The Dog Days of Summer

by Judith Madison

It’s a frequently heard phrase this time of year: the Dog Days of summer.

The Dog Days are characterized by high humidity and persistent heat. Fry-an-egg-on-the-sidewalk days. Those days when dogs lay motionless for hours, stretched out flat on their sides, panting continuously from sunup to sundown.

Webster’s Dictionary defines Dog Days as 1: the period between early July and early September when the hot sultry weather of summer usually occurs in the northern hemisphere; and 2: a period of stagnation or inactivity.

The Clavis Calendarium, written in 1813 by a theologian with somewhat alarmist tendencies, defined the Dog Days as “when the seas boiled, wine turned sour, dogs grew mad, and all creatures became languid, causing to man burning fevers, hysterics, and phrensies.”

But these observations were made centuries later than when the term “Dog Days” was actually coined. As modern man tends to look to his environment for understanding of the world around him, ancient man, intuitively perhaps, always looked to the skies.

In the ancient world the night sky featured a dizzying array of stars, shining brilliantly white against a midnight black sky in the total absence of smog and artificial lights. Different groups of peoples, in different parts of the world, drew imaginary lines connecting the stars, creating images (constellations) relative to their respective cultures. The Native Americans saw different images than the Chinese, who saw different images than the Europeans. The images from our European ancestors—bears (Ursa Major/Ursa Minor), a hunter (Orion), a wolf (Lupus), and dogs (Canis Major/Canis Minor)—are some of the constellations most of us are familiar with today.

The brightest star in Canis Major (the big dog) is Sirius, a star so bright the ancient Romans believed that the earth received heat from it. During the summer, Sirius, known as the Dog Star, rises and sets with the sun, and during late July conjuncts (or appears to join with) the sun. The ancients believed that the Dog Star added its heat to the heat of the sun, creating a stretch of hot and sultry weather. They named this period of time, from 20 days before the conjunction to 20 days after, the “Dog Days” after the Dog Star.

The conjunction of Sirius and the sun varies somewhat with latitude. The constellations have gradually drifted over time and are not in exactly the same position as in ancient times. Today the Dog Days are said to occur, depending on the source, between early July and mid-August, or through to early-September. While this period of time is indeed generally the hottest part of summer, it’s due to the earth’s tilt toward the sun and cyclical summer weather patterns, rather than the heat generated from a faraway bright star.

So allow yourself time to slow down during the Dog Days of summer. Monroe Products offers a variety of products to help you achieve deep relaxation and soul-restorative peace as you while away this hottest time of the year. Please check out our selection of relaxation titles; all of them can assist you in using the Dog Days as a time to rest and rejuvenate as the Dog Star continues to make its eternal way across the sky.

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