Perhaps the most accurate and complete understanding of the role of dogs in human life is contained not in fiction, but in mythology. In any case, more generalized and essential – this is undoubted. It is precisely from mythology that one can clearly see how, with the development of human consciousness, the dog occupies an ever more significant place in it, and how from the primitive ideas of primitive peoples, a person moves about the dog to more subtle, philosophical concepts and distinctions.
Religious ideas about the dog began to take shape around the Mesolithic era, about 11 thousand years ago, exactly when the first discovered dog burials belong. This period was characterized by the deification of natural forces and the worship of spirits, and it was then that the dog immediately occupied its main niche – a protector from evil spirits.
The very first Mesolithic burial – an old man with a puppy – was discovered in Einan (Palestine); in the Neolithic, there are already much more of them, and the Bronze Age, marked, in addition to the invention of bronze, also by the specialization of dogs, already gives a picture of such burials from Central Europe to China and from Chukotka to Mesopotamia. (Picture with burial) Of course, initially, this custom was based on understanding the dog as a personal thing, but very quickly its function of a protector manifested itself here as well. Moreover, it is interesting that at first this function was applied only to children. For example, in Hawaii, a dog was killed in the event of the death of a baby, hoping that it would protect his still weak soul. And the Eskimos, as a symbol of protection, placed dog heads in the graves of children.
But very quickly, to protect them from the evil afterlife forces, dogs began to be buried with adults, and then the dog became not only a guardian but also an intermediary between people and spirits. A two-way process has arisen. On the one hand, the functions of the dog in real, everyday life expanded (transportation of goods in the northern regions, hunting and grazing in the central regions, and breeding for food in the southern regions). On the other hand, her magical functions naturally increased; dogs began to be killed to seek recovery, to obtain food in times of famine, to successfully hunt (Iroquois), and to protect and patronize the home. From the latter, the famous totems grew – species of animals or plants that patronize a certain group of people. The dog totem has survived to this day among several Indian tribes in North America.
Taking up more and more place in a person’s life, the dog still practically did not touch his heart. But first, on the rocks, then on the walls, and then on household items, images of dogs appear more and more often; of course, while they were purely functional and ceremonial, but with each millennium, more and more life and individuality emerged in them. Of course, art only reflected reality, which consisted of an ever-increasing number of breeds and an increasingly human attitude towards them.
A separate place in the history of the mythologization of dogs, of course, is occupied by Egypt, where there were such several breeds that are not found in any of the ancient states. Modern science recognizes that Egypt knew no less than fifteen breeds, including hunting, herding, guard, and sacred, which was due not only to its geographical and climatic position but also to the Egyptians’ own love for dogs. When a dog died in a family, all the household members plunged into deep mourning, by the custom, they shaved their heads and did not touch food for a long time. The body of the deceased dog was embalmed and solemnly buried in a special cemetery. The participants in the funeral procession wept bitterly and lamented, as at the death of a loved one. Such rudiments of a personal relationship and such a variety of everyday life could not but affect religion – and Egyptian mythology became the peak of the deification of our brothers, never surpassed by anyone.
The god Inpu (Anubis in Greek) in Egyptian mythology was the patron saint of the dead and was revered in the form of a lying black jackal or a wild dog Sab. Sometimes he was portrayed as a man with a dog’s head. (Here it is – a dog’s triumph! Here it is the famous “We are with you of the same blood”!) Anubis-Sab was considered the judge of the gods, and his veneration from the city of Kas (Kinopolis – the city of dogs in Greek) very early spread throughout Egypt. During the Old Kingdom period, Anubis was called the lord of Rasetau, that is, the one who stands in front of the palace of the gods.
Sometimes he was identified with the god Isdes – a black dog. According to later texts, Anubis was the main god of the kingdom of the dead and considered the hearts of the dead. From the end of the 3rd millennium BC., the functions of Anubis are transferred to Osiris, and he himself enters the circle of gods associated with the mysteries of a dying and resurrecting god. However, Anubis continued to play an important role in funeral rites: his main function was to prepare the body for burial, that is, embalming and mummification.
In addition, it was – and only – that he could, by the laying on of hands and magic, transform the deceased into enlightened and blissful. He met the dead, led the difficult paths past the dangers, guarded them to prevent them from evading the sentence, monitored its execution, and ensure that all sacrificial gifts were delivered to his wards safe and sound. Basically, Anubis was a very conscientious and good dog. As in the reality of the agricultural state, his brother was the god Bata – the bull.
