Where best to begin our Almanac than with myth meets real life?
This memory begins sometime in my mid teenage years. As most of you have heard, my cousin, brother and I spent all of our childhood being raised on our great- grandparents small family farm just north east of Harvest Alabama. Naturally rural teenagers find that there is not much to do except sneak out of your house in the dead of night and drive around listing to bands that would never come within a hundred miles of north Alabama. We had done it half a dozen time at this point. Casey (my cousin and best friend) and I waited for our great grandfather to fall asleep before running our routine. Sneaking out of the front door one by one, quietly; not even putting our shoes until we were clear away from the house.
Our small yellow farm house sat on a few acres of land, which had a matching yellow shed across the long driveway. We both remember this night so clearly. The bright beautiful full moon cast a halo around the moist night air. Our ride texted us saying to walk to our usual spot at the only intersection for miles on Meneffee Road. Fumbling around to get our shoes on, we made our way to the street when we saw her.
The most beautiful pale yellow eyes beholden to a large dark black wolf. She stood in the middle of the street blocking our intersection where we were to be picked up. Casey and I froze. I remember us both holding our breath for what seemed like a decade. Our eyes locked her eyes. We were enchanted. Living in a surreal world. The wolfs fur flowing in the soft night air. We were hardly over five foot tall and she stood just as tall as we were. Yet being faced with a creature so powerful, we felt calm, protected and tranquil.
Growing up in rural north Alabama, you are taught from a young age how to handle wildlife encounters. We have an especially fun wild boar story that happened years earlier- but we will save that for another day.
Minutes must have passed before one of us spoke. "The shed. Behind the shed." Casey quietly whispered, pushing my arm in that direction. We felt no fear, but training kicked in. We ran behind the little yellow shed back on our property. Silence. I could not tell you how long we stood with our backs against the shed waiting to see what would happen next. The jolt of the cell phone brought us back to reality. I remember sliding to the corner of the shed to peek around and see if she was still there. She was gone. She didn't chase us? Where did she go? I had a dozen other questions floating around my head. I searched the shadows of our expansive flower gardens for her: nothing. Had she made it to the woods behind the house so fast? It was at least two acres away.
Taking in a deep breath, I let the smell of our rose garden and towering honeysuckle bush ground me. She was gone, yet I still felt like she was there, somewhere. Casey pulling my arm towards the road and intersection where our ride was waiting brought me back to our original plans. We did not speak about this for years. At one point I almost thought it a dream. Until a recent conversion about our childhood farm brought this memory back to life. We both held the exact same story, same details and recollection. In all of my studies I have come to find the black wolf omen split evenly down the middle: both good and bad.
My first look at the black wolf shows they are not native to north Alabama, or the southern half of the United States for that matter. She was a long way from home.
Roman mythology tells us we owe their founding to a wolf mother, Lupa, who nursed the twins Romulus and Remus after finding them floating along the Tiber River. Romans held wolves with high regard and compared to other large predators, tried their best to refrain from harming them.
Zoroastrianism tells the founding of their beliefs come from Zoroaster, who as a child was taken by the Gods to the dwelling of a large she wolf. Hoping she would devour the babe, killing it. She did quite the opposite. Taking in Zoroaster as her own cub. Alternatively, Zoroastriamism views wolves as a creation from 'darkness' and are therefore evil spirits. The she wolf still choosing to raise the tiny weeping babe, had an ewe (sheep) brought in to suckle him and help raise the child.
The Turkic people view wolves as their ancestors watching over them. The Finnish people fear the wolves- they view them as a symbol of destruction and desolation.
The American Natives say the wolf was the first animal to experience death. The Wolf Star had not been invited to the council on how the Earth is to be created. The Wolf Star sent another wolf to steal a bag which contained a whirlwind storm that blew from the west. It also contained the first humans. After waking from their bag the humans with fear in their eyes saw the wolf and killed him, bringing death into the world.
Several tribes say the wolf is to thank for the creation of the world. Natives since then have view wolves as powerful, healing spirits. Some believe wolves are closely related to humans- since they have pack dedication, much like humans. They care for one another just as humans do (or should). They use wolves in healing ceremonies and call upon their spirits to heal the broken.
One that stuck out to me in particular is the Greek goddess of the moon, the night, magic and witchcraft- Hecate (Hekate). She is now more commonly known as the triple moon goddess. There are a few different versions of how this particular goddess was associated with the wolf. Some paintings depict her wearing three heads of wolves. Other stories tell of the god Zeus turning her into a wolf. Others have the most common telling that she turns into a wolf black as the night sky to protect and watch after those in need.
I recall always having the belief that someone has always been watching out for my family and I. I have felt incredibly protected and fortunate in times that would have been otherwise very harmful or traumatizing. Is it my great grandmother telling us to turn around? Was it our ancestors saying hello? Could it have been Hecate letting us know she is watching and protecting? Someday we may have the answers.
Nothing bad happened that night. We met up with friends, listened to our favorite songs from Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge and snuck back in just before the sun came up. About a year later we would go on to get caught with our shenanigans and suffer the ultimate grounding for three solid months. To this day, when out for my nightly walk, I look to see if she is still there watching, protecting.