To celebrate the Sun moving into Virgo, [at 8:37 pm, Aug 23, AEST] here’s a long excerpt from my book Signs of the Zodiac: Clothing of the Self on the theme of
What’s Good About Virgo ?
“Superior virtue is not intentionally virtuous, and this is just why it is virtue” – Lao Tzu
Virgos are the really good people of the zodiac. So pure and true, they set the standards the rest of us can only look up to. Leave the grand standing to Leos, if its results and value for money you want, employ a Virgo. Blessed with practical wisdom, they know how to do all manner of things just right. Whether it’s your body or your mind that needs attention, call Dr Virgo and leave it to her to look after the details. For example, if you have a knotty spot in your back that is causing you pain rest assured your Virgo masseuse will quickly find it and apply the precise amount of pressure to dissolve the tension. After all, chances are she has a similar problem herself
There is also the Virgo type who is admirably proficient in all the domestic arts, whether that be how to stack a dish washer, grow and combine food, wash and fold clothes, cure a cold, care for the skin, tend a garden, grow herbs, touch for health, or a hundred and one other things.
Japanese culture and national character to my mind embody much that is best in Virgo. To list only a few classic correspondences, consider the exemplary quality of personal service; the artful presentation and healthy quality of the national cuisine; the high standard of personal hygiene – the Japanese sensitivity to body odour would impress even the most hyper-sensitive Virgo; and finally, their mastery of miniaturization, for example the Sony Walkman cassette player and bonsai plants.
“The superior man understands what is right; the inferior man understands what will sell” – Confucius
Time now to correct the stereotypical conceptions of Virgo as virginal, prudish, unduly humble, and well, just plain boring. Really? Virgo is a sign which evokes the potent mythic figure of the Great Earth Goddess as whole, contained and one-in-herself, belonging to no one, even if in relationship – the deeper meaning of Virgo as ‘virginal’.
Virgo too, can possess an alluring classical beauty which is the very antithesis of prudish or boring. Picture such screen goddesses as Greta Garbo, Lauren Bacall, Sophia Loren, Ingrid Bergman, Raquel Welch, Britt Eckland, or super model Claudia Schiffer, or rhythm and blues queen Beyonce, and suave romantic gods such as French entertainer Maurice Chevalier; the original James Bond Sean Connery; the high priest of l-o-v-e, soul singer Barry White; or contemporary ‘hunk’ Keanu Reeves and you’ll get the idea. And consider the works of English author D.H. Lawrence, for example Lady Chatterley’s Lover, for a fuller appreciation of the earthy erotic dimension of this much misunderstood sign. Still sound boring?
“We often forgive those who bore us; we cannot forgive those whom we bore” – Rochefoucauld
For further evidence of the richness of this sign consider the role of it’s planetary ruler Mercury in his guise of Doctor Mercurius, the guide and overseer of the alchemical quest to distil the philosophers stone from the prima materia of nature – the renaissance equivalent of the quest for enlightenment.
Buddhism, too, seems to me to reflect the flavour of this sign with its emphasis on the virtues of humility and discrimination and in its rigorously logical approach to ending suffering. Also Christianity with it’s two Mary’s, one the virginal mother of Jesus, the other a prostitute, suggests the life pattern of many a Virgo, which sees them live out either both sides of the virgin/whore, saint/sinner dichotomies, or polarize strongly to one side against the other. Madonna, a sun sign Leo with her Moon and Ascendant in the sign Virgo, is a good example. Note the title of her iconic single ‘Like a Virgin’. As is the great Russian writer Leo Tolstoy, who initially lived a dissolute life in gambling saloons and brothels and fought as an artillery officer in the Crimean War, only to transform from mid-life onwards into a religious pacifist. The rich aristocrat who delighted in hunting renounced his considerable possessions and became an avid vegetarian!
Puritanical Virgos would do well to remember the case of Tolstoy and the injunction of Jesus: “He that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone” before pontificating on the failings and sins of others. ‘There but for the grace of God go I’, could also be put to such moralists. And Saint Augustine’s oft quoted “Lord give me chastity, but not yet” reflects an acknowledgement of human passion that many an aspiring Virgo saint could do well to reflect on. And also Virgo, I must ask in all sincerity: Is chastity any more a virtue than malnutrition? I suggest you submit a one thousand word essay arguing the affirmative case before adopting the vow of celibacy. After all, one has to be mindful of the dwindling number of truly chaste priests in these dying days of the Piscean Age. If you fail – and I promise to be a more lenient examiner than you are – don’t worry, as a consolation prize I vow to find you an imperfect lover who is perfect for you. Then you can happily criticize each other to your mind’s content.
