30 April is also known as May Eve, marking May Day and the beginning of the ancient Celt festival of Beltane.
Beltane begins at dusk on 30 April and is matched by its European counterpart, Walpurgis Nacht, or St Walpurga’s Night in Germanic tradition.
The two greatest Celtic festivals were Samhain (Halloween) marking the start of winter, and Beltane (April 30/May 1) marking the start of summer.
Beltane ‘the fires of Bel’ began as an ancient fire festival celebrated since at least the Dark Ages if not long before. The celebrations began at dusk on April 30th when great bonfires were lit to welcome the height of spring now associated with the zodiac sign of Taurus the Bull, representing the fertility of spring in full bloom.”
Traditionally,” writes Glennie Kindred (inSacred Celebrations), “all fires in the community were put out…
Most of us know our sun sign or sign of the Zodiac, but what does the constellation look like in the night sky, and what’s the story behind it? The season is the reason. It’s time to meet Virgo again, and get to know her better.
Virgo Season 2021
This year we entered the zodiac territory of Virgo 22 August and will stay there until 22 September. Virgo is a mutable Earth sign representing the cooling weather as we approach the end of summer and the beginning of autumn in the northern hemisphere (or the end of winter and into early spring in the southern hemisphere.)
It is harvest time- ‘the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness’ (From An Ode to Autumn by English poet John Keats) Virgo represents the classical Hellenistic goddesses of wheat and agriculture. The brightest star in the constellation of Virgo, far brighter than our own sun, is Spica, aka ‘the ear of wheat’.
Virgo the Maiden, named after the constellation as shown in the illustration below, is the sixth sign of the zodiac, and rules the concepts of work, service, order, practical intelligence, food, harvests, health, digestion, hygiene, and routines.
Virgo is traditionally ruled by Mercury, planet of communications, inquiry, science, commerce, trade and travel. This symbolic planetary influence brings to the Virgo-born subject, an enlarged curiosity and a combination of analytical ability, but also a certain contemplative or even mystical quality.
Date: August 23-September 22
Symbol: The Virgin
Quality: Mutable (Sagittarius and Pisces are also Mutable, suggesting these subjects are capable and versatile; generally inclined to conform and go with the flow for the greater good.)
Ruling planet: Mercury (Travel and all forms of communication)
House: Sixth, ruling health, habits and routines
Colours: green, white and yellow
Body: The digestive system
Flowers: small bright flowers such as the buttercup
Tarot: Major Arcana card: The Hermit (introspection, perception, analysis, care for nature)
Minor Arcana cards: The 8,9 and 10 of Pentacles or Coins.
The zodiac sign of Virgo gets its name from the constellation of Virgo; the second-largest constellation in the sky after Hydra, and the largest constellation in the zodiac.
It’s mind-boggling to consider that our own Sun is just one star of the Milky Way, and the Milky Way is part of a collection of galaxies known as the Local Group. This contains three large spiral galaxies: the Milky Way, Andromeda, and the Triangulum Galaxy, as well as a few dozen dwarf galaxies. The Local Group is just one member of the Virgo Cluster. This is a collection of 1200-2000 galaxies that stretch across 15 million light-years of space. And the Virgo Cluster is just one cluster in the Virgo Supercluster.
Virgo is visible from all around the world. In the northern hemisphere, Virgo is most visible in the evening sky from mid-March – the start of the planting season- to late June. In the southern hemisphere, look for it in the autumn and winter.
This may seem a bit of a stretch, trying to picture a person here, but add in a few more of her stars and imagine her lounging semi-recumbent, dangling a sheaf of wheat from one hand, Spica, a blue-white giant. Its name is from the Latin meaning an ‘ear of grain’- a sheaf of wheat. Vindemiatrix, ‘the Grape-Gatherer,’ seen at daylight, was once upon a time a sign that now it was time to pick the grapes.
But if the constellation of Virgo is most visible late March- late June, why are the birthdates for the sign of the zodiac August 22-September 23rd?
Zodiac constellations are not to be confused with the signs after which they were named. This difference in timing is due to the effect of the Earth’s wobble over a long period of time; every 26 000 years, creating an effect known as the precession of the equinoxes. Once upon a time, the dates of the signs reflected the dates of the constellations directly overhead, but have since separated. This does not change the symbolic link between the constellation and the sign named after it. Western or Tropical astrology is based on an arithmetic, not an astronomical model, as formalized in the second century AD by the Greek astronomer, mathematician and astrologer, Ptolemy.
