(For decades, local historian and paranormal investigator George “Buster” Singleton published a weekly newspaper column called “Somewhere in Time.” The column below, which was titled “The returning of Sirius the dog star is at hand, things will change unnoticed” was originally published in the July 23, 1998 edition of The Monroe Journal in Monroeville, Ala.)
As dawn breaks across the heavens on Friday, the 24th day of July, the reign of Sirius, the Dog Star will begin. For a total of 40 days, events may occur that we as a society may give little or no thought to. In our society of fairyland and make believe, we have forgotten almost all of the old folk tales handed down through past generations who sat wide-eyed around the evening fires, listening to tales and legends.
The Dog Star does not appear on the same day in July each year. It can appear as early as the 20th and as late as the 28th. The few who think they know something of this event think that Sirius appears always on the 28th of July. This is not true. The position of the planets above relate to the date of Sirius’ appearance in the heavens.
On this day in July, the Dog Star will take its place between our earth and the sun for a period of 40 days. Many things that we take for granted will change or disappear from the skies above us. Many happenings in our every day lives will change or make a turn around during this period of time. With our lives and entertainment centered around the bloob tube, we might not be aware anything has changed.
For example, should it rain on the first day of Dog Days, the legends say it will rain the remaining 40 days. If it should be dry that first day, the countryside will suffer a 40-day drought. Another legend is that all snakes go blind during this period. Unable to see and search for food, they become short tempered and hungry. They will strike blindly at the slightest sound or movement, increasing the risk of snake bite for those who wander in thick underbrush or tall weeds.
Another story is that milk cows give less milk during this period. Hogs, cattle, dogs and other animals born during Dog Days are less likely to survive than those born at other times during the year. It is said dogs are more likely to go mad or grow vicious during the reign of Sirius. Among us humans, tempers tend to grow shorter and less patience is shown to those who cross us. Cuts and bruises are slower to heal during this time; our bodies seem to lose resistance, and we become weaker during the passing of this evil star. Infection and fever blisters are said to be more common as the devil star makes its journey across the heavens.
An early Indian legend has it that fresh drinking water found in springs along the hillsides is less pure when Sirius is on the prowl.
The early Indians paid a lot of attention to the Dog Star. If all possible, crops were gathered and brought out of the fields before the arrival of Sirius. If, during these 40 days, the weather was wet and rainy, legend has it that thunder was more severe and lightning that flashed across the darkened skies was more likely to strike and cause damage to the villages along the rivers and streams. The medicine en or the wind walkers of the tribes watched the heavens closely so they could warn people of the dangers to come.
They also believed the spirits of the departed were more apt to wander on the winds of the evening during the reign of the devil star. As the tribes gathered around the evening fires, prayers were raised to the Great Spirit to ward off the curse of the devil star. This 40-day period was truly a time of mystery for the early Indian who roamed the hills and flatland of our area. Much of their life was based on this period and the signs they looked for as the Dog Star made its way across the heavens.
Much of their religion was focused on this star that roamed at will between the earth and the sun. They watched the heavens and the rivers, knowing that the mystery star would have great effect on their search for food in the deep waters. Living off the land as they did, all signs of the heavens were important to their every day living.
Today, in our modern lifestyles, we hear very little about they mystery signs and goings on within our universe. We pay little or no attention if it rains for 40 days or if it stays dry for this period of time that starts in July and ends in September. We pay little or no attention to the heavens on a clear night during August when the full moon hangs high in the heavens. If it does not appear on our television sets, most times we know nothing of the happenings above us.
Once in a great while one might find a calendar that shows the start of the period of Dog Days. There was a time when much of the life of the local country folks was based on the signs of the heavens and what the almanac had to say about the planting and growing of crops.
Much was also done in regards to the signs of the moon. No farmer in his right mind would plant crops if the signs were not right. From planting corn to killing hogs, everything bordered on the signs of the moon. And, even though the coming of the Dog Star was surrounded by mystery, many of the older citizens kept an eye towards the heavens, hoping to know in advance what was about to happen.
I don’t profess to be smart, but as I wander around the countryside and talk to the younger generation about happenings and signs to look for, I see total disinterest. Very few care whether it rains for 40 days unless it interferes with a trip to the beach or some local entertainment. No one of our youth of today know how to search for food in the deep forests or along the banks of our rivers. I am not a fatalist, by no means, but it frightens me to know that our youth of today know nothing about how to survive if worst comes to worst.
In writing this article, I do not intend to preach, but I do believe that we, as creatures of this universe, should strive to learn all we can about this world that we live in and the heavens above. If we disregard the signs that have been placed here for us, we are doomed to roam forever in a world that has no meaning. But if we try to understand that which is around us, our lives will be richer and many facts of the unknowns will come to life and even be helpful in our journey through time and distance.
So, as the 24th of July approaches, take time to look and learn all you can about the devil star and the effect its journey across the heavens has on man and his surroundings. Don’t be afraid to seek out a high hill on a night with a full moon and watch the heavens. It will surprise you what you will witness. Let us not journey through this life without learning something about this universe we call home.
(Singleton, the author of the 1991 book “Of Foxfire and Phantom Soldiers,” passed away at the age of 79 on July 19, 2007. A longtime resident of Monroeville, he was born to Vincent William Singleton and Frances Cornelia Faile Singleton, during a late-night thunderstorm, on Dec. 14, 1927 in Marengo County, graduated from Sweet Water High School in 1946, served as a U.S. Marine paratrooper in the Korean War, worked as a riverboat deckhand, lived for a time among Apache Indians, moved to Monroe County on June 28, 1964 and served as the administrator of the Monroeville National Guard unit from June 28, 1964 to Dec. 14, 1987. He was promoted from the enlisted ranks to warrant officer in May 1972. For years, Singleton’s columns, titled “Monroe County history – Did you know?” and “Somewhere in Time” appeared in The Monroe Journal, and he wrote a lengthy series of articles about Monroe County that appeared in Alabama Life magazine. It’s believed that his first column appeared in the March 25, 1971 edition of The Monroe Journal. He is buried in Pineville Cemetery in Monroeville. The column above and all of Singleton’s other columns are available to the public through the microfilm records at the Monroe County Public Library in Monroeville. Singleton’s columns are presented here each week for research and scholarship purposes and as part of an effort to keep his work and memory alive.)