THE SACRED WOLF
IN NORSE CULTURE
Wolves are sacred in Norse culture, and this is quite obvious to anyone with any actual basic knowledge of our history, culture, and traditions.
The most obvious link between Norse culture and the sacred wolf involves Úlfhéðnar. Úlfhéðnar are Óðinn's special warriors, and elite Viking forces. Úlfhéðnar are metaphorically associated with wolf pelts and are known to be inhabited by the spirit of wolves, to the extent Úlfhéðnar are also hamrammir (shape shifters).
For those not that familiar with Norse culture and customs, a look at naming traditions may be the best peak at the importance of wolves in Norse culture. There are indeed at least 251 male names with a reference to wolves in Old Norse and/or modern Icelandic:
Aldulfur, Arnulfr, Ásólfur, Ásólfr, Ásulfr, Ásúlfr, Aðulfr, Auðólfr, Auðulfr, Auðúlfr, Ærnulfr, Baúlfr, Baulfr, Bergulfr, Biólfr, Biörnólfur, Biǫrnólfr, Björgólfur, Björgúlfur, Bjǫrgulfr, Björnólfur, Bjúlfr, Bjǫrgulfr, Bjǫrnólfr, Bjǫrnulfr, Borgúlfur, Borgulfr, Bótólfur, Bótólfr, Bótulfr, Brandulfr, Brunulfr, Brynjólfur, Bryniólfr, Bryniulfr, Brynjúlfur, Brynjulfr, Brǫndólfr, Brǫndulfr, Býulfr, Bǫulfr, Eyiólfr, Eyjolfr, Eyjólfr, Farulfr, Fastulfr, Fastúlfr, Fenrisúlfr, Finnólfr, Finnulfr, Friðulfr, Fǫstólfr, Gangulfr, Gautulfr, Gautúlfr, Geirólfur, Geirólfr, Geirulfur, Geirúlfr, Getulfr, Grárulfr, Grárúlfr, Grímólfur, Grímólfr, Grímulfr, Grímúlfur, Guðolfr, Guðulfr, Guðúlfr, Gullulfr, Gullúlfr, Gunnólfur, Gunnólfr, Gunnulfr, Gunnúlfr, GæiRulfr, Hariwolfar, Hariwulfr, Haþuwulfr, Hæriulfr, Hególfr, Heriólfr, Herjolfr, Herjólfr, Herjólfur, Herjúlfr, Heruwulfr, Hiálmólfr, Hildolfr, Hildólfr, Hildulfr, Hiǫrulfr, Hjalmolfr, Hjǫrolfr, Hleðiólfr, Hlífolfr, Hlífólfr, Hreiðulfr, Hreiðúlfr, Hróðólfur, Hróðólfr, Hróðolfr, Hróðulfr, Hrolfr, Hrólfr, Hrólfur, Hræiðulfr, Hundólfr, Húnulfr, Hægulfr, Hælgulfr, Hæriulfr, Hærulfr, Hǫlfr, Hǫllolfr, Hvítrulfr, Hvítrúlfr, Ingólfur, Iarpulfr, Ingolfr, Ingólfr, Ingulfr, Iórulfr, Ísólfur, Ísólfr, Ísolfr, Jórulfr, Julfr, Ká-Ulfr, Kveld-Ulfr, Kveldúlfr, Kvígulfr, Leiðólfur, Leiðólfr, Leiðulfr, Liðulfr, Liótólfr, Liútulfr, Ljóðolfr, Ljótolfr, Ljúfr, Náttúlfur, Nóttolfr, Ormulfr, Öndólfur, Örnólfur, Ǫrnólfr, Ǫrnulfr, Øyulfr, Ráðulfr, Ráðúlfr, Randulfr, Raskulfr, Rauðúlfr, Reiðulfr, Ríkolfr, Ríkólfr, Ríkulfr, Runólfur, Rólfr, Rúnolfr, Rúnólfr, Rúnulfr, Rúnulfur, Rǫndolfr, Sandulfr, Skjöldólfr, Skjǫldolfr, Skjöldúlfr, Skjǫldulfr, Snjólfur, Snæúlfr, Sólúlfur, Steinólfur, Steinolfr, Steinólfr, Steinulfr, Stæinulfr, Stórólfur, Stórolfr, Stórólfr, Sunnólfr, Sunnulfr, Sǽulfr, Sǫkkolfr, Sǫkkólfr, Sǫkkuulfr, Sǫndulfr, Sǫndúlfr, Sǫxólfr, Sǫxulfr, Tind-Ulfr, Títolfr, Tít-Ulfr, Trygg-Ulfr, Tryggulfr, Þjóðólfur, Þióðólfr, Þiúðulfr, Þióstólfr, Þiústulfr, Þjóðolfr, Þjóðólfr, Þjóstolfr, Þjóstólfr, Þjóstólfur, Þolfr, Þólfr, Þóralfr, Þórálfr, Þórolfr, Þorólfr, Þórólfr, Þórólfur, Þórulfr, Þróttolfr, Þrottólfr, Þróttólfr, Uddulfr, Úlfar, Úlfarr, Ulfarr, Ulfgarðr, Úlfgeirr, Ulfgestr, Ulfgæirr, Ulfheðinn, Úlfheðinn, Ulfhiðinn, Ulfhvatr, Úlfhvatr, Ulfied, Úlfkell, Ulfkæll, Ulfkætill, Úlfliótr, Ulfliútr, Ulfr, Úlfr, Úlfrekr, Ulfríkr, Ulfvaldr, Ulfviðr, Úlfviðr, Unnulfr, Unnúlfr, Viðolfr, Vigulfr, Vigúlfr, Virðsk-Ulfr, and Viúlfr.
