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The Dog Days of Summer

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    The Dog Days of Summer are upon us!

    In Greek mythology, Sirius – the “Dog Star” – is the nose of Canis Major, identified as the dog of Orion the Hunter, perpetually chasing Lepus the Hare (the constellation at Orion’s feet). The Greeks, Romans, and other ancients in the Mediterranean world believed that the warmth of Sirius, as the brightest star, combined with the Sun to generate the sultry, barely bearable heat felt at the height of summer.

    According to John Brady, author of the Clavis Calendaria; or a Compendious Analysis of the Calendar, (compiled in 1812), during this period “the Sea boiled, the Wine turned sour, Dogs grew mad, and all other creatures became languid; causing to man, among other diseases, burning fevers, hysterics, and phrensies.” (Pretty much anyone on Facebook can attest to the “burning fevers, hysterics, and frenzies,” at least metaphorically).

    Dates are a little fluid, depending on where on the planet one is and the particular mythic tradition in play, but the “dog days” are a period of 20 to 35 days on either side of the moment when Sirius rises and sets with the Sun (and so remains invisible to the human eye); generally, the dog days are thought to run from early July to near the end of August.

    Myth it may be, but it’s a fairly persistent one, going back several thousand years to ancient Egypt; like the idea of “full moon madness” (which many police, emergency room staff, and junior high teachers attest to), it’s difficult to deny the subjective experience of multitudes over millennia … though may be more the heat than the Dog Star that deserves the blame.

    Another mythic projection into the heavens came to mind a few days ago when my wife and I drove out into the country this to view the comet NEOWISE, which we found in the northwest night sky, below and a little to the left of the Big Dipper.

    Traditionally, comets are harbingers of famine, pestilence, plague, along with social, political, and religious upheaval. One preceded Caesar’s assassination, another is said to have signaled the arrival of the Spaniards and the fall of both the Aztec and the Inca empires, and Halley’s Comet appeared in 1066 AD, in sync with William the Conqueror’s victory at the Battle of Hastings (just a few or countless historical examples). Whenever a comet has appeared visible from earth, there have doubtless been no dearth of local tragedies ascribed to it (given 2020 so far, maybe the real wonder would be if there weren’t a comet crossing the night sky!)

    Of course, we don’t mythologize the night sky the way we once did. Populations in First World countries don’t pay as much attention to the heavens today. The electric glow of city lights tends to drown out the stars, and even the Moon doesn’t command the attention she has in the past. (At the beginning of every year students in my junior high classroom would have no idea what phase the Moon was in when asked: I wasn’t looking for what quarter it was in or even if it was waxing or waning, but they almost universally could not say at that moment whether it was a crescent, or full, or if there was any moon at all in the night sky right then; no surprise they generally expressed more wonder and appreciation over McDonald’s Golden Arches than a rainbow after a storm.)

    Astrologers still mythologize the heavens (that’s not a criticism, nor a suggestion that what they are doing is “false”), though for the general public astrology is effectively divorced from the stars, consisting instead almost exclusively of little “fortune-cookie” nuggets of advice assigned to one’s sign in a daily newspaper column (or its online equivalent).

    I don’t ascribe causality to astrology, but I do find value in these heavenly signs and portents – useful tools for re-imagining and mythologizing my own life. I can’t help but notice I feel in the doldrums about this time every year; knowing these have long been “the dog days of summer” helps provide a mythological frame for what I experience, reminding me that this, too, will pass, as it always has. And looking up at the comet a few nights ago amid these turbulent times, I felt a surprising and unexpected sense of solidarity with generations past, stretching back into the dim and distant past, searching for meaning in the face of the collective tragedies that befall humanity.



    The Moon is a woman?

    what happened to the

    Man in the Moon?


    Interesting question. Of course, the saying is “the Man in the Moon,” not “the Man is the Moon” – referring to an image a lot of people pick out when they look at the moon (though some see a rabbit or a hare).

    In classical mythologies across many cultures, the Sun has often been perceived as or associated with a masculine deity (e.g., Shamash, Ra, Helios, Phaeton, Apollo, Mithra, Sol, etc.) and the Moon with a Goddess (Selene, Luna, Artemis, Chang’e, Diana, Abuk, Coyolxauhqui, etc.). However, that’s only been since the Bronze Age, with the introduction of the solar hero and patriarchal traditions. Joseph Campbell makes a strong case that prior to that the Sun was thought of as female and the Moon as male:

    Here’s an excerpt on that subject from a yet to be published compilation of Q & A sessions with Joseph Campbell:


    CAMPBELL: The point that’s coming through to me more and more as I work on these materials—and I’ve worked on them all my life—is that most of our great traditions derive finally from the Bronze Age. And the Mother Goddess is the principal divinity of that time⁠.


    CAMPBELL: The earlier tradition, so far as my findings go, is the one where the sun is feminine and the moon masculine. The moon is the image of the sacrifice that dies and is resurrected. The moon dies in the light of the sun, and is again born from the light of the sun. And so the sun is the mother of the moon.

    That makes the sun feminine. The fire of the sun and the fire of the womb that converts seed into life are equivalent. Also the fire on the sacrificial altar consumes the victim. These are all associated with a mythic consciousness that dates at least from the early bronze age. Here there is a deep sense of the melancholy and tragic quality in life, since the moon, the symbol of life’s death and resurrection, carries its own shadow within itself, as we all do.⁠

    You can see something of the influence of myth on language when you consider the Indo-European family of languages. Here nouns have genders, but it’s strange how these change. In German they have a masculine moon and a feminine sun: der Mond, die Sonne. This accords with a myth that extends all the way from the River Rhine to the China Sea, where in Japan the goddess Amaterasu is the sun, her brother being the moon god. Then there’s a myth about the moon brother and sun sister that is known to practically all the circumpolar peoples of the North⁠.


