Master of the Wolves Charms: The Old One’s Guard

This offering has been a long time coming. Painstakingly birthed, laid to rest, and rebirthed over numerous Orthodox feasts, Balkan folk magical holy days, and stellar confluences; dragged clawing through the star-fallen chthonic and sun-devouring ouranic spheres; armed in teeth that have tasted fish, mammal, and bird; and nourished with the vital Red of communion and sacrifice alike—these charms are an expression of gratitude, and a fervent howling of further ingress, unto the mysteries of the Great Wolf Shepherd himself.

While little-known outside of the oral folk lineages in which his crooked gait wanders, the spirit known varyingly as the Lord or Master of the Wolves (in my first language, Gospodar Vukova), Wolf Herdsman, or the Wolf Shepherd, is an enduring figure across many parts of Central and Eastern Europe. My own pacts and understandings are grounded firmly within the Balkan context, most especially Serbian, though the pulse of his chthonic heart can be traced from Greece all the way up through Scandinavia. A dear mentor in Balkan traditional witchcraft was the first to introduce me to this enigmatic lord, who emphasized an approach that peers through the crossroads-pole masks of Veles, Dažbog, and numerous key Thracian cultic inheritances. He passed on his pact, through the wolf-saint he venerated the Master through, and in the capacity by which I have license, I’ve instructed our dear Key in similar ways.

His myths and stories are many, as are his myriad incarnations and forms. Much like the god Veles himself, the Master of the Wolves’ tales are retold and aspected through numerous chthonic saints, which include in the Balkans: St. Andrew, St. Demetrios, St. Sava, St. Michael the Archangel, St. Christopher, St. Blaise, St. Martin, St. George, St. Nicholas, and many more. Animal, man, god, and all between and beyond, he appears as a lame white wolf accompanying St. George, a lame old shepherd, an old white wolf, and various instantiations of each who shapeshift into the other. Ally to the Forest Mother and her spirits, wandering the landscapes as a poor shepherd, punishing oath-breakers and transforming the unfortunate into hungry wolves forced into his retinue (or in some instances, cursing a passerby to assume the office of the “Lord of Wolves” for seven years), and guardian of seventh and/or tenth-born sons; he is both the head of the furious horde and patron of the werewolf (vukodlak) sorcerers who make up his restless retinue. Even when he is not referred to by any particular honorific, the respect for this mercurial figure can still be felt in his abstract titles, common to the majority of his lands, including Latvia, Moldavia, Romania, Serbia, Bulgaria, Greece, and more: “The Old One”, “The One From Above”, “Lame Devil”, “The Unmentionable One”, “The Unclean (or Pagan) One,” “The One Made of Stone,” “The Hairy One”, “Old Grandfather”, and often only by “He”.

While the notion of a Master or Lord of Animals is well-attested across numerous Mediterranean and more broadly European sources, the Wolf Herdsman specifically is especially prevalent in the Slavic sources. In the Balkans, and especially in Serbia, Macedonia, and Bulgaria, he is most prevalently featured among the various customs surrounding the “wolf holidays”, varyingly located across the later months surrounding key saint feasts during which the dawning of the winter agricultural cycle is ever accompanied by a deepening respect for the threat of wolves. While the precise saint he is associated with will vary from village to village depending on the local custom, the practices are often largely similar. During these times, it is generally inappropriate to even mention the word “wolf” out loud, and they should be similarly described through titles such as “they” or “they from above [the mountains]”. Offerings, especially the first lamb or pig of the season, should be left out for the wolves at the far boundaries of the village, or at the first crossroads, in order to pay them off such that they do not threaten the precious livestock of the community. Should a wolf be killed for any reason, including defense of the self or one’s animals, the body should be carried from dwelling to dwelling in the village, apologized to, offered alcohol, milk, honey, and a meal, crowned in a wreath and mourned with the wailing of a child’s funeral, and then finally interred with utmost respect, such that the Master does not come to take vengeance for his child. It is also during these days that, in some parts of the Balkans, the Master is said to roam with his wild and hairy troupe, recruiting lost and restless dead into the fold and transforming them into wolves themselves, drumming up his shapeshifting sorcerers to go once more into the night and hunt down and punish any breakers of oaths. As such, much like St. Theodore’s Saturday, this is a period in which the settling of debts is of utmost importance; even the mildest broken promise should be rectified, lest a witch or wolf-sorcerer come to settle it on another’s behalf.

Yet this is also a time for his allied witches and sorcerers to enchant his tools. Indeed, anything which closes its “jaws” around sheep is intimately linked with him and with wolves themselves, including all manner of implements from sheep shears to barn doors and gates. The particular formulas and oral charms I have been passed down include those already documented in anthropological works, but the vast majority are those preserved by my mentor’s lineage. These charms, which you see before you, are born of much of that magic, personal ingress and devotion, and a deep love of this spirit, his associated masks, the deific forces his legends emerged from, and even his distant links to Hekate and Artemis via Hellenic and Thracian sources, especially in their preservation of the Great White Wolf Mother cult.

