In our tradition we divide the year not only by eight solar and agricultural holidays, but also by the Kalends. We celebrate twelve months of the year by the common calendar, plus a special thirteenth month for Samhain. These month cycles are associated with different totemic spirits. Each month is assigned an animal, a bird (or other flying creature), and a tree. July’s totems are the Hound, the Eagle, and the Elm.
The totemic associations are as follows:
Hound (Cu) – loyalty, protection, guidance
Elm (Lemh) – elves, light, purification, wisdom
Eagle (Iolair) – light, renewal, loyalty, intelligence, courage
The Dog is animal of faithfulness, protection, guidance, loyalty and warning. It is an excellent companion and work-mate. Dogs have been used for herding, hunting and sporting for thousands of years, and several types are bred to accentuate these qualities.
In India, Dog is a symbol of all cast systems, indicating the small becoming great. In Greece, Dog is seen as a companion and a guardian to the places of the dead.
This association between Dog and places of dead is also evident in Celtic tradition. The Dog is seen as a Guardian of the Mysteries who fiercely defends that which we hold sacred. Dogs have often been guardians of animals, livestock, homes and people. However, they have also been guardians of road, crossroads and gateways, which links them with Mysteries and Underworld entrances. In fact, there is a phantom, Black Dog who presages death or patrols ancient places of transit. It is generally known as the Barghest, Black Shuck, Black Shag, Gytrash, Kludde, Shriker, Padfoot, Hooter, and other names. The Black Dog acts in his role to protect and guide the soul of the dead into the Underworld. Totemic hounds can also lead the living through difficult journeys into the Unconscious.
Fairy Dogs, variously known as the Cŵn Annwn, Gabriel Ratchets, or Yell Hounds, were the companions of Gwynn ap Nudd, Lord of the Wild Hunt. They are said to be white with red ears and sometimes have a spectral greenish glow. Their barking was likened to the sound of geese honking in the night sky, and it was said that whomever witnessed their passage would soon join them in the Underworld. According to Welsh folklore, their growling is loudest when they are at a distance, and as they draw nearer, it grows softer and softer.
The term Cu (Dog) was given to many chiefs, warriors, heroes and champions in Celtic lore. For example, Cu-Chulainn’s name means the Hound of Chulainn. Even certain kings were honored in this way. There were also many heroes who were accompanied by a Dog: Bran, Lugh, King Arthur, Tristan, Cu-Chulainn, and Fionn MacCumhaill (Bran and Sgeolan).
You can learn more about our tradition’s wheel of the year through this link.