People get tattoos, not only for decoration, but also to signify an event or personal belief. Animals are often used in tattoos because they are easily recognized symbols. They are often considered a symbol of traits we ourselves think we possess or traits we want to possess.
Wolves hold a special place in the history of mankind. Since the beginning, men have noticed the pack characteristics of the wolf, and felt drawn to the loyalty of the animal. Domesticated wolves were the first canine "pet" that people ever had, and the traits of intelligence, loyalty and ferocity have been duly noted.
One of the oldest links to wolf symbolism is that of the Native Indian culture. They were used as symbols on totems and were a reflection of a person’s inner heart.
In the Mohawk tribe, wolf tattoos indicated a totem-like power and showed an affiliation with that particular tribe. When a young man of Indian heritage reached puberty and he felt that the wolf was his totemic animal, he was given a wolf tattoo through the process of pricking the skin and rubbing the spots with ashes. Those blessed with the wolf totem symbol were believed to be very expressive both vocally as well as physically.
Some of the attributes of the Red Indian wolf totem are:
- Superior intelligence
- A sense of generosity
- A high level of compassion
The wolf has had presence throughout the history and mythology of the world:
- Roman mythology: the founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus had wolf totem symbols and were believed to have been raised on the milk of a wolf.
- Norse mythology: when Odin and Valkyries tasted victory, they used the wolf as their symbol.
- Celtic mythology: for the Celts, the wolf was a symbol of the power of the moon and several stories abound related to it.
- Asian mythology: for several Asian cultures, the wolf was given the status of doorkeeper to the heavens.
Christianity gave more importance to the negative attributes of the wolf rather than its positive ones. Christians viewed the wolf to be a symbol of Satan.
Today, the wolf is viewed as a powerful animal with numerous positive attributes, which make that wolf tattoos usually have the following meaning:
- Loyalty (to one's family)
- Personal stability
Despite the basic form of wolf tattoos such as a wolf head, lone wolf, howling wolf or tribal wolf, the design can be manipulated to create any symbolism or idea imaginable, and in fact, should be. Tattoos are for life, and need to be carefully considered for more than just the aesthetic value before you get it permanently engraved in your skin.