The Maiden as Virgo
If you have been waiting for a star story that gives women the central role then read on, for the sign of Virgo is all about the ladies. Virgo literally means “Virgin” and is a constellation that has been associated with the feminine and various Goddesses since we started listening to stories about stars. “Virgin” of course is a matter of interpretation, while the word still is taken today as referring to a sexually untried, “pure” woman or girl, the much older and more apt definition of Virgo is “one who is sovereign,” meaning that here we have a woman who is not owned, sold, bought, or belonging to a man (or another woman for that matter) but rather belongs to herself and herself alone. She may or may not be sexually active, may be of any age, and may be involved in the fields of spirituality, commerce, agriculture, or arts and culture as she likes because again, she belongs to herself.
As such, the essence of the Virgin is one that belongs to all woman and men. We all have within us a feminine aspect that will not be owned or claimed by another, and the Maiden becomes both a phase of life, that thrilling time of transition between child and woman, and a cultivated attitude that, again, men, women, and all other genders have access to as well.
Sovereignty then, is one of the key features of this particular sign, and perhaps a better way of saying it is knowing how to have an ongoing relationship with Sovereignty and what it means to you to belong to yourself first and foremost. Two more qualities that come up immediately, and that Virgo is strongly associated with, are cleanliness and purity. While the ideas of cleanliness and purity have been taken out of their original meanings and applied to some truly horrific ideas (like so-called racial “purity” or ethnic cleansing), the root idea with both terms is that one can be left alone, unmolested, undisturbed, and uninterrupted. Another way to think about what it means to be clean and pure is found in the idea of wholeness.
These truths are reflected in the strong association between the constellation of Virgo and the great Goddesses of old. For this sign is exclusively associated with the some powerful Goddesses including the Sumerian Shala, Babylonian Ishtar, Greek Demeter and Persphone, and Roman Ceres and Proserpina. In each case these Goddesses were significant figures in their time and place that spoke to universal themes while especially emphasizing fertility and harvest, as is best indicated by the sheaf of wheat motif with which they are all pictured.
For the Sumerians, Shala was the Goddess of the Harvest and the Furrows, meaning that she was both Maiden, waiting to be impregnated with seed, and Mother, aligned with all that is fertile and ripe. The Babylonian Ishtar was a great Goddess associated with the gifts of agriculture, love, sex, fertility, and marriage but also war and queenship. She too was imaged as both a brave maiden and loving mother whose name was called on during the harvesting of cereal crops and grains.
This theme continues with the ancient Greek pair of Demeter and Persephone. Here we see that the Maiden/Mother roles have been split in two, literally, with Demeter functioning as the great grain Goddess and Mother of all agriculture (as well as the keeper of Sacred Law) and Persephone embodying the Maiden who experiences violation and, in turn, learns (at hands of helpers like Hekate) what Sovereignty really is all about.
The association with these ancient Goddesses speaks to several other qualities of Virgo. One is the impulse we feel under Virgo’s influence to practice our spirituality in a more intentional manner. Virgo encourages us to build altars, become part of a church congregation, and/or develop a daily practice that is full of meaningful devotions. All of these Goddesses had temples, priestesses, and acolytes and in a very real way Virgo calls up the inner Priestess within all of us.
In slightly different terms we can also see here the emphasis on health. Sovereignty itself was a Goddess at one point and, like the other Goddesses mentioned here, She had a strong relationship with the land. What we see in the stories of Virgo is a reminder that the health of our bodies is connected to the health of THE body of the earth. This sign, already associated with the element of earth, reminds us to tend to the literal ground beneath our feet and also to take care of our physical bodies. For this reason Virgo has long been associated with the medical professions.
Finally, we see in the stories of the various Goddesses that Virgo is the Maiden but also the Mother – that this sign occupies the space in between both of these qualities and encompasses them as well. Once upon a time the Maiden and Mother were not so very cut off from each other. This meant, practically, that as women aged they still had the energy of the Maiden readily accessible, and that for women who chose not to have children or were not able to have children, they were not excluded from the particular mysteries of Motherhood – the Goddesses reflected all to everyone not just a chosen few. As our stories became split and splintered so did the role of Maiden and Mother, hardening into two extremes instead of the flowing relationship they once possessed. Practically speaking we are all still finding ways to repair and heal from this particular rift, so it is quite fortunate that we need only look up into the sky at the stars of Virgo (the second largest constellation btw) to remind ourselves what wholeness actually looks like.
The Maiden as Animal: By Sara Magnuson
In discussing the human-animals of the zodiac in particular, we’ve established that the vastness of our minds is the main characteristic that sets humans apart from other animals. As the Earth Maiden, Virgo shows us the merging of our intellectual capacity and our instinctual/animalistic body. Virgo takes us out of the mind and moves downward into the body, acknowledging our physicality. Virgo is the initial connection between mind and form. The Maiden also exemplifies the ways we are similar to and aligned with other animals, rather than pointing out where we diverge.
All animals learn how to exist in their surroundings by observing (watching, listening, smelling), trying/experimenting, and then processing those experiences so that their body and mind will react appropriately in the future. It is in this way that Virgo shows us our similarities to other animals. Those born under the sign of Virgo are keenly observant and process newly-discovered information not just in the mind, but down into their earthy being. Virgos don’t just know something, they feel it in their body. Typically fast learners, once they have mastered a task it’s embedded in their muscles and bones and they quickly move through it with ease. A Virgo reading a book or listening to music is not just taking in the words or sounds, but sensing the narrated world or the vibrations of the melody as if they were in it, feeling it, creating it. The mind of Virgo is very sharp, but the influence of the element of Earth keeps them especially attuned and connected to their physical senses.
We have seen the virgin and maternal aspects of Virgo described above, as well as the ways in which she is seen as the Maiden and the Mother. The association with virginity gives an innocence to Virgo that can be mistaken for apathy or naiveté and betray the deep wisdom they have obtained with their apparent wide-eyed idealism. Such is the way of many animals – seemingly innocent and naive, yet full of knowledge. For example, a Squirrel may not appear to be a wise creature, as they are skittish and approach everything as if they’ve never seen it before; yet the Squirrel has an understanding of how to exist in its environment that is deeply rooted in its body and goes beyond pure intellectual reasoning. The Squirrel knows what to expect from familiar circumstances because of previous experience, but it is prepared and understands that each encounter can bring new variables. As the Squirrel moves slowly out of the bushes toward the open ground under my bird feeder, as it has done a thousand times before, it is still cautious and filled with trepidation. It is processing all that it already knows and taking in any new information, integrating it all together. It is this ongoing collecting of wisdom that gives Virgo a motherly quality juxtaposed with a surface level innocence.
The mental-physical integration of new facts and knowledge with previous experience allows Virgo to be practical, resourceful, patient, and methodical. This process can also cause Virgo to be worrisome, controlling, and even a bit OCD. Learning to bring intellectual thoughts into the physical form and trusting the mind-body connection can help with Virgo’s anxious or domineering tendencies. It is this same act of integrating, however, that gives Virgo the ability to learn and adapt and allows them to live well in community with others. Virgo encourages us to take our knowing into our physical form and listen, trust, and act from our entire self.
Call on The Maiden When…
- You desire more sovereignty
- You want to cultivate a sense of order and peace
- You are ready to take your words and ideas seriously
- You wish to deepen your sense of purpose through service
- You need more devotion in your life
- You desire order and structures that make sense
- You need better boundaries
- You are working on cultivating a sense of personal responsibility
- You wish to have greater clarity around your work in the world
- You would like to have insight into your physical health
- You are ready harvest the fruits of your labors
Be Wary Of…
- Rigidity – Virgo’s qualities of clarity and organization are wonderful to have on hand and available but Virgo can also become too rigid or fixed in its attitudes towards these things. Sometimes Virgo can send off the vibe that everything must be in its specific place or we simply cannot function. This makes for a clean house but also a home that is sometimes empty of spiritedness or fun. Virgo does best when it fully integrates the gifts of Leo and remembers that fun and messes also have a place in our lives.
- Intolerance – As the Maiden, Virgo is fixated on purity and devotion but sometimes this attitude develops into a “my way is the only way” mind-set. Virgo can come off as intolerant of mistakes, messes, and ways of seeing or going about life that do not fit into their predetermined framework of “the way that things should be.”
- Passive-Aggression – In direct opposition to Virgo’s ability to be rigid and intolerant (more than pretty much any other mutable sign, with the possible exception of Aquarius), there is also a flip side of Virgo being too easy-going and accommodating. Virgo loves to serve and sometimes in serving others can lose sight of herself. When this happens Virgo responds often in a passive-aggressive manner, not wishing to create significant conflict but also needing to express their deep dissatisfaction.
Questions to Ponder for Virgo:
Virgo, the Maiden, shows up in everyone’s chart – there is no such thing as “I don’t have Virgo” because it is a cluster of stars in the sky and it is always there. Wherever Virgo occurs in your chart these questions will help you get to know it better.
- What does Sovereignty mean to me? What is my relationship to Sovereignty?
- What am I devoted to and how do I express that devotion?
- What is my body and physical health telling me about my overall approach to life?
- What is the role of organization and cleanliness in my life?
- Where do I love to serve others?
- What does right relationship to work look and feel like?
- Where do I need more clarity?
- What am I ready to harvest?
Active Imagination Practice
When we talk and feel into intuition things can get very foggy and vague quickly. This is because intuition belongs to the Otherworld, the liminal world and it works according to the rules and customs of that world not our highly analytical, extremely audio-verbal waking experience. Thankfully there is one immediate and direct way to begin experiencing your intuitive guidance, and yes, we all have intuition, the path of this experience lies through and within your own blessed body.
Sit or stand where you are comfortable, close your eyes, and take a long deep breath.
Take several more long, deep breaths and with each inhale imagine the air filling your lungs and moving through your body down into your feet. On each exhale, push the air out through your core and imagine each muscle relaxing, from your toes to your head.
Affirm and acknowledge the presence of your shields and note if any areas or zones of the body need especial attention at this time.
Engage with the your breath again.
Ask in your mind and heart for your body to show you what YES feels like for you.
Pay attention specifically to what area of the body comes alive upon YES and what that life feels like: an opening, a heating up, a tingling, something completely different?
If when you first ask you feel that you do not receive a response in and through the physical body then, remaining engaged with the blessed body breath, allow yourself to remember a time in your life where you were asked a question, given an opportunity, or made a decision and the answer was YES.
Remember the specifics of the situation — the people involved, the time of day and season of year, the specific content. Then focus on the memory of your YES, what did it feel like in the body? Where did it happen in the body?
Once you can see, sense, touch, know, and feel your YES, then we turn our attention to NO.
Ask in your mind and heart for your body to show you what NO feels like for you.
Pay attention specifically to what area of the body comes alive upon NO and what that life feels like: an closing, a cooling, a tensing or contraction, something completely different?
If when you first ask you feel that you do not receive a response in and through the physical body then, remaining engaged with the blessed body breath, allow yourself to remember a time in your life where you were asked a question, given an opportunity, or made a decision and the answer was NO.
Remember the specifics of the situation — the people involved, the time of day and season of year, the specific content. Then focus on the memory of your NO, what did it feel like in the body? Where did it happen in the body?
Once you can see, sense, touch, know, and feel your NO, then we turn our attention to MAYBE.
Ask in your mind and heart for your body to show you what MAYBE feels like for you.
Pay attention specifically to what area of the body comes alive upon MAYBE and what that life feels like: a calming, a cooling or heating, a settling in and down, something completely different?
If when you first ask you feel that you do not receive a response in and through the physical body then, remaining engaged with the blessed body breath, allow yourself to remember a time in your life where you were asked a question, given an opportunity, or made a decision and the answer was MAYBE.
Remember the specifics of the situation — the people involved, the time of day and season of year, the specific content. Then focus on the memory of your MAYBE, what did it feel like in the body? Where did it happen in the body?
When you have completed this meditation, record your body’s responses. Make note of your physical and emotional feelings for each question. Reflect on how you can listen to your body in everyday life. If you don’t feel you have clear signals for yes, no, and maybe in your body after completing this exercise, revisit it weekly until the answers feel solid to you; be patient and know that your mind and body are meant to talk to each other.
Altar and Ritual
The Maiden, and the Goddesses of agriculture and harvest with whom she is associated, are most often depicted with a sheaf of wheat, so to honor her we must make bread!
The art of bread making (yes, it is most definitely an art) is ancient and brings us back to our common ancestral roots; for making bread is a very grounding experience. It is essentially a quite simple process of blending and waiting, but the physical act of combining the relatively few ingredients leads to the creation of something nourishing and wonderful!
For those of you that think making bread is too technical or delicate, it doesn’t have to be. Provided below as a simple and easy method of creating a “no-knead” bread that keeps the sacred process alive but does not require any baking experience. In this recipe we are also going to add some sacred herbs to create a most exquisitely magical bread.
(If you already have your own favorite bread recipe and/or are experienced with making bread using other methods, feel free to follow what you know and try adding some sacred herbs.)
IMPORTANT – do not use a bread making machine! The purpose of this exercise is to create this nourishing, sacred bread with your own two hands.
This “no-knead” method is taken from the book, “Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day” by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois. A highly recommended resource if you’d like to start making your own bread.
This recipe will make four 1-pound loaves that you will bake one at a time over several days.
You will need a 4-5 quart glass bowl or plastic container, a baking stone (pizza stone works great), and a boiler tray.
– 3 cups lukewarm water
– 1 1/2 tablespoons of granulated yeast (2 packets)
– 1 1/2 tablespoons of kosher salt
– 2 teaspoons total of dried herbs (4 teaspoons if fresh); use herbs that have a magical significance for you, but make sure they are edible and tasty!
– 6 1/2 cups unsifted, unbleached, all-purpose white flour (do not pack when measuring)
– Cornmeal (for sprinkling on the baking stone)
Step One: Mix and Store the Dough
– Put the lukewarm water in the glass bowl and add the yeast and salt. Gently stir to dissolve, but it doesn’t have to be completely dissolved.
– Add the herbs to the water mixture.
– Add all of the flour at once.
– Mix with a wooden spoon if you want a good workout and/or doing it all by hand is especially important to you. It’s also perfectly ok to use a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Mix until it is uniformly moist without any dry patches.
– Cover loosely with a lid, cloth towel, or plastic wrap, but you do not want it to be air tight.
– Allow to rise at room temperature until it begins to collapse or flatten on top (about 2 hours).
– You can technically use the dough at this point, but since the dough is quite wet it will be easier to handle after being refrigerated for at least three hours or even overnight.
Step Two: Shaping and Baking
– Sprinkle your work surface and the baking stone with a generous amount of cornmeal.
– Take out your refrigerated dough and lightly sprinkle the whole surface with flour.
– Pull up and cut off a grapefruit-sized piece of dough from the bowl.
– Add a little more flour as needed so the dough won’t stick to your hands.
– Gently stretch the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball a quarter-turn as you go. The bottom of the loaf will start to appear to be a collection of bunched ends and the top will be very smooth. Be careful not to over-handle the ball and the whole process should take about a minute.
– Place the shaped ball on your work surface and allow to rest uncovered for 40 minutes.
– Place the baking stone in the oven on the middle rack and the boiler tray on a rack below.
– Preheat the oven, with the baking stone and boiler tray inside, to 450 degrees. Allow a full 20 minutes for preheating.
– Dust the top of the loaf liberally with flour and, using a serrated knife, slash a 1/4 inch deep cross, tic-tac-toe, or any other pattern into the top of the loaf.
– Place the loaf on the baking stone and pour 1 cup of hot water into the boiler tray. Be sure to do this relatively quickly so you can trap the steam in the oven.
– Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until the crust is nicely browned and firm to the touch. Avoid opening the oven to check on it for at least 30 minutes.
– When you remove the loaf from the oven, it will audibly crackle, or “sing.” Allow to cool completely on a wire rack before slicing.
– The remaining dough can be stored and used as needed for up to 14 days.
About my Co-Author:
Sara Magnuson is a crafter of spiritual supplies, a reader of cards, a diviner of animals, and the co-founder of Candlesmoke Chapel. Her personal practice is eclectic, animistic, and ancestral. The guidance she provides is based in the messages of Nature and its role in how we move through this world.