A dream of a black dog

Last night I had a short, frightening dream that I could use help interpreting. I dreamed I was walking down a side road in some town, apparently in the South, because the sides of the road were sand. There were various small tin trailers (like Airstreams) and tiny little houses painted aqua and other fifties colors around in that area. I wasn’t sure if I was lost in the dream. There were no people around and no cars going by. It was silent, and the light had an odd quality, like either near dusk or before a storm. I was coming towards a main road when down that road a ways I saw a huge black dog trotting along in a business-like fashion. It was a heavily built, muscular black dog. I am not good with dog breeds. It had short hair. I didn’t see a collar.

When I saw the dog, I realized that I had seen this same dog before in a previous dream some time ago, and in that dream it had attacked and killed me. I thought this dog must have been stalking me through dream all this time and now by accident or design had finally found me. But I corrected myself and said no, dogs can’t stalk people like that. It’s just a dog. But I didn’t believe that either. It was no ordinary dog.

I looked around from where I’d come but could see nowhere to hide. I didn’t think of calling for help because I knew no one could help me. Danger was too imminent, for one thing. I knew I could not run fast enough to get away from a dog. There were trees around, but they were the kind of tall pine trees they have in the South that don’t have any branches until very high up–impossible to climb. I walked toward the main road thinking maybe the dog wouldn’t notice me, but it did, and it came right towards me, not trotting any faster, but with determination, its eyes fixed on me.

In this dream I was wearing a fatigue jacket like one I had in high school in 1971. In real life, that jacket had the image of Thoth in his ibis-headed form embroidered on the sleeve. In the dream, though, there was no Thoth on the arm of my jacket. It was plain. I thought maybe the jacket could somehow protect me but realized it would be no protection against the teeth of a large attacking dog.

As the dog neared, I could see that around its mouth and jaw where white hairs, as if it were not a young dog at all. Yet it in no way looked decrepit or elderly. It was a mature dog, a dog that had seen some stuff. The dog came down the side road right at me and leapt, snarling. I raised my arm and turned partly away to shield myself, knowing it would do no good. I wondered if this were my fate, to die by being attacked by a dog. It was a disappointing thing to think I would die in such a pointless way. The impression of the dog’s paws on me was intense. The dog’s claws were long. I could also faintly smell the dog. Its head was huge, and it opened its mouth to bite me, but instead of biting me on the face or head, the dog bit the air to the right side of my head, as if something was there. I knew I was alone on the road, though. I thought, I cannot be so lucky that the dog will be unable to bite me. I jerked back from the dog and woke up, having jerked myself awake. End of dream.

Black has become a really important color for me and maybe has been important for me for a long time magically. The Dark Spirit of the Crossroads who spoke to me in dreams years ago was a black man. The familiar that has helped me recently is black and silver. And of course the one recurring black thing in my life is black jimsonweed, the Datura Spirit, which has in the past appeared as a black/green spikey figure and also as a black dwarf–completely black, like licorice, not the color of a black person.  That was a terrifying vision in which the black dwarf creature considered ripping out my spine for the hell of it as I lay there on my bed. This dream of the black dog was frightening but nothing like that in terror level. And finally, this summer I determined to work more closely and deliberately with the plant I call the Black Toad: black nightshade, Solanum nigrum. I planted 30 seedlings a week or so ago. I intend to make wine from the berries as a magical act. Maybe it will make me sick, although it shouldn’t harm me at all, according to all I have read. Last night I decided I would combine it with elderberry, which I can get dried in large quantity, because I thought I might not harvest enough black nightshade berries to make a wine.

Re dogs, I should say that in real life I was menaced by a large dog a few months ago while out walking at night, but it was a brown and white dog of a different type, and it went to grab my ankle when I turned my back. I was frightened to walk at night for a while but have since gone back to it. I’ve had dreams of a dog-thing (the were pup) trying to get into the house, but it was quite easy to push out and it was not black. I’ve dreamed of a gray werewolf that I came to accept as an aspect of myself as witch. The one black dog that comes to my mind is, of course, the black dog that is supposedly killed when harvesting mandrake, a plant I love. I have always thought this black dog death was a reference to previous rites to Hekate associated with the mandrake, since the black dog is her animal, or one of them, and black puppies were sacrificed to her in ancient times.

