What Does the Wolf Symbolize in Irish Culture

What Does the Wolf Symbolize in Irish Culture

In the Irish culture, a wolf was cherished and admired for its instincts and prowess in hunting. In your thoughts you may imagine that a wolf is such a fearsome canine predator in the family of dogs but this is not the reality. As much as they are predators as they have to eat, wolves are in fact friendly, family oriented and sociable animals but yet, keep away from humans as much as possible. They have deep instincts and people who have read about them relate to them in a spiritual manner, that they represent transformation in character, duty to family, loyalty, intelligence and self-awareness. You now know there is more to wolves than meets the eye!

History and origin of the Celtic wolf

The Celtic tribes, consisting of the Britons, Gaels, Gauls, Galatians and the Irish peoples took their pride in claiming to be descendants of the wolves. The Celtic hero named Comac mac Airt as well the founders of Rome named Romulus and Remus all claimed to have been suckled by wolves. This was so because the Celtic people highly regarded wolves and perceived them to be very sacred. Many a people within the Celtic tribes went hunting and considered the wolves to be helpers and guides in their hunting escapades. They were seen as positive symbols of total transformation of a person. There is historical evidence relating to wolves that are inscribed in ogham, which was an early writing method that used simple alphabet of lines and notches in the fourth and seventh centuries. These historical documentaries depict presence of native wolves that were encountered, the wolves’ hunts, wolves’ attacks on farmlands and what became of the wolves, that they no longer exist in Ireland.

Despite their reverence that the Irish had for wolves, they set out to eliminate them and today, there are no wolves in Ireland.  The Irish government gave extermination orders for wolves and in fact, there was a big reward in terms of large sums of money for anyone that killed a wolf. In a written description sent to Sir John Perrot who was the lord deputy of Ireland, in January 1584, there was a suggestion that the leases of tenants was to include provision for the killing of wolves(Alpert, 1998) . They were all extinct by the century of 1700s.

What Does the Wolf Symbolize in Irish Culture

Celtic Wolf Mythology

The wolves were associated with the moon. The Celts believed that the wolf would chase the sun during the day, catch up with it and devour it in the evening in order to give room for the moon to come at night. The wolves ruled over winter and were companions to Cerridwem, the goddess of the Moon and fertility and Cernunnos, the god of wealth, fertility and the underworld as is depicted on the Gundenstrup Cauldron. The wolves were believed to be able to transform into different animals, which is why they are associated with the transformation of a person.

Wolves were highly regarded for their incredible sense and ability to hunt and serve as guide for hunters, but this came to a stop when there was emergence of agriculture and wolves were such a big threat to livestock. Wolves would dig up the graves of the dead and church associated them with the devil. They had to be eliminated.

What does the Wolf symbolize

What does the Wolf symbolize?

Given the wolf’s hunting prowess and sensitivity, the wolf represents a valiant warrior. A wolf’s head is a symbol used quite often in heroic poetry to depict great heroes. Even among the Vikings, the berserks would wear wolf heads while in battle to give them the prowess of a wolf. So, a wolf both portrays a warrior that hides in the forest waiting for an opportunity to execute his mission of carrying out vengeance as well as an outlaw that prays on the society. This is in relation to how the wolves, who were once darlings in the hearts of the native Irish hunters got loathed at later on when humans began to keep livestock and they would come to prey on the lambs, calves and goats.

The wolves are a symbol of one’s connection to his instincts, the love for freedom, protection and loyalty to family in relation to how the wolves are friendly, sociable and family oriented. They often depended on each other to survive.

Wolf is a spirit animal and it is believed that when it shows up to you in a dream or a meditation, it is a symbol of a higher calling to you to be guided by your instincts, be more powerful, live with freedom, connect to your family and develop deeper passions for the things you do daily (your career or hobbies).

Depending on the appearance of the wolf however, it can also be a sign of threat in the form of a person or a situation and it’s a call to reevaluate your physical and personal boundaries. Your wolf spirit can be warning you about a person or a situation, be it a new job, a new school or a new person you just met and reminds you to follow your instincts anytime you feel anything is off.

Celtic Wolf Tattoo

The meaning behind the Celtic Wolf Tattoo

The blue dye used in Celtic wolf tattoos came from the Woad plant, so wolf a tattoo ha to be blue in color. In relating to what I have discussed above about the perception of the wolf among the Celtic people, especially Irish, a wolf tattoo can symbolize a variety of the different perceptions and myths about the wolf. This tattoo looks the same in both males and females. Majority of the people prefer to put it on the large muscles to depict the darker and tougher personalities of the wolf. Others however put this tattoo to depict a transformation in character, help and guidance, loyalty, fertility, intelligence, self-awareness, luck and connection to family.


Listen to the wolf in you’ is a motivational quote I am going to throw around hence forth to anyone with self-doubt and insecurities. The wolf in the Irish culture symbolized a help and guide in the times of hunting and a motivation to strength and courage. It also symbolizes a threat that has to eliminated in order for life to continue smoothly.

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