Dear Friend and Reader:
El Sol is now in Virgo; it made its ingress to the sixth sign of the zodiac Thursday at 7:02 pm EDT. Virgo is the mutable earth sign (the only one). Mutability is a form of changeability; earth is a form of stability. We have some tension manifesting through that contrast.
Of course, the Earth is in a constant state of flux and change, especially in our era of Earth changes. We live with that tension, as we expect the climate and geography to be reasonably stable, though so often in our moment of history it’s anything but.
Virgo is the third sign of the summer up here in our part of the world; as a mutable sign, it’s the disseminating phase of the season. (Note that all the seasons end with a mutable sign — Gemini ends Northern Hemisphere spring, Virgo ends summer, Sagittarius ends autumn and Pisces ends winter.) That is part of what makes the sign mutable: it arrives in a moment of transition. Mutable signs can also express themselves as a cardinal sign or as a fixed sign — another example of their changeability.
Associated with Mercury, in the traditional ruling planet we get another image of changeability. Mercury changes directions six times a year, more than any other planet (three stations retrograde, and three stations direct). Its speed is varying constantly, and it accelerates and decelerates (in and out of its stations retrograde and direct) more quickly than any other planet.
If you look up Virgo in a dependable old text, you’ll find that it’s associated with dairy production, cornfields, granaries, malt-houses, or places where barley, wheat, peas, cheese and butter are stored. In other words, going back to the significant agricultural roots of astrology, Virgo is the sign that’s about having enough to eat. Not surprisingly, given the time of year that it occurs in the Northern Hemisphere (where our astrology was developed), Virgo is the sign of the harvest.
Virgo is also associated with libraries and studies — revealing of the scholarly traits that modern astrology books associate with this sign. Fred Gettings, in his excellent astrology dictionary, describes Virgo as a sign “deeply committed to the intellectual process.”
Those of us who know and love Virgos are familiar with intelligent, clever, somewhat nervous people who can never seem to do enough. And it’s difficult to figure out where you stand with them, since like the motion of their ruling planet Mercury, every day is a little different.
You can think of this as Virgo in its outer form — how it expresses itself in ways that we can observe with the senses and eat for breakfast. Then there are the deeper layers. We can find something about this in a 1951 text called Esoteric Astrology by Alice A. Bailey.
“The sign Virgo is one of the most significant in the zodiac,” Bailey writes in her introduction to this sign, “for its symbology concerns the whole goal of the evolutionary process, which is to shield, nurture and finally reveal the hidden spiritual reality. This every form veils, but the human form is equipped and fitted to manifest it in a manner different to any other expression of divinity and so make tangible and objective that for which the whole creative process was intended.”
She describes this process as being conveyed in three female figures from mythology: Eve, Isis and Mary. Each of these goddesses conceals and gestates the inner spiritual quality of humanity until it’s born in human form as Jesus, the Christ. I don’t think she means this literally as much as she is presenting a metaphor of spiritual development, and a model of the feminine being what gestates a deeper quality in humanity.
Eve “took the apple of knowledge from the serpent of matter and started the long human undertaking of experiment, experience and expression” of our journey on and with our planet. Isis “stands for this same expression down onto the emotional or astral plane.” Mary “carries the process down to the plane or place of incarnation, the physical plane, and therefore gives birth to the Christ child.”
Many things are going on here, in the midst of the anachronism of these three figures; one of them is that Bailey is describing Virgo as an expression of the threefold goddess, which takes many other forms. Another is that she is describing Virgo as a sign that, through a series of steps, brings humanity closer to its essential spiritual nature — the one we know exists at least in theory and more probably as a spark of light within us — being born in real life, as a physical manifestation.
An idea becomes real; a potential manifests. The germ of life inside the seed of grain is protected, and when the conditions are right, it emerges and grows. That is the essence of Virgo, where we see so much in the way of intellectual expression yearning for a place to take form. To do this, it’s necessary to honor the life within what we’re doing, and the deeper life within ourselves. This takes patience and care. It requires living in service of that inner light, until it’s fully born.
Even in the most ordinary themes of Virgo we see these qualities expressed — for example, the undeniable emphasis on service that Virgo so often presents. When a person with strong Virgo in their chart is in conflict or crisis, it would be a good idea to check for the extent to which they are honoring and are in harmony with that inner life. Note: service does not necessarily mean being a nurse or a teacher. It means doing what one came here to do; it means following one’s true calling, which almost invariably serves humanity.
Notably, many people alive today have unusually powerful Virgo signatures in their charts — for example, everyone born between 1957 and 1972 has Pluto in Virgo (there will be some small exceptions on the far ends of that date range, when Pluto was transitioning between signs).
