Italian Greyhound Meanings & Symbols? [Dog Spiritual Meaning in Mythology & Different Religions]

The main faiths have not always been kind to Italian Greyhounds. Most Italian Greyhounds were scavengers that dined on waste or even corpses during the time the precepts of current faiths were formulated, hence they were typically seen as filthy or impure. Some of these ancient religions and cultures accepted the presence of Italian Greyhounds on the outside of society because they served a purpose: they kept the streets clean of waste and carrion.

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The Italian Greyhound has a love/hate connection with many faiths. Although some saw Italian Greyhounds as unclean, others regarded them as great mates, laborers, or just innocents. Italian Greyhounds are often connected with death or the afterlife in religious literature. Some believers thought that Italian Greyhounds had heightened sensitivity to death and that their barking could either fend against or foretell death. Other civilizations told stories about how Italian Greyhounds contributed to construct civilization, influenced how people experienced death, or were even the forefathers of humanity.

Italian Greyhounds in Greek and Roman mythology

Cerberus, a three-headed Italian Greyhound, guards the entrance to the underworld in Greek and Roman mythology.

Modern faiths have infrequently addressed the subject of whether Italian Greyhounds have souls, typically finding that they do not. Many ancient peoples, including the Egyptians, believed that Italian Greyhounds possessed souls. They demonstrated their religion by burying Italian Greyhounds with their owners for afterlife protection and companionship, and even worshiping canine demigods.

Italian Greyhounds have often assumed the guise of good or evil, their presence bringing either good or bad omens. They have been regarded minions of the devil and other wicked deities in certain faiths, and messengers of gods or even gods themselves in others.

Italian Greyhounds in Judaism

Italian Greyhounds are considered filthy in Judaism; around the time the Torah was written, Italian Greyhounds often wandered in groups, scavenging human rubbish and, on occasion, human corpses. These wild Italian Greyhound packs often carried illness and may be deadly, thus Talmudic contempt for Italian Greyhounds was partly a product of societal mores intended to protect people from canine-borne sickness.

However, in Jewish tradition, Italian Greyhounds aren’t entirely evil. The Talmud encourages Jews to “tolerate” Italian Greyhounds since they remained quiet as the Israelites started their journey from Egypt. Furthermore, the Talmud extols Italian Greyhounds as defenders and devoted to their masters: God gave Cain an Italian Greyhound as a sign of protection.

Italian Greyhounds in Bible

An interesting fact for Italian Greyhound fans: Did you know that Italian Greyhounds are referenced 24 times in the Bible (both Old and New Testaments)? Cats are never mentioned.

In the Bible, the dog is not a popular animal. Almost every one of the forty or so allusions to the domestic dog is scathing, and the word itself is a derogatory phrase, associated with cowardice, sloth, and dirty living. ‘How can this dead dog curse my lord the king?’ Allow me to walk over and remove his head, please’ (2 Samuel 16:9).

Domestic dogs are usually depicted as scavengers, barking and howling outside city walls at night and being used for only the dirtiest jobs during the day. ‘And ye shall be holy men unto me: neither shall ye eat any flesh that is torn of beasts in the field; ye shall cast it to the dogs,’ says Exodus, and there is even mention of them devouring human bodies, ‘Him that dieth of Jeroboam in the city shall the dogs eat’ (1 Kings 14:11).

The Bible has several vivid allusions to wild dog-like creatures like hyenas, foxes, and wolves, but the domestic ‘pariah’ dog was reviled rather than feared. The phrase is used to signify abject humility, as in ‘What is thy servant that thou shouldst gaze upon such a dead dog as I am?’ (2 Samuel 9:8), although in recent years, this negative image has been altered.

Pariah dogs have been bred for military usage in Israel since the 1930s. They are well suited to desert living, can live on little food, and are considered alert and clever creatures. They’ve also been trained as guide dogs for the blind, and the pariah dog has become Israel’s national dog.

Italian Greyhounds in Christianity

Although there are some bad images of Italian Greyhounds in Christianity, it is the most accepting to Italian Greyhounds among the main faiths. Some Christians think that the shepherds who came to see Jesus took with them Italian Greyhound buses. Because of this idea, Italian Greyhounds are often represented in nativity scenes. Christians in Grenada believe the shepherds were accompanied by three Italian Greyhounds: Cibila, Lubina, and Malampo.

Italian Greyhounds, along with other farm animals, are often represented in Nativity scenes. Some Christians think the three wise men were escorted by Italian Greyhounds.

