Tomorrow, January 12, the Moon will be full for this new month in the new year of 2017. This Wolf Moon is full at 6:34 ET for me.
The Scottish Gaelic word for January, Faoilleach, means “wolf month” and I believe this is the origin for the name, but Native Americans often used that name without any knowledge of it being used in other parts of the world. Many American full moon names follow names that tribes gave to the Full Moons hundreds of years ago when they kept track of the seasons by giving distinctive names to each recurring full moon.
“January” is a word that comes from the Roman god Janus. Janus had two faces and ruled over beginnings and endings and the past and the future. The ancient Romans believed this was a time to put aside the old, outdated parts of your life. It is a time to plans for new and better conditions, and that seems to have continued in our tradition of having new year’s resolutions.
American Indians named this moon for the wolf packs that howled hungrily outside their villages in the heart of winter. Remember that for these northern and eastern tribes the Full Moon marked the beginning of a period (what we call a month), not a day. The period from this January moon until the next February moon is usually the toughest part of winter weather in those areas.
My own Wolf Moon posts over the life of this blog are always popular posts and I think it is the wolf that draws in readers.
When Americans think of a “wolf,” we are seeing the gray wolf (Canis lupus). This species is also known as the timber wolf or western wolf. It is native to the wilderness and remote areas of Eurasia and North America.
It is still a controversial species. It is threatened and endangered in some areas and hated and hunted in other areas because it preys on livestock. The gray wolf is one of the world’s best known and well researched animals.
Though it was hunted because of its attacks on livestock, in native societies it was revered.
It rarely attacks humans and most reported cases have been attributed to animals suffering from rabies. Wolves try to live away from people, and generally have developed a fear of humans.
Part of our fascination with wolves probably is tied to our love for dogs. The domestic dog is now the most widely abundant large carnivore and is a descendant from one of the now-extinct wolf populations.
The gray wolf is a social animal. Their social unit is a mated pair, accompanied by the pair’s adult offspring. The average wolf pack consists of a family of 5–11 animals (1–2 adults, 3–6 juveniles and 1–3 yearlings) Sometimes two or three such families live together and exceptionally large packs consisting of 42 wolves have been studied.
They are also highly territorial animals. They generally establish territories far larger than they require to survive in order to assure a steady supply of prey. Native Americans respected that wolves guarded their territory.
The gray wolf is generally monogamous, with mated pairs usually remaining together for life. Upon the death of one mated wolf, pairs are quickly re-established. Since males often predominate in any given wolf population, unpaired females are a rarity.
I have heard the howling of wolves and coyotes in the wild and those sounds are very moving. Depending on the setting and your situation, it can trigger fear or admiration. It seems to me to connect with something ancient and primal inside of us.