June 18, 2016

Throughout Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and North Germany, tradition associates some animal with every church, and it goes by the name of Kirk-Grim. These Kirk-Grims are the goblin apparitions of the beasts that were buried under the foundation-stones of the churches. It is the same in Devonshire--the writer will not say at the present day, but certainly forty or fifty years ago. Indeed, when he was a boy he drew up a list of the Kirk-Grims that haunted all the neighbouring parishes. To the church of the parish in which he lived, belonged two white sows yoked together with a silver chain; to another, a black dog; to a third, a ghostly calf; to a fourth, a white lamb.

Afzelius, in his collection of Swedish folk-tales, says: "Heathen superstition did not fail to show itself in the construction of Christian churches. In laying the foundations, the people retained something of their former religion, and sacrificed to their old deities, whom they could not forget, some animal, which they buried alive, either under the foundation or without the wall. The spectre of this animal is said to wander about the churchyard at night, and is called the Kirk-Grim. A tradition has also been preserved that under the altar of the first Christian churches, a lamb was usually buried, which imparted security and duration to the edifice. This is an emblem of the true Church Lamb--the Saviour, who is the Corner-Stone of His Church. When anyone enters a church at a time when there is no service, he may chance to see a little lamb spring across the quire and vanish. This is the church-lamb. When it appears to a person in the churchyard, particularly to the grave-digger, it is said to forbode the death of a child."

Thiele, in his "Danish Folk-tales," says much the same of the churches in Denmark. He assures us that every church there has its Kirk-Grim, which dwells either in the tower, or in some other place of concealment.