Posted 24 May 2009 - 08:08 PM
Hey Folks - long time since 've been around; I just happened to be looking back at these myths, and thought of the village. So I may as well share what I know while I'm here.
Throughout most of England aparitions of black dogs are ominous, the exception being in Lincolnshire - where they tend to be guardians (so much so that one lincolnshire woman who moved to yorkshire continued to be protected by a large black dog walking by her side on lonely nights). Only very occasionally will these dogs cause direct harm - and this is usually as the result of provocation. If you meet one, do not try and shoot it, hit it, or shout at it. They have been known to cause deafness and blindness and paralysis in retaliation.
Different types of black dog occur in differnt stories - some are like Phookas, or mischevous kelpies - they can change shape, enjoy scaring people and playing tricks on them and tend to have some link to water. Some are personal - they are linked to a dead criminal or witch, or are thought to be the ghosts of an actual dog that had lived in the area. Then there's the dog that is just referred to as "the black dog" or regional variant - they don't have personalities per se, tend to be linked to specific regions and sometimes certain times of the year.
It's not clear that the first creature being buried in a graveyard actually can work as an explanation for the prevelance of the black dogs in England - especialy when you take into consideration the fact that many are linked to cross roads, where criminals, suicides and witches would be buried with some idea of keeping them out of consecrated land, and away from salvation. It would make little sense to save them from the duty of guarding their burial place by first burying an animal guardian. I expect we'd also find different animals throughout the country that played this role as well - not just dogs. In Scandinavia lambs and kids and cats are also associated with this role.
Interestingly in many accounts the same terms are used - "eyes as large as saucers" is a common one - as is "the size of a calf" - this was even remarked upon by the original 1930's folklorists.
While the black dogs are associated with water, and - unlike many similar creatures - can cross water, they are more closely linked to man made passages - roads. Often seen near bridges and cross roads. These could, of course, have just been handy landmarks when describing the incident. They only rarely appear inside.
Domestic animals are terrified of the black dogs - there are a few accounts of mimic dogs. A dog will enter it's home, or teritory, only to be confronted with its double.
Dogs are generally seen as guardians - several mythologies suggest a dog guards the afterlife, and so it is suggested that Black Dogs guard thin places between this and the other world, walk along ley lines, and suggests the belief that they are omens of death.
Black Dogs aren't encountered so much in Scotland, the Cu Sidhe has been said to take its place, described either as white or green - the irish myth of the Cu Sidhe is very similar to the black dog stories. In the scottish stories he's more likely to drag you off himself, and take you to a fairy howe - rather than just warn of death.
Some notable accounts of black dogs -
At Tring, in Hertfordshire there is a black dog associated with a man who was hung for falsley accusing a woman of witchcraft - she was drowned near the sight that he was hung. It is unclear who the black dog is supposd to represent.
In Lincolnshire- one of the few accounts of the dog speaking. A month nurse was going home one night, and when asked by the children if she were not afraid of the dog she replied that if she should meet him, she'd put him in her pocket. On her way home she came upon the dog, who proceeded to bound round her, yelping "put me in your pocket, put me in your pocket".
There is a dog, associated with a family on Mull, scotland, which foretels the death of a member of the family. If anyone lets the dog into the house, family member or no, "he is letting in death to the Maclean family"
The best article to read is Thea Browns. If you can't find it, message me and I'l try and get a copy to you.
Hope this finds you all well.
The point which I should first wish to understand is whether the pious or holy is beloved by the gods because it is holy, or holy because it is beloved of the gods.
Sonnet XCIVBut if that flower with base infection meet,The basest weed outbraves his dignity:For sweetest things turn sourest by their deeds;Lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds