Below Bootes thou seest the Virgin,
An ear of corn held sparkling in her hand.
Whether the daughter of Astraeus, who
First grouped the stars, they say, in days of old,
Or whencesoever, - peaceful may she roll.
In the astronomical records of every age and race extant we find references to the constellation of the Virgin, and there is every reason to believe that it was one of the first star groups to receive a name. On the ancient maps, the Virgin is generally represented as a woman with wings, in a walking attitude. In her left hand she bears a head of wheat, or ear of corn, which is marked by the brilliant first magnitude star Spica.
Her lovely tresses glow with starry light,
Stars ornament the bracelet on her hand;
Her vest in ample fold glitters with stars;
Beneath her snowy feet they shine, her eyes
Lighten all glorious, with heavenly rays,
But first the star which crowns the golden sheaf.
Brown gives us the following description of the constellation: "Virgo is the sign the sun enters in August and was depicted in the zodiac holding in her hands the emblems of the harvest. The identity of Ceres, the goddess of the harvest, with this star group is quite evident.
This figure of the fruitful Virgin was placed in the zodiac as emblematic of the harvest season because the sun is in those stars at that time. The word ' Virgo ' originally implied not only a Virgin but any virtuous matron. By an astronomical allegory, the Virgin of August became a goddess who descended to the earth, presided over the harvest, taught mankind agriculture, and was worshipped under various names."
Maunder does not agree with Brown's statement that Virgo represents the wheat harvest. He points out that the star e Virginis is known as "the herald of the vintage," and the vintage comes considerably later in the year than the harvest. Aratus asserted that Leo first marked the harvest month, and this statement supports Maunder's argument. According to the poets, this Virgin was Astraea, the daughter of Astraeus and Aurora, and the goddess of justice. Near her appear the Scales in which, it is said, she weighed the good and evil deeds of men. In the golden age she resided in the earth, but becoming offended at the wickedness of mankind she returned to heaven. Hesiod claimed that she was the daughter of Jupiter and Themis, and Aratos gives more space to the history of this constella- tion in his celebrated poem than to any other constellation. His account is in part as follows:
Once on earth
She made abode, and deigned to dwell with mortals.
In those old times, never of men or dames
She shunned the converse; but sat with the rest
Immortal as she was. They call her Justice.
Gathering the elders in the public forum
Or in the open highway, earnestly
She chanted forth laws for the general weal,
Nor yet was known contention mischievous,
Nor fierce recrimination, nor uproar.
So lived they. Far off rolled the surly sea,
No ship yet from a distance brought supplies
But ploughs and oxen brought them. Queen of nations,
Justice herself poured all just gifts on man.
As long as earth still nursed a golden race
There walked she; but consorted with the silver
Rarely, and with reserves, nor always ready;
Demanding the old customs back again.
Nor yet that silver race she quite forsook.
At evening twilight, from the echoing mountains,
She came alone. No gracious words fell from her
But when the people filled the heights around
She threatened and rebuked their wickedness,
Refusing though besought to appear again;
"How have your golden fathers left a race
Degenerate! But you shall breed a worse
And then shall wars, and then shall hateful bloodshed
Be among men; and grief press hard on crime.
This said, she sought the mountains, and the people
Whose eyes still strained upon her, left for ever.
And when these also died, those others sprang,
A brazen race, more wicked than the last.
These first the sword, that roadside malefactor,
Forged; these first fed upon the ploughing oxen.
And Justice then, hating that generation,
Flew heavenward, and inhabited that spot
Where now at night may still be seen the virgin.
Virgo was also identified with Erigone, the daughter of Icarius, who hung herself when she learned of her father's death. In classic times she was associated with Ceres, or her daughter Proserpine. Proserpine, so the legend relates, was wandering in the fields in the springtime, and was carried off by Pluto to be his wife. Ceres besought Jupiter to intercede in the matter, and consequently Proserpine was allowed her liberty at intervals. This myth is regarded as an allegory. Proserpine represents the seed which is buried in the earth, and in proper time bursts forth into bloom. In Egypt Virgo was associated with
Isis, and it was said that she formed the Milky Way by dropping innumerable wheat heads in the sky. Another version of this myth is that Isis dropped a sheaf of corn as she fled to escape Typhon, which, as he continued to pursue her, became scattered over the heavens, thus producing the Galaxy which has all the appearance of glittering grains of golden corn. The Chinese call the Milky Way "the Yellow Road," as resembling a path over which the ripened ears of corn are scattered. The Egyptians represented Isis as holding three ears of corn in her hand. In the zodiacs of Denderah and the Virgin appears without wings and holds in her hand a: object said to be a distaff, marked by the stars in Coma Berenices. In India Virgo was known as "the Maiden" and in the Cingalese zodiac she is represented as a woman in a ship with a stalk of wheat in her hand. In the valley of the Thebes Euphrates the Virgin represented the goddess Istar, the daughter of Heaven, the Queen of the Stars. Istar was subsequently identified with Venus. The sign of the sixth month in the Akkadian calendar signified "the errand of Istar." According to Brown this errand was to seek her lost bridegroom in the under world.