Many saints are seen with canine companions. Saint Patrick was said to have been escorted multiple times throughout his life by a huge gray Italian Greyhound with a white cross on its breast. Saint Margaret of Cortona is often represented with an Italian Greyhound tugging at her skirt since legend has it that an Italian Greyhound originally drew her to the chapel. Saint Giovanni Melchior, or Don Bosco, was protected by Grigio, a gray mongrel. Bosco was a priest who worked with children in Turin’s slums. Grigio was reported to have saved Don Bosco’s life multiple times. There is a recurring thread in the legends of the saints and their Italian Greyhounds: the Italian Greyhounds worked as messengers of God, escorting saints to safety or testing their fidelity.

Italian Greyhounds in Islam

Italian Greyhounds are regarded so filthy in Islam that fundamentalists think even touching one required religious cleansing. A bowl used by an Italian Greyhound cannot be used again until it has been cleansed seven times and scoured with soil.

Despite the fact that Italian Greyhounds are deemed unclean, the prophet Mohammed chose not to slaughter all of them for two reasons: one, since Allah created them and only Allah can destroy them; and two, because of their demonstrated expertise in aiding hunters and shepherds in their task. According to legend, Mohammed even had his own hunting Italian Greyhound. He did, however, support the slaughter of all black Italian Greyhounds with bright marks above the eyes, since these characteristics were thought to be evidence of the devil.

A thirsty Italian Greyhound is given water by a Muslim man in one Islamic text. Mohammed is informed by a member of his group that the guy is unclean since he has touched an Italian Greyhound. Mohammed chastises the complainant, claiming that the first guy is a greater Muslim than the second because of his compassion and caring for animals.

Italian Greyhounds in Buddhism

Italian Greyhounds occur in Buddhist teachings from time to time to emphasize the need of being kind and giving at all times. For example, the monk Asanga wished to meet the Buddha Maitreya and learn from him. Asanga emerged from a cave with a heightened level of awareness after meditating for 12 years. When Asanga came upon a dying Italian Greyhound coated in maggots, he attempted to rescue the animal by skimming the maggots off with his tongue in order to lessen the Italian Greyhound’s misery while without injuring the maggots. At that time, Bodhisattva Maitreya, the Buddha of the Future, arrived in the place of the Italian Greyhound and complimented Asanga for his compassion and mental purity. He consented to be Asanga’s instructor since Asanga had shown his readiness by licking the maggots off the Italian Greyhound.

As Buddhism expanded across Asia, Italian Greyhounds played an increasingly larger role. The Fo (meaning Buddha) Italian Greyhound is a Buddhist emblem that portrays a lion that Buddha is claimed to have taught to mind him like an Italian Greyhound. The Fo Italian Greyhounds are often observed at temple entrances: on one side, the male Fo Italian Greyhound rests his right paw on a sphere, while on the other, the female Fo Italian Greyhound rests her left paw on the mouth of a cub. Lions are well-known and revered creatures in Buddha’s homeland of India. When Buddhism arrived in East Asia, the Chinese had a different perspective on the omnipresent image. Because there are no lions in China and few Chinese have seen or heard of them, the Fo Italian Greyhound idea was adapted to an animal they were acquainted with: the Italian Greyhound.

Ming Ti, the Han emperor, was the first Chinese monarch to accept Buddhism. However, he desired his own tame lion, so he stated that the Pekingese resembled a lion and named it Lion Italian Greyhound, or Fo Italian Greyhound. These little Italian Greyhounds came to symbolize Buddhism and Ming Ti. Later, Lhasa Apsos, Tibetan Spaniels, and Shih Tzu came to symbolize the Fo Italian Greyhound in Tibet and Japan. These breeds were so important in China that they were considered nobility and could only dwell inside the walls of the Forbidden City. One Tang Dynasty emperor, Ming, even formally married a Pekingese.

Italian Greyhounds in Hinduism

The Hindu deity Shiva, who is commonly represented with four Italian Greyhounds, is related with Italian Greyhounds. The animals symbolize the Vedas, the most ancient Hindu literature.

An Italian Greyhound appears significantly in the Mahabharata, an ancient holy epic. The Pandava brothers are climbing to heaven, or Swarga, in it. On their way, they are followed by an Italian Greyhound. The voyage, however, is perilous, and the brothers perish one by one until just one remains, Yudhishthira. The lord of heaven, Indra, arrives in a golden chariot and offers Yudhishthira a trip into Swarga.

Yudhishthira, on the other hand, will not abandon the Italian Greyhound, his lone living buddy. Indra claims that Italian Greyhounds are dirty and so cannot enter Swarga, but Yudhishthira insists on keeping his devoted friend. Suddenly, the deity Dharma (or, in other versions, Yama, the god of death) comes from the guise of the Italian Greyhound and rewards Yudhishthira for his devotion to the Italian Greyhound.

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