Photo Credit: Tambako the Jaguar via Compfight cc
I’ve come to believe that we have the Wolf story completely backwards.
The one anyone will tell you, whatever their wolf partisanship, paints wolves creeping up to human campfires over the early millennia, scavenging bits from our campfires, coming in closer, becoming tamed by our hands, and then domesticated, Dogs then splitting off from Wolves.
This is followed by, for many, the great war against wolves – the extermination in almost every range by settled peoples. Some regret this, holding wolves as harmless. Some celebrate this and warn against their renaissance as they are reintroduced to the northern U.S., to Yellowstone, swimming rivers to new territories.
But regardless, I think everyone has lied to themselves about our original relationship to Wolves.
Louis Liebenberg, one of the modern pioneers of finding ways to keep Tracking alive in this urbanizing and globalizing world, talks about a possibility in his book, The Art of Tracking.
For him, the way of Tracking emerged as humans, working socially as scavengers-of-scavengers, looked for raptor sign in the sky, following it to dead carcasses that we then claimed as our own.
Imagine as our wandering grew, as we began, much like wolves, to swim rivers and our sons and daughters felt the pressure to start new families in new lands, what might we do? I think we continued to scavenge. And wolves, masters of the social hunt, create a lot to scavenge from.
Perhaps they recognized us, took pity on us, seeing our social natures, insightful minds, our expressive eyes and eyebrows and faces, baring our teeth in laughter and nervousness, singing for the love of beauty and family, much like them. Perhaps we touched their hearts, and they adopted us, tentatively, as our aunts and uncles, our teachers, our elders and parents.
No different than what many ancient traditional stories say – that wolves taught us how to live as families, that wolves taught our warriors how to move and work as a group across the land. As we moved with wolves, following them, following and scavenging their kills, we did what humans have always done – mimicked their strategies, learned from how they worked and hunted in different landscapes and ecosystems.
Wolves, modern Wolves, differ from the Dire Wolves who lived for some time in parallel with them, perhaps for 100,000 years, in the same greater landscapes, much in the way the most recent humans differ from our ancestors and hominid relatives. Modern wolves have bigger brains and keener minds rather than massive musculatures.
I know how civilized humans like to go on and on about their big brains – actually I believe most of our brains have atrophied under civilization’s watch.
So let me clarify that I only mean to say that Wolves sit within the Canine family, as Humans sit within the Primates family. I only mean to say that we have a tremendous amount in common. Perhaps we most significantly differ in that Wolves have stayed children of the earth, named the Mac an Tír in the Irish language, “Sons-of-the-Land”, whereas one branch of human culture has gone so mad as to hold the entire world in a murder-suicide stand-off.
But where we humans still remember our original relationship to Wolves, we remember them in this way, as our original teachers, our parents, our elders, another ancient people much like us.