External Wolf Mythos Internalized
Meirya posted an entry on the WordPress blog Beyond Awakening (http://thehornedgate.wordpress.com/2011/03/29/exploring-the-mythic/) asking for others to write about their experiences with their animal identity and the archetype in folklore, myths and stories regarding their inner animal.
I haven’t written anything therian-related lately so I thought I’d tackle the prompt. However, I’m going to just go with what I already have internalized regarding wolves and werewolf myths before taking on the larger project of heavily researching “historical” werewolves. Saves time since I feel like writing right now and it might actually be more pertinent since it’s internal already.
Let’s just assume that this takes place after my realization of being an animal person since I honestly don’t remember how I was as a child or my childhood in general, although I’m fairly certain I was always this way, just didn’t have the right terminology until years later. And let’s also just assume the normal disclaimers: these are superficial myths and not grounded in real wolf biology, etc. etc. ad nauseam.
- Pack hierarchy
- Lone wolf
- Howling at the moon
There’s more, but I’ll approach the major ones. In elementary school, we learned about animals and one of the things always attributed to wolves was their pack hierarchy and strong family orientation.
I’ve felt, more than once, that Andy and I are sort of the “alpha pair” among our close group of friends. Simply because when shit needs to be done or something needs to be organized, we both naturally step up to the plate. And as far as I can tell, no one seems to mind. But both of us are comfortable in that leadership role. More so him than me, but then I naturally take second, or “beta” wolf to his “alpha”. And sometimes I attribute this to us both identifying as wolves.
As far as being a strong familial unit goes for wolves, there is some truth to that particular myth, of which both my husband and I strongly embody. While we have no desire for human children of our own, we do have a cat who is our fur baby. She’s treated just like another member of the family, something which was always important to my own family growing up: the pets were family too. And in the case of my parents and sister, we’re all very close. Closer than any other family I know actually! (Which is sad in and of itself, but that’s another essay.)
Being a lone wolf is often stereotyped in movies and books mostly because I think it epitomizes the romantic ideals that being alone makes you strong and rugged. I am very much not a lone wolf. In the wild, a lone wolf equals, in most cases, a dead wolf because hunting prey hundreds of pounds heavier than you are is dangerous and requires teamwork to succeed. Something like only one in three hunts ends successfully if I remember correctly. So hunting something like elk or bison alone would be impossible and very possibly deadly to even try. This is one of the stereotypes of wolf mythology that I have never embodied simply because I like my family and close friends and have never seen a reason not to ask for their help when needed or to just be near them as often as possible. Being alone, either by choice or not, has never been something that’s appealed to me. Granted, I like my alone time just as much as the next person, but after more than a single day, I grow to hate it. I don’t want to be alone and would never classify myself as a lone wolf type.
Ever since I was little I’ve been, like most people, fascinated by the moon, particularly the full moon. And I admit it, I howl at the moon. It’s a way for me to commune with the “inner wolf” so to speak. And for some reason, probably because of those pesky werewolf stories, I like to howl at the full moon specifically. Granted, I’ll howl whenever I’m moved either by being really happy, feeling more wolf-like or in sadness, but sometimes I howl just for its own sake. And when it’s just to howl to hear myself, it usually happens with the full moon.
- Howling at the moon
Following along the same lines as wolves howling at the moon we have werewolf mythology, most notable the physical transformation on nights of the full moon. Obviously I don’t do that, but other than howling at the full moon, I often tend to feel more wolf-like during this time. Now that I’m older and understand how my therianthropy expresses itself a bit more, I attribute this to the werewolf legends I learned growing up. I also learned along the way that it wasn’t my “inner wolf” expressing itself on nights of the full moon because I suddenly felt more wolf-like, but rather that I was acting out, to “let the wolf out”, because of the werewolf mythos being ingrained subconsciously.
Looking back on some of those experiences, one in particular where I actually tried (and thought I had for a short period of time) to physically shapeshift, I realize that those specific things were a direct result of assimilating werewolf stories into my already wolf-oriented mind. Nights of the full moon let me express my wolfness better because that’s when werewolves did it. As the shirt by Goldenwolf says “shift happens”.
In hindsight, I was an idiot acting out legends, but it did help me during periods of time when mental shifting could’ve been a lot rougher on me than it was. It actually helped me control mental shifts and better deal with being “not human”, albeit in a silly way. Looking back on it now, acting the part of the werewolf on the full moon allowed me to feel closer to that unexplained animal part of my soul.
We’re all familiar with the rage of the werewolf. How, upon transforming into a hideously huge, furred monster, a human is suddenly unaware of their actions and is therefore consumed with the red haze of anger and hatred for anything and everything around them. Once or twice I’ve felt anger such as described in many stories I’ve read. However, I’ve always thought this part of the werewolf mythos was illogical and just flat out wrong. Why would physically changing form affect your mind and suddenly turn you into a slavering murderer? A more beast-oriented mind I could easily believe: something focused more on nature and being the wild animal counterpart. But stark raving mad? No, it just never worked for me.
So while werewolves in myths are usually depicted as violent monsters, I don’t envision myself as such. True, that when I’m angry I growl and will lock my jaws together to prevent biting, but I think this has less to do with my werewolf rage and more to do with simply being pissed off.
On the other hand, there have been a few rare occasions where I’ve been so angry that I’ve felt like letting loose with raw rage on anything and anyone near me. In those few cases, I can easily see where someone may have been blinded by rage and then were mistaken for some otherworldly creature. Only on a few, rare occasions, but I have felt a small taste of what I’d classify as werewolf rage.
Silver is supposed to be the one thing that can stop a werewolf. And it’s something that never resonated with me either since I happen to love and wear silver. I’ve never had any sort of an allergic reaction to it either. I wonder if the connection between werewolves and silver is because silver symbolizes the moon, the cause of a werewolf’s transformation, in many cultures.
Nevertheless, silver has been my favorite jewelry color of choice for years so the werewolf myth of being allergic to silver has never affected me. And of course if a normal bullet could stop me, so then could a silver one and the metal it’s made of has nothing to do with that fact.
In England, animals were popular depictions for family houses and on flags for the battlefield. Wolves were often used to represent loyalty and fidelity to the local lord. I assume this started well before the 1700’s since the last wolf in England was killed in the late 1750’s (1758 rings a bell, but that might have been in Ireland). Wolves were viewed as defenders of their young and strong against their enemies. I’d like to think I embody loyalty, a fierce warrior instinct and love of family and close friends.
Along those same lines is the purely symbolism of wolves (and to a lesser extent werewolves) throughout history. That theme of a fierce protector yet loving individual within a familial unit is key for the wolf mythos.
In the end, only certain wolf and werewolf mythos have grown into how I view myself as a wolf therian/animal person. Among those are strongly family oriented (just no human kids), loyalty, being the alpha female, howling at the moon, a fierce warrior instinct and on very rare occasions that famous werewolf rage.
To me, wolf as an archetype is a warrior, with wild yet controlled strength, an individual within a group, loyal within reason, loving towards family yet wary of strangers, the symbol of the wilderness itself.
And to that end, I am a wolf.
Originally written April 1, 2011