Solitary, feared and respected because of their hunting prowess, ancient and immortal, the wolf is a symbol of all that we fear in the night and so much more. It was somewhere around 9th grade that I chose the wolf as a totem. There was a girl in school, Mary Brown. She came midway through the year decked in black jeans, bobbed red hair and odd oversized t-shirts bearing large animals on the front. I remember her being quiet and slightly backwards, the kind of person people look at and choose to look away from- quickly, even if they can’t put their finger on why. I remember her fist day and every conversation we had thereafter. Why do I remember? I loved her, simple and pure as that.
So what has a young girl that I had a crush on have to do with iconography associated with our lupine brethren? That is a bit mixed, but the connection is pure so hang with me. Mary was the first real pagan I have known. She was Goth and witchy way before Goth and witchy was popular. She was a loner and, like I said, gave off that slightly creepy, not right vibe for most people. For me -it drew me in.
I cannot think of many things in my adolescent past that really made a difference and was a self defining situation for me, but Mary was. (I know at that particular time in my life I was hanging with a pretty rough crowd, which I believe to be one of the main reasons my parents moved before my 10th grade year. I know Mom finding my collection of Wiccan books- loaned to me by Mary- was another.) Mary taught me what religion really was- a belief system for understanding a strange and unnatural world build solely of nature. Mary taught me how to form a ritual and why catholic rituals and pagan rituals and every other ritual form worked. She taught me what real breasts feel like and how a kiss should be delivered, but for this post the most important thing she taught me was finding my totem spirit.
I know that many of you will be disappointed, or shocked to know how much a role paganism and shamanism played for me in high school. Truth is truth however, and this story would not even be of interest if it were not told truthfully. Mary left and took a bit of my heart with her after about 4 months. She did not live with her parents and I never really met any parenting figure come to think of it. I think of her like she was some alternative angle swinging down on rusty homemade wings to spread thoughtful joy into my life, but the totem animal thing, that ritual changed my life.
I could go on about Mary, but other than in my mind she is really not a large part of this story. Her main gift to this rag of reminiscence is explaining the shamanic importance of the animal totem or spirit to me. That is what I wanted to talk about- the wolf. Most of you reading this have seen the handle Wolff. I have used it forever. My gaming name of choice has always been Theolin Wolffgard. You see the ongoing image here. So why the wolf?
Well, when Mary started talking of the importance of a spirit guide I was going to go with the dragon, but as I was doing what I would call my “vision quests” I was just drawn to the wolf’s majesticness and lonesomeness. Originally this was all I saw in the wolf. Eventually, I started to see the wolf as it really is. The wolf is a ghost of the woods. You have to really pay attention to see it and to KNOW them is so rare it’s almost unheard of. Ask yourself this, why would an animal that hunting alone can kill humans easily and in packs decimate villages be revered by the natives that lived with them? It has taken me a long time to realize the answer to that.
The Creed of the Wolf:
Respect the Elders, Teach the young, Cooperate with the pack, Play when you can, Hunt when you must, Rest in between, Share your affections, Voice your feelings, Leave your mark
That was written in the late 60’s by a neopagan and shaman. Unfortunately, I can’t remember his name. Some of you have probably noticed it is my signature line. Anymore it is the only creed I adhere to. It has come to define who I am and in that, has come to define what is not me just as much.
So you can ask yourself why does this matter. Why is he rambling on about paganism and spirit animals and email signature lines- and some random crush from 9th grade already? Well if your bored or completely lost just sign off now and don’t even bother reading the rest of this. It would probably be a act of futility anyway. If it has made sense, I am about to define myself- as best I can. As much as people belive they are words are not really the window to the soul, but I am going to try.
Respect the elders:
Americans tend to think that all inovation occurs with the youth and that anything worth doing is done by those in their twenties. How untrue is that really. Sure there are people that do incredibally important things with their early lives, but it takes years of defining and detailed research to really understand what they have done. An instant to come up with an idea and a lifetime to realize what it really meant. If the alpha male is only choosen for fighting prowress as in chimpanzees then youth would matter, but in wolves instinct and though matter just as much so the alpha male tends to be older and more mature. I respect the elders in my life as they have so much to teach.
Teach the young:
The young learn from the old. As it was in the beginning it will and ever shall be. Modeling is the teacher. Kids know when we lie to them or show them two (or more) faces. I have dedicated my life to teaching and I see it everyday. Pups learn from seeing their elders live their lives. Each elder gives each pup lessons about how they see the world and in choosing which examples to follow the pup becomes the wolf. It is when we give them lessons without meaning or yell and bite them for doing as they see us do that we create pups that are maladjusted and have a tendency to wrecklessly break from the pack. Malajusted rouge wolves are no ones friend.
Cooperate with the pack:
The pack is the essence of the wolf. A wolf that is cast out or a lone will die, its heart breaking from its emotional seperation. How often do we see people that want to talk to anyone just for the contact? Visit any nursing home if you have not seen this effect for yourself. We humans are pack creatures as well. Sure some of us are better at going alone in to the wild, but going alone forever is called exhile and is the punishment that almost all humans fear most. Death is nothing compared to just wasting away alone and unnoticed. A pack is a home. A place of safety and security. Balance and contentment is found there. Maslowe’s Heirarchy applies to wolves and humans alike.
