Wolf Symbolism & Meaning & the Wolf Spirit Animal

Wolf Symbolism, Meaning, and Spirit Animal Guide

Wolf symbolism and meanings include loyalty, family, friendship, teamwork, protection, wildness, freedom, instincts, playfulness, and other noble traits. Historically, wolves lived throughout the world, so they are subjects in the mythology and folklore of many cultures. In addition, the wolf spirit animal is a sacred figure to those who feel a special kinship with these wild canines. In this post, we’ll explore all aspects of wolf symbols and meaning, including wolf spiritual meanings, wolf mythology, the wolf spirit animal, and more.

Arctic Wolf
Arctic Wolf. Photo: Bert de Tilly.

What does a wolf symbolize?

You can read more details about these traits and what they might signify for your own life below.

  • Loyalty
  • Family
  • Friendship
  • Teamwork
  • Protection
  • Wildness
  • Freedom
  • Instincts
  • Endurance
  • Curiosity
  • Playfulness

Wolf with Pup

Wolf Meaning: Loyalty, Family, and Friendship

Wolves love to be with other wolves. They form deep bonds with the other members of their pack and they depend on each other to survive. Wolves put the pack first, above their own interests. This is why you’ll see wolves fall into line to perform the role within the pack for which they’re best suited. Above all, wolves want their pack to thrive.

Wolves put their family first. So, the spirit of the wolf is a reminder to all of us that the greatest gifts in life are your relationships with those you love. The wolf asks: Do you put them first? If you have children, do you put the protection and well-being ahead of everything else? The wolf makes sure that everyone in their family – and this includes close friends – is protected and taken care of.


Wolf Pack in the Snow
The Gibbon Wolf Pack, Yellowstone. Photo: Doug Smith.

Wolves rely on each other to survive. They epitomize the concept of 1+1=3. The legend of the lone wolf is a legend because a wolf alone is extremely rare. It’s much more common to see wolves who are part of a cohesive team.

If you are drawn to wolves, you may be inspired to look at the groups of people you work with, socialize with, and even interact with in your community. Do you have the right team around you? Are they supportive and do they inspire you to be your best? We all have to learn to rely on ourselves to some extent. But the wolf spirit animal reminds us to create our own A team if we don’t already have one.

Wolf Symbolism: Protection

Three Wolves Growling

While they are naturally friendly and playful, wolves are also the epitome of ferocity if they or their loved ones are threatened in any way. They are extremely protective of their pups, their pack, and their territory.

The She-Wolf Archetype

The term “she-wolf” to describe a protective female is a positive attribute that’s important for many women to embrace. Many women are givers and it’s easy for them to fall into a trap of giving too much and not protecting their boundaries. This is most certainly not the way of the she-wolf.

In fact, the she-wolf is an important archetype for many women to embrace. She reminds you to protect those you love, to stand your ground, and to ferociously protect your boundaries, whether they be physical, financial, emotional, sexual, or spiritual. The she-wolf is the antithesis of being too easy, permissive, and passive.

For men who encounter a she-wolf, it’s not the opportunity to “put her in her place.” Instead, try to understand if she needs space and if her boundaries are being respected. It can also mean that she needs protection, so she can relax and doesn’t have to keep her hackles up.

The Alpha Male Wolf

Men, too, can learn from the ferocity and protectiveness of the wolf. If a wolf suddenly makes himself known to you, whether in real life, the media, artwork, or some other way, it can be a sign that you need to claim your territory. This could be claiming your power over yourself or a situation.

For example, if you’re in an environment or in a personal or professional relationship that is not allowing you to be the alpha wolf, it might be time for you to step up or go find your own territory. The wolf spirit animal may be telling you it’s time you become the leader of the pack vs. the omega wolf.

For men, the alpha wolf can be an important archetype for exerting more protectiveness of those you love and that which you hold dear.

Wildness and Freedom

Wolves are the canines who, unlike dogs, chose not to be domesticated by human beings. Yet, if you know dogs, you know they all carry some wildness in them. Their wolf instincts still course through their veins.

As humans, we used to be wild as well, and that wildness still lurks within us.

