Untitled by Sunima.


(ie. *wlkwos)

in Indo-European mythology animal related mainly to the:
– military area of social activity (see BHIMA-1; DOLON; ZMAJ OGNJENI VUK),
– warrior leader functions (see MARS; MAKEDON; compare with GERI and FREKI),
– military initiation (see ZARATHUSTRA),
– totemism which programs the warlike character of a whole population (see MAKEDON; SORANUS; UARHAG; ROMULUS and REMUS),
– atrocity (see LYCAON-1).

Company of warriors was commonly identified with a wolf pack (Hittite wetna; see BERSERKERS). Rigveda names the warlike and maleficent ➚ asuras as vŕkadvarasaḥ “running as wolves” [1]. There are etymological relations between Ossetian bal “party, band”, balc “war expedition” and bīrägty bal “wolf packs”. Description of the time preceding ➚ Ragnarök – vargöld “age of wolves” or “age of villains” [2], compare old Icelandic vargr “wolf; villain, criminal”. The military valorization and propinquity to a ➚ dog (Geri and Freki are “dogs of ➚ Odin”) connected the wolf with idea of death, and through it with chthonism and fertility. In the Iranian tradition wolves were offspring of ➚ Ahriman, while the Scandinavian ➚ Fenrir was the son of demonic ➚ Loki.

Romans considered a sudden appearance of a wolf as a bad omen [3] and meeting the animal in some specific circumstances might even cause a voice loss [4,5]. Zarathustra died at the hands of assassins disguised as wolves.

In Greek mythology ➚ Leto in the form of she-wolf gave birth to ➚ Apollo and ➚ Artemis [6]. Armenian ➚ Sarkis patronized wolves and lovers and in Rome wolf fat was used during the wedding ceremonies. Latin (from Sabine) lupa means “she-wolf” and “prostitute, harlot” (see ACCA LARENTIA), compare with Russian volk “wolf” and “bridesman”. Romans also thought that a she-wolf “only marries once” [7].

According to Rigveda ➚ Ashvins used a wolf for plowing [8] and rode it while sowing [9].

There was a widespread fear of people able to transform into wolves (see MARDAGAYL, VILKTAKAS, WEREWOLF-I and II).

In Romanian tradition souls of some dead people turned into wolves. Such monsters were named (z)vîrcolacii, vîrgolacii and ascribed with eating the Sun and Moon during eclipse (compare with HATI and SKÖLL).
According to the demonic character of a wolf (see LYSSA) compare Pashto lewə “wolf” with Avestan daēva (see DAEVA-I).

Importance of a wolf is confirmed by the Indo-European onomastics: names as Lycia, Lucania, Lycaonia, Hyrcania are all derived from Proto-Indo-European *wlkwos; see also anthroponyms: old Polish Wilk, Serbian Vuk, German Wolfgang, Scandinavian Ulf, Gypsy Rúva (from ruv “wolf”), Greek (mythological) ➚ Autolycus, ➚ Lycurgus etc. Compare also with Roman Lupus (“Wolf”) which became the agnomen (cognomen) of one of the Rutilius family branches.


[1] RV, II, 30, 4; [2] Völuspa 45; [3] L i v., XXXII, 29; XXXIII, 26; XLI, 9; [4] P l i n., NH,VIII, 34; [5] S e r v. de Verg., Ecl., VIII, 97; IX, 54; [6] A r i s t o t., HA, VI, 35; [7] S e r v., de Verg., Aen., IV, 458; [8] RV, VIII, 22, 6; [9] RV, 1, 117, 21.

W.N. D o b r o v o l s k i y, Sulyeveriya otnosityelno volkov, „Etnograficheskoye obozryeniye” 51, 4, 1901; M. E l i a d e, Les Daces et les loups, “Numen” 6, 1, 1959; M. L u r k e r, Hund und Wolf in ihrer Beziehung zum Tode, “Antaios”10, 1969; V. V. I v a n o v, Rekonstruktsiya indoevropeyskih slov i tekstov, otrazhayuschih kult volka, “Izvestya AN SSSR. Seriya literatury i yazika” 5, 1975.


Related articles: