The Dog

Dogs are often intimately part of both our visible and dream worlds, valued for their loyalty, guidance and protectiveness, as playmate, companion or working dog. Due to this familiarity, when a dog appears in a dream it may be easier to assimilate than a wild animal. 

Image credit: Howling dog by Paul Klee, Article in The Wallstreet Journal Online, A Lifechanging Art Encounter

An experienced dog handler once told me that you never stroke a stranger’s dog; you never know; similarly, when a dog appears in a dream, one has to determine whether it is a helper or not; the context within which it appears may assist one. Barbara Hannah highlights four opposing characteristics of the dog as an archetypal visitor: as friend-betrayer; guide-hunter; watchdog-thief, and as licking wounds and eating grass, as healer. (1)

Because they howl to the moon, the dog was the companion and protector of the Moon Goddesses of old, later replaced by the lion. Like the moon that dies and are regenerated again anew every month, dog sacrifices were known to have been made at least since 6000 BCE. Sometimes they are depicted together with butterflies signifying transformation. (2)

As carrion eaters, ‘cleaning’ away the dead, they were originally part of funerary rites which earned them the role of guardians of the beyond. Greek Cerberus is guardian of the Western gate, associated with Hecate, searching for the souls of the departed. In Egyptian mythology, Anubis the gold-collared jackal/dog is guardian of the beyond and guide of the journeying Osiris through the underworld, overseeing the process of transformation and rebirth.  

Sirius the dog star is said to be the brightest star in the heavens. It is the star of Isis, searching for the dismembered Osiris, the star of the way. Scent and smell govern the life of a dog, tracking the way. (2)

Artemis as Lady of the Hunt is often depicted with her hounds. When Acteon saw her bathing, saw the goddess unveiled, she was offended, turned him into a stag and he was torn to pieces by his own hounds, sacrificed. The bath, the nakedness of the Goddess and the tearing to pieces of the sacred king, was all part of an inner drama of death and renewal. (3)

References:

  1. Barbara Hannah. The Archetypal Symbolism of Animals: Lectures Given at the C.G. Jung Institute, Zurich, 1954-1958 (Polarities of the Psyche) (Kindle Location 659). Kindle Edition.
  2. Buffie Johnson, Lady of The Beasts, Inner Traditions International, Vermont, US, 1994. Page 114 – 7
  3. Barbara Walker, The Woman’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets, HarperCollins, 1983. Page 58 – 60