The murdered king had three sons, one of whom was called Sha-za-thi (flesh-eater). When the Mongols took over this legend they made the name Sha-za-thi into Bortechinua, which means the grey-blue wolf. This son went and settled near Lake Baikal, becoming ruler of the Bede people. He took a lady from the Gongbo people named Goa-maral (bitch-woman) to wife and this helped the growth of the legend that the Mongols were of wolfish nature. Klaproth says that the Mongol Lamas wished to flatter their royal house by tracing their lineage to Tibet, a country more advanced in culture and religion. (See Howorth: History of the Mongols, pp. 32-34)

The story of the wolf also occurs in Chinese sources and the murder of Dalai Subin is confrmed by Tibetan chronicles. Apparently the ancestors of the ancient Turks were massacred by a neighboring tribe, all but a child 10 years old whose hands and feet were cut off. He was nourished by a wolf, which protected him from enemies by hiding him in a cave. The female wolf bore ten male cubs who gave their names to their families. The child, named Asena (or Asena), became their chief. (This is the most popular version of the legend)”.

“Thus the grey wolf (bozhurt) became an omen of happy import among the ancient Turks. The emblem ppeared on the standards of the Huns and the Ulghurs. The Oguz branch of the Turks was said to have been guided by a wolf on their migrations and in the early epic of Oguz Kagan, the latter is said to resemble a wolf physically. The wolf device  does not seem to have been used as an emblem for some time after the Turks became Muslims–probably because of religious scruples–out it was revived by Ataturk”.


From the above comparative survey of wolf superstitions, including half-wolf-half-human legends and royal genealogies, and beliefs in shapeshifters, we see that the belief in ancient times spanned five continents, was pan-Eurasia, and that while Chinese and Japanese beliefs could be traced to Iranic and/or Mongol-Turk interactions, the beliefs dominated the Indo-European-Iranian mythical landscape and thinking which suggests to us that Caroline Taylor Stewart, writing in 1909 was not far off from the truth, with her conclusion in The origin of the wolf superstition:

“The werewolf superstition in Europe arose probably while the Greeks, Romans, Kelts and Germanic peoples were still in contact with each other, if not in the original Indo-Germanic home, for they all have the superstition  (unless, as above, we prefer to regard the belief as arising in various localities in process of psychical development under similar conditions ; namely, when people still lived principally by the chase. 26 ) Probably the primitive Indo-European man before and at the time of the origin of the werewolf superstition, was almost helpless in the presence of inexorable nature. This was before he used metal for weapons. The great business of life was to secure food. Food was furnished from three sources, roots, berries, animals, and the most important of these was animals. 27 “

Last but not least, in Japan there are wolf shrines and existing Ashina clans and locale names. The Ashina are mentioned in the royal genealogies of the earliest chronicles. Thus, there are long-forgotten Turkic-Mongol “wolf-descended” lineages in Japan. For details on this topic, see The She-Wolf and Werewolf Wife Tales, Wolf Worship and Ancient Wolf/Dog Shrines in Japan

14 thoughts on “Descended from Wolves: Wolf Symbolism Around the World

  1. […] Descended from Wolves: Wolf Symbolism, I draw upon the writings of Daniele Guizzo’s work, “”Blessed and cursed: Wolf”s totemism […]

  2. tashterd says:

    Omg you are the first person to mention the Dacians! Nobody else ever mentioned them in lychanthropy researches. Thank you!

  3. Hey, quick question, You know or have any information on the Pterolykos?

  4. Great information. Lucky me I ran across your website by chance (stumbleupon). I have saved it for later!|

  5. Renata says:

    This is such a great read about wolves. Thanks a lot!

  6. […] I found an interesting article on another WordPress site about wolves around the world in different cultures and times. The article is called: Descended from Wolves. […]

  7. […] Wolves have certainly been the subject of myths and attributes such as savagery, primitive and guttural feelings from time immemorial. The popular image of a wolf howling at the moon is part of many folklores around the world and of course, the image of a man becoming a wolf during a Full moon (lycanthropy) is an ancient myth which became popular with horror films and literature. […]

  8. This page is just beautifully crafted with information! I was trying to research some things about Fenrir, and discovered so much more about wolf lore and culture here. Thank you for introducing me to the Dacians (among others). Marvelous brain food! 🙂

  9. Lily says:

    This is very interesting read
    Is there such a practice today of people turning to wolves
    If so, how do they do it.

  10. Lily says:

    What is the relations between a dog head and lightning?

  11. […] über Descended from Wolves: Wolf Symbolism Around the World […]

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