Virgo the Maiden/Virgin is the sixth Sign of the Zodiac, we all knew this, so why is it necessary to dedicate an entire article to this Sign? The very fact that this question is asked is in itself indicative of the necessity.
We know much about Virgo and the significations behind it, I’m sure, but what we do not know is where these significations came from. We are all too busy accepting things about the Sign instead of exploring why these things were thought up. Apparently in today’s astrology it is considered “good enough” for an astrologer to only know what things are and what they mean, but not pay attention to where they came from and why they mean these things. Perhaps this can be seen as useless, but I find it necessary to complete understanding and it definitely helps in knowing what you’re doing and what you’re talking about, which has become a lost art in itself. Across the internet, it seems easy to claim that the Zodiac was formed and the significations laid out in Greece or Rome, and that mentioning only those deities or figures is necessary to gain complete understanding. Hopefully, this is obviously ridiculous, as astrology was forming long before its introduction to Greece. To throw out the more ancient roots of the Signs of the Zodiac as they were in Babylon or Egypt is a waste. In this article, we will discuss and uncover the beginnings of Virgo the Maiden/Virgin and the significations that stem from astronomy, mythology, and mysticism that cemented the meanings of this particular Zodiac Sign throughout history and culture.
Virgo is an interesting Sign to start off with, as it is the largest of the constellations along the ecliptic, measuring about 47°. Virgo holds a number of noticeably bright stars; alpha, beta, gamma, delta, and epsilon Virginis, as well as quite a number of alien galaxies contained within the Virgo Cluster. Interestingly enough, one of the first discovered extrasolar planetary systems was discovered around 70 Virginis. Currently, the autumnal equinox point lies in this constellation. This point should lie in the 0° point of Libra, but due to the processes of procession this point has traversed the constellation of Libra and has entered Virgo (currently ~27° [astrologically] of Virgo), it will stay in Virgo until around the year 2440.
As the only human female member of the Zodiac, Virgo has had the privilege of being associated with just about every major goddess across all mythologies: Ishtar of the Babylonians, Demeter to the Greeks, Astrea to the Romans, and even Mary to the Christians. Unfortunately in today’s world we have become too wrapped up in the phrases and words that are connected with the Signs of the Zodiac to focus in on the visual symbolism and what that implies. For instance, we think of Virgo as Virgo the Maiden/Virgin, and are content to go along and link words and phrases that are associated with that instead of taking a moment to reflect upon the picture in the sky. This picture is of a winged maiden with a palm branch in her left hand and an ear of corn in her right. These two objects she holds are symbols of seasonal celebrations (the palm leaf) and the harvest (the corn), both of which are intimately linked with Virgo’s significations. It is believed that the original Virgo was an early Babylonian grain goddess Nidoba who was eventually absorbed into the worship of another more prominent god, Nabu. Nabu, of course, eventually became associated with the planet Mercury, making an immediate connection between this planet and Virgo.
Centuries later, other myths connect this constellation with the Roman justice goddess Astrea. She ruled the world with sage-like wisdom and was the last of the divine beings to leave the earth due to the wars and callousness of men. She is depicted with the wings that gave her the ability to leave the earth for the heavens, and her constellation lies near to her precious scales (the constellation Libra) that she used as symbols of equality and power of judgment.
Throughout the centuries, Virgo has been assigned some astrological jargon. Just what this jargon means and how it can be applied into the modern age to get some real interpretive value is something that not everyone has the chance of understanding for one reason or another. Oftentimes, it seems the traditional words linked to Signs of the Zodiac are laughed at by the contemporary astrologers, I would say this is mostly linked to ignorance, not understanding how such a short list of words like “cold, feminine, dry, earthy, barren, etc” can even begin to make a Sign make sense and how to apply those words to interpretation. They seem to prefer their own brand of listing for Virgo: clean, clever, analytical, methodical, perfectionist, etc.
