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Wolves are deeply associated with various cultures and mythologies, inspiring both adoration and controversy around the world. Their representation can range from sacred to romantic, as well as from good to evil. This makes them one of the most mysterious and intriguing animals for tattoo designs, evoking associations with power, strength, mystery, loyalty and a range of other qualities. In this article, we outline the meanings associated with wolf tattoos and best wolf tattoo designs.
What Do Wolf Tattoos Mean?
Strength and Courage
Wolves are regarded as strong and courageous animals that can survive in harsh conditions. Wolf crests have been given to leaders and war heroes as a way to recognize their bravery. They also frequently make appearances in coat of arms and crests of noble families.
Wolves are seen as leaders and creators of leaders, a theme that’s found in many literary works. In The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling, Mowgli is raised by wolves, which indicates that the creature is capable of raising a strong hero.
Whether you like the wild wolf archetype, or the “leader of the pack” vibe, a wolf tattoo can be a great choice. If you’ve gone through life challenges and remain successful through your skills, a wolf tattoo can also show your strength of character.
Love and Loyalty
Wolves are seen as faithful animals throughout history and are said to remain loyal to their partner. In fact, studies reveal that when a gray wolf finds a mate, he will stick with her through thick and thin. It’s also said these magnificent animals form deep bonds with the members of their pack and rely on each other for survival. For this reason, a wolf tattoo is great for symbolizing strong family ties and loving relationships.
Nurturing and Nourishing
Wolves are often associated with nurture and nourishment. This symbolism stems from a Roman legend, in which the mythic founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus, were raised by a she-wolf. The creature protected them from wild animals, and even raised them as her own children. As such, wolves have a positive image in Roman culture.
It’s also said that a wolf puts the interest of its pups first before its own, just like a mother with her children. If you want to show your love for your family with your body art, a wolf tattoo can be a great choice. For some women, the she-wolf archetype is also a powerful symbol to remind them to stand their ground.
A Symbol of Protection
In some cultures, talismans and charms decorated with images of wolves were believed to protect against misfortune, including fire, disease and other calamities. Wolves are protective of their pack, making them the epitome of ferocity when their territory is threatened in any way. In some cultures, a superstition that the deaths of infants were the works of witches existed, so the newborns were traditionally named Vuk, which literally means wolf in Serbian.
Wisdom and Spiritual Guide
In some Native American beliefs, wolves are regarded as one of the six directional guardians. In Celtic mythology, they’re also seen as guides and helpers. Many opt for wolf tattoos to represent their spirit animal, in hopes of getting some spiritual guidance in their life’s journey.
Types of Wolf Tattoos
Wolf tattoos can be done in a variety of styles and designs, but it matters to go for something that feels personal to you.
A tattoo featuring minimalistic outlines to represent the shape of the wolf is ideal if you’re after a subtle yet stylish design. As with the tattoo depicted above, the outline can be crafted out of a collection of separate symbols and designs to create a cohesive wolf tattoo.
Realistic Wolf Tattoo
Most realistic wolf tattoos utilize black and gray ink, but they can also be done in full color style to feature the detailed and accurate representation of a real-life wolf. When done right, it can be hard to tell the difference between a tattoo and a photograph. It’s perfect for those who want to convey emotions via their ink, whether it’s a ferocious beast, a howling wolf, or a tamed wolf.
Geometric Wolf Tattoo
If you aren’t into fierce-looking wolf tattoo, you may think of a geometric wolf design. This type of tattoo focuses more on fantastic geometry than on the real depiction of the creature. Most designs typically showcase the outline of the wolf, which appears more of a diagram composed of geometric lines. Just make sure the design itself won’t is done by a professional and doesn’t look unbalanced or clunky.
Watercolor Wolf Tattoo
Are you looking for something artistic and more feminine? The bright colors of the watercolor style bring out the whimsical side of the creature. Since it’s meant to recreate the look of a classic watercolor painting, most watercolor wolf designs have no outline, but instead feature gradual color fade-out at the edges. The dripping effect, whether it’s the eyes of the wolf or its silhouette, makes the tattoo a work of art.
Blackwork Wolf Tattoo
If you want something dark and gothic, a wolf tattoo done in blackwork technique might be perfect for you. The technique is known for covering the skin with heavy amounts of black ink. Some tattoo artists even utilize the negative space to create designs, as if the eyes of the wolf are the blank part of the design. It’s perfect for those who want to make their wolf tattoo looks like an ink pen drawing.
Symbolism of Wolf in Different Cultures
Wolves are important to many cultures throughout history, including Native American, Roman, Serbian and Japanese cultures. However, some of their representations in literature are negative and don’t truly show their significance. Still, their role in myths and legends can influence how societies in different regions perceive them.
In Native American Culture
For the indigenous people of North, Central, and South America, wolves are perceived as wise—and the wolf symbol is only given to those who are intelligent and able to lead. However, wolves have a wide range of representations in various Native American tribes.
- In the Pacific Northwest, it’s a tradition for the Makah elders to wear a wolf headdress, as the creature is seen as a respected hunter.
- There are wolf gods and spirits such as Kweo Kachina of the Hopi tribe, Moqwaio of the Menominee, and Tivaci of Chemehuevi tribe.
- In Algonquin mythology, Chibiabos is a great wolf-spirit who is a fair and kind ruler of the underworld.
- The Shoshone tribe perceives the wolf as their Creator.
- In some Northwest Coast tribes, such as the Kwakiutl and Quileute, their first ancestors are believed to have been transformed from wolves into men.
- In Pawnee mythology, the Milky Way galaxy is referred to as the Wolf Road; the Sirius star as the Wolf Star, and the Pawnee themselves as the Wolf People.
- Wolves even serve as the clan animal for the Cherokees, the Chippewa, and the Creek.
- The Zunis carve stone images of wolves for protection, with the belief that the animal spirit resides in the stone.
- Some tribes view wolves as medicine beings associated with strength, loyalty and courage.
- In other Native American cultures, they’re seen as protectors, likened to a protective mother of young children.
It’s fascinating how wolves play different roles for different tribes. These animals were respected and viewed as strong, courageous, loyal and wise.
In European Culture
During medieval times in Europe, the fear of wolf attacks was real, so the creature has long been associated with power, ferocity and even danger. This can be seen in representations of wolves in folk tales and literature, such as the Little Red Riding Hood and the Three Little Pigs, in which the creature is perceived as the Big Bad Wolf.
One of the first known folklorist in ancient Greece was Aesop, who is known for his fables, including The Boy Who Cried Wolf and The Wolf and the Lamb. In these stories, the wolf is perceived as evil and a threat to a community. Some of these stories are said to be a sort of cautionary tale, created to warn people of real danger.
Some legends depict wolves as a nurturing maternal figure, especially in Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book in 1894. It narrates the story of the boy Mowgli who was raised by a pack of wolves. It also reminds us of the Roman myth of Romulus and Remus who were raised by a she-wolf. These stories reflect the strong maternal instinct attributed to the creature, giving wolves a positive image.
In Nordic Culture
Wolves had positive and negative associations to the Norse, likely because of the creature’s role in legends. Fenrir, the son of the god Loki and giantess Angerboda, is a monstrous wolf that represents chaos and destruction in Norse mythology. He’s said to be the monster who threatens the world of gods, giants and humans. On the other hand, Geri and Freki are the two wolves of Odin, which are depicted as loyal companions.
In Serbian Culture
Wolves play a huge role in Serbian mythology and culture. There was an ancient tradition of naming newborn sons Vuk, which literally means wolf. It stemmed from the belief that the witches who attack the babies were afraid of wolves—and the name itself will give them some protection.
It was often chosen by mothers who had suffered losses during childbirth, since the name Vuk signifies strength and bravery. No wonder, the Serbian name along with its variations Vukan, Vukasin, Vukman and Vukoslav are common. There are also female names such as Vukosava, Vukmira and Vukadinka.
In Japanese Culture
The term wolf is a homonym of Ookami, which is the Japanese word for Great God. In fact, the creature had long been worshiped for protection against misfortunes, from fire to fertility and marital harmony. It’s said that wolf worship can be traced back to around 2nd century BC, when Prince Yamato Takeru lost his way in the deep forest but was eventually guided by a wolf. Some Ainu people even believe that they were born from the union of a goddess and a wolf-like creature.
Celebrities with Wolf Tattoos
Many celebrities inspire us to get tattoos to express ourselves. Some of these famous personalities have wolf tattoos to pay tribute to a loved one, or even commemorate their television and movie roles.
- Sophie Turner, an actress who plays Sansa Stark on the Game of Thrones, got a tattoo inspired by the show. The tattoo on the back of her left arm features a direwolf, which is an emblem of the House Stark, along with the phrase the pack survives.
- Ayesha and Stephen Curry boast matching tattoos, and one of them features a geometric wolf, which is said to be dedicated to their children.
- Model and actress Paris Jackson sports a wolf tattoo on the back of her left forearm, done by tattoo artist Connor Garrity in 2016.
- American singer Skylar Grey has a wolf tattoo done by artist Tye Harris.
Wolves have enriched cultures across the world through their presence in countless stories. As we have seen, they aren’t only beasts of the battle, but also a symbol of courage, loyalty, protection and even motherhood. A wolf tattoo captures the wild spirit of the creature, making it a great choice for reminding you of your strength and devotion to your family.