The Hounds (of the Hunt)

The Hounds are a great pack of spectral hounds with black fur sometimes wolf like and whose eyes and tongues burn with a greenish fire. Generally, however, they are not seen, only heard passing overhead on cloudy or stormy nights. They are usually part of the Wild Hunt together with the huntsmen and their horses but storm the night alone in some stories. Solitary hounds are usually from different myths.

Robert Graves in The White Goddess (Farrar, Strauss, and Cudahy, 1948) mentions the Cwm Annwm, the Hounds of Hell with white bodies and red ears, from a Welsh myth. They were ghost dogs which appeared only at night to foretell death, sent from Annwn to seek out corpses and human souls, described in an early Welsh poem as small, speckled and greyish-red, chained and led by a black-horned figure.

In the Welsh ‘Tale of Culhwch and Olwen‘, Culhwych’s quest for the hand of Olwen is associated with a number of tasks connected with supernatural dogs: one of his ‘labours’ is to seek the two whelps of a great bitch called Rhymni, who is in the shape of a she-wolf and extraordinarily swift.

In the west of England they might be known as the Yeth Hounds or Wisht Hounds;  in Cornwall Dando and his Dogs or the Devil and his Dandy Dogs, in Durham or Yorkshire they were Gabriel’s Hounds or Gabble Ratchets, from the medieval word for dogs, ‘ratchets,’ and ‘gabares,’ which means corpse. According to Henderson, in the neighborhood of Leeds the Gabble Retchets were likewise thought to be the souls of infants who had died before baptism, doomed for ever to flit round their parents’ homes.

Their appearance was also a portent of doom. – in the North they are generally known as the Gabriel Hounds, in Devon the Yeth (Heath) or Wisht Hounds.

Dictionary of the Psychopomp

The following compilation of hybrid and canine psychopomps is from the “Dictionary of the Psychopomp” By Su Leybourn

ADU OGYINAE: (Ashanti):
The first man. He was the leader of the seven men, some women, a dog and a leopard who were the first beings to come to the surface of the earth from holes in the ground.

AMAROK: (Innuit):
The Great Wolf.

ANPU: (Egypt):
The Royal Child, Anpu, the Jackal God is one of the oldest gods of Egypt, predating Wesir/Osiris who supplanted him at the beginning of the Middle Kingdom. Opener of the Roads/West. Psychopompos, messenger, Guardian of The Secrets and Sacred writings. Anpu is Guardian of the Veil and Guide of the Soul. Patron of Orphans and lost souls, god of magic and physician. Personification of Time and Lord of the Circle. He is “Sekem em Pat”, the Power of Heaven. Known as Anubis to the Greeks.

ARALEZ (Armenia):
Beneficent dog-like spirits.

ARAWN: (Welsh):
King of Annwn, the Abyss or Underworld. Arawn is the Grey Man of Earth, a Death Lord who kills in order to bring forth new life. He is first-born and husband to Modron, the Goddess behind all the Gods. See Cwn Annwyn.

ARTEMIS-DIANA: (Greek, Roman):
Artemis-Diana, leader of the Scythian alani or “hunting dogs”. Goddess of wild animals, the wilderness in general, the hunt, and a protectress of women.

BARGUEST: (Yorkshire):
Possibly from the German bargeist, meaning “spirit of the (funeral) bier”. A monstrous nocturnal dog with huge teeth and claws. It was believed that anyone who saw Barghest would die soon after.

BAU: (Sumeria):
Dog-headed Goddess of the Underworld. Daughter of An. It has been suggested that An-pu may be a continuation/extension of the idea An-Bau.

BHACAIN: (Scotland):
A large standing stone that resembles a dog’s head, at Cashlie in the Scottish Highlands. Bhacain is Gaelic for “dog stake”. It is said that Fionn MacCummail’s warriors tethered their hunting dogs here.

BHAIRAVA: (Hindu):
Shiva in his wrathful form as Bhairava is associated with dogs. The dog is as much considered his vahana or animal vehicle as is the bull, Nandi.

BITCH GODDESS: (Indo-European):
A concept known in all the Indo European cultures from antiquity. Includes the Great Bitch Sarama who led the Vedic dogs of death and Artemis-Diana, leader of the Scythian alani or “hunting dogs”. Harlots or “bitches” were identified in the ancient Roman cult of the Goddess Lupa, the Wolf Bitch, whose priestesses “lupae” gave their name to prostitutes in general.

BLOODY TONGUE: (West Yorkshire):
A great dog with red eyes and a huge tail.

BOTOS: (Yakut):
The two dogs Chardas and Botos are invisible assistants of the shaman.

CAILLECH: (Ireland, Scotland):
The Veiled One. Destroyer and crone. Goddess of disease and plague. Dogs guarded the gates of the Other-world where she received the dead. In myth her gatekeeper is a dog named Dormarth “Death’s Door.” Irish bards who could curse with satire were often called cainte “dog.”

CERBERUS: (Greek):
Watchdog at the entrance to Hades. Usually depicted as triple-headed (originally fifty-headed). He permitted all to enter, but none to leave. In mythos he is only bested by Orpheus, Hercules, Sybil and Aeneas.

CHARDAS: (Yakut):
The two dogs Chardas and Botos are invisible assistants of the shaman.

CHARON: (Greek):
The Ferryman who traversed the river Styx delivering souls to Hades. He had the ears of a wolf.

CHERNOBOG: (Slavic):
The old, Pre-Vladimir Slavic black demon (lit. “Black God”) of the Varlagi Russians, represented by a black dog. In the nuclear power plant disaster of 1987, the similarity of the name Chernobog to Chernobyl caused great distress amongst some Russian people.

Demon of dispersion, guardian of the Abyss or the 10th aether. Choronzon may appear as male, female, androgyne, neuter. He has been known to appear as a black snake, fox, or jackal.

COYOTE: (Southwestern Indians and elsewhere):
A trickster, a clown. The creator and teacher of men. The Chinook people tell how Coyote and Eagle went to the land of the dead to bring back their dead wives. However the plan devised by the two gods went amiss and Coyote accidentally let loose the spirits of the dead who rose up like a cloud and disappeared to the west. So it is that people must die forever, not like the plants which die in winter and are green again in turn. See Heyokah.

CU: (Celtic):
A prefix meaning “Hound of -” often seen in the names of heroes and warriors eg Cu Chulainn as the Hound of Culann.

The Hound of Culann. Cu Chulainn originally was named Stanta but after killing the guard dog of Culann the Smith he changed his name as a penance and assumes the dog’s place for a time.

CWN ANNWYN: (Welsh):
The Hounds of Annwn were death omens, described in an early Welsh poem as small, speckled and greyish-red, chained and led by a black-horned figure. These were ghost dogs which appeared only at night to foretell death, sent from Annwn to seek out corpses and human souls. See Arawn.

In Greece and Rome dogs were considered messengers of the gods. It was even thought that they could smell out disease. Special healing dogs, cynotherapists, were kept in temples to comfort the sick and dying, and to lick their wounds which sometimes caused a miraculous recovery. Their divine patron was Hermanubis (Hermes + Anubis) with the head of a dog on the body of a man.

DEVIL’S DANDY, The: (Devon):
Also known as the Dando Dogs.

In depictions of Dattatreya, a deity combining the three male gods Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma, four dogs representing the four Vedas, stand at his feet. They accompany him as hounds of heaven that track pure souls, and are the watchdogs of dharma in the sense of ultimate truth.

DHARMA – the Law: (Hindu):
In the epic the Mahabharata a dog that accompanies Yudhishthira, the King of Pandavas through a series of ordeals to heaven is revealed as Dharma in disguise.

DORMARTH: (Ireland, Scotland):
Meaning “Death’s Door”. The dog guarding the afterworld ruled by Caillech, goddess of disease and plague, the “Veiled One”.

DUAMUTEF: (Egypt):
Duamutef: was one of the Four Sons of Horus and the protector of the stomach of the deceased, along with goddess Neith. He was represented as a mummified man with the head of a jackal.

FENRIR: (Norse):

Child of Loki, an immense sky-wolf, chained until Ragnarok, the End of Days. His fate is to devour the Sun at the end of time, and then to be slain by Vidar.

FRIAR TUCK: (Nottinghamshire, Yorkshire):
In one story Robin Hood encounters Friar Tuck who agrees to carry Robin across a moat to an island on the understanding that Robin will return the favour on the way back. However, Robin drops Friar Tuck in the water half-way back. A fight ensues in which Friar Tuck summons 50 hounds and Robin Hood summons 50 archers. In the introduction Friar Tuck is introduced as “Master of the Hounds”.

GABRIEL HOUNDS, The: (Britain):
Also known as Gabble Retchets. A pack of spectral hounds that are seen as a portent of death or disaster.

GARM: (Norse):
The Hound of Hel, the watchdog chained to the gates of Under-Earth. The coming of Ragnarok will be signalled by His breaking the binding, allowing him to run wild over the earth.

GERI: (Norse):
One of the two hounds of Odin who keep watch – one sleeps by day and the other by night – outside the fortress-hall Lyfjaberg (mount of healing) of Mengloth. See Gifr.

GERYON: (Greek):
A monster with three heads and three bodies, whose oxen ate human flesh, and who were guarded by Orthrus, a two-headed dog.

GIFR: (Norse):
One of the two hounds of Odin who keep watch – one sleeps by day and the other by night – outside the fortress-hall Lyfjaberg (mount of healing) of Mengloth. See Geri.

GLUSKAP: (Algonquin):
The Creator, or the creator force. Generally benevolent, but often capricious. He created the plains, the food plants, the animals and the human race from the body of the Mother Earth. Gluskap’s brother and rival is Malsum, a wolf. When his work was finished, Gluskap paddled towards the sunrise in a birch bark canoe. Some day, it is said, he may return.

GULA: (Sumerian):
Goddess. A healer and patroness of medicine, usually accompanied by a dog.

Depicts a dog underneath the cauldron in which a man or child is being immersed head-first.

Gurt Dog: (Somerset).
A black dog signalling death.

GUYTRASH: (Lancashire):
Also known as Trash or Striker. A large shaggy dog with broad webbed feet and drooping ‘saucer’ eyes.

GWYLLGI: (Wales):
The Dog of Darkness. Notable for its red eyes.

HECATE: (Greek):
“Opener of Ways”. Queen of the Dead. Greek goddess of the dark moon, crossroads, magic, wealth, wisdom, victory and navigation. She is said to be the daughter of Perses and Asteria, while other traditions say she was the daughter of Zeus and Hera. Hecate embodies the regenerative nature of destruction. She is accompanied by dogs. Sometimes depicted as dog headed. Associated with Cerberus. Hecate and her hounds were overseers of cyclical time, guardians of life and the awakening of vegetation.

HEL, HOLLA or HOLLE: (Germanic):
Goddess of the Underworld. Holle escorts the dead to the Underworld assisted by a wolf or dog.

HEROA: (Aztec):
Heroa, the initiator of agriculture and the calendar, was helped by worms and bees on his journeys to the Land of the Dead. He transformed them into a dog.

HEYOKAH: (Southwestern Indians and elsewhere):
Alternatively recognised as Coyote. Sometimes known as Whiskey Jack, the archetypal trickster. See Coyote.

HYDRA: (Greek):
The Lemean Hydra was a nine-headed fresh-water Serpent, or a beast with a dog-like body who was a guardian of the Golden Apples of the Hesperides. If one head were removed another two replaced it. This monster was the offspring of Echidna by Typhon and was killed by Hercules as his second Labour.

INDRA: (Hindu);
Indra, god of Thunder and Fire was associated with the dog.

KE’LETS: (Chukchi/Siberia):
Demon of death. With his pack of dogs he hunts men, and brings death to them.

KHORS: (Slavic):
God of sun and light, and one of the eight primary Slavonic deities. He seems to have an association with dogs as well.

KUKKURIPA: (Buddhism):
Kukkuripa was reputed to live on an island surrounded by dogs. He was a Mahasiddha (one of the 84 greatest yogis). In the legends of Guru Rinpoche, after some tantric scriptures landed on the palace roof, King Indrabodhi brought them to Kukkuraja for interpretation.

KWAKIUTL TRIBE, The: (British Columbia):
One of the Kwakiutl myths tells how the ancestors of these people took off their wolf masks and became humans.

LAMASTU: (Akkadian):
Female demon who was supposedly responsible for the fevers and diseases of infants. She is depicted with breasts bared and suckling a dog or pig.

LOKI: (Norse):
The Trickster who challenges the structure and order of the Gods. The god of Fire. He is neither Aesir nor Vanir, but of the race of Ettins (Elementals) and thus possesses some daemonic qualities. He is both friend and foe to the Aesir. His offspring include the Fenris Wolf and Jormurgandr, the Midgard Wyrm, the goddess Hel (Hella, Holle), and Sleipnir, Odin’s eight-legged horse.

LUPA: (early Etruscan-Roman):
The Great Goddess. A she-wolf who suckles Romulus and Remus.

LUPERCUS: (Roman):
God of wolves, significant to Romans in that the mythological founders of the Roman Nation (Romulus and Remus) were suckled by a she-wolf in infancy.

Epithet for Apollo meaning “born from the she-wolf”.

MADRA: (Old Irish):
Dog. Note similarity to words pertaining to mother ie. the Latin “mater”, “matron”, “matrix”, and the Sumerian “mama”.

MAITREYA: (Buddhism):
The Bodhisattva Maitreya appeared to the hermit Asanga as a maggot infested dog, near to death. Asanga, moved by the dog’s suffering, yet mindful of the maggots, gently removed the maggots with his own tongue. At that point Maitreya appeared in the dog’s place and spoke with the hermit. Note that the word “maitri” equates to “loving-kindness”. The lessons taught pertained to the idea that there is no clean nor unclean, and that repugnance is a learned condition. Also that whatever we experience, all of reality, depends only on the state of our mind. Asanga (c. 300-370ce) was a brahmin from Peshawar and is considered the founder of the Buddhist approach called Yogachara, or Consciousness-Only.

MALSUM: Alonquin):
Wolf and brother to the Creator god Gluskap. Malsum made rocks, thickets and poisonous animals. He was killed by his brother and his magic driven under the earth.

MAUTHE DOOG: (Isle of Man):
Variation of name, the Moddey Dhoo. This entity may have provided the inspiration for “The Hound of the Baskervilles,” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

MITHRAS: (Roman):
Dogs were held sacred to the Roman god, Mithras, as symbolic of sincerity and trustworthiness.

MUSHRUSHSHU: (Sumerian):
Red dragon. A composite creature with the body of a dog, the head of a serpent and a long tail.

MUSTI: (Finland):
The Finnish hero Kullervo hears the voice of his dead mother instruct him to take the black dog Musti with him into the forest so that the dog may attend him. Kullervo returns to the forest where he seduced his sister unknowingly. In despair he throws himself on his own sword.

A Shoshone myth which explains how death came into the world highlights a difference between Wolf and Coyote who are referred to as older and younger brother, respectively. In the First Days, Wolf was the Creator of order in this world, while Coyote always tried to oppose him. Wolf considered that people could be renewed from Death but Coyote disagreed, saying that the world would be get filled up with people. The consequences of Coyote’s opposition was that death became final.

PAWNEE TRIBE, the: (Great Plains):
The hand signal for “wolf” and “Pawnee” are almost identical commensurate with their strong identification with the wolf in stories and myth.

POOKA: (Ireland):
Sometimes referred to as a Black Dog of death.

QUILETE & MAKAH TRIBES, The: (Pacific North-West):
The Quilete and Makah Indians performed wolf dances to heal sick members of their tribe.

