Wolf Folklore and Legend

In the stories of the Ulster cycle, the Celtic goddess Morrighan is sometimes shown as a wolf. The connection with the wolf, along with the cow, suggests that in some areas, she may have been linked to fertility and land. Prior to her role as a warrior goddess, she was linked to sovereignty and kingship.

In Scotland, the goddess known as Cailleach is often associated with wolf folklore. She is an old woman who brings destruction and winter with her, and rules the dark half of the year. She is portrayed riding a speeding wolf, bearing a hammer or a wand made of human flesh. In addition to her role as destroyer, she is depicted as a protector of wild things, like the wolf itself, according to the Carmina Gadelica.

Dan Puplett of TreesForLife describes the status of wolves in Scotland. He says, “In Scotland, as early as the 2nd Century BC, King Dorvadilla decreed that anyone who killed a wolf would be rewarded with an ox, and in the 15th Century James the First of Scotland ordered the eradication of wolves in the kingdom.

‘Last wolf’ legends are found in many parts of Scotland, although the very last was allegedly killed in 1743, near the River Findhorn by a stalker named MacQueen. However, the historic accuracy of this story is dubious… Werewolf legends were particularly prevalent in parts of Eastern Europe until very recently.

The wolf features prominently in a number of Native American stories. There is a Lakota tale about a woman who was injured while traveling. She was found by a wolf pack that took her in and nurtured her. During her time with them, she learned the ways of the wolves, and when she returned to her tribe, she used her newfound knowledge to help her people. In particular, she knew far before anyone else when a predator or enemy was approaching.

A Cherokee tale tells the story of the dog and the wolf. Originally, Dog lived on the mountain, and Wolf lived beside the fire. When winter came, though, Dog got cold, so he came down and sent Wolf away from the fire. Wolf went to the mountains, and found that he liked it there. Wolf prospered in the mountains, and formed a clan of his own, while Dog stayed by the fire with the people. Eventually, the people killed Wolf, but his brothers came down and took revenge. Ever since then, Dog has been man’s faithful companion, but the people are wise enough not to hunt Wolf anymore.

 

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