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Star Lore of the Constellations: Canis Major; the Greater Dog, by Deborah Houlding

Notable stars in Canis Minor: Epoch 2000
Longitude Name Nature Mag. Position Lat. Dec.
25 Can 47 Procyon Mercury Mars 1 Dog's throat 16S 5N

Like Canis Major, the constellation of the 'Lesser Dog' or 'Little Dog' was also known by the name of its leading star. Classicists knew it as Procyon, before the dog, because it rises shortly before Sirius. The star Procyon is, like Sirius, a 1st magnitude star of white and yellow colour. Also like Sirius it is noted for producing rash tempers and violent activity but can portend wealth, honour and renown when well placed. Lilly said that it "designs a petulant saucy fellow, prone to anger, proud, careless, violent, giddy". [1]

Whereas Sirius's nature is classified as like Jupiter and Mars, Procyon's is listed as like Mercury and Mars, equally capable of intemperance, but more rapid and less stable in its effects.[2] Sirius is known as the 'dog-star'; its preceding companion, with its quick reaction, high energy and impetuous nature, in many respects fits the profile of 'the puppy', one of the titles by which it was traditionally known.

In mythology Procyon was said to be the dog of Helen of Troy, whose grief was such upon losing him that she prayed he might live again in heaven. Obvious connections have been drawn towards a danger of dog bites (or bites from wild animals generally) when this star is tied into unfortunate planetary alignments; Firmicus said that it gave danger from beasts when on the descendant with Mars in bad aspect and Vivian Robson detailed two charts where Procyon was notable and death or serious injury came from the bite of a dog.[3] More generally, it is said to confer violence, danger or opposition, or a headstrong and active disposition which brings great drive, a will for action and eminence for those that use such energies effectively through conscious employment. When well placed Procyon can be considered a very fortunate and powerful fixed star - it is, after all, the 8th brightest in the sky - but usually there is a danger of impudence or as Ebertin describes it, a tendency to "want to go through the wall with their head". [4] Consequently, it is said that the benefits Procyon bestows are seldom lasting, and frequently bring a need to successfully navigate a difficult course.

With its Mercury-Mars nature, an alignment of the personal planets with Procyon is traditionally a token of inclination towards military pursuits, or active engagement in verbal/physical dispute, stratagem, or contest. The 1st century writings of Manilius describe its influence upon those who manufacture weapons for hunting or sport; Lilly tells us that the Sun directed to this star "insinuates military preferment, after many contentions" (also that, like Sirius, when rising or culminating with the Sun in the horoscope, it gives "kingly preferment"); whilst Ebertin and Hoffman, who state that it gives "a sharp mind", detail four charts to demonstrate how a prominent Procyon brought danger through hostility, (including Elsbeth Ebertin: "several times she was the target of extreme aggression"). They detail only one where the alignment was shown to be beneficial - that of Field Marshall Hindenberg, whom they suggest was able to constructively direct the volatile energy into the battles that he fought.[5]

A good example of the interpretation of this star in classical astrology is given in the treatise "Bright, passionate, harmful and helpful stars" written in 379 AD and recently translated by Giuseppe Bezza.[6] Speaking of this as one of several prominent stars with a Mars-Mercury nature, our anonymous author writes:

These stars have Mars' and Mercury's temperament and nature and they make military heads and leaders, people who are valiant, able, skilled, strong and vigorous as well as full of energy, versatile, cunning and shrewd, people who are capable of doing a lot of varied activities and are competent at many things. These stars also give rise to wise and sensible people, with a shrill voice, deceptive people and they make people who are successful and have good results, obstinate and stubborn people, they who are impetuous, impulsive, insatiable and greedy in their desires, who corrupt both young boys and maidens, perjurers and oath-breakers; especially in the nocturnal genitures. If they rise at the horoscope in a diurnal geniture they make the natives become audacious and bold, fierce, people who are inclined to repent and often change their mind, false and deceitful, thieves, godless, friendless, simulators and shammers, insolent, people who stain themselves with murder, forgers and counterfeiters, cheats and swindlers and these natives sometimes do not die well. This happens especially in a diurnal geniture.

Much of this interpretation appears as the basis of later definitions of the stars influence and from it we can see that the positive attributes of Procyon are similar to the effects of Mercury and Mars in beneficial aspect, whereas a strained alignment with Procyon brings effects that are similar to Mercury in a difficult aspect with Mars. Since most authors accept that fixed stars intensify or magnify the effects of the angles or planets they align with, it's no surprise that such a star can be variously described as offering the potential for great success and honour when well placed, but great danger, and violent reaction when activated by malefics.

