He may live with a mess on the living room carpet,
but you can bet he’s cleaning up his psyche.
To begin with, we can throw away everybody’s favourite image of that eternal ashtray-emptier and furniture-duster. The neat, orderly, tidy soul with the perfectly balanced bank account and the immaculate kitchen is a picture which sends most Virgos into fits of cynical laughter. And even the virtuous, virginal lady with the unbound hair (discreetly clothed) who adorns jewelry and zodiacal knick-knacks doesn’t have much to do with our theme either. For some rather elusive reasons – reasons which just might lie, as so much astrological misunderstanding does, in the attempt during medieval times to Christianize or make ‘moral’ a symbolic system that is far older and more inclusive than Christianity – Virgo is sadly misinterpreted. Some signs come out rather badly when you try to moralize symbols into social concepts, and Virgo and Scorpio have been hit the hardest – you’re caught between the eternal secretary and the eternal sex maniac. Well, like many Scorpios, Virgos are getting pretty resentful about all this misrepresentation. Especially the untidy ones, who are quite shamelessly slovenly and not in the least concerned with whether they arrive at one minute before eight or one minute after. It has been suggested that Virgos have not yet come into their own because the real ruler of Virgo – Vulcan – has not yet been discovered. There has been, however, a discovery made of a strange little ‘planet’ between Saturn and Uranus, which astronomers were quick to call Chiron for reasons best known to themselves but which might just fill the bill. We don’t know yet. Never mind. What is Virgo really about, if not the eternal janitor of the zodiac?
Let’s bear in mind first of all that each sign has a deep, fundamental drive in it, a basic motivation which always spurs the individual whether he is aware of it or not. This basic drive shows in different ways for different people. We’ve already touched on these – how, for example, the drive toward understanding that motivates Sagittarius makes some Centaurs travelers and others scholars. Physical or emotional or mental, the expression still comes from the same source. And suffice it to say that Virgo’s basic drive isn’t toward cleanliness. It has been suggested that perfectionism is a Virgo characteristic. I haven’t found this to be the case. Discrimination, yes. Absolutely. No one is more discriminating than Virgo. A simple yes or a simple no doesn’t work; it’s yes to this part and possibly to that part and probably no to the middle one unless A or B can be changed, and certainly no to the last. Never black and white. Black and white choices imply a simple universe, and to Virgo the universe is rarely simple. It’s more like a huge, boundless jigsaw puzzle, and it drives Virgo crazy if he hasn’t got a picture of he puzzle on the top of the box before he begins to assemble the puzzle. Discrimination is a finely developed faculty with Virgo. You can see it in his choice of friends, lovers, food, ideas, lifestyle, clothes, reading, artistic taste, or any other area where choices are to be made. But to be a perfectionist means you have to be idealistic, since you have to have an ideal of what constitutes the perfect. And Virgo is no idealist. It’s one of the most realistic, possibly the most realistic sign of the zodiac. Virgo harbours no possible rosy versions of a perfect utopian world, or even a perfect utopian kitchen. Virgo uses what comes to hand, what appears on the plate. The element of earth, remember, is the element that pertains to acceptance of earth plane reality. And no perfectionist ever accepted reality.
It has been suggested, too, that there are two types of Virgos, the neat ones and the sloppy ones. This is probably true as far as it goes. There are two types of any sign – the introverted and extroverted. The extroverted version of any zodiacal sign tends to express himself out in the world. So the extroverted Aries finds challenges in the world, the extroverted Sagittarian explores the world, the extroverted Pisces projects his visions into the world, and so on. The extroverted Virgo no doubt tries to apply his need to classify and order and synthesize at a worldly level. The introverted versions of the signs express their natures through an inner reality. So the introverted Capricorn is spiritually or psychologically ambitious, the introverted Sagittarian travels the boundless leagues of the mind and spirit, the introverted Pisces communes with the depths of his own inner ocean with its mysterious denizens, and the introverted Virgo attempts to synthesize and order himself. Which means that the sink may well accumulate a truly ripe treasure-trove of week-old dishes, the house may accumulate a formidable array of objects in general disarray, and the world may go well to pieces so far as Virgo is concerned – so long as he’s performing that long, alchemical labour within his own depths, on himself.
Notice that word synthesis. It offers much more of a key to Virgo’s basic motivation than perfectionism. Synthesis means bringing together different things, like a good cook performing miracles of culinary genius with a random array of leftover bits from yesterday’s meals. Synthesis also means finding compatible things or ideas or aspects of life which most people find mutually exclusive. Virgo’s compulsion and gift both lie in this area of synthesis. Everything must be fitted together and made to blend. That means finding out where everything fits by naming it, learning about it, categorizing it, classifying it. A friend of mine once referred to Virgo as the Great Classifier. With mercury, god of intelligence and communication, as the present ruler of the sign, you’d expect a love of acquiring knowledge. The difference between Virgo and Gemini, however, both of which are ruled by Mercury, is that Gemini loves bits and snippets of knowledge for their own sake. For Virgo, knowledge is relevant only if it’s useful.
So in a way, you can say that this internal voice is always echoing in poor Virgo’s mind with every new experience he meets. ‘How can I synthesize it?’, he says, and then, ‘How can I use it?’ If I can’t synthesize it, he’ll pretend it doesn’t exist, or begin a dogged pursuit of names and definitions which will allow him to pigeonhole that experience to make it manageable. If it can’t be used, he’ll discard it with a certain flippant arrogance. Yes, that’s fine for more impractical souls.