If the wolf spirit animal is resonating with you, it could be a sign that you are not allowing your true nature to shine through. Perhaps you feel too restricted by physical, intellectual, emotional, or spiritual boundaries. The wolf power animal could be the wilderness calling to you. Perhaps it’s time for you to take some risks and to break free of that which is holding you back.

As wild creatures, wolves also represent freedom. If the wolf spirit is resonating with you, it could be time for you to roam and explore – whether it’s physically, mentally, or emotionally. Wolves deserve to have the space to run free, and so do you.


In our highly analytical culture, where we hold mathematical prowess in high esteem and often reward logic over emotional decision-making, we too often judge others (and ourselves) by numbers: income, age, height, weight, and other calculations. In doing so, we have devalued something that’s invaluable and which cannot be scored – and that’s our natural instincts. Our instincts have been perfected by time immemorial. They are in our DNA. They are not something to ignore or override.

Like the wolf, trust your gut instincts.

Because wolves remained wild, they didn’t lose their instincts in the way that we humans have. Instincts can defy logic. They can tell us on a first date, or even in a text message leading up to a first date, whether something is “off” and that we should avoid going on that date. Our instincts can tell us whether we can trust someone, such as whether we should do business with them or allow them to be around our children.

If a wolf appears in your life in some way, it can be a strong signal for you to pay more attention to your gut feelings, whether it’s goosebumps, your hair standing on end, or butterflies in your stomach. Instincts matter. Sometimes we need to be reminded to pay more attention to them.

Wolf Meaning: Endurance

Mexican wolf running
Mexican wolf running. Photo: Jim Clark, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Wolves possess an elegant combination of strength and endurance coupled with grace. They are both lean and powerful. A wolf can run 35 miles per hour when they’re chasing prey. But more often, they lope at 5 miles per hour, which they can do for hours on end. Wolves are suited to their environment, living in harmony with their natural surroundings.

Taking a lesson from the wolf, it might be a time to ask yourself if you feel in harmony in your own body and your surrounding environment. If you feel like you lack strength, stamina, and even grace – why is that? What can you do to change your state? If you feel ill at ease in your surroundings, perhaps it’s time to explore other environments. If you feel ill at ease in your own body, it’s worth exploring what’s hindering your innate capacity to thrive.

Like wolves, human beings are designed to move. We function optimally when we have time to move every day. If you find yourself in awe of the grace and strength that wolves possess, consider how you can cultivate those qualities in your own physical being.


Modern day wolves have evolved to become shy because of human beings. But as apex predators, their natural state is to be confident. Like dogs, they are intelligent and possess an innate curiosity. The wolf spirit animal tells you to not allow learned fears and insecurities to override your natural curiosity. Don’t get caught up in negative thought patterns and emotions that don’t serve you, because there’s a great big world out there, full of curiosities and wonder!

Here’s a video from BBC Earth that shows the natural curiosity of wolves:1


While they are fierce predators, wolves are also extremely social and they love to play. We all have to operate in survival mode at one time or another, but the wolf spirit reminds us that no matter how serious life can be, we should always set aside some time to play and have a good time.

Here’s a video of wolves playing at the Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center.2

And here’s a video of wolves doing something they love to do together: howl.

Wolf Spirit Animal

If you feel a strong connection to wolves, you are not alone. After all, human beings have a special connection with canines. How else did dogs become “man’s best friend”? Dogs are capable of creating incredibly powerful bonds with human beings, and wolves, their wild cousins, have a special appeal to us as well.

In fact, wolves are very much like we are. They love their families, especially their pups. And they love to play and snooze in the sun. They love to sing together too. Yes, wolves are the canines who refused to be tamed, who chose to remain wild and free – and we love them for it.

Wolf Spirit Animal

How do you know if the wolf is your spirit animal?

According to many Native American traditions, you don’t necessarily choose your spirit animals. Instead, they choose you. This can happen on a vision quest, a meditation, or in powerful experience that affects the course of your life. You may already know the wolf is your spirit animal because of a deep kinship you feel with them. Or, if a wolf suddenly makes themselves known to you, whether in real life, artwork, or the media, it can be a sign that you should learn more about what these wise beings have to teach you.

