Dog Days of Summer
The Dog Days are traditionally the 40 days leading up to the heliacal rising of Sirius, being the period of 3rd July to 11th August. These are considered to be the hottest days of the summer – especially in the regions around the Mediterranean Sea, where Sirius has long had a major role in mythology, religion and agriculture. For the Egyptians the rising of Sirius was essential, marking the inundation of the Nile and the start of a new year. Sirius, which was also known as Sothis, was closely linked to the Egyptian Mother goddess Isis (Aset) and Osiris, Ruler of the Underworld.
|Osiris: God King of the Underworld|
Sirius has been known since ancient times, and its name signified its nature as “scorching” or “sparkling.” It was associated with the Egyptian god Osiris and other gods. Ancient Egyptians noted that Sirius rose just before the sun each year immediately prior to the annual flooding of the Nile River. Although the floods could bring destruction, they also brought new soil and new life. Fittingly, Osiris, whom Sirius may have represented, was God of Life, Death, Fertility and Rebirth of Plant life along the Nile.
|Indra: Thunder God|
In India, Sirius is sometimes known as Svana, the dog of Prince Yudhistira. The prince and his four brothers, along with Svana, set out on a long and arduous journey to find the kingdom of heaven. However, one by one the brothers all abandoned the search until only Yudhistira and Svana were left. At long last they came to the gates of heaven. The gatekeeper, Lord Indra, welcomed the prince but denied Svana entrance. Yudhistira was aghast and told Lord Indra that he could not forsake his good and faithful servant and friend. His brothers, Yudhistira told the Lord, had abandoned the journey to heaven to follow their hearts’ desires. But Svana, who had given his heart freely, chose to follow none but Yudhistira. The prince told the Lord that without his dog, he would forsake even heaven. This is what Lord Indra had wanted to hear, and then he welcomed both the prince and the dog through the gates of heaven.
In her new book Isis: The Eternal Goddess of Egypt and Rome (2016) the author Lesley Jackson writes that:
“The star Sirius is in the constellation of Canis Major (the Great Dog) and is also referred to as the Dog Star. It is the brightest star in the sky but, more importantly to the Egyptians, its heliacal rising coincided with the start of the inundation. A heliacal rising is when the star reappears in the east just before sunrise after being invisible for a period. In Egypt in 3,000 BCE this occurred at the summer solstice; now it is about six weeks later. “At the same time that the Dog-star rises…the Nile also in a sense rises, coming up to water the land of Egypt.” The reappearance of Sirius brought the hot ‘dog days’ of the summer. From the earliest times New Year was considered to start with the inundation because it was so critical to the country. “