The drive to discriminate sometimes makes Virgo harsh. He will throw aside people or ideas or careers or things of beauty because they may not be effectual or applicable to what he considers practical reality. Sometimes he throws romance out as well, which is a tragic thing since you then find that type of Virgo for whom life is work and drudgery. Often he’s a cynic, looking at reality with jaundiced eyes; he knows perfectly well that you have to be clever to survive, and he’s prepared to hustle a little and make the effort of polishing the goods because that makes them more saleable. If he’s going to do something, he’ll do it well, both from pride in craftsmanship and from a good marketing sense. Idealistic perfection? Hardly.
Sometimes the only tidy thing you see around Virgo is his bookshelf, for many Virgos respect to an inordinate degree the entire field of knowledge. His books are to him the personifications of his mind, and his mind is often like one of those intricate workings of a delicate Swiss watch, carelessly moving and cataloguing and reflecting and considering and labeling. He may live with a heap on the living room carpet, but you can bet he’s cleaning up his psyche. A lot of Virgos take to astrology like ducks to water – that is, if they can ever get over the resistance to the aura of vague spiritualism which popular columns have mistakenly cast upon the study – because astrology and other cosmological maps offer them confirmation that the universe is basically orderly, and that God Himself is innately tidy.
The impulse to be of service also runs strong in Virgo. Virgos need to be needed, and they need to be useful. The typical Virgo is not particularly ambitious; he lacks the onesidedness necessary to go after one goal wholeheartedly. In many ways his tendency to look for wider and wider pieces to complete the great jigsaw puzzle takes away any propensity for him to focus everything on one piece. It’s a rare Virgo who aims for the position of obvious power. Most of the time you find them as advisors or counselors to someone else who’s silly enough to have taken the throne and subjected himself to all that trouble. Virgo, clever as always, prefers to lurk behind the throne and keep himself out of the line of fire. Realistic, remember? Foolhardy Leos and Ariens and Capricorns aim for the top. Virgo knows that what comes up must come down; he’d rather keep his feet on the ground, thank you very much. Unless a Virgo has a lot of Leo in his chart, or the sun strongly placed in the horoscope, you’ll usually only meet him through his work, rather than through his outgoing personality. Most characteristic Virgos are quite shy, or if not actually retiring, then subtler and quieter than their friends born under other signs. Being earthy, Virgo does like his security, and the need for security is often a problem because it keeps Virgo from trying out creative possibilities that require daring and a little bit of gamble. Ask a typical Virgo to gamble and he’ll get a white, shocked look. Gamble? How horrible! You never know when life might deal you a blow; better to plan and prepare for the future. You often meet Virgos who have been rooted in rather limiting jobs for many years, where their natural intelligence and imagination are stifled, because of the wonderful security of that regular salary cheque. Besides, Virgo is more curious about what makes the wheels on the car run than he is being the driver and entering the race. He’s a student and observer of life rather than a gambler or an entrepreneur. It’s said that Virgos make better servants than rulers. This is undoubtedly true. Remember the historical characters like Cardinal Richelieu. Being a power behind the throne suits the Virgo very well. Craftsmanship and craftiness often run together in this subtle sign. Mercury, in mythology, was also the god of thieves and liars, and presided over the business deal.
There’s another trait, sometimes endearing and sometimes infuriating, that’s worth noting here about Virgo. This is his obsessiveness. He may be obsessive about order or tidiness in the obvious way, but equally often he’s obsessive about emotional orderliness and tidiness. That is, never show your own emotional weaknesses. Virgo is a great controller of emotion. In fact, if you watch a more obsessional Virgo for a while, you begin to get the queer feeling that he’s organizing rituals to keep the forces of darkness at bay. Whether it’s the object-obsessive Virgo who puts all the yellow shirts on the left side of the cupboard and falls into a hysterical fit if you introduce a blue one, or the tightlipped emotionally constricted Virgo who analyses everything in a kind of frenzied desire to keep any ripped psychological seam from showing, the root is the same. You guessed it. All that chaos and emotional sensitivity and sloppiness, and romanticism and vision lurk secretly in the recesses of Virgo’s soul. He has to fight against his own chaos far too often to be tolerant of vagueness and woolliness in others or in the world around him. There’s too much of it in him. Virgo’s apparent hardness and ruthlessness – no sign is quite so adept at saying ‘no’ – is often his way of protecting himself against an intolerable insensitivity. His famous meanness – and no doubt about it, many Virgos are really mean with money – is often a cover-up for a streak of innate extravagance. And his insistent compulsion to stick to practical realities helps him to escape the mystic in his own soul.
A queer bird, Virgo. Not far beneath the cool and analytic veneer you find a sentimental romantic. Virgo may be brusque in manner, and don’t try to borrow money unless you’ve proven you can repay it. You’ll rarely find Virgo as you find Pisces, who will offer his last pound to the drunk in Piccadilly Circus. Virgo’s more likely to deliver a stern and frequently insufferably irritating lecture about self-help. But often this is because he’s too acutely aware of the drunks, derelicts, rejects and flotsam of life, and has a real horror that he might become one himself. Planning for and guaranteeing the safety of the future is an obsession with Virgo, because his acute sense of the world as it is often makes it hard for him to have faith or trust in life. He can’t cope with that reality he’s so plugged into. It threatens his sense of stability. So he shuts it out – discriminating like mad against any elements of it he can’t deal with – and looks out for number one. You’ll often find Virgo being generous and apparently altruistic, giving freely of his time and skills, especially when it comes to teaching somebody how to do something. He loves to show his competence and is genuinely generous in sharing his knowledge. But you’ll rarely find Virgo giving beyond that ring-pass-not. He usually learns his lesson early. It’s almost as though he has a secret Piscean in him somewhere. And he’s learned Pisces’ lesson – with no boundaries comes self-disintegration. After all, it’s only realistic.
From the book “Astrology for Lovers,” written by Liz Green.