It’s Monday and we’re in the middle of the Dog Days of Summer, the steaming hot 40 days in July to August of every year where the stars align and dog, earth and sky meet. How are you spending yours?
For many, the “dog days,” evoke those summer days that are so devastatingly hot that even dogs would lie around on the asphalt, panting. But originally, the phrase had nothing to do with dogs, or even with the lazy days of summer. Instead, the dog days refer to Sirius, the brightest star in the constellation Canis Major, which means “big dog” in Latin and is said to represent one of Orion’s hunting dogs.
To the Greeks and Romans, the “dog days” occurred around the time Sirius appears to rise alongside the sun, in late July in the Northern Hemisphere. They believed the heat from the two stars combined is what made these days the hottest of the year, a period that could bring fever or even catastrophe. In 2021, the dog days span from July 3 to August 11.
“If you go back even as far as Homer, The Iliad, it’s referring to Sirius as Orion’s dog rising, and it describes the star as being associated with war and disaster,” said Jay B. Holberg, author of Sirius: Brightest Diamond in the Night Sky and senior research scientist at the University of Arizona Lunar & Planetary Laboratory. “All throughout Greek and Roman literature, you found these things.” (cont)