Tonight’s January full moon was known to the Native American tribes of North America as the “wolf moon. ” It was called this because in the depths of the cold winter wolves could be heard howling hungrily in distance on these cold winter nights.
I’ve had my own unique experiences with wolves and have since adopted them as an animal totem. I had my first mystical encounter with a wolf in October 2002.
At the time, I lived in an urban neighborhood that was bordered by the Elizabeth River in Norfolk, Virginia. I lived about eight blocks from the water. I used to go walking by the river at night to clear my head. On one such night, as a full moon glistened on the river, I returned home from my walk. I was about a block from home and across the street I spied the creature. At first I thought it was a dog, but it was much larger, its snout was longer, its legs longer, and its body lithe and thin. I’d seen wolves on television and in pictures, and this was definitely one of them. A feeling of fear filled me. What if it decided to attack me? It didn’t. In fact, it continued on its way not paying me any mind at all. Then it disappeared into the night. I quickened my step and returned home. Every so often I glanced back to make sure it wasn’t following me. What was this wolf doing loose in the city? Did it escape from a nearby zoo? Was it someone’s exotic pet? Given the full moon, could it have been a true lycanthrope? I’ll likely never know the real answer. All I can say is that the experience filled me with a sense of awe and wonder, and that the experience felt mystical and supernatural somehow.
In the mid-2000s, one of the Pagan men’s groups I was involved in at the time adopted the wolf archetype as a kind of mascot. Many of the members were into wolves. At that point I was kind of borderline; I’ve always been more of a cat person than a dog person if you know what I mean. Not to mention, wolves seemed trendy in the Pagan community and I’ve never been one to follow the trends. At that point, I really wasn’t ready to accept the wolf as a personal totem.
In the fall of 2006, our group went on a field trip to a wolf preserve a couple of hours drive away. The preserve held regular “howling” sessions where it would take groups of people out onto the preserve at night to listen to the wolves howl. The night we went they were pretty quiet. The ranger explained that happens sometimes. Some of the other people in our group weren’t as quiet or reverent as they were supposed to be and this probably spooked the wolves. It was still a fun adventure and I did get to hear the wolves howl by purchasing a CD. The proceeds from the purchase went to the wolf reserve.
The following January, our group decided to do a werewolf ritual that we found in book in an occult library. On the January wolf moon in 2007, we assembled at a private home on the oceanfront in Virginia Beach. There were about five of us. We made a fire on the beach and brewed up the potion and ointment mentioned in the book – among the ingredients were poppy seeds, aloe, henbane, parsley, nightshade, and camphor. Okay, so we may have substituted a few ingredients here and there. Like we used lard instead of the “rendered fat of a cat.” One of our members donned a wolf mask and served as the gatekeeper to the circle. We danced shirtless around the fire chanting “Hail, hail, hail, great Wolf Spirit, hail! A boon we ask thee mighty shade within this circle we have made. Make us werewolves strong and bold…” and other such lines. We tried to keep it as authentic as possible, given the general lack of cat’s fat and bat’s blood. The experience was very surreal. To my knowledge no one actually turned into a wolf or werewolf, but then again who knows.
Over the years, wolves and werewolves have grown on me to the point that I’ve embraced them. Perhaps it’s because of the general increase in popularity of werewolves in the popular media, or perhaps because the experience of werewolves parallels that of being gay. You discover a part of yourself that the rest of the world doesn’t understand and you may even have to deal with scared villagers with torches and pitchforks – I’ve been there and done that and got the t-shirt. As to werewolves in the media, I’ve enjoyed werewolves in such movies as Blood and Chocolate, the Twilight series, Red Riding Hood, the Underworld series, and such television shows as MTV’s Teen Wolf, Syfy’s Bitten, Being Human, the Vampire Diaries, and Wolfblood, as well as countless others that are on my list of things to watch. It doesn’t hurt that many of these werewolves are sexy man beasts.