by: X. Helia Allegra
1. AN ASTRONOMICAL VIEW OF THE VIRGIN
Virgo, the maiden constellation, is long and graceful. At 46 degrees in length, she is one of the longest asterisms of the zodiac. Her honor and innocence are well-protected on all sides by numerous constellations . Her guardian from the north are Leo, Bootes, and Bernice's Coma. From the south, the Hydra, the Crow, and the Crater offer their protection. On the east, she is bound by the Serpent and Libra, while on the west Leo, the Crater, and the Crow (again) stand guard.
Virgo is often depicted in angelic form, with her wings receding into space. She usually holds a shaft of wheat (or ear of corn) symbolic of the fecundity and unlimited potential of womanhood as well as the harvest.
This honored, treasured maiden has her own gem to protect, the "Diamond of Virgo" (Oken, p.101). This four star constellation within Virgo consIsts of Denebola, the tail of Leo; Spica, one of the brightest stars in the sky, which represents the shaft of wheat; Arcturus, a very brilliant yellow star; and Cor Caroli, a double-bodied white and lilac star.
Contained within the Maiden one will notice at least ten galaxies. Among these, the Sombrero Galaxy is one of the most remarkable in the sky. Its east-west orientation has an obvious central bulge and a distinct dark line that runs the length of the galaxy(giving it the famous hat shape). Here we find the closest large cluster galaxy, at an average of 70 million light years away.
To bask in the stellar splendor of this modest goddess, bring out your telescope during the month of April , for she is best viewed during this time.
Virgo rules digestion, so the coiled pictogram can be seen as an illustration of the digestive process as it occurs in the small and large intestines.
The glyph also represents the coils of latent power contained in the essence of the Maiden Goddess. They are kept sacred, unspoiled by a locked door (the closed circle). This abstraction easily translates to the female anatomy of the vagina: the coils are the loops of the ovaries and uterus, the circle is the protective, unbroken hymen.
Virgo is the fully ripened harvest of potential resources to sustain a community throughout a rough winter. She is patient, chaste, and awaits optimal circumstances so that she will be permitted to give of her essence. She personifies latent energy on the verge of release. As a virgin, the maiden is not yet completely aware of her creative abilities. Once she is allowed to explore/express these talents, she realizes her own power and importance in the cycle of the seasons. With this knowledge she is reluctant to be opened by any ordinary farmer. She awaits perfection and completion, seeking someone who compliments her own ardent passion so that the harvest is taken under the best conditions possible. Her timing must be careful, precise, for a lengthy delay will cause the fruit to sour or spoil.
The symbolism speaks of the literal timing of the harvest as well as human sexuality. Once the virgin is transformed into a woman by the act of love, she is exposed to her (worthy) lover's essence. She releases her potent, creative , and nurturing (female) force, which ripens in the human psyche. This act continues the cycle of life, and illustrates why the Eternal Virgin is often depicted with a child (Isis and Hathor, Mary and Jesus).
The paradox of this sign represents not only the wonders of womanhood but also the mysteries of life. It is the manifestation, in human form, the extreme sensitivity of physical matter (the Mother Goddess) when combined with the potency of the Creative One's invisible force (the virility of God, the Father). The result is the Divine Child (humanity).
3. TWO MYTHS: ASTRAEA AND ERIGONE
Zeus was never fond of humankind, and regarded them as animals. When he discovered that Prometheus had stolen fire as a gift to these lowly, undeserving creatures, Zeus chained him to the top of the Caucasus Mountains, intending to leave him there forever. In addition, he sent down Pandora, the first woman. The symbolic representation of women's corruption of humanity (in the eyes of the ancient Greeks) is Pandora's Box, which was filled with all of the demons/evils intended to torture humanity. Pandora opened the curious and lovely box. The unleashed demons ushered the rapid exodus of the immortals from earth to Olympus. The last one to leave was Astraea, daughter of Zeus and and Themis. She was also the sister of Puditia, or modesty. Astraea was the goddess of virtue. Although she had to depart, Astraea watches from the sky every night in hopes of returning one day.
Another virgin myth tells the story of Erigone, daughter of Icarus. Dionysis had given the secret of wine-making to Icarus. Icarus, proud of the fact, gleefully taught humans how to cultivate grapes. In the process, he and some shepherds drank too much of their own creation. Unaware of the affects of alcohol, the shepherds killed their happy teacher while in a drunken stupor.
Erigone noticed her father's absence and fearing the worst, set out to find him with her dog Maera. She discovered her dead father and was so distraught that she hanged herself. Maera witnessed his mistress' suicide and took similar action by drowning himself in a nearby river. Zeus took pity on the tragic events and in his benevolence allowed immortality to the three victims, for each were rewarded with eternal life as constellations. Maera became Canis Minor; Icarus, the Bootes; and Erigone is the Maiden.