Virgo the Virgin or Maiden is the part of you that strives for perfection. Ruled by Mercury, this side of you needs to feel useful, always seeking ways to improve yourself and the world around you.
When you cease to make a contribution, you begin to die. ~ Eleanor Roosevelt
The zodiac sign Virgo, to be precise, is the 6th sign in the zodiac and although it follows flamboyant Leo, it simply wouldn't do to mistake this for a resemblance! Virgo, being a down-to-Earth-sign, is not flamboyant, dramatic, nor given to flights of fancy. Virgo is concerned with practical matters, like nutrition, health, labour and service.
Virgo isn't interested in the creative expression of the spirit, but in the practical application of these things in the service of others. While the Sun travels through Libra, each of us has the chance to examine and perfect the Virgo side of ourselves.
The Story So Far
It's useful to see its place in the sequence of signs, starting with Aries. Our Fiery Aries nature represents that primal life force that propels us into being. It is personal identity in its most basic form: "I am!" Our archetypal Aries nature thrives on taking risks and following impulses. It strives to meet fear and uncertainty with courage, directness and a robust sense of self.
Our Taurus Earthy nature provides a balancing, stabilizing complement to this eruption of Aries energy. In Taurus we are concerned with the substance of who we are, both internally and externally. Our Taurus side sees to our physical survival needs (money, possessions, food, shelter, clothes) and ensures that, if possible, we are secure in meeting those needs. It is what we value, including the value we place on ourselves.
In Airy Gemini, our primary Self fragments and we experience the infinite facets of our multidimensional nature. We find that we are a reflection of our environment and that we grow and change by interacting with the world around us. We give and take information and thereby increase our self-awareness and self-knowledge.
In Watery Cancer, we encounter our emotional, feeling nature and dip into the vast unconscious reservoir within. Cancer introduces us to our private, personal reactions and needs. It is here we begin our encounter with "The Other" in earnest, through empathy, dependency needs, and the instinct to care for, protect and nurture ourselves and others. As such, Cancer represents our childhood experience with our family-of-origin and our inclination to form our own family in adulthood.
In Fiery Leo, the fragile, vulnerable self that was cuddled and coddled in Cancer now "leaves home" to develop a unique identity separate from our initial support systems. Leo validates and celebrates our conscious ego-identity. Our Leo nature shines through our creativity, self-expression, spirited enthusiasm and fun.
A More Perfect Vision
Now we come to Earthy Virgo, counterbalancing the Leo Fire-storm with a grounded, pragmatic perspective. To revel in the spirit of our radiant Leo Self is all well and good, but eventually we must ask ourselves what we're going to do with that Self. Is ego-stroking all there is to existence, or is there something beyond it which is more wholesome or superior? The personal purpose we encountered in Leo now gives rise to a quest for higher purpose in Virgo. Our Virgo nature sees greater expectations and potentials in our existence beyond mere creative gratification and self-assuring self-expression.
In the natural chart, Virgo shares the Descendant point with Libra. The Descendant (or 7th House cusp) is associated with interaction, relationships, our style of relating, and encounters with "The Other." Libra is more commonly associated with these areas (since the 7th House is Libra's natural house), but Virgo is also involved with "The Other" through service.
Our Virgo nature says it isn't enough to simply exist—we must put that existence to use by helping others benefit from the fruits of our existence. We must help others attain the level of refinement and culmination that we aspire to, ourselves. If we alone realize our accomplishments while others are still suffering, stuck or struggling, then ours is a hollow victory. We're all in the Life-boat together and we must help each other or none will reach his/her goal with any integrity.
And what is Virgo's goal? Self-perfection. If Leo celebrates the Self, then Virgo asks: Why stop there? We mustn't stop until we're the absolute best we can be! But perfection is a tall order for fallible human beings and it's easy to feel lost in the process. So how do we approach such lofty aspirations? We start with the here-and-now. If we're going to perfect ourselves, we must pay attention to every detail, leaving no component unexamined. If the details are as they should be, the whole will reflect that careful vigilance. If the big picture looks okay, but the details are fuzzy or incorrect, then the whole will inevitably fall apart.
In Virgo, we must ensure that we are truly worthy of the highest vision of that Leo spirit. We must do everything we can to ensure that we live that vision in our every breath, our every action, our every word, thought and deed. Anything short of that indicates that we require further work and refinement, leading us back to the drawing board.
But wait! Isn't this getting a little extreme? We are, after all, human beings who, by nature, make mistakes and continually fluctuate between what is and what could be. Isn't our Virgo nature being too demanding and exacting, to the point where we can no longer be who we actually are, thereby defeating the whole purpose of the exercise?
This is the danger in Virgo—to immerse ourselves so totally in a vision of idealized perfection that the goal becomes more important than the person. It's possible for Virgo's perfectionism to stretch out so far beyond our fallible human nature that it reaches a polarized, contradictory position. Virgo's realism becomes unrealistic in its extreme demands; her pragmatic goals become impossible to reach. Her shining vision of self-improvement becomes an insurmountable wall of flawlessness against which we hurl ourselves, bruising and wounding our self-worth as we try to live up to impossible standards.
