Dogs: Religion, Myths and Magic: In ancient times, many peoples deified the dog. The Assyrians and Babylonians considered beating a dog a heinous crime. They believed that killing a person was a lesser sin than feeding a dog bad food. Even the ancient sages declared that “a house cannot exist by itself, without a sheep-dog, without a pet dog.” In the religion of most ancient civilizations, there was a place for a dog: the Egyptian god Anubis was depicted with the head of a dog. Ancient Greek mythology also speaks of dogs: the dog Cerberus guarded the kingdom of the dead, the goddess Diana did not part with her faithful hunting dog. Hecate, the goddess of wealth, like Pollux, the patron saint of the hunt, was often depicted accompanied by dogs. Roman, Assyrian images of dogs have been preserved on coins, frescoes, and paintings. The great Virgil sang the praises of dogs in his poems. In Ancient Egypt, greyhounds were especially highly valued: from a companion dog, a hunting partner, they became in fact a cult, an idol dog endowed with some power. The Egyptians revered dogs so much that their birth was an event that surpassed everything except the birth of a son. And when the greyhound died, the whole family arranged to mourn: they mourned with cries, shaved their heads, and went on hunger strikes. Among the pharaohs buried with their greyhounds: Tutankhamun, Amenhotep II, Thutmose III, and Queen Hatshepsut and Cleopatra (Cleopatra, Queen of the Nile, had her own kennel for greyhounds).
Most of the ancient peoples held the dog in high esteem.
The position of a dog in modern world religions looks like this: in the Old Testament, out of thirty mentions of dogs, only in two cases there is no negative meaning. Probably, the hatred of the ancient Jews for their enemies, the Egyptians, and Romans, who bred and honored dogs and used them in battle, was transferred to animals. Part of the disdain for dogs is inherited by Christianity. In Byzantium, even an icon depicting St. Christopher with the head of a dog was known (according to legend, he asked God for a dog’s head, so as not to embarrass the girls with his beauty during a sermon.) According to the same legend, Christopher was once an extremely handsome Roman soldier that attracted to him both men and women who tried to seduce him. Trying to free himself from this, he prayed to God that he would give him an ugly face and a dog’s head. The symbolic meaning given to the dog in Jewish mysticism is also interesting. The dog is seen as a symbol of the inevitability of retribution, as a symbol of the severity of the sentence. ￼
In Christianity, the dog is part of nature. You can read about man’s attitude to the living world in the first chapter of the Bible. On the one hand, God gave authority to man over all animals. On the other hand, this power also presupposes the responsibility of a person before God for all life on Earth. That is, a person is responsible for everything that happens to nature on Earth and should be very sensitive and caring for the entire animal world. The Bible does not separate a dog from other animals, it does not speak of any discrimination against a dog, it does not contain any prohibition on it. Dogs and the church have a long and common history, but even the church has not always been supportive of the dog. It was very rare that pets were allowed to be buried in consecrated ground, as dog owners sought before the courts, fighting for the right to have pets buried with them. Since dog owners were refused to bury their animals in church cemeteries, more and more private animal cemeteries appeared, often with very artistically executed tombstones.
In Christianity, there is an idea of the dog as a sacred symbol. So, Dante’s “hounds” mean the mysterious primary source of the Second Coming and at the same time the “Ghibelline emperor”. And the monks of the Catholic Order of St. Dominic deciphered their name “Dominicans” as “Dominis canes” – “the dogs of the Lord.”
Since the time of the Crusades, Judaism has begun to be sharply felt like a “foreign” religion, a Jew – as a “foreign”. It was the crusades, along with eschatological expectations, that activated the most ancient layers of the people’s beliefs. A 15th-century German engraving depicts the burning of a Jew. This is an obvious identification of a Jew and a dog. In Christianity, the dog, as an unclean animal, is opposed to the shrine and, accordingly, defiles the shrine. The dog is associated with pagans and in general with gentiles. In the Middle Ages, dogs were not revered as sacred animals, but quite the opposite. “Dog” and “son of a bitch” became the worst of swear words and curses. Christian civilization did not hide its contempt for dogs. Since 585, priests were forbidden to keep dogs in their homes, and the Church’s Charter wrote: “because of the noise that these animals make and because of their obscene behavior,” that is, the sexual behavior of dogs and the danger of rabies.
