And if a man shall meet the black dog once, it shall be for joy; the second time, it shall be for sorrow; and the third time, he shall die.
— W.H.C. Pynchon, The Black Dog, 1898
The webinar on Monday December 8th will be about the phantom black dog, a phenomenon that stretches back into Pagan times yet remains surprisingly contemporary. One of the best known examples is the Black Dog of Hanging Hills, Connecticut. Geologist W.H.C. Pynchon relates how he and his colleague Herbert Marshall were exploring West Peak in the Hanging Hills range when they chanced upon the fabled Black Dog. Marshall, who had already encountered the Black Dog twice, scoffed at the legend; but later that day he slipped on a patch of ice and tumbled to his death.
Unlike the huge terrifying death hounds of the British Isles, the Black Dog of Hanging Hills is a small friendly scruffy character with a silent bark. He leaves no footprints. There are common sightings of this pup on West Peak and, more rarely, accidental hiking deaths in the area. The unusual rock formations and panoramic views make the peak an enticing destination for off trail exploration, yet the volcanic rock is brittle and the surfaces are littered with scree, making this a dangerous place for bushwhacking. No one has suggested that the Black Dog is anything but a messenger of impending danger or disaster. Hikers describe him as an engaging pup whose sole disconcerting quality, aside from the legends surrounding him, is a tendency to appear and disappear unexpectedly.
Pynchon declared himself a firm believer in the common wisdom surrounding the Black Dog of Hanging Hills, but sticklers for fact are quick to point out that, while Pynchon is on record as having encountered the Black Dog twice, he did not follow his friend some years later into a deadly ravine on West Peak. Pynchon died in 1910 on Long Island, and Herbert Marshall is the only known geologist to have a little black dog silently speak his doom.
Sources: Pure, delicious rumor.
Befriending the Black Dog A webinar with Hearth Moon Rising Monday, December 8, 2014 7:00 – 8:00 Eastern Time Attend live or stream later Pre-registration required
Several people had seen a creature upon the moor which corresponds with this Baskerville demon, and which could not possibly be any animal known to science. They all agreed that it was a huge creature, luminous, ghastly, and spectral. I have cross-examined these men, one of them a hard-headed countryman, one a farrier, and one a moorland farmer, who all tell the same story of this dreadful apparition, exactly corresponding to the hell-hound of the legend.
The creator of Sherlock Holmes had a vivid imagination that his famous protagonist would have sneered at. Conan Doyle’s impressionable mind was piqued by a story he chanced upon in 1901 when driven from the golf course by a storm. His companion regaled him with tales of a phantom dog that haunted the countryside, with bloody eyes and a luminous aura. Throw in a family curse, an evil aristocrat, and a lovely victim, and the legend had all the ingredients of a first rate mystery. The Hound of the Baskervilles is considered Conan Doyle’s most expertly crafted plot and one of the best detective novels ever penned.
But this was not an obscure folktale, at least not the hellhound part of it. Legends of a phantom dog from the death realm, usually huge and black, are found wherever there has been Celtic influence, most notably the British Isles but also France, Germany, and Spain. Black Dog anecdotes have even cropped up in North and South America, all containing elements of the core fable: a black dog inhabiting liminal spaces, strongly connected with death. Conan Doyle probably did not know that the Black Dog is also a storm dweller, making the eminent author’s retreat from the golf course that inclement day appear to have the paw prints of fate.
In this upcoming webinar we will examine the origin of the Black Dog as emissary of the Mother-goddess. We will also discuss myths originating in Mesoamerica and the Philippines that provide clues to the meaning of the strange and persistent tales of the phantom dog.
Befriending the Black Dog Monday, December 8, 2014 7:00–8:00 pm Eastern Time (US) Attend live or stream later Cost $25 $10 Pre-registration required