Meteorologically, a hard Mars-Mercury combination is a typical indicator of stormy and tempestuous weather (Mercury in contact with a malefic being the traditional significator for high winds and storms), and similarly Procyon afflicted will warn of damage through storms or floods. Robson's definition of Procyon is that it is a star which "gives activity, violence, sudden and violent malevolence", though of course this is where it is configured with damaging planets. [7] But Procyon does have a long association with drowning or the inability to resist the damaging effects of water which is worth exploring in connection with an Arabic myth that Richard H. Allen describes in his Star Names, their Lore and Meaning, accounting for the references to Procyon as 'watery-eyed', or 'the weeping-one'. [8]

The myth describes Sirius and Procyon as two sisters who tried to follow their brother Canopus across the sky when they came to the Great Sky River (the Milky Way). They both entered the river and attempted to swim across but only the older and stronger sister Sirius was successful and can now be seen on the southern bank of that river. The younger, weaker sister, Procyon, was unable to cross and has remained weeping on the northern bank, defeated by the strength of the river. Subsequently Sirius was referred to as "She who has passed through" whereas Procyon was referred to as "She who weeps", connecting to its widespread association with danger through drowning and floods. The myth may be very ancient, and allude to the Euphratean title for Procyon as the 'Star of the Crossing of the Water-dog', which relates to its proximity to the Milky Way, the 'River of Heaven', giving the suggestion of a star placed at a cross-point where opposing forces collide.

The last two cycles of retrograde Saturn over Procyon have borne out this malevolent reputation for storms, floods and drowning. The Boxing Day tsunami of 2004 had Saturn within a few minutes of conjunction, and Saturn was within half a degree of Procyon in its previous contact in 1975, when the Yangtze river floods in China, recorded as the third worst natural disaster of modern times, killed up to 200,000 people. [9]

To view Procyon, first locate Sirius. The twin stars of Gemini, Castor and Pollux, are easily identifiable to the northeast of Orion and a line drawn from Castor and Pollux to Sirius passes almost through Procyon as it curves towards Capella.

The Sun crosses Procyon around 18th July each year.

Notes & References:
  1 ] Lilly, Christian Astrology, 1647; p.537.
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  2 ] Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos, (1st cent. AD), trans. Robbins, published by Harvard Heinemann, Loeb classical library, London. I.9 (Loeb p.57).

Ptolemy claimed that its influence is "like that of Mercury and, in a less degree, that of Mars". Other authors, such as the anonymous author quoted in this article, gave the predominant influence to Mars.
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  3 ] Fimicus, Mathesis, 4th cent., translated by Jean Rhys Bram, VIII.IX.3.

Robson, The Fixed Stars and Constellations in Astrology, 1923, p.191.

The data for the charts Robson mentions are as follows:

1) Male, born 14th September, 1829, 54°N. Died from the bite of a dog. Sirius was in square to the Moon and also to Mercury in the 8th house [Mercury also ruled the 8th], while Procyon was in square to Venus in the 8th. The ascendant fell midway between the opposition of both stars.

2) Male, born 6th July, 1885, 6:15 p.m.,
54°N.03', 2°W.46'. Bitten in the leg by a dog on 9th December, 1901, and was not expected to live. Sirius was in conjunction with the Sun near the cusp of the 8th house, and Procyon was in conjunction with Mercury in that house.
[The chart for this horoscope is shown below]. Back to text


Robson's 2nd Example

  4 ] Ebertin and Hoffman, Fixed Stars and their Interpretation, AFA publications, 1971, p.43.
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  5 ] Manilius, Astronomica, (c.10 AD), translated by G.P. Goold; Harvard Heinemann, Loeb Classical Library; 5.197, (Loeb p.317).

Lilly, p.689 and p.621 respectively.

Ebertin and Hoffman, p.43.
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  6 ] Italian translation by Giuseppe Bezza from CCAG V/1 pp. 194-211. English translation by Daria Dudziak.

Available online at
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  7 ] Robson, p.191.
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  8 ] Dover Publications 1899, p.132.
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  9 ] 5th August 1975 - 63 dams failed to contain the flood.
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© Deborah Houlding. First published in The Traditional Astrologer Magazine, issue 16; March 1998. Expanded and published online June 2005.

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