The Virgin with the Unicorn represents symbolically the journey of Virgo. One of our sons, Benjamin, who illustrates many of my major in-depth articles, is also a very fine astrologer in his own right. I would like to share a portion of his description of this image:
“It should be clear that the mythical unicorn does not actually exist, and thus it represents perfection, which is what Virgo seeks to achieve, and which consequentially is unattainable. The only living human to which the unicorn will come is the virginal maiden, who waits quietly in the glen with perhaps a bowl of water from which the Unicorn is invited to drink. To achieve perfection then, the servant that is Virgo must tend to the details and be patient. There is no guarantee that the unicorn will come, only that we must be ready if and when it does come. The Virgo compulsion to clean, organize, nurse, and serve, all follows in the wake of this theory…if we only work hard enough, magic will happen…
There exists in this story a bit of tragic futility as well, which is also appropriate for Virgo; for if the Unicorn does come, it will be killed, and its horn will be removed by the hunters who lie waiting in the shadows of the forest. At its default level, Virgo will despair into an ever spiraling analysis consisting of endless criticism. Nothing will ever be good enough, pure enough, or in fact, Perfect. However, if taken to a noble and selfless level, Virgo refines and serves despite the futility. Yes, the plant may indeed whither and die, but that will not stop one from watering it today. Indeed the maiden may be wise enough not to slip into the awe of the Unicorn (delusions of perfection), she may be able to perceive the magic of the creature for what it is, to alert the beast and thus spare it from the sharp spears of the hunters. In this stance, Virgo strives for her ideals, but does not crucify herself with the inevitable realization that perfection is not obtainable. Indeed, it only spurs her to work harder.”
- Benjamin Vierling
MYTHS AND LEGENDS
No other sign has quite as many mythical stories connected with it as Virgo. Many of these myths derive from the Great Earth Goddess stories that have evolved and mutated through thousands of years. There is Demeter or Ceres and her daughter Persephone or Kore who is abducted into the underworld, there is Isis and Osiris and his death and dismemberment by the evil Seth, however Horus is born magically with the help of the guiding Thoth. Let us not neglect the Virgin Mary who conceives the immaculate Christ-child. All of these myths concern the transformation of the personality from a child-like or virginal/innocent state into the wiser and more mature individual represented by the fruition of the harvest. In Virgo we reach a state of crisis where there must be a total reorientation from the personal to the more collective and universal. To obtain this goal the personality must generally purify itself of ego self-centeredness by performing some type of service to others.
Other mythical personages associated with Virgo have been Artemis, the protectress of childbirth, small animals, and a lover of nature; Chiron, the sacred wounded healer and teacher of heroes; Hestia or Vesta, Goddess of the Hearth; and even Dike or Astraea who lived during the initial ‘Golden Age’ when there was no disease, violence or unhappiness, but suffered from the subsequent degeneration of humanity only to finally withdraw far away from it all.
I invite you to view if you haven’t already, the movie Legend. This is a modern-day revival of the Maiden and the Unicorn myth. Not only is this movie visually stunning, but it portrays the dilemma of Virgo quite dramatically, which is that there can truly be no innocence by the end of the journey through this sign. To purify the excesses of the ego one must face the shadow and confront all that is hidden in darkness. Virgo must take this journey in its quest for wholeness, both in itself, and by serving others who have suffered mind/body splits or imbalances.
The Babylonians named Virgos constellation Absin, which meant the corn-ear of the goddess Shala. This is the second largest constellation in our galaxy and it includes 58 visible stars. The best known of these stars is Spica (the ear of the corn). It is the 16th brightest star in the sky. Astronomer/astrologers of medieval times stated that if this star was rising or culminating overhead at someones birth, then good fortune, riches, happiness, ecclesiastical preferment, and possibly unexpected honor or advancement would be given.
Another star, Vindemiarux, known as the ‘Gatherer of the Grapes’ connects the mythical Bacchus with each years grape harvest. Virgo also contains an enormous galaxy cluster, which includes approximately 2500 individual galaxies including M87, which looks like a giant sparkler emitting jets of material 5,000 light years into space.
QUALITIES AND CHARACTERISTICS
Virgos can also excel in business, but especially businesses that are either technically or service-oriented. Virgos migrate towards earth-related products such as forestry, landscaping, organic farming, food industries, health-care products, etc. With the rapid proliferation of the computer-related industries many Virgos have become engineers and technicians. In fact, the conjunction of Uranus and Pluto in Virgo heralded this revolution in the mid-60s and many of the children born of that era are now the ‘techies’ speeding us into the digital future.
In the arts Virgos are known for their precision and detail, as well as their ability to often perfect an ancient technique that others may consider archaic such as egg tempera oil painting, fine-loom weaving, stone and marble sculpting, wood-cut printing, etc.
Probably one of the great keys to Virgos contentment and satisfaction is meaningful work and service. No matter how humble or routine, if their work provides them with structure, stability, and some measure of intrinsic reward, they will spend long hours at their tasks without seeking the fame and glory that some of their more flamboyant kin desire. Virgos are much more hermit-like than their Mercury-ruled Gemini cousins. Often high-strung, they avoid chaotic situations preferring quiet and privacy within their daily work routine. They like to focus on one project at a time and enjoy the continuity of mastering their craft step by step.
Virgos are learning to discriminate in their journey towards wholeness. This harvest time of the year implies separating the wheat from the chaff and Virgos must do this in their daily lives to sort out what is important and what is not, what is meaningful versus beside the point, what satisfies and what leaves one feeling empty. The small intestines are ‘ruled’ by Virgo. The body function of separating out what is of value nutritionally and what isn’t takes place in this organ. The body itself is such a marvel of mirroring the significance of the 12 zodiacal signs. I have a book which shows this graphically with an image of the head touched by the feet in a circular loop. Each part of the body is represented by its corresponding sign starting with Aries, the head, and ending with Pisces, the feet. Virgo leads us down towards the pelvic region of Scorpio, but in Virgo assimilation of nutrients takes place simultaneously with the discarding of anything which cannot be used by the organism. No wonder Virgo must analyze and discriminate with such exacting precision.
