SIRIUS, the brightest star in the sky, reaches peak height on New Years Eve, then falls behind the horizon for 70 days come mid-Spring. She reappears at dawn on July 4th, ever-converging with the sun through the “dog days of summer”. These 40 days have been historically known as a time of: rebirth, flooding, freedom, maddening heat, and burning away of the chaff – since the return of this particular star was thought to add searing intensity to the already sweltering Summer sun. Many cultures ceremoniously annunciate the onset of these warmest months like:
– St. John’s Day, the observed birthday of John the Baptist in Christian Ordinary Time, when adherents continue to meditate on the words “give us this day our daily bread.” (24-Jun-16)
– Ramadan which means scorching heat, honors the 1st revelation of the Qur’an to the Prophet Mohammed, and is now remembered as a month “to feed your soul with fasting, prayer, and increased charity.” (Ends 5-Jul-16)
– Rath Yatra is a Hindu chariot festival on the full moon of the eighth month, when the divine family vacations outside temples in the countryside, in full view of regular people. Parades unify India just before monsoons resume. (6-Jul-16)
– Tammuz is a month of transformation and lament for the Hebrew people (Ez 8:14). The walls of the Jewish temple were breached on Tammuz 17, in this month when “the spent flower falls to earth, new seed has not yet come, and water hides underground.”¹ (Starts 7-Jul-16)
– Asalha Puja is the anniversary of Buddha’s 1st sermon at Deer Park about his views on dharma and the middle way. (19-Jul-16)
Other people venerated Summer too: Vikings, Grecians, Romans, and Native Americans still today. But why bother? Ascribed worthy due, communal gatherings evoke mindful reflection, gratitude for the hunt or full orchard cart, and plea for comfort (plus conscientious preparedness) when natural disaster strikes.
At peak Summer (Aug-1st), old Celts observed Lughnasadh (the Loaf Sabbat, or Loaf Mass) to kick off the cereal harvest when “the first sheaf was ceremonially reaped, threshed, milled, and baked into a loaf (the shape of a person).” Call it rally day if you like, since “the harvest is great but the workers are few.” Sweat-ridden busyness continues this way through Halloween (Samhain) when the last stores are put away for winter, a stark reminder that “the grain must perish so we might live.”²
Today like then, dawdling sunsets and balmy temps make the dog days ripe for picnics and catnaps no doubt, so it’s easy to forget the Summer Solstice is yet past. Even now the Sun’s creeping from the sky into a time of increasing darkness. Days are growing shorter.
Keep the faith, friends. Without unnecessary fanfare, Sirius did a U-turn last week. Climbing ever-skyward now, she blazes a trail for us to follow. Wake up early to see her appearance though, 6-7 am East SE on the horizon before fading into the day.³ After that we’ll be too blind from work and sleep to glimpse her again till Autumn. In the first minutes of July 4th, we pause in silence to recoup vigor, resharpen our wits, and wish others well upon a star. A’dieu for now. Gudbwye neighbor. See you again soon. That cool drink of water and fresh morning breeze might be enough to remind us the ageless mantra of Jesus our brother and teacher, who said: “I am the bread of life”, “I am the Light of the world”, “I am making a way for you in the wilderness”, “I am sending a messenger to go before you”.
“The harvest is great” – Luke 10:2
Acoustic: Hard Days Night
Artist: The Beatles, Hard Day’s Night (1964)