“To put the world in order, we must first put the nation in order; to put the nation in order we must put the family in order; to put the family in order, we must cultivate our personal life; and to cultivate our personal life, we must first set our hearts right.”—Confucius
The ringed planet Saturn entered the sign of Virgo on September 2 and will transit through the sign of the celestial virgin until July 2010, nearly three years. Virgo is the only female among the zodiacal constellations, and other than the twins, Castor and Pollux (Gemini), she is the only human figure. Virgo is depicted as a maiden, holding a palm branch in her right and a single ear of wheat in her left. Her brightest star is named Spica, “ear of wheat.” Virgo is one of the oldest constellations and over time has been equated with every important feminine deity, including Ishtar, Isis, Demeter, Persephone, Medusa, Artemis, and Urania. Richard Hinkley-Allen says, “Those who claim very high antiquity for the zodiacal signs (15,000 years ago), assert that the idea of these titles originated when the Sun was in Virgo at the spring equinox, the time of the Egyptian harvest.”
Australian astrologer Bernadette Brady has remarked that “Whatever image is chosen across time and cultures, what is contained in Virgo is the archetype of the harvest-bringing goddess, pure and good, independent of the masculine. She gives the four seasons and is the source of the fertile Earth.” The more ancient concept of “virgin” described a woman who was independent and free to love whom she chose. Virgo is also the Greek Sophia, goddess of wisdom, and in the Gnostic tradition, she is the Black Madonna, mysterious guardian of feminine wisdom.
The power of these goddesses, ranging from agriculture and astronomy to justice, wisdom and war, seems to be missing from typical astrological renderings of the sixth sign of the zodiac. Virgo is often described as analytical, critical, narrow, timid and tentative. Virgo is introspective and analytical, always seeking perfection. In modern parlance we might understand Virgo’s path as one of coming into the fullness of power, claiming and expressing what exists in potential.
The mutable earth sign Virgo relates to the spiritual stage of spiritual unfolding which focuses on specialization of forms. She represents the stage in the cycle when the soul’s experience is focused on assimilation of knowledge. In this phase matter is organized, purified and refined into specific and recognizable objects. Here we might say the Grand Plan of the Cosmos is carried out in detail. The Zodiac has also been said to represent the body of the Macrocosm, the Grand Human. In this vein the first sign Aries corresponds with the head, Taurus the neck and shoulders, and so on. Metaphysically Virgo is the matrix and represents the womb of the inner Christos, or spiritual self, containing the seed and eventual fruits of the Spirit. Seeds germinate in darkness, breaking their way out of their shell casings, and sending roots into the Earth. Like the abdomen and intestines which Virgo has dominion over, this phase distills the qualitative pearls from life.
The ringed planet orbits the sun in 29.5 years so Saturn spends roughly 2.5 years in each sign. Due to vagaries of the planets’ motions this is not consistent and Saturn will spend closer to three years in the sign of Virgo. For individuals every 29.5 years Saturn returns to the place it occupied at birth. This is called a Saturn “return” and this event is always profound, usually bringing change in the circumstances of life.
Myth transmits archetypal knowledge through stories and symbolism, but archetypes are complex and sometimes these stories seem contradictory. Saturn’s myths are a good example. Saturn is an old Italian god who is identified with the earlier Greek Cronus, Chief of the Titans, one of the great figures of myth. One tradition portrays Cronus as a selfish and autocratic ruler, intending to maintain his reign at any cost. In an act which is a nasty abuse of power even by mythical standards Cronus swallowed his own children so that none of them would supplant him. His wife Rhea, herself a very ancient pre-Hellenic goddess from Crete, ultimately foiled this arrogant attempt by giving him a swaddled stone instead of his last-born Zeus (Jupiter). Subsequently, Jupiter tricked Cronus into coughing up the rest of his siblings.
In Orphic cosmology, however, which traces its roots to Egypt, Cronus was seen as a beneficent king, ruling over both heaven and earth. In this guise Cronus ruled during a halcyon golden age in antiquity. Cronus is also sometimes identified with Chronus, who is not depicted as a personified being, but rather as Time itself, which of course does swallow all of its children in due course. A deeper interpretation of this interwoven symbolism might be that attainment of the “stone of the wise,” shown by swallowing the stone which he thought was Jupiter (Wisdom), finally liberating our consciousness from the wheel of time.
Nature of Order
Astrologically Saturn is still seen as lord of time, and when he connects to points in our horoscopes we feel his heavy hand. In astrology Saturn’s influence is the embodiment of form, and the dramatic rings which surround the physical planet represent the idea of limitation. He is sometimes depicted as the Grim Reaper, wielding a scythe, and cutting a wide swath in human affairs. The reaper is only “grim” if we have sowed metaphorical seeds of destruction. Saturn is often viewed in a dim light, but it is our veiled and incomplete understanding of the nature of how consciousness partakes in the creation of reality that is the problem with his reputation.