The shadow of Virgo stems from taking its natural tendencies to an extreme. As Benjamin Vierling states, “At its lowest, Virgo over analyzes irrelevant details that hinder the continuity of the big picture. Self-criticism can become self-loathing if one incessantly worries about mundane character flaws.”
The absolute extreme of this is sado-masochism where the sense of imperfection, as measured by some impossibly high perfect standard, reaches the self-destructive level of such guilt that one must be punished incessantly to be purified of ones flaws. This is the masochist. At the opposite extreme is the absolute rage, stemming from the same level of guilt, which pushes one to punish savagely that which represents ones weakness. This is the sadist. I was reminded of this on a trip to some of the Medieval churches and monasteries in the cliff towns of France where you could see the hundreds of stone steps which the ‘penitents’ had climbed on raw and bleeding knees with the hopes of having their sins absolved.
The healing of such a shadow starts with learning tolerance, first for ones own human self, and then for others who are like-wise still learning and evolving, each at their own rate.
Virgo is fairly choosy and careful when it comes to relationship. Their natural initial reserve, or even hermit-like quality, can be misinterpreted as cool or even aloof. Some will carefully weigh up your assets and liabilities before making a commitment because their emotional considerations are often matched with the practical. That being said, however, I must make a huge plug for the ladies of the sign. Having served as confidant to so very many of these earthy women I must contend that they are often very highly sexual and sensual, and probably make fantastic lovers! As to their Virgo brothers, I can not judge based on the rather discreet disclosures I have been privy to.
Most Virgo men, however, seem to want and need partnership. They will often devote themselves tirelessly to their families as excellent providers. The women? So many truly enjoy their autonomy yet want the lover/companion. They don’t seem as keen to be ‘the wife’, however once they find the right partner they can be just as devoted and caring as their more watery sisters.
Queen Elizabeth I, the ‘Virgin Queen’ was a Virgo, born September 7, 1533. Much has been written and conjectured about her romantic life. As a true Virgo, however, she devoted herself to her role as Queen and took her job seriously.
Michael Jackson is another famous modern-day Virgo. We can see the mythical aspects of the sign play out in his life, and we know, all too well, how hard he has tried to hold on to a state of innocent/perfection even as the underworld has compelled him to face the shadow. They even call him the ‘child-man’ in spite of his soaring big sellers, Thriller, Bad, and Dangerous. Hmmm…
Yet she abandoned the world of spot-lights for her own quiet and sustained existence well into her 80s. It’s as if she quit when the work was no longer rewarding after World War II. She just wasn’t interested enough in the fame and glory to lower her standards into becoming ‘a sweater girl’. She was undoubtedly highly sexual but private. She never married but certainly had her lovers. She kept herself healthy and fit, and was an excellent business woman compiling enough of a nest egg to will her niece around 20 million upon her death in 1990.
The world knows her as the great and caring mother of the lowest of the low. Her life was dedicated to serving through the Missionaries of Charity. Born a true Virgo on August 26, 1910, she was ready to commit herself to a religious life by the time she was 12, and truly did join the Sisters of Loreto as a missionary by the time she was 18 years.
She epitomized the desire to serve that is the true spiritual calling of every Virgo. Her way of serving was absolute in its focused devotion. At the age of 28 she began her lifework with the poor in India. This chosen path kept her caring for “the hungry, the naked, the homeless, the crippled, the blind, the lepers, and all those people who feel unwanted, unloved, uncared for throughout society, people that have become a burden to the society and are shunned by everyone.” This caringness grew into an organization of 4,000 nuns ‘running orphanages, AIDS hospices, and charity centers worldwide, and caring for refugees, the blind, disabled, aged, alcoholics, the poor and homeless, and victims of floods, epidemics, and famine.’ (Wikipedia)
In 1979 Mother Teresa was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. In true Virgoan modesty she refused the conventional ceremonial banquet normally given to laureates. Rather she asked that the $192,000 funds be allocated to the poor in India.
It is telling, however, to read of her own doubts and self-loathing, which are so characteristic of Virgos penchant to question and self analyze. “Where is my faith? Even deep down…there is nothing but emptiness and darkness…If there be God—please forgive me. When I try to raise my thoughts to Heaven, there is such convicting emptiness that those very thoughts return like sharp knives and hurt my very soul…How painful is this unknown pain…I have no Faith. Repulsed, empty, no faith, no love, no zeal…What do I labor for? If there be no God, there can be no soul. If there be no soul then, Jesus, You also are not true.”
Wow! Can there be any doubt that she herself had to face the Virgoan Shadow? No critic of her life and work could have been harsher in their indictment than she was of herself. Perhaps the lives she actually touched, those poverty-ridden and nameless souls living at the very lowest of the low are the only ones worthy of judging her life.
REACHING WHOLENESS THROUGH PISCES POLARITY
By measuring themselves and others against a yardstick of perfection so unattainable, the Virgo often suffers the extreme ‘anguish of the dark night of the Soul’. By incorporating their opposite polarity, Pisces, more fully into their lives Virgo can begin to see that perhaps God is also evolving and thus take a more kindly, and gentle attitude towards themselves and others. Their great wisdom, gleaned from devotion to their chosen path, is then merged with compassion. The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:3-12) was given to perhaps encourage just such souls to realize that they are truly blessed and will inherit both the earth and the ‘kingdom of heaven’ by accepting themselves and others just as they are, and simply doing the work of refining one step at a time.