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Why Wolves Howl (Hint: It's Not at the Full Moon)


For as long as I can remember I have a full moon ritual of going on my roof, taking off my shirt. (This all was paused when my landlord locked access.) I don’t fully understand how or why I started doing it, but it has become my ode to wolves, wildness, and my soul connection. However, my topless serenade feels most appropriate during the full moon in January, often called the Wolf Moon.

The Farmer's Almanac uses the names that came from Algonquin tribes who lived in New England and evolved into names Colonial Americans used. Each full moon applied to the entire lunar month. The January full moon was often called the "Full Wolf Moon" named for the wolf packs that would howl outside of Native American villages in the dead of winter. It was said they howled out of hunger, but according to scientists this actually isn't even a reason they would howl.;) So this is perhaps a perfect example of anthropomorphizing, or an assumption where humans project our characteristics of behavior onto animals.

For a long time, scientists didn’t understand why wolves howled though according to Barry Holstun Lopez, an author and researcher, howling happens the most in the winter months because of courtship and breeding. They have also found wolves do not howl at the moon specifically but that they tend to be more active on brighter nights, which could make sense we assume it is the full moon.

Many other studies have come out saying there are many reasons why wolves howl including finding a mate, assembling the pack, or sending a warning. A Christian Science Monitor article noted there is “a correlation between the number of times that a wolf howls and the strength of the relationship with other members of the pack.”

Turns out, wolves mainly howl to stay connected and this perhaps explains my rooftop behavior, though according to the studies linked above there are many other reasons why wolves howl including:

· finding one’s pack

· marking territory

· signaling alarm

· finding a mate

· scaring enemies

· communicating position

· stress or fear

· confusing enemies and prey

· and my favorite, upon waking, as a yawn (I want to start doing this)

The list above feels important as a means for understanding the protective and complex social dynamics of wolves that we still don't fully understand...though naturally seem to want to emulate. May this wolf moon connect you to your inner hunger for connection and protection.

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