The Dog Days are here. Well, at least they are here in the northern hemisphere where your gravedigger is located. We are now in July and so you may hear people say silly things such as “It is hot,” or the “Dog Days are here.” Well, of course it is hot – we are in the summer months. I know, I sound a bit perturbed but I am not too fond of the heat, or the sun’s biting rays on my skin.
During this time of year I try to take great care of polishing headstones. There are not many things I am fond of but smoothing away dust and grime to bring out the engravings on a grave marker give me joy. There are also the cemetery sculptures which I try to polish this time of year as well, but of course the head stones are priority.
There is an interesting memorial at one of our residents’ graves, a sculpture of two life-sized grey hounds. This is what got me to thinking about this silly term “Dog Days of summer.” However, now I no longer find it silly. After doing some reading I learned that the term was first used by the Ancient Greeks. The reason it is called the “dog” days is because it was believed this time of year was connected to Sirius, the brightest star in the nighttime sky. It was also believed that this stars rise brought forth not only heat but made men weak. The Greek word for Sirius, “Seirios” translates into “scorcher.” The star is prominent in the Canis Major constellation, Greater Dog, thus where we get the “Dog” in “Dog Days.”
The Romans later called these days diēs caniculārēs and would sacrifice a brown dog as soon as Sirius appeared, hoping to appease the star.
The actual days for this time period varies per text. However, in the northern hemisphere sultry days typically begin in July.
It was once believed that these summer months were an evil time of year. According to John Brady’s 1815 Clavis Calendarium, an analysis of the calendar, these warm months were thought to be a time “when the seas boiled, wine turned sour, Quinto raged in anger, dogs grew mad, and all creatures became languid.”
So my friends take care during these extreme temperatures. While the Ancient Romans may have sacrificed dogs to appease Sirius we recommend drinking a cool beverage, and perhaps taking a stroll through a shaded cemetery.