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Four Seasons Asterisks appear next to saintsí names - see Celebrating Saints

July 1 Rain Prognostication

If the first of July it be rainy weather
Twill rain, more or less, for four weeks together.

Kightly, Charles, The Perpetual Almanack of Folklore, Thames & Hudson 1987

July 1 Canada Day
Unless it's a Sunday, then it's the following day. Celebrated with picnics and fireworks and red-and-white birthday cakes.

July 2 Visitation (Expectant Mothers)
On On this day the pregnant Virgin Mary visited her cousin Elizabeth who recited the words which became part of the Hail Mary: "Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb." The flowers for the feast day are lilies and red and white roses.

The Protestant Pennsylvania Dutch say that this is the day that Mary goes over the mountain and returns six weeks later on August 15th. Some say if it rains when she leaves, it will be dry when she returns, others vice versa. Or if it rains the day she leaves, it will rain for six weeks but if it's dry on July 2nd, six weeks of dry weather will follow. Mark Trumbore of Montgomery County recorded this Dutch saying:

Wann sie net brunst wann sie geht, dann brunst sie wann sie kummt.
If she doesn't urinate when she goes, she urinates when she comes.

A good day to honor any expectant mothers that you know, perhaps performing a ritual of blessing the mother and the child within.

Yoder, Don, Groundhog's Day, Stackpole Press

Maypole DanceVisitation of Mary
Visitation of Mary

July 2 Dog Days Begin
Around the beginning of July the beginning of July, Sirius, the brightest star in the constellation Canis Major (the big Dog), rises just before the Sun. The ancient Greeks believed that Sirius contributed to the heating of the earth in late summer, that's why they called it seirius, after a word which means “searing” or “scorching.” The rise of Sirius signals the beginning of the dog days, or, in Dante's words, “the great scourge of days canicular.”

Homer also refers to Sirius in the Iliad, when comparing Priam

Like to the star that does in autumn rise
Whose radiant beams, pre-eminent to sight,
Shine with their fellow stars at noon of night:
Orion's Dog we mortals call its name:
Sign is it of much ill, though clear its light
And mighty fever brings to man's poor frame.

The morning rising of Sirius, at the start of the fruit harvest (around 28th of July in 800 BCE) occurred at the time of the greatest heat and sickness, a period which the Greeks believed was caused by the star. They compared the dessication of men to the fate of men who die of thirst while afflicted with hydrophobia after being bitten by a dog, driven mad by the heat of the dog days. The constellation Sirius was imagined as an image of a bounding dog with lolling tongue and bulging eyes, his head circled bythe rays of the Sun. Because the star was associated with ill omen, it was also called “the disastrous-shining star.”

The ancient Greeks believed that during the Dog Days, women are most wanton and men the weakest, a belief that persisted through the Middle Ages. In fact Aristotle poses this question in Problemata: "Why is it that in summer men are less capable of sexual intercourse and women more so?" The answer, provided by Hesiod, using a doctrine of the humors, similar to that which persists in Chinese medicine, is that since men are naturally hot and dry, summer weakens them through excess while it balances the natural wet and cold condition of women. So men were warned to avoid sex during the Dog Days, as the excessive demands of a woman would debilitate the man.

In these Dog Days it is forbidden by
Astronomy to all Manner of People to be
let Blood or take Physic. Yea, it is good to
abstain all this time from Women. For why,
all that time reigneth a Star that is called
Canicula Canis, a Hound in English, and
the kind of the Star is broiling and burning
as Fire. All this time the Heat of the Sun is
so fervent and violent that Men's bodies at
Midnight sweat as at Midday; and if they
be hurt, they be more sick than at any other
time, yea very near Dead.
- The Husbandmen's Practice 1729

The belief in the ill effect of the Dog Days persists. W.G. Sebald mentions it in this evocative beginning of a novel he wrote in 1995:

In August of 1942 when the dogdays were drawing to an end, I set off to walk the county of Suffolk, in the hope of dispelling the emptiness that tales hold of me whenever I have completed a long stint of work. And in fact my hope was realized, up to a point; for I have seldom felt so carefree as I did then, walking for hours in the day through the thickly populated countryside, which stretches inland from the Coast. I wonder now, however, whether there might be something to the old superstition that certain ailments of the spirit and of the body are particularly likely to beset us under the Sign of the Dog Star.

