Wolves exist of their own accord. They are far more than their meaning to us as humans. Yet wolf symbolism is worth exploring because wolves are part of the greater Universe, of which we are also a part. Like it or not, each one of us symbolizes attributes that are special, yet universal, just as wolves do.
What would you like to exemplify?
Do the wolf’s qualities resonate with you? If you are intrigued with wolves, you are drawn to what they mean to you, even if it’s simply a sense of curiosity and wonder.
Here are examples of wolf symbolism and what wolves have meant to both ancient and modern cultures around the world:
If you feel a strong connection to wolves, you are not alone. Wolves, wolf symbolism, and the wolf spirit animal resonate with many of us. 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. They were the canines who refused to be tamed, who chose to remain wild and free.
Yet, wolves are very much like we are. They are social and they love their families, especially their pups. In addition, they love to play and they love to snooze in the sun. They love to sing together too. Wolves are loyal and ferociously protective of those they love.
What can wolf symbolism mean to you?
If you are curious about wolf symbolism, or you even believe that the wolf is your spirit animal, it’s because you are intrigued with their most powerful attributes. According to many Native American traditions, you don’t necessarily choose your spirit animals (and you can have more than one.) Instead, they select you. Animal spirits choose whom they will reveal themselves to. Identifying your spirit animal or animals is a process of becoming more aware and more spiritually in-tune with your surroundings and your true nature and purpose.
Honor your connection to wolves.
If you feel a strong connection to wolves, explore it. If a wolf makes their presence known to you, whether it’s in real life, through the media, in art, or in some other setting, pay attention. They are communicating messages that will help you understand your existence better.
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.
Wolves Howling by Heart of the Wilderness
Wolf Spirit Animal
Wolf totems and wolf symbolism have existed in diverse cultures around the world throughout history. Your spirit animal serves as a guide, bringing you messages from the Universe to help guide you on your human life path and in your soul’s journey.
How do you know if the wolf is your spirit animal?
If you are wondering if the wolf is your spirit animal, consider the questions below. As you read this post, you’ll learn more about wolves, so it will become more clear to you. If you already know, you may learn some new things about wolves that will help guide you on your life path. There is always more we can learn from these special creatures.
- Has a wolf somehow made himself or herself known to you, whether it’s in real life or the media, and did they rivet your attention?
- Were you especially interested in wolves as child?
- Do you ever dream about a single wolf or a wolf pack?
- Did certain stories, books, or movies that involved wolves have a strong impact on you and stay with you?
- Are you close to your extended family and/or do you have a close-knit group of friends who are very important to you and with whom you spend a lot of time on a regular basis?
- Are comfortable with hierarchy?
- Do you go by your instincts?
- Do you feel a deep affinity to wolves and dogs, and do you experience an unadulterated feeling of joy when you see them or are around them?
Only you can truly know if the wolf is one of your power animals. You may be a person who has never thought much about wolves, until suddenly one crosses your path and has a powerful effect on you. Animals can also be subtle. It’s up to us to fine tune our senses and pay attention to what they have to teach us.
We all have energy that we put into the physical world, and wolves are no exception. Wolves have a vibrational frequency as do we. Wolves exist of their own accord. Yet, if you’re especially drawn them, if you dream about them, or have simply always revered them, it’s worth exploring what they could mean to you. Afterall, wolf symbolism and meaning originates from their unique traits.
Here are some traits that are associated with wolves. Which of these meanings resonate with you?
Sociability and Loyalty
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 that they’re best suited for. Above all, they want the pack to thrive.
Quite simply, wolves put family first. Do you put your close relationships first? Are you putting the protection and well-being of your children first? Is everyone in your family, including close friends, protected and well-taken care of?
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 might ask yourself about your own relationships and community. Is it working for you to be out on your own? Or should you be focusing on gathering a team of advisors around you, or being a part of a close knit community of some kind? We are all independent thinkers, but wolves understand the idea of strength in numbers.
Ferocity and Protectiveness
While naturally friendly and playful, wolves are the epitome of ferocity if they or their loved ones are threatened in any way. They are protective of their pups, their pack, and their territory, which they’ll mark to demonstrate ownership.
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. So many women are givers that they often give too much and they don’t protect their boundaries.
Thus, for women, the she-wolf archetype is a very powerful symbol. The she-wolf can remind you to protect those you love, to stand your ground, and 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, if her boundaries are being respected. Or, it can 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 the wolf spirit is making himself known to you, it could mean that you need to claim your territory, claim your power, and exert more protectiveness of those and that which you hold dear.
Perhaps you’re in an environment or in a personal or professional relationship that is not allowing you to be the alpha wolf. The wolf spirit animal may be telling you it’s time you become the leader of the pack vs. the omega wolf.