So I’m wondering–is this black dog a spirit and if so, what kind? It doesn’t help that when I went to look up the symbolism of black dogs in dreams, that it is mostly something bad, like an impending disaster in one’s life, or death itself. But then why does it bite the air beside my head? It doesn’t feel like it’s protecting me. It feels like it just can’t quite get where I am. Like it’s targeting is a little off.

The image I chose to go with this post is by Goya, fittingly enough from his so-called Black Paintings, the time when he also painted that very famous picture of the goat thing talking to the circle of witches. This painting is called simply The Dog. I have no idea what it is supposed to mean, but I have always felt it was quite sinister.

I’d appreciate any feedback about what this dream might possibly mean.

14 comments to A dream of a black dog

  • Dreams are always personal to the dreamer, do dream dictionairies etc can be wrong as can I
    In my eyes I saw the dream as being about a fear you have carried with you through life that is stopping you progressing. The dog symbolises your fear
    Going by the age of the dog/fear it is probably from your childhood. It is one of those things fate throws at us which we cannot escape. You cannt hide from it and if you keep running it could destroy you. But I also am sure you can face your fears

  • I remember reading about a thing occuring in the British Isles.
    People would see black dogs patrolling certain roads, but the dogs were not there in flesh.
    IIRC they have even a name for them ‘Black Chuck’.

    Dogs sometimes were the first thing buried in a new grave yard, because the belief was, that the first soul buried there, would guard the grounds forever.

    Also in shamagical terms a guide or spirit animal can attack and challenge – even kill – you, to see if you are ready for it and its message/teaching.
    Of course the Celtic underworld dogs spring to mind, too.

    Not much of interpreting, just tossing around a few things that came to mind.

  • FaustianBargain

    I can’t interpret it for you, but I can tell you the first though that came to me…I think something needs to die inside you..a belief or a fear or a misunderstanding you have cultivated about how the world(our physical world) operates. You are keeping something alive and not letting it die. This thing stops you from trusting people completely..you should let it die. Let the dog kill it.

    (well…the ‘thought’ literally lasted for two seconds maybe..it took longer for me to type it ..lol)

  • Simon Tomasi

    I’m new to your blog, so not sure if this will be of any use… But it reminds me of a reference to Abraham Ibn Ezra who supposedlyhad an encounter with black dogs that were demons. He fell ill after his encounter and died 6 years later. With regards to the dog biting beside your head, it could be attempting to strike at the parts of your soul that are not clothed within the body but those that surround the body, in particular the head.
    Hopefully that is of some use. If I had this dream, I’d be rushing out to get better protection against demons.

  • Hmm…well dream interpretation is very reliant on color and emotion. You seem somewhat familiar with the type of area, so the big question is: what do those things represent to you? Do airline trailers have some significance (i.e. used to live in a trailer, hate what trailer represent, etc.)?

    There’s a LOT of lore about black dogs, especially if you start doing ghost research. Seeing one (in the physical) is supposed to foretell a death or disaster (i.e. the Grimm in Harry Potter). That is however from the perspective on non-magickal folks, and we know there’s usually more to it than that, don’t we? ;)

    I would simply say that it is a powerful entity, and I would agree that it is challenging/testing you. Kudos for not running, by the way, chances are that would have been an indicator that you WEREN’T ready for whatever-it-is. Did you try to escape, the last time it showed up? mayhaps that’s why it killed you. This time you didn’t run, and it didn’t kill you. If you’re not ready yet, you’re getting closer at least. That’s my thought.

    Again, ideas. Not an answer, but really the only one who can figure out the answer is you. ;) Hope this has helped some though.

