Virgo the Virgin

by Oraia Helene

Continuing on our tour of the Zodiac, we are moving on to the sixth sign, Virgo the Virgin.

The constellation of Virgo is best viewed in the month of May, shining between Leo and Libra. It is the second largest constellation in the sky, but because it doesn’t have a bright and easily identifiable pattern, I don’t think it’s very well known. Its name is simply the Latin word for “virgin,” and it is often pictured as a young woman carrying a sheaf of wheat. She is the only female figure represented in the constellations of the Zodiac.

Virgo’s brightest star is Spica (pronounced SPY-ka or SPEE-ka), which can be found by following the curve of the Big Dipper’s handle to the bright star Arcturus (arc-TOUR-uss) and then on to Spica, which lies along the same arc. Spica is a blue giant 260 light-years away, and is the 16th brightest star in the night sky. Its name derives from the Latin for “ear of grain.” (This is also the origin for the English word “spike,”when used in the context of a “spike of grain.”)

Spica is also what’s called a variable star, meaning its brightness varies over a period of approximately four days. This is because Spica is actually a binary star, with the stars very close to one another – so close that the system ends up looking like it’s stretched out into an ellipse. As they move around one another, they cause changes to the amount of light that can be seen from earth, varying the star’s apparent magnitude. In the case of Spica, these changes are barely noticeable with the naked eye, but the star is the brightest of this type of variable star.

The Virgo Cluster of galaxies makes the constellation particularly interesting to astronomers, and contains something like 2000 galaxies. That’s whole galaxies, full of stars. There’s also another very cool galaxy that isn’t part of the Virgo Cluster, but lies about 10 degrees west of Spica near the lesser-known constellation of Corvus the Crow. It’s called the Sombrero Galaxy – guess what it looks like? 🙂

So here might be a good time to point out a little matter of scale and distance. The stars in every constellation we see are members of our own galaxy, the Milky Way. We see them as separate and distinct because a) they are relatively close to us, and b) our solar system sits on the outer edge of our galaxy, making our sky much darker than if we were situated near the center. When we see the long river of stars crossing our sky that gave the Milky Way its name, we’re looking toward that center, and individual stars all sort of run together. Then when we look further out, at other galaxies separate from ours, we don’t see individual stars at all with the naked eye, just an indistinct blur It’s like seeing a big crowd of people from a distance – you know it’s a group of people, but you can’t separate one from another until you get closer.

So when we say that a constellation “contains” a galaxy or group of galaxies, that’s a little bit misleading because, again, the constellation itself consists of stars in our galaxy, while the other galaxies are, well, other galaxies. But they appear to lie within the outlines of a given constellation – the appearance of which, after all, is itself based on our perspective here on earth. So the galaxies and other deep-sky objects aren’t considered part of the constellation – you wouldn’t see them connected up with the rest of the stars in a diagram depicting Virgo, for example – but they are visible in the region of space assigned to the constellation. That’s what it means to say that a constellation “contains” or “includes” things like galaxies, nebulae, star clusters, etc.

Anyway. 🙂 In mythology, the constellation of Virgo has been associated with most of the major female deities of the ancient world, especially mother Goddesses and Goddesses of fertility and agriculture. (Recall that she’s usually pictured carrying a sheaf of wheat.) These Goddesses include Ishtar of the Babylonians, Isis of the Egyptians, Demeter and Persephone in Greek myth, as well as the Virgin Mary in the Christian tradition. She was also associated with Astraea, a Roman Goddess of justice, in which guise she was pictured carrying the scales of the constellation Libra, which sits close by.

Astrologically, Virgo is the sign of mutable earth, and is associated with the sixth house, which typically has to do with one’s relation to work and service, and also to sickness and health.

Traditionally speaking, the sign is ruled by Mercury, though some modern astrologers give rulership to the asteroid Ceres (and sometimes to the four major asteroids as a group). Mercury does seem something of a bad fit, but I don’t really work with the asteroids myself so I don’t have a strong opinion about them. Ceres, of course, is named for one of the grain Goddesses associated with the constellation of Virgo, so I can understand the attraction of changing the rulership.

Generally speaking, the energy of Virgo represents a significant shift from the energy of Leo before it. (As it happens, this is another sign I have a particular interest in, because most of the traits I have that don’t seem to fit my Leo sun come from my Virgo moon. And they are two of the most dissimilar signs to appear next to each other in the Zodiac.) Unlike Leo, there is much less emphasis on asserting individuality and self-sufficiency in Virgo. Instead, the emphasis shifts toward total efficiency and effectiveness. Instead of Leo’s craving for social recognition and praise for a job well done, the Virgo personality focuses more on simply doing the job well. At the same time, the Virgo personality can be a little more timid and cautious when encountering the world than the enthusiastically outgoing Leo. At its best it represents a more chastened maturity in the development of the self, though at its worst it can be fearful and conformist in social situations.

Virgo thrives on order and mastery, with a tendency to strive for perfection. The Virgo personality is often ruthless in its self-criticism (and sometimes similarly harsh in judging others.) Whether because of this or despite it, Virgos often excel at writing and various physical crafts. As an earth sign, Virgo is eminently practical and serious, and as a mutable sign, Virgo is looking to change things – so while Virgos may not enjoy being in positions of high visibility in the world, effectiveness in promoting change is very important to them. The Virgo needs to feel effective, though that doesn’t necessarily mean they need to be in charge. There is also a strong desire for order and predictability, and Virgo is often something of a control freak. Things going wrong despite the best of plans will tend to bother Virgos more than most other signs. And sometimes the inability to achieve perfect order or live up to her very high standards will cause a Virgo to give up on them completely.

So let’s take a look at this sign in the position of a Sun Sign, a Moon Sign, and a Rising Sign.

As a Sun sign, Virgo is full of activity. Virgos like to keep themselves very busy, and often have difficulty taking time off to do nothing. They will often approach their work in a very analytical way, and are excellent at focusing on small details. Virgos have a strong sense of duty, and can easily find themselves imposed upon and taken advantage of because of this. (I can tell you from experience that this goes for Virgo Moons also.) It can also lead to an excess of nervous energy which can lead to tension and worry. At the same time, Virgos are generally very practical, and their approach to problems is generally to get down to the practical and analytical business of solving them. Virgos like to have many hobbies with which to fill their time, and are often very good at craft work and gardening. Their tendency toward criticism (and self-criticism) can cause tension in family relationships, but they are also very attentive and eager to provide for their loved ones.

As a Moon sign, Virgo speeds up one’s initial reactions to situations, which will tend to be practical, helpful, and logical. A person with Virgo moon will want to investigate and double-check information before accepting it as true. This tendency also applies to the person’s own internal thoughts and feelings, which can serve to clarify thoughts and rein in knee-jerk emotional reactions, though it can also lead to the emotions becoming over-rationalized, and somewhat mistrusted. Overall this placement tends to result in a sensible and reliable person, eager to help but also critical of those unwilling to help themselves.

As a Rising sign, Virgo brings a lot of practicality and careful deliberation to the personality. With Mercury as the planet of rulership (or A planet of rulership, if you prefer to also include Ceres), the need for communication may come to the fore, though there will often be some shyness at first. As usual with the Rising Sign, the opposite sign (in this case Pisces) will often come into play with regard to long-term relationships, bringing a kindness and tenderness of emotion that can make the relationship very special.

This article was adapted from the Astra segment of Media Astra Ac Terra Episode #11.

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