Dogs in Witchcraft


Being “Mans” best friend, in this case man being the key word here I would think, the dog is one animal that is not often seen in assosocation with witches and witchcraft, as the dog unlike the cat has much more masculine associations, as well the dog’s wiles can be much more easily conditioned than a cat. While domesticated cats often still seem to share much in common with thier wild cousins and ancesestors, and have a strong independent streak, the dog can be more easily brought to heel to man’s rules and human behavior. And dogs typicaly share far less in comon with thier canine cousisins canus lupis.

But there are still some cases of dog devilry if you will.

Dogs as Familiars

A dog may be man’s best friend, but sometimes, that dog might be something even more: a familiar, or maybe even Satan himself. A fifteenth-century German manuscript (Eine spatmittellalterliche deutsche Anleitung zur Teufelsbeschworung mit Runenschriftverwendung> claimed the “Devil will come in the form of a black dog and will answer all questions” (Kieckhefer 162). The belief that the Devil takes the form of a dog was also prevalent in Lorraine, France. One typical story comes from Jean Gerard, who believed he had seen Claudatte Jean in the company of an unknown woman and a huge black dog before dawn. The accused owned no dog, and the group fled as Gerard approached (Briggs 109, 110).

In April 1590 or 1591 in Munich, Marco Antonio Bragadino, a would-be alchemist and accomplished swindler, was put to the torture and beheaded. His two black dogs were shot because they were considered ‘fiendish servants in the form of beasts'” (Kunze 385, 386).

Alice Kyteler was believed to have a dog familiar by the name of Robert or Robin Artisson, described as being a lesser demon (Russell 1972 191).

Dogs in Potions and Spellcraft

Occasionally, dogs and dog parts were incorporated in magic. The heart of a dog could be used to keep dogs from barking (Kieckhefer 75). Dog skulls were used to treat sick animals in Lorraine, France (Briggs 124). A fifteenth-century magic manual known as the Munich handbook included a recipe for a love spell. This spell involved taking the blood of a dove and using it to draw a naked woman on the skin of a female dog (Kieckhefer 7).

In addition, the blood of dogs was sometimes believed to be offered as a sacrifice to the Devil (Russell 1972 260).

Dogs were also used as one-time harvesters of the deadly mandrake root. The mandrake root would be extracted from the grount “by tying a rope around it and affixing the other end to a hungry dog, then throwing meat to the dog. The animal would pull the mandrake from the ground and would thus suffer its vengeance” (Kieckhefer 14).

In a similar fashion, although less fatal for the poor dog, was the medieval pagan belief that Christians conducted orgies.

The pagans had claimed that at the Christian orgy the lights would be extinguished in an extraordinary fashion: dogs were tied to the lamps and then tempted away with bits of meat so that, rushing to get the food, the animals would upset the lamps, upon which the orgy would proceed. Later witch literature reproduced this scenario with either a cat or a gog, which was assumed to be a manifestation of an evil spirit (Russell 1972 90, 91)..

*Image info: A witch riding a black dog from the 1926 bookLa Vie Execrable de Guillemette Babinby M.Carron.

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