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Its Origin and Meaning in Astrology
The above image is the established symbol (also called glyph) for the Zodiac sign Virgo, the Maiden (or Virgin). It’s an M with what might be the crossed legs of a chaste virgin. Both the Zodiac sign and its symbol have been along for ages.
The Zodiac division of the ecliptic into twelve parts, each assigned a Zodiac sign, is probably of Babylonian (Mesopotamia) origin. They were very early with astrology, mapping the sky and noting planetary movements thousands of years ago.
The Zodiac, very much like the one we know today, might have emerged in Mesopotamia around 1000 BC. But Babylonian astrology is probably far older than that.
Hard Work for Virgo
The Babylonians connected this Zodiac sign and the constellation to farming, calling it “The Furrow,” which remains in linking this Zodiac sign to the element earth and the characteristic of productivity from hard labor.
The constellation of Virgo is not that hard to see as a picture of a maiden, if the right stars are connected with lines. There are the arms and a body covered with a gown. Through history, this has been the image related to the constellation.
Several of the Zodiac constellations are much more vague in depicting their Zodiac sign. Here’s the constellation Virgo:
As you can see, the formation of the stars suggest the shape of a fully dressed woman, arms (or wings) out to the sides. The way she is covered by a garment might have inspired the idea of the virgin, keeping her clothes on.
Below is an antique illustration of the same constellation, where the figure of a winged maiden has been added. It’s from a 17th century book: Firmamentum sobiescianum, by Johannes Hevelius, 1690.
Virgo in Ink
Below is an ink version of the symbol for Virgo, which I did a number of years back in an experiment of using Japanese ink calligraphy (shodo) for old European astrology symbols. I’ve used these pictures on my astrology websites, mainly for fun and for the odd graphic effect, and I’ve seen them copied all over the Internet. I’m fine with that, although I think it wouldn’t hurt if the source was mentioned. Well, what to do?
Anyway, here’s that ink again, this time in the original black and white (click on the image to see a bigger version):
Virgo the Sign
As for the picture commonly used to represent the Virgo Zodiac sign, it’s been an image of a maiden for as long as that has been its name – surely longer than the symbol described above has existed. Often, the maiden has been equipped with wings, to mark her chastity. Below is one typical example, where the stars of the constellation Virgo have also been marked. It’s an illustration from Poeticon astronomicon, a 1482 book by Hyginus.
For the header of this website, I simply combined the symbol for Virgo with an image of the Virgin Mary. The constellation Virgo has often through the history of Christianity been connected to her. The background is a closeup of a clockwork mechanism, as a reminder of the Virgo traits and archetype: the scrutiny of a clockmaker.
Here are the symbols (glyphs) of all the twelve Zodiac signs, and links to pages telling more about each Zodiac sign symbol.