In the modern Christian world in Catholic countries, the “Day of the Animals” is celebrated annually on October 4. This holiday is associated with the name of St. Francis, the patron saint of animals. It is believed that through the prayer of St. Francis, the healing of domestic animals occurs. There is such a beautiful legend. A boy came to the monastery where the relics of St. Francis of Assisi are located and brought his beloved donkey, which had gone blind. This donkey was not only his assistant in daily work but also a great friend. She was so attached to her little master that she even learned to smile to please him. And so, when the donkey fell ill, the boy brought her to the monks and asked their prayers. However, the monks did not take the request seriously, because the child asked that some animal be healed. But Saint Francis appeared and ordered them to let the boy along with the donkey to his tomb. In order for the donkey to pass, the monks had to dismantle the entrance to the tomb, which was too low. The boy fell down to the tomb of the saint and with tears begged him to heal the animal. And a miracle happened: the donkey received its sight. Since then, Catholics have been praying to St. Francis for the health of their pets.
The Historical Institute of Numerous Catholic Saints considers dogs to be reliable companions. For example, the legend of St. Patrick from the 5th century – “Apostle of Ireland” speaks of dogs as constant companions of the saint, who often determined his piety in front of a man and reacted to it. There are also known images of Saint Margaret von Corton, wherein the hem of her skirt a dog is visible, which found her murdered husband and led Margaret to his body.
At one time, the nobles were reproached for bringing their Greyhounds with them to worship, after which their dogs attended mass outside the church. Therefore, people are accustomed to leaving open church doors or providing special doors for dogs. From this arose, for example, the tradition of giving approval to all animals at the church door.
The Orthodox Church considers dogs and other animals to be God’s creation. A person must take care of those whom he has tamed. In fact, the church does not prohibit keeping dogs in a house where there are icons. The dog just has to have its place there, different from the position of the person. Orthodox priests are people like all of us. Therefore, when they say that the priest forbids keeping a dog in the house, this is his personal opinion and not the church canon. The Orthodox have many prayer books about animals – companions and helpers of man – prayers for the blessing of the bee, prayers for the multiplication of the bee swarm, for the patronage of herds and shepherds, prayers for the loss of livestock, for the patronage of cattle, sheep, horses, pigs, geese and other waterfowl bird. Each type of farm animal has its own patron saint.
In Russia, there was a wonderful custom – the “horse holiday”, which was celebrated on the day of the holy great martyrs Florus and Laurus, the patrons of horses. Horses from all over the area were brought to the temples, performed solemn prayers, and sprinkled the animals with holy water. This healed horses from diseases and made them strong and resilient.
There are no prayers dedicated to dogs in Orthodox Christianity, but one should not forget that before a horse was for a person, a peasant what a dog is now – a close friend and helper. Therefore, in our time, Saints Florus and Laurus, and Hieromartyr Blasius are also prayed for the health of dogs. There is no sin in praying for the recovery of your dog to these saints. And there were cases when seriously ill dogs recovered through the tearful prayers of their owners. Somewhat earlier it was disrespectful to take dogs to church, especially since many believers could use their four-legged to guard and protect them.
