All photos by Andrea Pagan
This weekend I had the honor of attending an Operation Werewolf event hosted by Leonardo of the “Dire Dogs” in the Venetian countryside. This was my second time as a guest in Europe, and just as before, every single mile and moment spent was one I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world.
To be present at the beginning of a new legend is a true privilege, and this is what I believe I was witness to in my time there. As someone who has been a member of a tribal organization for over a decade now, seeing these sparks roar to life as new tribes are built, new traditions are founded, and new members howl out their oaths to crew, gang and tribe around the fire beneath the bright moon takes me back to the beginnings of my own.
When the four founders of the Wolves (myself, my brother Matthias, and the Carnes brothers Sam and Nathan) decided to form our tribe some 11 years ago, it started from a tiny seed within which dwelt a vast and eternal need- to form a brotherhood that went beyond the bonds of the families we had been born into and to extend outward to men who we found worthy to speak an oath to. We wanted to create something legendary. For us, the need arose from its lack of existence- there was nothing in this world that we knew of that was like what we wanted to build.
From motorcycle club to esoteric order, there existed nothing that held both brotherhood and ritual, blood and earth, violence and love, loyalty and myth within its boundaries. Therefore, we set out to create it, and the Wolves were born. Oaths were conceived straight from the heart, and rituals were envisioned and enacted, growing and developing over years of practice and experience. Throughout the years, men have come and gone- those who have left our tribal boundaries have had their names erased from our histories, and those who have remained have grown in strength and character, and have had their actions spoken of and given honor to in countries all over the world by other strong men.
This is the soul of what we do. Our rites and rituals come not from the dusty pages of a book, to reconstruct what our ancestors have done, because we do not need to wonder what they would have done. We know what they would have done, now, here, in our time- because their voices sing and tremble through the blood in our veins, and their words have shattered the silence again. They have seen these new lands and this new age through our eyes, and breathed once more the cold night air with our lungs. There is no division between them, and us- just as there is no division between our gods and us. They are all living, inside our blood and hearts, and only those who have stood with us around the fire and shed their blood with us will ever know these truths.
Our greatest honor is to be remembered. To be spoken of by men who we respect, to have our names shouted to the night sky as others raise hands in salute of our deeds. This is because we know that all life is temporary, but that our deeds can live on forever- through the blood, through the stories of our lives as we weave them into the stories of others- and to do this so strongly and full of vitality that we are never forgotten.
And here’s the thing- those who always stay home are never remembered. As I walked onto the plane in Milan to return home to America, there was this little sticker on the wall, that read “This Is Only Temporary,” and the hairs on my neck stood up.
Images of the weekend flashed back through my mind, and I felt the shock up my arm as I punched Chris, a “Wuduwasa” prospect from England in the face during his “jump in” after ritual, saw the dark blood shining on his teeth in the moonlight. The buzz of the tattoo machine as I made tattoos with Tatiana’s machine, and the sound of laughter and fellowship around us. The overwhelming feeling of pride and honor in my heart to sing the ritual galdr with Marius from Norway’s “Ulvepels,” and Darko, the Serbian cannon-ball. 6 am conversations about truth, honor, and loyalty with Thorwald, Max, Svante.
Every time I see someone make the choice to stay home rather than to do whatever it takes to go forth and seek these experiences, these friendships worth crossing the oceans for, these times that will never be forgotten- I feel a brief and passing pity for them. Time is fleeting, and we will never be here again. This is all temporary. Only our legend will last- and in my life, every action is a prayer to send my names and the names of my brothers into eternity.