Different days have been assigned as the starting date for the Dog Days. Pliny in one place mentions the day Sirius enters Leo (on July 22nd); in another place, its rising (on July 4th in Egypt, on July 17th in Italy). Sometimes they are reckoned from its heliacal and not cosmical rising.

In Japan, dog days are associated with safe birth. So in July of 2001, Crown Prince Naruhito tied a long white silk scarf around the pregnant belly of his wife, Crown Princess Masako, to protect her during her pregnancy. This is usually done on the dog's day (a Tuesday) during the fifth month of a pregnancy. Apparently the ritual was successful for their first child, a daughter, was born in December.

Bormanis, Andre,"From Sumer to Star Trek: the History of Star Names,"
SkyWatch 1999.
Detienne, Marcel,
The Gardens of Adonis, translated by Janet Lloyd, The Harvester Press 1977
Kightly, Charles,
The Perpetual Almanack of Folklore, Thames & Hudson 1987
Nilsson, Martin P,
Primitive Time Reckoning, Oxford University Press 1920
Sebald, W.G.,
The Rings of Saturn, translated by Michael Hulse, New Directions 1998

July 2 Il Palio
The first of two horse races run in Siena (the second is on Aug 16th). This one for the banner (palio) bearing the image of the Madonna di Provenzano.

Blackburn, Bonnie & Leofranc Holford-Strevens, The Oxford Companion to the Year, Oxford University Press 1999

July 2 New Moon in Cancer
This is the start of the Greek lunar month of Hecatombion, which is also the start of the year. In the Jewish calendar, this is the month of Tammuz. The new moon of the sixth Chinese month is called the Lotus Moon.

July 2 Lotus Moon
The lotus, has its own anniversary, at this time when summer rains are expected to break in the north. It blooms in ponds and moats around Peking, a sign that the prayers to the Dragon Prince have born fruit and the moisture necessary for an abundant harvest has been showered on the parched earth. In Peking people go the view the lotuses like the Japanese view cherry blossoms. They flock to the lakes of the Winter Palace and go out in boats to view the pink blossoms through which lanes have been cut for ease of movement.

For more on the lotus, see my article at
From Chinese Creeds and Customs by V R Burkhardt, Hong Kong: South China Morning Post, 1982, p. 40. quoted at www.jadedragon.com/holidays/june.html

July 2 Athenian New Year
The first day of the new moon in Hecatombion was considered the start of the New Year in Athens and was dedicated to Athena Polias, Athena as the guardian of the city. Although this seems like an odd time for a new year festival, it's echoed in Egypt where the flooding of the Nile Valley (at the same time as the rising of Sirius — see July 2) was considered the start of the new year.

July 4 Fourth of July, Old Style Solstice
This holiday has the flavor of summer solstice, with its emphasis on fireworks and picnics and revelry, so if you don't like the patriotic emphasis, just tell your friends that you're celebrating Summer Solstice.

Dog Star

July 5 Popilifugia
This holiday, whose name means “Flights of the People” is found inscribed on official Roman calendars but we have no clear information about what it commemorates or how it was celebrated.

Blackburn, Bonnie & Leofranc Holford-Strevens, The Oxford Companion to the Year, Oxford University Press 1999

July 6 St Thomas More*
He was a prominent London lawyer in the 15th century, whose skill attracted the attention of King Henry VIII who made him Chancellor in 1532. Unfortunately, Thomas More would not concede that Henry was the head of the Church of England and for this he was beheaded, as were so many others who could not give Henry what he wanted. He is the patron of lawyers.

July 6 John Huss Day
The Pennsylvania Dutch believe that if it rains on this day, which honors the Protestant martyr burned at the stake in 1415, the nut crop will be poor.

Yoder, Don, Groundhog's Day, Stackpole Press

July 6 Games of Apollo
The first of eight days dedicated to games honoring Apollo in ancient Rome. The first two days were devoted to circus games, the last six to the presentation of dramas.

Blackburn, Bonnie & Leofranc Holford-Strevens, The Oxford Companion to the Year, Oxford University Press 1999

July 7 Nona Capritonae of Juno
The 7th of the Goat-Fig was celebrated by Roman women who made sacrifices to Juno Caprotina under a wild fig tree. In earlier times, it was a holiday for female slaves who dressed up, demanded gifts, and fought a sham battle, supposedly re-enacting a historical event when the invading Gauls demanded Roman wives as hostages. The slave girls put on the dress of free women and went out to the Gaulish camp where they slept with the men, later signaling the Romans to attack by lighting a fig tree on fire.