The ten charms at rest, crossed with sheep shears and a wolf’s jawbone blade.

The charms emerged out of a number of mutual explorations Key and I undertook in the past year, and took almost the whole year to fully create. As the visions came and the materia needed was confirmed with divination, the first roots began to sprout on the Orthodox herb-picking Midsummer feast of Sveti Jovan Biljober, when the birthing powders were made. Further materia was divined on and cultivated through the blessings and permissions of Ilija Gromovnik, Ognjena Marija, and Blaga Marija, a trinity of saints-as-Slavic-gods integral to the overseeing of spirit-ensoulments in the Balkan witchcraft tradition as I’ve been taught it. Following their summer feasts, and the collection of some of the rarer materia out in nature, we proceeded to construct the bulk of the charms upon Key’s visit in October, in anticipation of the particular Wolf Holidays I adhere to culturally: those cold days following the Mitrovdan feast with the honouring of the Mitrovske Zadušnice. The final—and in many ways, most important—of the four Zadušnice ancestral celebrations. Many of the wolf taboos emerge here as well, including the importance of caring for livestock through the oncoming winter, for women to not spin wool (and the Fates to not be invoked thereby), and for children to not venture out past nightfall.

It is on this day that we hear of many of the legends surrounding the wolves having their annual meeting with their Lord—in the guise of whichever regional saint is most associated with him—and then dispersing to carry out their orders. Some families also make a česnica, a ceremonial Christmas loaf made on Christmas Eve (January 6th for me, given the Julian calendar), and offer it directly to the wolves as a gesture of peace during this time. In my training, a meal is offered for the wolf spirits (in my mentor’s village, this includes the very physical wolves who stalk the mountains surrounding his home!) at the edge of your farm, at the first crossroads out of the village, and at a place where the devils gather: the nearest threshing floor, watermill, garbage dump, or cave. We carried out our offerings, baked a česnica, poured out koljivo and wine, and fed our spirits well. Calling upon the Master and his wolf, vukodlak, and devil brethren alike, we created the next most important powder, and ensouled the fossilized wolf bones which would animate as one under the auspices of their tutelary Mother.

The intention of these charms, constructed by the Master’s watchful eye, is to house a group of his warrior-wolves to defend their allied sorcerers against malefica. These are immensely protective charms, bearing the souls of wild and cunning assassins, a set of spies in the dark and a silent dagger in the shadow. They investigate and overturn plots before they congeal into reality, stalk the dreams of those who slander, break oaths, and lie while asleep, and repay insult, evil eye, and curse with adamantine force. Ultimately, their chief abilities lie in protection and anti-malefica, though it is crucial to note that each leather bag holds within it the pulsing heart of its own spirit—for those they protect and watch over, these are fully enspirited allies that may be petitioned, worked with, sent out to do their bidding, gather intelligence, and watch over the rest of one’s existing spiritual court as another layer of guardianship. The importance of protecting one’s magic and spirits, especially by secrecy and taboo, cannot be overstated, and so these wolves are themselves an excellent addition to the front line of defense for one’s existing pacts as well, hiding and obscuring workings and alliances from being scryed and divined on, and purposefully feeding false information to those who would attempt to peer beyond what is permitted.

Each wolf was selected and enthroned by my and Key’s efforts through a rigorous divinatory process that took place over the entirety of the Wolf Holidays. The spirits were tended to and more deeply incarnated over the feasts of Dimitrije (Demetrius of Thessaloniki) Kozma i Damjan (Cosmos and Damian), Arhanđel Mihailo (Archangel Michael), and Nikola (Nicholas). Once constructed, the bags were interred and rebirthed, and unchained briefly to hunt down and swallow the sun on Winter Solstice. Their final offering was given on Orthodox Christmas Eve: one last taste of freshly-made česnica, and a full bottle of a favourite drink for the Master.

Ten were made in all, though only nine will be available for on here, as the very “Master” of this group will remain on our own joint shrine to the Master of the Wolves as familiar and mother to the pack. These spirits were chosen for their compatibility, loyalty, sense of justice, and verified power; each having been tested individually in the carrying out of tasks and the successful manifestation of results. If you are interested in taking in one of these warriors, we ask that you keep in mind that these are very much living spirits. They can be carried with you for protection, or left at home on a compatible shrine to assist you remotely. Speak to them with respect, offer them a candle, a shot of strong brandy, vodka, or gin, and invite them to assist you in what ails you, either preventatively or actively. If you have a store or are public in any way about being a sorcerer, they would be an excellent ally to set over your business, and to patrol the boundaries of your public image to best shield you from the Eye.

One among the fold, resting over an icon of St. Nicholas.

