Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Virgin Myths

© 2013 by Joyce Mason
All Rights Reserved

Sky patterns have been imbued with mythology since time immemorial. Our constellations and stars—and the signs of the zodiac—are primarily named after mythical figures. Thus, the relationship between astrology and mythology is as old as people looking up at the sky and talking about it. The link to divine wisdom in “the heavens” has always been there, too, and the first religions involved Sun worship. Many of us still see the vast reverence of All Creation in the stars and space. Some of us still see gods and goddesses doing their work in how the planets influence us Down Below.

To understand the sign of Virgo more deeply, I wanted to research the Virgo myth and ponder its connection to our modern times. The constellation of Virgo has been a cosmic stage with many mythical characters, but they all reflect the same themes of maidens, purity and fertility. In India Virgo was Kauni, the mother of the great god Krishna. The Babylonians linked her with the goddess Ishtar. You’ll recognize the Greek parallel: When Ishtar descended into the Underworld to reclaim her husband Tammuz, god of the Harvest, the earth went dark. Nothing grew.

It’s the same idea as the Greek Persephone, daughter of Zeus and Demeter, abducted by Hades. To avenge the abduction of Persephone, Demeter (in Roman myth, Ceres) ruined the harvests and left the earth barren. Only when Demeter struck a deal with Hades (Pluto in astrology) did she relent and release her hold on crop growth, initiating the first rebirth of nature. Because of her mother's  negotiation with Hades/Pluto, Persephone remains in the Underworld part of the year, during which the crops die. Nature resumes its course every spring, the natural New Year, when Persephone returns.

Gods and Monsters has long been one of my favorite websites on mythology, even more so once I read an interpretation of the Virgo myth from this source. [2] It focuses on what I have long written about as the core energy of the Virgo archetype, instead of a ridiculous limitation of the term to literal, physical virginity (intact hymen). Self-contained and self-sufficient are the keywords this site advocates along with the concept that s/he who can find fulfillment in herself can help others create it because she knows what it is and how to make it so. My favorite line from this article is truly quotable:

" The virgo myth should not be interpreted as a woman who is a virgin, but rather a nurturing woman who is a mother to all of the earth. "

Gods and Monsters (G&M), a site title which certainly takes into account the extremes of the characters in mythology, advocates Virgo as representing The Great Goddess. Also noted by this source: In early Babylonian mythology, the grain goddess Nidoba was often considered to be the first incarnation of Virgo. This particular myth is consistent with the view of Virgo “being the self-sustaining, life-giving caretaker that most Virgo mythology follows.”

Most of the goddesses linked to Virgo like Demeter and Ceres were fertility goddesses or goddesses of the harvest.

This view captures Virgo as caring for humankind through her fertility, which in my humble opinion, is more than literal. Because Virgo is a Mercury-ruled sign, this also includes caretaking through her fertile mind.

In the constellation Virgo, a woman is said to be holding a spike of corn, punctuating the myth of the Harvest Goddess.

These are just the first hints that Virgo is preparing us for the next sign, Libra. She finds fulfillment in self-containment and teaches us the ropes to get to wholeness and harvest. As stated in Wholeness and the Inner Marriage, s/he who learns self-containment first is unlikely to lose him- or herself in the Sign of Other, the downside of Libra. Learning the lessons of Virgo, first, helps us to make the most of the partnership sign. It leads to more realistic, supportive relationships between two whole people, not broken souls seeking partners to make them whole—a terrible burden to place on any human being.

Other mythical women believed to represent Virgo were Dike (Greek), Astrea (Greek) and Erigone (Roman). They all represented Justice, another hint that Virgo sets us up for the sign of Libra.

I urge anyone interested in Virgo mythology to read this source material on G&M in its entirety. It is unbelievably rich. The author (uncredited) muses on how it evolved that so many goddesses were considered virgins in the physical way and how that interpretation narrows knowing the true meaning of Virgo. Mentioned as one of those goddesses is Artemis, who was the hunter goddess and Chiron’s foster mother. She has been portrayed in some places as having 50 breasts, ironically the number of years of a full Chiron cycle. She was also written up as a physical virgin. Also noted is the fact that many of the “virgins” in mythology are more tied to the Virgo myth via their mothers, including both Ceres and Demeter. Score another point for the Earth mothering aspects of the sign.

In the end, three archetypes evolve out of the various Virgo myths: “the Harvest Mothers, the Ladies of Justice and the Youthful Virgins.” Of all of them, the writer(s) on the G&M site nominate Astrea as the strongest contender for embodying the Virgo myth. The art on the link to Astrea in the previous sentence looks like the epitome of a Radical Virgo—plus one of her names is the Star Maiden, bringing in that radical Uranian flavor to the other aspects of her persona that are Virgoan (virgin) and Libran (goddess of justice).

Astrea was the last of the celestial beings to leave Earth. She did so only because she was tired of taking care of a humanity bent on destroying itself.  From this bit of mythology, I can’t help but conclude that my contention in the original article, The Radical Virgo, was spot-on about the Virgo archetype’s assignment to help save us during our current, critical turning-point. In the musical Kiss Me Kate, we’re advised to Brush Up Your Shakespeare. (Supposedly it will even wow women to quote him.) My song is Brush up Your Virgo—start mirroring her now. Her skills are crucial to these times and could make or break us. Especially important is looking within for fulfillment, which redirects the responsibility for your happiness to the only person who can create it for you—you. This shift in consciousness alone would create a chain reaction of wholeness capable of changing the world. Imagine humanity with minimal guilt and blame.

Some other interesting tidbits about Virgo from sky lore: I never realized it before, but Virgo is the second largest constellation in the sky and one of the oldest, originally known as Ishtar. [3] While most of its stars are inconspicuous, Spica stands out as the brightest star in the region. Spica is the ear of Virgo’s wheat in the sky, lighting up the concepts of harvest and separating the wheat from the chaff, Virgo’s sifting and integrating skill. [4] I don’t know if Virgo’s second largest position accents her importance, but it sure says she owns a lot of real estate in the sky. Like most real estate moguls, I think we can at least color her influential. Hydra, the water serpent, is the largest. [5]

I hope this journey into mythology supports your continued look at the evolution of the sign of Virgo. This blog was born to bring that new look to light and to encourage all the possibilities for planetary healing encompassed within the Cosmic Earth Mother archetype I call the Radical Virgo.


Photo Credit: © LenaPics -


[2] Gods and Monsters –

[3] The Radical Virgo suggests you pass on the movie of the same name, Ishtar (1987). My inner movie critic cringed, but maybe I wasn’t having a funny day. Still, 3.9 stars out of 10 on IMBD does not suggest a blockbuster.

[5] Many of you know Hydra from the Chiron myth. It was the many-headed serpent Hercules encountered. The poison he made from its venom was used on an arrow he shot during a skirmish that ended up accidentally piercing Chiron’s leg and causing his incurable wound.

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