Sirius has captured the imaginations of peoples around the world, and has held their attention for ages...
Long before the publication of Hierarchical information regarding Sirius, this star had attracted the attention of inquiring Humanity. Sirius figured prominently in mythic and religious systems and, as the brightest of the fixed stars, caught the eye of the early sky watcher. In fact, Sirius has been described as "...the first star in heaven and the kingpin of archaic astronomy," a star the significance of which far surpasses our unsuspecting expectations. (1)
This significance is partially unveiled by H.P.Blavatsky, who tells us that Sirius exerts a mystic and direct influence over the entire living heaven and is to be found linked with every great religion of antiquity. (2)
Located just southeast of Orion, Sirius is easily identified in the winter night sky. It sits in the constellation Canis Major (The Greater Dog), the eastern edge of which borders on the Milky Way. (3) Sirius itself is located just to the lower left of the three conspicuous stars forming the belt of Orion, and is most readily visible from approximately December to February. As the brightest of the stars in its grouping, Sirius is thus designated Alpha Canis Major. And at 8.3 light years away, it is one of the stars nearer to our system. (4)
As early as 1844, astronomers suspected that Sirius was a member of a binary star system (a point not specifically addressed by the Tibetan), and was thought to have a smaller companion known as Sirius B. This fact was verified in 1862 and further validated by spectral analysis in 1915. (5)
Binary systems consist of two stars, a larger and a smaller, which orbit a common center of mass in elliptical orbits. (6) The star lighter in weight has a larger, elliptical orbit; the smaller, more massive star has a smaller one. In the case of the Sirian binary system, the internal orbital period is 49.97 years. (7) All binary systems also orbit around the center of our galaxy. Thus, as the two stars orbit both their common center of mass and the galactic center, they trace out intertwining spirals. (8) This type of arrangement is now considered to be quite ordinary, about half of all star systems being of this nature. (9)
Triple star systems are also known, and the Sirian system may yet prove to be one of these.
In fact, twentieth century astronomers now think that most of the stars in our galaxy exist in some type of relation with other stars, being not solitary, but bound by the force of gravity to at least one and sometimes many companion stars. (10) Indeed, in this notion, contemporary astronomers echo what the Tibetan so often emphasized in A Treatise on Cosmic Fire—that groupings of stars or Solar Logoi form living, coherent units within even greater coherent units. In this, we see the convergence of esoteric occultism and accepted scientific theory.
But the scientific acceptance of this type of relatedness among stars was in no way ordinary at the time during which the nature of Sirius B was demonstrated. As it turned out, the existence of binary systems opened up a new vista in astrophysical theory, for the recognition of Sirius B entailed the creation of a whole new star type, called the white dwarf, and a whole new matter type, called degenerate.
White dwarfs, such as Sirius B, are stars that have undergone gravitational collapse and which, because of the dense packing of their atomic structure, have enormous density and surface gravity. (11) Constituted of atoms stripped of their electrons, the matter of which white dwarfs are made is called degenerate matter. Gases in the degenerate state of matter do not expand when heated, as do ordinary gases. (12) Hence, white dwarfs do not follow the same life cycle as the other types of stars known before their discovery. White dwarfs are stars in an extreme state of contraction.
As a result, Sirius B is much heavier and about one hundred times smaller in radius than is Sirius A. (13) Further, the visible light from Sirius B is ten thousand times fainter than that from Sirius A, though Sirius B gives off far more ultraviolet and other light. (14)
Thus, Sirius A is huge, bright, and light in weight; Sirius B is compact, faint, and weighty. According to current astrophysical theory, stars like Sirius B sometimes cool further to become cold black dwarfs, (15) while others heat back up again to become novas. (16) Novas erupt and spew into space the matter of which they are made. Such matter may be caught in the gravitational field of a partner star, and in this way, binary stars sometimes exchange matter and eventually switch roles.
The future of the Sirian system in this regard remains yet to be seen.
However, the extraordinary collection of light energy currently residing in Sirius A is as obvious today as it was in ancient times. In fact, it is thought by some that this exceeding brilliance is the origin of the name of this star, (17) for the present day name of Sirius is likely derived from a Greek word close in both sound and meaning to the English word for searing.
The original Greek term, SEIRIOS, means sparkling or scorching, and refers to the facts that Sirius is the brightest star in the sky and rises with the Sun during the hottest part of the year. This bright and hot theme associated with Sirius is reflected in the fact that Sirius may be one of the oldest forms of a fire deity. (18)
But the Greeks also had other names for the star we now call Sirius, or Sirius A. Sometimes they referred to it simply as ASTRON, a term which is the root word for our English term, astronomy. The Greeks also labeled Sirius with various forms of the term Dog-Star, because of the star's placement in the constellation Canis, which is Latin for Dog, (19) and sometimes called it The Dog of Orion. (20) Various other cultures and peoples of the Mediterranean area also had names for Sirius with the word dog involved. (21)
However, the Greeks and their neighbors most likely got these ideas from the Egyptians, for it appears that the linkage of the star Sirius with the dog figure originally arose in Egypt. (22) There Sirius was from the earliest of times represented in hieroglyphics by a dog (23) and associated with the god Anubis, a highly important member of the Egyptian pantheon depicted with the head of a jackal, (24) a small wild dog related to the wolf.
