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Guardian Way Blog Wolf

Who is afraid of the big bad wolf?

German version of this blogpost to be found on wildewurzeln.at

The topic of the wolves slowly coming back to certain areas of Europe seems to create more and more of a rift between people. There are those who are afraid. Afraid for themselves, their children, or their pets. Afraid for their livestock or livelihood as hunters. And then there are those who see this majestic animal that has been so connected with our development as a species. Or those that are simply longing for more balance and more rewilding in our ecosystems. Those, who want to conserve or rebuild areas of nature left alone by humans, given back to all the other beings also living on our shared planet.

And it seems that this is a divide that cannot be overcome.  One side doesn’t seem to understand (or want to understand) the other. But it won’t keep me (and hopefully others) from going for it anyway. And this article should serve as a step towards both understanding the real issue, and finding ways to come together.

So what is the problem really about?

And can it even be traced to only one reason?

Indoctrination from a young age

In so many cultures there are stories and fairy tales of the big bad wolf: Little red riding hood, The wolf and the seven young goats, and who knows how many more. They send a message, that wolves are dangerous and that humans should fear them. And who would question that subconscious message? – We learned it so early, so it must be true…

Just the idea of reading stories like those to little children sends shivers down my spine, how this negative narrative towards those animals is so deeply engrained in our culture. And when talking to people about being out in the wild, a lot of them ask “Aren’t you afraid of the wolves?”, showing the unquestioned fear that can still be found in a lot of people, even those that are not particularly against the wolves coming back.

But there is of course a lot more to the fear or aversion of wolves. And it goes deep into all kinds of aspects of our culture and civilized lifestyle.

Wolves kill

The main reasoning that is used to justify official and sanctioned killings of wolves is, that they are killing the sheep or other livestock of farmers. Also pet owners living close to forest areas are getting scared for their beloved dogs and cats. And those fears are not unjustified, as a specific case only recently in the area around Järna (Sweden) showed, where a wolf was killing house cats, as well as being seen around the village a lot.

And I get it. If someone killed my favourite pet, I would be sad and probably angry, too. But is the wolf really the only one to “blame” for that problem? Isn’t it similar to beggars stealing a loaf of bread, after being driven out of a job by a company just wanting to make more profit?

The unnatural ways of our civilized lives

This topic of the unnatural ways of our civilized lives is a Pandora’s box, big enough to fill at least one if not many books. So I won’t cover all of it here. However, I will share some observations.

In Sweden, as well as Germany and a lot of other countries, sheep – domesticated, docile, defenseless sheep that is – are kept in fenced in areas. They are a small shadow of their wild moufflon counterparts, that have horns to defend themselves, as well as the memory and knowledge that comes with living and surviving in the wild.

Those fences keep them from running away from the farmers. They also keep them from running away from the wolves, and hiding somewhere safe. We humans have created an environment that makes it easy for us to kill and eat them. And wolves are simply seeing and seizing that same opportunity. Why would they choose the alternative of chasing a deer or moose for kilometers with no guarantee for success?

The Industry

As with so many things in civilized life, there is a whole industry involved, which means, that there is a lot of money at stake. Every animal that is killed by a wolf, cannot be utilized by humans. No matter if it’s livestock or game. Sometimes it’s not even about big money, but about livelihoods. And it’s very understandable, that people see the wolf as a threat because of that.

The current situation in Scandinavia vs. central Europe

When living in central Europe, a lot of people have a very romanticized view not only of Canada and North America, but also of Scandinavia. It’s the land where big predators – or any wild animals for that matter – have the space to roam free for kilometers, without really coming into contact with humans much. Where they can live undisturbed and don’t threaten us.

But the reality looks very different. In Scandinavia, there are around 55 packs/families and 28 couples of wolves living in the wild, most of them located in Sweden. This is about a third of the numbers found in Germany, which counted 157 packs/families and 27 couples, as well as 19 lone individuals.

Additionally, the Scandinavian wolves are challenged for another reason: They are all descendants of only about 5 animals, which also weakens their genetic stance. This is mostly due to the north being reindeer country, and any wolves being shot on site. So no animals from Finland or Russia can reach the southern packs to strengthen the gene pool.

Why is the wolf important for us?

Why is it so important to allow the wolf to come back? What was their place and role in the ecosystem, and is it still valid today?

Naturally balanced ecosystem

In their natural, wild environment, they hunt mostly deer, moose and elk. All those animals, if not kept in check, would eat the small buds of young trees, leading to the forest slowly giving way to open bush or grass land. As the results from the reintroduction of wolves in Yellowstone National Park shows, they do play a very important role in the natural balance of an ecosystem.