So, the god Anubis embodied all the qualities of an ideal dog in the representation of that time, remaining at the same time a chthonic being (associated with the kingdom of the dead) and a god of good. In other religions, as a rule, only one of these two hypostases of the dog was elected. Let’s look at them in other ancient religions.
In Assyria, the country was more militant than agrarian and learned, and the variety of dogs was less, and, accordingly, the myths associated with them. Perhaps the only representative of the canine tribe in the Assyro-Sumerian pantheon is the dog, which serves as a symbol of the healer goddess, the Great Mother – Gula. But superstitions associated with dogs were widespread there. “If a yellow dog enters the palace, then this is a sign of a sad fate for the palace; if a spotted dog enters the palace, then the king will ask the enemy for peace … “As you can see, dogs differ not in breeds, but only in color, and the line of dog superstitions will find its continuation among the Greeks, and then among the medieval magicians, in particular at Agrippa. But this will be discussed later.
Things are somewhat better among the ancient Indians. There are several references to dogs in Aryan legends. So, for example, the god Indra sends his female to the end of the world – the goddess of dogs Sarama (“fast”) to look for the heavenly cows stolen by demons. She does not succeed and in the future, she becomes the mother of two monstrous dogs.
But on the whole, India has remained – and remains – indifferent to dogs, leaving them only a supporting role.
In principle, the whole East did not particularly mark the dog in its myths, and even more so in religions. Apart from the Chinese and Japanese annual cycles, one of which is named after the dog, we can only mention the Chinese god-doctor Wei-Shan-Jun, who always appeared with his dog named Black Dragon on a leash.
Much more interesting is the position of the dog among the ancient Persians. The Avesta, an ancient Iranian religious monument, states that all dogs have a mysterious power in the fight against the deities of darkness and evil, as well as against all evil spirits. The life of a dog is valued on an equal basis with human life, and therefore physical violence with it was punished not only financially, in the form of fines, but also mystically: “the soul of that person will leave in torment and illness from this world to the underground.”
And the good god Agura says: “I created a dog in my own clothes and in her own shoes, with a keen instinct and sharp teeth, tied to a person to protect herds, and with a body adapted to attack the enemy…. Then the dwellings built on the Agur land would not have stood firm if it had not been for the dogs guarding livestock and villages. ”
In addition to the listed duties, in Iran, no one has canceled the mystical occupation of the dog: accompanying the deceased as a messenger of the god of death. And yet, despite some chthonic functions, in general, the dog among the Persians is a product of Ormuzd, that is, good
But the real mythological canine flourishing occurs, of course, in the times of ancient Greece. This was undoubtedly preceded by the increased participation of dogs in the lives of Greek citizens and policies. Dogs not only guarded houses and hunted, but became real companions of their owners. The ancient Greek dog was a full participant in the feasts, he followed the owner to a public meeting and to the bedroom of his mistress, and then to the funeral pyre. Moreover, it was in Greece that dogs became the guardians of temples. And it was the Greeks who were the first to combine functionality and purely human affection in the modern European sense in relation to the dog. For the first time, the voice of the heart spoke about the dog. (Image on a black-figure vase). Both of these directions were combined in Homer.
Greek historical legends are associated with reality and a relationship with a dog. So, according to legend, fifty dogs saved the city of Corinth from enemies. One night, when the garrison was asleep, the enemy flotilla silently approached, and on the outskirts of the city, a battle began with dogs faithful to their duty. Help arrived when only one dog named Soter survived. The enemy was defeated, the citadel was saved, and Soter received as a reward for his bravery a silver collar with the inscription “Soter – protector and savior of Corinth.” A marble monument was erected in his honor.
The widespread spiritual communication between man and dog in Greece is also evidenced by many superstitions that greatly surpass the Assyrian superstitions.
For example, during the plague in Ephesus, Apollonius of Pianeus ordered the crowd to stone a beggar old man. When, after the execution, they dug up a pile of stones that covered the unfortunate man, under it was the corpse of a dog. The epidemic then stopped. Plutarch wrote that the dog is involved in all disgusting and cleansing rituals. To cleanse, a person had to walk between the parts of a dog cut in half. Sometimes a puppy was circled around the person to be cleaned.