The jackal (or dog), the symbol of Anubis, represented Sirius in Egyptian hieroglyphics perhaps as early as 3285 B.C. (25) Thus, through the connection of Anubis the Jackal-Headed god and Sirius, Sirius came to be called the Star of the Dog, or the Dog-Star. Eventually, this imagery imparted its name to the star grouping within which Sirius is perceived.
Hence, we have the constellation of the Dog, or Canis, using the Latin in which some constellations are designated.
Today astronomy recognizes two dog constellations, the Greater and the Lesser, or Canis Majoris and Canis Minoris.
Sirius is to be found in the Greater Dog, as mentioned above.
This affiliation of Sirius with the dog figure has given rise to the folk notion of the Dog Days, a period of about forty days each year in July and August when Sirius and the Sun rise over the eastern horizon at about the same time. (26) This period of time is so called simply because it is an interval in which the Dog-Star is prominent by association with the Sun. But the Dog Days have come to be conceived of popularly as a period of misery and distress caused by the oppressive heat of summer - hanging over the land at that time. Likewise, the phrase "Dog Days" has also come to mean any difficult period in general.
The origin of this terminology is largely lost to contemporary society, being thought widely to have originated in the behavior of domesticated dogs, which are presumed to be infected with rabies more readily in the late summer of the year. As can be seen, the actual meaning of the term "Dog Days" has nothing whatsoever to do with canine illnesses and their threat to humans. Instead, it has only to do with astronomical alignments.
But in this faulty association of a troublesome canine figure with Sirius, the western world is not alone. The Chinese called Sirius the Heavenly Wolf, and felt that attacks from thieves (which is what some wolves are in the animal world) were presaged when this star was particularly bright. (27) As we shall see, this connection of the influence of Sirius with danger from dogs (or wolves, which are canines) has colored the astrological characterization of this great star. This is but one of many pedestrian notions projected onto the nature of Sirius, amounting to a tragic misunderstanding of this noble star.
1 De Santillana & von Dechend, Hamlet's Mill: 285-286.
2 H. P. Blavatsky, Theosophical Glossary: 300.
3 Richard Hinckley Allen, Star Names, Their Lore and Meaning: 117.
4 Richard Hinckley Allen, Star Names, Their Lore and Meaning: 128.
5 V.Illingworth,Ed.,FactsonFileDictionaryofAstronomy, Revised edition: 345,415.
6 Simon Milton, Ed., The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Astronomy: 90.
7 V.Illingworth,Ed.,FactsonFileDictionaryofAstronomy, Revised edition: 345.
8 Simon Milton, Ed., The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Astronomy: 90.
9 Simon Milton, Ed., The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Astronomy: 88.
10 Simon Milton, Ed., The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Astronomy: 88.
11 V.Illingworth,Ed.,Factson File Dictionary of Astronomy, Revised edition: 414.
12 ”Theodore P. Snow, Essentials of the Dynamic Universe: An Introduction to Astronomy: 279.
13 Simon Milton, Ed., The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Astronomy: 107.
14 Theodore P. Snow, Essentials of the Dynamic Universe: An Introduction to Astronomy: 292.
15 V.Illingworth,Ed.,FactsonFileDictionaryofAstronomy, Revised edition: 414.
16 Theodore P. Snow, Essentials of the Dynamic Universe: An Introduction to Astronomy: 293.
17 Richard Hinckley Allen, Star Names, Their Lore and Meaning: 120; V.E. Robson, The Fixed Stars and Constellations in Astrology: 208.
18 Valentia Straitton, Celestial Ship of the North, Vol. I: 212.
19 Richard Hinckley Allen, Star Names, Their Lore and Meaning: 120.
20 Richard Hinckley Allen, Star Names, Their Lore and Meaning: 117.
21 Richard Hinckley Allen, Star Names, Their Lore and Meaning: 123.
22 Robert K. G. Temple, The Sirius Mystery: 64.
23 Richard Hinckley Allen, Star Names, Their Lore and Meaning: 123.
24 E. A. Wallis Budge, Gods of the Egyptians or Studies in Egyptian Mythology, Vol II: 261.
25 Richard Hinckley Allen, Star Names, Their Lore and Meaning: 123.
26 Nicholas de Vore, Encyclopedia of Astrology: 128.
27 Richard Hinckley Allen, Star Names, Their Lore and Meaning: 124.