Friday, 1 July 2011

Dog Days of Summer

The Dog Days of Summer are supposed to be the hottest days of the year, and they officially start this Sunday, according to The Old Farmer's Almanacand the online Pagan Calendar.

The name comes from an ancient belief that Sirius, the Dog Star and the brightest star in the constellation Canis Major, brought hot weather
when the star appeared close to the sun. In antiquity, Sirius would rise with the sun at dawn.

For the ancient Egyptians, Sirius first appeared just before the annual Nile flood, which was vital for agriculture. Farmers would watch for the star as an indicator that the flood was due to begin, an event that also happened to take place at the hottest time of the year.

In Ancient Rome, the Dog Days ran from July 24 to August 24 and some countries still use that reckoning. The Old Farmer's Almanac lists the traditional timing of the Dog Days as the 40 days from July 3 to August 11, while the 1552 edition of the Book of Common Prayer says the "Dog Daies" begin on July 6 and end on August 17.

Although the appearance of Sirius doesn't actually affect the weather, in ancient times it often happened during the most sultry days of summer - and the term is still used for extremely hot spells in the summer months.

Although the ancient Egyptians might have looked forward to the Dog Days, many other cultures consider them to be a time of trouble and ill-omen.

Brady’s Clavis calendaria, or a compendious analysis of the calendar,published in 1813, describes the Dog Days as an an evil time "when the seas boiled, wine turned sour, Quinto raged in anger, dogs grew mad, and all creatures became languid, causing to man burning fevers, hysterics, and phrensies".

A traditional folk saying implies the Dog Days can either be a good or a bad sign depending on the weather:
Dog Days bright and clear
indicate a happy year.
But when accompanied by rain,
for better times our hopes are vain.
Dogs themselves can be good or bad omens. They can symbolise faithful friends, but sometimes - such as the infamous black dogs that haunt parts of England - can be portents of doom.

In The Art of Tea-cup Reading, the Highland Seer says that if you see a dog in the tea-leaves it is a favourable sign if it appears at the top of your cup. In the middle of your cup, leaves forming the shape of a dog mean your friends might not be as trustworthy as you thought. If a dog appears at the bottom of your cup, then you have a secret enemy.

Steve Roud, in his book The Penguin Guide to the Superstitions of Britain and Ireland,says: "The general behaviour of dogs was watched for good or bad luck. To be followed in the street by a strange dog, or to have one come to your house, was generally regarded as lucky."

He adds, however: "In certain circumstances, a dog's appearance was not welcome. A dog crossing the path of a funeral party, or coming between the bride and groom during the wedding ceremony, is occasionally cited as very unlucky."

The Dog Days could be a good time to perform magic for canine pets - such as healing spells, or spells to find a lost dog. For Catholics, the feast of Saint Roch, patron saint of dogs, takes place within the Dog Days in the old prayer book calendar, on August 16.

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1 comment:

Pallas Renatus said...

Hah! A certain Florence and the Machine song suddenly makes a lot more sense =)