Wolves have become a cornerstone of traditional and contemporary tattooing, representing a range of different values and lifestyles. Take a look at some of the most stunning wolf tattoos and the meanings that can be found within them.
Wolves have been linked to many figureheads and cornerstones throughout history, linking many different peaks and troughs. This list includes the birth of Genghis Khan, said to be of divine creation and descended from a grey wolf,“born with a destiny from heavens on high.” It can also be seen throughout Roman and Greek mythology, most notably in the story of Romulus and Remus, in which two brothers were ordered to be drowned,but rescued by a she-wolf as they floated down the Tiber River.Throughout Japanese cultural history the wolf has been revered by farmers for protecting their farms from deer, wild boars, monkeys and other wild animals that otherwise devoured their crops. In the West however, the wolves existed largely as the wild animals that were doing the attacking; hence why in Western tradition we have Little Red Riding Hood, whereas in Japanese traditionthe wolf was seen as a protective deity.
The idea of “the wolf pack” is symbolic of traits that come attached to family and relationships; trust, loyalty and caring being just a few. These matching designs are a stunning way of showing these feelings with a loved one and act as an incredible gesture between two people; wolves would do anything to protect their pack! Is there someone you would get a matching wolf tattoo with?
A “lone wolf” is synonymous with the ideas of independence or solitude, and stems from the ideas explored in the last point; for a wolf to be excluded or to leave their pack, they would be relieved of the safety and community that came with it. In terms of tattoo symbolism, a lone wolf howling in front of, or silhouetted against a full moon is often used to emphasize this trait.
Wolf tattoos will often be intertwined with daggers or skulls, representing something darker. This can often have a link with some of the Christian interpretations of the wolf; “they are either the creatures that attack and scatter the flock, or they are a symbol for false teachers or prophets who deceive – “a wolf in sheep's clothing.” (Matthew 7:15). This can also be symbolic of how dangerous wolves can be; despite their caring, family-centric nature, they are also required to be vicious, aggressive animals in certain contexts.
The compassionate and nurturing nature of wolves can be seen in their pack mentality and is explored in the Romulus and Remus mythology. But the phrase “raised by wolves" has fewer nurturing connotations; a quick temperament, very defensive, perhaps even slightly savage. What do you think a human raised by wolves would look and act like?
Wolves contribute to a larger pool of cultural icons and symbols used in tattooing to represent Native American, Roman, Celtic and Japanese cultures, and can be mixed with these styles of art to represent them, as explored in the first point. This can be demonstrated in many different ways; mixing wolves with full moons, crows, totem poles and Celtic knots are all example of interesting ways to represent a person’s interest in specific historical and cultural representations of these beautiful creatures.
Wolves faces are incredibly expressive and can connote a range of feelings and emotions. Due to their wide mouths and large eyes, when a wolf expresses it really expresses; peacefulness, anger, fear and strength can all be seen so clearly just by looking at a wolf’s expression. This can be used in tattooing to express a person’s true nature, or perhaps the trait that most accurately represents them, especially when used in conjunction with other symbols, such as the full moon.
There is a Native American parable about a Cherokee teaching his grandson about the fight that goes on within all humans, between the good wolf and the bad. The good represents joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith, whereas the bad represents anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego. The grandson asks his father which of the wolves will win, to which he replies, “the one you feed”. It further goes on to explain that if you do not feed or take notice of the evil wolf, it will hide and sneak up on you when you’re at your lowest, symbolizing the balance needed in life.
This list of tattoos gives a great insight into the world of wolf symbolism; click on the titles of each photo to see the source! We want to hear from you; if you were to pick one of these design ideas, which would it be? Leave a comment and check out some of ourother blog posts here!