If you already work with one of the saints mentioned above, it would be appropriate to keep the charm by their icon or statue. They may share a space with other chthonic spirits, provided that your personal divinations do not reveal any potential conflicts. Veles, Apollo, Artemis, Odin, Hyrrokkin, Hekate, and many other such deities are a welcome and natural ally. We recommend a weekly offering of at least a glass of water and a candle, asking that any omens may be filtered and expressed through the bubbles and flame. Allow the spirit to warn you ahead of time of dangers, and divine with them if these are already resolved and do not need to be addressed further, are on the horizon and require additional magical support to unmake, or are already present and are being dealt with. Ask if additional offerings are needed, or if the wolf warrior advises for a different approach. If they request through divination that other spirits in your court be called upon to assist, provide offerings for them as well, and allow the wolf to lead the charge and organize the defense on your behalf.

While protection and curse-breaking are undoubtedly the main areas of expertise for these spirits, they are ultimately fully independent and realized familiars of their own. They can teach and guide their sorcerers in the cunning of shapeshifting, the donning of second skins, the mysteries of the Furious Horde, and the hunting and consumption of ghosts. If one is not already experienced in these matters by training in witchcraft, it goes without saying that each subject must be approached with the sincerest caution, and under the strictest guidance of one’s patron spirits, mentors, and divining arts. Given what we have already noted about the Master, it cannot be underemphasized that these are spirits who abhor oath-breakers, and cut out the tongues of those who blaspheme the truth, or worse, abusers who believe they speak truth out of their own ego-driven needs to remain righteously victimized, and justified in their behaviour thereby. Suffice to say, do not request petty revenge of them, or conflate one’s ego and desire to seem mighty and powerful with a call to study under the banner of the wolf spirits. These spirits demand a level of agency, accountability, and self-knowledge to exercise their protection, and have little patience for those who wish only to lord over some malformed desire to be venerated and feared without any effort or discipline to cultivate right relationship with spirits, and with the very love of learning magic itself. They will vacate their fetishes and return to their Lord if those to whom they are pacted attempt to harness them for a puerile end. In this way, while one does not need to necessarily always be in the throes of a devoted practice to work with them, they should at the very least be comfortable with spirit communication and divination in order to best work with these ferociously protective allies.

The materia that went into the construction of these homes numbers in the hundreds, ground down to small traces of powders incorporated into the main mass. They are housed in leather bags sourced from the Balkans after a similar design by a mentor of mine (so that they may be discretely carried or even worn by the belt during ritual) and adorned with a fossilized wolf paw each, dating back to around 20,000 B.C. These bones were found in a cave in Germany in the midst of a search for cave bear fossils, making this bear-turned-wolf hunt an excellent expression of the Master’s own close ally (and syncretized deific form), Veles. Some herbal and animal allies that join our wolves include goat, serpent, linden, and blackthorn; materia from our personal Sirius, Pleiades, Mars in Scorpio, and Mars in Capricorn blends as elected by Salt and vivified by my own stellar pacts through my witchcraft; the first blossoms of a pear tree grown by Salt in honour of the Master of the Wolves (pear being one of his holiest woods); special dews, honeys, incenses, and beeswax intended to court the favour of the djavoli (devils) and vile (fairies); pieces of a česnica baked with my personal 2022 Thursday Salt and the aforementioned vila honey, each stabbed through by a horseshoe nail rebirthed through the auspices of the Pleaides and Sirius, and additional exorcistic and goetic cunning with the aid of each of the Wolf Saints whose feasts we celebrated and nourished the charms with, in addition of course to the ever-wily St. Cyprian of Antioch. The forty-one beans used in divination to confirm their final ensoulment were also divided between the ten charms, a technique often used to remind the spirits the proof of what they consented to with respect to the pact of their working itself. Much in the same way, the bread, which accompanies in some form the majority of Balkan charms, recalls the joy of life, the rising of the unmade into the made with the yeast, and the fruition of promises and powers.

A bundle of rosemary was taken to the cemetery, with the appropriate guardians propitiated, and brought back to brush over and consecrate each aspect, named and unnamed, that would enter the bundle. Being fed the blood of communion and sacrifice alike, they are now awake and ready to stand guard over their new allies. While this list is only a small preview of all the work and materia that went inside, we hope it is sufficient to give an overview of the great work that went into their careful cultivation and ecstatic midwifing into this world. The Master being an important spirit to all of three of us, being a pact I have helped introduce through my cultural training and lineage that quickly became even more vibrant and rightly-feral in the hands of Salt and Key, we are truly proud that our first collaborative offering honours this enigmatic and darksome Lord in all his many faces.

If you are interested in taking in one of these spirits, and feel confident by your own discernment with your spirits that they would be appropriate to work with, you may purchase a charm for $300 USD below. You will receive additional information for the care and maintenance of this offering to your e-mail within a week of purchase, in addition to the tracking number for the shipping. Please ensure you specify your shipping address when purchasing. We hope that these spirits find deserving homes, where they may be honoured, their names uncovered through signs and omens, and a true relationship built in frenzied communion with the spirits of their new ecosystem.

All charms have been sold out as of January 11, 2023! Thank you all so much for your support!

Note: Much as with the majority of Balkan lore, it is rare to find genuine information about the Master of the Wolves outside of the languages in which he is revered. For those interested in learning a little more about this spirit in general, here are some we’ve found fruitful in English: