Today, January 12th, is the first full moon in the New Year. The Algonquin tribes who lived in regions extending from New England to Lake Superior called it the Wolf Moon because of the howling wolves that would come close to their villages in search of food. By the time the moon was full in January the harsh weather conditions made it very difficult for the wolves to find food in the wild.Many ancient civilizations, reaching as far back in time as the Neolithic Age, portrayed wolves with the moon in their legends, art, and literature. Hecate, the Greek goddess of the moon, was depicted wearing three wolf heads and was sometimes called She-Wolf. Another figure in Greek mythology, the king of Arcadia Lycaon, was turned into a wolf by the god Zeus.
"Amid the cold and deep snows of midwinter, the wolf packs howled hungrily outside Indian villages. Thus, the name for January’s full moon. Sometimes it was also referred to as the Old Moon, or the Moon After Yule. Some called it the Full Snow Moon, but most tribes applied that name to the next moon." - Farmer's Almanac
In some myths Artemis, the shape-shifting daughter of Zeus and sister of Apollo took a shape of a wolf. Diana, the Roman goddess of the moon and the hunt, was also associated with wolves.
Norse mythology, Fenrir is a monstrous wolf who fathered the two wolves that chase the heavenly chariots of the moon and the sun to summon night and day, respectively. Images of he god Odin show him with two wolves. Both, Odin and the Valkyries rode wolves to their battlefield victories.
In Celtic lore, wolf is the source of lunar power. Each day a wolf would hunt the sun and devour it at dusk to allow the moon to come forth and shine in the sky.
Lithuanian goddess Madeina was a beautiful strong-minded huntress who refused to marry. She was depicted as she-wolf in a company of wolves.
The Native American Seneca tribes believe that a wolf sung the moon into existence. In many nomadic cultures, wolves were associated with warriors who would "transform" into wolves after their initiation. Wolf is a totemic animal in many tribal cultures. He is a symbol of strength, loyalty, generosity and compassion.
There is also, of course, the old belief in European folklore, of man-wolf, or lycanthrope (warewolf) - a shape-shifting man who transforms himself at full moon into a wolf or a wolf-like creature. This concept gave birth to a gothic horror genre in cinema and literature.
There is visible duality associated with full moon and the wolves. A full moon can be either an auspicious sign, or an ominous portent. And so, the wolf can be seen as a dangerous beast or a loyal companion.
If the weather permits, take a moment tonight and have a look at the magnificent Wolf Moon. For many star gazers there is nothing more beautiful than the light coming form a full moon on a cold winter day.
By Dominique Allmon
Dominique Allmon ©2017
Beautiful Wolf Moon T-Shirt designed by Jimmo
at the Jimmo Shirts. It features original photograph
of a full moon taken over Roswell, NM
Have a look at the entire Jimmo Shirts Wolf Moon collection