Wolves are the canines that, 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 makes himself or herself known to you, it could be that you are not allowing your true nature to shine through, that you feel too restricted by physical, intellectual, emotional, or spiritual boundaries. It could be that the wilderness is calling you. Perhaps it’s time for you to take some risks, to get out into the wild. Or, it could mean that you need 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, follow your gut instincts.
Because wolves remained wild, they didn’t lose their instincts in the way that so many of us humans have. Instincts can defy logic. Instincts can tell you on a first date, or even in the text messages leading up to a first date, that something is off and that you shouldn’t go on that date. Your instincts tell you when a person should not be around your children.
They tell you when a work environment isn’t right for you, even if the salary is attractive and the company has a great reputation. Your instincts also guide you in other ways, such as telling you a place to live is the right place or the wrong, or that a new acquaintance is worth getting to know better.
The wolf spirit animal may be guiding you to go with your gut more, to pay attention to those feelings in your spine and body, when you have goosebumps, or your hair is standing on end. Instincts matter, that’s why we still have them. We just need to pay more attention to them.
Strength, Grace, and Endurance
Wolves possess an elegant combination of strength and endurance coupled with grace. Wolves are both lean and powerful. They can run at 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, you can 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 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.
While they are fierce predators, wolves are also inherently 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 together.
Here are some wolves playing at the Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center.
Wolf Meaning in Ancient Cultures
While wolves exist of their own accord, they have meaning to us as human beings on multiple levels. They are fellow species with whom we share our existence on this planet, and they have held symbolic meaning to humans all over the world for centuries.
Wolf Symbolism in Historical Judeo-Christian Culture
In Judeo-Christian stories, wolves were often portrayed in a negative light. The wolf was depicted as a threat to the flocks, just as the Devil was a threat to mankind. While 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 even today.
However, one Christian story 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
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.
Wolf Symbolism in Celtic Mythology
Wolves are portrayed in more respectful terms Celtic mythology. According to historian Ralph Häussler, in Irish and Welsh myths, wolves were seen as helpers and guides. In one Celtic myth, which is similar to the Roman story of Romulus and Remus, Cormac mac Airt (who became an early king of Ireland) 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.
Native American Wolf Symbolism
Wolves are no more revered than they are in Native American culture. While every Native American tribe has their own unique customs and beliefs, one theme that is common to virtually all of them is the belief in the wolf as 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”
According the organization Wolf Song Alaska, the Pawnee Indians 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.”
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.
For the Cree tribe, who are from the areas that are now the northern U.S., including North Dakota and Montana, and Canada, the wolves were considered to come to Earth from the spirit world when the Northern lights shined in the sky.
The Quileute and Kwakiutl, coastal tribes from the U.S. and Canadian northwest, believe that human beings descended from wolves. In addition, the wolf is commonly seen on the totem poles carved by northwestern tribes.
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 an interconnection with wolves that they believed that anything that happens to wolves would eventually happen to the members 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 Zunis carved stone wolf fetishes that they used for protection, healing, and in help with hunting.
Transformation and the Powers of the Universe
In addition to 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.
Too often, wolves get a bad rap in literature. For historical writers from a time when humans had more to fear in the wilderness, it’s somewhat understandable how wolf symbolism stood for something scary and negative. However, in our modern day world, where humans are the main culprits for so much death and destruction on our planet, wolves as metaphors for evil should be put to rest. I found many negative quotes about wolves, which I won’t repeat here. But I will share some of the rare positive ones I found.
“The caribou feeds the wolf, but it is the wolf who keeps the caribou strong.”
–Anonymous, Keewatin Eskimos
“We have doomed the wolf not for what it is, but for what we deliberately and mistakenly perceive it to be – the mythologized epitome of a savage ruthless killer – which is, in reality, no more than a reflected image of ourselves.”
―Farley Mowat, Never Cry Wolf
“We are never alone. We are all wolves. Howling to the same moon.”
“Generally speaking, a howling wilderness does not howl. It is the imagination of the traveler that does the howling.”
–Henry David Thoreau
“A howl is as infectious to a wolf as a yawn is to a human.”
“Wolves did not keep secrets from one another. They didn’t worry about having enough money or finishing school or winning races. They didn’t interfere with nature and have to figure out what was too much and what was enough. They were nature.”
―C.D. Bell, Chimera
“For the strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack.”
“The wolves knew when it was time to stop looking for what they’d lost, to focus instead on what was yet to come.”
―Jodi Picoult, Lone Wolf
“A man might befriend a wolf, even break a wolf, but no man could truly tame a wolf.”
