In September 2007, when gas prices and terrorists were all we had to fear, when CEOs could lay off half the factory and still award themselves fat bonuses without making news, when the government was a Detroit muscle car with a drunken frat boy at the wheel, glaciers were melting and health care costs rising. It was then that Saturn entered meticulous Virgo, the best possible zodiac sign for cleaning up a mess. In November 2008, boosted by the Uranus opposition and its electricity of hope, Saturn sent millions of us to the ballot box where we elected our first Pluto-in-Virgo president, with his Mars in this hard-working analytical sign too.
Being a Leo, Obama has a lion's charisma. But his well-run campaign showcased the power of Virgo's cool discipline and planning, something we clearly needed as homes were foreclosed, banks toppled, and 401K's deflated like carnival balloons. Saturn-in-Virgo sent worried families to their kitchen tables to crunch the numbers and trim unnecessary expenses. In some cases it packed their boxes and moved them into tent cities or relatives' back bedrooms. Saturn entered pragmatic Virgo just as our world collapsed. It took our wobbly legs and set them on the long slow road to a comeback, ever mindful that the problems which took years to create would require patient, persistent, Virgoic efforts to resolve.
Saturn exits Virgo in late October this year (editor's note: 2009), to make a brief return between April and July 2010. Before Saturn's done, we should sing the praises of this transit. In contrast to the sparkling self-importance of its preceding sign Leo, Virgo is modest, useful, methodical, and organized. It doesn't dance around waiting for appreciation. It simply rolls up its sleeves and gets to work, undaunted and efficient as my Roomba vacuum cleaner which daily whirs through the house and leaves it singing with new energy. Saturn in Virgo is like that; it steadily makes things better. It serves. It studies the details. It promises that if we take one small step, then another, and just keep moving, we'll eventually find ourselves beyond the pit of despair, anchored in a better reality.
Not everyone's world fell apart during Saturn's transit. For many I know it brought welcome improvements, prompting big and small changes in Virgo directions, toward greater order, discrimination, and purity. One of my friends entered a monastery. Another launched a de-cluttering business. My son voluntarily began eating healthier foods. With Virgo in my 1st house of appearance, Saturn nudged me into the best physical condition I've enjoyed in awhile, second only to twenty-nine years ago when Saturn was last in Virgo.
In my twenties, this transit encouraged new physical discipline. I'd had little interest in health until Saturn entered my 1st house and I was suddenly motivated to fast, cleanse, and exercise with a diligence bordering on fanaticism. Sadly in my fifties I can no longer muster the same intensity, yet Saturn wouldn't leave me alone. This time my already healthy diet became healthier through incremental shifts, reducing gluten one month, adding a fresh green drink the next. I went to the gym three to four times a week, without much fanfare and seemingly little improvement until finally a friend exclaimed, "My god how you've changed!"
Virgo is capable of extreme diligence, but more typically its miracles come through many small steps. These were among the ingredients making Obama's Saturn-in-Virgo campaign so ground-breaking. Its army of grass roots volunteers, knocking on doors, making phone calls and donating a mountain of small sums eventually wielded greater political power than the fat-cat big-money sources. It was nothing less than revolutionary, a word readily associated with Uranus but hardly ever Virgo or Saturn. So was it just the Uranus opposition to Saturn that brought about this big change? I wonder. In Kenya in the late seventies, Wangari Maathai's revolutionary Green Movement gained significant momentum during Saturn's Virgo transit. The Nobel Peace Prize winner had a simple Virgoic proposition: years of deforestation and damage to the country's rivers and topsoil could be overturned by one simple act - a woman planting trees, one seed at a time.
Virgo's archetypes include the Virgin, the Servant, and the Perfectionist. Pop astrology often collapses these images into the Librarian, the Secretary, and the Bookkeeper. There's nothing wrong with these occupations - I've happily worked at two of them myself. Yet they're usually received as unflattering Virgo stereotypes. Far from the juicy virgin, Virgo is seen as an uptight bespectacled spinster in supporting rather than leading roles. In a culture infatuated with Leo's performance and celebrity, Virgo's brilliance often goes unnoticed. Yet there's a reason Virgo follows Leo in the zodiac - not only to clean up its messes, but to lead us forward in new ways. Through small acts, Virgo accomplishes plenty. I remember from my corporate days that when good Virgos left the company, we often needed two new hires to fill their shoes.
There's much in Nature to remind us of Virgo. Some flowers have such carefully timed routines that the botanist Carl Linnaeus suggested one could plant a floral clock, a circle of marigolds, daisies and water-lilies that by opening and closing their petals could keep the hours as perfectly as a clock's hands. The evening primrose knows to release its scent at the precise moment its pollinating moths take flight. And bees keep a perfect schedule of appointments, visiting as many as nine different plant species in a day, always arriving just as their nectar is released.
We might recall these images whenever we find Virgo organizing the spice drawer or correcting our grammar. The world runs on such efficiencies, and they're no less magical than Pisces' crystal balls. We can find Virgo's footprints all over sorcery, in crisp details like "eye of newt" or "tongue of toad." JK Rowling, creator of Harry Potter's wizard world, has a strong stellium of Virgo planets: the writer's Mercury, language-charming Venus, along with Moon, Jupiter, Uranus, and Pluto. It was initially rumored that Rowling "channeled" her plots and characters, but as reporters pried more deeply into her method, we learned that she conceived, outlined, and crafted the Potter series with a practical Virgo diligence, knowing while writing each book the steps every character would take in later volumes. Rowling's genius brought millions of technologically entranced children back to the joy of reading books. "Genius" is another word rarely linked to Virgo - but recently this has changed.
It should be no surprise that during Saturn's Virgo transit, several new books have appeared with a Virgo-friendly theme. Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers, Daniel Coyle's The Talent Code, and Geoff Colvin's Talent is Overrated argue that it's not good genes, raw talent, some divine spark or a high IQ that separates geniuses from the rest of us. It's practice. Research has shown that what distinguishes top concert pianists from second-tier performers and high school music teachers is simply how many hours they've practiced-at least ten thousand to be exact. The biographies of phenomenal successes like Tiger Woods, Bill Gates, and the Beatles have one thing in common. Before each made it big, these icons worked at their craft for over 10,000 hours, progressively refining their skills to reach nearly divine levels of performance.
"Practice makes perfect" has always been Virgo's formula for success. Virgo's focus on perfection improves the quality of our world. During my Venus research, I discovered that the (often unfairly disparaged) Venus-in-Virgos were sensuous connoisseurs of quality. They liked jobs well done, exquisite textures and fabrics, tasty and nutritious foods, beautiful landscapes, fine literature, music and art. Today when I picture Virgo's Virgin, I don't see an uptight librarian. I imagine a vibrant goddess, much like the one described below by a woman with Venus in Virgo:
I once met a living goddess on the cobblestones of old town Zurich. She was an exotic-looking woman with deep set eyes that sparkled warmth and mischief at the same time. Silvery hair fell way down her back. Her shoes were stained orange and decorated in intricate delicate patterns. She became my mentor and opened my eyes to cultural imprinting and affectations. She had a great sense of humor and was hilarious at imitating the proper Swiss women sitting across from us at a restaurant. She was not above throwing a milk pail over a friend's head, justifying her impulsiveness with myth and philosophy. She demanded we buy organic food for our tea house and scolded us severely if we attempted to cut corners. Her gatherings became regular occasions of celebration, introspection and dancing with the energies of any given moment. Her sun sign was Virgo, but there was nothing bookish or restrained or overly controlled about her.
Virgo holds us to high standards, but she's not always proper and prim. She can be quite determined and saucy, unafraid to throw a drink in somebody's face if the moment requires it. Virgo is a humble sign, but it can be humbling too, as anyone who's been on the receiving end of a Virgo tirade can confirm. Virgo is often maligned for its judgments and criticisms, but sometimes the humiliations we suffer through Virgo are necessary, in service to the gods. We should pay particular attention to the humiliations endured during Saturn's Virgo transit. These are especially significant and transformative-something the CEOs of the big three automakers discovered when they flew their private jets to Washington to request a congressional bail-out. Saturn's outrage was so strong that sufficiently humbled, the executives drove fuel-efficient cars on their next trip to Capitol Hill.
A Virgo friend sailed to new professional heights when Saturn was in Leo. Her confidence grew so large that she collided with her peers as Saturn changed signs and conjoined her Sun. She was quickly ostracized, spending months alone and full of doubt. After much soul-searching, she found a deeper source of confidence and eventually mended fences, wearing her authority in a more graceful, inclusive way. My son was horrified when Saturn in Virgo squared his Ascendant and he was dropped from his Advanced Placement English class, just one point away from the acceptable minimum. With Sagittarius rising, he's used to skating along. "This is a life changing event," he swore. I was skeptical, but months later he studied for his Advanced Placement History exam with a diligence I'd never before seen. One of the worst humiliations I ever suffered came years ago when Saturn first conjoined my Virgo Ascendant. At a party, buoyed by wine and Virgo righteousness, I said something I shouldn't have said, which cost me an entire circle of friends. The next year was agonizing. Turning to spirituality was the only way I survived my pain; of course that changed the rest of my life.
So what happened to you in the past two years? Did Saturn dump a milk pail on your head? Did you discover new dedication and focus? Where has your life improved? Whatever Saturn brought (and likely there were both lessons and triumphs), thank him for his Virgo gifts.
Unfortunately Hera got wind of the matter. No fan of Hercules or of Aphrodite, the goddess spread a rumor through the streets that Hercules was planning to abduct the Amazon Queen. Hercules was already in the palace, heading up the steps, when he heard outside a furious clamor of horses, shouts and spears. He fell into doubt and his thoughts raced down familiar routes: "Ambush! The Queen was lying! She never meant to yield the girdle." Like an agitated teenager in over his head, Hercules rushed into the room and stabbed the Queen before she could say a word. He got the girdle just as he'd planned: by force.