In Lilly’s snippet concerning Virgo in Christian Astrology, he says “It’s an earthly, cold, melancholy, barren, feminine, nocturnal, southern Sign”. In previous pages, Lilly groups Virgo under other titles as bicorporeal, common/mutable, and humane. So, what is Lilly talking about here and how does this list of assimilated words help us out in the 21st century understand and interpret Virgo?
To begin with Virgo’s list here, we’ll start with the feminine and nocturnal qualities. Simply put, these two associations are very similar in that Virgo being a feminine Sign is automatically assigned to the nocturnal sect. In interpretation, this is seen as Virgo being a more introverted Sign than her masculine counterparts, we see this very often in Virgo’s ability to shy away from the spotlight and seek a more realistic and comfortable role behind the scenes. Virgo may not be the main actor, but she’s more than fine being the stage manager and making sure everything is in order for the actors and audience. It’s not that Virgo is lacking in any sort of skill or ability to make something noticeable of herself – though she may find her own ability unimpressive due to the earthy quality of modesty – it’s just that Virgo is more comfortable out of the way. Virgos are excellent in managerial positions, so it’s not that they lack the flair for leadership either, she just prefers to have a set order of rules and other people to refer to.
Virgo is called a melancholic or earthy Sign, these both mean that Virgo is of the qualities coldness and dryness, to be even more specific, Virgo is cooling and drying as opposed to dry and cool, suggesting that she is in the process of attaining a level of pure dryness and pure coldness. Dryness inhibits emotional receptivity, this is typified in Virgo by her impassionate responses to situations and her level-headed responses to such circumstances that other Signs may have a hard time trying not to “fly off the handle”. Some texts have claimed this as a flaw in the Virgoan character, but it is difficult to be both emotional and objective. It is with this estrangement from emotion that Virgo is able to use her discriminating intellect in emotional situations and respond with a clear reasoning and applying this clear reasoning practically in day-to-day life. Virgo is able to analyze efficiently and precisely because she is a dry Sign and is able to break away from the emotional clutter while still following her gut. Due to her ruler, Mercury, Virgo is less troubled by the humoural quality of coldness which bestows fixidity onto her as well as an ample amount of passivity. Mostly we see this cold and dry mixture as we would with the other two Earth Signs, and this earthy quality makes Virgo a realist who has little interest in theories with little or no application.
Virgo is a barren Sign for two reasons. The first is that maidens don’t bare children since they are not sexually active. The second is when Sol reaches his transit in Virgo, the growing season has already ended and it is now time to collect what has been grown. There is no fertility involved in harvest which is associated with a form of death where we reap what we’ve sown. It is through this association with the harvest time that Virgo has obtained her significations of analysis and planning. The harvest is when we take stock, weigh, and measure what we have grown and collected and plan on how best to use it in the cold winter months ahead. We’ve got to make the food we’ve harvested last a long time, after all and we can’t make it last if we fail to give efficient forethought into rationing. The barren signification comes into play in a similar way. Virgo is more interested in keeping stock and planning with what we have now rather than taking into consideration of any possible future increase. This can be seen as pessimistic to some as they mistake Virgo’s prudence for lack of faith or hope, but the truth of the matter is that after the fruit of the fields have been gathered and measured, there is nothing more to be gained that year, and what may be gained next year will not assist us getting through the harsh winter. Again, the earthy realism of Virgo is displayed.
Virgo is also categorized as a double-bodied Sign in that she is represented by a woman with wings, or half-woman, half-bird. The symbolism involved here is a woman with her feet on the ground with the ability to soar beyond that, touching again on Virgo’s realistic worldview and perhaps even the feminine/nocturnal qualities of not wanting to be a “high flyer”. Though, the dualism implied is idealism vs. realism and how these two can be reconciled. Instead of having to choose between one or the other, it is Virgo’s wish to figure out how she can get there, to make something of herself without risking it all or to soar without falling. Virgo is also considered a common or mutable Sign, being that Sol’s transit through this Sign marks the cooling period where Summer is fading into Autumn, this expresses itself as Virgo’s adaptability to circumstances. Finally, Virgo’s title as a humane Sign shows that she has impressive social graces and is a “people person”, carrying an air of charm and grace as well as a well-mannered individual. It also shows an inclination to intellectual pursuits, which is echoed from the Mercurial rulership.