History & Mythology
Shala was an ancient Sumerian (Iraq) goddess of grain -and also compassion. Why link these two things? Famine is suffering. A good harvest was seen as a blessing of the gods. What is planted in the spring must yield a crop in the autumn or famine follows. But this cannot be guaranteed from one year to the next.
From early times, more than ten thousand years ago, Shala was associated with the constellation of Virgo and vestiges of symbolism associated with her continue, such as the naming of Spica, the ‘ear of grain’, even as the deity’s name changed from age to age, and culture to culture.
The Shala Mons is a mountain on Venus named after the goddess Shala.
In 10th century BC the Babylonians called part of this constellation, “The Furrow,” again, referring back to Shala.
While this is only one myth of the origin of Virgo, she is seen as a bringer of crops throughout all myths. In Egyptian mythology also, the arrival of Virgo in the night sky meant harvest time.
Ceres (think of the word ‘cereal’) or Demeter, Greco-Roman goddess of the harvest, was the mother of Persephone.
It was the same with the Greeks and Romans “Spicifera est Virgo Cereris” — “The Virgin with her sheaf belongs to Ceres,” The Astronomica“, Manilius, 1st century AD.
When lonely Hades abducted Persephone to live with him in the underworld, her distraught mother, Demeter, earth goddess, went searching,and was enraged to discover that Zeus had known all along where Persephone was, and had turned a blind eye to Hades’ abduction. She demanded his assistance, went on strike and no crops sprouted or flourished. That year the harvests failed and people and livestock starved. Humanity might have died altogether had not Zeus intervened. He insisted that Hades send Persephone home, and sent Hermes to collect her. Hermes discovered, not a wretched weeping girl, but a woman, a wife and a radiant queen, the apple of Hades’s eye,and he had built for her the most beautiful gardens that the underworld could contrive, with underground pools and gems and stalactites. She loved Hades. However, Persephone did miss her mother, and she desperately missed the light, and Hades agreed she could go home, but said that Persephone must not eat until her return.
Hades had no intention of giving her up so easily and purposely gave Persephone a pomegranate, knowing how much she loved them, and she ate some of the seeds on her way home.
Persephone was sent back to her mother, but a deal is a deal, and because of the pomegranate she returns to the underworld for four months every year and then Demeter mourns, winter returns and the land lies cold and fallow.
The Virgo Archetype- Personality
All zodiac signs are archetypes, meaning something that is considered to be a perfect or typical example of a particular kind of person or thing,
The zodiac signs paint a ‘typical’ portrait of a person born at a particular time of year, in a particular season. A baby born in summer for example, arrives into a different physical environment from a winter born baby, varying temperatures, the available hours of daylight and so on, with a range of potential effects.
The archetype of Virgo is the Craftsman, paying careful attention to every detail, taking pride in doing the job, whatever it is, to the highest standard possible. There’s no substitute for skill and hard work, according to Virgo.
The major arcana card in the Tarot representing Virgo in total is The Hermit, as previously mentioned, denoting a deep-rooted sense of connection to Nature. Here is wisdom, maturity and the value of solitude and self-sufficiency. The Hermit represents work and the idea of service – the desire to help Humanity.
Virgo is ruled by agile Mercury, the fastest moving planet of communication, and Virgo sign’s brain is in overdrive most of the time, but grounded in common sense by their associated element, Earth.
Virgos are practical but artistically gifted. They are hard-workers who love to better themselves. They think deeply, they love to analyse, and their perceptiveness means that they can always find or create order within chaos. They are honest friends although, being discerning, and analytical, they might have a tendency to analyse you, and point out your strengths and also your mistakes and weaknesses. This can undoubtedly be annoying, though it’s well meant. They may also give great advice because of those same analytical abilities.
Their appearance is generally neat, well groomed, well kept nails. Slob is not in their vocabulary. Their quest of self-improvement includes personal presentation. They can be incredibly concerned about the impression they give, and even worry about it, but at the same time, they are very ready to help others, maybe sometimes even too generous. Some may try to take advantage.
But of course there is no such thing in reality as THE Virgo personality. We are all unique individuals. Your zodiac sign (also known as your sun sign) is a major clue, a keynote, but it’s by no means claiming to represent the full picture in real life – or even in astrology.
The Decans however, will tell us a little more.
What are the Decans?
The decans were a feature of Egyptian astronomy, later adopted by the Greeks and incorporated into astrology.