On the way back home under a sunny sky, Hercules heard a distant and pitiful scream. He scanned the horizon and discovered a maiden lashed to a rock with a sea monster heading her way. Without thinking, Hercules jumped into the monster's path, speared it dead, and set the maiden free. The girl, named Hermione, had been offered up to appease the gods after her father had failed to pay the promised wages to two day-laborers, who were actually Apollo and Poseidon in disguise. Angered, Apollo had sent a pestilence and Poseidon roused a monster. To correct the situation, an oracle decreed that Hermione must be sacrificed. Now with the girl at his side, Hercules appealed to Zeus and the matter was set right with an exchange of horses. No further blood was spilled.
This is a Virgo story? It hardly sounds like one. It's so chaotic, with murders, a monster, a girdle, and a dead queen! For Virgo's labor we might have expected Hercules to clean the Augean stables or lop off Hydra heads till none were left - any number of jobs requiring patience, efficiency, organization, and analysis. But getting Aphrodite's girdle is the task Alice Bailey assigned to Virgo and I've been following her tradition for this series. Too, I've learned that the more peculiar the story, the more wisdom it often contains. So what does this labor have to teach us about Virgo?
Hercules makes a mistake when he panics and kills the Queen, but when he saves Hermione's life he helps clear his karmic balance sheet. Cleaning up mistakes and restoring order is this labor's recurring theme. The Paros citizens must make amends to Hercules' crew. Hermione's father must rectify his sin against the gods. Virgo is all about fixing problems and restoring order. Life is messy. Without some force to set things right, where would we be? Virgo brings a useful and necessary intention, but its performance must be developed and refined - or it will create more problems than it fixes. Hercules conceives his plan, sets his course, and soon runs into circumstances he cannot control. That's when Virgo's real training begins.
When meticulous Virgo meets the unexpected, it can become as crazy as Hercules on his Paros rampage. He's similarly unstrung when he stabs the Queen. He's lost confidence and entered Virgo's dark side. Brittle and insecure when life veers from the plan, Virgo will bind itself in judgments and either hide or hurl itself in fury at the world. I remember a computer technician from my corporate days. With Virgo rising, Jim worked hard, often until the wee hours of the morning. His office was lined floor-to-ceiling with a meticulously organized array of tools, parts, manuals, and magazines. Jim was happiest when he felt useful. He loved fixing employee problems, but if you visited these same people after he left, they'd often be fuming and pulling their hair. Everyone complained about Jim. He was picky and obstinate, prone to arguing about insignificant details. After a slew of personality warnings, for the sake of the company's peace, this hard-working man was eventually fired.
As a mutable sign, Virgo is meant to adapt and adjust to the world, but it lacks some of the ease and good humor of its fellow mutables Gemini and Sagittarius. Virgo is fearful and cautious, about which Robert Hand makes an interesting speculation: "It's almost as if Virgo is the result of the childishly exuberant egotism of Leo encountering its first severe defeat." Virgo does seem overly concerned about what's at stake. Its anxiety and self-doubt certainly interfere with its effectiveness. So what's the remedy?
Astrologers have a little saying for Virgo: "Serve or suffer." Suffering is painful, but service? Even without consulting a dictionary, we can sense this word's Latin origins: "to serve" originally meant "to be a slave." Serving implies we must give up something valuable: our time, our freedom, our dreams of big success. To serve can feel demeaning or self-negating, like we must forget about winning "American Idol" and volunteer instead at soup kitchens or build houses for the poor. In a culture that prizes individual creativity, suffering just might be preferable to serving like this.
Fortunately, Hercules' Virgo labor gives us a deeper view of service. That Hercules rescues Hermione is good work, but his act is nothing planned. The hero merely serves the needs of a moment that found him. This is Virgo at its best. Spontaneous, it liberates its skills to meet the present with effectiveness. Hercules lacks this ability at Paros and when the clamoring begins outside the Queen's palace. What makes him change?
After the Queen's murder, Hercules has gotten Aphrodite's girdle. In other words, he acquires the balancing strength of the receptive feminine. The girdle is an emblem for the Virgin at the heart of this sign - the part of us that's fresh, uncalculated, and willing. Through this deeper receptivity, we can more readily submit to the task at hand. We submit to it as a kind of destiny, without the suffering of resistance. Quite simply, we make ourselves available to the needs of our situation. We join the connected fabric of the world, doing what's required of us. This represents one of the earthiest components of this earth sign. It grounds us into our interdependence, the realization we are part of a living system bigger than ourselves alone.
After we explore the possibilities of self through Leo, through creative play and self-expression, Virgo moves us into a more practical engagement with the world. We discover we must serve - not just as non-profit volunteers - or as waitresses, hairdressers or librarians. Virgo's possibilities for service are as variable as people on the planet. Whatever our particular call to service, Virgo can empower our work with its humility, practicality, and dedication. Humility brings new balance to the ego that Leo strengthened. Practicality requires we take only necessary actions. Dedication delivers the capacity to become fully absorbed in our task. Whenever we're fully absorbed in the present moment, that's when the Virgo magic begins!