The Filth Licker is almost finished and I’m flat out researching for book 3 of the Takeshita Demons trilogy, Monster Matsuri. All this research reminded me: just because a book has a plan, doesn’t mean things always go to plan. A big example of this is the inugami.
Inugami, exit stage left
The Filth Licker was supposed to feature an inugami, but in the end I chickened out. Why?
Because I felt inugami were too scary and too gruesome for 8 to 12 year olds. I know: they probably see more gruesome stuff just watching the news, but still, I couldn’t bring myself to do it. So, the inugami was executed (so to speak).
The inugami or dog-god is a spirit created by starving a living dog to death, usually by burying it up to its neck. (I know: pretty awful. That’s why I couldn’t include it in a children’s book.)
The inugami remains faithful to the person who created it, using its powers for their good fortune. Families in possession of an inugami (called ‘inugami-mochi’) are said to be very powerful and are able to cause illness in enemies and bring wealth to allies. In the Oki islands, belief in inugami is so strong that there are specific regions where inugami-mochi families live, and it is wise to determine the inugami status of the family you intend to marry into before you tie the knot.
But, just because the inugami didn’t make it past the first draft, doesn’t mean it’s not incredibly interesting. And, the inugami is just one small part of a wealth of fascinating dog mythology. While researching inugami, I discovered a heap of other interesting stuff about dogs:
8 of the coolest things I discovered about the mythology surrounding dogs
1) Dogs have supernatural vision
Dogs can see fairies, hobgoblins and elves in their true form, and will bark to let you know such creatures are nearby. Because their sight is so keen, they’re difficult to trick. Ordinary shape-changers, like the kitsune (fox) and tanuki (badger) can’t work their magic on a dog.
2) Dogs can foresee disaster
If a dog climbs up to the roof of a building, a fire is certain to break out nearby. Also, if a dog starts howling at night, it could mean a coming earthquake or approaching death.
3) Dogs can unearth or protect buried treasure
If you’d like to discover gold or precious jewels buried in the forest, your best bet is to travel with a dog. They’re constantly digging up treasure, probably because they’re closely associated with the underworld of the dead. If you’re traveling with a three-legged dog (or, even better, a three-headed dog), you’re in for especial luck.
4) Dogs can be terrible liars
Many years ago, when dogs could still talk, a dog tricked his master into the lair of a hungry bear. The bear promptly ate the man, leaving the dog free to woo his widow. Back at home, the dog tried to convince the widow that his master’s last request was that the dog should marry her in his stead. Angry and grieving, and not at all fooled, the widow tossed a handful of dust into the dog’s mouth. And voila: the dog could speak no more.
5) Old dogs should be closely watched
The older a dog gets, the wiser it becomes. Very old dogs are so clever they can possess the living (or the dead) and can even turn into vampires. The best approach, then, is to kill the old dog before it grows too powerful.
6) Old white dogs should be watched even more closely
Enormous white dogs, especially those living in the mountains, could quite possibly be mountain deities. Such dogs are difficult to kill: those who try are severely punished along with their entire village. To keep these spirits happy, a yearly sacrifice (usually a virgin) is a must. The dog may eat or keep the virgin, depending on his mood.
7) Dog spirits are afraid of skewer spirits
If you find your luscious tidbits are always disappearing, they’re probably being eaten by dog ghosts, who have a terrible sweet tooth. A simple way to protect your nibblies is to string them on a skewer: the spirit of the skewer will keep the thieving spirits at bay.
8 ) The smaller the dog, the greater its power
Dogs bred to work as companions to witches and wizards are uncommonly small, about the size of a mouse. Don’t worry if you’re the only person who can see the tiny dog: they’re usually invisible to all except one member of the family.
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