The visible area of sky as seen from earth is what we call the wheel of the Zodiac, and represents an imaginary circle of 360 degrees. This circle divided by arithmetic into twelve ‘slices’- the zodiac signs we are familiar with today.
Each of the zodiac signs represents a 30 degree slice of this imaginary ‘pie in the sky,’ as seen from Earth. Each zodiac sign can be further sub-divided into three blocks of ten degrees, equivalent to about ten days in length. This is not exact, and may vary by a day or two because not every month is the same length. These three sub-divisions of all the zodiac signs are what we call ‘decans,’ from the Greek word for ten.
The decans are known as the ‘thirty six faces of astrology,’ and provide added insights and texture. The first ten days of your zodiac sign are the first decan. The second ten days or so are the second decan, and the last ten days are the third decan.
There is more than one decan system, depending on whether we are using traditional or Modern astrology, which uses the outer planets, not discovered at the time of the original model of Western astrology as recorded by Ptolemy in the second century AD.
Some astrologers may dispute which approach works ‘best.’ But astrology is not an exact science. It is an Art with an element of science. They both ‘work,’ and it is worth bearing in mind, the great seventeenth century astrologer William Lilley used traditional astrology –correctly- to predict the Great Plague and Fire of London in a book published in 1651, years ahead of the actual events in 1665-1666, when the outer planets, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto had not yet been formally discovered (Uranus was recorded in 1690, Neptune in 1846 and Pluto in 1930).
For the avoidance of confusion, we are using the traditional system.
The Tarot cards shown below are from the Rider- Waite deck, which many Tarot practitioners now refer to as the Waite-Smith, in recognition of the artist, Pamela Colman Smith.
First Decan Virgo
Dates: 23 August-1 September
Planetary ruler: Sun
Tarot card: The Eight of Pentacles: ‘Lord of Prudence,’ art, craft, industry, skill, concentration, application, studiousness, apprenticeship, crafts, heritage, buildings
Look at him. This person is absorbed in his work, and he seems to be enjoying himself. This work has meaning and purpose for him. This is typical of this decan. There is a mixture of quiet warmth and a cool mind with a talent for acute observation and incisive analysis; however this is expressed artistically, commercially or scientifically or in administrative tasks. Virgo is a master of the spreadsheet.
They see more than they say, but they have a talent for communication via the spoken and written word; making many of these subjects potentially great teachers. They are hard-working, industrious. ‘We reap what we sow,’ goes the old saying. This is not necessarily always true or fair. Misfortune strikes plenty of people who have done nothing to ‘deserve’ it. And plenty of wrong-doers escape justice.
However, it is broadly true to say, we can’t reap what was never sown. Wild berries had to be first sown by the wind or by birds. First decan Virgo understands this better than almost any other sign, except Capricorn and Taurus.
They are serious but cheerful company, faithful friends and partners, devoted in their quiet way.
Second Decan Virgo
Dates: 2-11 September
Planetary ruler: Venus
Tarot card- Nine Pentacles: ‘Lord of Material Gain’ beauty, luxury, hard work that pays off, horticulture, agriculture, viticulture, gardens, vineyards
This decan is traditionally associated with Venus, planet of love, beauty –and money. A perfectionist; conscientious, devoted, and above all focused, they can turn anything they do into an art form in its own right.
Notice the hooded falcon on her wrist. She has ‘tamed’ wildness – or chaos. She has cultivated a home, a garden, a business, and made it thrive, healthy and beautiful. She is financially self- reliant and self-sufficient, but this does not mean it came quick or easy. To achieve this she has learned to control the wild falcon representing her impulses, wants and desires. She has learned self-discipline and self-control, the power of deferred gratification.
A squirrel will have no nuts in the winter if it scoffs them all at once, or couldn’t remember where it hid them, because it wasn’t paying attention. This, the second decan of Virgo is often the most capable, conscientious provider for themselves and for others, and they enjoy spoiling their loved ones. But though they have learned to do without (and at times in their own life, they probably had no choice) still, they do value beautiful things.
Third Decan Virgo
Dates: 12-22 September
Planetary ruler: Mercury
Tarot card- Ten of Pentacles:keywords: ‘Lord of Wealth,’ commerce, messages, deliveries, Hermes, home, homeland, ancestry, genetics, inter-generational relationships, inheritance, gifts, legacy, bequests, town planning, art, museums, banks.
Third Decan Virgo is both a creative and a practical thinker. These are proud people, not vain, but dignified – big difference. They need to be their own masters and it’s not about the money, or at least, not for its own sake. These people are careful, prudent, but they are not misers. They have a winning way with people and may work in the public eye; such is their talent for communication; personal, professional, artistic, written and spoken.