Play when you can:
Even wolves know life is short- it should be enjoyed and grokked in fullness while your able. Have you ever been afraid? I mean really afraid of something, mind locking down, wet trowsers, blacking out afraid? What is the antithesis to this state? What allows you to deal with all the negative and fearful incidents in your life? Two things- laughter and love. Why do we laugh at pain? Why do we swell with love? Because humans- and wolves- are by nature creatures of positivity. The idea that when ever and where ever you can, you should take the time to smell the roses and play hide and seek, or red rover, or just hug the ones you love. This should be at the forefront of your mind. If it is not, you will lead a life of fear and anguish and die disapointed and alone. No creature living wishes that.
Hunt when you must:
I can’t think of a more pointient topic in todays society. Wolves hunt when they are hungry, or in defense of loved ones, or themselves. They will not over kill and leave bodies lying around. Should we humans do the same. This idea could aply to so many things that we over use and abuse in our lives; food, trees, water, minerals, land, power, even air we over “hunt” almost all of it. I could write 10 essays on this idea alone, but will end it here saying just what do we really need to hunt? How much over hunting can we do before we end up killing ourselves off? How about taking a lesson from elders that were here before humans, and realizing that hunting is necessary , but murder and rape has no reason for existance. Did I get esoteric enough on that one for you?
Rest in between:
Sleep, Rest, Love, Breath. What else is there to say. It is what regenerates us and fuels our spirits.
Share your affections:
With one or with many take the time to love and feel. Our society tends to make us feel that emotions are bad and lead to no good. Why is that? Why is it wrong to express yourself? If you watch wolves they will show affections and love to every wolf in the pack. These emotions are not faked and bring the pack close. Why do we feel the need to isolate ourselves away from each other?
Fear. It’s the only answer I can come up with. Fear causes us to shrink away from strong feelings and put up walls so that others can’t laugh at us or despise us for our beliefs. We allow our feelings to be ruled by thr “norms” of a society. A society for the most part that is afraid of its own shadow and bent on seeing the “wrong” that others do so they don’t have to see the walls they create for themselves based on their own fears. If there is a difference between the wolves and the humans it is here. In developing our consciousness as humans we have issolated ourselves from each other and refuse to see the simple beauty in love and closeness that could exist if allowed between the pack.
Voice your feelings:
Each and every wolf has its own voice and its own distinctive howl. Why would it be any different. Each voice in the pack matters. Each individual is worthy of listening to. Sure we all will make our own minds up, but ideally each decision is made based on the needs of the pack and the individual/s. That balance is what allows for growth and development and individuality within a pack setting. A pack is not hive minded, but love of the pack is its own driving force.
Leave your mark:
Within the pack the individual spirit is the key. We all want to be different, to be defined and loved as ourselves and not just a number within a set. So we leave our mark. Where? In the mindset of the pack, in the pups that learn from us, in the territory that we love and care for. And when it comes time for us to die we should die knowing that we have left a mark that praises each and every member of the pack and also sings a song that’s independent , but in balance with the world around us. How does your song go?
So I hear you asking yourselves (well honestly if I have not put you to sleep and your still with me), Why did he write this? What is he trying to say to me? Is he saying something to me? Is this just all rant? These are probably good questions and its getting late enough and this is long enough im just not sure if I have accomplished what I set out to say. So I will end with two reasons why I have put all this down.
First, I have always had a pack. A group of people I could call MINE. Knowing that with these people is where I belong. In the last year I have made descisions and actions that have taken me away from my pack. I don’t think I have ever felt so alone as I have some times in the past year. The reasons and actions are not anyone’s problems, but mine and, if they choose to listen and care, my pack. I feel like the wounded wolf limping around only from their own repeated stupidity and has nearly lost his place- almost cast adrift into the wilderness.
The interesting tennet here is that I am pretty sure my pack has stopped thinking of itself as a pack. They wish to be individuals living in the same area. Even more, im not so sure they ever really thought of themselves as something akin to a pack. I think in a lot of ways I was filling in gaps with my own logic. So as I stand on the border, here between the wilderness and territory of the pack, not sure of what my future holds I think of Mary and my first learnings and wonder if she has words of wisdom for an old wolf. I have hopes and dreams for my pack and for myself. However, I step one bloody paw at a time into today and the future- we will see if this Wolff becomes lone or is welcomed back to the pack.
Secondly, a girl I know just committed suicide on new years eve or day. I have not talked to anyone about it yet so I’m not entirely sure. She was a former student of mine. She was in 11th grade and decided she had had enough of this world. To be 16 and know that nothing could make it better and the only way out was to tie a rope around your neck and jump; to spin in slow circles as your spirit, or life force exits your copral body and to know that there is nothing that could have helped deal with the pain and need that was so overwhelming. I feel for you. I hold no judgement to your actions. I pray to any diety that chooses to listen, take her home and make her a part of your pack- she apparently had none here on earth.
There may be more to all of this I don’t know… maybe…
Sleep, Rest, Love and Breath