Virgo

The Constellation
Virgo constellation2Virgo or the ‘Virgin’ is said to be one of the most complex and intriguing of the constellations. Virgo is the second largest of all the constellations, second only to Hydra and is the only constellation that has a female effigy for its symbol. Whether man or beast, apart from Virgo, they are all male. So, Virgo alone stands as a representation of all that is female. In fact, it is said that the Virgin that is represented in Virgo embodies a small aspect of all the goddesses, that she is the composite of all the goddesses and all that is female or feminine. Since antiquity and in all cultures Virgo has been the constellation that rules agriculture and all the myths associated with Virgo are associated with this same central theme. In Greek mythology the goddess embodied within Virgo is Demeter (Earth Mother). In Egypt she was Isis, in Assyrian culture she was Baalita, in Sumerian/Chaldean mythology she was Ishtar or Inanna (Queen of Heaven, Queen of the Stars). Right down in fact to Christian symbolism, where she is the embodiment of the ‘Blessed Virgin’.

Since the dawn of civilisation Virgo has ruled the harvest. Worship of the goddess of the harvest took place every year at harvest time, when the Sun was moving through the Sign of Virgo and as the ancient northern hemisphere was moving in autumn. In old star maps the goddess represented in Virgo is depicted as Astrea, Goddess of Justice. She is depicted holding a sword in one hand, scales in the other. The scales she holds is the constellation of Libra (the scales), which lies close to Virgo and was once seen as part of Virgo. But it’s as the goddess of agriculture, grain and harvest that the goddess associated with Virgo is best known, with the Sun travelling Through the Constellation of Virgo during harvest time.

Demeter2Demeter is the Earth Goddess, or Earth Mother. It was Demeter that regulated the seasons and it was through her that women were taught to grind wheat,how to make bread and the knowledge of plants. In late summer the people gave thanks to Demeter for the rich bounty from the earth. Demeter governed all the cycles of nature and the growth of planets and of agricultural crops. She presided over gestation of both plants and of human life. She also blessed married couples. Virgo is a feminine Sign and is one of matriarchal energy. Demeter is said to have brought to mankind the art of ploughing and tilling the soil and to women the arts of grinding wheat and baking bread.  Demeter’s daughter was the beautiful Persephone (sometimes known as Core). Hades (lord of the underworld), while driving his chariot across the land, spied this beautiful maiden. He abducted Persephone and took her down with him into the underworld. This is the myth known as the ‘Rape of Persephone’. Demeter searched the world for her beloved daughter and in her grief and rage she neglected the cycle of the seasons and the world went into perpetual winter, with Earth in mourning, just as Demeter was. During this time Earth become barren and humans faced starvation (the great Ice Age). It was Demeter’s brother Zeus who had to intervene in the end and Helios (the Sun) and Hermes (Mercury) played their part as well. In the end, with Zeus acting as a mediator a compromise was reached, whereby so long as Persephone hadn’t eaten any food during her time in the Underworld, she would be released. However Persephone had eaten the seeds of a pomegranate, the fruit of the underworld. Because she hadn’t eaten all the seeds it was decreed that she should spend half of the year in the Underground with Hades and part of the year above ground, back home with her mother. Demeter accepted the compromise but never totally reconciled to it. When the time draws near for Persephone to return home, Demeter celebrates and the world is decked in the splendour and colour of spring. When the time nears for her return, Demeter begins to mourn and the leaves begin falling from the trees in sorrow, during autumn. While Persephone is back in the Underground, Demeter goes into total mourning – and the planet is once again desolate, this is winter. So it is that Demeter, in her mourning for her daughter, regulates the seasons. Demeter gets excited about Perseophone's return in spring, celebrates her being home during summer, becomes sad that she will soon be leaving during autumn and in winter, goes into mourning, a cycle that is repeated year after year, after year.

It was Triptolemus who, with his brothers witnessed the rape of Persephone and told Demeter where she was. Without Triptolemus Persephone would never have been found, so in gratitude Demeter instructed him in all her mysteries and taught him all she knew. She then sent him out into the world with the plough and a bag of seeds, to spread the knowledge of agriculture around the world. A version of this story is repeated in almost every culture. The names are different names, but in the theme is the same. The Virgin or Virgo, is always depicted holding a sheath of wheat.

Demeter, Persephone and Hecate (the Moon and one of the ruling goddesses of Cancer) collectively form what is known as the ‘Goddess in Triad’ or the Moirai, the three faces or phases of woman – the maiden (Demeter), nymph (Persephone) and crone (Hecate).
 
The Planet
Mercury planetMercury, Virgo’s ruling orbits the Sun every 88 days and spends approximately 3 weeks in each Sign. Three times a year however, Mercury moves into retrograde motion, creating communication breakdowns and misunderstandings. As the planet closest to the Sun, Mercury has the shortest orbit of all the planets in the solar system and has always been visible to the naked eye, known and recorded since at least the time of the Sumerians (3,000 BC). In ancient Greece Mercury was given two names, as like Venus it rises in both the morning and the evening. When he appeared in the morning Mercury was named Apollo and in the evening, Hermes. The ancients knew that they were the same planet, just as they did with Venus and like Venus, Mercury governs two Signs, Gemini and Virgo.

