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The Legends of the Selkies

Being a man of the sea myself I have always been fascinated with all myths and folklore of the sea and its shores. Whether is be Sea Nymphs, Mermaids, Water Horses, Ghost Ships and more. Today I want to talk about the mystical and alluring Selkies. These mysterious beings of the sea are wrapped up in the folklore specifically on the Orkney Islands of Scotland and the Faroe Islands. I put together for this my favorite resources that go quite in-depth of the Selkies. I hope you enjoy this topic as much as I do.

Amorous, affectionate and affable, Selkies are the hidden gems of sea mythology. Gentle souls who prefer dancing in the moonlight over luring sailors to their death, Selkies are often overlooked by mythological enthusiasts for the more enthralling forms of mermaids or sirens. Yet Selkies play a prominent role in the mythology of Scandinavia, Scotland and Ireland. Their myths are romantic tragedies, a common theme for land/sea romances, however it is the Selkies who suffer rather than their human lovers and spouses. While the tales of Selkies always begin with a warm and peaceful “once upon a time”, there are no true happy ending for the tales of Selkies—someone always gets his/her heart broken.

The mythology of selkies is similar to that of the Japanese swan maidens, though historically it appears that the tales of the swan maidens predate the western tradition. Selkies can be either men or women, but are seals while in the water. What differentiates them from mermaids (aside from the choice of animal) is that they undergo a full body transformation upon coming to shore: they do not merely transform seal tails into human legs, but rather completely shapeshift from the sea animals into a human. This is accomplished by shedding their seal-skin when they come to land. Selkies are predominately mythological creatures from Irish, Scottish (particularly in Orkney and the Shetland Islands) and Faroese folklore, however there is a similar tradition in Iceland as well.

Their name descends from the Scottish selich, and there does not appear to be a Gaelic term for these creatures. This is likely indicative of their prominence in early modern Scottish culture. It is believed that the Selkies arose in legends when early Scottish settlers and shipwrecked Spaniards married dark-haired, fur-wearing Finnish and Saami native women… Continue reading here.

Kópakonan: A statue of the Seal Woman was raised in Mikladagur on the island of Kalsoy on 1 August, 2014. The statue is 2.6 metres long, weighs 450 kilograms, and is made of bronze and stainless steel.
Picture: Frítíðargrunnurin.

The origin of the selkie-folk

The seal-folk of Scotland and Ireland

The Secret History Hidden in the Selkie Story

The legend of Kópakonan

The Seal People – Selkies

Click Image for Selkie: Norse Mermaids
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Bears: The Myth, Symbolism and Folklore

Since the dawn of time and where ever humans and bears have cohabited there have been folklore and spoken myths regarding the Bear from being spiritual creatures to Gods to being a spirit animal for the fierce warrior from the Amerindians to the Northern regions of Europe and all around the world really. I find Bears to be a joy to watch in the wild and just see how they live from the mother Bear raising her cubs to watching them catch salmon in a river. There is so much rich history and stories of Bears in so many different cultures that I decided to offer in this post the best I have found for you to learn more from and hopefully enjoy.

Bear folklore is widespread, especially in the far northern hemisphere. It is not surprising that this awesome beast was one of the first animals to be revered by our ancestors. From as far back as the Palaeolithic (around 50,000 years ago) there is evidence of a bear cult in which the bear was seen as lord of the animals, a god, and even the ancestor of humans. Various species of bear played a central role in many shamanic practices of the north, and brown bears were part of our native forests as recently as the 10th century, when hunting and habitat loss drove them to extinction.

The Celts venerated the bear goddess, Artio – like a mother bear she was a fiercely protective influence. The bear god Artaois is closely linked to the warrior-king, Arthur; with his legendary strength and fighting prowess, Arthur’s name and emblem both represent this animal. Celtic families would often have their own animal totem, a tradition that is still evident in the family name McMahon, which means ‘son(s) of the bear’.

Viking warriors were famous for working themselves into an insane battle frenzy (it has been suggested that the psychotropic fly agaric mushroom was sometimes used). They invoked the bear spirit, at times even donning a bear skin, to imbue them with superhuman strength and fury. These were the Berserkers, their name being derived from a Norse word meaning ‘bear shirt’.

In Greek legend, Zeus fell in love with the huntress Callisto, and she bore him a son named Arcas. In a fit of jealous rage, Zeus’s wife turned Callisto into a bear. Time passed, and one day Arcas was out hunting. How was he to know that the bear he was stalking was his own mother?! On seeing that Callisto’s life was in danger, Zeus whisked her up into the night sky out of harm’s way. She can still be seen in the constellation Ursa Major, the Great Bear. (In another version, Arcas is also sent skywards, and becomes the adjacent Ursa Minor, the Little Bear.) The Big Dipper, or Plough, is one of the more familiar groups of stars within this constellation. Interestingly, the Druidic name for this group was Arthur’s Plough, and the constellation was also seen as a bear in Native American and Hebrew tradition.

In Native American folklore there are many tales about bears. It is highly respected as the ‘keeper of dreams’, and ‘the keeper of medicine’, and is one of the most powerful totems. (Bears hibernate, giving them associations with the world of dreams.)

Human fascination with this animal has not always worked in the bear’s favor. The bear appears in the names of many English pubs, and this is thought to be a hangover from the days bear-baiting – medieval ‘entertainment’ which involved tying a bear to a post and setting dogs on it. The Caledonian bear was said to be so fierce that it was favored by the Romans who used them in their amphitheaters, for similar purposes. In 1902, U.S. President Theodore (‘Teddy’) Roosevelt was on a hunting trip along the Mississippi, but showed mercy to an old bear he could have easily taken as a trophy. The story of this act spread quickly, and the Teddy Bear was born.

Bears still make an appearance in recent literature. Beorn in Tolkien’s The Hobbit was a man who could take the shape of a bear, echoing ancient shamanic practices. And who could forget wise old Baloo, the teacher of the wolf cubs from Kipling’sJungle Book, Paddington Bear (think marmalade sandwiches and hard stares), or Winnie the Pooh? More recently, Benjamin Hoff’s Tao of Pooh used this unassuming bear to illustrate the Taoist principles of modesty, simplicity, and intuitive, practical wisdom. In Phillip Pullman’s Northern Lights, the young heroine, Lyra, befriends a fierce and loyal polar bear king named Iorek Byrnison, helping him to regain his throne. Read more here.

Bear Spirit Guide

Bear Folklore, Through Myths, Legends and Folktales

Native American Bear Mythology

Following the Bear in Mythology

All about Bears

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Otters – Folklore, Symbolism, Tales

A lot of people may not be aware of how fascinating the tales are and even the importance of the Otter within Northern European folklore and mythology from the British Isle, throughout Scandinavia and into Finland. In the Pacific Northwest region of America Otters are also featured in Native American folklore as well. Another place that holds a place for the Otter in folklore and mythology is Japan which are very intriguing tales to read. Growing up in the Pacific Northwest I had many close encounters with both river and sea Otters and I can tell you they do give a flare of mischief which always resonated with me. I actually have a funny story about a Wildling bevy of Sea Otters while I was stationed at USCG Station Cape Disappointment in Washington. But perhaps that’s good to share another time.

Otters of Myth and Folklore

Sleek, lithe and playful, at home on land and in the water, the otter is a well-loved member of the Caledonian Forest fauna. A Scottish name for the otter is the ‘dratsie’, and in Scottish tradition there are tales of ‘Otter Kings’ who were accompanied by seven black otters. When captured, these beasts would grant any wish in exchange for their freedom. But their skins were also prized for their ability to render a warrior invincible, and were thought to provide protection against drowning. Luckily, the Otter Kings were hard to kill, their only vulnerable point being a small point below their chin.

Otters sometimes swim single file as a family group, and it has been suggested that this might account for some of the Loch Ness Monster sightings! In a similar vein, an old Anglo-Saxon name for the otter was the ‘water-snake‘.

The otter features in an ancient shamanic Welsh tale. The sorceress Ceridwen left young Gwion to guard her cauldron, but he tasted the draught by accident and gained knowledge of all things. He transformed into a hare to escape her wrath, but she pursued him as a hound. When he plunged into the river as a salmon, Ceridwen became an otter to continue her pursuit. Gwion was eventually reborn as the great bard, Taliesin.