Learning More About Wolves

While most of us don’t get the opportunity to engage with wolves in the wild, we can still get to know them through the work of artists, filmmakers, biologists, and wolf protection organizations who want to help us understand them better.

Our spirit animals help us to better understand our true natures and that we are all connected. In addition, they can serve as guides for us, helping to better understand ourselves and our existence as we navigate our soul’s journey.

If you are curious about other animals who might also be your spirit guides, you can take UniGuide’s spirit animal quiz in my overview post about spirit animals.

Wolf Power Animal

Wolf Spirit Animal

As the name implies, a power animal can inspire you with their most dynamic traits. So, if you want to transform an area of your life, mediate on the attributes that the power animal represents. For example, you can summon the wolf power animal when you:

  • Feel you need to better protect those and that which you love.
  • Want to hone your instincts and intuition to make better decisions.
  • Would like to improve your social life to attract like-minded people who can inspire and support you.
  • Want to improve your relationship with family, friends, and colleagues.
  • Feel that your life has become too tame and you need to reconnect with you wild, freedom-loving self.

Wolf Totem Animal

In Native American cultures, animal totems hold the protective powers of the animals they represent. Thus, the wolf totem is a helpful symbol for manifesting more protection, better instincts, and stronger relationships in your life. In addition, the wolf totem is a helpful symbol for breaking free of restrictions on your life, whether they are physical, creative, or financial.

Wolf guarding a Tlingit mortuary house, Fort Wrangell, Alaska. Photo: Alexander Badlam.

Wolf Mythology

Wolves have inspired people around the world for centuries. Thus, they are important figures in the myths and folklore of many cultures. Here are some of those stories.

Native American Wolf Mythology

Gray Wolf Howling
Dakota, a grey wolf at the UK Wolf Conservation Trust. Photo: Retron.

While every Native American tribe has their own unique customs and beliefs, one theme that is common to all of them is a reverence for nature and animals. And the wolf, in particular, is considered an extremely powerful being. Native Americans view the wolf as a creator, a guide, and a brother or sister. Some tribes believe that wolves howl at the moon because they are having a spiritual experience and are singing to the gods.

The “Wolf People”

The Pawnee People have such a powerful kinship with wolves that their hand sign for “wolf” is the same as it is for “Pawnee.” Indeed, other local tribes called the Pawnee the “Wolf People.”3

Both the Pawnee and the Blackfoot tribes viewed the appearance and disappearance of the star Sirius, which is also referred to as the Wolf Star or the Dog Star, as a sign that wolves were traveling to and from the spirit world. The Milky Way itself was the path they took, which the tribes referred to as the “Wolf Road.” The Pawnee believe the wolf was the first creature to experience death.4

The Cree tribe, who are from the area that is now North Dakota, Montana, and Canada, believed that wolves traveled back and forth between Earth and the spirit world when the Northern lights shined in the sky.

The Northern Lights, Aurora Borealis
The Northern Lights, Aurora Borealis, viewed from the south shore of Lake Superior. Photo: Roman Kahler.

The Quileute and Kwakiutl, who are coastal tribes from the U.S. and Canadian northwest, believe that human beings descended from wolves.5 Hence, many northwestern tribes depict the wolf on their totem poles to tell the story of their ancestors and protector spirits.

The Ojibwe tribes, who were located in the U.S. Midwest and in Ontario, Canada, saw wolves as extended members of their family. They felt such a connection with wolves that they believed that anything that happened to a wolf would eventually happen to a member of their tribe.

Animal that Looks Like a Dog but Is a Powerful Spirit

The Sioux called the wolf “shunk manitu tanka” or “animal that looks like a dog but is a powerful spirit.”

In Cheyenne medicine, warriors would rub their arrows against wolf fur to bring better success in hunting.

In the U.S. Southwest, the Pueblo tribes saw wolves as one of the six directional guardians. And the Zuni carved stone wolf fetishes, which they used for protection, healing, and in help with hunting.6

Transformation and the Powers of the Universe
Like the Celts, the Navajo view wolves as transformational beings. When the Navajo have healing ceremonies, they call upon select higher powers to restore peace and wellness, and the wolf is one of those higher powers.

