Dogs in Mythology: Meaning in Myths and Religions : The dog, the animal closest to man, embodies such good qualities as loyalty, vigilance, affection, sincerity, and obedience. In some traditions, she serves as a cultural hero, a mythical ancestor who brought fire to people. In addition, a dog dedicated to the gods of war can be an image of a brave and resolute warrior, symbolize strength, courage, and active attention.
As a helper of man, the dog leads him along the way to the goal. The dog accompanies a person during the day of life and is his guide through the night of death. Great guides of souls such as Anubis, Hecate, and Hermes are depicted with the head of a dog or have a dog as their attribute. In many mythologies, the dog guards the boundaries between the worlds as the guardian and lord of the underworld, where chthonic and lunar deities rule. This is the world of dreams, the kingdom of darkness, the other side of life, where, however, there is a point at which death becomes rebirth. This is where the return to the origins takes place, this is the energy center where the forces of renewal reside.
In Ancient Egypt, there are Cynocephalus – deities with the head of a dog. Their task is to fight monsters, destroy the enemies of light and guard the entrance to sacred places. Anubis, the patron saint of the dead, was revered in various forms – a black jackal, a wild dog Sab, in the form of a man with a jackal’s head or a dog. Anubis-Sab was considered the judge of the gods. Its main epithets are “Khentiamenti”, that is, the one who is in front of the country of the West (the kingdom of the dead), “the lord of the Rasetau” (the kingdom of the dead), “standing in front of the palace of the gods.” Anubis from the “other side of life” accepts the deceased, accompanies him to the coast on the barge of the dead, and is present at the weighing of the heart. It is Anubis who mummifies the corpse of Osiris. Black Anubis is associated with the first stage of the alchemical process, “black doing”, which psychologically means entering chaos, separation, decay. The ancient Greeks identified Anubis with Hermes.
In Greek mythology, a dog is an attribute of Hermes, the messenger of the gods, the patron saint of travelers, the guide of the souls of the dead. Being a psychopomp, like Hermes, the dog at the same time has the abilities of a healer and accompanies the god of medicine Asclepius (Aesculapius). She can heal, give birth, new life.
The monstrous three-headed dog Cerberus guards the entrance to the world of the dead. He is the guardian of the domain of Hades, where the dead arrive in Charon’s boat. Hades is a land of shadows, but treasures are kept in its depths. These are the riches of the inner, spiritual world, which are guarded by Cerberus.
Hecate is also associated with the underworld, the chthonic goddess of darkness, night visions, and sorcery, who appears in the guise of a dog or accompanied by a pack of dogs, “dogs of war.” Hecate appears in the image of a deity connecting two worlds – living and dead. She personifies darkness, at the same time she is a moon goddess, close to Selene and Artemis. Artemis, the huntress maiden, the patroness of the forest and wild animals, the mistress of the cycles of time, is also accompanied by a dog.
In Ancient India, Indra, the king of the gods, is accompanied by the dog Sarama, to which one of the hymns in the Rig Veda is dedicated. Indra sends Sarama in search of the missing cows to the Pania and then frees them from captivity. Sarama is the mother of two monstrous dogs, the Sharbat, who guard the kingdom of Yama. These four-eyed dogs with wide nostrils, guards and messengers of Yama, “the king of the dead”, wander among people, looking for their prey – people who are destined to die.
In Ancient Iran, there is a legend that on the Tree of All Seeds sits Senmurv, the sacred dog of Ahuramazda, the patron saint of embryos and seedlings. He is depicted winged and covered with fish scales, which symbolize domination in three elements – in the air, on land, and in water. Each time it rises, the tree grows a thousand branches; when he sits down, he breaks a thousand branches and scatters their seeds.
Among the Zoroastrians, the dog is the second holiest creature after man, “the most amiable creature.” Feeding the dog, including ritual, is of great importance: the food given to the dog is intended for the souls of the dead; the feeding time of the dog – just after sunset – belongs to the fravashi, the souls of the dead. To perform funeral rites in Zoroastrianism, white “four-eyed” dogs (with dark spots under the eyes) are used. “Four-eyed” implies the ability of dogs to see death itself, with which the ritual “sagdid” (“look of a dog”, “examination by a dog”) is connected when the dog with his gaze drives away the corpse filth from the dead body. Two dogs guard the Chinvat Bridge, which leads to another world.
In Celtic mythology, the dog accompanied the gods of the hunt, war, and heroes, as well as the healer God Nodens. One of the attributes of the sun god Luga was a magical invincible dog, famous for the fact that “… as soon as he bathed in a stream, the waters flowed in it with wine and milk.”
In the Irish tradition, Cuchulainn is the protagonist of numerous sagas. At an early age, he distinguished himself by killing the monstrous dog of the blacksmith Kulan. The name Cuchulainn – “Culann’s Dog” – the hero received after he volunteered to replace the dog he killed as a watchman.
In Norse mythology, the demonic dog Garm is the guardian of the underworld.
In the ancient mythology of the Slavs, the sun god Semargl, who was one of the seven deities of the ancient Russian pantheon, could be embodied in a winged “dog – bird”. Semargl symbolized the sun of the summer solstice and was considered the guardian of crops. The ancestors believed in the gift of prediction of these animals, which foreseen fire, misfortune, death. The bifurcation of the image of the dog, its “impurity” is manifested in those legends and tales, which deal with the ability of witches and ghouls to turn into dogs.