But you might ask: “Aren’t hunters taking care of this task in a lot of countries?” Well, yes, to some degree. But simply reducing their number isn’t all that wolves do in a healthy ecosystem.

It’s not like they are just killing all the animals, and also not all of them at once. They pick the weak, the old or the wounded. They only kill when they need food. And they have to constantly come up with new and improved ways of hunting, since the surviving deer learn from the “mistakes” of their fellow mates. They are chased and tested by the wolves. That way, both the deer and wolf are kept on their toes. Kept healthy, fit and strong.

So when humans hunt the deer nowadays, instead of the wolves, this healthy back and forth, this growth on all those levels is not happening. We simply use sophisticated technology, sit somewhere, and shoot. Of course, this is a very simplistic view of hunting, and there is a lot more to it, but how much are we human hunters allowing ourselves to learn from deer? And how much could we learn about balanced, healthy hunting from observing the wolves? – Not just mentally, but physically and in a lot of other ways? And how much are deer learning and growing when hunted by humans? How are they kept fit and healthy?

Our longstanding relationship with wolves

There are a lot of people very fond of those fascinating animals. They have so much in common with us, especially when it comes to social behaviour in small bands. And we as humans have a long history of being in relationship, first with wolves, and then more and more with their domesticated brother, the dog. It seems to be deeply embedded in our epigenetic memory.

Possible solutions?

So how can we create an environment, that isn’t such a juicy invitation for wolves? How can we make it so that instead of dangling a carrot in front of them and then blaming them for eating it, we can find a good balance?

Learning from others

This year I went to Romania to visit a friend, and check out an area for a wilderness immersion. A region with bears, wolves, wild dogs… and also a lot of sheep farmers!

Those sheep in Romania however, are not fenced in. So how are they protected from the wolves? – Well, they have specifically trained shepherd dogs, that are not only taking care that the sheep are kept together, but also protect them from wolf attacks!

Remove the temptation

Another way would be to put up specific fences that are designed to keep out wolves. If they can’t get in to kill the sheep, we don’t have to blame them for it. They will simply go back to their original prey of roe deer, deer and moose. This doesn’t mean that there would never be another encounter, but the boundaries would be a lot clearer, and there wouldn’t need to be so much killing.

Embrace a give and take

In combination with the above mentioned ways to keep the killings in check, we might also want to adapt our mindset about the whole situation. There are ways to live more in balance with all living beings. Natural balance is about giving and receiving. So maybe we can accept some animals to be taken by the wolf as a form of giving back to nature. As a thank you for being allowed to be here and be nourished by the land. And that way we can learn to also make peace with the situation, and find a way to live in a balanced relationship with these important animals.

And one way to do this is during our upcoming Guardian Training “Becoming Wolf“.

Current Programs

Guardian Way Blog

Becoming Protector 2022 – Going deeper

This season’s training was focused around truly stepping into our rule as protector for the earth and our people. What is needed for us to serve? How can we train, learn and grow to be able to face whatever might be coming?

The area

This time, we consciously chose an area that is not so remote. Closer to civilization. Partly because of the personal connection of one of the guide’s – Andris- to the land and the animals (especially wolves) living there, and partly because it was important to experience more directly how we humans influence the wild beings all around us.
Do they hide even more? Do they get more used to and closer to humans? – Is that benefiting or hindering them in the long run? – All important questions with no easy answer.

The bumpy start

We are living in quite challenging and precarious times, and this also showed in the start of the training. If we constantly live on our edge, there is no wiggle-room for when additional challenges come up. And we soon learn, that the most important thing is always our health and the health of our loved ones. If that is not available, it’s out of our hands to do anything else other than that.
So when two of our trainees had to switch their focus on healing, it meant that we would only be 6 people out in the forest, immersing ourselves into the quest and question of what it takes to be a guardian.

Civilization ‘s Impact on the wild

Being out there, walking through the territory of the local wolf pack, we were faced with the conflict of illegal game/wolf surveillance, having found a high tech camera in a nature reserve that most likely was placed there to catch footage of the wolves. We can only guess as to why it was really there and what might have been the final goal or intention of it all. But it shows, that not even the forest is safe for the animals to be left alone at.
We walked across clear-cut areas, reminding us that even though it’s forest and it might feel like wilderness to us, it’s actually mostly just monoculture farming of wood. Again, not making it a safe place for animals to be left alone.
We found trash randomly dumped at least every other day, seeing a very important future mission to clean up the forest from things like old tires, car seats, cables and random other items.
Coming across an old dumping ground for a specific kind of duck being raised solely for sports hunting, killed by the hundreds, and then simply dumped
wild in a field, for animals like boar and fox to then be eaten (and poisoned by the led in the bullets), as definitely a specifically gruesome part of our discovery.
Being out in mid february and having the temperature, as well as the reaction of the plant and animal life be that it would seem to be beginning of april was yet another more long-term sign of our civilized influence on the climate and therefore on the wilderness we seem to cherish so much.

