A black dog is the name given to an entity found primarily in the folklore of the British Isles. The black dog is essentially a nocturnal apparition, often said to be associated with the Devil or a hellhound. Its appearance was regarded as a portent of death.
It is generally supposed to be larger than a normal dog, and often has large, glowing eyes.It is often associated with electrical storms , and also with crossroads, places of execution and ancient pathways.
Malevolent or Benevolent?
The origins of the black dog are difficult to discern. It is impossible to ascertain whether the creature originated in the Celtic or Germanic elements in British culture. Throughout European mythology, dogs have been associated with death. Examples of this are the Cŵn Annwn, Garmr, and Cerberus, all of whom were in some way guardians of the underworld.
This association seems to be due to the scavenging habits of dogs.It is possible that the black dog is a survival of these beliefs.
Black dogs are almost universally regarded as malevolent, and a few (such as the Barghest) are said to be directly harmful. Some, however, like the Gurt Dog in Somerset and the Black Dog of the Hanging Hills in Connecticut, are said to behave benevolently.
The Cù Sìth (Scottish Gaelic pronunciation: [kuː ʃiː]) is an enormous, otherworldly hound, said to haunt the Scottish Highlands.
Roughly the size of a cow or large calf, the Cù Sìth was feared as a harbinger of death and would appear to bear away the soul of a person to the afterlife (similar to the manner of the Grim Reaper).
Supernatural dogs in the legends are usually completely black, or white with red ears. The Cù Sìth's coloration is therefore highly unusual because of its light green colour, although it may be derived from the green colour often worn by Celtic fairies.
Many of the benevolent versions of the black dog aspect deal with protection and redemption.
Even as a sign of death, the mission of these dogs is to guide the dying to paradise and protect them from evil spirits.
They have been seen guarding the borders of graveyards and churches. Many are also trained to hunt wolves, even though they are wolf blooded themselves.
These references harken back to an ancient archetype known as "The chained dog" Tchén al tchinne, beasts to feral to be allowed in society, but perfect for guarding its gates.
After its service is done, these spirits ascend, an analogy to the rebirth from purgatory.
“If you meet the Black Dog once, it shall be for joy; if twice, it shall be for sorrow; and the third time shall bring death.”