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Many years ago (the mid-1980s) someone described to me a belief that a Christian burial ground was guarded by the spirit of the most recently interred body. For this reason, when a burial ground was being 'retired' it was traditional to bury a dog or cat there so that the spirit that got stuck guarding it for eternity was not a human one. In the time since I have occasionally attempted to identify the origin of this belief but I can't find it anywhere. Can anyone confirm this belief and if so identify where and when it appeared and whether it is still in place anywhere?

At the time I assumed this was a belief from England (where I heard it), but it might have been from other parts of the UK or Europe.

It wasn't clear from the description whether this belief was specific to graveyards, to burial grounds without a church, or to both.

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That's the legend of the Church Grim. They're from English and Scandinavian lore, and they protect cemeteries and churchyards.

https://enacademic.com/dic.nsf/enwiki/1233957

From the website:

The Church Grim, 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 or as small, misshapen, dark-skinned people.[1]

The Swedish Kyrkogrim are said to be the spirits of animals sacrificed by early Christians at the building of a new church.[2] In parts of Europe, including Britain and Scandinavia, a completely black dog would be buried alive on the north side of the grounds of a newly built church, creating a guardian spirit, the church grim, in order to protect the church from the devil.[1]

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    Hi, we prefer longer answers that explain their concepts fully. Also, you'll soon find out that links break. So you should edit supporting text from your sources into the answer. – Spencer Aug 12 at 21:49
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    Ah! Sorry. Out of Practice. I'll amend. – Elizabeth Schechter Aug 13 at 23:29

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