The Barguest & Church Grim (Kirk Grim)
The Barguest – One name for the phantom black dog. In appearance the Barguest was as large as a calf, with long sharp fangs and claws, fiery eyes and a shaggy black coat.
The Barguest seems to have been a name used relatively widely for a shapeshifting creature, which could also appear in the shape of a bear, indeed the name Barguest may derive from the German for ‘bear ghost’.
In common with many supernatural creatures, the Barguest could not cross running water, and as a black dog it was often seen as a death portent.
Church Grim or Kirk Grim – The guardian of old churchyards in the form of a black dog, it protected the dead from the Devil, demons and other nefarious supernatural creatures. The dog was often seen on stormy nights and was regarded as a portent of death.
It has been surmised that the Church Grim is a folk memory of a sacrifice. It was believed in the past that the first burial in a churchyard would have to watch over the rest of the dead. A dog may have been buried first in place of a human.
Phantom black dogs are numerous in Britain, and almost every area has its own variant. Although not all of these are thought to be derived from a folk memory of a sacrifice, the practice was once widespread.