Lupercalia!

Hello all! Today’s post is something we cooked up in honor of Lupercalia, the ancient Roman festival traditionally celebrated on the 15th of the kalends of March. For those in the audience not fluent in the calendars of ancient civilizations (how could you not be?), that means February 15th!

Now, unless you are/were a classics major or spent a good deal of time in the Remus Lupin section of the Harry Potter fandom, this holiday probably means nothing to you. Well, for the sake of clarification (and for re-living my (Sara’s) glory days in the Remus Lupin section of the Harry Potter fandom), Lupercalia is a fertility festival primarily and an homage to Lupa, the she-wolf that suckled Remus and Romulus, founders of Rome.

The ritual involves scantily dressed men running through the hills of Rome, where the women congregate in hopes of being smacked by the goat hides that the scantily dressed men are waving around. This was to guarantee fertility and prosperity.

an artist's rendition of a Lupercalia ceremony

I know what you’re all thinking. How could we have let this tradition die out?!

Unless we didn’t let it die out and there is a small faction of pagan Roman enthusiasts that recreate this ritual in the West Village every year.

Hey, every time I go to the West Village, there are scantily dressed men running around beating people with cloth.

Although, they are mostly hitting other men and the cloth isn’t so much cloth as it is vegan leather bondage whips. And, come to think of it, fertility really isn’t the goal here, so it’s possible that we really did let Lupercalia die out. Endless sad face.

I digress. The purpose of this post (other than educating you on the coolest of the cool ancient Roman festivals) is to pay tribute to the wolves in our fandom lives! Think about it! How many amazing wolves are lurking around Tumblr and Livejournal? Check out our choices for top wolves in fandom below:

SARA

Remus Lupin (Harry Potter)

a still of Remus Lupin as portrayed by David Thewlis

The first and truest of my werewolf loves. When I was in the Harry Potter fandom (I use the past tense in a mostly ironic sense as you can’t really leave the Harry Potter fandom. Ever.), I spent most of my time in the Marauder era, obsessively thinking up ways the Marauders would traumatize the school and themselves in pursuit of a good laugh. My favorite of the foursome was Remus. I’ve always been one to feel a kinship (or a burning adolescent crush) for amazing teachers and Remus fit that bill.

After one blatantly evil, murderous Defense Against the Dark Arts professor and another more covert evil and vain Defense Against the Dark Arts professor, Remus Lupin was a breath of fresh air. He actually taught Harry things. He carried chocolate. He was one-fourth of the most ingenious pranking group Hogwarts had ever seen until the Weasley twins.

I was in love.

That and I was the Moony of my Marauder pranking group in middle/high school. We were very much alike, at least as far as my headcanon as to his personality in his school days.

Either way, Remus Lupin was my introduction into the world of werewolves and I have had a soft spot for them ever since.

Jacob Black (Twilight)

a still of Jacob Black as portrayed by Taylor Lautner (shirtless)

Before anyone gets into a snit, I know Jacob isn’t a werewolf. He’s a shape-shifter who shifts into a wolf. Because we are paying tribute to the wolves in our fandom lives, he makes the list.

And he certainly brings a lot of, um, assets to the list, doesn’t he? I am of course speaking of the amazing way his CGI was handled in the Twilight movies.

If there was one problem with the third Harry Potter movie that I could have fixed, it would have been the werewolf CGI. Hermione even says in the book that the only difference between a werewolf and real wolf is a shorter tail and a longer snout. I’m pretty sure she would have mentioned the alikeness to a yeti had there been one.

So, as much as it pains me to say, Twilight one-upped the Harry Potter movies in one respect. Their wolves are amazing.

Focusing more on Jacob, I really do enjoy his character for the most part. He’s sarcastic and loyal and warm and protective. All in all, very lupine.

Scott McCall (Teen Wolf)

a promotional image of Scott McCall as portrayed by Tyler Posey

My newest (and rather deep) obsession comes in the form of Teen Wolf, which I picked as my favorite TV show of the moment in a Q&A a couple of weeks back.

I LOVE what they’ve done with the werewolf mythos in this world. More so than Harry Potter and Twilight, Teen Wolf—which has the luxury of focusing on the werewolf supernatural, versus sharing time with vampires and other magic folk—dives into a society that co-exists mostly parallel with run-of-the-mill human lives. Of course, parallel lines never met Peter Hale or Kate Argent, so the show begins when these worlds collide and an ordinary, asthmatic teenager gets bitten and becomes, surprise surprise, a teen wolf.

Fun, huh?

Scott McCall was just taking an innocent stroll through the woods, searching for half of a dead body with his best fri—wait, you guys don’t do that with your best friends? Huh.

Anyway. Scott gets dragged out into some really creepy woods by his best friend and partner in crime in the middle of the night and things happen and he gets bitten by a werewolf. So begins a journey of self-discovery, murder, mayhem, and really attractive shirtless dudes.

