Tag Archives: doG

Familiar Spirits

“Pets,” most people call them, because they are, and no malice in the phrase: it means something good and kind, it speaks a perfectly valid love, if one irrelevant to what is happening with me and Gilgamesh, or what happened with Mandala, or Buddha, or Osiris, or Bear-Cat, or Thumbs, or Panther,  or Hercules, or above all Shalom, with whom I was so entwined I almost died when someone killed him, or others I could name but for what? Those who know, know. Those who don’t, won’t, no matter whom I name, no matter what stories they blank out when I speak:  the words are meaningless buzz coming from my mouth, and in that fathomless gap, intimacy drowns.

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I’ve given up on the templates with a nice dark background to highlight photos because all of a sudden they either won’t post videos properly or they require white-text-on-black-background-eyestrain-o-vision.

Hence the redesign. Not as sharp for photos, but kindly to look at.

I’m also adding a couple of new tags: canispoetry & doG.

Canispoetry will be what it sounds like:  good poetry worth sharing, having to do with canis familiaris, canis lupus, canis et cetera and canis whatever.

A note about copyright vs. Creative Commons, etc.: when the full text of a poem is widely available online, I’ll post the full text here, because that’s how to get people to read it (if they have to click away, most people won’t). When it’s not already available all over the place but there’s something I can persuasively link to that will also help the writer or performer, I’ll do that. I will always supply as much info as I can about where you can not only read more of the author in question, but where you can buy their books – and I encourage you to do that. My own preference, as a poet and a teacher and an editor, is this: properly credited work shared widely is good for artists. It generates more, not less, readers and sales in the long run. Archaic copyright habits of a pre-internet age are not good for artists. Really.

The doG (dog is God spelled backwards, get it? get it?) tag (get it? get it?)  will be a place to bookmark interesting goodies about my own pet-geekery: mythology and folklore. There’s a whole lot of dog-related sacred story and folktale tradition out there, so it will take a while to build it up into anything useful – but for now, some starting places. I’ll back-edit-in more interesting links as I remember them and/or as you tell me about them in comments, too.

Myths & legends: Cerberus, Garm and other guardians

You probably know Cerberus, of Greek fame:

CE′RBERUS (Kerberos), the many-headed dog that guarded the entrance of Hades, is mentioned as early as the Homeric poems, but simply as “the dog,” and without the name of Cerberus. (Il. viii. 368, Od. xi. 623.) Hesiod, who is the first that gives his name and origin, calls him (Theog. 311) fifty-headed and a son of Typhaon and Echidna. Later writers describe him as a monster with only three heads, with the tail of a serpent and a mane consisting of the heads of various snakes. (Apollod. ii. 5. § 12; Eurip. Here. fur. 24, 611; Virg. Aen. vi. 417; Ov. Met. iv. 449.) Some poets again call him many-headed or hundred-headed. (Horat. Carm. ii. 13. 34; Tzetz. ad Lycoph. 678; Senec. Here. fur. 784.) The place where Cerberus kept watch was according to some at the mouth of the Acheron, and according to others at the gates of Hades, into which he admitted the shades, but never let them out again.

The Norse had a similar figure, Garm:

The monstrous hound Garm guards the entrance to Helheim, the Norse realm of the dead. It has four eyes and a chest drenched with blood, and lives in Gnipa-cave. Anyone who had given bread to the poor could appease him with Hel cake. On the day of Ragnarok, Garm will join the giants in their fight against the gods. The god of war Tyr will kill it in this cataclysmic battle but will die from the wounds inflicted by the hound.

Garm is often equated with the wolf Fenrir. It can also be compared with Cerberus, the Greek guardian of the underworld.

It’s said a golden dog was set to guard the infant Zeus, and became the constellation Canis Major:

KUON KHRYSEOS was a golden dog set by Rhea to guard the infant god Zeus and his nurse the she-goat Amaltheia. Some say he was the same as Lailaps, the hound which Zeus first presented to Europa on Krete, and from her was passed on to King Minos, Prokris, Kephalos and Pandareos, before being placed amongst the stars as the Constellation Canis Major.

And of course we know what Artemis did to human stalkers:

“To Autonoe and Aristaios was born a son Aktaion, who was reared by Kheiron and trained as a huntsman, but was later eaten up on Kithairon by his own dogs [because] … he saw Artemis bathing. They say that the goddess changed him on the spot into a deer, and drove his fifty hunting dogs into a frenzy so that they unintentionally ate him. When he was no more, they looked for their master with great howls and bays, coming in the course of their search to Kheiron’s cave. He made a likeness of Aktaion, which assuaged their grief.” – Apollodorus, The Library 3.30

Here’s a book on dogs in art and myth that looks worth a read:

Dogs: History, Myth, Art by Catherine Johns

Myths & legends: kitsune, kumiho, huli jing and other fox spirits

The comprehensive wiki on the Japanese kitsune gives a pretty good introduction to a huge body of myth, legend and sacred story about fox gods. The entries for the (older) Korean kumiho and Chinese huli jing aren’t as long, but there are linked references out for further study if you’re interested.

Oinari, the Shinto divinity of rice and fertility, is often represented by the messenger fox. There’s more on the Shinto and Hindu understanding of the fox spirit here.

Fox woman myths abound the world over. I’ll have to come back to her.

This image is from the story of Kuzunoha:

In Achomawi legend, Silver Fox Woman is the Creator.

Myths & legends: the Inugami

Via Pink Tentacle’s Edo Period Monster Paintings:

An Inugami (lit. “dog god”) is a familiar spirit that looks like a dog and acts as a protective guardian. Inugami are extremely powerful and loyal, and they are known to carry out acts of revenge on behalf of their “owners.” They can also exist independently, and under some circumstances they may turn against their owners. Inugami also have the ability to possess humans.


… In the Oki Islands, the inugami takes on the function that the kitsune (fox) holds in many other regions of Japan. It is believed that an inugami-mochi will be blessed with great fortune and success, and that favors granted by them will be returned with interest. However, in exchange the inugami-mochi are shunned by other people, and find it hard to get married; they must also be careful not to offend their inugami lest they receive its wrath, as unlike the kitsune, an inugami does not merely follow its master’s wishes, but also acts on its own impulses.

Many small villages in Japan are considered to have at least one old lady with the power of the inugami-mochi.