I’ve long been familiar with Grims and the Black Hounds rumored to haunt the countryside and moors of England. One of my earliest Mythical Monday posts was about Black Dogs. Recently, however, while researching an unrelated subject, I stumbled over a reference to Church Grims and was immediately enthralled.
A large black hound, the Church Grim has a specific charge. It is the folk memory of a sacrifice.
I don’t know about you, but I had chills the first time I read that sentence. Sacrifice? Folk memory?
Let me explain.
It was once believed the first burial in a cemetery was tasked with the duty of protecting the dead. Under obligation, the guardian was responsible for keeping departed souls safe from the Devil and his night-spawned demons. For this purpose, a dog was often sacrificed or buried alive within the foundation of a new church, thus allowing human souls (who followed) to move on to the afterlife. The folk memory of that sacrifice became a spirit bound to the church and its cemetery.
The dog (or grim) was often seen on stormy nights, prowling among the headstones. If someone within the parish was about to die, the grim would cause the church bells to ring, signaling death was near. During funerals the creature rang the bells to signal a soul’s departure.
Despite the ruthless manner of its death, the Church Grim was a loyal guardian, protecting all within its domain.
What intrigues me about this legend more than anything is the idea that a “folk memory” can give birth to a spirit. Think of the story potential! Whether benevolent or malignant, I fell in love with the concept. It’s definitely going on my “to write” list.
What do you think?