Burriss says the slave women cut sprays from the fig tree, sacrificed them and offered their milky juice to Juno the Goat. Since both the fig and the goat are symbols of fertility, it is likely this ritual was intended to promote fecundity. Varro wrote of the festival that the women used switches from the male wild fig-tree, possibly to whip themselves, another fertility ritual. Burriss suggests this mirrored the act of putting sprays of wild male fig branches among the domestic female fig trees to pollinate them.

Blackburn, Bonnie and Leofranc Holford-Strevens, Oxford Companion to the Year, Oxford University Press 1999

July 7 Tanabata
Once celebrated on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month, at the same time as the festival of the Cowherd and the Weaving Maiden, this Japanese holiday is now celebrated on the 7th day of the 7th month with prayers for children’s artistic development.

Blackburn, Bonnie and Leofranc Holford-Strevens, Oxford Companion to the Year, Oxford University Press 1999

July 8 Airing the Classics
On the sixth day of the sixth lunar month, the Chinese shake out and air books and clothes. This was also the day when the imperial elephants were washed until 1885 when one of them ran amok and injured a spectator.

Blackburn, Bonnie & Leofranc Holford-Strevens, The Oxford Companion to the Year, Oxford University Press 1999

July 11 Adonia begins
The Greeks began a 16-day festival honoring Adonis and Aphrodite beginning on the ninth day of Hecatombion in Athens and Alexandria and spanning the full moon.

During the festival, loose women (prostitutes and mistresses) invited their lovers to parties on the rooftops where they drank, danced and feasted while burning spices in honor of Adonis and Aphrodite. Aristophanes depicted a "festival of Adonis" briefly in Lysistrata when he wrote:

Has then the women's wantonness blazed out,
Their constant timbrels and Sabaziuses
And that Adonis feast upon the roof
Which once I heard in full Assembly time?

One of the characteristic activities of the festival was the planting of short-lived gardens of Adonis. Women sowed fast-growing seeds of wheat, barley, lettuce, fennel and sometimes flowers in shallow silver baskets, clay vases, bowls and even shards. The plants grew rapidly but had shallow root systems. They were carried about and moved from place to place; images from Greek vases show the women carrying them up ladders to the roof-tops. At the end of eight days, they were thrown into the ocean or a stream, sometimes along with an image of the dead Adonis.

Detienne objects to the usual Frazerian interpretation of these as emblems of the dying and resurrected vegetation god. Using structural analysis, he points out these gardens of Adonis are not cultivated in the way farmers (usually men) tend seeds intended to produce viable crops, that is, they plant them in the ground and not at the hottest part of the year. Instead he draws a parallel between the wasted and frivolous life of Adonis, and the futility and sterility of these gardens, that flourish for eight days but are then discarded. .

Detienne, Marcel, The Gardens of Adonis, translated by Janet Lloyd, The Harvester Press 1977

Wild Fig

July 12 St Veronica*
The story is that she wiped the blood from the face of Jesus as he made his way to his Crucifixion and his image stayed on the cloth. However, her name may come from the Latin for veil, vernicula, suggesting that the story came first and her name later. The bright blue flowers of speedwell are supposed to display in their marking a representation of the image of Christ and thus are named after her.

The OCY gives her name as Berenice and say that she is the woman with an issue of blood cured by Jesus at Capernaum.

Blackburn, Bonnie & Leofranc Holford-Strevens, The Oxford Companion to the Year, Oxford University Press 1999

July 13 Obon Festival begins
Japanese Buddhist festival to honor the departed souls who return and share a life with us during these days. It is also called the Festival of the Lanterns, because the colorful paper lanterns which decorate the festival ground light the way for the ancestors to return. On the last day, the souls of the dead return and are given food offerings, accompanied by a silent, gliding circle dance, the bon-odori. Spirits with no relatives are honored with little boats bearing paper lanterns which are set afloat on the Tide of Returning Ghosts to drift out to sea.

Liza Dalby comments that the O-bon festival is the halfway point in the ritual year for the Japanese. And like it’s mirror holiday, New Year’s Day, it is a time for giving formal gifts. Originally celebrated on the thirteenth through the fifteenth days of the seventh month, therefore at the full moon, it is celebrated on August 13-15 in the western part of Japan, dates that would correspond with the old lunar calendar. However, it was moved back to the seventh month in 1873 when the Gregorian calendar was introduced and is celebrated on July 13-15 in eastern Japan, which includes Tokyo.

Etsu Inagaki Sugimoto provides a long and detailed description of the festival in Nagaoka, in 1926. She says that houses were cleaned for days in preparation for the annual return of O Shorai Sama, the combined spirit of all ancestors. The household shrine was decorated with lotus blossoms, gathered before sunrise when they puffed open, and brought in to be heaped with vegetables and fruit, while the seven grasses of autumn: althea, pampas, convolvulus, wild pink and three kinds of asters, purple, yellow and white, were placed in vases besides the door. The Grandmother of the house made special decorations for the shrine, fashioning small horses out of crooked cucumbers, with corn silk for mane and tails and hemp stems for legs, and water buffalos from eggplants with horns and legs of hemp stems. (Liza Dalby writing about Obon describes little effigy horses and oxen made by sticking toothpick legs in cucumbers and eggplants—they are for the ancestors to ride from the netherworld as ghosts don’t have feet.) Yards of somen (thin wheat flour noodles) were festooned across the top of the shrine and the other ornaments hung at intervals. Presiding over all was the great Bon lantern.

At twilight, the O Shorai Sama arrived, a vague figure riding on a snow-white steed who comes from "the land of darkness, the shores of the unknown, the place of the dead." Everyone wore new clothes, and the doors to the shrine were left open. The family processed to the gateway where a heap of 13 hemp stems were laid atop a heap of dried grass which was set on fire. All around the town other fires burned in other gateways.

For the next two days, the town was full of lanterns, carried by people, decorating houses, lining streets, and swaying above every grave in the cemetery, suspended from arches made of the stems of pampas grass. Nothing was killed during these three days, no fish, fowl or even insects. Everyone gave to beggars and baskets of food were hidden beneath lotus leaves on the graves so the poor could take them way after the Bon lanterns had burnt out.

On the fourth day, the pampas mat which had been placed before the shrine was fashioned into a little boat. The lotus leaf dishes containing the food offerings were placed in the boat, along with incense, uncooked bread and rice for the birds, the decorations from the shrine and a white lantern. The boat was carried down to the river and set adrift at sunrise, along with boats from the other households, which drifted away on the first tide, carrying the O Shorai Sama back to the unknown land.

Dalby, Liza, East Wind Melts the Ice: A Memoir Through the Seasons, University of California Press, 2007
Sugimoto, Etsu Inagaki,
The Daughter of the Samurai, Charles Tuttle, 1926, c. 1966, pp. 73-81.

July 14 Norwegian Midsummer Day
According to an ancient calendar stick, this was the midpoint of the summer season in Norway

July 14 Kronia
In ancient times, the Greek month of Hecatombion was also called Kronion, in honor of the old agricultural god Kronus, whose symbol was the reaper's scythe. On the full moon (like the full moon of September which is also a Harvest Moon), the farm year ended with masters and slaves gathering to enjoy a harvest dinner together.

St Veronica
St. Veronica

July 15 St Swithin
Swithin was an early Saxon Bishop of Winchester. On his death bed, he asked to be buried among the poor in the common churchyard, but later, after many miracles at his gravesite, the monks moved his body inside to a splendid shrine, whereupon the saint wept in protest, causing a continuous downpour for forty days. Thus he came to be associated with weather charms like this:

St Swithin's Day, if it does rain
Full forty days, it will remain
St Swithin's Day, if it be fair
For forty days, twill rain no more

Rain on St Swithin's Day blesses the apples which should not be picked or eaten before his feast. All apples growing at this time will ripen.

Kightly, Charles, The Perpetual Almanack of Folklore, Thames & Hudson 1987

July 15 Gorestnici, Fire Festival
July was called the "hot month" in Bulgaria, partly because the people celebrated a fire festival of three days duration beginning on the 15th.

Nilsson, Martin P, Primitive Time Reckoning, Oxford University Press 1920

St. Swithin
St. Swithin

More July Holidays

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