What to protect?

If we truly want to step into our role as guardian and protector, we first need to deeply understand and learn about what it is that we want to protect. otherwise we might do more harm than good.
We need to live as they live, move as they move, and learn as they learn. Completely immersing ourselves. When we realize, that we are constantly at the risk of being seen, heard and therefore either hunted by other wild animals or by humans, we get a small glimpse into the natural world of needing to be ever alert and present.

Sticking together is important

Humans are social animals. We function best, when we stick together. When we all take over certain roles and tasks, we don’t have to do it all alone. Especially just starting out with wilderness skills, our “pack” learned that no matter if it’s navigation, firemaking, cooking, collecting firewood, or sharing the story of the wake- or sleep time: it, works a lot better, takes less energy, yields more/better results, or makes it even only possible, if we all work together.

The discomfort

With each experience, different aspects of discomfort come up. They can be related to the cold, or the weather in general (usually, wet is even harder to handle than cold), but also, they can be found in more invisible parts of the experience.
But knowing, why you do the thing you do is a core necessity of going through any kind of discomfort. If we don’t know, why we do what we do, or if we realize, that our ideas or expectations might have been different, this makes it a lot harder to accept and live through the discomfort, in order to experience the gift we get when we stick with the path anyway.

Living a life of a guardian or protector is not for everyone. It’s not about an adventure, but about growth, learning, being of service and fully immersing yourself.
But when you learn to feel comfortable with discomfort, there is no stopping you!

here are some impressions of the immersion:

Guardian Way Blog personal story

finding your place

Do you know the feeling like you don’t belong? Well, I do. I know it like an chronic rash that just wouldn’t completely go away…

Of course, it’s not exactly like that, but I’m happy to have found a similarly frustrating analogy… Because this is the life of a Guardian. I once talked with a group of fellow guardians, and we figured out, we’re a pack full of black sheep of our communities and families. And the closest to finding a place where we belong might be in a group of other misfits…

So here is my story.

I’ve been in the world of computers for a really long time, and there is the feeling of home there. It’s known. Or at least I know what I know and what I don’t know, and I feel confident enough in my expertise and experience to openly say what I don’t know and that I’m fine with it. But there’s something missing.

And on my search to find what was missing, I have found the wilderness and my own wild side. The part of me that feels truly alive when jumping into icy cold water, almost burning my hands when roasting my food on the fire, standing my ground when the wind seems to want to sweep me off my feet, or digging in the dirt to build an earth lodge. There I can be fully present, in the moment, connected.

But there always comes a time, where I remember the civilized world. Where I feel the need to go back. To build a bridge between those two worlds that I know so well, but can’t stay in completely. The only thought that keeps me grounded, reminds me, that I am right where I need to be, and that this is my place. The knowing that my role in life is to be a Guardian. A Guardian of the Earth, of the people, of the natural balance of our ecosystem. And to bring those different worlds together in order to bring balance, I need to know all the different players in the game.

I still feel a lot like I don’t belong. At the same time I find comfort in that realization. I will not be a specialist or someone “successful” in either of those worlds. I will probably never be so fully immersed in the wilderness like some of the people I know. And I will just as likely not become super successful in the world of IT. The only place for me is to feel fully present with myself. To be an expert of being a generalist, of being myself. To be a full-fledged Guardian. This also means being comfortable not in finding my place, but creating it. Not to compare myself to others but only to my past self.

To let go of all the ideas. Even the idea of letting go of all ideas. I need to embrace the fact that I will never truly feel comfortable. I can seek comfort and have my muscles become weak. But I won’t really feel comfortable in my skin. And I can seek discomfort, and feel the most alive. And I need to train my muscles for that. I can’t go out with nothing and simply build my own place, my own space. A place where I can find a balance between comfort and comfortable. I need to start slowly to build my muscles. Like with the process of rewilding an animal, I need to slowly get used to it, slowly build my own wildlife habitat, before I can release myself in it.

This is my exploration. This is my mission. What I have set out to do. I started almost 8 years ago, and it might be a lifelong mission. But I know that that’s the only path I can take.

This is of course just one of many stories of Guardians. Every Guardian is different. Not everyone feels to only have the role of the Guardian, or the Voice, or the Nurturer for that matter. And we all interpret it very differently. And that’s the beauty of the Guardian Way.
To find out more about your archetype, check out Who you are.