Notice the old man surrounded by family, adults, children, and dogs too. Virgo cares for animals. What he or she has built, was created in order to share, to pass on, seeing themselves as part of a bigger picture, a link in a chain of legacy. This could mean money. It could mean ideas. It could mean a place that means everything to them, their own home or their homeland, with a sense of belonging, of being in the right place – to feel this way is a treasure beyond price.
These are family minded people, realists with an optimistic temperament and a ‘can do’ approach. They enjoy family outings, a walk in the woods, or a trip to the seaside. They will organize it. Virgo are makers and menders, and usually good with animals too. Eco-warrior is not their style. But they do care about the environment. Virgo is about food for the mind and the spirit, as well as the body.
Virgo has both feet on the ground. And yet, it is something of an artist, something of a scientist. Like the Hermit himself, something of a sage.
Grounded, rooted in the earth, but looking inwards and upwards, moving to its own dance, steering by some quiet inner star.
Most of us know our zodiac or sun sign, but what does it look like in the night sky, and what’s the story behind it?
Ruling heavenly body: Moon
Key phrase: I feel
Body: The chest, breast
Birth Stone: Stones and metals fall under the rule of planets, not signs, but through its association with the Moon, Cancer has symbolic affinity with pearls, silver and crystals.
Colour: White, silver
Tree: all trees rich in sap
Tarot card: The Chariot (see how it is a shell?) Drive, control, progress, self discipline, teamwork, and the harmonizing of different elements.
Cancer, Latin for crab, is in a dark region of the sky, and is the faintest constellation in the Zodiac, with only two stars above the fourth magnitude of brightness: Acubens (The Claw) and Al Tarf (The Foot)
Cancer is visible in the Northern Hemisphere in early spring, in March at 9 PM and in the Southern Hemisphere is seen during autumn.
It’s almost impossible to see Cancer with the naked eye or even binoculars, looking between Leo, the lion, and Gemini, The Twins. And really, it doesn’t look much like a crab, more like a faint, upside-down Y that has been compared with a crayfish or lobster. It was actually called the Crayfish in classical astrology, and in Egyptian astrology they called it The Scarab.
Whatever its name, it’s always been pictured as a creature with an exoskeleton; an arthropod, and it is said that Cancer appears to rise in the zodiac as if with a crab-wise movement, not sideways, but ascending backwards.
The Sun’s entry into Cancer announces the summer solstice. ‘Solstice,’ from the Latin sol stice means the Sun seems to be ‘standing still’ as it approaches this point.
However, although Cancer may be faint it’s got one heck of a star cluster glowing at its centre. Praesepe or ‘The Manger’ was identified in 1771 by French astronomer Charles Messier.
Its modern name is M44 or The Beehive Cluster. Through the telescope it looks like a swarm of bees, but to the naked eye it looks like a small, fuzzy patch of light -or a tiny cloud floating through the stars.
Public Domain: The Beehive Cluster
As the sign of the Sun’s greatest elevation, Cancer was considered nearest to the highest point of heaven – and in Neo-Platonism was called ‘the Gate of Men’ through which souls descended to Earth to be born. The opposite constellation, Capricorn was the ‘Gate of the Gods’, where souls of the departed rose back to heaven.
I knew a soul who descended through the Gate of Men and ascended again through the Gate of The Gods the same day, the day of the solstice, 1993. He stayed in this world one hour and twenty five minutes, and then he gave just one little tiny sigh and left. A baby soul, his name was Rowen, and he was our son, and always will be, as long as light lasts. He arrived as a first decan Cancer subject, but came early, and should have come later, in Virgo season.
Cancer also contains a planetary system; 55 Cancri, containing five known planets, with possibly more awaiting discovery. 55 Cancri is about 40 light-years away, just about visible to the unaided eye, although you need help to find it. The innermost of its planets is a “super Earth,” a few times heavier than Earth – but none of these planets has the right surface conditions for liquid water, and life there is thought not likely.
In classical mythology Cancer is associated with the Twelve Labours of Hercules/Herakles after he went mad, mistook his wife and children for monsters and killed them. He undertook the Labours in penance.
The second of his great challenges was to kill the Hydra, a terrible water serpent but his enemy, Hera, who had always hated Herakles as the illegitimate son (yet another one) of her husband Zeus, sent a crab to harass him while he was fighting. The crab faithfully did its very best, nipping Hercules again and again, but he stepped on it and crushed it beneath his heel, or in other versions of the story, killed it with his club.