True, there were churches (not of the Orthodox denomination) with special benches on which the owners and dogs were accommodated during the mass. Of course, the four-legged “parishioners” did not always behave with dignity. For example, in the English town of Durham, dogs rubbed between the ministers of the church and fiddled with each other, and during their molting, services were supposed to stop. In the church in Scotland, despite numerous attempts, the struggle against this phenomenon could not stop. And it so happened that suddenly the priest allowed himself to inform the parishioners that he would bet on the yellow dog, after which the whole community sat down to watch the performance. Over time, dogs have become an increasingly problematic problem for church leaders. In 1659, Bishop Wren, the uncle of the famous architect Sir Christopher Wren, ordered a special, very strong fence of the place where the sacrament was held, so that dogs could not penetrate it.
In the 17th century, dogs were again expelled from churches. Even a special position of the so-called “dog beaters” or “exorcists” was introduced, whose duty was not to let dogs into or out of the church.
In 1659, a wealthy man left a will for £ 8 annually from his estate to pay a poor man to keep dogs away from the church. In 1725 he left money behind in the Church of Staffordshire. In this case, the dog exorcist had to drive not only the dogs out of the church, but also make sure that the community was awake during the sermon. Thus, it was an unusual double task. The dog exorcist used, as a rule, a long pole with a foxtail at one end, with which he tickled sleeping women in the face, and with a knob on the other, he knocked sleeping men on the head. As a prestigious three-time assignment, he was to wake sleeping parishioners, as well as chase the dogs and keep the pulpit clean for a £ 13 pay.
St. Paul’s Cathedral in London was open six and a half days a week for dogs and was often in dire condition. On Sunday morning, the dog exorcist arrived half an hour before Mass to chase the dogs out of the church. It was reported that blind, injured animals and even puppies from the cathedral to the street were flying somersault. It was not uncommon for the dogs to slip unnoticed into the church during Mass, but as a rule, the dog exorcist caught them again after several attempts.
From the old records, it is clear that since 585 it was forbidden for priests to keep dogs. This was justified by the open manifestation of the sexual behavior of dogs, created by the noise and the danger of rabies. It is also evident from these records that Sunday Mass often had to take place without communion, as the dogs stole bread from the altar.
In Islam, traditionally, dogs are considered unclean animals, contact with which Muslims are prohibited. Unfortunately, most Muslims justify their hostility and hostility towards dogs by this, despite the fact that the Koran opposes any manifestations of cruelty, and all animals in it are described as “common to man.” A dog in Islam is considered “najis” – this biblical word is translated as “serpent”, that is, an unclean animal that can desecrate clothing, food, and the person himself. After desecration, any true believer is obliged to purify. There are special rules for what to do in these cases. There are hadiths where it is said that angels will not enter a house if there is a dog there. It is reported that Aisha said: “Once Jibril, peace be upon him, promised the Messenger of Allah, Dbe Aip, that he would come to him at a certain time, but when the time came, he did not appear.” And he threw away the staff, which he held in his hands, with the words: “Neither Allah nor His messengers will break the promises!” – and then turned and suddenly saw a puppy under his bed. He asked, “When did he come in?” I said: “By Allah, I did not know about him!” And at his behest this puppy was taken out, after which Jibril appeared to him, peace be upon him. The Messenger of Allah, Dbe Aip, said: “You promised me, and I was waiting for you, but you did not come to me!” He said: “The dog that was in your house did not allow me to do this, for, truly, we do not enter any house in which there is a dog or its image.”
