Wednesday, 24 September 2008

The phantom dog

In Europe, belief in the black dog is very widespread and the demon varies greatly in its habitat, appearance, behaviour, degree of malignity and in its effect on people. In Great Britain, the main concentration of black dog-phantoms is to be found in East Anglia.
The Lincolnshire dog appears to be the only one that is virtually innocuous and is often felt to be protective. It often trots alongside people returning home at night in country lanes. It is not feared since no harm has ever come from meeting this phantom. In Suffolk, although the phantom dog is called “Black Shuck” ( derived from the Anglo-Saxon word for Satan), it is still comparatively mild. People do not see it, they only feel it and firmly believe that if they see it they would die. Suffolk people are not very afraid of Black Shuck, since meeting it is not considered dangerous; the experience is unpleasant enough to make them avoid lanes, churchyards and paths. In Norfolk, Black Shuck is more satanic and is feared by many people. It is described as a dog as big as a calf with a long black shaggy coat, with eyes the size of saucers which burn like coal. It emits an unearthly howl. It pads silently across desolate marshes, along lonely footpaths and in the shadow of hedges. This demon leaves no footprints and fishermen say that on stormy nights when it runs the cliffs its yells, which make the blood run cold, can be heard above the howling gale and roaring waves. They say it is wise to shut your eyes when you hear it howling, for no one survives whose eyes meet those of Black Shuck. To meet Black Death means death within the year.
In East Anglia, it said of someone who is sullen and bad-tempered: “The black dog’s walked over him” or “ The black dog is on his shoulders” and of someone who is dying of an incurable disease: “ The black dog is at his heels.”


Mr Eurodog said...

I believe Winston Churchill described his bouts of depression as "black dogs"

Winchester whisperer said...

Where I was staying in Scotland, it is called the green dog and a harbinger of death

Violets new Vintage said...

I think the Lincolnshire dog is in San Francisco now.(ha) What an interesting post, I enjoyed it very much!