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Black Dogs

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Also known as: Shock, Old Shuck, Black Shuck, Black Angus, Gwyllgi, Moddey Dhoo, Mauthe Dogs, Strikers, Skrikers, Shrikers, Trash, Tchi-Co, Spectre-hounds, Glassensykes, Gytrash, Gurt Dogs, Barguests, Padfoots, Thost Dogs, Hairy Jacks, Cappels, Capelthwaites, Le Tchan de Bouole, Cu Sith, Dogs of Darkness, Hooters, Muckle Black Tykes, Farvann.
Numerous locations across the British Isles have long been reputed to be haunted by large phantom dogs. Depending on location and individual, these weird hounds can either be savage and deadly, or otherwise protective or disinterested. Either way their apparitions seem unnatural and alarming. Though some may indeed be closely associated with Shape-shifting Bogies, Barguests and Phookas, other people believe them to be manifestations of the Devil or Demons, Ghosts of either hounds or human murderers, murder victims or suicides, that they are the guardian spirits of particular places or that they are transformed Witches and Sorcerers.


 

The Wild Hunt

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Many local legends proclaim the sightings of a spectral hunt embarking across ground and sky. The Wild Hunt may at times sweep up an unlucky mortal into their unholy throng. Should they actually survive the ordeal then they would likely be tainted so deeply by their heinous activity that they would be caused immense mental and spiritual, if not also bodily, damage. The procession of the Hunt is comprised of many hellish dogs, some of which may even breathe fire and should such a cavalcade pass directly over a house then it was often thought that death or misfortune would soon call within. The Wild Hunt is commonly presided over by a single Wild Huntsman or Midnight Hunter. Often this figure is cloaked and wears a wide-brimmed hat that casts his features in shadow. There is also debate about what the actual quarry of the Wild Hunt may be, but it is often considered that the desired prey is lost souls. There are numerous local names for The Wild Hunt including the Wist Hounds, the Furious Horde and the Gabriel Hounds.


 

Alien Big Cats

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Whilst reported sightings of suspected Puma, Leopard and other Alien Big Cats have increased in Britain and Ireland in recent times, there is nothing to suggest that this is a purely modern phenomena. In the far past, the Highland Scots knew these beasts as the Cait Sith and believed that they were transformed Sorcerers. The large Demon-Cats of Ireland sometimes bore the ability to speak and were frequently considered to be the guardians of hidden treasure.
Arthurian legend also mentions Alien Big Cats in relating the battle between Arthur and the Demon Cat of Losanne, and the tale of Sir Cai (or alternatively King Arthur himself) versus Palug’s Cat (also known as the Anglesey Cat , the Chapul or Cath Palug). An old Irish tale also speaks of a ferocious conflict between a hero named Ceatach and the large, aggressive Great Cat of the Cave - and a 15th Century legend from Barnburgh in Yorkshire relates how a man named Percival Cresacre battled with a giant Wood Cat till their mutual destruction.


 

Church-Grims

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Grims or Kegrims are animal spirits that most frequently inhabit churches and burial grounds. Though their appearance may alarm the unwary, their presence may be there by device as it is their intention to protect the hallowed ground and not to defile it. It has been commented that as the oldest churches were being built, or before the first body was consigned to a necropolis, an animal was sacrificed and buried in the foundations. It was thus believed that its spirit would rise and protect the grounds from evil and wrongdoers. Alternatively it was believed that the first body to be interred in a graveyard would be claimed by the Devil. Therefore to spare a human whatever torment or servitude lay in store, the carcass of an animal would instead be buried first. Some church spirits however were not invited and not welcome. Such entities were often assumed not to be the actual spirits of animals but instead were Demons or the souls of dead Malefactors that had assumed the guise of a natural creature. Some of these evil spirits proved very difficult to exorcise or remove. In Wales such devilish spirits were most prone to take the form of horrendous black-skinned pigs, but there has been a considerable variety of strange creatures reported haunting hallowed grounds.


 

Tash

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Also known as: Thevshi, Thivishes, Animal-Ghosts.
These Ghosts may manifest in human form, but more frequently will assume an animal form. The particular species of creature can vary greatly and it is not known whether the selection is achieved randomly, by choice, or is somehow reflective of the deceased person’s character in life. Though they are sometimes astral, the Tash may sometimes display a more fleshy form and therefore it is also uncertain whether the Tash’s animal manifestation is a spirit-form or physical, suggesting reincarnation or a transmigration of souls. Many Tash however can be differentiated from regular animals by their ability to speak in a human tongue. Tash are commonly thought to be the souls of those who had died a violent death either as a result of suicide, murder or accidental folly. Their presence at the scene of their demise is thought to either bring attention to the area or to mark a cautionary warning to those still living.


 

Galley-Trots

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The Galley Trots or Wulvers are a peculiar hybrid of canine and human parts, and are associated mainly with old burial grounds and ancient buildings. Their presence was once thought to indicate that valuable items or money was hidden somewhere in the nearby vicinity. There was also again the suspicion that to see a Galley Trot was an omen of approaching death. In parts of Wales, tales are told about the Dog of Death. This strange white hound was rumoured to suddenly appear when serious disease or injury was in the air and to then sit mournfully outside the home of the terminally ill person.