Another southwestern tribe, the Hopis, dress as wolf kachinas, or spiritual beings, and carve wolf kachina dolls, which represent the powers of the Universe.

Hopi Wolf Kachina
Hopi wolf kachina. Photo: Daderot.

Wolf Meaning in the Bible and Christianity

St. Francis and the WolfIn Judeo-Christian stories, wolves were often portrayed in a negative light. The wolf was depicted as a threat to the flocks to describe the way the Devil was a threat to mankind. At the same time, Jesus and God were viewed as the shepherds who protected the flocks. This negative symbolism imposed on the wolf has most likely played a role in why wolves are so feared and misunderstood by people to this day.

There is one Christian story that paints a somewhat positive portrayal of the wolf. In the story St. Francis and the Wolf, the town of Gubbio, Italy is being attacked by a wolf. Saint Francis of Assisi, who is living in Gubbio, goes into the hills and asks the wolf to cease harming the townspeople and their livestock. As he was highly tuned into animals, St. Francis learned that the wolf was only attacking the townspeople out of hunger. Thus, he persuaded the townspeople to feed the wolf, and the wolf ceased attacking them.

Direwolves in Game of Thrones

Dire Wolf, Game of Thrones
Dire Wolf. Graphic: Dire Wolf Digital.

If you’re both a wolf lover and a Game of Thrones fan, you probably loved the direwolves. As guardians of the Stark children, the mystical direwolves were both important characters and symbols in the series. I won’t give anything away, but if you watch GOT from beginning to end, you’ll realize just how symbolic the direwolves were.

Celtic Wolf Mythology

Wolves are portrayed in more respectful terms Celtic mythology. In Irish and Welsh myths, wolves were seen as helpers and guides. One Celtic myth, which is similar to the Roman story of Romulus and Remus, tells the story of Cormac mac Airt, who became an early king of Ireland. In the tale, he was raised by a she-wolf.

In other Celtic myths, people transformed back and forth from humans to wolves. This was most likely one of the precursors to modern day werewolf stories.

Wolf Meaning in Norse Mythology

In Norse mythology, the trickster god Loki and his wife, Angrboda, who was a giant, gave birth to a massive wolf named Fenrir (also called Fenrisúlfr).

Fenrir was said to be so powerful that the Norse gods were threatened by him, so they bound him to a rock with magical chains. However, when the god Try bound him, Fenrir bit off his hand. Yet when Ragnarök (the Nordic Doomsday) came, Fenrir broke free from his chains and devoured the sun. He then went on to attack, kill, and then eat the supreme Norse god Odin. Only Odin’s son Vidar who could avenge his father. He killed the giant wolf by either stabbing him in the heart with a magic sword or tearing his might jaws apart, depending on who is telling the tale.7

Wolf Dream Meaning

Wolf Dream

Because dreams are so personal to the dreamer, I find it hard to apply specific meanings every time a person dreams of a wolf. However, I do share the belief held by many Native American tribes that wolf dreams can be messages from your spirit guides that they are worth studying. I do believe that our spirit guides are standing by to help us. It’s just a matter of paying attention. They don’t want to get in the way of our free will, however, if we ask for their help, they are willing to do so.

If you dream of a wolf or wolves in distress, you could be picking up signals from real animals. This could be a sign that you should take action in some way in wolf conservation.

If you’ve had a dream about a white wolf, you may want to check out my more focused post on white wolf meaning.

Analyzing Your Emotions in the Dream

When analyzing your wolf dream, it’s important is to consider the emotions you felt in the dream, whether it was fear, anger, anxiety, or some other emotion. It’s also important to keep in context how you feel about wolves. For example, wolves can be terrifying to some and friendly or fascinating to others. Your feelings will help you to understand the nature of a matter that you need to address when in your wakeful, conscious state.

Wolf Tattoo Meaning

Wolf Tattoo

A wolf tattoo is a powerful symbol that tells the world that you are a protective person of those you love and that you go by your instincts. It can also demonstrate that you value freedom and your inner wildness. While tattoos are personal to each individual, better understanding wolf symbolism and mythology can hopefully imbue your tattoo with greater meaning.

For more details on what this symbol can mean on your skin, be sure to check out my dedicated post on wolf tattoo meanings.

