dogs in mythology

Pricolici aesthetic

Romanian folklore creatures series - III

Pricolici, similar to strigoi (troubled spirits of the dead rising from the grave), are undead souls that have risen from the grave to harm living people. While a strigoi possesses anthropomorphic qualities similar to the ones it had before death, a pricolici always resembles a wolf or a dog. Malicious, violent men are often said to become pricolici after death, in order to continue harming other humans. Sometimes “sin children” (from incest) become pricolici after they die.

Arturo Michelena (1863-1898)
“Diana cazadora” (1896)

In Roman mythology, Diana was the goddess of the hunt, the moon, and nature, is associated with wild animals and the woodland, and with having the power to talk to and control animals. She was eventually equated with the Greek goddess Artemis, though she had an independent origin in Italy. Diana was also known to be the virgin goddess of childbirth and women. She was one of the three maiden goddesses, along with Minerva and Vesta, who swore never to marry.

Mythological Throwback Thursday: Bad Dogs of the British Isles

Hello! Are you a dog person? We used to be, until we found out about all the terrifying mutts stalking the British Isles. We’re expecting Alex’s family back in Staffordshire to be devoured by supernatural hounds any day now. Arm yourself with the knowledge to protect your loved ones this Mythological Throwback Thursday!

One of the most notorious is Black Shuck, a ghostly black dog that stalks the wilds of East Anglia. It’s thought its name derives from the Saxon word for demon, ‘scucca’. Others believe it to be a version of the Viking Shukir, the war-dog of Thor and Odin. Black Shuck is a large hound, variously described as the size of a calf or even a horse. It has baleful red eyes (or just one large one in the centre of its head, in some tellings) and can coalesce out of mist on dark nights, to frighten lone travellers. Those who see Black Shuck usually live long enough to tell the tale, but many believed that those who see it are marked for death, and will pass away within the year.

Similar is the tale of the Barghest, a spectral beast that haunted the north of England, and was particularly infamous in Yorkshire. Described to principally take the form of a black dog with fiery eyes, it was said to be able to become invisible, to shapeshift (favouring the form of a headless person) and to have dominion over other dogs. Upon the death of any notable person in the community the Barghest would form the head of a funeral procession of sorts, followed by all the other dogs of the community, leading them in howling and baying. If you were fleeing the Barghest it was considered wise to cross a stream or river, since the superstition was that it was unable to.

On the Isle of Man, a ghost called Moddey Dhoo, which literally means ‘black dog’, haunted Peel Castle. Though it seemed relatively benign, wandering through the hallways of the castle, invariably settling by the fireplace of the guard chamber, it was frightening to those unused to its spooky demeanour. It would never appear during the day, returning always to a passageway that led to the guard captain’s chamber and disappearing. One night a drunken guard defied Moddey Dhoo. On entering the haunted passageway, dreadful sounds were heard. The guard, scared witless, returned to his comrades aghast and died within three days.

The Welsh passed down the tale of the Cŵn Annwn. Not ghosts but denizens of the supernatural realm of Annwn, these hounds were hunting dogs for the king of the realm, Arawn. Unlike the other examples, these dogs were pure white with red ears. During the Wild Hunt, the Cŵn Annwn would run down wrongdoers for their crimes. It is speculated that they accompanied King Arthur’s cousin Culwhch to Arthur’s court.

Of course, the good people of the UK and Ireland could not help but include their hellhound-riddled folklore in their literature. Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre includes an encounter which the titular heroine initially mistakes for a Gytrash, a being similar to a Barghest. J.K Rowling includes the legend of the Grim in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, with characteristics identical to those of Black Shuck. And of course we couldn’t go without mentioning the infamous Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle.

Why dogs? Possibly we humans share an inherent, instinctual aversion to wolves, and when like in the British Isles wolves become extinct through our actions, we create our own. Monsters from the id! Or maybe it’s because we’re just really into dogs, and there’s nothing so terrible as being betrayed by something you love. Join us for another Mythological Throwback Thursday next week!


Creatures of Legend:  Black Shuck

Black Shuck (AKA Old Shuck, Old Shock, or Shucks) is a ghostly black dog that is said to be spotted around the coast and countryside of East Anglia. According to legend, Black Shuck is rather large, with reports stating that he is anywhere from being as big as a large dog to the size of a horse. He has shaggy black fur, and evil red or green eyes. Some versions state that Black Shuck only has a single eye instead of two, or that he can appear lacking a head altogether.

Generally it is believed that the appearance of this ghostly dog is a bad omen. Although some stories claim that those who see Black Shuck will immediately die, other stories say that the dog will appear before a witness when a close relative is about to pass away or become seriously ill. In contrast, other tales say that the Black Shuck has been known to protect women on their way home, or to help lost travelers find their way.

While reports of ghostly black dogs date back to around 1127, one of the first accounts specifically of the Black Shuck happened on August 4th, 1577. On this day, Black Shuck burst through the doors of the Holy Trinity Church while the congregation was in session. His entrance was marked by a clap of thunder. Black Shuck then ran up the nave, killing a man and a boy and causing the church steeple to collapse through the roof. When the dog left, scorch marks could be seen on the north door. These scorch marks can still be seen at the church today (last picture above). Only a few hours later, Black Shuck appeared at St. Mary’s Church in Bungay. Like the first encounter, Black Shuck ran down the isle’s. This time he stopped to kill several men who were kneeling in prayer. When Black Shuck left, he once again left scorch marks on the door.



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