Through the core of that era Uranus was also in Virgo, as this sign was the scene of the Uranus-Pluto conjunction of 1965-1966. That conjunction has a wide orb of influence, spanning at minimum from the late 1950s to the early 1970s. And we are experiencing a manifestation of that event today, as Uranus and Pluto are now making their famous square aspect — the defining aspect of our era.
One recent manifestation of the deeper nature of Virgo came with the discovery of Chiron in 1977. While Chiron is not the ‘ruling’ planet of Virgo, there are many associations between Chiron and Virgo, and Chiron does indeed seem to have transformed our notion and experience of Virgo.
Chiron is physically a massive comet. At 160 to 180 kilometers across, it is thousands of times the size of even the largest comets we can typically see — but too far away to resolve even for most telescopes. Chiron orbits our Sun in a 51-year egg-shaped path that crosses Saturn’s orbit and goes out nearly as far as Uranus.
The discovery of Chiron, and considerable early enthusiasm about it, raised much speculation about what sign this new planet might rule. This notion was based on an assumption that new planets rule anything at all. But by 1977, the modern planets (Uranus, Neptune and Pluto) were said to rule Aquarius, Pisces and Scorpio respectively. So when Chiron came along, astrologers were ensconced in the dubious habit of thinking that something new had to rule a sign.
While this issue is potentially debatable, Chiron certainly has a lot to say about Virgo and a close affinity for it. Chiron’s dedication to healing, service and perfecting the human experience is related to Virgo rather impeccably. Chiron always seems to be struggling to bring something from a ‘higher level’ into the physical plane.
Chiron will do whatever it needs to do, again and again, until it gets our attention. If you track your lifetime Chiron transits, you will see this in action. It is not easy integrating the energy of one level of experience into the other — anyone who has tried to bring loving vibes into their place of work might know what I’m talking about — but with persistence, it can be done. And Chiron is persistent if nothing else.
Chiron of Greek mythology was a surgeon and the primary teacher of Asclepius, the god of medicine. There is not a lot of room for error in these distinctly human fields of work. The roles of both teaching and nursing have long been associated with Virgo.
The mental obsession that Chiron can bring helps us see through Virgo in a way that’s helpful. As Barbara Hand Clow has pointed out, this obsessive quality is one of the most important links between Chiron and Virgo, something that tricksterish, often annoyingly neutral Mercury could not really explain fully. Chiron is no messenger, and he’s not neutral; he is someone with a mission, who speaks through action.
That mission has been likened to the Christ from the earliest days of astrologers interpreting Chiron, so we might speculate that Virgo has given birth to the Christ energy in the form of this new planet. Many of the early astrologers who considered the mythology of Chiron, which involves an immortal who experiences death and resurrection, have made this connection, particularly Zane Stein. But what exactly does this mean, in a world where the mythology of Jesus is twisted in ways that are used to preach intolerance, hatred and mass murder?
It means that a) we had better start thinking of Jesus a bit more compassionately (Christians: stick to the red letters), and b) that Chiron is going to push us to become whole, authentic people, whatever it takes.
Chiron is now in Pisces, the sign opposite Virgo. It is therefore influencing everyone with planets in any mutable sign.
But it’s especially significant for those with any strong Virgo signature — such as the Sun, Moon or ascendant, and anyone born during the Pluto in Virgo era. This is a second activation point of the Uranus-Pluto conjunction of the long and deeply influential era we call the Sixties.
Speaking of goddesses, Virgo, Chiron and Uranus-Pluto, Betty Dodson turns 84 on Saturday. Betty is the patron saint of sex education here at Planet Waves. The author of the first factual book about masturbation (with a focus on women), Betty has spent the past 40+ years working and playing as a sexual revolutionary. She was one of a very few people who were willing to break the silence on all matters of sexuality, not as an expert or scientist but in her role as human being — especially on gender-queer and masturbation issues.
I think of Betty as the ultimate incarnation of Virgo, from the level of personality (her immaculate home, her impeccable attention to detail especially in her art and writing, and her somewhat fussy personality) right out to how she expresses her deepest mission, as an incarnation of the healer-initiate.
When she entered mainstream public consciousness in 1973, she was willing to go where no outspoken person had gone before: advocating female masturbation. It’s easy for us to take this for granted now, when the topic is a favorite of popular sexual cinema (i.e., ‘porn’), a bona-fide fetish and something that nearly all women do. She offered the idea that they could love that fact, and express it openly with one another and in their intimate partnerships. Her publishing debut was an August 1973 article in Ms. magazine that her editors made her rewrite more than a dozen times over two years before they finally published it.
It wasn’t always that way. Indeed, when Betty published that article in Ms. and her subsequent (associated) pamphlet, Liberating Masturbation, the topic was verboten, even disgusting and disgraceful; it was easier to get information about ancient pagan rituals, the Illuminati and the secret ingredient in Coca-Cola. You could probably could have gotten a good few doctors to agree that having the mumps was healthier for you.
