The Black Dog-emissary of the Devil

“The Black Dog’s day will come yet”. This is an English translation of a Gaelic saying. In Scottish folklore, dogs were often seen as messengers of the Devil or sometimes even the Devil himself, particularly if they were dark in colour. Some folk believed that black dogs were witches in temporary disguise while others felt they were ghosts of the departed. Fans of Harry Potter will remember Fluffy,  the three-headed dog who guarded the trapdoor to  the Philospher’s Stone. Similar roles were assigned to dogs in folk tales as guardians of underground treasure. There is another theory, however, that black dogs were souls of the condemned, forced to take that form as punishment for their crimes.

Black Dogs as ghosts. Courtesy of medbherenn.com

One such example is the Ghost o’ Mause, from the early 18th century in Perthshire. The black dog made a number of appearances to a farmer in the area. The farmer discovered that the dog was the ghost of David Souter, a murderer. Before he died, Souter had hidden a victim near the farm and his spirit was condemned to roam the area as a black dog until the bones of his victim were given a Christian burial. The body was eventually dug up and placed in a coffin in the local graveyard. The dog was never seen again after this. However. in 1940 there was a sighting of a black dog recorded at East Gormack farm not far from where the dog had originally appeared before the farmer. In the 1960s, there was a another sighting even closer to the scene along the road where the corpse was hidden. A couple, James and Moira Ferguson were driving home from Braemar in the Cairngorms mountain range. They had just passed the Bridge of Cally when a dog came out from the trees. It was reddish-brown in colour and it’s feet weren’t touching the ground, suggesting it could have been the ghost of David Souter.

A similar story is told of Banffshire in the Northeast of Scotland. For a year there were sightings of a green lady in the area. She was the ghost of a woman who had killed and robbed a pedlar and hidden his gold in the area. The lady sometimes took the form of a black greyhound. One woman had an encounter with the green lady and the ghost told her where she had hidden the gold. She asked the woman to find the gold and send it to the peddlar’s widow in Leith in Edinburgh. When the money was sent to Leith, the woman and dog disappeared from the area, never to be seen again.

In 1955 another sighting of a black dog occurred in Aberdeenshire. John Stewart, a piper at the Highland Gatherings was out walking at night when he saw a large dog come through a fence and approach him along the road. The piper put out his hand to pat the dog but it just went right through the animal. There was nothing there. The man was also sure that he had seen the same dog seven years earlier at Kenmore in Loch Tay.

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2 thoughts on “The Black Dog-emissary of the Devil

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