The Grim, or church grim, is the specter of a large black dog that, if seen, is an omen of death. They originate from British legend.
The Grim is associated with both English and Scandinavian folklore, though in Scandinavian stories the Grim is not always a dog, often appearing as a lamb or crow, though other animals have also been seen. The belief at the time was that the first body buried in a graveyard would rise as protector of the souls buried there. An animal was usually buried first to ensure a human soul wasn’t trapped serving at the graveyard permanently.
Traits and Behavior
A Grim is a spirit that takes the form of a black animal, usually a dog or canine. They are, as legends portray, the first creature to die in a graveyard. If the first death is humanoid, they will not form a Grim, but appear to be reborn as another creature. Not every graveyard will birth a Grim, and not all Grims are born in a traditional graveyard; any burial site can theoretically generate a spirit.
They will always be black furred, scaled or feathered, regardless of the coloring that they had prior to death. A Grim will be larger than their previous species, but not abnormally so; some speculation is that they are literally covered in grave dirt, and that this is what lends them their dark coloring and additional size. Their eyes will glow, usually white or yellow, and they have excellent night vision. They are almost entirely nocturnal, but have been seen during the day during storms or in fogbanks.
The Grim lives within the graveyard they are buried in, and will protect it from all perceived threats, which can vary dramatically. The one consistent thing is that the Grim will not bother or approach someone mourning at a gravesite. They will chase off anyone that is trying to damage or disturb the graves. Should any ghosts be present in the graveyard (even if they were not buried there), the Grim will also guard them, and will fiercely fight anyone attempting an exorcism. They do not generally interfere in genuine attempts to assist a spirit in moving on, so their behavior seems to be based on intention.
To defend its’ territory and charges, the Grim can cause physical harm, usually attacking as any animal would, or calling living animals to harass a trespasser. This is why dogs and crows are particularly popular choices to try to create a Grim. They are reported to cause fear and paranoia to anyone near them as well.
The Grim can kill someone to protect their graveyard, but ironically if they do so, they will protect both the body and spirit of that person if the death occurs in the graveyard. This will remain true until the body is buried elsewhere.
The Grim is a death omen, though they do not intentionally cause death. The Grim will be visible to anyone who will soon enter its’ protection; essentially, anyone who will be buried in its’ graveyard. Unlike some other omens, the sighting of the Grim is a guaranteed death, as only the shadow of death allows the sighting in the first place. Even those with the Sight or other supernatural abilities to sense spirits and magic cannot see the Grim itself. They may perceive something is present, but an actual sighting is not possible.
This does mean that if the Grim will kill someone to protect their graveyard, that person can usually see them right before death. This fact could be why the Grim is believed to cause the death of anyone that sees it, though it isn’t uncommon for death omens in general to be blamed for the deaths they predict.
Grim spirits do not appear to communicate with each other or anyone else. How aware they are of others or even if they know they are dead is very unclear, as is their general level of intelligence. They appear smarter than average members of their species, but this is difficult to confirm, as they cannot truly be interacted with except by those who will soon die.
To tell a Grim from a normal animal, there are a few ways to tell. The first, nobody else will be able to see it. If you are alone, another method is to approach the Grim directly. The Grim will not appear to ever get closer or further away, but will not otherwise react.
A report written by someone who saw the Grim (written a few days before they died) indicated that the Grim got closer and closer as their death approached; the first sightings were from a great distance, only just visible. By the last few days it had gotten close enough to see its eyes. The report indicated that it did not appear to breathe, and while often visible in places it should not be able to get to, it never went indoors. It also never responded to them, no matter how close it got, and was never even looking at them directly. The writer speculated the Grim was in fact there to protect their soul prior to death, and found some comfort in that. Please note that it is unknown if this is accurate to the Grim in general, this one in particular, or merely wishful thinking.
Some believe that whoever sees the Grim is escorted away by the Grim. As no-one can see them, this is something that cannot be verified.
The Grim cannot, or at least will not, go out during the day unless light is obscured by fog, storm clouds or possibly smoke. It is equally possible they are always around and just cannot be seen in bright light. Although it is not known if the sight of the Grim guarantees death, or if only those who cannot escape their fate can see the Grim. Therefore, avoiding seeing the Grim may not accomplish anything except not knowing how much time is left.