According to legend, the dog bit the prophet, for this she was cursed. However, the Qur’an does not say this. At the same time, there are famous Arab dog breeds such as Saluki and other greyhounds. In the Emirates, they are very successful, they are carried with them on saddles and released only when approaching the game. In eastern countries, there is a beautiful legend about the origin of the greyhound dog: “Once King Solomon, according to the command received from God, ordered all the animals to appear at the meeting. At this meeting, each of them had to express their needs and desires and instead listen to both the inner organization of each, as well as his attitude to other creatures of the Creator. At the call of the king, all the animals gathered at the congress, except for the hedgehog. The prophet, enraged by such disobedience, turned to the upcoming members of the congregation with a question – if any of them would volunteer to go in search of the disobedient. From among the multitude of animals, only two hunters emerged: a horse and a dog. Their eyes shone with desire and readiness to fulfill the will of the king. The horse said: “I will find the rebellious, I will drive him out of the den, but I will not be able to take him, for this, I am too tall, and besides, my nostrils are not protected from the pricks of hedgehogs.” The dog said: “I am not afraid of prickly needles, but my muzzle is too thick, and I will not be able to slip it into the hedgehog’s den in case he hides there before I grab it.” After hearing this, the prophet said: “Yes, you are right. But I do not want to disgrace the horse by reducing its height, it would be a very bad reward for its diligence and obedience. I would rather add beauty to the dog in order to reward the zeal expressed by it. ” Having said this, the king took the animal’s face with both hands and stroked it until it became completely thin and pointed. Then all those present saw that the dog had turned into a slender, graceful greyhound. Both volunteers immediately set out in search and soon presented the stubborn animal to the king. King Solomon was very pleased, he punished the hedgehog severely, and showed special mercy to the horse and dog: considering obedience and fulfillment of decrees to be the highest dignity of every creature, the prophet, the chosen one of God, said to the horse and dog: “From now on you will be companions of man and the first after him in the face God ”.
Dogs are considered unclean only in Shiism. This is not the case in Sunni Islam, at least that’s what Mohammed said. According to Islam, dogs cannot be bought and sold, but at the same time, it is allowed to give them to someone. Sharia law allows keeping a dog only for protection (outside the house), in order to graze livestock and guard. You can also euthanize the dog if it is not possible to resolve the issue in an acceptable way. The Prophet’s hadith forbids keeping a dog for entertainment purposes.
In different cultures and at different historical times, dogs have had to endure great suffering as they were treated like ritual objects. Often practiced customs contained such ceremonies as a result of which the dogs were hurt and even resulted in their death.
In China, many dogs have suffered. There, dogs were killed for a variety of reasons, for example, for the manufacture of medicines.
Large dogs such as the Tibetan Mastiff were killed in old China because they were considered a symbol of loyalty and savagery. Women in love paid price caps for amulets made from them to ensure the loyalty of their men, they conjured the spirit of the dog, which was supposed to forbid a man from visiting other women. Instead, the spirit was supposed to show him the way to the woman in love with him. Often women were willing to pay more money for a small portion of Do Khyis than for one whole and live Pug or other small dogs.
Fortunately, this custom later transformed somewhat – they began to replace the dog’s head with a paper copy and use it as a fetish. These drawings were not only cheaper but also more practical. The woman explained to the dog fetish what she expected from him, then the image was burned and it was necessary to secretly sprinkle its ashes on the lover, or mix it into his tea. However, the custom of using a dog as a ritual sacrificial animal persisted for a very long time: they put dog meat or blood in front of the house in order to frighten the burglar, disease, or prevent the invasion of insects.
Not only in China but also in many other countries, dogs were used as medicine. Three doses of “dried dog” were supposed to relieve the child’s abdominal pain. In the 18th century, the Chinese used a relatively harmless method to calm a crying child. The dog’s short hair was plucked below the throat and then tied up in a red bag, which was placed in the baby’s arms, after which he allegedly immediately stopped crying.
It was also believed that witches who performed spells regularly could turn into dogs in order to use the evil powers that the devil had endowed them with. Goya, in the breathtaking painting La Transformation des Sorciers, depicted four witches in their hut, transforming into dogs during the process of witchcraft.
Dogs were considered the protective spirits of the witch, and the devil gave the witch if she entered into a contract with him, a small animal that was supposed to protect her. The protective spirit could pump the witch’s blood, renewing her strength and thus strengthening the bond between the devil and the witch. Here, it was not the transformation of witches into dogs that played a role, but the transfer of a protective spirit from the devil to them. There were people who considered themselves witch hunters; one of them, Matthew Hopkins, laid out the methods for defining them in his fascinating book.