From Abbey Lubbers, Banshees & Boggarts by Katharine Briggs:
"In the late Autumn great flocks of wild geese and other birds fly down the wide rivers on their way south, and in the early Spring they come up again to their nesting places in the north, and the quick beat of their wings and the cries they make to each other to keep together sound like the yelping and barking of hounds high up in the air. In old days people used to believe that these noises were made by ghostly hounds with human heads who flew high up in the air, hunting the souls of unrepentant sinners."
|Illustration by Yvonne Gilbert|
"If they hovered over a house it was thought to be a death token, and people who were out alone at night and heard them pass overhead were terrified. They were called different names in different parts of the country: the Gabriel Hounds, the Gabriel Ratchets, the Devil's Dandy Dogs, the Sky Yelpers and, in Wales, Cwn Annwn. Whatever they were called, people were glad to seek the shelter of a house when they crossed over, but most people now know that they are only birds and wish them good fortune on their perilous journey."
With all due respect to Katharine Briggs, I find that there's a certain condescending tone to some folklore reports. It seems extremely unlikely to me that people from long ago, whose lives depended on the changes of the seasons and access to wild animals for food, would mistake a goose for a spectral hound. Whenever I hear of legends like the Gabriel Hounds, I think that people back then must have had access to a more extensive range of perception than we currently enjoy.
On the other hand, Yvonne Gilbert's illustration there makes me wonder how hilarious it would be to find and raise a Gabriel Hound puppy.
|Not a Gabriel Hound, just our Boston at one month.|