Wolves that have lost the scent

By Jack Wolf

I was watching a documentary about North American wildlife the other evening, when the program showed a fascinating section on wolves. In particular there was this pack of wolves up north who were tracking their prey (later revealed to be an old bull moose), who suddenly lost the scent-trail. It seemed that the moose they had been following had deviated from the dry-ground trail he had been using and suddenly moved into the waters of a nearby lake – and started swimming/wading across.

The behavior of the lead trackers was sudden and profound: They went from moving along smoothly as a group in a kind of loose, flowing formation – to what appeared to be a kind of organized chaos. These wolves very quickly started exhibiting some almost comical behaviors as they did everything that they could to regain the scent of their quarry. They were rolling around in the dirt, tearing up ground cover, rushing this way and that sniffing furiously for that now elusive scent. One wolf was even performing short jumps into the air, as if to seek out a scent which might be higher up. Another began plowing the soil with his nose, as if trying to dig up clues to where there quarry had disappeared to.

At last one of the wolves caught something on the air and with a yelp started following the new trail. Others followed and it seemed as though some kind of organization in the group was restored. Later the filmmakers caught up with the wolves who had indeed taken down their prey, at the edge of a lake, and were feasting on the kill.

Nature in action.

But I thought about that part where the wolves had lost their scent and for some reason the writer in me; the observer of nature, couldn’t help thinking that indeed I have seen the human analog to this sudden loss-of-scent before; this loss of focus; this loss of a plan. I have seen it in the Pagan community.

Everywhere human beings are seeking out the tribal forms which are a part of our heritage but yet have for the most part been torn from us – torn away by modern society and the lie of the nuclear family. Many people want to find a way back to the hearth fires of family and tribal kin….but for many that trail has either been well extinguished or has at least gone cold.

So many of us have lost the scent.

There are a great many Pagan people out there who scramble for identity; rushing about seeking that elusive trail that might take them back home. But how to find home when there is no trail or that trail has faded to near non-existence? Modern mono-society, largely evolved out of abrahamism and now tainted by the corporate media-state, has done a very efficient job of erasing real human traditions over the years. It has done quite a thorough job of destroying the myths and traditions which guided people in older times – and replaced it with the guidelines of a modern day serfdom.

For many people, their awakening brings considerable pain and frustration when they realize that the road back will be anything but easy.

Some borrow from other cultures and groups, others give in and accept the ways of others just for the sake of belonging – even if they are not completely at home. Still others try to adapt by glossing a thin veneer of what they think is Paganism over improperly removed monotheistic programming.

The journey back is not an easy one. It is like hiking uphill through tangled brush and over sharp rocks – all while carrying a heavy pack. The trail is the path of understanding, the obstacles the broken facets of the modern world and the contents of the pack – these are the issues and beliefs we carry with us still.

As a result of the difficulty in finding the way back, some give up; for them it is just too difficult and they seek a place in someone else’s pack. Others take what they can, like foragers along the way, hoping that eventually they might piece together a patchwork culture of sorts to live in. Some are outright cultural thieves who have no interest in doing the work; of enduring the trail; of earning their songs and stories.

So many have lost the trail; lost the scent and they exhibit some strange behaviors as they strain in the dimming light for what is left of the trail – for the scent of the quarry.

There are a few of us however, who have managed through time and effort – and more than a little luck – to find the way through the tanglewood towards the hearth-fires of home. Even for these folk the journey is not an easy one, but they have mapped out directions; left a trail of breadcrumbs as it were, that others, so inclined, might follow. The idea is that when one wolf has caught the scent he or she might share it with other, like-minded, like-spirited folk – and those who choose might also walk those trails and find themselves back where their heart tells them they belong.

There is a Thornish saying: The first circle is the self. What this means is that to be a complete person; a person of balance it is important not only to find and balance oneself – to really get to know oneself, but also to become a good friend to the self. Many people these days are not well acquainted with their true, inner selves and even more are not what one could call a friend to themselves.  Once we have firm ground to stand on with the self we can move forward with the knowledge of what we really want and where we really belong.

Things like this help us catch the scent. They help us take up the trail once more.

The next step comes out of the first step. With confidence in knowing who and what we are we also develop very definite ideas as to what the tribe of our hearts should be like. When we have these kinds of structures within us it is far less easy to deviate and less likely that we will compromise and accept someone else’s specific values as our own.

In the end, ironically enough, the journey towards finding the tribe and family of one’s heart is a solo venture. No one is qualified to hold anyone else’s hand the whole way through this journey. We come into the world alone, we deal with inner selves alone and ultimately, when the time comes to pass from this manifestation – we do that alone as well. However there is much more to the adventure than the way of the loner. The lone wolf is, ideally, self-sufficient but his or her heart; his or her soul yearns for other wolves to share the trail with. Wolves are pack animals not herd animals. There is a massive difference in this.

In a world of sheep there are few wolves but it is to the wolf-people I speak. I speak to those who know in their hearts what they are and who seek a road that is different from the rest; the road that runs through the challenge of black woods and brambles and not the rolling idyll of the herd-lands.  To these wolf people I say: “if you are seeking the pack, never give up. If you have lost the scent, keep striving to find it and eventually, if you hold fast; if you are true to yourself; if you are a friend to yourself – you will.”

If you are a wolf, be a wolf. Don’t give in to the ways of the herd.


About Jack Wolf

Canadian author Jack Wolf has been a practicing Pagan for over 30 years, walking a path that encompasses both his Northern European and Native American heritage. He counts the late Heathen Goði and writer E. Max Hyatt, Professor Mark Mirabello, Dakota tribal Chief William Hoff and American author Allan Cole among his mentors. An avid outdoorsman, Jack has spent a considerable portion of his life exploring the deep wilds of British Columbia, a vast province on Canada’s west coast. He brings a great deal of his wilderness experience to his spiritual path. Over the past 15 years Jack has studied and written about a number of northern pagan traditions, having published for the most part independently or in small journals, blogs or websites. His recent works for Mandrake of Oxford Have certainly opened up his writing to a larger audience. Jack is also the author of several other books, including Circle of Bones (2012), The Way of the Odin Brotherhood (2013), Blood and Stone (2014) co-author of Tales from the Red Moon Lodge (2014) and co-editor of A Voice from the Thornwood (winter 2014). Forthcoming works include The Thornish Path, Ullr’s Road and The Urban Tribalist, all of which are planned for a mid-2015 and early 2016 release respectively. Spiritually, Jack identifies himself generally as a Deep Tribalist and more specifically as Thornish. He is a member of a primal pagan tradition whose spiritual path involves questing for the First Knowledge – that held by our most ancient ancestors whose hearts and spirits were deeply connected to the land. The Thornish path is the way of the warrior-steward; a Deep Tribal tradition which Jack has practiced since the late 1980’s Jack holds a degree in anthropology from the world renowned University of British Columbia and has long held an avid interest in history, tribal peoples, spirituality and the reawakening of pagan peoples worldwide. He currently resides with his wife and co-author Cassandra Wolf and their daughter, in Squamish, British Columbia.
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