I know for many it’s difficult to see the connection between signs, how a sign can grow out of one, and flow into the next astrological archetype. Rarely does the pendulum shift seem more pronounced than in leaving the flamboyant Leo to land gently in the far more reserved sign of Virgo, a sign which prefers to live a much simpler existence. Perhaps it is the natural reaction after all that bombastic grandiosity of Leo has left a void of weary malaise, longing for more through less. It would be no less severe if Madonna decided to scale down and joined an Amish community.
Virgos by nature are unassuming. They’re more modest and shy, even self-deprecating about their talents. While Leos live in the grand spotlight, Virgos are uncomfortable with such attention. Like the solid Taurus, Virgos are solid and dependable, but more refined. Virgo is represented by the virgin. Now we tend to simplify the word around sexuality, but it means so much more than just ‘chastity’. In ancient times, virgins/priestesses maintained great power through their non-attachment. They were obligated to no one – not through marriage or family duty, giving them the freedom to make more conscientious choices. They also held incredible power, one such example being their unquestionable ability to pardon a criminal for no reason whatsoever. Virgos not only give freely, adept at finding and fulfilling the greatest need, but in turn they need to be of service to others.
Naturally service oriented, they excel in fields such as health care and social service. Like their Mercurial cousins (Gemini), they are sharp and intellectual, but being an earth sign, they use their mental senses with a more exacting sensibility with razor sharp attention to detail, which makes them excellent editors (well maybe back in a time when punctuation, spelling and grammar were important.) They are tailor made for such scientific fields of engineering and architecture, where the minutest error can have disastrous results. But they’re also very service oriented. Perhaps it’s an effort to find more substantial and sustainable meaning in life and a desire to venture beyond the limitation of personal motivations.
It may not seem apparent, but here we have reached a pivotal turning point in the zodiac, nearly at the half way point, approaching the full moon of the entire cycle. The first 6 signs of the zodiac are referred to as the ‘personality signs’, where we gather individual characteristics, fulfill personal desires and needs as we navigate our way through our immediate world. The later 6 signs (Libra through Pisces) are considered the ‘soul signs’, where the focus shifts rather profoundly from personal needs to another, and eventually a much larger ‘other’ as in the collective or the greater good. Virgo being the last of the personal signs bears the burden of completion of this phase before the shift outward. As anyone knows, when the end approaches there is a greater urgency and intensity for fulfillment and maximum results, as well as clearing away any unfinished business so that whatever follows can have a clean slate. Not surprisingly, this sign is known for hard work and being endlessly helpful, but also the pursuit of perfection. They encourage us not to rest on our laurels, not to become smug and satisfied with our accomplishments, but to become even better. But their pursuit of perfection can take on a bombastic nature of its own, if their hypercritical nature focuses only on the fault.
Few people have given more service than Mother Teresa (August 26th). She became a Catholic nun at the age of 18. It wasn’t until 18 years later on her way to a retreat in Calcutta when she described receiving ‘the call within the call’ to leave the convent and live among the poor. It was there in 1948 that she began her work which would eventually become the Missionaries of Charity. She dedicated 45 years of her life to help the poor, sick, orphaned and dying. This alone would be considered a monumental task, but she encouraged the growth and expansion of the missionary which increased to 610 missions in 123 countries. She also inspired countless individuals and organizations and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979. But in this case the awards only seem but a small reflection of the impact of her self-less service and enduring compassion. Early in her work, she wrote in her journal, “Today I learned a good lesson. The poverty of the poor must be so hard for them. While looking for a home I walked and walked till my arms and legs ached. I thought how much they must ache in body and soul, looking for a home, food and health. Then the comfort of Loreto [her former order] came to tempt me. ‘You have only to say the word and all that will be yours again,’ the Tempter kept on saying … Of free choice, my God, and out of love for you, I desire to remain and do whatever be your Holy will in my regard. I did not let a single tear come.”
