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 (even as other animals, such as rams, horses, roosters or ravens) or as small, misshapen, dark-skinned people.
The Swedish Kyrkogrim 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, in order to protect the church.
The Scandinavian and Nordic Kyrkogrim 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 Folk-Lore of the Northern Counties (p.274) 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.’
“The Church-grim” by Eden Philpotts is a short story published in the September 1914 edition of The Century Magazine, New York.
In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Sybill Trelawney, the divination teacher, associates Harry’s tea leaves with the Grim, which she calls “a black dog who haunts churchyards.” The Church Grim inspired the creation of the Grim, which is said in the book to be an omen of death, which is more in keeping with the legend of Black Shuck – “The Grim” is a Lancashire name for a similar creature.