No, but seriously. This show is on MTV. There are a lot of shirtless dudes. I’m pretty sure Derek only owns three shirts, because that is the only way he could spend so much time shirtless.

In this show, we get a look at hierarchical structures in a werewolf pack, the trials and tribulations of bitten and born wolves, and—the most cool—how wolves are targeted by humans out to destroy them under the guise of something called the Code.

Scott, who is not always the center of fandom attention, is in fact the main character (don’t let Tumblr tell you otherwise). It took me a while to warm up to him because his relationship drama in season one often took away from the action of the show and I got annoyed pretty quickly. But, thankfully, I came to my senses and learned to love Scott. Who is another one of my precious baby boys.

Well, that devolved rapidly.

He is smart (emotionally), adorable, caring, protective, and fiercely loyal. A+ character.

GABBY

Oz (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)

a still of Oz as portrayed by Seth Green (in a rubber wolf mask)

“Who is that girl?”

I must say, though I loved Willow and Tara together, Willow and Oz were my favorite TV couple while I was watching Buffy. I feel like they brought out the best in each other (until they didn’t), and always thought everyone should aspire to be a little more like Oz: aloof, cool, with a little bit of an ironic edge.

I think my favorite thing about him was the matter of fact way in which he turned into a werewolf. Basically, he tickled his cousin, who in turn bit him (apparently he wasn’t fond of tickling!). When Oz wakes up naked in the forest, he calls up his aunt, and asks her if the boy is a werewolf. She says yes, and that’s that. No big reveal, no secrets. Oz has become, as matter-of-factly as his personality, a werewolf. Throughout the rest of his run on the show, Oz represented, to me, the idealized version of a teenager: playing in a band, popular in an underground way, a good friend, and a werewolf, to boot. I wished with all my heart that I would be friends with Oz.

That’s why the way in which he departed from the show made no sense to me; it felt completely out of character. For him to succumb to the “animalistic envies” of his wolf through Veruca felt shallow and undeserving towards the guy who had always been “cool” in the face of danger. I loved the fact that he came back in “New Moon Rising” as I felt more closure with this next-to last appearance. The icing on the Oz cake was the scooby gang’s visit in Tibet in Buffy: Season 8: I loved reading about his new life there, with werewolf wife and son, Bayarmaa and Kelden. A fitting end to a wonderful character; I will always love you, Daniel “Oz” Osbourne.

Tyler Lockwood (The Vampire Diaries)

a picture of Michael Trevino, TVD's Tyler Lockwood

If Oz’ transformation into a werewolf was completely underrated, the same cannot be said of Tyler Lockwood’s. I forget there was ever a before-werewolf Tyler; a mean jock who everyone called a “dick”. The second season was Tyler’s time to shine, though, and in “Masquerade”, as he breaks a girl’s neck, we see in his wolf eyes that the curse of the moon is triggered. Having no idea what’s about to happen to him, he watches a video that his uncle made of his own first transformation. We see it: it looks horrible AND it lasts more than 5 hours. Poor Tyler is scared out of his wits, and who wouldn’t be?

I think out of all the werewolves, his transformation was the most traumatic and well-done. The pace of his whole ordeal is optimal; in five episodes, we go from the trigger of the curse to the first transformation. The manner of his werewolf-ness is entrenched in the mythology of the show, too, and very elaborate. Not only did he have to kill a human to trigger the curse, but he has to spend hours in agony, chained up, every time a full moon comes around. Michael Trevino was amazing in “By the Light of the Moon”, as his body contorted and he was screaming out in pain to Caroline to “make it stop”. I will never forget watching that episode and gripping my pillow so tight my knuckles turned white.

Tyler has gone through many transformations since that first time in the Lockwood cellar; no longer only a werewolf, he’s the last hybrid standing (one of Klaus’ pets, half-werewolf, half-vampire), and apart from Caroline, Tyler has nothing left to lose. I’m excited to see what’s coming up next for his character.

SAM

Dyson (Lost Girl)

a picture of Dyson as portrayed by Kris Holden-Reid

Listen, I’m team Doccubus. I want to get that out of the way immediately, so nobody doubts my loyalties (or sensibilities). But any list of werewolves in pop culture needs to include Detective Wolfy McBrooderfae. He’s, like, a thousand years old, he can only really love once in his entire lifetime, and he gave that up for Bo. Aw. I mean, I guess. He’s no Hot Pants. But he’s the Wolf, and that’s pretty cool too.

There are definitely things I like about Dyson. He’s got awesome vests. The rest of his clothes are pretty cool, too. I like his beard and his Chris Martin hair. Beyond the superficial, I like his loyalty, which seems to be the central pillar of his character. Even when he has a crisis of… self, I guess (I imagine giving up your only chance to feel love will do that to you), he can’t stay away from the fight for long. He’s a good guy through and through, and he’ll fight fang and claw for his friends.

And he seems to take his shirt off a lot. If that’s your kind of thing.

