The origin and meaning of the Virgo Symbol
Virgo symbol is a woman often depicted holding an ear of corn or sheaf of wheat. Virgo is ruled by Mercury, the planet of the mind, and even though Virgo is an Earth sign (we usually associate air signs with mental activity) it is very much a sign that is committed to intellectual process. When we think of how the Virgo mind works we can think in terms of analytical processing. Other Virgo themes include harvesting the fruits of our labor, purity, health, precision, discernment, method, practicality, and caring.
Virgo’s genius lies in the practical application of information: using precision discrimination to determine what is useful, and what is not, and then cultivating practical techniques that can be of service to the greater good. The downside of this kind of mind is over-thinking and analysis paralysis, where thinking itself becomes the end product and leads to a circular downward spiral of exhaustion without any resulting practical application. When Virgo begins to feel exhausted they have very likely followed their thoughts down a dead-end or into a self-perpetuating thought-vortex that is leading nowhere.
The spiritual path of Virgo is to learn to apply discrimination to thought itself: to determine which thoughts will bear fruit – by leading to higher wisdom and virtuous action, and which thoughts are at best fruitless, and at worst harmful to themselves and others. This is where meditation for purification becomes important. It is Virgo’s job to become a ‘gardener’ of their own mind, discriminating the weeds of negative thinking from the roots of wisdom.
Virgo Symbol – The Virgin
Virgo symbol is a woman, commonly assumed to be a virgin, holding a sheaf of wheat or an ear of corn, and often shown with wings indicating holiness, saintliness and/or spiritual maturity. The word virgo is Latin for virgin. Historically Virgo has also been associated with agriculture, fertility, and harvesting that which we have sown.
Virgo has been said to be a sign of virtue or vice. The Latin word vir, which is the stem of virtue, means man, while the word vice means to render ineffective (The Tibetan, Labours of Hercules). The process of cultivating wise discrimination is vital to the journey of Virgo. How can we know which actions will lead to spiritual strength, and which will render us ineffective on our path? The myths of Virgo invite us to consider karma, and the idea that we will reap the fruits of our actions, both positive and negative.
In the mythologies associated with Virgo we see matters of life and earth being contemplated. The story of Icarus is often associated with Virgo: where Icarus recalls on his own deathbed, the circumstances that had lead to his previously killing a goat. Only on his own deathbed did he have the realization that in killing the goat, he had harmed himself. In Virgo’s analysis of ‘right action’, karmic consequences also have to be taken into consideration if we are to see the full picture.
In The Labours of Hercules, the theme of karma is played out in Hercules 6th labor – the labor of Virgo. In error, Hercules kills the Queen of the Amazons (the Latin word virago means man-like or warrior woman), because he failed to understand his mission. He is then cast out by his teacher until he can redeem himself, which he does by rescuing a maiden, in other words saving a life.
In the above myths of Virgo, both wrong and right action are taken, and their respective consequences experienced. In this way, through subsequent deaths and rebirths, the human journey gives each of us similar opportunities to cultivate greater discernment and wisdom, and experience the natural law of karma. In the Virgo Symbol the sheaf of wheat or ear of corn represents the fruit of our actions.
There is an apparent contradiction in the myth of Virgo in that the Latin word virgo means virgin, while the sign of Virgo also symbolizes mature feminine qualities such as bearing fruit, nurturing, and the wisdom of plant medicine. If we look to the deeper esoteric associations of Virgo this seeming contradiction begins to make more sense.
Virgo Symbol – Esoteric Meaning
The confusion in the myth of Virgo appears to be that Virgo means virgin, while the sign of Virgo also symbolizes maternal qualities. This seems to be a logical paradox since virgins, in the literal sense, cannot be mothers. If we explore this more we may come to a deeper understanding of the meaning of the Virgo Symbol.
The word virgin not only applies to a young maiden, but is also used to refer to anything that is pure in terms of being in it’s natural state. For example, we may speak of virgin land, meaning land that has never been cultivated, so it remains in it’s natural state.
The sign of Virgo has had long associations with the Virgin Mary (Latin: Maria Virgo), or the Virgin Mother. On medieval paintings of the Virgin Mother and Child there is often depicted a star (on her dress or head) known as “Stellar Maris” (Star of the Sea), which is thought to represent the fixed star Spica in the constellation of Virgo.
In some schools of Tibetan Buddhism, there is a practice known as The Great Perfection, which is thought to be one of the highest teachings in Tibetan Buddhism. In the tradition of The Great Perfection the purpose is for the practitioner to recognize the natural state, within himself. This involves deep meditative practices in which they develop a capacity for seeing their own mind in it’s naked natural state, without any of the societal and familial conditioning that usually occupy our mind.
The process is spoken of in terms of ‘purification’ and ‘the perfection of wisdom’. It is said that once we ‘purify’ our minds of our everyday conditioning, we can experience our mind in it’s natural state. In other words, we would experience a pure, or ‘virgin’, mind and that would be the highest of all wisdom.
Within the tradition of The Great Perfection, there is reference to the Mother and Son. In this case they refer to the Mother void as the pure ground from which all thought arises, and the Son as the naked awareness that arises from the void. In other words, the ‘Mother’ void gives ‘birth’ to the Son ‘awareness’.
In Esoteric Astrology it is said that the ‘Mother and child’ symbology refers not just to the literal birth of the infant Jesus Christ, but to the stage at which we experience Christ Consciousness in our personal journey of spiritual awakening. It is also said that our spiritual journey truly begins in the sign of Virgo.
The planetary ruler of Virgo is Mercury, which relates to the mind, yet the Esoteric ruler is The Moon, which is the mother of all forms. In Esoteric Astrology, once again, we have an association between Virgo and the Mother and Child symbology. Esoteric Astrology gives a Soul keynote for each sign. The keynote for Virgo is:
“I am the mother and the child. I, God, I, matter am.”
This requires deep contemplation if we are to gain insight into the highest teachings inherent in the Virgo Symbol. The body of work known as Esoteric Astrology was channeled by a master who was said to be abbot of a monastery in Tibet. When it was first written, Buddhism was unheard of in the West, and there was limited access to accurate teachings on Tibetan Buddhist thought, especially in English. Now we have access to a great volume of Tibetan Buddhist teaching that has been translated into English, so we can more easily cross reference what the Tibetan may have been trying to teach through Esoteric Astrology.
One of the highest teachings in Tibetan Buddhism is the Heart of The Perfection of Wisdom Sutra, sometimes simply called The Heart Sutra. In this text the Buddha gives a teaching to his disciples, that goes something like this:
Form is empty.– The Heart Sutra
Emptiness is form.
Emptiness is not other than form.
Form is also not other than emptiness.
In this context we might think of ’emptiness’ as the void, or Source of all that is: that vast, formless, state of consciousness before form manifests. We could also think of it as God or the Divine. The Heart Sutra is giving a deep teaching on how forms come into being from the ‘mind of God’, are part of God and therefore can never really be separate. This is the essence of the keynote for Virgo: that mother, child, God, and matter are all one.
The drive to perfection is innate in Virgo, however discrimination is needed to know where to apply one’s energy to be of the highest benefit to all. The deeper spiritual path of Virgo is about the perfection of true virtue (leading to spiritual strength) and the perfection of wisdom for the benefit of all sentient beings. In other words, the spiritual path of Virgo is the Great Perfection: the realization of the ‘virgin’ natural state, and the highest wisdom.
Virgo Symbol – The Virgo Glyph
The glyph for Virgo seems to have evolved from a graphic representation of a serpent. Earlier versions from ancient Greece and Egypt certainly look more serpent-like than our modern form.
In ancient symbology the serpent often represented kundalini, our innate sexual energy, life-force-energy, prana or chi. In contrast to Scorpio, whose glyph also seems to be derived from a serpent, the ‘head’ of the serpent in Virgo is lowered (in our modern form we may even say turned inwards) indicating, humility, piety and virtue. In the Greco-Roman and medieval periods, and even in many modern versions, the head appears to be severed completely, often indicated by a single stroke (see image).
This could symbolize the idea of taming our egoic urges or desires (the serpent), in order to cultivate greater virtue (or spiritual power). In our modern version of the Virgo Glyph the ‘head’ turns back on itself forming a closed loop – a container in which such spiritual power may be stored. We might even interpret this to mean that we use our ‘head’, in other words the power of our own mind, to tame our lower urges and accumulate spiritual power.
In the previous post on the Leo Symbol we discussed the concept of punya, or spiritual power. This power is cumulative, and the practice of celibacy in certain spiritual traditions is associated with the intention to cultivate and build such spiritual power. This idea of dedicating one’s life-force energy to spiritual development is also a theme in Aquarius, but begins here in Virgo with the idea of discernment and consciously choosing which seeds we wish to plant, and which future spiritual ‘crops’ we wish to harvest.
We can also see from this example that the zodiac glyphs (or sigils) are not fixed in time, but rather they are adapted to reflect the understanding, knowledge, and consciousness of the times in which they are used. When I look at the Virgo glyph I see roots: the roots of virtue and the roots of wisdom. Similar to the maiden’s wings, this for me symbolizes the Virgo theme of bringing Divine energy down to earth and grounding it in practical ways!
It has also been suggested that the modern Virgo glyph was created by merging the letters MV: the initials of Maria Virgo, which is Latin for Virgin Mary.
Virgo Symbol – The Great Perfection
In short, we can see that some definite themes emerge in Virgo Symbology to suggest the beginning of our path toward spiritual awakening. We have the theme of discernment: where we cultivate the capacity to know which actions will be virtuous, in that they lead to greater spiritual strength or power, and those which would be non-virtuous (vice) because they would deplete our spiritual energy. We have the theme of karma, where we learn the natural law of cause and effect. In other words, we reap what we sow. Most of all we have the theme of purification of negative thoughts and the perfection of the wisdom mind, otherwise known as the Great Perfection.
In Virgo we take the concept of right will that was developed in Leo, and translate it into right action. In this way Virgo prepares and cultivates the ground in which the insights (or fruit) of our higher spiritual wisdom will grow.
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Learn about the Soul Path and Purpose of Virgo in “Astrology: Virgo Rising The Virgo Soul” by Ruth Hadikin and in the video “Virgo Rising: The Virgo Soul”
As a professional astrologer, her defining talent is bringing deep insight, clarity and simplicity to complex subjects - in particular Esoteric Astrology and the teachings of The Tibetan through the work of Alice Bailey.
Ruth has traveled extensively in the UK, Ireland, Spain, USA, Australia, Kenya, Egypt, India, Nepal and Tibet. She has lived in England, Scotland, Spain and the USA.
Ruth is author of:
Soul Astrology: How Your Rising Sign Reveals Your Soul Path and Life Purpose
The Foundations of Soul Astrology Series
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Latest posts by Ruth Hadikin (see all)
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