Not only is Saturn famous for its spectacular rings but another geometric feature of the planet puzzles scientists. Saturn has a bizarre hexagon-shaped cloud which circles the north pole of the ringed planet. Scientists are stumped by this geometric cloud formation. Originally discovered by Voyager in the 1980s nothing like this phenomenon has been observed anywhere else in the solar system. It’s intriguing that such an enigma, along with the most dramatic rings, should appear on the planet which astrologically symbolizes form and structure. Pythagorus is quoted as saying, “God geometrizes,” and one wonders what message from Nature is contained in this conundrum.
The influence of Saturn by sign serves to limit or control circumstances in our lives and can also indicate how we will be limited, controlled, frustrated or delayed by what seems to be the cruel hand of fate, according to the sign Saturn transits. The ringed planet gives form to our life experiences and therefore provides our lessons. We can learn from this transit by perceiving how our critical instruction presents itself whether through people or experiences. With the benefit of hindsight most of us give credit for our most profound lessons to our toughest teachers. We look back in gratitude to those who expected the most from us or held our feet to the proverbial fire. Saturn is at heart a wise teacher if seeming to be a stern taskmaster. When we are truly wise we understand that Saturn plays the role of tough-love teacher. If we accept his lessons we are invariably strengthened in character.
Saturn represents how we have structured our reality through our thoughts, and in a quantum sense Saturn represents the way we perceive reality as our individual and collective conscious has created and structured it. This is not really an external process although it seems to be outer events that provide the classroom.
Ringing in the Sheaves
With Saturn in Virgo the character is inclined to be upright in nature and industrious with a risk of rigidity or a too-critical nature. There is a tendency to be overly serious and always see the glass as half empty. This combination of energies dislikes uncertainty and can lack faith. Self-confidence is not strong with Saturn in Virgo. Saturn in Virgo tends to avoid risk and speculation, preferring to have all the facts and figures, so a lively stock market is not likely during this transit. Some see the big picture in a macro fashion while others, like Virgo, look through a microscope and are more qualified to execute the fine points. Both perspectives are necessary, but with Saturn in Virgo there is a tendency to worry over details that are inconsequential and fail to see the big picture. As the old adage says, “The devil’s in the details” whether we ignore them at our peril or pay too much attention to them and miss the boat entirely.
Saturn in Virgo engenders a keen sense of discrimination and analysis along with a strong scientific bent. A healthy dose of common sense is a positive attribute. Saturn in Virgo does not take things at face value. In a natal chart and by transit this placement favors researchers and scientists. A sense of overwhelming responsibility can characterize Saturn in Virgo. With this transit or natal combination efficiency and thoroughness are more important than speed and sparkle. This transit is a good time to focus on health and put behaviors and structures in place to improve overall fitness.
Saturn is the planet of form and order and Virgo is the sign which pulls us toward an illusory quest for perfection, so it’s fair to say that this combination creates a quest for perfection in form that is doomed before it begins. Perfection is an abstract principle which by its nature is not really attainable in the world of form. Virgo’s more ancient and powerful side is associated with ancient goddesses of grain and the cycles of the year. Saturn’s is related to cycles of time in a karmic or philosophical manner in that what we sow we eventually reap. Time heals all things but time also ultimately brings the chickens home to roost. This is a nose-to-the-grindstone combination of energies where practical application in the present will yield a rich harvest later.
In Due Time
Pluto will go direct in motion in early September at 26 degrees at the same time Saturn enters Virgo, moving forward potentially powerful energies for transformation and contributing an auspicious boost to Saturn’s tenure in the sixth sign. In April of 2008 Saturn at one degree of Virgo will trine Pluto at one degree of Capricorn bringing up issues that have been buried in subconsciousness and need to be acknowledged and addressed. This is a bit like cleaning out the cellar and will give us a preview of the new energy Pluto will fully embrace in November 2008 when the small but might, dwarf planet begins a long transit through the sign of Capricorn.
Next year, in November and December of 2008, Saturn in Virgo will oppose Uranus in Pisces and inconjunct Neptune in Aquarius (150-degree aspect). This is the last pass of Saturn opposed to Uranus, and combined with the influence of Neptune, asks us how our values have altered toward a more collective vision; are we still clinging to outworn forms or building a more enlightened future?
I believe among the lessons of this transit are learning to discriminate what is truly important and deserves an intense focus of attention and an expenditure of creative energy. We can learn to separate the wheat from the chaff, to use a Virgo example. Likewise, as we move into the Aquarian age, we need an understanding of the essential role our thoughts and predominant mindset have on ordering our world. Ultimately the question is: do we want more of the same or do we want to recreate the world according to a higher vision?