To my Hollins friends
Sirius is rising.
After fifty seasons under Sirius the Scorcher, 25 of them under the sign of Saturn the Philosopher, I never thought the white and black star could set a figure together.
Sirius, the Herald of canicula, the ecstatic days of heat – the apogee of the other time, the time of a world out of joint, of Chaos Unbound, world of wild freedom; days of frenzy and anxiety, of inspiration and turmoil. The Scorcher star hits hard.
Saturn the philosopher, compelling dark seducer, asking for commitment, for dedication to the consuming delights of thought, to arduous study and teaching, to the sober dignity of a slow and patient formation of a world. The imperative of Common Cosmos.
However, today, for seven summers I know that there is unimaginable constellation out there, where Sirius the Scorcher and Saturn the Philosopher, the ardent white star and the meditative dark star meet. Freedom and Dignity meet there, and the starstruck terrestrians foresee a possibility for future.
31 July 2020
Such is also his guardian Dog, seen standing on its two legs below the soaring back of Orion, variegated, not bright overall, but dark in the region of the belly as it moves round; but the tip of its jaw is inset with a formidable star, that blazes most intensely: and so men call it the Scorcher. When Sirius rises with the sun trees can no longer outwit it by feebly putting forth leaves. For with its keen shafts it easily pierces their ranks, and strengthens some but destroys all the growth of others.
(Aratus (c. 310BC-260BC), Phaenomena, translated by Douglas Kidd)
To the Greek mind there was a direct causal connection between the arrival of Sirius and the onset of the hot dry days of late summer. Sirius, as it emerged from its conjunction with the sun, was thought to induce the heat and dryness of August. This heat could not only wither plants but influence the behavior of animals as well. Goats would gaze towards Sirius in the east and emit a cry, the wild Egyptian oryx was said to turn towards Sirius and sneeze. People could contract deadly fevers at this time of year, brought on by Sirius; men could weaken during this time and women could be overcome by carnal desire. People, who suffered from the heat of Sirius were said to be “star struck” (astroboletus). Even Hippocrates, the father of medicine, warned of the effects of Sirius.
Sirius was thought to produce “emanations” which could place people and animals in danger of these effects. The idea that Sirius was a source of these emanations could well be linked to the visual appearance of the star when the atmosphere is turbulent and unsettled. At these times the star appears alive and active; seemingly splashing colored rays of light into the sky. Because of its brightness and bluish-white color, Sirius displays such activity much more prominently than other stars and was therefore perceived to be capable of producing effects in humans, animals, plants, and the environment. There was also a widespread association in the Greek mind of the twinkling and flashing of Sirius with such physiological conditions and states as seething, shaking, emptying, and oppression: as if the star was in distress and spewing its light about the sky. Indeed, Sirius acquired such epitaphs as “the Shaker”.
(Jay B. Holberg, Sirius. Brightest Diamond in the Night Sky, Springer-Praxis Books in Popular Astronomy, 2007, p. 19)