The constellations are groupings of stars and distant galaxies (that look like stars to the naked eye). Both the star-groupings and the images they depict vary from culture to culture. Thousands of years ago learned astronomer / astrologers envisioned the astrological constellations and created the myths associated with them in order to communicate information to fellow human beings that would last through the ages. The astrological constellations divide the Sun’s path through the sky into 12 equal sections and the Sun moves through each section in about 30 days. The creatures and objects associated with the zodiac constellations (e.g. Pisces’ fish, Libra’s scales, Leo’s lion) were selected to represent the nature of those born during the 30-day time span when the Sun is in a particular constellation and also to symbolically suggest the sign’s influence.
The constellation that corresponds to the astrological sign Virgo (August 22 – September 23) is the Harvest-Maiden, and it is an image of Persephone, the daughter of the Greek goddess Demeter. Demeter is the goddess of grain and agriculture and of the nurturance and physical well-being of mankind.*
In the myth associated with the astrological sign Virgo, Persephone is abducted by Hades (Pluto) and carried off to his domain in the Underworld. Demeter searches for Persephone everywhere and in her all-consuming grief and the effort to find her daughter neglects her duty to sustain life on the Earth. As a result the green world withers and people begin to starve.
Demeter learned from the Sun god (who sees all things on his journey across the sky) that Zeus gave Hades permission to take Persephone to wife. But this was kept secret because Zeus knew that Demeter would object – knowing she would never see her daughter again (no one returns from the Underworld). In ancient Greece marriages were arranged by the men of the family but it was customary to inform the mother of her daughter’s betrothal and to allow time for necessary preparations and psycho/social adjustments. Zeus and Hades’ scheme was a terrible breach of custom and a shocking personal slight to someone of Demeter’s stature. It caused Demeter great sorrow and she angrily left Mount Olympus to dwell among humans on Earth.
As surprising as this may seem, the gods of Mount Olympus need the offerings made to them by human beings and because of this several tried to convince Demeter to return to her place in the heavens and to resume her duties. But Demeter refused to return until Persephone was restored to her. As more and more people died of starvation Zeus re-thought Hade’s union with Persephone and finally ruled the Persephone was to be reunited with her mother for a part of each year.
This tale perfectly illustrates the nature of those born under the sign Virgo. Like Demeter, Virgos play a vital role in the organization and care of the human world. They focus on the details of human undertakings and, no matter what the task, they work conscientiously to do a thorough job. Virgos are usually modest and fulfill their responsibilities quietly. Because of this, Virgos do not attract a great deal of attention and, like Demeter, they are sometimes overlooked. The impact on Demeter of Zeus and Hades’ inconsiderate breach of tradition echoes the Virgo experience of feeling undervalued.
It is hard to say if Virgos’ tendency to feel under-appreciated is caused by their own critical nature, or if others simply find the Virgo focus on detail too confining. Whatever the reason, Virgos tend toward feeling insulted, a kind of nervous insecurity, and repressed resentment – kept just below the surface.
Apart from their affinity for the simple joys of caring for all growing things (the green world, children and animals) deciding what is good or bad, acceptable or unacceptable, appropriate or inappropriate, and useful or useless is within Virgo’s sphere of activity. Like Demeter, once Virgos make a decision, they can be surprisingly stubborn about sticking to it. Virgos invariably feel that their choices are the best that can be made, and are closed to attempts to change their minds. Virgos’ insistence on their choices is often taken for willfulness but it is actually closer to Demeter’s affirmative intractability. Demeter’s refusal to return to Olympus was a protest of the treatment she and her child received, which was both cruel and a violation of accepted codes of behavior. This mythological element speaks of the Virgo mind set – that divergence from ‘the best way’ and ‘the correct way’ can produce disastrous consequences.
Some complain that Virgos are cold and picky, but an impartial, scrutinizing approach to everything and everyone is inherent in the Virgo nature, and is essential to maintaining standards and to fulfilling Virgos’ care-taking imperative. Though some may be uncomfortable under Virgos’ fault-finding gaze, Virgo people are usually fair, and do what is “correct” even if it is socially costly for them. Like Demeter, Virgos serve mankind by exercising discrimination, and doing what is right.
Mercury is said to be the ruler of Virgo but many astrologers think that the asteroid / dwarf planet Ceres (the Roman name for Demeter) should be considered Virgo’s co-ruler. Some feel that Ceres, being the largest, most luminous and planet-like asteroid, acts as a kind of representative for all its fellow asteroids in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Interestingly, the astrological sign Virgo, with its concern for universal fair-play, is often said to represent “every man”, and somehow the asteroid belt, filled with thousands of small celestial bodies with little individual influence (no gravitational pull), corresponds.
The inner planets – Mercury, Venus, the Earth (and Moon), and Mars – are closest to the Sun. The outer planets – Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto (a dwarf planet) – are further away. The rubble-filled asteroid belt is found between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. Some astronomers believe that the asteroids are the remains of what was once a planet. The asteroid Ceres is the largest remaining fragment of this planet … the diminished goddess Demeter – returned to the Heavens.