Look at that crab, getting right stuck in. Go on, crab! Give him a nip. That’ll larn him. Heracles was always a loose cannon. He terribly wounded Chiron, killed his music teacher in a tantrum and killed his own wife and children in a fit of madness for which Hera got the blame.
Hera rewarded the Crab’s loyalty by placing it in the heavens, but she placed it in a dark portion of the heavens with only faint stars because crabs need dark, quiet places to feel safe and at home.
This quiet celestial location however, happens to be the highest point in the zodiac, nearest to heaven, and The Crab is the star of the show, and the humble herald of the glory of the summer solstice.
Cancer is the fourth sign of the Zodiac, representing those born between June 20 and July 22. It is considered a water sign, and is one of the four cardinal signs, which are the signs indicating a change of season when the sun makes its annual passage into them.
Cancer is all about the shoreline, and tides, monthly and annual. Cancer is uniquely both the moon and the sun.
The sign of Cancer, ruled by The Moon, is a cardinal sign, herald of the seasons, announcing the arrival of summer in the northern hemisphere and winter in the southern hemisphere.
The Cancer Personality
There is of course no such thing in reality as THE Cancer personality. Your zodiac sign or as it is also known, your sun sign is a major keynote, but it’s not the whole story. You are a unique personality.
The archetype stands, however, and the Cancer personality is complex, elusive and riddled with contradictions.
Cancer stands for both mother and father. It is the zodiac sign of the nurturing parent. Cancer famously adores babies and small animals, all wild things and does very well with them. The empty nest can be anathema to the Cancer parent.
Cancer is often musical or artistic, but also has a strong scholarly bent, and many Cancer subjects are drawn into the fields of teaching, counselling, psychology and behaviour sciences.
Cancer is the sign of hearth and home, and expanding this; the wider tribal or national identity, and our ancestral legacy, historical, cultural and genetic.
It is the sign of memory, nostalgia, sometimes regrets, and a longing to return to happy childhood haunts. A garden, a meadow, a walk we used to go. A bucket and spade at the seaside if we were lucky. Maybe a dabble in a rock-pool.
The Decans of Cancer
Each zodiac sign is 30 days long and is divided into three Decans of approximately 10 days each, with slight variations possible year on year.
Decan 121 June-1 July
Cancer-Cancer, ruler The Moon
Tarot card: Two of Cups
This is the decan of love or friendship between equals, and the Two of Cups is an especially fortunate and benevolent card. Cancer Decan 1 will fight hard for its loved ones, and will also stick up for the underdog.
They may be a bit of a do-gooder or something of an activist, wanting to pass across that cup as shown in the Tarot.
Cancer decan 1 is also, not only enigmatic and something of a dreamer or even a mystic, but a natural born astronomer, and watcher of the moonlight skies, as are all the decans of Cancer.
Decan 2 2 -11 July
Cancer-Scorpio, ruler Mars (traditional ruler) or Pluto (modern ruler)
Tarot card: Three of Cups
They like to be left in peace but not to be left alone. The subjects of this decan get stronger as they get older which may seem obvious but which is not universally true of all people, but they are resilient and of the three decans of Cancer, this is the decan with the reputation for bouncing back most readily. They are generally sensible about money, good with finances, reliable and trustworthy, helpful to their relations, but they expect the same in return, and do not easily forgive or forget a slight. They have a reputation for holding grudges. Feast and famine, exotic blooms, hot house flowers.
Decan 3 12 -21 July
Cancer-Pisces, ruler Jupiter (traditional ruler) or Neptune (modern ruler)
Tarot Card: Four of Cups
The figure in the Four of Cups has a rich inner life, and may be something of a visionary, but may from time to time feel restless and dissatisfied, bored by mundane realities yet unsure what to do about it, while haunted by the sense there is somewhere else they should be, something else they should be doing. As with Pisces, physical energy levels can be quite variable, and this too is reflected in the card.
Cancer 3 decan is traditionally understood as the moodiest of the crabs. Dedicated and devoted to their loved ones, they may all the same be unapproachable at times. They need to feel family around them, they really do, but they also need plenty of outlets.
Read HERE about the health and constitutional makeup of Cancer.
They are, well, somewhat crabby at times, but deeply humane, kindly, reliable and trustworthy, and they sparkle in company, attracting admiration- when they choose. Reclusive at times, but they never lose a certain sense of fun.