In ancient times Heraclitus even believed that Mercury and Venus orbited the Sun, not the Earth. This is true Mercury thinking and intellect, for it would be many thousands of years before it was accepted that the world was round, not flat. Mercury is an erratic and eccentric planet, with an orbit that would produce very strange effects if you were able to stand on its surface. At some longitudes the Sun would appear to rise, stop, reverse up and stop again before resuming its original path towards the horizon, decreasing in size as it went. At the same time the stars would appear to be moving three times as fast across the sky. If you were standing at other points of the surface of Mercury, you would witness different, but equally bizarre and erratic motions.

As Mercury travels very close to the Sun it’s often hard to see, although it can be seen with the naked eye.
 
The God
Mercury(Hermes)Hermes, Messenger of the Gods, was given ruler ship of Virgo as well as Gemini. With a planet so erratic, no wonder Hermes was such a fickle and unpredictable god. Mercurial would be the word that would best describe this god, for he was impossible to pin down. Born from ‘mother night’ and Zeus, king of the gods, Hermes is the child of spiritual light and primordial dark. In fact, one of his tasks was to guide souls on their journey to the underworld. His mother, Maia, was a mysterious nymph who gifted her son the arts of magic and divination. Zeus assigned his son the task of Messenger. But you could never trust the messages he delivered, for he loved to play practical jokes and was known as the ‘trickster’. Hermes is also the patron of thieves and liars and was known for his practical tricks, so he wasn’t a god to trust completely. When he was just a baby he left his crib and stole the cattle from his brother Apollo, the Sun god. In order to trick Apollo, he wore his sandals backwards, so that Apollo would look in the wrong direction for the culprit.

When Apollo finally confronted Hermes, he immediately gave Apollo a gift of a tortoise shell lyre and flattered him to such an extent over his musical gifts that his brother forgot all about the stolen cattle. Thus, Hermes rules the gift of communication and in perfect dual fashion, both communication you can trust and that which you can’t. Hermes was the original smooth talker. In the ancient world there would often be statues of Hermes at crossroads, as he was the patron of travellers, wanderers and of the homeless.
 
The Season
summerVirgo is the last of the summer Signs and as such is a mutable Sign. The long summer is drawing to an end, the days are getting shorter and is the Sun travelling lower in the sky. Soon the Constellation of Virgo will disappear from the skies and won’t be seen again until spring. Demeter herself is preparing to go into mourning. Throughout the world homage is being paid to the great Earth Goddess and thoughts are turned to the land and to the harvest. Virgo is an Earth Sign and here there is work to be done. Hard work. The harvest must be gathered and the time for play and frivolity is over. The land needs to be cleared, crops harvested and fields ploughed. There is a need for organisation, planning and preparation for the long dark winter ahead. The harvest not only has to be collected, it has to be carefully stored and workers must be fed.

As a mutable Sign Virgo is a Sign that looks at both the present and the future. The harvest may be plentiful but it must last through to the coming winter. The decisions made at this time of year, in ancient times could mean the difference between life or death, so they had to be weighed carefully. This was a time of great seriousness, of planning and forethought and perception was called for. These are all qualities found abundantly in anyone born in the Sign of Virgo.
 
Summary
Virgo is the hardest working Sign of the zodiac. It’s here in Virgo that we meet the feminine energy of the great Earth Mother Demeter, who oversees the harvest. The Constellation of Virgo depicts a maiden, the only female form in the Zodiac, holding a sheath of wheat. There are many themes to the Demeter myth throughout the world, but they all tell the same story. It is one of the earth itself preparing to go into a period of mourning. It’s not winter yet, but it’s time to prepare. Virgo is said to be a serious Sign, prone to worrying, but it needs to be. Carelessness or lack of foresight could have meant the difference between surviving or not. I have often said that if you want a job done, give it to a Virgo to do. Virgo energy is organised and likes to stick to plans and have all details covered. These attributes were needed in ancient times, when the Sun was moving through Virgo. This is also a Sign that isn’t afraid of hard work. Demeter is also the goddess of health, with a knowledge of plants, a knowledge she passed onto to Triptolemus, along with the rest of the mysteries and knowledge she had of nature.

When the Sun moves through the Sign of Virgo, the long, lazy fun filled days of Leo must come to an end. In fact, that is what makes the sense of urgency when it comes to fun and laughter so strong in Leo, for the Ancients knew that a time of hard work was just weeks away. Images of Demeter can be found dating as far back as the 1,200 to 1,400 BC, yet star maps far older exist that portray Astrea, Goddess of Justice. Astrea used her scales to weigh good against evil, life against death. While the Sun is in Virgo, careful culling of the land must take place. What is to be kept? What is to be replanted? What is to be allocated as feed for the animals, what should be kept for the people? These are all aspects we’ll meet next in Libra, but it’s a process that is begun here in Virgo.

Virgo is ruled by Mercury, planet of communication, who is in turn ruled by Hermes, messenger to the gods. But this is not the intellectual side of Mercury that we meet in Gemini, for here we meet Mercury in its Earth form. It’s practical thought that is important here and Virgo is a Sign of great common sense, organisation and practical know how.

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