Both folk medicine and agricultural ritual also testified to a deep belief in the repulsive power of the dog. It was believed that the bile of a black dog protects the house, fumigated and purified from all sorts of spells. For the same purpose, they sprinkled the walls with the blood of a dog and buried it under the threshold. A dog’s claw was part of a magic drug that made a person invincible, and the ashes of a burnt dog’s skull were considered a cure for many diseases. The dog’s blood helped against the bite of poisonous reptiles; in case of fractures, it was recommended to attach the brain of a friendly dog to them.
Dog droppings, mixed with rotten cheese, protected seeds and plants from livestock, and its barking made spirits and ghosts flee … But the more the dog got closer to a person in real life, the more mythologically it moved away from him. She ceased to be related to the higher deities, becoming only a sign of the lower, chthonic.
In all the richest ancient Greek mythologists, the dog is found mainly only as a companion and a symbol of gods and goddesses-healers (for example, Asclepius, in whose temple dogs were constantly kept), because it has the power to heal, give new life, and its loyalty survives death. The most famous mythological dogs nevertheless existed in the form of monsters. These are Cerberus and his brother Orff, descended from the Aryan Sharbars. The first guarded the kingdom of the dead (by the way, already in the 19th century, a reduced image of Cerberus was brought out in his legend “Federigo” by Prosper Merimee. The hero descends into the kingdom of the dead, and his greyhound bitch, Marquisella, remains to play with the guard dog. light, many small monsters, among which there were even three-headed … “), and the second served the evil giant. Still, the dog had nowhere to get away from the functions of guarding and escorting the dead (for example, Pythagoras recommended keeping a dog at the mouth of a dying person, since it was this animal that was most worthy of receiving a flying soul and forever preserving its virtues), which subsequently led it straight to the camp ghouls.
The road also led there from the creatures of the land of the Erinnians – terrible old women with dog heads, and from the dogs – the retinue of the goddess Hecate, who roamed cemeteries and intersections on moonless nights. In addition, the dog was considered an attribute of Hermes as the messenger of God and the same guide of the dead; Orion was accompanied by his dog Sirius, the “all-seeing guardian”. The dogs of Hades represented the coldness of dawn and dusk, a dangerous and demonic time when hostile forces roam. As hunters, they were also dedicated to the hunters Hercules and Artemis. That’s probably all.
But it was in Greece that the dog first appears on coins – and moreover, it marks a whole philosophical trend. Kiniki (“dogs”) preached complete personal freedom, natural behavior, and contempt for most needs and wants. Their model was the life of a stray dog.
Rome practically did not bring anything new either to the human or to the religious component of the attitude towards the dog. The Romans still, albeit in very small quantities, continued to sacrifice dogs. So dogs (preferably strong healthy puppies) were given to the god of war Mars, and on April 23, on a holiday that protects the Roman community from disasters, a procession of white-clad citizens led by a priest headed to the grove, where a red dog was sacrificed as the embodiment of solar heat or rust … Haruspics also continued to guess by the insides of the dog, but already very rarely, preferring other animals.
Remained with the dog and its chthonic functions in the form of the same Cerberus in the kingdom of Pluto and in the form of lares, the gods of communities and lands, depicted by two young men in dog skins and with dogs at their feet. The only novelty was the appearance of the image of the dog in the applied arts, as well as the vacation days, named after the star Sirius, which sounds like canicula in Latin. Its appearance on July 26 and the first days after was marked in the Roman calendar with a rest, and the name “vacation” gradually spread to any rest breaks.
The dog is increasingly disappearing into the real life of future Europeans, remaining in mythology only a faint shadow of its former significance. However, such a decrease in rank did not in any way affect the perception of the dog as a noble creature. And only one and only one of the ancient religions declared the dog bad and unclean. This tradition belongs to Judaism, where even the money received for the sale of this “despicable” animal, like the payment of a prostitute, could not be brought into the house.
Dogs were called false teachers, sinners, persecutors, wicked, and pagans. But still, even in the Old Testament, there is one modest canine image that escaped battle – this is the story of Tobias, who took his dog on a journey with an angel. “And they both departed, and the young man’s dog with them.” Alas, even this image is not primary – it clearly reads a reference to the dog Odysseus. (Painting by Pollaiolo). So, the era of ancient civilizations and beliefs was coming to an end, and the dog, occupying an increasing place in the human heart, moved from mythology to the realm of legends.