How do we know when our Virgo nature has crossed the line into extremism or obsessive perfectionism? That line is different for everyone, as is the vision of what constitutes perfection. However, if you find you're constantly doing battle with yourself, your habits, your will and/or your instincts, then it's a good bet you're being too hard on yourself and your Virgo nature has run amok.
Allowing ourselves to be human, rather than try to be demigods, means giving ourselves the time to learn to walk before being expecting to run. Whatever a healthy, attainable state of self-perfection might be, it must be attained through a process of gradual growth that is built up layer upon layer, with each new skill resting solidly on the abilities achieved in previous levels of learning.
The Ideal Application
Virgo's association with work, service and health is a logical outgrowth from its basic qualities. Becoming the best you can be requires hard work and dedication, and we will learn and receive that which we are willing to give away and share with others. If we exist only in service to ego gratification, we become self-centered, egotistical, myopic and one-dimensional.However, by being there for others and providing practical, useful assistance and support, we get to practice and apply what we believe to be our highest Self. It is through the concrete application of these ideals outside of ourselves that we learn better how to adopt and fit these principles to our own lives. We learn by doing, and are shaped and modified by the act of doing.
However, this isn't about locking our focus onto others, gleefully passing out advice like candy. Unfortunately, there's plenty of room in Virgo's realm for hypocrisy and "do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do" double standards. What's more, the advice that our Virgo nature loves to dispense is often not appreciated by others who may experience it as critical, demanding and exacting. This can leave us bewildered and frustrated. After all, aren't we just trying to help that person attain the same level of perfection we all strive for?
There's the rub! Others don't necessarily want what we do or have the same vision of perfection. If we project our own values and standards onto someone else, without seeing or accepting theirs, we set ourselves up for rejection, resentment or reciprocal reproach. There can be a gaping difference between tentatively offering feedback/suggestions, or humbly sharing one's own experience (which lets the other person choose their own path), versus advice which presumes that you know what's best.
See Me, Feel Me, Touch Me, Heal Me
Virgo's association with health is founded on the idea that if you're preoccupied with a dysfunctional body, you won't be of much use to yourself or anyone else. If the higher levels of attainment are to be reached, the lower, more fundamental levels of existence must be operating at peak efficiency. This means not merely enough food to satisfy hunger, but adequate nutrition in the foods one consumes. It means a holistic approach to one's body health: sound body, mind, spirit and emotions.
It means the intake of foods that will fuel and sustain the body's needs, ensuring effective absorption of those nutrients, and efficient elimination of its waste products. One can't afford to be squeamish about bodily functions if one is to fine-tune it into a purring machine. Hence, Virgo people are often capable of extraordinary objectivity and pragmatism in situations that cause others to blanch. It's small wonder than many Virgo's enter the healing professions, where they deal with the body or mind in its most gory, putrid, afflicted states.
The whole process of healing constitutes bringing a distorted, dysfunctional and/or dis-eased entity back to its rightful, natural, divinely-intended state. In that context, perfection may be seen as a state of functionality that matches the best we're capable of, as opposed to the grandest we can idealistically imagine. One could also see it as being "good enough," rather than striving to meet some contrived, arbitrary standard which has little to do with the reality of who and what we are as physical and spiritual creatures.
Our Living Contribution
Work is another province in Virgo's domain. Through our work and labours, we contribute to the world around us and help it function. Our work helps or hinders the health and performance of society. As such, our work is the personal energy we invest in our world.
Although Virgo and the 6th House are associated with paid employment, they also include any effort that makes a contribution to one's surroundings. Whether you work as a brick layer, punch a computer keyboard, are a stay-at-home parent, volunteer at the local library, or just sit at home and make a point of calling your friends to offer support and love—all of these activities make a contribution to your world. They are the basic vehicles through which you connect with society and take your place as a functioning member of that society.
Mercury and Chiron
Mercury is the traditional planetary ruler of Virgo. We've already met Mercury as the ruler of Gemini, which is about communication, perceptions, thought, information and the workings of the conscious mind. The Virgo side of Mercury is focused on organizing, analyzing and applying that information.
Mercury, being more naturally an Air planet (Gemini) than an Earth planet (Virgo), brings a cerebral, detached flavour to Virgo's Earthy, manifest nature. However, because Mercury is less comfortable as an Earth planet, many astrologers feel that some other planetary body would ultimately suit Virgo better than Mercury.
To this end, some or all of the major asteroids (Ceres, Juno, Vesta and Pallas-Athene) have been linked to Virgo. The asteroids introduce a decidedly female aura to Virgo's already Yin nature, and reflect the many personas of the archetypal female experience—something which appeals to many astrologers who find Mercury a curiously male or neutral energy for a feminine sign energy.
Chiron has also been associated with the modern rulership of Virgo. Mythologically, Chiron is linked to woundedness, healing and the struggle to reconcile our dualistic nature of being spiritual, divine beings, as well as mortal animals. This seems to fit well with Virgo's focus on health, healing, and struggling with perfection versus human limitation.
© 1996, 2004, 2005 Wendy Guy. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission from Transitions Astrology Newsletter, Virgo-Libra 1996 Issue.