Dogs as Spiritual Guardians
While science, mythology, and the practice of magick are distinct fields, all offer teachings about the role of the dog as a familiar.
Science Informs Our Understanding of the Species (1) (2)
Domesticated animals demonstrate the power of evolution and our effect on it, as we learn “species are always in flux” (Charles Darwin) and moldable by human effort. They represent an adaptive skill that leads them to be more powerful than indigenous species in much of the world: They learn to cooperate in mutually beneficial ways with various species, exchanging one kind of protection for another.
Dogs, who demonstrate superior social and emotional intelligence to many animals, soothe psychological pain and encourage teamwork.
Recent scientific inquiry supports the theory that they possess the average language intelligence of a human toddler, able to learn hundreds of words and phrases, as well as solve spatial problems.
More key to their survival and role in our homes, their ability to identify changes in mood and power shifts in a social climate far surpasses what many human beings can reliably manage.
They can sense when we are discouraged, sick, overwhelmed, or at a disadvantage, and often act to reduce this pain and guide their “pack” through it. They also offer teachings about manipulation and the need to safeguard one’s sense of authority, responsibility, and personal power.
Mythology Informs our Understanding of their Spiritual Role (3) (4) (5) (6)
In various ancient mythologies, animals from the genus Canis guarded the entrances to the underworld and worked as guardians and warriors. Dogs and similar creatures from the genus Canis represent the protectors of the soul when it undergoes death, pain, or transformation.
At the entrance to their underworld, the Greeks placed Cerberus, the three-headed dog with heads of snakes growing from his back, and a serpent’s tail. Cerberus was a ferocious guardian. He refused entry to the living and escape to the dead, protecting the two realms from the others’ influence.
In earlier dynasties, before they began focusing on Osiris, the Egyptians revered Anubis the half-man, half-jackal as Lord of the Dead, inventor of embalming, and conductor of souls.
In Norse mythology, Garm is the blood-stained hound at the gates of Hel, destined to battle at Ragnarok and engage in mutual destruction with a warrior god. On a journey to Hel, Odin meets Garm, who howls to announce the arrival.
Then Óðinn rose, | the enchanter old,
And the saddle he laid | on Sleipnir’s back;
Thence rode he down | to Niflhel deep,
And the hound he met | that came from hell.
Bloody he was | on his breast before,
At the father of magic | he howled from afar;
Forward rode Óðinn, | the earth resounded
Till the house so high | of Hel he reachedBaldrs draumar, an Eddic poem which appears in the manuscript AM 748 I 4to
Adopting a Familiar Dog Informs the Owner
Ultimately, adopting a dog or other canine as a familiar animal (remember to educate yourself first) not only brings a fun bundle of energy into your household. It protects you.
Your dog will become distressed (and if confident and well-taught, rush to soothe or protect) when you are under attack, psychologically or physically.
When in tune with the universe, you will come to recognize when someone is rifling through your life in an invasive way, by simply observing how your dog responds to the shift in energy.
As guardians of the soul, they dislike when a challenge or threat is issued to anyone in their pack and will respond visibly or audibly with their behavior.
While we may view them as under our protection, the dog’s spiritual role is to protect their charges, whether it be kin or the living dead. This is in line with their biological makeup as well as the social training we give them to encourage this.
This is why I believe dogs make excellent familiars for those practitioners who are engaging in shadow work, seeking out painful transformations and rebirths of the soul, or who experience high levels of vulnerability to outsiders.
American Psychological Association. (2009, August 10). Dogs’ Intelligence On Par With Two-year-old Human, Canine Researcher Says. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 29, 2020 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/08/090810025241.htm (1)
Vanacore, C. B. (2020, March 12). Dog. Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/animal/dog (2)
The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. (2020, February 7). Cerberus. Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/topic/Cerberus (3)
The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. (2019, February 28). Anubis. Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/topic/Anubis (4)
Turville-Petre, E. O. G., & Polomé, E. C. (2019, March 8). Germanic religion and mythology. Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/topic/Germanic-religion-and-mythology (5)
Baldrs draumar, an Eddic poem which appears in the manuscript AM 748 I 4to (6)