Alcide Herveaux (True Blood)

a still of Alcide as portrayed by Joe Manganiello

Oh Alcide. I love Alcide. I’ve read the Sookie Stackhouse books (well, the first 6 or 7), but book-Alcide never made much of an impression on me. I’m not sure what it is about the television version of Alcide that works so much for me. Maybe it’s his quiet intensity that can build to a pretty epic eruption of passion. Or the fact that he’s a billion feet tall (I met Joe Manganiello at Dragon*Con last fall, and he’s really a billion feet tall). Or that his thing with Sookie ran its course with relatively little drama. Yeah, that helps.

I really loved his storyline this past season on True Blood, when he had a crisis of wolfdom, but stepped up and became leader of his own pack. He dealt with daddy issues, vampire issues, girlfriend issues and political issues, and he he never lost that slow burn intensity that makes him so appealing. I don’t say this about a lot of dudes, but I totally get why people find him attractive. He’s loyal (trend!), strong, and tortured. Basically everything a good wolf in fiction should be, right?

ANIKA

Rahne Sinclair (X-Men)

a picture of Rahne Sinclair/Wolfsbane in New Mutants

Rahne is one of the Marvel mutants whose been around forever but always on the sidelines. She’s on the fringe teams like New Mutants and X-Factor and the Hellions. Like pretty much every X-person she had a traumatic childhood that culminated in becoming a freak with the onset of puberty. In Rahne’s case she’s a lycanthrope. But she’s more like Jacob than a traditional werewolf because she can control her transformation, and retains her intelligence in wolf form. Rahne can also maintain a transitional part-wolf, part-human form.

Like most werewolves (and most mutants), Rahne often struggles with self-loathing. She’s naturally shy and compassionate. Sweet. But she has a strong temper (she’s a redheaded Scot) and turns into a wild animal. Most of her stories revolve around trying to blend these two sides into a cohesive person she is comfortable being…while supervillains, unrequited crushes, angry mobs, and the occasional war on and/or between mutants explode around her.

You know. The usual.

The X-Men are often touted as an allegory for disenfranchised minority groups and Wolfsbane fits right into that idea. She wants to be herself and have that be okay. Be accepted and supported and respected. And sometimes, when she’s not, it makes her so mad she howls and claws and loses her mind a little bit. And the secret is, that’s okay, too.

Red (Once Upon a Time)

a still of Red as portrayed by Meghan Ory

Ruby Lucas snuck up on me. At the beginning of Once Upon a Time she was shiniest background character, dressed in tiny tops and tinier skirts, with bright red lips and boots and nary a hood in sight. When she started coming out of the background I liked her (Meghan Ory is great, by the way, and has chemistry with literally everyone), but I didn’t love her. I would root for her but I didn’t relate to her. Even when her secret was revealed — Little Red and the Big Bad Wolf are one and the same — I was only mildly interested. I’m not a lover of werewolves or monster within stories. Those aren’t my stories, the ones I am drawn to and relate to and tell over and over.

But in the second season, something changed. One, Ruby met up with Belle and their retelling of Beauty and the Beast is about four hundred million times more interesting to me than Belle’s with Rumplestiltskin (even if it remains a completely platonic friendship). Two, they started to play more with Ruby’s wolf side. She tracks, she snarls, she makes little quips about the situation. She’s traded her red minis for grey furs. She’s becoming comfortable with the wolf, and that is leading to being completely herself instead of two opposing sides. And that leads to three, she’s better off, and happier, in Storybrooke than she was in the Enchanted Forest and she knows it. To me, that is the most interesting place for a character to be — not yet there but self-aware .

The story of Little Red Riding Hood has always been a metaphor for growing up: walking bravely but naively into the dark forest, taking a few wrong turns and trusting a few bad people, and learning from the experience. Ruby’s current story has brought her to a new but equally unknown and dangerous place but she’s gained a few tricks and she’s still brave. She’s not afraid of the big bad wolves; she’s ready to run with them.

The Starks of Winterfell (Game of Thrones)

a still of Robb Stark, as portrayed by Richard Madden, with wolf pups

The Starks would be content left alone in their border kingdom so far North “winter” is synonymous with “power”. Left alone, Ned would be alive, Sansa would be free, Bran would be whole. Life would be simpler. But wolves do not live a simple life. They roam. They howl at the light. And they protect the pack, whatever it takes.

Wolves develop close relationships and strong social bonds. They often demonstrate deep affection for their family and may even sacrifice themselves to protect the family unit. (Defenders)

Ned defined his pack to include the King and the Kingdom — Robb did the same when he accepted the title “King of the North”. Catelyn defines it as her blood, an imagined power Sansa clings to in her exile. Young Bran and Rickon understand that home is not their castle but the land they roam and the family they run with. Clever Arya builds a pack wherever she goes, with whoever is there. And though denied the birthright, Jon Snow is the most wolflike of all.

As a pack they share: pride, resilience, and a generosity of spirit that the rest of the realm would rather burn to the ground. But the wolves will lay down their lives to defend it.