This is more names with a wolf element or origin in Norse culture than any other culture on earth. The prevalence of the wolf in Norse name is an excellent indication of the sacred status of wolves. Evidently, no one would name their child and heir after an animal they dislike, want to hunt, or do not hold in high regards.
LORE AND MYTHOLOGY
The sacred aspect of wolves in Norse culture is also very well demonstrated with the tale of Fenrir.
Fenrir is a monstrous wolf also known as Fenrisúlfr (marsh dweller wolf), Hróðvitnir (fame wolf), Vánagandr (River Ván monster), Garmr, and Mánagarmr (moon garmr). Fenrir is the son of Loki and the giantess Angrboða. He is also the brother of the serpent Jǫrmungandr and Hel. Fenrir has two sons, the wolves Sköll and Hati Hróðvitnisson. By all accounts, Fenrir is not only a bad creature, but a very bad wolf.
As a matter of fact, based on their knowledge of prophecies, the Æsir (known in popular culture as the "Norse gods") knew that Fenrir, and his constant growth, would bring great troubles to Níu Heimar (the Nine Home Worlds).
But rather than kill the wolf, inherently sacred, the Æsir decided that Fenrir needed to be bounded. However, Fenrir never was very cooperative and only agreed to have the rope placed around his neck if one of the Æsir agreed in return to put his hand in his mouth. Týr was brave and honorable enough to volunteer. When Fenrir realized he could not break free, he bit Týr’s hand off.
During Ragnarøkr, Fenrir breaks his chains and goes on a rampage throughout Níu Heimar, with his lower jaw on the ground, and his upper jaw in the sky, devouring everything and everyone in his path. Fenrir even kills Óðinn. He is then finally killed by Víðarr when there is really absolutely no option left, and after all the worlds have been destroyed.
Even though Fenrir was a monstrous wolf that would be the demise of Týr and the Nine Home Worlds, the Æsir nonetheless originally decided to restrain the animal rather than kill him.
Wolves cannot get more sacred than this!
Wolves remain sacred to this day in Norse culture and to any Norðmaðr (Norseman). While hunting our own food is part of our culture and being a man, we just never hunt wolves. Wolves are our culture. Our spirit. They are us, particularly as Úlfhéðnar.
Part of embracing Norse culture is knowing and understanding wolves, as well as being able to communicate with wolves so conflicts are avoided. It is also the duty of any Norðmaðr to protect wolves as sacred animals.