Published on May 11, 2011 by Amy
To me, dog meaning and symbolism rings my bells in the realms of communication, and I elaborate on that the theme of communication on my “Dog Meaning and Symbolism in the Tarot” article.
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I’ll let you in on a little secret: Once upon a time, the sound of barking dogs put my nerves in a “tilt.” Worse than scrapes down a chalkboard; barking and yapping dogs would send me in a nervous tailspin. I’m an audio-attuned person, and certain sounds just send rancor through my nerve-ranks.
Thankfully, that nerve-crushing reaction subsided when I met with an Iroquois native. Naturally perceptive, she noticed my jangled state while we were passing a group of neighborhood canines. Acting on her observations, she took the time to explain the intricacies and importance of “dog-speak.” She shared with me how canine language is complex and vital to how dogs communicate their well-being (or otherwise), their views and the status of their community. Embracing her Iroquoian wisdom, I viewed (heard) dog-speak in a whole new light.
Now, every time I hear dogs baying in my awareness – I get quiet. I listen. I realize their speech is an opportunity to gain vital information on the status of my environment (and theirs). Intonation, pitch, guttural inflection, repetitious patterns….they all contribute to the overall message a dog is conveying. If you listen close, you can pick up on their language. It can be a true oracle. Try it sometime.
A short-list of dog meaning includes symbolic attributes like:
The theme of communication becomes heightened when we peer into histories and discover dog meaning and symbolism is connected to the metaphysical realms. The dog has long been considered a liaison between the physical and non-physical dimensions. Ancient Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Celtic and beyond have all prescribed the dog as a sacred guardian of the Otherworlds – those realms outside our daily/mundane experience. If you hear of dogs being symbols of death – this is the connection: Dogs are the guardians of ephemeral domains, and can even serve as spirit guides in non-physical journeys.
Consider Anubis, the Egyptian god whose charge is to insure safe transitions from common reality (physical life on Earth) into the Afterlife experience. With the head of a jackal (of canine ilk), Anubis dons the super-powerful sensory perception of the dog. Further, that dog connection represents the epitome of protection, guidance, loyalty and adherence to the flow of unseen spiritual energy. To be sure, safe passage from “life” to Afterlife will be seen to success under the governance of the dog/jackal-headed Anubis. In this ancient light, we get distinct impressions of: Security, Guardianship, Protection.
Dogs are sacred to Hecate, the Greek-Roman overseer of lots of things – but surely a matron bound to protect that which is misunderstood. It seems (to me) where there is senseless lashing out against that which is misunderstood, Hecate comes ferociously in justification – her dogs baying with equal verve at her side. Death, darkness, wild wandering, lunar moodiness, midnight journeying…Hecate defends the soul’s right to wander in these little-known, oft-misunderstood alleyways. With her highly perceptive hounds guiding the way (and protecting the body as the spirit wanders), astral travel becomes eons easier.
Interestingly, Hecate and her hounds will also speak for (and protect) those who cannot do so for themselves. Newborns. Hecate and her dogs represent an
“Alliance for Defense and Protection” to those who cannot defend themselves: Babies, Children, the Meek, the Mild, the Mad and the unjustly Maligned.
In Celtic symbolism, dogs are a representation of heroism. They embody heart-pounding attributes such as: Courage, Persistence, Virility. This, in large part is due to a Celtic dog’s role in hunting. Dogs were even trained by the ancient Celts to assist in battle. So here we see that same thread of defense, protection and action for the good of the clan. An interesting paradox: Celtic dogs are also symbolic of healing. They are often associated with Nodens, a Celtic god of nutritive waters, hunting and healing (water is often synonymous with healing in Celtic wisdom). Dogs have also been portrayed with Sucellus, the Celtic god of protection and provision (from an agricultural view).
Native American Indian tribes have long depended upon the dog for their helpful guidance and assistance in everyday chores. Before horses, there were dogs and they were trained to help the tribe in agricultural efficiency as well as hunting. In fact, when horses were introduced to North America by the Spaniards, the term “sky dogs” was dubbed for horses because they were as helpful as their canine allies. In Native American wisdom dogs convey symbolism of: Assistance, Fidelity, Community, Protection, Friendship and Communication.
In Chinese symbolism, dogs are also considered a harbinger of friendship. The legendary Fu Dog is also a guardian of sacred spaces and embodies concepts of protection too. Dogs are considered very auspicious. In Asian wisdom dogs are symbols of: Good Luck, Loyalty, Obedience and Prosperity.
One of my favorite symbolic associations with dogs is through the field of Alchemy. The dog (and sometimes wolves) is associated with Mercury in alchemical wisdom. Why? Because Mercury is easily fused with other metals. This hints to amicable bonds (friendship) and ties that bind with ease. Mercurial dogs are also symbolic of: Transition, Intelligence, and easy flow through the processes of transmutation.