― George R.R. Martin, A Dance with Dragons
“All stories are about wolves. All worth repeating, that is. Anything else is sentimental drivel.”
Wolves in Art and Culture
Stories of wolves have been depicted in literature, folklore, film, and music throughout history. Here’s a sample of some of my favorites and others that are highly recommended.
Books About Wolves
The Call of the Wild by Jack London
The Call of the Wild was one of my favorite books growing up, and it’s still one of my all-time favorite stories. This is a story about going through intense challenges to find the true essence of your being.
A Wolf Called Romeo by Nick Jans
This is a true story of a friendly wild wolf named Romeo who played with a photographer’s Labrador in Juneau, Alaska. The photographer, Nick Jans, wrote a book about the experience entitled A Wolf Called Romeo. After six years of playing with local dogs and becoming a beloved figure to Alaskans, in a tragic end to the story, Romeo was shot and killed illegally by a hunter.
Romeo the Wolf and Nick Jans’ Yellow Lab
Women Who Run with the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estés
When this book first came out, my girlfriends and I had great fun reading passages from it to each other. If you love myths and folk tales, you’ll love Women Who Run with the Wolves. This book is filled with stories that will inspire you to reclaim your creativity, instincts, and passion.
When the Wolves Returned: Restoring Nature’s Balance in Yellowstone by Dorothy Hinshaw Patent, Dan Hartman, and Cassie Hartman
When hunting was unrestricted in Yellowstone National Park, wolf populations plummeted. The loss of this apex predator severely impacted the entire ecosystem. When wildlife biologists better understood the essential role that the wolves played in the environment, efforts were made to restore their populations. When the Wolves Returned: Restoring Nature’s Balance in Yellowstone tells this story.
There’s also a popular documentary, published by Sustainable Human, that beautifully depicts how the return of the wolves brought life back to Yellowstone.
How Wolves Change Rivers
A Wolves Coloring Book by Kim Jones
If you love to color and draw, or have someone special in your life does, this book makes a beautiful gift for yourself or others.
National Geographic’s The Hidden Life of Wolves by Jim and Jamie Dutcher
Authors Jim and Jamie Dutcher lived among a pack of wolves at the edge of Idaho’s Sawtooth Wilderness for six years. Published by National Geographic, The Hidden Life of Wolves covers their experience living near this pack, from the complex social structures to the unique personalities of individual wolves.
The authors also address the topic of wolves’ near-extinction and their comeback in some of their natural habitats. In addition, there are stories about wolves, such as those by Native Americans, European fairy tales, and modern-day ranchers.
Wolves: Behavior, Ecology, and Conservation by L. David Mech and Luigi Boitani
In this book, leading wolf experts discuss all aspects of the lives of wolves around the world, including the U.S., Canada, Italy, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Israel, India, and Mongolia. The book goes into depth about wolf behavior, from how they communicate and hunt to their complex social structures. It also covers wolves’ interactions with nonhuman animals, including bears and coyotes.
In addition, Wolves: Behavior, Ecology, and Conservation illustrates how this apex predator, once teetering on the brink of extinction across much of the U.S. and Europe, made a comeback due to legal protections, reintroduction of wolf packs into their native habitats, and evolving attitudes on the part of people.
Movies with Wolves
Wolves – IMAX
If you missed Wolves at an IMAX theatre, you still have a chance to see them close up on Amazon Prime. Filmed in Yellowstone National Park, Idaho, Montana, Alaska, and Quebec, Wolves gives you personal close-ups to these majestic creatures.
I came upon this movie by chance and decided to watch it, having no idea what it was about. All I knew is that Andrew Wilson, brother of Owen and Luke, was in it. It’s a thoughtful and touching film about how an at-risk youth finds himself when he goes to live with his dad, a park ranger, in Wyoming. The film takes place during the wolf reintroduction program in Yellowstone National Park.
As I was writing this post, I took a break to meet my dad, Eddie, and my stepmom, D., who were visiting from Houston, for lunch. As we came out of the restaurant, a man was standing right in front of me wearing, I am not kidding, a wolf t-shirt. The Universe always works in wonderful ways. To show the world that you’re a wolf person too, here are some cool wolf t-shirts made with organic cotton and recycled materials.
Are Wolves Endangered?
While wolves have made a comeback in some areas thanks to decades of intense conservation efforts, like every other apex predator on the planet (besides humans), they still face grave threats due to habitat loss. In the case of gray wolves in the U.S., today they occupy only 20 percent of their historic range, according to National Geographic.
If you feel a strong kinship with wolves, please help protect them. Below are some resources to help you do so.
Organizations that Protect Wolves
May the wolf spirit protect and guide you.