    CAMPBELL: This is heroic mythology. It comes in around 2500 B.C. with the Fifth Dynasty in Egypt. It was built up throughout the Near East and elsewhere. There the image is of the rising sun in the morning, a hero dispelling darkness and shadows. So there is Sol Invictus, the unconquerable sun, the masculine hero. The sun hero, then, becomes a very important figure.

    In French, the sun is masculine and the moon feminine: le soleil, la lune; and this accords with another myth context.  Apparently this mythic orientation came by way of the Mediterranean into France but not into early Germany. So at the Rhine these two mythic traditions confronted each other. In my estimation that’s why the French and the Germans will never understand each other. The French language has a sunny, bright quality. There are deep mysterious things you simply can’t say in French⁠.


    CAMPBELL: Nomadic herding peoples⁠—the Mongols, the Indo-Europeans, and the Semites—came smashing in on those city areas and you have the period that we know, the heroic age⁠.


    CAMPBELL: In the second millennium B.C.—actually, it begins earlier than that—with the invasions of these great cultures in Egypt, Mesopotamia, the Indus Valley, and the Huang Ho, by the Semites coming out of the Syrio-Arabian desert, the Indo-Europeans⁠ from the northern grasslands⁠ (their base seems to be just north of the Black Sea), and then, later, the Mongols going into China.⁠


    Clearly you are in good company, Willi!



      The new Wisdom
      Isn’t mythology grand ?

      For me the Heavens of Wisdom have always been the mind the intellect the pinnacle of abstract thought & informed Active imagination . Can you conceive? The region and reach of the uppermost human faculties Of the Highest Order. The old goes out the new rises, enters. Occupies and fills the spheres of Contemplation with new signs symbols . Imagine that … picture if you will … a thought experiment with new equations new metaphors new symbols for expressing our perception and sense of reality . A thought that can be projected to millions instantaneously simultaneously. The singularity is neigh … the old shall be made new in an instant . Hold on to your petards . We have hit warp speed. Watch your hands and feet. Enjoy the awesome ride .

      ‘The first law of thermodynamics, also known as Law of Conservation of Energy, states that energy can neither be created nor destroyed; energy can only be transferred or changed from one form to another. … In other words, energy cannot be created or destroyed.”

      “ In the quantum world, however, the conservation of quantum information means that information cannot be created nor destroyed.”

      This is such stuff of what myths and dreams are made.
      Along with the sci-fi action genre !!!


      Indeed, Robert. Equations are themselves metaphors – new metaphors that convey the same underlying experience and realization as the old metaphors.

      And so fun to play with! (the new metaphors, and the old)



        Yes …
        Yes …
        Yes …
        And so we contemplate the Cosmos
        For the first time again …
        To the nth°
        Isn’t superpositioning grand ?
        What the mind’s eye can do with the tree is decidedly profound decisive awesome along with many other archetypes and symbols … but alas they are buds in The Golden Bough …
        “There is a tree of many One…” !!!
        A Sacred Tree
        We bud upon …
        A Sacred Tree
        We’re hung upon …
        A Sacred Tree
        I’ve looked upon ………
        It does lend to give One
        Axis … Mundis Manu

        Just finished a video by Drunking History on Dog Day Afternoon… Hilarious !!!
        still contemplating the metaphoric implication.
        Those dog days do lead to all kinds of mayhem drama along with comic relief …
        Let slip … the languid Over abundant Dog Days of Summer … for it is in them That the tide of life reach a crescendo from which beasts and plagues arise bringing the fall then winter …


        In most mythologies the moon “is female,” but in a couple mythologies the moon “is male,” such as in Babylonian myth, the moon-god Sin is male. It is not hard then to imagine why Christianity went on to name wrongdoings as “sins,” since before electricity it was easier for humans to commit wrongdoings during the nighttime, in the dark. In Japanese/Shinto myths, the moon is also male, named  Tsukuyomi.

        Christianity rejected the “power” of the moon as sinful, yet statues of the Virgin Mary are often depicted with a crescent moon at her feet, or at the foot of her throne, showing her as Queen of the Heavens in Catholic belief, often akin to Venus, the Morning Star and Evening Star, and thus shows the Catholic Mary’s connection to Aphrodite, too. Thus she is also, in less-known Catholic prayers, addressed as the Queen/Lady of the Sea.


          In the old Sumer, the moon is a man: Nanna. His daughter the most praised goddess Innanna, Queen of Heaven and Earth.

          Until she responds to the cries from (her own unknown) another self, meeting the goddess of the underworld Ereshkagil, being the mirrorring side of herself, who renders this magnificent goddess, stripped from her regalia, to a corpse, saved by unreal creations (invoked by the scraps under his fingernails of her grandfather Enki), sacrificing her most beloved spouse Demuzi to avoid the darkness forever, or better accept both sides of nature, darkness and light into the reality, to ultimately become a true devine being, as guiding star, eight-rays radiating power lifting her worshippers to these immortal and fertile mud planes.

          Polarities proove very relative.


          Considering the Dog Days of Summer have come round once more, I thought I might bump this music on the mythology of the heavens back up to the top of the queue . . .

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