Virgo - oil on canvas - 90 x 70 cm - 2014
Virgo (August 23 - September 22)
Virgo is the only female figure in the zodiac and as such has been associated with most of the main female deities but in particular those who represent crop fertility, including Ceres - the Roman goddess of corn and harvest - Proserpina, Persephone, Demeter and Aphrodite. The zodiac figure is generally depicted as a winged maiden holding a palm branch in her right hand and an ear of corn in her left though here I chose flowers as a more general symbol of fertility.
The roots of the symbolism of Virgo as the earth goddess holding a spike of corn can be traced to the ancient Mesopotamian period. Thus the Babylonian reference for the constellation was Ab Sin, ‘the Furrow’, depicting the virgin land about to bear its fruit. By the classical era the Sun’s transit through the zodiac sign had taken precedence and Virgo became more directly perceived as a Maiden of fruition through the Harvest.
The original Virgo is believed to be the early grain goddess Nidoba who, prior to Nabu (the Babylonian god of wisdom, justice and ‘the scribe’), was an important goddess of writing. As Nabu rose to prominence he absorbed the worship of Nidoba and became identified with the planet Mercury, the planet that now rules this sign. In Babylonian myth, the identification between Virgo and the grain goddess led the constellation figure to be personified as Ishtar, the consort of the corn god Tammuz.
The Roman Manilius’s description of the traits of Virgo directly influences later accounts of the meanings of its stars. He clearly describes an emphasis that accords with our modern view of Virgo being the sign of purity, prudence, diplomacy, discerning mental vision and a retiring disposition.