Too often Virgo gets a bad rap as a neatnik and a nag, a shy, retiring, critical spinster who gardens and has cats. She’s gotten a reputation as undeniably handy, but decidedly dull–the secretary or a librarian of the cosmos, who keeps everything in order but never gets invited to the parties.
That doesn’t sound like the magical, mysterious cosmos we know and love, does it? The mystery, adventure, and daring of the rest of the zodiac is noticeably lacking in this version of Virgo.
Is this really what Virgo is all about … or is it just how we’ve come to see the mutable sign of earth? Is it possible we no longer really understand what makes Virgo tick?
Redefining the Virgin
The first, and very revealing, clue that we’ve forgotten what Virgo is all about lies in her name. This is the sign of the Virgin.
In today’sworld, virgins play an increasingly unimportant role—for the most part. On average, young people have had sex by the time they turn 17– at least 5 years before most of them marry.
Some human cultures twist the fragments of cultural memory of a time when sexuality was sacred into attempts tocontrol women’s bodies. Among them are Muslim villagers in the Middle East, fundamentalist Christians in rural America, ultra-orthodox Jews in urban communities—and plenty of state legislatures in America. Meanwhile, teens and adults alike are reportedly having sex less.
What’s up with sex? And what does Virgo have to do with it?
Sacred Sex: The Hieros Gamos of the Cosmos
The ancient world saw sexuality as a primary aspect of a sacred cosmos. The coupling of polarities was part of a larger, sacred marriage in the cosmos itself.This was a marriage of earth and sky, day and night, fire and water. On sacred occasions it was ritually re-enacted as the hieros gamos in which everyone had a stake.
The temples of the gods were tended by priests, and those of the goddesses were tended by priestesses. Many were called virgins. Some of these virgin priestesses, or temple virgins, as they were sometimes called, participated in ritual sex in the temples – as a sacred act that purified the participants and blessed them with the goddess’ power.
Other priestesses were, like the goddesses they served, virgins.Athena, Artemis (who ruled the Moon), and Hestia (who tended the hearth)were parthenos. They chose to preserve their independence and the purity of the feminine essence—by abstaining from sex with men.
Making Space for Our Own Divine Feminine
Virgo is where the space is made for the part of us that remains parthenos. Whether we’re virginal, chaste, or fully sexual,whether we’re female or male, we all have a portion of our birth charts and our psyches that is Virgo’s territory. This is the space where we can be true to the wild divine of our own feminine nature, and tend it in the temple at the center of our being.
As the ancient sign of the Goddess, Virgo allows us to experience the virgin part of ourselves. Here our own natural connection with the Universe becomes the sacred law of our being. Ever attuned above all with this higher law, the tribe of Virgo are naturally reserved and somewhat aloof as they go about their lives in the world. Intelligent and sensitive, they have a keen eye for detail and are ever refining and perfecting.
As the ancient grain goddess who holds a sheaf of wheat in her arm, Virgo rules digestion. Organic food and the power of what we eat to heal disease are intrinsically Virgoan issues. Eating disorders, food allergies and indigestion, intestinal problems, and hernias can also occur when Virgo planets and houses are stressed by conflict with other planetary energies.
Always seeking to perfect and refine, Virgo has a keen awareness of imperfection. Embracing the perfection that exists within a dynamic and imperfect world allows Virgo to relax. The Japanese aesthetic of wabi-sabi, celebrating the beauty of “the imperfect, the impermanent, and the incomplete,” is at its heart a deeply Virgoan path.
This perspective can help Virgo from losing sight of the divine that it serves in all the details. An overly critical approach, over-the-top fussiness about the details, an over-conforming attitude—any of these can be signs that it’s time for Virgo to indulge in a little wabi-sabi therapy.
Who Rules the Cosmic Parthenos?
It’s more than interest that the sign that rules the sacred life of women is ruled, not by an embodiment of the Cosmic Feminine, but by Mercury, the trickster energy of the mind. The rationale given for Mercury’s rulership of both Gemini and Virgo is that these are the signs that stand on either side of Sol, the Sun, and Luna, the Moon. True as that is, it seems a little weak as justification for the rulership of an entire sign of the zodiac.
The subject of who is the true ruler of Virgo is a hotly debated one today. Some astrologers argue for Chiron. Some argue for the dwarf planet Ceres. Others say that Virgo’s true ruler has yet to be discovered.
Our understanding of the signs and planets tells us much about our consciousness and our values. The growing debate about Virgo, along with deepening awareness of the mysteries that reside within this apparently modest, self-effacing realm of the cosmos—all this tells us how rapidly our relationships with the Cosmic Feminine is evolving. Deep beneath the surface of our lives, in our dreams and intuitions, in our creative expressions and our imaginal lives, the Goddess is returning to her Parthenos.
Virgo spaces in our world include the state of California, the cities of Boston and Washington, D.C. in the U.S., and of Athens and Paris in Europe, and the nation of Turkey. All share the Sun in Virgo.
To aign ourself with the sacred order of the Parthenos, there are four places to turn in your birth chart:
1. The 6th House of Sacred Process. This is where you nurture the things that serve you and maintain the sacred order within you.This is where you tend the things that support you—your job, your health, your garden, and if you have them, the household pets who provide constant and unconditional love. This is your inner parthenos.
2. The house with Virgo on the Cusp. This is where your reserved, analytical, health-conscious, and process-oriented energies provide another entry into the inner parthenos, where you align your life with the sacred order of the cosmos..
3. Planets in Virgo. Any planets in Virgo will be intelligent, critical, meticulous, reserved, and modest. People with the Sun in Virgo like to be of service to others, and prize efficiency and competency. They love revising, criticizing, and “fussing,” and they may have workaholic (and perhaps hypochondriac) tendencies. Colin Firth, Bob Newhart and Peter Falk all display the self-deprecating Virgo personality.
In dog-whisperer Cesar Millan we see Virgo’s affinity for small animals. And there are no shortage of sensual beauties to remind us Virgo’s ancient connection with the sexual cosmos. Ingrid Bergman, Lauren Bacall, Sophia Loren, Raquel Welch and Salma Hayek are only the start of a long list.
4. The house where the planet Mercury is located. Though Mercury is usually thought of as male and associated with the linear, left brain of language and logic, he has another, feminine side. Mercury was the lover of Venus (or Aphrodite, as she was first called) and some stories of their union tell of a love so intense that the Messenger merged with the Love Goddess, becoming the first hermaphrodite. This aspect of Mercury has gone underground over the last 5,000 year, yet reminders of its existence are as close to us as our intuitions, dreams, and the wisdom of the bodymind. It’s the wisdom of the bodymind that Virgo embodies. No coincidence that Mercury is the astrological ruler of the ancient sign of the feminine, Virgo.