Tales of creepy black dogs, known as hellhounds, have been told across the world and throughout the centuries. The most famous is Cerberus of Greek mythology. This monstrous three headed dog guarded the gates of the Greek Underworld. He kept the ghosts from escaping their afterlife. Besides the three head, Cerberus supposedly possessed a serpent’s tale, a mane of snakes, and lion’s claws. He also had the duty of keeping intruders out of the Underworld, but he didn’t do as well as that. Maybe it was his weakness for honey cakes. The Sybil threw a drugged honey cake to him that put him asleep and allowed Aeneus to pass into the Underworld and speak with the ghost of his father.
In Norse mythology Garmr is the hellhound guardian of Helheim (Underworld) and Hel’s pet. It had four eyes and a chest dripping with blood. It could also be appeased by cakes by those who had given bread to the poor. (Seeing a pattern here?) Garmr’s howling signals Ragnarok and it will join with the giants against the gods. Tyr will kill it but will die to the wounds Garmr inflicts.
There is also another type of hellhound referred to as black dogs, who appear all over the British Isles. They are ghostly with glowing eyes, sometimes red, green, or yellow. They are rumored to be associated with the devil, which is probably where the term hellhound comes from. The appearance of the black dog is associated with death. One of the most famous is the Black Shuck. This creature is known to haunt the coast of East Anglia. It loves to roam graveyards, crossroads, and dark forests. However, it’s what it did at one church in Suffolk that makes this dog famous. With a clap of thunder it burst through the doors of the church, ran through the body of the church, and killed a man and a boy. It caused the church’s steeple to collapse through the roof of the church (That’s probably what killed the man and boy). It left scorch marks on the door when it left.
The Cŵn Annwn come from Welsh myth. Their name means the “hounds of Annwn” which is the otherworld. They are associated with the Wild Hunt and, supposedly, their growling is loudest when they are the farthest away. As the come closer it grows softer. Creepy, huh? People view them as a death portent as well.
So, most hellhounds are associated with death and/or hell. In A Prescription for Delirium, my hell hounds are werewolves possessed by demons. So, they actually are from hell. There are many more stories of different types of black dogs. You should really check them out.
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