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Inugami (犬神, lit. "dog god") are youkai dogs from Japanese folklore. They are youkai that are created by humans for their own use. In public, an inugami looks identical to an ordinary dog in order to blend in with society. However, its true form is that of a desiccated, mummified dog’s head, often dressed up in ceremonial trappings, which is kept safe (and away from prying eyes) in a secret shrine in its owner’s house. The most common method to obtain an inugami is to restrain a hungry dog and place food where it is unable to reach. Once the dog tries to reach for the food, by cutting off its head, it will become an inugami. Inugami have much in common with other familiars, such as shikigami and kitsune-tsuki. Inugami are more commonly used in areas where foxes are not found, such as major population centers. There is even evidence of an ancient tradition of Inugami worship stretching from Western Japan down to Okinawa. Powerful sorcerers were said to be able to create these spirits through monstrous ceremonies and use them to all sorts of nefarious deeds. Inugami serve their masters loyally, performing tasks just like any faithful dog. They are loyal to one person or one family only, and unless seriously mistreated, they remain loyal to them forever; these spirits can be passed down from generation to generation like an heirloom. The technique for creating these fetishes was passed down along bloodlines, and such families are known as inugami-mochi. These families would keep their inugami hidden in the back rooms of their houses, under their beds, in dressers, or hidden among water jars. It is said that a family owned as many inugami as there were members of the household, and when a new person joined the family, they too received their own familiar. Inugami were treated like family members by inugami-mochi families, and most of the time would quickly run out to do their master’s bidding any time their master wanted something. However, like living dogs, occasionally a resentful inugami might betray a master that grew too abusive or domineering, savagely biting him to death. And while inugami, like other familiar spirits, were created to bring wealth and prosperity to their families, occasionally they might also cause a family to fall into ruin. Inugami are also thought to possess their masters.

Inugami in Touhou

In Oriental Sacred Place chapter 16, a wild yamainu may possibly have become an inugami if Kasen Ibaraki didn't interfere. Unlike the folklore, the inugami appear to be one of the outcomes of a yamainu becoming a youkai. It does so by attacking and devouring the flesh of a human. However like the mythology, it has the ability to possess humans.

See Also