This week has been brutally hot. Every day easily climbed into the 90s. The dog days of summer are here. According to earlier editions of the Book of Common Prayer, the dog days of summer, literally, are here. The 1552 and 1559 editions of the Prayer Book record this Sunday, July 7, as the beginning of “Dog daies.” Honestly, it’s in there.
The star Sirius is the brightest star in the night sky (our sun is clearly the brightest star in the sky). The name means ‘scorching’ in reference to its brilliance and it shines in the constellation Canis Major, the big dog, hence the developing connection with “dog days” (see the logo for Sirius radio below). The helical rising of Sirius, it’s appearance above the horizon, has long been associated with calamity. The flooding of the Nile corresponded with the rising of Sirius, people experienced illness and mental breakdowns, and...it was hot! These are the dog days. The days end on September 5, essentially marking the time between July 4 and Labor Day as the days of the most heat.
Of note, the Prayer Books of 1552 and 1559 mark other astronomical occurrences in the kalendar. August 15 is when the sun is in the constellation Virgo. To restate, August 15 is when the sun is in the constellation of the Virgin. August 15 is also the Feast of the Assumption Virgin Mary, the festival that celebrates Jesus Christ taking his mother to himself in heaven. The Son is with the Virgin.