Saturday, January 7, 2012

January Totems: Wolf

In our tradition we divide the year not only by eight solar and agricultural holidays, but also by the Kalends. We celebrate twelve months of the year by the common calendar, plus a special thirteenth month for Samhain.  These month cycles are associated with different totemic spirits. Each month is assigned an animal, a bird (or other flying creature), and a tree. January's totems are Wolf, Blackthorn, and Blackbird.

The totemic associations are as follows:

Wolf (Faol) – guardianship, ritual, loyalty, free spirit, intuition, shadow
Blackthorn (Straif) – blasting magic, guardians, boundaries, no choice
Blackbird (Dru Dhubh) – territoriality, omens, enchantment, gateways


Wolf

The Wolf is associated with intuition, learning, the Shadow, faithfulness, and inner strength. The Wolf allows you to go beyond “normal” barriers to learn and grow. Wolf reminds us of the inner power and strength that come when we are alone, and it teaches us to know our deepest selves. Sadly, the Wolf is highly misunderstood and has often been shown as an adversary to humans in movies and stories.

This animal embodies many qualities of the hound, but with a wildness not to be found in the domesticated dog. It is valued for its affinities with humans. Wolves are highly social, friendly and intelligent. Several stories in various cultures depict wolves adopting human and divine infants to rear, and Wolves are often adopted as godmothers and godfathers.

The Celts would cross-breed hounds with wolves for a powerful battle dog. In the area of fighting, it is important to know that the Wolf does not fight unnecessarily. In fact, it will avoid fights if it can. Like a true Warrior, it does not have to demonstrate dominance, but can when called upon.

The Morrigan takes the form of a She-wolf and attacks Cu-Chulainn for spurning her amorous advances, and one of Cerridwen’s gifts as Henwen was a wolf-cub. The Wolf is an ally of the Horned One on Gundestrap cauldron. (And in many images, there is a powerful connection between the Wolf and the Raven.)

In magic and medicine, people have believed that a Wolf’s hide provided protection from epilepsy, and the teeth were considered lucky – rubbed on teething baby’s gums and worn as charms and amulets.

In the Americas, the Wolf is seen as the spirit of free and unspoiled wilderness. There are several types of Wolves in this part of the World – the Red Wolf, the Mexican Wolf, the Timber Wolf (or Gray Wolf), and the Arctic Wolf. In size, they are smaller than people imagine (about like a good-sized German Shepherd).

Wolves are very ritualistic and carefully defined rules. They have sacred territories and a hierarchical structure (alpha male and alpha female – a “pecking order”).

They implement complex communication using body language and facial expressions, which can help us conveying our moods and understanding others. They also have very complex verbal communication. Their howls have a variety of meanings, including conveying location, social uses, and for fun.

The Wolf can teach us the balance between authority and democracy. (True freedom requires discipline.) They are very loyal to each other, and within the pack the alpha male and female often mate for life. The whole pack is tolerant and careful of pups. Wolves can “adopt” if something happens to parents, and they will sometimes baby-sit.

Some of the other skills the Wolf can teach include choosing battles. (As predators, they only pick the old, young and sick.) They have great strength and stamina, being able to travel long distances to hunt. They don’t waste anything, which is seen in their gorging on prey. And they are very loyal, making quick and firm emotional attachments.

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