In Celtic and other folklore the otter is often characterized as a friendly and helpful creature, and is given the name ‘water dog’, alluding to these qualities. In the Irish story The Voyage of Maelduin, otters on the Island of Otter bring the sailors salmon to eat, and the Voyage of Brendan tells of how an otter performed this service for a hermit, even collecting firewood for him! St. Cuthbert is the patron saint of otters, and after standing waist-deep in the North Sea during his nightly prayer vigils, two otters would come and warm his feet with their breath and dry them with their fur.

Bizarrely, there was debate among Celtic clerics as to whether otter flesh was fish or meat, determining whether of not it could be eaten at Lent; and the Carthusian monks of Dijon, who were forbidden to eat meat, ate otter as they classed it as a fish!In Norse mythology, the mischievous god Loki killed the dwarf Otr while the latter was in the form of an otter. The dwarves were furious, and demanded compensation from the gods who gave them the otter skin filled with gold. In ancient Persia the otter (again known as the ‘water dog’), was esteemed above all other animals, and a severe penalty was imposed on anyone who killed one.

This popular mammal also features in more recent literature. Otter in Kenneth Graham’s Wind in the Willows is an affable character, with a particularly adventurous son. The moving tale Tarka the Otter by Henry Williamson follows the life of an otter in the rivers of North Devon, and Gavin Maxwell’s Ring of Bright Water recounts the touching, funny and tragic true story of his friendship with otters, giving a lyrical portrayal of their intelligence and irrepressible playfulness.

Human admiration for this animal is perhaps best expressed in the words of the American naturalist, Ernest Thompson Seton: “…the joyful, keen and fearless otter; mild and loving to his own kind, and gentle with his neighbor of the stream; full of play and gladness in his life, full of courage in his stress; ideal in his home, steadfast in death; the noblest little soul that ever went four-footed through the woods.” Source

For what reason is gold called Otter’s Wergild?

The Otter Woman

The Otter in Folklore

The Otter Kawauso of Japan

Ainu legend: The otter is why mankind is imperfect today

Otter’s Ransom

Native American Otter Mythology

Finnish Mythology: Hillervo the goddess of otters, her partner was Juoletar. Hillervo lived near rapid waters, streams and fountains

Otter Symbolism & Meaning

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Northern Lights: Gods, Vikings and Lore

The Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) is a phenomenon I have always been fascinated ever since I was a child. having the opportunity to see them twice in my life was truly a magical experience to say the least. What really makes them all the better is the folklore of the people living throughout the lands where they can be seen. From tales of Gods and Goddesses, mystical beings and more including how they even influenced rituals of native cultures. With that said I hope you enjoy the vast amount of resources below that truly capture how magical and influential the Northern Lights are.

The Vikings and the Northern Lights Bridge

by Lyonel Perabo

The Vikings never wrote books, but their descendants produced thousands of manuscripts during the middle-ages. However, within this corpus, only one sure mention of Northern Lights exists: in the Norwegian Konungs Skuggsjá (“The King’s Mirror”), written around 1250. The text’s author describes the Aurora as appearing only around Greenland and doesn’t mention any traditional stories about it. Other sources, this time of mythological nature do, however mention an intriguingly similar phenomenon.

The Bridge of the Gods, Bivröst (“Moving Way” in Old Norse) is mentioned in Snorri Sturluson’s Prose Edda, written around 1220 and in the Poetic Edda which is probably much older. In Snorri’s account, Bivröst/Bifraust is described as such:

Gvðín gerþu bru af iorþu til himins, er heitir Bifravst: “The gods made a bridge from earth to the heavens which is called Bifravst”

Later, Bivröst is said to be covered with flames and having three colors. Bivröst also appears in the Poetic Edda which carries numerous myths from Scandinavia’s Pagan past. In Grímnismál (“Grímnir’s sayings”) Odin gives it two names, the burning Ásbrú (“God-Bridge”) and Bilröst (“Unstable Way”). In Fáfnismál (“Fafnir’s sayings”), the dragon Fafnir, mentions Bilröst and its destruction before the Ragnarök battle. Lastly, Bilröst appears in Helgakviða Hundingsbana II (“Helgi Hundingsbane’s Second Poem”) where it is crossed by a dead warrior and is named Rodnar brautir (“reddened ways”).

Continue reading here:

The Aurora Borealis and the Vikings

Mythology of the Northern Lights

What are the Northern Lights?

The Northern Lights: Norse myths and legends

Northern Lights – The Tale of Rav

ÞJÓÐTRÚ TENGD NORÐURLJÓSUM by Sigurdur Ægisson

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Ravens: The Folklore, Myths and Spiritual

Ravens are perhaps the most common bird symbol in the mythologies and religions of ancient cultures. They assume a variety of roles, ranging from messengers of deities and sages to oracles and tricksters. They play a central part in many creation myths and are typically associated with the supernatural realms lying beyond the ordinary experience. What is so lurid about these black-feathered creatures and why does the sight of them send a wave of shivers down one’s spine? Studying the folklore of different cultures may unravel the motives underlying the superstitious beliefs and religious faiths.

In most North European mythologies birds such as ravens, vultures and others feeding on carrion—the flesh of the dead—commonly pass as symbols of war, death, and misfortune. Celtic and Irish goddesses were believed to appear in the form of a crow or a raven, gathering over the battlefields, where they would feed on the flesh of the fallen warriors. Also, seeing a raven or a crow before going into a battle gave a sense of foreboding and meant that the army would be defeated. When the giant Bran, king of Britain in Welsh mythology, was mortally wounded while warring against the Irish, he commanded his followers to behead him and carry his head to the Tower of London for his burial and as a sign of protection of Britain. A popular superstition arose declaring that if the ravens ever fled the Tower of London, the monarchy would fall. As long as they nested there, Britain would never be successfully invaded. In medieval times, these pagan legends resulted in demonetization of crows and ravens, which were consequently depicted as familiars of witches.

However, the raven as a symbol, also have a positive interpretation. The omniscient god Odin, one of the chief gods in Norse mythology, had a pair ravens called Huginn (Thought) and Muninn (Mind) perching on his shoulders. Each daybreak they were sent out into the world to observe what was happening and question everybody, even the dead. By sunrise, they would come back to whisper their master what they had seen and learned. Since they embodied Odin’s mind and thoughts, they symbolized his ability to see into the future. The book also makes a mention of an early Norse poem Hrafnagaldur Óðins (Odin’s Raven Chant), in which Odin sends the ravens to the Underworld to investigate the disappearance of the lost goddess Idunn. Sometimes Odin himself would turn into a raven.

In North American folklore ravens are the creators of the world. Details of the creation tale differ, but essentially “the Raven”—a creature with the human body and raven’s beak—is believed to have made the world. He gave light to people, taught them to take care of themselves, make clothes, canoes and houses. He also brought vegetation, animals, and other benefits for the human kind. Much like the biblical story of Noah, he is said to have taken animals two by two on a big raft in order to save them from a massive flood. After all, he had done for the humans, he wished to marry a woman in turn, but her family refused to let her go. As a revenge, the myth says, the Raven created mosquitoes from crushed leaves to pester the humans forever.

Learn more about the raven in folklore, myths and spiritual meaning below.

Raven symbolism and meaning

Raven in Mythology

Ravens in Celtic Mythology

Ravens in Celtic and Norse Mythology

Native American Raven Mythology

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The Hungarian Wonder Stag

Nimrud was the great legendary ruler of ancient Mesopotamia. One day, his two sons, Hunor and Magor went hunting. They saw a great white stag which they pursued. The stag continuously eluded them and led them to a beautiful and bountiful land. This vast land was Scythia, where Hunor and Magor eventually settled with their people.

The descendants of Hunor’s people were the Huns, and the descendants of Magor’s people were the Magyars. As they grew in strength and numbers, first the Huns, and then the Magyars went on to conquer new lands.

This story not only symbolizes the close ethnic relationship between the Huns and the Magyars, it is also a clear reference to their Sumerian and Scythian origins. The stag has also been an important symbol in the Sumerian and Scythian cultures.

The mythical story of the Wonder stag illustrates how myths and legends are based on historical facts as the archeological and ethnology-linguistic evidence supports the Sumerian-Scythian-Hun-Magyar relationship which is told by this story in ancient traditional mythological form.