  • Marlon Hartshorn

    This is so interesting. Artemidorus Daldianus wrote Oneirocritica (Interp of Dreams). He was a Greek diviner. I did a youtube vid covering the book. He talked about dogs dividing them into 3 categories: dogs raised for hunting purposes, dogs that track & dogs that rush 2) dogs raised to guard one’s posessions 3) Maltese lap dogs. I can email you the entire bit on dogs if you want. The dog in your dream seems to be more of the first group, a dog that tracks or is a threat. He said dogs trained for the hunt signify profits from abroad, business transactions. In the second group, watch-dogs signify a man’s wife, his household & the possessions he has acquired…if the dogs are angered or bark or bite, it signifies injuries and great harm from these people. He even added in color denoting that if dogs are white the attacks are in the open, if black the attacks will be concealed. They often predict fever since the star Sirius which causes fever is called the dog-star by some men, for the hound is a violent & inconsiderate animal & resembles a fever in this way.

    Take it for what you will, but it sounds to me like you are being attacked by someone who is concealing their activities & you are picking up on it. You were wearing a fatigue jacket, which means you already subconsciously were prepared to kinda fit into the scenery & not be seen – a big sign to me that you were trying to blend in & not be attacked. Just food for thought. I had a dream a while back of a black crow eating a dog’s eyes out & I was watching. The crow showed up in real life high atop a light fixure at a Target store I was at one day. Very weird feeling. I hope this at least gives you some inspiration. Marlon

  • From your description, clearly an Otherwordly place.

    I know in some traditions, facing a series of horrific nightmares is a stage on down the path. I believe it had to do with facing your deepest fears and working your way through to the other side. (Since I’ve not gotten there, and it’s not my tradition, I don’t know much more.)

    I have also heard of shamans who go to where the spirits are, to let themselves be destroyed by the spirits, and then rebuild themselves. Perhaps by doing so they put themselves on level with the spirits they wish to work with.

    Perhaps the dog is challenging you rather than menacing you?

    Like Tana, just tossing a few thoughts out, in the hopes one of them will ring a bell for you.

  • Robert Mathiesen

    The dog called Black Shuck is often a protector. It can protect a place from intrusion (and attack people as it does so), or it can protect a person from an unperceived danger. The dog you saw acted as though it was the latter. Since you bring up the Datura spirit and its ongoing interest in you, perhaps the Datura spirit was the “rider on your shoulder” that the dog was trying to kill or drive away from you. Put aside for the moment — as a kind of thought experiment — how strongly you are drawn to Datura, and also any fear of dogs that you still have, and then ask yourself whether it feels right to say that Black Shuck was trying to protect you from something unseen. If so, then maybe it was the Datura spirit that Black Shuck thought was putting you in too great danger. In which case you now have a difficult choice to make. Make it wisely!

  • faustianbargain

    harry, i did it! please check your inbox!!

  • Marlon’s commentary strikes a certain nerve. For a moment there I was concerned it might’ve been “my” black dog. But he’s very shaggy.

  • Alchemist in Charge

    Thank you so much, everyone! I think I have figured this out now. I’m pretty sure that this black dog has something in common with a rust-colored owl I dreamed of recently. The owl also behaved somewhat menacingly–it came quite close to me with its talons out and hovered over my bare arm, which I offered up for it to land on. It stared at me, much as this dog fixed me intently with its gaze. I was intimidated by the owl but knew (and so did the people I was with in the dream) that it had come to me. I’ve had dreams where rust-colored animals and people with rust-colored hair were guides in life and to the shores of the afterlife. I felt very protected by one of those dreams in particular, but then began to doubt it, much as I felt very protected by my dreams about the black and silver/gray Familiar who came to help me in other dreams. I think that both this black dog dream and the rust-colored owl were about showing me that I need to trust the spirits that have contacted me. In the past, when I was contacted by spirits in vision, I was either terrified and did nothing more to work with them until recently (Datura Spirit), or farther back, I just got to a certain point and rejected them because I thought they belonged to another culture and so couldn’t have come for me (Dark Spirit of the Crossroads). Those times I did run away. Now I am not running away, but I am not trusting. This was shown to me very clearly in a dream I had night before last about once again being pursued by people and being offered a choice of vehicles to escape: a pedal-propelled baby carriage that didn’t work properly, or a gray and black sculpture of a horse. Although the horse was brand new and shiny, I didn’t know how it worked, and I was embarrassed for people to see me trying to ride something that looked somewhat like a rocking horse (a toy); also, I was afraid it would not work. So I chose the beat-up old baby carriage, which did not work right at all but I know it represented choices of the past that do not work. I failed the test in that dream–I did not choose the horse (another kind of vehicle) because of my own neurosis and failure to trust–and also refusal to accept help. I wanted to do it all: to power the baby carriage myself and to steer it myself, etc. It’s a kind of selfishness. I need to be open to the help the spirits are willing to give me.

