|15th Century AD Scottish hand-and-a-half sword from Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum.|
Even though the wolf was often portrayed as a symbol of destruction and chaos - when personified by such entities as Fenrir (the giant winter wolf of Scandinavian Mythology), it was also a warrior's symbol.
I’ve seen wolves etched into the blades of Highland swords in Blair Atholl and Edinburgh National Museum. Such motifs, meant to bring luck in battle, are lingering refrains of the ancient belief that objects created from metal were not inanimate objects. The Celts across ancient Europe saw metal as a magical element, to inscribe a design onto a blade was to endow that object with a powerful essence. The inscribed wolf on a sword offers us a tantalising glimpse of a thought process that is a direct inheritance from more ancient times.
|6th c. Ad from Bjornhouda, Torslunda parish, Oland|
|5th Century AD gold bracteate depicting Tyr and Fenris|
I think here we see natural observations taking symbolic form across various cultures. The wolf’s predatory nature is reflected in a duality of themes, from being a malign entity to guardian and helper. Perhaps then the wolf is a symbol of unbridled nature, something to be accessed in times when humanity is uncalled for and brute strength is required, such as courage in battle. The wolf is to be respected. Yet it also reveals its nurturing nature in themes as Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome who were suckled as infants by the Capitoline She-wolf.
|Romulus and Remus from the Capitoline, Rome|
Myth is an ongoing process. It evolves, even as we guess the nature of the symbology of the past, drawing our conclusions, it mutates - myth can never wholly be what it once was. We superimpose our own preconceptions, our political and moral tastes upon these ideas. Thus much modern wolf imagery symbolises modern man's sense of departure and longing for the wild. The wolf embodies a sort of noble sense of the power of nature, its uncertainty and mystery. There is a striking sense of power and pride in much of the visual data (as a google image search will instantly reveal). It appeals to the sense of community (the pack) and yet appeals to those appreciating solitude (the lone wolf).
References:Symbol And Image In Celtic Religious Art - Miranda Green
Ancient Germanic Warriors - Michael P. Speidel