Just as in Sumerian and Scythian mythology, in Hungarian mythology, the stag is also seen as a mystical being with magical powers and whose role was to indicate the will of god and to guide the Hungarians accordingly.

Further great resources to explore.

Hungarian Mythology

Magyar creation mythology

The Legend of the Wonderous Hind

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Shapeshifters of the North

Shapeshifting in Old Norse Religion as well as other native religions throughout Northern Europe and into Siberia is known but perhaps not spoken of enough about its importance with the practices of Shamans, Witches and with the use of Seiðr. We do see shapeshifting in the stories of the Norse Gods and Goddesses mainly with Odin, Loki and Freyja but not as much with humans like Fafnir the Dragon from the Saga of the Volsungs who used to be a man. Like what we can see with other ancient cultures and even to present times, Shamans will dress in animal hides and become Therianthropic during rituals which is a symbolism of shapeshifting itself. An example that is quite well known during the Viking Age are the fierce wild warriors known as the Berserkrs and Úlfhéðnar which were special warriors that dressed in the hides of Bears or Wolves and they themselves became animalistic.

Besides what was written down or passed by word during and after the Viking Age, as well as other Northern regions across Europe and Asia, regarding shapeshifting, there also is some physical evidence of its spiritual importance with such examples as the Khakassia Petroglyph in Siberia. Shapeshifting depicted with Petroglyphs can be found in other parts of Europe, Asia and especially the Amerindians of North America.

Personally I find the subject of shapeshifting quite fascinating and have read much about it as well as watched a number of documentaries that touch on the subject. Below you will find a selection of resources I highly recommend having a look at.

Three Awesome Magical Powers in Norse Mythology

Shapeshifting in Old Norse-Icelandic Literature

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The Spiritual Nature of Cats

Cats – The Folklore, Symbolism, Spiritual Significance and Paganism

It has been said that a cat is more a spirit than an animal. Historically, little distinction has been drawn as to the difference between witches, fairies, spirits, goddesses, and the feline, for at different periods in time the cat was believed to represent them all in corporeal form. –from Cat Spells by Claire Nahmad

The cat has always been considered a Moon creature, and sacred to such Goddesses as Isis, Bast, Artemis, Diana, and Freyja. When Diana became known as Queen of Witches in the Middle Ages, the cat was associated with Witchcraft and Goddess worship.

Followers of the goddess Diana also considered the cat sacred because she once assumed the form of a cat, and cats were under her special protection. In Scandinavia, Freya’s chariot was drawn by cats. The Celtic goddess Ceridwen was also attended by white cats, who carried out her orders on earth.

It is generally assumed today that witches’ familiars were (and are) always cats. However, during the Burning Times any small animal that was kept in the house was suspect, and records show that accused witches were forced to confess having familiar spirits in the form of cats, rats, mice, dogs, weasels and toads. It was also firmly believed that witches could take the shape of cats, and accusers sometimes claimed that they were followed or tormented by witches in the shape of cats.

Witches regard their cat familiars as founts of wisdom and occult secrets. Cats can lead their mistresses in dreams to spiritual knowledge. They can foretell the future, predict the weather, and bless magickal endeavors, and represent the soul of magick, secrecy, and freedom.

Spell To Become Closer To Your Cat

Preparation: You will need brown candles and the following herbs:

Catnip -helps create a bond between you and your cat

Vervain -for Peace and Protection

Gardenia -for Spirituality

Saffron -for Strength

Love Seed -for Friendship

Passion Flower -for Friendship

Consecrate each herb before starting. Take 1/2 of the empowered herbs and wrap in a small square of brown cloth and tie it off with a brown cord or string. Take the other half and make a smaller satchet for your pet. Wear yours four days meditating with your pet at least once a day. You can tie the pets satchet on while meditating. After those four days take all the herbs and burn as an incense while sharing a meal with your pet.

