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Virgo Mythology

The constellation Virgo is usually associated with the Greek goddess of justice, Dike. Dike was the daughter of Zeus and the Greek Titaness Themis. Virgo is usually depicted with angel-like wings, with an ear of wheat in her left hand, marked by the bright star Spica…

She is located next to Libra, the constellation representing the scales of justice. Dike was also sometimes known as Astraeia, daughter of Astraeus, considered the father of the stars, and Eos, goddess of the dawn.

Old woodcarving of Virgo - a girl holding a wheatsheaf

The word “virgo” is Latin, which means “self-contained” which is better interpreted as “self-sufficient”. In astrology, those born under the sign of Virgo are said to behave in an individualistic, self-sufficient manner. Their nurturing comes from a place of not needing others to find fulfilment for them, but being able to create for others because they can already create for themselves.

The Virgo myth should not be interpreted as a woman who is a virgin, but rather a nurturing woman who is a mother to all of the earth. Immaculate conception aside, we all know that mothers can’t also be virgins.

In Greek mythology, Dike lived in the Golden Age of mankind. She was born a mortal and placed on Earth to rule over human justice. The Golden Age was marked by prosperity and peace, everlasting spring, and humans never knowing old age. When Zeus fulfilled the old prophecy and overthrew his father, this marked the beginning of the Silver Age, which was not as prosperous. Zeus introduced the four seasons and humans no longer honoured the gods as they had used to. Dike gave a speech to the entire race, warning them about the dangers of leaving behind the ideals of their predecessors and saying worse was yet to come. Then she flew to the mountains, turning her back on humans. When the Bronze and Iron Ages came and humans started warring among themselves, Dike left the Earth altogether and flew to the heavens.

In one well-known Greek myth, the goddess of the Spring season Persephone is kidnapped by the god of the underworld Hades. Upon discovering this, the young goddess’s mother Demeter, being the goddess of the harvest, decides to ruin the harvest in her despair. To cut a long story short, the Spring goddess got to return for six months a year to aid her mother in the harvest. This coincides with the constellation Virgo being visible for only the months of March through August.

The story of Ishtar (Babylonian mythology) is similar, except that it was her husband Tammuz (the god of the harvest) who was taken to the underworld where she followed only to be trapped there as well.

Interestingly, many of the other mythological female figures who were believed to represent Virgo include Astraea, and Erigone (Roman mythology), all of whom represented Justice. Once you realise that Libra (the scales of justice) is the next sign in the zodiac following Virgo, suddenly things begin to make more sense.

But there is another explanation. From early Babylonian mythology, the grain goddess Nidoba is often considered to be the first incarnation of Virgo, which is consistent with the view of Virgo being a self-sustaining, life-giving caretaker that most Virgo mythology follows. However, over time, worshipers of Nidoba moved toward the worship of Babylonian god Nabu instead. Nabu is the god of wisdom and justice.

In other stories, the constellation Virgo is identified with Demeter, the corn goddess Atargatis, the Syrian goddess of fertility, and Erigone, the daughter of Icarius, who hanged herself after her father’s death. In this version of the myth, Icarius is associated with the constellation Boötes and the star Procyon in Canis Minor represents Icarius’ loyal dog Maera.

Historians Eratosthenes and Hyginus also associate the constellation Virgo with Tyche, the goddess of fortune, even though Tyche is usually depicted as holding the horn of plenty and not an ear of grain. The name of the star Spica, which marks the ear of grain held by the goddess, means exactly that, “the ear of grain” in Latin.

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