the Virgin was called "the Frigid Maiden," and the Chinese made the star group led by Spica the group of Spring. The Arabs, who objected strongly to any drawing of the human figure, called Virgo "the Ears," because of the wheat ear that she held in hand, and Allen tells us that the early Arabs made from some members of the constellation the enormous Lion of the sky, and of others the Kennel Corner with Dogs barking at a Lion. Later Arabian astronomers referred to this constellation as "the Innocent ijaiden." Brown, in his Stellar Theology informs us that Virgo was identified as the goddess Rhea and adored under that name. This goddess was figured, according to Bryant, as a beautiful female adorned with a chaplet in which were seen rays composed of ears of corn (i.e. wheat), her right hand resting on a stone pillar, and in her left hand appeared spikes of corn. By corn the ancients intended wheat- The spikes of "wheat" in the chaplet and left hand of the goddess Rhea are like those held in the left hand of Virgo, and emblematic of the season when the sun enters that sign. Rhea was the daughter of sky and earth, the mother of Jupiter, and wife of Saturn, and also known as "Kronos" or "Time," The association of Virgo with Rhea is of interest to Masons, as the goddess Rhea is the emblem of the Masonic Third Degree. "Early Christian thought," says Maunder, "recognised a reference to the promise of the 'seed of the woman of Genesis iii., 15, in 'the ear of corn' the Virgin carries in her hand, and the expression in Shakespeare's play of Titus Andronicus 'the good boy in the Virgin's lap refers to the mediaeval representation of the sign as the Madonna and Child." In the Hebrew zodiac Virgo is assigned to Napthali, whose standard was a tree, and in the China was called "Bethtdah." Allen thinks that the custom of the Kern-Baby, that is still seen along the borderland of England and Scotland, was derived from the myths associated with Virgo, and that the tossing of the Corn Mother, a custom of land of Judaea Virgo La Vendue, was derived from a similar source.
Among the Peruvians Virgo was known as "the Magic Mother," and "the Earth Mother." The month festival was called "the Queen's festival," and was dedicated to the maize as well as to women in general, whb in this month only predominated in the ritual. Virgo has been associated with the Ashtoreth of the book of Kings, the Astarte of Syria, the Hathor of Egypt, and the Aphrodite of Greece. In
Assyria it was known as "Bel's Wife." In the Euphratean star list we find it styled "the Proclaimer of Rain." Dr. Seiss identified this constellation with the Virgin Mary, and Caesius associated Virgo with Ruth gleaning in the fields of Boaz. Schiller thought that the constellation represented James the Less, and Weigel regarded these stars as the . The very ancient Sphinx of Egypt, the Riddle of the Ages, is thought by some to be a representation of Virgo's head on the body of Leo. Portuguese Towers
"Astrologically speaking," says Proctor, "Virgo is the joy of Mercury. Its natives (those born between the dates Aug. 22d and Sept. 23d), are of moderate stature, seldom handsome, slender but compact, thrifty and ingenious. It governs the abdomen, and reigns over
Turkey, Greece, Mesopotamia, Crete, Jerusalem, Paris, , etc. It is a feminine sign and generally unfortunate. The cornflower is the significant flower and jasper the precious stone." Lyons
The constellation is noteworthy because of the great number of nebulas found in this region of the heavens. The space embraced by the stars Beta, Eta, Gamma,Delta Virginis, and Denebola in Leo, has been called "the Field of the Nebulas." Sir William Herschel found here no less than 323 of these mysterious objects, which later search has increased to five .hundred. This region of the sky was known to the Arabs as "the Kennel Corner of the Barking Dogs." The beautiful white first magnitude star "Spica," a Virginis, is the most noted star in the constellation. It indicates the wheat ear which the Virgin holds in her left hand, and also signifies "the Ear of Wheat." The Arabs called it "the Solitary, the Defenceless, or Unarmed One," possibly because of its isolated position in the sky. They also knew it as "the Calf of the Lion," or "the Shin Bone of the Lion," Leo being much greater in extent in ancient times than is indicated by modern charts. Spica forms with Denebola, Cor Caroli, and Arcturus the well-known figure of "the Diamond of Virgo." Allen tells us that the Hindus knew this star as "Bright," figuring it as a Lamp, or
, while the Chinese called it "the Horn" or "Spike." At one time in Pearl it was known as "the Lute Bearer." In the Euphratean star list it bears the titles, "the Star of Prosperity," "the Propitious One of Seed," "the One called Ear of Corn," and "the Corn Bearer." Spica is especially interesting as furnishing Hipparchus the data which enabled him to discover the Precession of the Equinoxes. According to Lockyer, a temple at Egypt was oriented to Spica as early as 3200 B.C. Other temples oriented to this star are found at Thebes Olympia, Athens, and . At Rhammus there are two temples almost touching each other, both following the shifting places of Spica. Many other temples were dedicated to Spica, and it seems to have been associated with the Min-worship of the Egyptians. Spica is a spectroscopic binary, one of those stars which the spectroscope has shown to be attended by an invisible companion of enormous mass. Spica's dark companion revolves about it in a close orbit, making a complete revolution in the remarkably short period of four days. Spica is at such an enormous distance from us, that no reliable parallax has been obtained. Owing to its proximity to the ecliptic Spica is much used in navigation. It is a star of the Sirian type, and is said to be approaching our system at the rate of 9.2 miles a second. The star rises a very little south of the exact eastern point on the horizon, and culminates at 9 p.m., May 27th. The star Gamma Virginis, known to the Latins as " Porrima," is an interesting star. Allen tells us that it is especially mentioned by Kazwini as being the "Angle" or "Corner of the Barker." The Chinese knew it as "the High Minister of State." It is a beautiful double star, and a fine sight in a small telescope, the two stars being about equal in brilliance, 3 and 3.2 magnitudes. In 1836 they showed as a single star, so close were they together, and consequently were indivisible even in the largest telescopes. Now they are 6" apart, with a period of revolution estimated at about 190 years. Almost a complete revolution has been observed. In the Alphonsine Tables e Virginis was called "Vin- demiatrix," signifying "Grape Gatherer' and the heliacal rising of this star was formerly the herald of the vintage time. The Arabs called it "the Forerunner of the Vintage." Ephesus
Source: ”Star lore of all ages; a collection of myths, legends, and facts concerning the constellations of the Northern Hemisphere”, 1911 by Olcott, William Tyler
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