“The mind is its own place, and in itself / Can make a heaven of hell, or a hell of heaven” – Milton
Many great writers are born under the sign of Mercury ruled Virgo, for example Johann Goethe, Mary Shelley, H.G Wells, Jorge Luis Borges, Paulo Coelho, author of The Alchemist; Agatha Christie, Christopher Isherwood, Arthur Koestler, J.B Priestley, Roald Dahl, Upton Sinclair, Stephen King, Dorothy Parker, William Golding, author of Lord Of The Flies; Han Suyin, author of Love Is A Many Splendoured Thing; Edgar Rice Burroughs, creator of the Tarzan character; Fay Weldon, historian Arnold Toynbee, playwrite Antonin Artaud and author of the first English Language Dictionary, Samuel Johnson.
The latter is quintessentially Virgoan when he writes in the introduction to that work: “When I took the first survey of my undertaking, I found our speech copious without order and energetic without rules; wherever I turned my view, there was complexity to be disentangled and confusion to be regulated ..” Mercurially Virgoan also was his gift for aphorisms, for example, the oft quoted “the road to hell is paved with good intentions”.
Likewise mercurially Virgoan is the prolific American writer, aphorist and author of The American Language, H. L. Mencken, the so-called ‘Sage of Baltimore’. A caustic and witty critic, Mencken skewered ignorance, hypocrisy, conventional morality, puritan piety, religion, marriage, and the manifold frauds of democracy in his many books and nationally syndicated newspaper column. Here are some quotes that give the pure taste of Virgo and that nicely satirize the Virgo tendency to moralism:
“Nine times out of ten, in the arts as in life, there is actually no truth to be discovered; there is only error to be exposed.”
“The basic fact about human existence is not that it is a tragedy but that it is a bore.”
“Immorality: the morality of those who are having a better time.”
“Puritanism. The haunting fear that someone, somewhere may be happy”
In the field of music and performance, jazz saxophonists Charlie Parker, Cannonball Adderley, Wayne Shorter and Branford Marsalis; blues guitarist B.B King; and singer/dancer Michael Jackson exemplify Virgoan virtuosity, as does the unexcelled Australian batsman Don Bradman and US athlete Jesse Owens in the field of sport.
Other culturally influential Virgos include the creator of the EST trainings Werner Erhardt; founder of the Montessori Method of education, Maria Montessori; founder of Penguin books, the British publisher Alan Lane; the eminent contemporary astrologer and Jungian analyst Liz Greene; psychologist Ivan Pavlov; physicist Michael Faraday; cultural theorist J. Foucault; nature broadcaster Richard Attenborough; cinema directors Oliver Stone and Jean Renoir; Singaporean political leader Lee Kuan Yew, whose draconian anti-litter legislation represents a defining example of Virgo’s obsession with tidiness; comedienne Lily Tomlin; Australian poet C. J. Dennis, author of The Sentimental Bloke; psychedelic explorer and author Ken Kesey; magician/illusionist David Copperfield; lyricist Alan Jay Lerner; classical composers Anton Dvorak, Anton Bruckner, Gustav Holst, composer of The Planets, and atonalist Arnold Schoenberg; composer/conductor Leonard Bernstein; the Zen influenced composer/musician John Cage; jazz guitarist Charlie Byrd; singers Mel Torme, Otis Redding, Patsy Cline, Michael Franks, Harry Connick Jnr and Liam Gallagher, lead singer of the band Oasis; and singer/songwriters Hank Williams, Buddy Holly, Jose Feliciano, John Martyn, Van Morrison, Elvis Costello, Chrissie Hynde, Nick Cave and Leonard Cohen.
“No man has sunk too low to be able to raise himself to God”
– Baal Shem Tov
Virgoan spiritual exemplars include the founder of Hasidic Judaism. the Baal Shem Tov; the founder of the modern Hare Krishna movement Swami Prabhupada; and the contemporary Indian spiritual teacher, musician and peace activist Sri Chinmoy, who was the inspiration behind guitarists Carlos Santana and John McLaughlin’s album, Love, Devotion and Surrender. Here is a representative quote, judgemental Virgos please take heed: “True religion has a universal quality, it does not find fault with other religions. Forgiveness, compassion, tolerance, brotherhood and the feeling of oneness are the signs of a true religion.”
Mention should also be made of Indian statesman and acclaimed scholar of comparative religion and philosophy, Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, whose birthday is celebrated in India as Teacher’s Day on the 5th September.