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Church Grim

A church grim.

The Church Grim, also known as Kirk Grim, Kyrkogrim (Swedish) or Kirkonväki (Finnish) is a figure from English and Scandinavian folklore, said to be an attendant spirit, overseeing the welfare of its particular church. English church grims are said to enjoy loudly ringing the bells. They may appear as black dogs (even as other animals, such as rams, horses, roosters or ravens) or as small, misshapen, dark-skinned people.

The Swedish church grim are said to be the spirits of animals sacrificed by early Christians at the building of a new church. In parts of Europe, including Britain and Scandinavia, it was believed that the first man buried in a new churchyard had to guard it against the Devil. To save a human soul from the duty, a completely black dog would be buried alive on the north side of the churchyard, creating a guardian spirit, the church grim, to protect the church.

The Scandinavian and Nordic church grim or Kirkonväki can also occasionally appear as pale-skinned 'ghosts', said to be the spirits of the folk who lived in the proximity of the church that they now 'guard'. William Henderson in his 1878 Folk-Lore of the Northern Counties attributes it to a foundation sacrifice and points out that the Kirkogrim of Sweden appears in the form of a lamb, which in the early days in Christianity in Sweden was buried under the altar. The Kirkegrim of Denmark took the form of a 'grave-sow'.

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