Magick Cat Collar

What you need:

1 yellow candle

1 candle holder

matches

1 Amethyst stone (fairly small)

1 Brown collar

apple, peach or lavender oil

5 silver paper clips

brown fabric paint

Needle-Noses Pliers

This spell should be done during the waxing moon. Light the candle. Take four or the five paper clips and bend them all out as straight as possible (use the needle-nosed pliers). Now take the paperclips and (do what feels right to you) wrap the stone as you would a crystal. Chant the following while doing this:

“This collar I have made by hand shall protect my pet, all evil shall be banned. It will keep him/her in good health and always loved it is a source of good luck that is always watching from above. No harm shall ever come to my pet. And m will, So mote it be!”

Anoint the collar with the oil you have chosen. Attach the wrapped stone to the collar (like you would a license tag). Source

Further great resources

https://www.playfulkitty.net/2014/03/17/cats-in-history-celtic-folklore/?fbclid=IwAR0K1qnSHtqJzLwSOt_PoO8GtspdfEGVBEvif-E_gu9RDTPhNA1T7LEtTkk

https://www.worldhistory.org/article/466/cats-in-the-ancient-world/

http://www.mustlovecats.net/Cat-Mythology.html?fbclid=IwAR2AtgTT-cIBsV7wBcY8gPrFr4qBWLd_pY7UalJC8DasG_VVVsfvR5E6fCY

Cat Spirit Animal

https://www.ancient-origins.net/opinion-guest-authors/cat-came-back-more-mythical-history-part-i-006710?fbclid=IwAR13XxIRdAMk8UfDAIRCrof6g7tB4X9S6wC5L6oaf-5oMk7lAGHNqE1Z-ek

Ancient Legends, Mystic Charms, and Superstitions of Ireland

by Lady Francesca Speranza Wilde[1887] Chapter – Cat Nature

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The Wolf – The Folklore and Myths

Still today, many people associate wolves with the “bad evil wolf” of fairy tales, like the “Little Red Riding Hood”. For the past centuries, wolves were systematically demonized, especially in Europe and North America. It is important to change people’s underlying attitudes if we want to protect wolves in our modern world and since early childhood, people are being shaped by fairy-tales and werewolf movies. The aim of this page is to show the positive image that wolves once had, and still have today, in many cultures, and the important role wolves play(ed) in mythology and religion in various cultures across time and space: from wolves as divine messengers, to the role of wolves in creation myths and even to “wolf gods” that were (and still are) worshiped. Once, when people lived closer to nature, they observed and respected wolves. Wolves were also important as teachers for humanity, telling people how to live as a family, how to hunt and survive, as in this North American quote: “The wolves followed a path of harmony, and they did not like anything to upset their way.” “Wolf was chosen by the Great One to teach the human people how to live in harmony in their families. Wolf was to teach a truth, as each animal… would do also for the humans to survive”. But with increasing urbanization and exploitation of resources, wolves were more and more given the part of the ‘evil’ predator who was competing with humans.

Below you will find the following sections: -Wolves in Rome (she-wolf, Lupercalia, wolf & Mars, etc.) -Wolves in Greek religion (Apollo/Zeus Lykaios; Lykoreia; Leto) -Italic Wolf Cults (Hirpi Sorani; Etruscans) -Wolves in Norse, Germanic & Hittite Mythology-Wolves in Celtic Mythology, ancient & medieval-also Iberia, Scythia & Mesopotamia (Gilgamesh epos)

Click here for 1st page: https://ralphhaussler.weebly.com/wolf-mythology-italy-greek-celtic-norse.html?fbclid=IwAR1NZlxJIyv8JgCDWtXHHaU55Iz-yTT970ELx2DpDTlcC6nInuWKNLB-sKk

On the 2nd page, click here: https://ralphhaussler.weebly.com/wolf-mythologie-creation-japan-americas-inuit-egypt.html?fbclid=IwAR24h7aDDbLnqBJ6OKQRvAO3G-ygZJ6jWAVvWa2qO5c51d6IHBowiFHgbMA

On the second page you will find these myths & cults:

Wolves & Creation Myths (Japan/Ainu, N America, Chechenia, Mongolia/Turcs, Hirpi, Dacians) -Wolves as Divine Beings & “wolf gods”, notably in Japan -“Wolf Gods” in Egypt-Inuit Wolf Myths-and many more.

Further Resources:

https://treesforlife.org.uk/into-the-forest/trees-plants-animals/mammals/wolf/

https://www.learnreligions.com/wolf-folklore-and-legend-2562512