RHYMNI: (Welsh):
A supernatural she-wolf known for her swiftness. In the Welsh “Tale of Culhwch and Olwen” Culhwych has a quest to seek the two whelps of Rhymni.

SARAMA: (Hindu):
Great Bitch who led the Vedic dogs of death.

SHUCK: (Norfolk):
A spectral black dog, said to be headless. Old Shock in Suffolk. From O. E. scucca meaning “demon”.

SEDNA: (Canadian and Greenlandic Inuit):
She who has boundless command over the destinies of mankind. Controller of rains and storms. Moon goddess, who rules the land of the dead and is attended by a dog.

SENMURW: (Iran):
A winged monster, pictured as a dragon with a dog’s head.

SIAW: (Armenia):
“The Black”. The Hound of Death. Guardian of the threshold, attends the dying. See Spitak.

SKYLLA or SCYLLA: (Greek):
Female monster with six wolf-heads and twelve feet who devoured passing seamen.

The Mongols viewed themselves as “sons of the blue wolf”, descended through Genghis Khan from a mythical wolf that came down from heaven.

SPITAK: (Armenia).
“The White”. The Hound of Life. Guardian of the threshold, can restore life. See Siaw.

He lived by a ford and in legend carried the incognito Christ across a river. In the Old English Passion of St Christopher the saint is described as being “He was of the race of mankind who are half hound”. It was said that “He had the head of a hound, and his locks were extremely long, and his eyes shone as bright as the morning star, and his teeth were as sharp as a boar’s tusks”.

SVANASYA: (India):
In the mandala of Vajravarahi, in the western quadrant, direction of the Dead, there is the red dog-headed dakini who is called Svanasya.

TIEN KOU: (China):
The Chinese Celestial Dog. A storm deity.

Tor ngarsuk was a benevolent one-armed god who married a malicious woman, sometimes called his mother, who lived under the sea with a guardian dog.

TYR: (Norse):
A war god, also known for his correctness in judgement and rulership. He is said to be one-handed, having lost a hand to Fenrir when the Wolf was chained up. Tyr will be slain in combat with Garm.

UP-NAT: (Central Asia):
Dog Deity. “Opener of the Way”.

UR-IDIM: (Sumeria):
The constellation Lupus, a wolf-like animal.

UTE TRIBE, The: (Rocky Mountain area of Colorado):
In Ute mythos the wolf played a major role in how the people came to the earth. The wolf had carried a heavy bag on his back and therefore could only move very slowly. When he stopped to rest the bag burst and all the people poured out and went to the different places on earth.

VLKODLAK: (Slavic):
A wolf-man in Slavic folklore. The wolf was the most feared creature in northern and eastern Europe and Vlkodlak was the personification of the wolf.

WEPWAWET: (Egypt):
The Messenger of the Road, Opener of the Ways. Jackal or wolf god of War. The twin of Anpu. Leader of the Gods. Watcher and Guide to the dead, protector of the innocent. Defender of Truth. Energy that permeates the universe.

WHISKEY JACK: (Southwestern Indians and elsewhere):
See Heyokah.

It was a custom of the Iroquois people to use a white dog as a sacrificial scapegoat, and white dogs have often been considered unlucky. In the Treasury of Good Sayings, a Bon chronicle of Tibet, the coat of a white dog was dressed with a poisonous substance by a son of King Trikum’s widowed queen called Rulakye. When it went home to the Bon ruler, Lonam, who had held the throne for thirteen years, he could not resist patting the dog and so he subsequently died.

WILD HUNT, The: (Germany):
A pack of spectral hounds that are seen as a portent of death or disaster.

See Yeth Hounds.

WODEN’S HUNT: (Scandinavia):
A pack of spectral hounds that are seen as a portent of death or disaster.

XOLOTL: (Mexico):
Dog deity.

XOTL: (Aztec):
The dog-headed god of death. Xotl guided the sun safely through its underworld passage each night.

The word “yeth” means “heath”. The appearance of these dogs signalled a death. Also known as the Wisht Hounds