Virgo also has other things associated with her, including places, parts of the anatomy, and illnesses. William Lilly’s list is as follows: Virgo is significant of a study where books are, closets, storehouses, granaries, malt-houses, all storage facilities, and cornfields. As an Earth Sign she is indicative of places low or near to the floor. Of the body she has significance from the belly to the anus, this covers the large and small intestines, the gut, diaphragm, and spleen. As for illnesses, Virgo is concerned with any and all afflictions to those areas of the body in which she governs, specifically; internal parasites, flatulence, gastric distress, constipation and retention, stomach aches, ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome, and dysentery.
Though often forgotten, the fixed stars in a constellation generally have an influence over the signification of the Sign. Ptolemy wrote that the stars in the head of the maiden were of the nature of Mercury and to a lesser degree of Mars, those stars in the wings and girdle of the maiden of Mercury and Venus, and those in her feet to be of Mercury and Mars as well. Ptolemy differentiates only Vindemiatrix in the northern wing of the figure to be of the nature of Saturn and Mercury and Spica in the girdle to be of Venus and Mars. Below you can see the division of the nature of the stars in the actual constellation and in an artistic representation of the Sign.
Division of the Stars by Nature
Division of the Stars by Nature — Illustrated
There are nine stars worth mentioning in the constellation of Virgo. We’ll begin with the brightest and most notable star in Virgo; Spica. Ptolemy likens this star to the nature of Venus and Mars, setting it apart from the rest of the stars in the girdle of the maiden who are under the nature of other planets. Spica shines with a white light and is noticeably bright for being in an area of the sky that is poorly lit. Being a solitary light in a dark area, this part of the sky is not known as one well inclined for marriage and relationships, this is something that shows up a few times in electional astrological technique. Both lunar mansions that encompass this Sign have a neutral or a negative effect on marriage, and the Moon in Virgo in a wedding chart is considered unfortunate as the husband is said to die early. Since Spica represents the Virgin’s Spike or the ear of corn in the maiden’s hand, it is said to be indicative of service (as the chief star of the constellation, this is also why the Sign of Virgo is linked with service) and those of a sweet disposition and diligent in attaining arts and sciences according to Lilly, also since it represents an article of food, it is considered a fortunate star significant of wealth and plenty. The second brightest star in Virgo is Porrima, which marks the waist of the maiden. It is said to offer a courteous, refined, and loveable character. Vindemiatrix – The Grape Gatherer – is the third brightest star in Virgo and since the rising of this star in the morning announced the appropriate time to pick grapes from their vines. Since its nature is mainly that of Saturn, it has an unfortunate influence and is generally associated with a pessimistic and skeptical nature, but is said to increase mental concentration.
The stars Heze and Auva are both relatively fortunate and relate to voyages, freedom, harvests, and gain. Zavijava – The Correct Weighing – it has an influence that allows “benefice, force of character, strength, combative movements, and destructiveness” according to Robson. Zaniah – an angel – is related to congeniality, refinement, honor, and a loveable nature. Syrma – The Train of the Dress – is related to occult sciences and secret wisdoms as it is also referred to as “The Covering”. Finally, Khambalia – The Crooked Claw – is associated also with deep wisdom and secrets, more specifically relating to those who uncover and delve into those secrets and uncover that wisdom. Robson notes that the star grants those born under it with swift violence and unreliability.
The current Zodiacal positions for these fixed stars are: Spica 23° Libra, Porrima 10° Libra, Vindemiatrix 9° Libra, Heze 21° Libra, Auva 11° Libra, Zavijava 27° Virgo, Zaniah 4° Libra, Syrma 3° Scorpio, and Khambalia at 6° Scorpio.
Dignities and Degree Influences
Virgo is the domicile of Mercury, being that Mercury is an asexual planet and can live happily in the Sign next to the house of the solely-masculine Sol (Leo). Also, as Mercury is neither a benefic or a malefic, instead reflecting the nature of the planet it is connected to by aspectual relationships, the only thing that holds Mercury to the houses of the luminaries is a semi-sextile which is a mildly beneficial aspect. This set up also reinforces the astrological law that Mercury cannot be more than a 27° away from Sol, so Mercury’s houses are bound by Sol’s houses. Virgo also serves as the exaltation of Mercury, as the time of year when Sol is in Virgo is marked by its cooling and drying nature as Summer cools off and fades into Autumn. So too is Mercury of the humour of cooling and drying, so one amplifies the nature of the other. Virgo is also a part of the Earth Trigon made up of the other two Earthy Signs as well who are ruled by Venus during the day and Luna during the night. Jupiter is in detriment in this Sign, and Venus in her depression here. Below is a list of the degree influences as written by Lilly and Ptolemy.
0° Virgo – Face of Sol, Term of Mercury, Feminine
1° Virgo – Face of Sol, Term of Mercury, Feminine
2° Virgo – Face of Sol, Term of Mercury, Feminine, Increasing Fortune
3° Virgo – Face of Sol, Term of Mercury, Femininie
4° Virgo – Face of Sol, Term of Mercury, Dark, Feminine
5° Virgo – Face of Sol, Term of Mercury, Feminine
6° Virgo – Face of Sol, Term of Mercury, Feminine
7° Virgo – Face of Sol, Term of Venus, Feminine, Light, Deep
8° Virgo – Face of Sol, Term of Venus, Masculine
9° Virgo – Face of Sol, Term of Venus, Masculine, Void
10° Virgo – Face of Venus, Term of Venus, Masculine
11° Virgo – Face of Venus, Term of Venus, Masculine, Deep
12° Virgo – Face of Venus, Term of Venus, Feminine
13° Virgo – Face of Venus, Term of Venus, Feminine, Increasing Fortune
14° Virgo – Face of Venus, Term of Venus, Feminine
15° Virgo – Face of Venus, Term of Venus, Light, Feminine, Deep
16° Virgo – Face of Venus, Term of Venus, Feminine
17° Virgo – Face of Venus, Term of Jupiter, Feminine
18° Virgo – Face of Venus, Term of Jupiter, Feminine
19° Virgo – Face of Venus, Term of Jupiter, Feminine, Increasing Fortune
20° Virgo – Face of Mercury, Term of Jupiter, Masculine, Deep
21° Virgo – Face of Mercury, Term of Mars, Masculine, Smoky, Deep
22° Virgo – Face of Mercury, Term of Mars, Masculine
23° Virgo – Face of Mercury, Term of Mars, Masculine
24° Virgo – Face of Mercury, Term of Mars, Masculine
25° Virgo – Face of Mercury, Term of Mars, Masculine
26° Virgo – Face of Mercury, Term of Mars, Masculine, Void
27° Virgo – Face of Mercury, Term of Mars, Masculine
28° Virgo – Face of Mercury, Term of Saturn, Masculine
29° Virgo – Face of Mercury, Term of Saturn, Masculine, Dark
Houlding, Deborah. Starlore of the Constellations – Virgo the Maiden.. 27 Aug. 2008 <http://www.skyscript.co.uk/virgo_myth.html>.
Houlding, Deborah. Virgo the Maiden. Aug. 2004. 27 Aug. 2008 <http://www.skyscript.co.uk/virgo.html>.
Lilly, William. Christian Astrology. : Astrology Classics, 2004.
Ptolemy, Cladius. Tetrabiblos. : Astrology Classics, 2005.
Robson, Vivian. Electional Astrology. : Astrology Classics, 2005.
Wikipedia. Virgo (Constellation). 5 Aug. 2008. 27 Aug. 2008 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virgo_(constellation)>.