For any woman who today complains that any man in her life, or men in general, are into women’s masturbation, thank your lucky stars. You don’t want to go back to the old days, when it was a criminal act of moral turpitude, a disease, an embarrassment and a betrayal of relational fidelity. (Note, some people still feel this way; I encourage you to arise from your slumber and get with it.)
To the extent that people today think that female masturbation is a beautiful thing (or that it exists at all, and is a healthy, necessary expression of sexuality), we can personally and individually thank Betty Dodson. Trust me: this took guts, determination and intelligence. And she brought all her talent as a writer, artist and activist to the project. She took big chances and was made an outcast many times along the way.
To the best I’ve been able to research the topic, the assault on masturbation started with a 1612 book called Onania, and this work of demonic propaganda is not answered until Betty comes along and openly corrects the record and offers a new set of teachings. [You can read more about Onania in this article.]
When you look up “sex-positive feminism” in Wikipedia, you find out that, “also known as pro-sex feminism, sex-radical feminism, or sexually liberal feminism, [it] is a movement that began in the early 1980s that centers on the idea that sexual freedom is an essential component of women’s freedom.”
Betty was opening up the topic long before the 1980s. During second-wave feminism of the 1960s and 1970s, sex was not a welcome topic or point of serious consideration; feminism was generally an intellelctual political movement, and the main role of sex within politics is scandal.
It was rare at that time to associate masturbation with liberation or personal growth, but consider how logical it would have been: if feminism is about liberating women from the bonds of and dependency on men, a significant part of that dependency involves sex.
The fact that young women can have access to information about masturbation potentially saves them from all kinds of sexual mishaps early in their erotic maturity.
For all it attempted, pretended and succeeded to do, the sexual revolution overlooked masturbation — except for lil’ ol’ Betty Dodson, who had a marvelous way of keeping the message coming.
Today sex-positive feminism is an established movement (even if it’s something of a boutique item most places) and an essential part of what’s called third-wave feminism — the “not your mother’s variety” of feminism. To the extent that we can have a genius sex educator like Laci Green offer us the Freaky Labia video, we have Betty Dodson to thank for going there first. Most young sex educators have heard of Betty but don’t necessarily know the vacuum of ignorance that she was speaking into and how far we’ve come since she first did so.
Betty is also aware of how far we have to go — and how much backsliding into propagated ignorance and fear has happened under the American Taliban in recent years. We have yet to fully assess the damage caused by three decades of abstinence indoctrination, obsession with premature marriage and prosecuting minors for having sex with one another.
Betty’s chart is the essence of Virgo: with Virgo Sun and Neptune in the ascendant, and Chiron on the North Node, she is born of pure determination and devotion to her mission. It’s not easy to be a sex education pioneer in a society that is devoted to guilt, shame and exploitation — and it’s taken the kind of spiritual strength indicated by this placement to help her get there.
Sun-Neptune rising gives her the chart signature of a documentary filmmaker; she has made many such films. Even though most of her other films feature many scenes of individual and group female masturbation, my favorite work by Dodson is called “Her Life of Sex and Art,” which is now available free on YouTube.
One thing that jumps out of Betty’s chart is that she was born during the Uranus-Pluto square of the early 1930s. She was born in 1929 but that was well within range of the square — she has Uranus in Aries and Pluto in Cancer. We are now experiencing a Uranus-Pluto square once again, only this time Uranus is in Aries and Pluto is in Capricorn. Uranus and Pluto together bring out revolutionary tendencies, and Betty surely qualifies.
In a similar light, she’s having her Uranus return — the planet with an 84-year orbit has returned to its natal position in her chart, having completed one full cycle in her lifetime of stirring the pot, speaking truth to power and inventing the notion of legitimate female orgasm.
There are many gems in her chart (most of them involving asteroids), but the crown jewel is Chiron conjunct the North Node in Taurus in the 9th house. This combines the physicality and self-focus of Taurus with the healing mission and pointed determination of Chiron, coupled with a global spiritual calling of the 9th house.
It is worth mentioning that she took aim at the religiously indoctrinated body shame that pervades all of modern Western culture to some degree or another (usually deeply) — an expression of Chiron in the religiously-oriented 9th house as well, with the added determination and momentum of the North Node — a deeply karmic mission.
One last thing. This week, Chelsea Manning, formerly Bradley, came out as transgender. This goes out over the wire services, we look at the story and think: gee, that’s interesting. And some people think: that’s fantastic. Even the FOX News dwellers know that her decision to choose her gender is part of the fabric of life. Can you imagine this happening 10 years ago, much less 40 years ago?
Betty was one of the first people to openly advocate gender-queer, long before there was any culturally accepted notion of such a thing. Chelsea, if by some miracle you’re reading, Betty is proud of you and is grateful for what you’ve taught us and who you are.
So are all of us at Planet Waves.