 

Glashtin

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Also known as: Howlers, Howlies, Glastyn, Cow-lug Sprites.
The Glashtin are a strange Fay species which at times may assume an odd humanoid form, but more frequently will appear as a strange blend of equine and bovine parts. Glashtin may often be heard rather than seen, however, hence their alternative name of ‘Howlers’. Their eerie cries may have the benefit of warning humans about approaching storms, however the Glashtins’ wailing is likely to arise out of joy not fear and some people suspect that these creatures may actually cause harsh weather. The Glashtin most frequently will appear as either cows with horses’ heads or alternatively as horses with cows’ heads. The bovine headed Glashtin are considered to be quite excitable and moronic, whilst the equine headed Glashtin are thought to be of a more astute intellect. They are generally of regular farmyard proportions, though may sometimes be smaller. In humanoid form the Glashtin either appear as a handsome young man with curly dark hair and sparkling eyes, or as a strange child-like being. Either way their ears will be pointed or like those of a cow or horse.


 

Boobries

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The Boobrie is a weird, unpleasant water-bird that is generally only encountered by sailors and passengers at sea. These grotesque birds tend to prey on ships carrying livestock. The Boobrie’s hunting strategy usually consists of mimicking the call of a lamb or calf (or whatever animal the vessel is carrying). Should an adult animal then stray over to investigate, the Boobrie would grasp it in its horrid talons, drag it overboard and drown it. Obviously the human mariners would attempt to thwart the Boobrie’s bizarre rustling, however other Boobries may attempt to distract the sailors by assuming the form of horses and running across the surface of the water. Should the Boobrie be denied its quarry it is said to bellow like an angry bull.


 

Griffins

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Griffins (Gryphons or Griffons) are fearsome creatures that have the head, wings, plumage and talons of an eagle but the body, legs and tail of a lion. They can either be bland or vibrantly coloured and they often stand taller than horses. Though Griffins are far more common to the lore of Russia, India and the Middle East, they are mentioned in the British tale of ‘Jack the Giant -Killer’ and are a familiar motif of heraldry. The terrible Griffins encountered by Jack (either in Wales or Cornwall) guarded a magnificent hoard of treasure shared by a Wrath and a Wizard. Griffins were also employed as guardians of the enchanted apple orchard of Hesperides, as related by an old Irish tale. A Griffin was also said to guard an old well in Griffydam, Leicestershire.


 

Werewolves

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Most celebrated amongst the Theriomorphs (humans that assume animal form either mentally, or through complete physical transformation) are the Lycanthropes or Werewolves. Though the lore of Lycanthropy (from the Greek Luk Anthropia meaning Wolf Man) is far richer in France and across the European mainland, where the causes and cures of such (generally fatal) conditions are discussed in great detail, the older sources inform us that Werewolves were also present in these isles. Some tales relate episodes of cannibalism or of individuals with a truly bestial nature and although there is no shortage of shape-shifters in British lore, tales of specific Werewolves are vague (though there was apparently a Werewolf epidemic in Devon in 1195 and again in 1700). In Irish lore, there are more Werewolf tales to be found as well as vague allusions to Conoels (She-Wolves), and to Celtic outsiders called Sirites who were feared able to assume the form of both wolf and bat at will.


 

Bizarre Beasts

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There are many Celtic and Anglo-Saxon tales about animals, for those people realised that there is far more to these beings than we now imagine. Birds could fly through the mist-gates at will, enabling them to pass back and forth between the Otherworld and the place we know as reality. Giant Wild Boar or Brawns displayed both great cunning and ferocity, making them a formidable adversary for any would-be heroes. Cats are a law unto themselves, and thus some people believed them to actually be a distinct Faerie race. Many animals could also in fact be the transformed bodies of Witches - Hares being a popular example, whilst Toads, Bats and other creatures displayed qualities that often saw them end up as ingredients in Witches' Brews. There are also pure Faerie Hounds, Cattle, Deer and other creatures which may often be distinguished by their white pelts and reddish eyes.


 

The Horse Goddess

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Horses are the sacred animals of the Celtic Goddess Epona, who was herself sometimes represented as either being a horse, or at least having a horses’ head (most frequently though she is represented as a maiden sitting side-saddle upon a horse). Epona was known by various other names including Eponina, Potia, Ipona, Atanta, Catona, Epotia, Vovesia, Dibonia and Rhiannon, depending upon particular Celtic tribes. Several Celtic tales relate how journeys to the Otherworld were often made on horseback. However, though the ancient Britons and Gaels regarded horses as being both valuable and sacred, this does not mean that these creatures were beyond being ceremoniously sacrificed, as tales of Celtic nobles relate how on certain significant occasions they would feast upon and bathe in a broth stewed of horse flesh and bones.


 

All artwork and text © Andrew L. Paciorek

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