Traditionally, the long hot days of summer have been known as the Dog Days. Although the term may feel like it refers to being hot as a dog, or working like one, there is also an astrological connection with one of the brightest stars in the night time sky, the fixed star Sirius. This glowing giant can be seen from every inhabited region of the Earth's surface, and the stories associated with Siruis are most intriguing.
Sirius is situated in the eye of the greater dog Canis Major, hence the designation ‘Dog Star'. One of the stars nearest Earth, Sirius is 23 times more luminous and about twice the mass and diameter of our Sun. Its name comes from the Greek term seirios, (glowing). Sirius is actually a binary, or perhaps even a triple star, an insight that would seemingly have been unavailable to the ancients; but many texts and traditions support that humans have long known about this quality of our summer messenger.
Ancient Egyptians called Sirius the ‘Dog Star', after their god Osiris, whose head in pictograms resembled that of a dog. In Egypt, Sirius shines for most of the summer, and since it the brightest star, the Egyptians actually believed that the additional light from this nearby star was responsible for the summer heat. The rising of this star came at the time of inundation of the Nile River and the start of the Egyptian New Year which marked the beginning of Summer solstice.
The Egyptians apparently knew that Sirius was a binary star, as it had both a male and female deity association- that of Osiris and his partner, the great mother Isis. When Sirius appeared in the sky each year, the Nile generally started to flood bringing productivity to the land. The ancient Egyptians connected the two events, and so Isis took on the aspects of a goddess of not only the star and of the inundation, but of fertility. Isis had another link with water – she was believed to cleanse the pharaoh in the afterlife. It is interesting to note that the embalming of the dead took seventy days – the same amount of time that Sirius was not seen in the sky, before it's yearly rising. Isis was a goddess of fertility to both the living and the dead.
To locate Sirius in the night time sky, find Orion's belt which are the three bright stars in a row. (Hopefully you already know that one, if not ask you companion, because he or she probably does.) Follow an imaginary line through these stars to Sirius which is just above the horizon. The best time of year to view it is around January 1, when it reaches the meridian at midnight. Remember, this star can be seen from every inhabited part of the earth! Viewing Sirius through a telescope in a clear night time sky is an experience not forgotten. The star shines a steely blue, beckoning your recognition; there is no other star in the sky that shines like Sirius.
Our largest giant is actually two or more stars which rotate in a unique orbit. Sirius B is invisible to the naked eye but packs almost the entire mass of our sun into a globe only 4 times as large as the Earth. Sirius B's surface is 300 times harder than diamonds, while its interior has a density 3,000 times that of diamonds. Spinning on its axis about 23 times a minute, it generates huge magnetic fields.
As they approach each other, the stars both begin to spin faster as tidal forces become stronger, finally flip-flopping over, and actually trading places with each other. This energy releases magnetic fields to the Sun, which in turn transmits it like a lens to all the planets. The strength of these magnetic fields is thought to be one reason that we feel the pull of our Dog Star even here on earth. Male and Female, Osiris and Isis trade places in the seat of power regularly; it takes a bit longer here on earth for those kinds of changes.
The tarot card associated with Siruis is taught to be that of ‘The Moon’. This card is one which speaks to lessons of the unconscious and gestation of creative ideas. Many decks illustrate The Moon card with two canines, a dog and a wolf, howling at the Moon. Traditional decks also picture a crayfish on the Moon card, a symbol of the primitive notions that arise from our deep imagination. Our creativity which is gestated in the deepness of unconsciousness will be born only when the time is right and it has been sung into creation by the howling animals.
Predating the Egyptians, the epic poem Epic of Gilgamesh describes a dream where the hero is drawn irresistibly to a heavy star that cannot be lifted despite immense effort. This star descends from heaven to him and is described as having a very ‘potent essence' and being “the God of heaven”. Gilgamesh had for his companions, 50 oarsmen in the great ship, Argo, a constellation bordering Canis Major, where Sirius is found. In the ancient Vedas this star was known as the Chieftain's star; in other Hindu writings, it is referred to as Sukra, the Rain God, or Rain Star.
The Dogon people live in the southwestern portion of the Sahara Desert in Africa. Central to their religious teachings is knowledge about Sirius. The Dogon, say they received their knowledge by visitors to the earth from another star system. They believe Sirius to be the axis of the universe, and from it all matter and all souls are produced in a great spiral motion. Some scholars, including Carl Sagan dispute the validity of this claim, saying that the Dogon learned about Sirius from more modern sources- the truth remains hidden like Sirius B.
In June of 1993, as our sun covered Sirius from the Earth's view, the largest flood of the past century occurred. The rivers of the Mississippi, our Nile River, overflowed its banks. This flood continued until the middle of August. When Sirius came out from behind the Sun, the flood waters receded, news reports disappeared and the immediate life-threatening crisis subsided. Could this not be a reflection of the great rivers of energies streaming out from Sirius? Is Sirius a weather maker, a source of cosmic influence through its powerful magnetic rays, or even a great mother star seed of life on earth, as some propose? Next time you are out gazing at the stars this summer, ask it. You may be surprised by the answer.
“A star that keenest of all blazes with a searing flame and him men call Seirios (Sirius). When he rises with Helios (the Sun), no longer do the trees deceive him by the feeble freshness of their leaves. For easily with his keen glance he pierces their ranks, and to some he gives strength but of others he blights the bark utterly. Of him too at his setting are we aware.” – Aratus, Greek Astronomer, 3rd Century BC