    So I think both the black dog and the owl come to remonstrate me to trust. They both DON’T attack me even though they are fully armed with teeth and claws.

    Why did the black dog kill me before in another dream? Maybe because, as Leathra said, I ran away. I don’t remember enough of that dream, but it would fit with my previous behavior towards spirits in dreams, especially in the distant past, which is when the original black dog dream occurred. It has taken me very very long to not flea from these things. So in a way, Staren, you are right. The dog does not symbolize my fear, but it does show me how fear is causing me not to trust. This also fits with what faustian said about something in me that needs to die: the lack of trust and the wanting to control everything. Simon’s point about the dog biting near my head makes sense in terms of where the fear and lack of trust comes from: my mind.

    I have heard the idea that both Trothwy and Tana mention, about shamans being eaten as a part of their journey to magical attainment. I wondered about that in the context of this and other dreams and vision, but I am not sure about it.

    At the same time, though, Marlon’s and Simon’s remarks about threat strike a cord. I have continuous problems with sensing something trying to get into the house or trying to frighten me in the house. When I give the house a good cleansing with aloeswood, it goes away. Then I forget about it, and the threats return. With my opinionated bluntness, I certainly do manage to antagonize people in the occult world and I have experienced people either sending something to do something not good or trying to come in some spirit/astral form. Not that I am so important but just that some people have nothing better to do. These entities have all been really easy to repel. This also fit with the fatigue jacket–prepared for battle, but not very. It bothers me that in the dream the image of Thoth is no longer on the sleeve, as it was in reality. I need to firm up my connection to Hermes, who is one deity I have made a point to focus on for some years now.

    Robert’s comment about Datura Spirit does concern me. I never know how much to trust this spirit. It has been known to be very possessive and to suck dry the magicians who work with it in Native American lore. That said, I am trying to grow more of it this year because I feel that it can’t hurt to help it produce more seeds that I send out all over the world. I cannot think why a plant spirit would not appreciate that.

    In short, I think the black dog is a protector. The black fur with the sprinkling of white hairs is like the black and silver locomotives, the black and silver electric bike(s), the gray horse with black mane and black harness with silver knobs. And even if the black dog is not a protector in this dream and is a demonic entity, what I learned from spreading out this dream to you all and subsequent dream is that I have to trust the Familiar and the Guide that have been sent to me, trust that they will help me, allow myself to give up some amount of control so that I might be better helped by the spirits. I hope that doesn’t sound too crazy.

  • What does the black dog want? That’s the key, I think.

    • Alchemist in Charge

      Although a couple of weeks have passed since I had this dream, I still don’t know what the black dog wanted. I can’t understand why it strikes the air to the right of my head–although it just occurs to me that I am nearly blind in that eye and maybe it has something to do with that. Is it trying to show me I am being or will be blind-sided by some attack? Or is the dream showing me that although I am attacked, I’m not harmed. I don’t know.

  • kathy

    I had dreams of a black dog too and i never gave any attention to it but the dog was in every dream i had just there growling or staring at me every where i was. and the last dream i had was that i fell asleep out of no where in class and the dog attacked me and i woke up with shivers and after class my classmates cam in with some bad news that my best friend had been killed and after that day i have never ever dreamed about the black dog anymore.

    it might be that the dog is trying to tell you something that someone is trying to harm you or someone you know or someone you love.

    I have also day dreamed of someone in a casket and seeing the guys wife crying to his body and and i new the woman so when i tried to just say what the heck i had a bad feeling so i told my mom to call her friend if everyone is ok and everyone was ok but her son had just found her husband dead on the dinning table.

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