Why is the zodiac sign of Virgo called the virgin?


 from  ThatHairlessBaby :

Why is the sign of  Virgo called the virgin?

My Answer:

This question raises the interesting issue of how the usage and meaning of words changes from one historical period/cultural phase to another. Within our current culture the word virgin when applied to humans generally means sexually intact. However, in ancient times when matriarchal religions were practised, the word virgin and the astrological sign of Virgo held a deeper and more complex set of meanings.

For example, the priestesses who served the ancient virgin goddesses Atargatis and Artemis were anything but virgin in our contemporary sense of the word. They were women who belonged to themselves and the goddess(es), whose duties to the temple were paramount and who owed allegiance to no particular male partner. Indeed,it was commonplace with those priestesses who had children to foster them out. They were too busy with their sacred duties to have much time for motherhood. (Virgo’s contemporary association with perfectionism, attention to detail, and devotion to work began a very long time ago!)

The eminent astrologer, writer and teacher Dr Liz Greene expresses the essence of what the sign Virgo is about in her “Astrology of Fate” p 215:

“….this issue does not deal solely with sexual matters, but embodies an entire view of life….I would understand it more as an openness to the flow of life, a willingness to trust the natural order, an acceptance of penetration and change….”

In the chapter “Myth and the Zodiac, pp 211-220, Liz Greene offers a very full account of the complex, paradoxical mythology and symbolism connected to the sign of Virgo. I commend it to you!

If you’d like to read some more factual aspects of this topic, try this Wikipedia link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virgo_(astrology).

Thanks for your stimulating question!

Many thanks to my increasing band of new visitors, Followers and commenters out there. Drop by with your observations….. and, of course,  your Questions !


350 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2013

Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page of Writing from the Twelfth House

16 responses to “Why is the zodiac sign of Virgo called the virgin?

  1. I’d forgotten about the role of the Vestal Virgins in Rome – a good example of the more expansive use of the word you mention. Interesting post!


  2. Yes, the fascinating thing about those ancient associations with both the word and the Sign of Virgo is that they express themselves right through to contemporary times – indicating an underlying archetypal pattern I guess.

    I have often told stories attached to the ancient meaning of Virgo to contemporary astrology students and clients with strong links to that sign, ie having one or more planets in the sign of Virgo, Virgo as the Rising/Ascending sign ( that’s me! ), or Virgo on the Midheaven point
    (Career/Direction). They have invariably seen facets of the archetype at work in their modern lives too….


  3. Great post Anne and I agree totally with the older more mystical and less “virginal” role of Virgo. Whilst Virgos are far from prudes I do find my favourite Virgo word is discrimination. It is definitely a sign that sorts out the wheat from the chaff. Carole (Virgo Rising too ;-D)


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  5. Hello. I am sure that the sign is called THE VIRGIN because of the lack of children.At the same time the hieroglyphic of Virgo is the union of Greek letters PHI-RHO.


  6. Pingback: How did the sign of Virgo get its name? | Astrology: Questions and Answers

  7. As a Virgo 29’56” with 5 planets(8th and 9th houses) I can relate to being ‘whole’ within myself . I never really understood societies’ standards of being a woman and needing a man to feel fulfilled, as I already felt whole! Life has always put me in situations where I have to go it alone ( balsamic moon) and I am comfortable with that, and when the going gets tough, I can dig a little deeper within my soul to get an extra boost! This makes me excellent at helping others through transition. I am my best friend, always allowing change and refinement of my character, and I think it is this refinement, ‘ making more pure’ which adds another dimension to ‘virginal’, which comes out clean again and again, no matter how sullied life’s conditions; transforming, refining, always gaining clarity and wholeness, purity at the centre. 🙂 It is interesting to note, that I had many dreams of being High Priestesses, vestal virgins and temple prostitutes, when very young( even before being introduced to astrology at 13, and no one in my family talked of these things); possibly past life memories, and/ or archetypal energy of the Matriarchal Virgin manifesting in my psyche! 🙂



    Hello, I read that in a book,I forgot the name but it is yet in my library…. I did not hear of you before this post, Anyway I do think that the symbolism is not pacific as many Virgoes are just the opposite of a virgin maiden. Yet, some of them love gossip and criticism , other are the perfect public servants, higly devotred ,specially into Medicine and paramedics. I know a lot of them and I myself have a Virgo ascendant with my PLUTO in a proximal conjunction to asc. degree: I cared for both of my parents , I have 2 employments ,I have 2 complete careers, one as a health techician and as a lawyer the other and I had and maybe will have many lovers.


  9. Good answer. To me, Virgo bridges the gap between Leo/Self and Libra/Other, and the only way to do that is via “Ego Death” or Loss of Identity. In our language and mileau, “Virgin” includes the notion of “Newborn” or “Inexperienced at claiming the only value that the Patriarchy places on Female,” which ends up being similar to the defining characteristic of Ego Death, namely the sense of Feeling Lost in familiar territory. That is, after one gets past “I’d rather Die than Feel that” – we usually put the emphasis on the “Die,” but if you move the emphasis to the “I” instead, you realize that it’s an obsolete Identity that needs to Die. The textbook characteristics of Virgo the Sign (detail, criticism, etc) are all consequences of this basic Energy shift, mostly subterfuges to try to avoid facing Ego Death head on with equanimity.


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