Creatures of Light and Dark : Black Dogs (Hounds of Hell, Gabriel Hounds) Part 1
Black Dogs, Hounds of Hell and Gabriel Hounds, are all supernatural and without a material body dog-like creatures. All these names are commonly used as to be synonyms, but this is not exactly the truth.
The Hounds of Hell, or Hell Hounds, and Gabriel Hounds are indeed one and the same thing. I don’t know if the name of Archangel Gabriel was given to the beasts in order to call upon his help, or to make them seem less terrifying, or for any other reason. I have even read that it is because an old English word for the corpse sounded almost like Gabriel, but I haven’t yet found such a word.
On the other hand, Black Dogs and Hounds of Hell are not the same thing. I must admit that sometimes it is difficult to distinguish if a beast is a Black Dog or a Hell Hound just by listening to its story as both can be very infernal.
In most cases Hell Hounds are lurking in herds, and they can be accompanied by one or more dark dressed male forms. Now, as an idea, Hell Hounds are evil spiritual beings owned by demons and their job is usually to bring (or eat) the souls of humans that belong – through some contract possible – to a demon.
Black Dogs can be found either alone or in herds, and if they are accompanied by somebody, this somebody is usually only one female figure. In some cases the Black Dog and the hag may be two forms of the same beast. Black Dogs are considered to be astral (ghostly) beings, that can be either good, evil or neutral.
Now, this post is more focused on the Black Dogs, and not the Hounds of Hell or Gabriel Hounds.
I usually call Black Dogs as English beasts, but in fact Black Dogs have been seen in almost every part of the word that has living dogs, but England and Great Britain own the most famous Black Dogs.
In a following post I am going to present just a few of the most interesting cases of Black Dogs. But here let us find out some things about the beast itself.
There are several opinions regarding what gave birth to the Black Dog. The most popular are three. Some believe that Black Dogs came from the Norse and the hound that follows God Odin. Although this opinion may explain some appearances of herds of black dogs with black hunters, which in fact are most possible Hell Hounds, it doesn’t explain the most of the characteristics of the dogs. So maybe the Hell Hounds are coming from Odin’s hound but not the Black Dogs.
Others assume that the black dogs may come from the Egyptian God Anubis. Now, the Egyptian God of the Underworld, has indeed a black dog-like head, but it is most possible a jackal rather than a dog, and also Anubis is a purely beneficial God, so why should his dogs or himself act so barbarously as many of the Black Dogs, and all the Hounds of Hell do?
A third opinion says that Black Dogs are coming from Cerberus (Κέρβερος) the three headed dog of Greek God Pluto or Hades (ΠλούτωνήΆδης). Of course Cerberus is fierce, but he never went on the world of the living, except when Hercules abducted him, and he was obedient only to his master, Hades who is, obviously, male. Not even Persephone could command Cerberus. So I don’t believe that the Black Dogs come from him.
So, from where? What I find most possible is that the Black Dogs are coming from the Goddess of the Dark Moon (New Moon), mother of the witch Circe (Κίρκη) and patron of the witches, the fearsome Goddess Hecate (Εκάτη).
According to Hesiod’s Theogony (ΗσιόδουΘεογονία), Hecate has three heads (and bodies), one of which is a dog’s head. Also Hecate was coming to the word of the livings accompanied by ghosts (among them ghostly dogs) to help, protect and punish. Also, her appearance is enough to cause fear to anyone. Finally Hecate, rules the streets, the cemeteries, the crossroads and conjunction of three roads (τρίστρατα) and she acts by night.
Apollonius of Rhodes or Apollonius Rhodius (ΑπολλώνιοςτηςΡόδουήΑπολλώνιοςΡόδιος), in his well known epic poem Argonautica (Αργοναυτικά) offers an example of such an appearance of Hecate with the ghostly dogs. Jason, dressed only with a dark robe, summons Hecate for her help and here is the English translation of the event:
“And when he (Jason) had called on her (Hecate) he drew back; and she heard him, the dread goddess, from the uttermost depths and came to the sacrifice of Aeson's son (Jason – ΓιοςτουΑίσονα); and round her horrible serpents twined themselves among the oak boughs; and there was a gleam of countless torches; and sharply howled around her the hounds of hell. All the meadows trembled at her step; and the nymphs that haunt the marsh and the river shrieked, all who dance round that mead of Amarantian Phasis (Hecate – ΦάσιδοςΑμαραντίου). And fear seized Aeson's son”
You may have noticed that the translation says “hounds of Hell”, but this is not an accurate translation. The original, Greek text use the term χθόνιοικύνες (original: Book 3, line 1217) which means dogs of the underworld, meaning ghostly dogs. The translator, being obviously Christian, considered the underworld being the Hell, but for Greeks, both Elysian Fields (ΗλύσιαΠεδία), which in Christian terms is paradise, and Tartarus (Τάρταρος), which in Christian terms is hell, are parts of the Underworld.
