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moon goddess, black horses, picking flowers, black crown

Persephone and Virgo

Author: Mirjam

Brought to you by Archetypal Astrology

The word Virgo means simply "unmarried woman". It has nothing at all to do with sexuality. It denotes a woman who does not belong to any man, who is whole within herself, she does not need a man to identify herself through. It also means "intact" and in a psychological sense this includes self-sufficiency and ability to take responsibility for one's own actions. The world of myth are full of Virgos (for some reason they are all female) and they are anything but chaste. The myth about Persephone and her abduction to the underworld goes like this:

The sister of Zeus, Demeter, had a young daughter who was very dear to her. The mother kept constantly watch over her, worried that something should happen to her. One day Persephone was out together with some friend picking flowers. They strolled around the meadows, collecting roses, hyacinths and lilies and bound wreaths of them. Persephone went ahead to where she thought she spotted an especially beautiful narcissus. Just as she bent down to take it, she heard a tremendous sound shaking the earth and there, in front of her she saw the ground opening itself and from out of the underground there rushed a chariot drawn by four black horses. The chariot was driven by a man with dark features and with a strange, black crown on his head. It was easy to see that he was some kind of a king.

Terrified, Persephone began to run, but was soon caught by the dark king who lifted her up and seated her by himself in the chariot. Persephone cried and called out for her mother, but to no avail, the chariot disappeared into the hole and the ground closed itself after them, leaving no trace and no sound.

Her friends looked everywhere for her, but in the end they had to go to Demeter and tell her that Persephone had disappeared. Demeter was raging and weeping and searched endlessly for her daughter, but could find her nowhere. Finally she had to turn to the moon goddess Hekate to ask for help, but Hekate advised her to go to the sungod, who sees and hears everything. He told her that Persephone had been abducted by the king of the underground, Hades and that now she lived with him in his dark kingdom.

Demeter was beside herself with grief and anger. She stopped seeing to her duties and did not take care of her fields and gardens. The grains wilted, the flowers disappeared and there was suffering and famine among the humans. At last Zeus decided that something had to be done. So he tried to persuade Demeter to come to her senses. But she would not listen. Until her beloved Persephone was back, she could not care for what happened to the humans. Zeus then sent Hermes, the messenger of the gods, down to Hades, to try and make him give Persephone back. Hades agreed, but not until he had succeeded in making Persephone eat a pomegranate (a symbol of fertility)that grew in the underground. After that he sent her back.

Demeter, of course, was overjoyed, but in a worried tone asked her daughter if she had eaten of anything down there in the realm of Hades. And when Persephone told her of the pomegranate, she was inconsolable again, as she knew that he who eats of something that is of the underground, he has barred his way to the light for good.

Zeus, however, considered that both Demeter and Persephone had suffered their share, and he managed to arrange an agreement with Hades. Half of the year Persephone was allowed to live in the daylight on the surface, but the other half she had to spend in the realm of Hades. And during that period, Demeter retires in grief and nothing grows, nothing blossoms until Persephone returns. Then the light comes back, all things starts to grow and the humans rejoice.

The connection to Virgo

Here are several motifs. First there is the young Persephone, the girl who doesn't want to leave her mother, which can lead to a person not developing in his/her life. She might think it is enough to "keep clean" on a surface level, a trivial, everyday level, dealing with what food to eat or what method to do housecleaning with etc. The classical Virgo type is often described this way. She might be very clever doing the mundane functions, but does not dare to meet any great challenges. In that sense life is coming to a halt, she has not really stopped living with the mother.

Then there is in Virgo a very sensual side, that she often doesn't realize. Maybe they are only afraid of their own strong, inner sensual forces and hide themselves behind a facade of "purity". In Persephone we see this in the fact that she actually stays with her dark husband and, in some varieties of the story, give birth to a child, Dionysos (which is a divine child). We are told of no struggle from her part to get away.

A third factor is that she has herself brought about her fate, even if its done unconsciously. She goes away and plucks that narcissus and everything is thereby put into motion. It could be said that it is her ignorance that opens the door to the hidden forces from the underground. And through this she gets a chance to experiences which she never would have gotten had she stayed with the mother all the time. And it is exactly these experiences that allow her to grow as a human being.

What I think stands out is the pomegranate, the symbol of fertility, and the divine child Dionysos. Virgos often have a sort of spiritual quality which in certain circumstances can prepare for something special to grow within. To be self-sufficient is also to be clean and untouched in spirit, which can sometimes be seen in Virgos. But even the most pure and untouched human being can benefit from having an encounter with the dark forces of the underground. The myth tells us that this is one place where something divine can be born, if we are called upon to pick the narcissus.

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