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By Marshall McClung
We are in the midst of dog days now. Ask people what the term "dog days" means, and you will likely get a variety of answers ranging from "I don't know", to "It has something to do with the "signs" doesn't it?" (meaning the signs of the zodiac that some farmers and gardeners go by in determining when they plant crops) to "It's something I have heard the older folks talk about."
Dog days are considered to be a period of time beginning on July 3, and lasting for forty days. (Some almanacs may show dog days beginning on July 25.) It is a period of time when we usually get our hottest, most 'sultry weather of the summer. Rainy spells often accompany dog days.
There are many superstitions and sayings associated with dog days. These include the saying that if it rains on the first day of dog days, it will rain all forty days. People thought dogs were worse to go mad (rabies) during dog days and that snakes were more venomous and more apt bite then.
Dog days gets the name from the rising of Sirius, the Dog Star that is located in the Canis Major constellation. It's rising in proximity to the sun made the ancients think that this added to the heat of summer.
There is another legend associated with the rain that often accompanies dog days. This has to do with St. Swithen, the Bishop of Winchester. At his request, he was buried by the church wall where water from the eaves would drop on his grave in benediction each time it rained. However, a century later he was canonized, and his body was moved from the grave and into the church. It is said that to show his displeasure at this act his spirit decreed that it would rain constantly for forty days. Some calendars show July 15 as St. Swithin's Day.
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For additional information on Graham County Adventures
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This page is maintained by Tom Livingston, Robbinsville, North Carolina