The most popular Swedish import was a Norse goddess named Ingrid Bergman (August 29th), the three time Academy Award winning actress best known for her role as Ilsa in Casablanca. She was well known for her obvious beauty, but also her vitality and intelligence. Director David O. Selznick called her ‘the most completely conscientious actress he had ever worked with.” Her freshness and purity made her extremely popular, and may have been why the public was so outraged when she became involved in a scandalous love affair with one of her directors while they were both married. No doubt they were angry to find their perfect virgin was tarnished, but she eventually regained her popularity. Or as Ingrid said, I’ve gone from saint to whore and back to saint again, all in one lifetime.”
A frequent misconception about Virgos is that they are don’t like money. That’s not exactly true. They don’t like waste, but realize that money can be a highly valuable tool when put to good use. Warren Buffett (August 30th) from Omaha, Nebraska had an affinity for investing at a frighteningly early age. He actually bought his first stock at the age of 11. He had saved the current market equivalent of $90,000 (!) by the time he graduated from college. Obviously being so financially astute AND conservative made him one of the wealthiest men on the planet, widely regarded as one of the most successful investors. But he’s perhaps even more famous for his philosophy of ‘value investing’ and personal frugality regardless of his immense wealth. While many would trade up to opulent, impressive mansions, he still lives in the 5 bedroom home he bought in 1957. But perhaps the most impressive of all is his pledge to give away 99 percent of his fortune to philanthropic causes, primarily via the Gates Foundation. How refreshing to see someone capitalize so much on capitalistic principals for the good of so many, and the good will undoubtedly will extend decades, possibly centuries past his life span.
It seems somehow fitting that during Virgo’s month we commemorate another event – Patriot Day, better known as 9/11. A decade has passed since we numbly watched the endless replay of the planes crashing into the Twin Towers, and the tragic aftermath. On that day we saw thousands of emergency personal racing toward disasters that left thousands fleeing in panic. Without thought for their own safety, they rushed to help others. It wasn’t their job; it was their duty – a word we rarely hear outside of service positions. The duty they live by, this willingness to be of service is a self-made vow and a willing choice. This combined with their humility that seems almost incompressible, not just for one event, but on a daily basis. It’s as if Virgo has realized sooner than the rest of us that too much is still not enough and they’ve ceased to try to fill that hole. So they give, they help, they look for the work that needs to be done, when most of us wish for a perpetual vacation. And the greatest mystery may be that they do so without fanfare or the expectation of reward. It was Mother Teresa who said, “The miracle is not that we do this work, but that we are happy to do it.”
The older I get, the more I seem to be annoyed with my accumulation of ‘stuff’. I’m less enamored with the toys (yes, even the spiffy new IPad). It all begins to take on a weight of its own, not to mention the diminishing half-life of the initial thrill. Also, I was raised with enough hearty Catholic guilt to be aware of the great need in the world, even more so now. Luxury is justified – a reward for your work. Charity is but a responsibility for organizations that can afford it, or those delegated. But I fear that charity is now seen as but a luxury and the vast need has only swelled. There was a time when we prayed for the sick, the hungry, the poor, thinking they were in third world countries, but those issues have come home to challenge our title as the wealthiest nation on the planet. We are entering a very challenging time. The gap between rich and poor – those who have enough, and those who don’t – is turning into a gaping divide and we pretend it’s not happening, hoping it’s just an economic downturn – a double dip ‘recession’. As if that will wash away the greed and irresponsibility. If only we would look to the principles of Virgo, how many problems could be solved with simple and practical means. I’m not saying we shouldn’t have a capitalistic system, but it does come with its own set of problems, as there will always be the haves and the have–nots. No matter how much you have, there will always be someone with less. Challenging times force one to focus on what’s important. Maybe it would be nice to be Virgo for a day and see what we can do without, and what we can do to help someone who needs it. It doesn’t have to be much – a small donation, picking up some trash, a day of volunteer service, a smile for someone who needs it. Believe me, the amount of need is far exceeded by the amount of people able to assist. The only thing left is the willingness.