|a wolf-headed creature in the 15th c. Nuremberg Chronicle|
Last week, I talked about Anglo-Saxon agoraphobia and how they did not like open places, but instead felt secure under a roof - both a literal one and the figurative roof of societal laws. This is exactly why being declared wolf's-head was such a terrible punishment; a wolf's-head was declared to be a wolf.
If you were declared a wulfes-heafod, you were no longer considered human. You were an "outlaw," that is, you were no longer under the protection of the law. No one was allowed to acknowledge you as a person; they couldn't talk to you, or give you food or shelter. Worst of all, they could, and were almost obligated to, kill you. Wolves were a threat, they were pests who attacked livestock and sometimes people, so whenever a wolf was spotted, it would be hunted. The same idea was supposed to apply to a wolf's-head, if seen, he would be hunted.
This, alone, would be a horrible fate for anyone at any period in history, but it was especially terrible for Anglo-Saxons (and in other Germanic cultures, such as in Vikings) because of their agoraphobia, their fear of open spaces. Being declared a wulfes-heafod exiled you only to open spaces, and away from the protection of the law. Being an "outlaw" was not freedom, it was a punishment worse than death.