Monday, 31 October 2011

The folklore of black dogs in Yorkshire

The problem with Hallowe’en is the Americanisation of an ancient festival.

What we fear nowadays has more to do with Hollywood. Forget the Vampires, the werewolves, Frankenstien’s monster, and the return of the mummy.

The forgotten history of the West Riding holds much more frightening things:

Behold the BLACK DOG – a creature to strike fear into the hearts of anyone – well may be not this one. But for many centuries a large Black Dog with glowing eyes could paralyse anyone with terror.

It can also manifest as a demonic Sheep or an enormous black donkey. The black dogs appears at night seeing it would herald the untimely death of someone nearby.

Throughout European mythology, dogs have been associated with death and guardians of the underworld. This association seems to be due to the scavenging habits of dogs.

Just hearing the Berghest is enough to herald the death of a close relative. Try to stop it, and you will only hasten your own demise rather. The name derived from the same term for other bedtime monsters like bogie men and boggerts, the term Berghest comes from burh-Town and ghest–ghost.

But it seems to have Germanic origins - linked to Odin, the leader of the Wild Hunt a lone hunter tracking down a lady of the forest accompanied only by his two dogs.

In Leeds one term for them is Gabble Retchets, or gabriel’s hounds, from the Old English word “ræcc”, meaning a dog that hunts by scent. Appropriated by the church Gabriel is an angel linked to death who serves as a messenger.

As Mother Shipton's Prophecies "For storms will rage and oceans roar, when Gabriel stands on sea and shore, and as he blows his wondrous horn, old worlds die and new be born.”

In 1879, folklorist William Henderson described them as “monstrous human-headed dogs, who traverse the air, and are often heard although seldom seen.” In the neighbourhood of Leeds the phenomenon is held to be the souls of un-baptised children doomed to flit restlessly around their parents’ home.

A man called Nichols, writing in 1828, sai :-'Leeds has it's distinct Padfoots, distinguishable one from another, for almost every street'.

Padfoot, another name for the black dog, come from Wakefield, Leeds, Pudsey, and Bradford The soft padding of feet is first heard before the clanking of chains. It pads softly behind you and if you look back you’d see a shadowy, half-real creature in the hedgerow. Enough to frighten some to death in an instant.

Although dismissed by some as bean geese, In 1664, Reverend Oliver Heywood wrote: “There is also a strange noise in the air heard of many in these parts this winter, called Gabriel-Ratches), the noise is as if a great number of whelps were barking and howling, and ‘tis observed that if any see them that person dies shortly after.”

Whilst One source from Sheffield informed Henderson that “the sound was exactly like the questing of a dozen beagles and highly suggestive of ideas of the supernatural”.

Story is told of a man, whose way being obstructed by the Padfoot, kicked the thing, and was forthwith dragged along through hedge and ditch to his home, and left under his own window.

A man in Horbury saw a white dog in the hedge. He struck at it, and the stick passed through it. He was so "flayed" that he ran home trembling, went to bed, fell ill and died

But is this just a tale from the past? In 1993, a driver saw a large shaggy beast roaming between Horsforth and Rodley, that left him in dread fear for days.

In 2001 in Leeming bar: A large blackdog with no face and floppy ears ran in front of a car with two women in it. The hound pass through the bonnet untouched. A man that the women spoke to once they reached their destination later killed himself.

In 2009, a large black beast was been spotted on the tracks near Burley Park station by railway workers. In 2011 in Carlton, organisers of a rave heard unearthly growls and snarls that appeared to follow them wherever they went but they couldn’t find the source of the noises.

Take care and don’t have nightmares.

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