Dogs, and spirit dogs in particular, have been associated with death in many cultures, and although many are regarded as sinister or malevolent, a few are said to be benevolent guardians, protectors, or guides. From the baleful tracking Hellhound to the stalwart guarding Church Grim these ghostly dogs are a reoccurring part of the landscape of the dead and their kingdom. In this class we will attempt to see that the Mighty Dead need not be the sole province of our fellow humans, but that others also reside within the Kingdom of the Dead and can be sought out, engaged with, and paid homage to for our aid and knowledge. Shaking off a humancentric and anthropocentric view of the dead and how they might be evoked allows us a deeper and more nuanced view of the realm not only of the dead but of spirit as well, and who better to start such a practice with than the oldest of human companions, “man’s best friend” – the noble dog.
This class will look at these ‘dogs of the dead’ in a number of ways:
Look at the history and context of such Black Dogs throughout history and explore how the belief in them was transmitted primarily from the British Isles to the Americas.
Discuss the idea of the Mighty Dead not needing to be an ‘only humans’ practice.
Examine the practices of interring dogs in graveyards and cemeteries in both historical and modern practices.
Finally, discuss an actual case of interacting with a Black Dog, our dear friend Black Jack in the experience of the teacher.
It is hoped that by going over this oft overlooked member of the Mighty Dead we will open up new horizons to those engaging in such practices as well as see to it that “every dog has his day.”