(Canine) Guardians of the Corpse Ways
December 6, 2014 2:00 PM   Subscribe

Guardians of the Corpse Ways is a thorough one-stop resource for all of your canine Underworld mythological needs. Why did countless cultures associate dogs with the realm of the dead? Here's a tiny sample: "The essence of the hellhound is his intermediary position - at the border of this world and next, between life and death, hope and fear, and also (given its pairing with the dog of life) between good and evil. For this role, the dog is perfectly suited, being the domestic species par excellence, the tamed carnivore who stands midway between animal and human, savagery and civilization, nature and culture [26]. 'The growl of the hellhound is yet another expression of this liminal position, for the growl is a halfway station between articulate speech and silence. It is a speech filled with emotion and power, but utterly lacking in reason. Like death itself, the hellhound speaks, but does not listen; acts, but never reflects or reconsiders. Driven by hunger and greed, he is insatiable and his growl is eternal in duration. In the last analysis, the hellhound is the moment of death, the great crossing over, the ultimate turning point.' [27]"

Likewise, the article Wolf Rites of Winter begins with an ancient cultural mystery: "When the team got to work analyzing all the animal bones in the lab, they identified the remains of about 51 dogs and seven wolves, as well as six canines that could not be classified as either. At other Timber Grave sites, dog and wolf bones never make up more than 3 percent of the total animal bones found. At Krasnosamarskoe, they made up more than 30 percent." Leading to the interpretation that: "At the end of their training, during a midwinter ceremony, the 16-year-old boys ritually 'died' and journeyed to the underworld. Then they painted their bodies black and wore dog-skin cloaks. Brown and Anthony think that the boys of Krasnosamarkskoe may have also had to kill their own dogs as the final step in becoming a trained killer."

Related: Research into canine genealogy suggests that Anubis might have been an African wolf.
posted by quiet earth (8 comments total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
 
I've read that the Ancient Greek root of the name "Cerberus" means "spotted."

The dread, three-headed canine guardian of the Underworld is named Spot.
posted by Faint of Butt at 2:25 PM on December 6, 2014 [8 favorites]


Who's a good guardian of the paths of the Underworld?

YOU ARE! OH YES YOU ARE! AND YOU! AND YOU!
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:06 PM on December 6, 2014 [11 favorites]


A clear example from British archaeology is two dogs found with an impressive alignment of wooden posts at the Flag Fen neolithic/bronze age complex near Peterborough. These animals seem to have been ritually killed

I'm heard of "RUFF" jobs... but THIS is RIDICULOUS!!!!
!!
posted by Greg Nog at 3:17 PM on December 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'm heard of "RUFF" jobs...

Definitely a "'K?" "Nein!" sort of situation.
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:09 PM on December 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


Sounds like THIS cthonic vision of terror striding the liminal space of human order and the wilderness which mirrors the untamable tendrils of our own psyche is.. "BARK"ing up the wrong tree!!!
posted by Greg Nog at 4:42 PM on December 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


a thorough one-stop resource for all of your canine Underworld mythological needs...

This is one of those things I wasn’t sure I really needed, but now – thanks to this post – I’m reconsidering.
posted by LeLiLo at 5:44 PM on December 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


Moving doggedly on; the dog is the messenger of Yama, the angel of Death.
posted by adamvasco at 6:00 AM on December 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


Why did countless cultures associate dogs with the realm of the dead?

Maybe because dogs love dead shit? That's what I always assumed. I don't think I've seen anything bring a dog as much joy as finding a nice, ripe carcass to roll around in, which can be hilarious.
At a safe distance.
If it's not your dog.
posted by Trinity-Gehenna at 10:19 AM on December 7, 2014 [2 favorites]


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