Sunday, June 13, 2010

Wolves

I'm lately fascinated by wolves. I love it when they find me in dreams, meditations, on billboards, in waking life. It makes sense then to learn more about them. Barry Lopez's "Of Wolves and Men" and Smith and Ferguson's "Decade of the Wolf" have given me tremendous insight into wolf biology and behavior. Other books and writers provide the mythos -- "Wolf Totem," certain fairy tales ("Firebird," "Little Red Riding Hood," "Three Little Pigs," "The Dog and the Wolf"), Jack London.

People fear the wild wolf and call it "dangerous." I admire it as a great hunter and respect its pack mentality. Wolves typically nurture the young and tend the old. Here are a few of my favorite passages from Lopez's work:

"In the native American cosmology, insofar as it can be regarded as the same from tribe to tribe, the universe was perceived in six directions: the space above; that below; and the four cardinal divisions of the world horizon. Frequently on the plans the bear represented the west, the mountain lion the north, the wolf the east, and the wildcat the south. They were regarded as the creatures with the greatest power and influence in the spirit world.

"The Pawnee of present-day Nebraska and Kansas differed from most other tribes in that they divided their world horizon into four semi cardinal points, assigning the wolf to the southeast. In the Pawnee cosmogony the wolf was also set in the sky as a star, along with the bear and the two cats, to guard the primal female presence, the Evening Star. The Wolf Star was read -- the color associated with the wolf by virtually every tribe (red did not signify blood; it was simply an esteemed color.)
(p. 102)

***

"The Pawnee conceptualization of the wolf was that he was an animal who moved like liquid across the plains: silent, without effort, but with purpose. He was alert to the smallest changes in his world. He could see very far--"two looks away," they said. His hearing was so sharp he could even hear a cloud as it passed overhead. When a man went into the enemy's territory he wished to move exactly like this, to sense things like the wolf, to be Wolf.

"The sense of being Wolf that came over a Pawnee scout was not the automatic result of putting on a wolf skin. The wolf skin was an accoutrement, an outward sign to the man himself and others who might see him that he was calling on his wolf power. It is hard for the Western mind to grasp this and to take seriously the notion that an Indian at times could be Wolf, could actually participate in the animal's spirit, but this is what happened. It wasn't being like a wolf; it was having the mind set: Wolf." (pp. 112)

3 comments:

Aly said...

Hey, Kel! What do the wolves tell you in your dreams?

A Walk in the World said...

all kinds of things, aly! mostly to discover my breath of courage.

Aly said...

Normally,I would feel silly telling another adult to read these books, but you're you and I know you'll love them,so I'll tell you anyway...you should read the Twilight books! There are wolves all over those books, especially the last two. They depict the pack mentality in an interesting way, I think. Plus, they're just fun!