It is no coincidence that my least favourite month is named after probably the least glamorous god. January, dragged down by the cold, poverty and the post-Christmas famine, is the most dreary of months. And what is worse, January somehow manages to be the longest month lasting seven weeks. At least.
As a writer of stories from the Dark Ages, I have had to research the fauna of the Early Medieval period, especially the wolf so I can accurately portray the culture of the times. You can see my small reference to wolves on the smiling wolf emblem on Gulfyrian's sword.
Some historians believe that this is because it indicated the start of the wolf hunting season when nobles could demonstrate how brave they were by collecting wolf skins. Personally, I think it was named in honour of wolves. The wolf was a symbol of the god Woden and he was often portrayed with two, named Geri and Freki. This divine connection is shown by the number of kings with wolf in their names, such as Wulfhere and Raedwulf. Early Anglo-Saxons revered the wolf and would have been afraid of it too. No king was ever called 'Rat' as far as I know.
With the arrival of Christianity and the opposition to all things heathen, the wolf became a symbol of the devil. Werewolves and fairy stories depicting the wolf as horrendous instead of noble, abounded. Demonic beasts took on canine qualities and the wolf's reputation was reduced to the killer of children and livestock. It was hunted to extinction in England during the fifteenth century.
It is sad to think that the nurturing and protective qualities of the wolf have been forgotten. Mowgli may have been a fictitious character in Jungle Book, but there are a lot of cases where children have been raised by wolves, even in this day. All pet dogs, from the Jack Russell to the Great Dane have wolves as their ancestors. The things you love about your dog - loyalty, intelligence and so on - are also in the wolf. There are some organisations in Britain dealing with wolf conservation, such as UK Wolf Conservation Trust. There is some talk of reintroducing the wolf in Scotland but I can't see it happening in England. How long would it be before they were shot for worrying sheep?
There are no wolves where I live, but there are plenty of foxes. During January they carry out noisy courtship rituals that frighten me sometimes. The noises are a bit like the sounds of murder. At least how I imagine murder to sound. Perhaps that was what it was like when the wolves roamed Britain.
January is the beginning of a new year, and in Anglo-Saxon times that was an achievement worth celebrating. But in twenty-first century Britain we all worry in case the credit card bill finally finishes us off. Not to mention the spare tyre we're all carrying and the bad skin from too much cake and alcohol. Taking all that into consideration, plus the short days and reduced vitamin D, I really do not like January.
See other Animals and Mythical Creatures
My Favourite novels involving wolves