Virgo

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Virgo

The symbol for Virgo is a woman, usually holding sheaves wheat or sometimes ears of corn, so she is often correlated with harvest goddesses and symbols of nourishment such as the Great Mother or Mother Earth. She has correlations with agricultural and fertility goddesses in various cultures, such as Ishtar (Assyrian/Babylonian), Inanna (Sumerian), Isis (Egyptian), Gaia (Greek), Astraea (Greek), and Ceres (Roman).

 

The brightest star in the constellation of Virgo is called Spica, from the Latin word for ear of corn.

 

Virgo as Ceres

The story of Ceres (Demeter in the Greek tradition) correlates with Virgo as she was the Roman goddess of grain & agriculture. The most common story about Demeter/Ceres involves her daughter, Persephone (Proserpina in the Roman tradition). The story goes that Persephone was kidnapped and taken to the underworld by Hades. Demeter searched tirelessly for her, focused only on finding her, and during this time the earth was barren. Much of her story is not included here, but eventually Zeus (Jupiter) sent Hermes (Mercury) to retrieve Persephone before there was no one left alive to worship him, but Persephone had eaten pomegranate seeds while she was in the underworld, which bound her to Hades part of the year (the number of seeds is debatable, but the number of seeds was equal to the number of months Persephone must stay in the Underworld). Demeter had to share her daughter with Hades from then on. Thus, when Demeter is with her daughter, the world blooms, the grains grow: summer. When Persephone is in the underworld, the earth is barren and Demeter is in loneliness: winter. This story is echoed in many others that might be said to illustrate the turning of the wheel of the year, from summer, to autumn, to winter, and back to spring—the cycle of death and rebirth.

 

So why is Virgo often referred to as not just a woman, but a virgin, when she supposedly represents fertility and bounty (what with holding the wheat and all)? There are several indications that link Virgo to the Virgin Mary, through Virgo’s association with Astraea. There is also a link through the Greek word for virgin which is parthenos, and Virgo was often called Parthenos Dios (Virgin Goddess). The metaphor of virginity can be a toxic and outdated reference to describe a state of perfection, without flaws, as Virgo desires to perfect the self and all she sees by separating the wheat from the chaff, separating out the flawed parts from the useful parts.