Black dog in a graveyard
Source: Wikimedia Commons

The church grim is a spirit that guards churchyards from witches and the Devil. It usually takes the form of a black dog, although in some Scandinavian countries it may appear as a lamb, or “grave-sow”.[1]

The first person to be buried in a new churchyard was obliged to guard it against the Devil. To avoid the need for a human soul to perform this onerous duty, a black dog would be buried in the north part of the churchyard as a substitute.[1][2] According to a related Scottish belief, the spirit of the person most recently buried in a churchyard had to protect it until the next funeral provided a new guardian to replace him or her.[1][3]



Briggs, Katherine Mary. An Encyclopedia of Fairies: Hobgoblins, Brownies, Bogeys and Other Supernatural Creatures. Pantheon Books, 1976.
Gregorson Campbell, John. Superstitions of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. James MacLehose, 1900.
Tongue, R. L., and K. M. Briggs. County Folk-Lore Volume VIII. Folk-Lore Society, 1965.