Sunday, October 18, 2009
The Ghostly Black Dog
The ghostly black dog of British folklore.
There have been some attempts at classification; the folklorist Theo Brown divided the black dog phenomena into three separate types A, B and C. (A) Being a shape-shifting demon dog; (B) being a dark black dog calf sized with shaggy fur; and (C) a dog that appears in time with certain ancient festivals in specific areas of the country. Katherine Briggs, the renowned folklorist, splits these further into demon dogs, the ghosts of human beings and the ghosts of dogs in their own right.
In local traditions the black dogs sightings are seen as death portents, especially those seen in ancient churchyards in the form of the Church or Kirk Grim (Kirk being the Scottish word for Church), which is thought to represent a folk memory of a sacrifice. The black dog that used to haunt Peel castle and a nearby graveyard on the Isle of Man, is one such grim, it is said to have scared a sentry to death. Other sightings from the South of England, have been related to coincidental sudden deaths.
A black dog is the name given to a being found primarily in the folklores of the British Isles. The black dog is essentially a nocturnal Apparition, often said to be associated with the Devil, and its appearance was regarded as a portent of death. It is generally supposed to be larger than a normal dog, and often has large, glowing eyes.
It is often associated with electrical storms (such as Black Shuck's appearance at Bungay, Suffolk), and also with crossroads, places of execution and ancient pathways.
The origins of the black dog are difficult to discern. It is impossible to ascertain whether the creature originated in the Celtic or Germanic elements in British culture. Throughout European mythology, dogs have been associated with death. Examples of this are the Cŵn Annwn, Garmr and Cerberus, all of whom were in some way guardians of the underworld. This association seems to be due to the scavenging habits of dogs. It is possible that the black dog is a survival of these beliefs.
Black dogs are almost universally regarded as malevolent, and a few (such as the Barghest) are said to be directly harmful. Some, however, like the Gurt Dog in Somerset and the Black Dog of the Hanging Hills, are said to behave benevolently.Contents
1 Black dogs by locale
1.2 Channel Islands and Isle of Man
1.5 Latin America
4 See also
5 External links
Black dogs by locale
Some of the better-known black dogs are the Barghest of Yorkshire and Black Shuck of East Anglia.
Various other forms are recorded in folklore. Other names are Hairy Jack, Skriker, Padfoot, Churchyard Beast, Shug Monkey, Cu Sith, Galleytrot, Capelthwaite, Mauthe Doog, Hateful Thing, Swooning Shadow, Bogey Beast of Lancashire, Guytrash, Gurt Dog, Bargheust of Troller's Gill, and Catalan Dip.
Black Dogs have been reported from almost all the counties of England, the exceptions being Middlesex and Rutland.
On Dartmoor, the notorious squire Cabell was said to have been a huntsman who sold his soul to the Devil. When he died in 1677, black hounds are said to have appeared around his burial chamber. The ghostly huntsman is said to ride with black dogs; this tale inspired Conan Doyle to write his well-known story The Hound of the Baskervilles.
In Lancashire the black hound is called Barguist, Gytrash, Padfoot, Shag, Trash, Striker or Skriker.
In Tring, Hertfordshire, a fierce-looking black hound with red eyes is said to haunt the middle of the road in the area where the gibbet once stood. Locally it is known as Lean Dog, and is the spirit of a chimney sweep executed for murder. When approached, the lean dog sinks into the ground.
The Gurt Dog ("Great Dog") of Somerset is an example of a benevolent dog. It was said that mothers would allow their children to play unsupervised on the Quantock Hills because they believed that the Gurt Dog would protect them. It would also accompany lone travellers in the area, acting as a protector and guide.
Stories are told of a Black Dog in Twyford, near Winchester.
In Wakefield, the local version of the legend is known as "Padfoot".
A black dog has been said to haunt the Newgate Prison for over 400 years, appearing before executions. According to legend, in 1596, a scholar was sent to the prison for witchcraft, but was killed and eaten by starving prisoners before he was given a trial. The dog was said to appear soon after, and although the terrified men killed their guards and escaped, the beast is said to have haunted them wherever they fled.
Galley Hill in Luton, Bedfordshire, is said to have been haunted by a black dog ever since a storm set the gibbet alight sometime in the 18th century.
Betchworth Castle in Surrey is said to be haunted by a black dog that prowls the ruins at night.
In Norfolk, Suffolk and the northern parts of Essex a black dog, known as Black Shuck or Shug is regarded to be relatively benign and said to accompany women on their way home in the role of protector rather than a portent of ill omen.
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