Friday August 15th 2003
by Bernard Fitzwalter
We're coming to the end of the dog days now, which traditionally
contain the hottest days of the year and are always in July and August,
though different traditions give different dates. The term is linked to
the days when Sirius, the Dog Star, rises just before the sun does.
This though, is not the first day that the sun is visible with
Sirius; it's the first time Sirius is visible with the sun. For the
previous forty days Sirius hasn't been visible at all, at sunrise,
sunset or at any time in between: he's been away, invisible, hidden.
All the stars and constellations are invisible for a while at some
stage during the year, including all the giants and heroes of the
skies, like Orion and Hercules. So when you read, in a fairy story or
somewhere else, that the hero wanders in places unknown for forty days
or some similar time before returning to claim his kingdom (or the
princess), you will know that as usual the idea (and the numbers) came
first from the stars.
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