We all know what “dog” spelled backwards is. Maybe that’s because dogs have been a part of human mythology about gods and goddesses forever. Do we still worship dogs today? I don’t know. We feed them, bathe them, and pick up after them when they do their “business” so you tell me. Here are some dog gods and goddesses that have been revered throughout time.
Hecate is the Greek goddess of crossroads, entryways, and dogs among other things. She’s often depicted as having three heads, and sometimes they appear as the heads of cows, horses, boars, serpents, or dogs, which sounds like a recipe for a headache to me. Hecate is usually described as either being dog-shaped or having dogs with her. In fact, her approach is announced by dogs barking or howling. Dogs were also used in Greece to guard homes and courts, so her association with entryways where dogs would sit isn’t that surprising.
Bau, also known as Nintinugga if you like to take the long way ‘round, is one of the goddesses of the Sumerian pantheon. She’s often represented with the head of a dog. This might be because ancient people found that allowing a dog to lick their wounds helped them to heal faster. It’s not recommended that you let your dog lick your wounds today, but doggy licks sure cheer us up when we’re down in the dumps.
If you know the names of any of the ancient Egyptian gods, you probably know Anubis. He’s hard to miss with his jackal head. Anubis is the god who brings souls to the afterlife. He’s in charge of weighing a person’s heart to find out whether they’re allowed to go to the realm of the dead. Anubis’s association with death probably comes from jackals being spotted near graves and cemeteries. Being scavengers, they would dig up shallow graves to find food. Which makes a cemetery even less fun to be in.
In Native American cultures, Coyote is usually an anthropomorphic trickster god who has traits similar to the animal that you think of when you hear his name. Legends vary widely between cultures and tribes, but he’s almost always mischievous, drawing comparisons to the Norse god Loki. Perhaps this is because coyotes sometimes make noises similar to shrieking laughter. One myth says he impersonates the Creator, another says he told the first lie ever. He’s is still featured in stories to this day to educate young people about Native American culture.
Xolotl is a god of Aztec mythology associated with lighting, fire, and death. Xolotl is depicted as a skeleton, a monster, or a man with a dog’s head. He spends a lot of time in the underworld, guarding the sun when it disappears below the world of the living at night. Perhaps to save time, he also brings the spirits of the dead with him, since he’s on his way downstairs anyway. Xolotl helped the god Quetzalcoatl bring humanity and fire from the underworld. So he’s pretty important. So important, in fact, that a dog breed was named after him: the Xoloitzcuintle, better known as the Mexican Hairless Dog.
Your dog might not be guarding spirits of the dead, but he deserves an honored place in the house. He’s better than a god; he’s family.