kirk grim

Church Grim

The Church Grim (variations include: Kyrkogrimen (Swedish), Kirk Grim, and Kirkonväki (Finnish) is a figure in English and Scandinavian folklore and legend, said to be a spirit protecting and overseeing a particular church.

  • They are said to enjoy loudly ringing the bells.
  • They may appear as black dogs, or small, misshapen, dark-skinned people.
  • In Sweden, they are said to be spirits of animals sacrificed by early Christians at the building of a new church.
  • In Scandinavia, they may also appear as pale-skinned ‘ghosts’.
  • The dog was often seen on stormy nights and was regarded as a portent of death.

It was believed that the first man to be buried in the church had to guard it against the Devil. To save a human soul from that duty, a black dog would be buried alive in the north side of the churchyard, creating a guardian spirit (the Church Grim), in order to protect the church.

The church grim could also work as a death omen, tolling the church bell at midnight when a prominent member of the local community was near death. According to some stories, the church grim might also be seen at a funeral, looking out of the church tower in its dog form. The officiating priest might be able to judge by its expression and behaviour which way the deceased was going in the next world.

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