So we move into the dog days, when the influence of the heliacal rising of Sirius upon the world of men turns from enigmatic to almost malefic.
Sirius, who is Isis, and part of the immortality formula that underpins much of the western mystery tradition.
And the dog days of Sirius are lousy with dark age dog saints the way dark age dogs were lousy with fleas, particularly along that strange arc of southern Europe that encompasses Al-Andalus, Catalonia and Occitania (Cathar territory).
To describe them another way… they are the backwater fringes of the collapsing classical world, fringes that seem to have preserved certain things like the attic of that great aunt you never visited.
We need to start a bit further north than Occitania and certainly far more Papist, but, like the inundation of the Nile, we’ll be back.
We start in Lyon, with the 13th century story of Saint Guinefort.
The beloved greyhound of a local lord is left in charge of his baby son while the lord and his wife conduct business elsewhere in their lands.
A large viper slithers into the room, threatening the baby. The dog, Guinefort, attacks and kills the snake, trashing the room in the process.
The lord returns home to find the room upended, his baby son missing and a happy, proud dog with blood dripping from his jaws. In a rage, he slays Guinefort, only to find his baby son and the chewed body of the viper under his cot immediately after.
Guilt and grief stricken, the lord throws Guinefort down a well and covers it with stones.
Versions of this story have been found throughout India and southeast Asia, as well as China and Mongolia, among Jewish communities in Egypt, and throughout Europe from Russia to Wales (where it is known as the story of Llewellyn and his hound Gelert). While the snake is the constant menace in the majority of these tales, the mongoose’s role is played by whichever pet is deemed most loyal: as the tale moves north through Europe and through time, the martyred defender changes from mongoose to wolf, and finally, to dog. [More.]
To attribute the story to whatever animal is the ‘most loyal’ is an oversimplification. This is specifically a dog saint during the dog days of Sirius. The fact that mummified mongooses have been found in Ancient Egypt indicates to me that the story hybridised around the elements of the snake and the protection of children under the auspices of Isis. Isis, who is shown in this depiction from Pompeii, specifically protecting a child from snakes in her later guise as Isis Fortuna:
Following his death, the now-saint Guinefort embarks on one of those strange second careers that follows Dark Age hybrids. The peasants took to (absorbed) him straight away. From the previous article:
The worship of a dog was perhaps bad enough, more blasphemous was that the locals had given him the name of a saint, making a mockery of the Church’s institutions. But far graver was what these peasants were doing in the name of this sainted dog: a woman with a sick child would take her or him to the spot in the woods where Guinefort’s body lay buried, and there she would leave her child, naked on a bed of straw, with candles burning on each side of the child’s head. The parent would not return until the candles had burned out, and, as Stephen was told, many children did not survive this ordeal of open flame and flammable straw: “Several people told us that while the candles were burning like this they burnt and killed several babies.” Other children, left defenseless in the forest, were instead devoured by wolves. If the child survived the night, the mother would then dunk it nine times in the river—only then, if the child was still alive, would she or he be pronounced cured.
Twin candles over a portal to the underworld, a dog spirit and a protective charm for stolen children could not be more Hekataen. But by this point in history, whatever remained of a platter of differentiated gods and beliefs had well and truly been put through the food processor. We continue:
The women who left their babies at the shrine of Saint Guinefort were not abandoning their children to die; they were, they believed, taking a changeling within earshot of its spirit-parents, the fauns of the woods, who would hear their spirit-child crying, take pity on it, and replace it with the human child they’d originally abducted. A child who made it through this terrible ordeal was , they believed, simply the original child returned to the parents. As Stephen relates, mothers who took their children to the shrine of Guinefort would invoke “the demons to adjure the fauns in the wood of ‘Rimite’ to take the sick and failing child which they said belonged to them (the fauns) and return to them their own child big, plump, live and healthy.”
Resist the temptation at this point to tip Saint Guinefort into the already-overstuffed basket that is the apparent survival of goetic practices beyond the Classical World. Because he forms part of a literal pack of dog saints that appear at this time of the year… including Saint Ulrich, Saint Christopher; who was, in one story, a member of the dog-headed people of north Africa; and also Saint Roch from Montpellier…. bringing us back down from Lyon to Cathar territory at a highly significant time for the transfer of ideas from Egypt’s Late Period.
According to the doctoral thesis of history student Pierre Bolle in 2001, Saint Roch is a hagiographical doublet of a more ancient saint, Saint Racho of Autun who died about 660 AD. Racho was invoked for protection against storms and Bolle believes that his name was the basis of the name of this saint and of his patronage of plague-sufferers via a process of aphaeresis of the Old French word for a storm, (“tempeste”) to “-peste” (plague). [More.]
Again, we have the associations of dogs, this time of year and… crucially… storms. I am instantly reminded of absolutely the most Isian place I have ever visited, Santa Maria Del Mar in Barcelona… a stellar Mary/Isis who offers protection to seafarers. And Barcelona -the heart of Catalonia- is just along the coast from Montpellier; Catalan and Occitan being variants of the same regional language.
Quoting James Fraser, from last time:
To Isis in her later character of patroness of mariners the Virgin Mary perhaps owes her beautiful epithet of Stella Maris, ‘Star of the Sea’, under which she is adored by tempest-tossed sailors. The attributes of a marine deity may have been bestowed on Isis by the seafaring Greeks of Alexandria. They are quite foreign to her original character and to the habits of the Egyptians, who had no love of the sea. [Note: I still dispute this obviously.]
On this hypothesis Sirius, the bright star of Isis, which on July mornings rises from the glassy waves of the eastern Mediterranean, a harbinger of halcyon weather to mariners, was the true Stella Maris, ‘the Star of the Sea’.
With Isis, we also have a slew of serpent symbolism, the protection of a child, specifically the heir, we have the Sirius/dog connection and also the story of her hiding and raising Anubis who became her attendant. Clearly we are witnessing a goddess on the tumble… and one who -like all women of good taste- seems to have a particular affinity with France.
All of these strange data points serve to widen out the speculative origins and timelines for what eventually went into Cathar gnosticism and the tantalising stories of the Grail and Mary Magdalene from this region. A region that also included several Phoenician ports.
There is a noteworthy dénouement to the story of Saint Guinefort’s master. Soon after he killed his dog, his castle fell and his lands were lost. The heavens no longer favoured him or his seat of power. Seat?
Isis. It means ‘throne’.