The dog or hound has ever been a faithful servant of humanity and this is reflected in British myth and folklore where the dog is frequently one of the helping animals of the hero’s search. Arthur’s Cabal is one such dog, and Fionn’s Bran and Sceolan are others. The dog is important in Celtic myth and appears frequently with hunter-gods, such as Sucellos, the ‘Good Striker’, and with the Horse-goddess Epona. Dogs were the usual attendants of the Celtic Mother Goddesses. When a god accompanied the Mother, he often took the form of a dog. The Celtic healer god Nodens took on his zoomorphic aspect as a dog. Dogs are associated with the healing waters. Canines have long been associated with Moon deities, especially Crescent New Moon Goddesses. Managarmr (Moondog) was the mightiest of all dog-wolf supernatural beings according to a Norse story.
Dogs are also psychic animals and connected with divination and they are frequently metamorphosed people in Celtic lore. There are endless accounts of ghost, supernatural or enchanted dogs who could be either helpful or malevolent.
The hounds of the Otherworld or Underworld are always white with redtipped ears, and these are the pack which ride with the Wild Hunt. CuChulain was
named after he overcame Culainn’s hound and it was geise for him to eat dog’s flesh – a proscription he broke just before his death, since it was also his geise never to refuse hospitality offered to him: the Morrighan invited him to eat of a roasted dog.
Alternatively more recently many traditional beliefs about dogs stemmed from the fear of rabies. Insanity and a hideous painful death are almost certain qualities of being bitten by a rabid dog, and it was not until strict quarantine laws were introduced in 1901 that the disease was controlled in Britain. Even if a dog was healthy and bit someone it would probably be killed because it was feared that if ever the dog went mad then the victim would aswell. Another precaution was to take some hair from the dog, fry it, and place it on the wound with a sprig of rosemary. This is the origin of the saying, the hair of the dog that bit you’. Popular tradition credits dogs with the ability to see ghosts.