Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Gods and Goddesses of the Werewolves: The Wind-Wolf

Another short article. I have about six articles in process, but none of them are finished. I hope that I'll have at least one ready for next week.

There are a number of gods who fall into the general category we can call “Wind-Wolf”. I will deal with each of them individually later, but for now I am going to discuss the type. Most of this can be referenced in the excellent Apollo the Wolf-God by Daniel Gershenson. The rest can be found variously.

The Wind-Wolf, according to one view, seems to be a type which seems to be first found in Anatolia, as a god of plagues. Quickly adopted by the Trojans and the Greeks under variations of the name “Apollo” (there is a plague god in Anatolia named Nergal who has an epithet among the Akkadians Aplu Enlil “The Son of Enlil”, which the Hurrians and Hittites shortened to just Aplu ), He is soon seen as a god of healing, and so, associated with the miasma theory which says that bad air is the source of most disease, he is seen as the wind which blows the miasma away. This means that he must represent good air, which was thought to come from the underworld. Frequently, this wind was felt blowing out of caves in which wolves made their lairs. As a result (and keep in mind that this is speculation based on later associations and the rhythms of nature), wolves were seen as intermediaries between this world and the underworld, and became a holy animal of the healer-god. One of the epithets of Apollo is Lykeios “Lycean”, which derives from the word for “wolf”. Apollo Lykeios is associated with a particular posture, later used also by some images of Dionysos, in which the right arm is rested on top of the head. Another is Sminthos “mouse”, in which guise He was prayed to by the Trojans to bring plague to the Achaeans at the beginning of the Iliad . Mice are another animal frequently associated with the Wind-Wolf.

As we move to Northern Europe, a number of other attributes become associated with this type. He is seen as the god who brings the fertile rains of summer which grow the crops. Like Apollo, He is associated with poetry. He becomes associated with either a special posture, in which one eye is closed, one arm held behind the back, and standing on one leg, or else with the loss of an eye, or lameness in one leg, or missing one shoe. I don't know that there is a relation between the posture of Apollo Lykeios and these images, but I suspect that there is.

Contrary to the usual image of Apollo as cultured and refined, the Wind-Wolf is seen as filled with a frenzy that is associated with poetry and battle. In some cases, the name of the god gives His name to the frenzy or vice versa, such as *Wodanaz , whose name is associated with wod “madness, frenzy”. This would seem to be like the intoxicating gifts of Dionysos, and there is of course a connection between Dionysos and Apollo. One could say that they are, in some sense, two faces of the same coin.

As the wind that brings the fertile rain, the Wind-Wolf is also associated with lightning (but not thunder, which is the province of the Sky God). In Ireland, at the great fair of Lúnasa, the festival associated with Lugh, that god was said to be present when a lightning storm came over, and also in the late summer rains.

In some cases, the Wind-Wolf is thought to be the leader of the Wild Hunt, the procession of the dead as it passes through the sky or across the land. This is because, as we have seen, the wolf is the one who can pass between this world and the underworld. The wolf stands at the boundary of this world and the afterlife, communicating from one to the other. As a result, it is a canine who controls access to the land of the dead, like three-headed Kerberos . It is the werewolf, therefore, who has the spiritual authority to communicate with the shades of those who have departed this life, though the dead are under the rulership of another, the Lord of the Dead, who we will discuss another time.


  1. Hmm...So, I wonder if the connection you're suggesting here between Cerberus, triplicity, and transitions to the underworld (or otherworlds more generally) then has an Irish equivalent in the Three Gods of Skill, particularly Iuchar and Iucharba, who were turned into hounds to pursue Cian, Lug's father, etc. (And, Cian was a sow when he was hunted by them...there is a sacrifice of a sow in Eleusinian practice, which is an underworld-related thing...) This shall take some further thought, I believe...

  2. I think that there may be some interest also in the fact that the sons of Tuireann had to bury Cian seven times before he'd stay buried, and of the related idea of Brian telling him that if were to come to life seven times, he'd just kill him again.

    Yes, there seems to be something there. Nice catch!