In the symbolism of Christianity, a dog means loyalty, vigilance, protection, and sometimes becomes an allegory for a priest, a “good shepherd.” As the keeper of the flocks, the dog represents the bishop or preacher. Black and white dogs are the insignia of the Dominican Order. The dog and the wolf can be seen as two complementary aspects of the same symbol. Symbolically, the dog is the bright side of the wolf. For example, Apollo, the shining lord of the Sun, has a wolf as a friend, while his sister, Artemis, a moon goddess, has a dog.
A dog is a very controversial creature. Since ancient times, she symbolized both devotion and loyalty, and impurity, debauchery. The first was the result of an unspoken agreement concluded with primitive people tens of thousands of years ago. There are different theories on this score. Perhaps people took orphaned wolf cubs to raise, for a long time they fed wolves near their homes – so that both species got used to each other; or even bred them for meat like regular livestock. One way or another, today dogs and humans are genetically tied to each other.
Hungarian scientists from the University of Otvos raised puppies of dogs and wolf cubs under the same conditions. When they reached four months of age, an experiment was conducted. The meat was hidden in one of the many containers. People with gestures or eyes showed their wards where it was. The dogs understood this perfectly, and the wolves could not decipher.
With the development of religions, the emphasis in the attitude of people towards dogs has shifted somewhat. Their “negative” features came to the fore. Dogs bite, carry fleas, roll around in the mud and arrange obscene “weddings” – which means they are unclean or even serve the dark forces altogether. Among the ancient Jews, the comparison of a man with a dog, especially a dead one, was considered extremely humiliating. Everything that was associated with dogs was declared an abomination: the money received from the sale of the dog was equal to the wages of a harlot and could not be brought into the tabernacle (sanctuary).
This attitude towards dogs can be traced throughout the Bible. The apostle Paul called false teachers dogs. King Solomon and the Apostle Peter called sinners this way (“a fool repeats his foolishness as a dog returns to his vomit”; Proverbs 26:11; see also 2 Peter 2:22). The swearing “dog” is almost universal – the biblical patriarchs call persecutors, false teachers, wicked, and pagans this way. Solomon allowed himself the only “kind” remark about dogs: “Even a living dog is better than a dead lion”, meaning that even the most insignificant life is more valuable than dead power.
Saint Roch (1295-1327) is considered the Christian patron saint of dogs. One day he fell ill with the plague and retired to the forest to die in peace. However, next to his hut, a spring suddenly gushed out, and the hunting dog of the local feudal lord began to bring him bread. Soon the saint recovered.
In Islam, all dogs are considered unclean. In addition, Muhammad called the black dogs shaitans. Most Muslims do not have these animals in their homes, since being in the same company with dogs annuls some of the good deeds done by the faithful. In addition, it is forbidden to trade dogs or change them for anything. Religious interpretations claim that the Prophet allowed the killing of unclean creatures right on the sacred (temple) ground.
It is known that the ancient Egyptians worshiped cats. But when it was necessary to take an unbreakable oath, they swore by the dog. This was probably due to the cult of the god Anubis – the guardian of the dead, who had the head of a jackal (dogs, like cats, were mummified). Researchers believe that the “appointment” of the canine family as the guardians of the underworld was for the simple reason that jackals were regulars in cemeteries. Moreover, there are suggestions that the Egyptians began to arrange deep tombs in the rocks, not only to protect against thieves but also because jackals constantly tore open ordinary graves and devoured corpses.
The Greeks, and later the Romans, entrusted the protection of the dead to Cerberus, the offspring of Typhon and Echidna, who had three heads (according to other versions – 50 or 100) and a snake’s tail. Cerberus acted according to the scheme “let everyone in, not let anyone out”, but periodically endured bullying by the heroes. Hercules beat him and pulled him out into the light of day to show King Eurystheus (where the dog’s saliva dripped, poisonous aconite grew). Orpheus put the poor animal to sleep with sweet songs. Hermes did the same with the sleepy waters of the Lethe River, and Sibyl drugged the dog with narcotic herbs mixed with honey. Cerberus had a two-headed brother, Orth, who was considered the father of the Sphinx.
Hindus believe that the dog is the messenger of Yama, the god of death, guarding the entrance to another world.
Slavic mythology closely linked dogs and wolves. A similar approach was typical for the Scandinavians (two wolves accompanied Odin as his dogs). Ancestors considered wolves to be “dogs” of goblin and higher creatures. For example, Saint George on St. George’s Day collected wolves and rode them like dogs.
In China and Japan, since ancient times, dogs have played an important role in religion, folklore, and mythology (except for black dogs, which were considered the embodiment of evil forces). Written records of 4000 years ago about the education and breeding of dogs have survived. The Chinese dog means loyalty, unwavering devotion. The arrival of the dog means future prosperity. Red Heavenly Dog Tien-Ku refers to the yang principle and helps Erlang drive away evil spirits; but, being the guardian of the night hours, the dog becomes yin and symbolizes destruction, catastrophe, becomes associated with meteors and eclipses. During these periods, the dog becomes furious and bites the sun or moon.
Then, the food Myth that dog can eat anything that man can eat. Can dog eat everything that man eats since he is man’ best friend? The answer is NO. Can dogs eat potatoes ? Yes, dog can eat potatoes . Can dogs eat clementines ? Yes. But can do eat grapes, avocados, and apricots? The answer is upper case NO ? The food myth has been nipped in the bud by several studies and human errors. There are some natural food and some food brands that will send your dog early to his grave. Be careful.