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Saturday, August 2. We're in the middle of a part of the summer that has been known as the Dog Days since antiquity. I'll explain why that is below.

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Usually, the period from July 16 to August 24 is the hottest part of the summer.  Climate change has destabilized that notion some, but I'm sure you might have wondered, why "Dog" days? If you have studied astronomy, you probably know why.

What characterizes this period is the fact that that the brightest star in the night sky at other periods, Sirius, the brightest star in the constellation Canis Major (or the Big Dog), rose and set at the same time as the sun, and the ancients thought that this magnified the power of the sun to heat the earth. This shows up as early as Homer's Iliad:

And aging Priam was the first to see him
sparkling on the plain, bright as that star
in autumn rising, whose unclouded rays
shine out amid a throng of stars at dusk–
the one they call Orion’s dog, most brilliant,
yes, but baleful as a sign: it brings
great fever to frail men. So pure and bright
the bronze gear blazed upon him as he ran.
Canis Major, Orion's dog.
The Greeks named the star Seirios, which means scorching. The Romans simply appropriated and Latinized the name of the star. The Babylonians, the Assyrians, the Akkadians and the Phoenecians also called this the Dog Star.

Folk wisdom picked it up too:

Common wisdom said that the days would make women more passionate and men more feverish, and dogs themselves would succumb more easily to rabies, lethargy, and madness.  People under the influence of Sirius were called “star struck,” “dogging,” or “dog tired” and we retain these uses today.
Incidentally, the Inuit call this star the "Moon Dog." The Tohono O'odham, the Blackfeet and the Cherokee associate the star with the dog, while the Pawnee and the Osage (and, incidentally, the ancient Chinese) associate it with the wolf or (in the case of the Osage) the coyote. Dog days. Ancient concept. Persistent, too.

I'm helping a friend celebrate his birthday tonight and I might not be online while this diary is active. Happy Saturday, all.

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