The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #73825   Message #2797642
Posted By: GUEST,DoINeedAnAccount_BradNeedham
28-Dec-09 - 03:02 AM
Thread Name: Folklore: Somerset Girt Dog of Langport
Subject: RE: Folklore: Somerset Girt Dog of Langport
WooHoo! I found a nice web page for calculating the first and last visibility of various stars during the year, at
http://www.ancientcartography.net/heliacJAVA.html#LINKvbs

Feeding it the latitude and longitude of Glastonbury, Somerset, UK (and with a few more assumptions thrown in) it comes up with an Evening Rising time (first visibility after sunset) of Sirius of January 5, 100 BC. That is, (allowing for a bit of hand waving) at about 100 BC the date when Sirius would be first visible at sunset was about January 5.

The exact date isn't important (because it relies on things like atmospheric conditions in the area and the calendar in use at the time) - what's important is that it's possible for it to come out to something close to Twelfth Night: the time of Wassailing.

So, the verse about the Girt Dog of Langport burning his long tail could (possibly) be giving instructions: The time to go Wassailing is the first night on which you see Sirius rise just after sunset.

(Unfortunately, my idea of the maid with the silver-headed pin referring to Spica in Virgo doesn't seem to pan out - the risings and settings of Spica don't seem to come out anywhere near Twelfth Night.)

Just to clarify: I'm not talking about some mystical/astrological thing: I'm suggesting that the text gives practical instructions of how to choose the time of Wassailing based on simple observations of the sky.