Also notice that the poet says that not only the brave and great hero Jason but also even the meadows and the nymphs were scared.
Now Black Dogs appear at night usually on dark streets, in crossroads (being them junction of three or four roads), in or next to cemeteries, all of them under the dominion of Hecate.
Also some times the Black Dog is followed by a female figure with or without a head, or the Black Dog turns itself to that female figure.
Black Dogs some time are evil or cursed witches that became Black Dogs, and witches are under the dominion of Hecate.
Finally the Black Dogs being them evil or neutral (i.e. protecting a place) usually cause an unnatural fear to the one that sees them.
Hecate with a Dog
For all these reasons I believe that the ghostly Black Dogs come from Hecate and her ghostly dogs.
The belief in the existence of Black Dogs is maybe the most common belief in supernatural beings in nowadays. There are many accidents that caused by the sudden appearance of a Black Dog in the middle of a dark street, and also too many reports of black dogs appearing in fields, houses and other places during the night.
Also the so-called Black Dog Syndrome proves that the fear of the Black Dogs is still alive. Don’t harry to search your books on psychology to find the Black Dog Syndrome for it is not there. It is not a psychological syndrome. Is an activist group which tries to save the leaving, material black dogs which are killed in large numbers because of some reasons including the fear of the Black Dogs.
Should I say, that contrary to the cats that are easy to become possessed by a demon or an evil spirit, dogs are not. A dog will see the spirit and fight it in order to protect its master or its family, or it will run away of it if it has nothing to protect.
In the old days it was said that demons cannot posses a dog, unless it was bitten by a “mad wolf” or another dog that was bitten by a mad wolf. After or during the bite the demon could enter the body of the dog and in a short time the demon would have almost take control of it. But the dog’s soul would still fight the demon until the soul and therefore the body of the dog would die sending away the demon.
Of course what is described here is the disease of rabies and not a possession by a demon. Still, the picture of a dog, the real thing (the animal itself), the teeth and the bones of a dog are considered to be protective against evil spirits, while the bones of a dog died because of rabies are considered to bring bad luck and evil beings.
In any case an animal black dog has nothing to do with the ghostly Black Dog. It will not even summon these beasts. If something, the animal will protect you from the beasts.
Although the sizes and the shapes of the Black Dogs are different from place to place and from time to time, usually they are a little larger than the real thing. Also their eyes should be red in most cases, and sometimes there is glow around them.
A few years ago me, Poseidon Alchemist and another friend – who does not believe in “such things” – came across a Black Dog. We were in a village near Thessaloniki (Greece). The third one was very familiar with the village as he was from there. It was the third night of the full moon (first day of the waning moon) and therefore the Moon was extremely bright. And since the time was almost midnight the Moon was almost in its upmost position. So, one could see everything very clearly.
So we started walking. The villagers, I suppose, were already sleeping for we met nobody on the street. Walking we found ourselves a little out of the village. There was a small olive grove there, and then the road was turning.
When we came to this turn, the Black Dog was about 50m in front of us, and started barking. It was quite a big Black Dog. I could see his shape clearly under the moonlight, but the main body was blurry. Its eyes were white, not red. It was just standing, looking at us and barking. We stopped.
We all felt fear, even the third of the party who I consider to be great with all kind of animals and quite fearless. We somehow felt that the dog would attack us only if we continue our path, so we turned around and slowly walked away. The moment we turned around the barking stopped, and the dog didn’t come after us.
Our friend said that he knows of no dog of this size and shape in the village. And next day when we were leaving – during daytime – to go back in Thessaloniki, we saw of no dog in the area we had met the Black Dog the previous night. Of course, being the area out of the village there was no house around.
The Black Dog – if that was what it was, as I believe – was a typical neutral Black Dog, appearing in a certain area (in some cases only during certain period of night time) and let nobody to enter, but it doesn’t exit the area. I call them neutral as they harm nobody unless he or she trespasses the area they guard.
Paradoxically groves are also under the dominion of Hecate (among other Gods).