Wolf Woman's Set includes a variscite wolf by the Zuni carver Wilfred Cheama, pearls and variscite cabochons. Anyone who has read my articles knows I am passionate about the natural environment and extremely critical of our ruthless depredations. As a trained biologist who did graduate work in systems ecology many years ago, I have come to appreciate some tiny bit of the incredible intricacy of the web of life. We ignore this intricacy at our peril. Dead set against this world view is the world view of many ranchers who want to feed and clothe us by grazing non-native species on vast tracks of our precious public and private lands and who suffer economic hardship due to the depredations of top carnivores like the wolf. Ranching is an incredibly difficult activity, fraught with dangers and economic hardship, one can certainly understand why ranchers are concerned. There may be more to it... Biblically the wolf is depicted as a fierce and dangerous animal, although curiously there are no stories in the Bible of actual wolf attacks, as we have for example for the lion which took David's lamb. The Druid Animal Oracle includes the shadow as one of wolf's attributes. Do these metaphors for evil lurking in the dark reside deep in our unconscious and somehow allow people to justify gunning down exhausted wolves after pursuing them on snowmobiles and from helicopters? I submit that while the metaphor is useful for self examination, it has nothing to do with the actual animal. When we project our fears outward, does it ever solve our problem?
The organization Defenders of Wildlife, which came to public attention for its campaigns against 1080 and inhumane leg-hold traps, has for many years sought compromise solutions including importing herding dogs to protect livestock (a strategy used since time out of mind in Europe) and offering money to compensate ranchers for wolf kills. As a result of years of effort a fragile compromise allowed the reintroduction of the gray wolf to Yellowstone starting in 1995. Critical to the compromise was the ridiculous classification of the animals as an "experimental, non-essential" species. Today we are beginning to see the amazing results. Prior to the reintroduction, the aspen and cottonwood populations in Yellowstone had crashed. Wetlands had dried up because the beavers had vanished; amphibian and fish populations had been devastated. This was the result, apparently, of an overload of elk which, lacking predators, stood around on river banks and ate all the tree seedlings. There were way too many elk and in addition to eating everything in sight, they damaged the fragile riparian soils. Further, coyote populations surged in the absence of wolves, but coyotes are unable to take down elk and so satisfied themselves with beaver and smaller prey. Do you begin to sense how delicately the ecosystem was balanced before we killed all the wolves? Now that the wolves are back, the beavers have returned, wetlands are being restored naturally, rare amphibians are once again having a chance. Elk populations have been reduced to more normal levels, and they don't spend all day standing around crushing the riverbanks in plain view of wolves anymore. Furthermore, it is unlikely that the wolf populations will burgeon out of control-- Mowat (see below) showed that wolves (unlike elk and many humans) adjust their reproductive rate to accord with available resources. Yes there is still enormous controversy, but you can probably tell where my heart lies.
The wolf which used to occur in Zuni territory is the critically endangered Mexican grey wolf. The last five living animals were captured in 1980 with the intention of insuring the survival of the subspecies. Today there are perhaps 50 wild wolves in Arizona and New Mexico as the result of cautious reintroductions. We'll see how they do. Forcing a species through a genetic bottleneck like this one with the genetic diversity of only 5 individuals can spell disaster because much of the patrimony of genetic diversity which has seen the animals through their long history has been lost, leaving them vulnerable to threats a species with more diversity could have survived.
We know the beautiful animal in this necklace is a wolf because a) the carver said so; b) it looks like a wolf; and c) it has the traditional long, full hanging tail characteristic of the Zuni style of representing wolf. The Cheama brothers pioneered the realistic style of carving exemplified by this little wolf. The Zuni use wolf fetishes for success in hunting larger prey. Dennis and Barbara Tedlock (see below) record the story told by Marius Barbeau of the medicine man Isaac Tens, a member of the Zuni Wolf Clan. They tell stories of ceremonies in which the wolf is summoned from the east. They watched as offerings from a deer which had been killed were made to the "raw persons": mountain lion, coyote, bobcat and wolf.
Cushing tells a story about the distribution of animals which begins as follows: "In ancient times, while yet all beings belonged to one family, Pó-shai-aŋ-k'ia, the father of our sacred bands, lived with his children (disciples) in the City of the Mists, the middle place (center) of the Medicine societies of the world. There he was guarded on all sides by his six warriors, Á-pi-thlan shí-wa-ni (pí-thlan=bow, shí-wa-ni=priests), the prey gods; toward the North by the Mountain Lion (Long Tail); toward the West by the Bear (Clumsy Foot); toward the South by the Badger (Black Mark Face); toward the East by the Wolf (Hang Tail); above by the Eagle (White Cap); and below by the Mole..." I hope the quote will make you yearn for more of Cushing's fascinating stories!
The Medicine Cards give wolf the attribute of teacher. The text mentions their relation to Sirius, the dog star, considered the ancient home of our teachers as Malidoma also asserts. Wolf can teach us to expand our world view, perhaps even to the point of considering humankind had teachers from Sirius. I guess that's why I follow Lloyd Pye's adventures in trying to ascertain what on earth the Star Child skull really is.
We could go on and on about wolf, but let's speak for a moment about variscite before you give up on me! Variscite is a hydrous aluminum phosphate which occurs in varying shades of green. It is found in Utah, Nevada and Australia. The Book of Stones gives it inner peace, clarity and emotional healing. How perfect for the teacher wolf! Ahsian speaks of its helping with healing those areas where one is lacking in self-love, perhaps she is referring in part to healing the division with the shadow. This love of self which is spoken of is most certainly not pride, self indulgence, selfishness or any mistake of that sort. Rather it is the love of one's original nature, which is not (as all spiritual traditions assert) a private possession. If we have not found that, how could we possibly follow the counsel to "love thy neighbor as thyself"?
I hope your own authentic wildness will appreciate the mismatched earrings as well... please order the set today and see what wisdom wolf may bring you!