How You Can Help Wolves

Are Wolves Endangered? The answer to that question is that some species are, such as the Mexican red wolf. Yet, even wolves that are not listed as endangered are still threatened. While wolves have made a comeback in some areas thanks to decades of intense conservation efforts, like other apex predators (besides humans), they still face grave threats due to habitat loss and hunting. In the case of the gray wolf of the United States, they now occupy only 20 percent of their historic range and were recently taken off the Endangered Species List, leaving them more vulnerable to hunting and other threats.8

If you feel a strong kinship with wolves, please do what you can to protect them. Below are some organizations that are working to protect wolves:

You might like these other articles on UniGuide:

May the wolf spirit protect and guide you.
Wolf Paw Print

Arctic Wolf Howling
Arctic Wolf Howling in Wildpark Alte Fasanerie.


15 Responses

  1. I was going through a very difficult time in my life and I ran to a family members home to seek peace and comfort. While I was there sitting in her back yard, which was separated from the forest, trees, and wildlife by a 6ft fence a wolf jumped and peeked his head over the fence in my direct line of just from where I was sitting. Had I been outside alone when it happened I would have thought my mental and emotional state had deceived me but there was a witness who verified this. I have never thought about wolves much and really only believed them to be wild animals to beware of when exploring the wild. I have never seen one in real life before this very awkward interaction, which is why I am reading up on wolves now. In reading about the wolf as a spirit animal or spiritual guide it is clear the was there for me. I was afraid when it happened but strangely felt better emotionally and had a strong sense of clarity after the interaction occurred.

    1. Wow, this is incredible! And lucky you! I have never had the opportunity to meet a wolf in the wild, so I am a bit envious. (Though my shepherd/husky mix dog makes me feel like I have a wolf pup when he doesn’t get enough exercise…) I am so happy to hear the encounter inspired you to learn more about these powerful and divine creatures. Thanks for sharing this!

  2. Hi Kristin, my name is John, at the present moment I am going through a very bad time emotionally, mentally I’m lost but I love animals especially the wolf and i hope the wolf spirit comes to me in a dream, am probably not making much sense so please forgive me for being vague, i just feel such a strong connection to wolves, love them deeply and always will, thank you and take care!

  3. Hello, I’ve loved wolves for a very long time, I’ve been drawn to the wolf for many years. I never knew why. I was very curious so i decided to search the web and i came across your extensive informational write up. You have given me some valuable incite and i can’t thank you enough. I know now why I am so drawn to the wolf. I truly appreciate this information, Thank You 🙂

  4. I drew a tree then suddenly came up with the phrase “wolf girl come back to the woods?” From reading this article it could be the wolf spirit telling me to loosen up or telling me to tap into the “she wolf” energy. But I did catch myself saying I been too uptight and have been trying to loosen up

  5. I came across this article because I was meditating and a wolf came to me. I’m pretty unfamiliar on anything having to do with wolves other than them being related to dogs lol. This brought a lot of clarity to me though. Thank you!

  6. I don’t have much to say but am very happy to read something about the wolf I have learned a lot from your site thank you very much

  7. Very beautiful article! About thirty years ago I had a powerful direct experience with the She-Wolf archetype or divine personality. It was after reading about a secret Vajrayana Buddhist form of Tara called the “Blue She-Wolf”. I was in a bad place emotionally at the time from childhood trauma that had surfaced, and this “blue she-wolf” got me through it and I have felt her protection ever since. I recently assembled my thoughts and meditations onto a Facebook info page, just to satisfy myself mostly and express my enthusiasm about her. 🙂

    1. Thank you. And very cool! I will look for it. I had not heard of that Buddhists practice, but I will look for that too. My previous dog, who passed, was a border collie / red heeler mix. She was a love bug but was also fiercely protective when necessary. On two different occasions she warded off scary people who came towards my car. She went ballistic! She was a she-wolf! And often I think of her when I need courage. Take care!

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Kristen M. Stanton

Hello. Thanks for visiting UniGuide. My name is Kristen and I started UniGuide as a tribute to nature, animals, and spiritual exploration. I hope you enjoy your experience here!