I do not remember exactly where this notification came from, Twitter perhaps, but I recently saw this story from the amusingly titled Who Forted blog. As anyone who has been reading for a while knows, I have a soft spot for stories of werewolves and Black Dogs and the recurrent reports of manwolves throughout the US (and now, per Linda Godfrey, the world) make my ears perk up, so to speak.
As manwolf stories go, this one is pretty typical. A night shift worker has not one, but two, encounters with creatures that appeared to be bipedal and wolf-like. Interestingly, both times, the beings seemed to be moving in groups and the witness did note several color variations. The author of the blog post, Ken Summers, also noted that Linda Godfrey had reported a manwolf incident in the same area in her book Real Wolfmen. Mr. Summers goes on to note a possible mountain lion sighting in the area – unusual since mountain lions are supposed to have been killed off in this region.
Mr. Summers closes out his article with these words which really got me thinking:
Silver Creek is a tributary for the aptly named Wolf Creek. Long ago, Timber Wolves were common across Ohio, though as farming developed among early settlers, these furry canines became less of an accepted part of the wilderness and more of a nuisance as the animals hunted and killed many sheep. Thousands of Ohio wolves were hunted, trapped, and poisoned in an effort to eradicate them from the area. 1842 marked the final killing of a wolf in Ohio and the end of the wolf’s presence here. While wolves have been driven from Ohio, perhaps something far more frightening has replaced them.
Silver Creek is in Ohio, home of a number of mounds left behind by early indigenous peoples. I’ve theorized, in past blogs, that the manwolf might, in some cases, be a sort of materialized guardian left in place by the medicine people of those early tribes to protect the mounds and burial sites of their people. Reading Mr. Summers’ piece, though, another thought occurred to me.
Anyone who has taken even a cursory look at the new shamanism, as proposed by people like Michael Harner and Sandra Ingerman, will be familiar with the concept of a power animal – a spirit, in animal form, that serves as your guide during shamanic journeys in particular areas. Some people confuse the power animal with a totem animal – a spirit, sometimes in animal form, that has allied itself to a particular group of people. The totem ranges across all of human culture from the varying societies with animal totems in the Native American traditions (the Cherokee and Iroquois had clans that were aligned to various animals) to the wolf and bear warriors of the ancient Norse who actually took on the traits of their totem in battle.
A totem animal is a powerful spirit in its own right and, with the attention and offerings of a group of people, it only becomes more powerful. As with any relationship with spirit, one has to approach an animal totem with respect in order to avoid any negative repercussions and one would never harm the totem’s representative animal unless given specific permission from the spirit to do so (as in those Native and Norse folk who wore the skins of their totem for certain occasions).
Harming of the totem’s representative animal can result in harm to the person who causes that injury and, in extreme cases, even death, if one violates a taboo laid by or about the totem. I am minded of the Celtic warrior Cuchulain (the hound of Chulain) who was forbidden to eat dog meat as a part of the relationship with his totem. Cuchulain was killed in battle after being tricked into eating the flesh of a dog by an enemy.
So, what has this to do with our manwolves? Simply, the wolf is a common totem amongst Native people. It is admired for its hunting ability and for its structured, efficient and loving pack life. We know that the European settlers regarded the wolf with fear and loathing. Once they had driven the Native people from Ohio, settling them in out of the way places or killing them, they turned their hand immediately to what they knew best – farming and livestock husbandry. Wolves and other apex predators went from being respected representatives of their totems to wicked slayers of sheep and other livestock, good only when they were dead.
As the article notes, by 1842, the settlers had managed to wipe out the wolf population in Ohio. I doubt that the wolf totem, the powerful spirit of the wolf, simply skulked off to hide on the reservations or disappeared into what woodland was left. Mr. Summers says, “While wolves have been driven from Ohio, perhaps something far more frightening has replaced them.”
I admit that my thinking is pure conjecture. I’ve not done any journey work to test this theory. It simply makes intuitive sense to me that the spirit of the wolf might want to periodically remind the ancestors of those rapacious settlers that they are not the apex predators that they think they are. The manwolves could be something like a tulpa created by the spirit of the wolf or they could be the spirits of those who walked with wolf skins on when they were alive and who have become a part of the spirit of the wolf in death.
While I have heard of no serious injuries in manwolf reports, the creatures certainly scare the life out of most who see them and many witnesses report the strong feeling that the creatures would and could do them harm. Maybe, just maybe, the physical wolves are gone and have been replaced by representatives from Wolf itself.