On September 12, 2022, at 3:05 pm EDT, the Sun enters Virgo III — the decan that Austin Coppock called the Sarcophagus. Administered by Mercury, it’s the season when things go into their proper containers and vessels: the grapes into their fermenting jars, the grains into the granaries, the cucumbers into the pickling barrels, and the dead into their coffins. The Hellenistic-era residents of Alexandria, at the mouth of the Nile river, assigned the festivals and rites of the goddess Hestia to this time of year — the keeper of the sacred heart of the gods, the manager of the deities’ household, and the minder of the divine economy.
Most modern pagans celebrate the two solstices and two equinoxes as sacred days, which fall on the first entrance of the Sun to Decan I of each of the Cardinal signs (Aries I, Cancer I, Libra I and Capricorn I): Ostara, Litha, Mabon and Yule. There are also four “cross-quarter days” which fall on the first day of the Sun’s entry to Decan II of the Fixed signs (Taurus II, Leo II, Scorpio II, and Aquarius II): May Day/Beltaine, Lammas or Lughnasadh, Halloween/Samhain, and Oimelc.
But this leaves a weird hole in the modern pagan calendar: the first day of Decan III of the Mutable signs, Gemini III, Virgo III, Sagittarius III, and Pisces III. Nothing important seems to occur there at all, and there are no particular festivals or ceremonies that occur at those points in the calendar. However, as the Soviet-era physicist Igor Kurtchatov could tell you, an absence of information also tells us something significant: back in the early 1940s, he went to the head of the KGB and said, “the Americans are doing something with atomics, probably designing a bomb.” Lavrent Beria was a very dangerous man, and he asked how Kurtchatov knew; the physicist told him — all the physicists in America have stopped answering letters, stopped publishing, stopped teaching graduate and undergraduate classes, and they have all moved to New Mexico. He knew they were working on something, together, something secret. The absence of information revealed a secret truth.
So it is with Virgo III — the apparent absence of a festival at this time of year is a signal of something fascinating. It was in these times of year that the four major mystery cults of ancient Greece celebrated secret rites open only to the mystai, that is, to the initiated ones who had promised to keep the rites that they witnessed secret, on pain of death. The Greater Mysteries of Eleusis were celebrated at about the time of Virgo III, while the Lesser Mysteries were celebrated at Pisces III. The mysteries of Castor and Pollux (about which we know virtually nothing) came at the time of Gemini III. And the rites of Artemis at Sparta, open mainly to the military caste of that society, were celebrated at about the time of Sagittarius III.
The Greek-speakers of Hellenistic Alexandria celebrated the goddess Hestia at this time of year. Although we think of her primarily as the goddess of the hearth, her name literally means “the hearth” — the center of the household in the private space of the home; and the center of the city in a public space. To let the fire on the hearth go out was a serious breach of household management and sacred responsibility; to let the public flame of the city’s hearth go out was a dire omen — warning of plague, or fire, or besiegement and ruin in battle. It was to her that the first and last offerings and libations were made during any ritual; and yet we don’t know if the Greeks made these offerings to the hearth-fire, or if they were conscious of a personified goddess who watched over that fire. Were they one and the same?
The last decan of Virgo is also ruled by Mercury, and Austin Coppock called it The Sarcophagus. I’ve often written about the Sarcophagus as an immortality machine; in Egypt, mummified bodies were placed in a stone chest in order to safeguard what remained of the flesh so that the soul would remain immortal. But, relevant to the Greater Mysteries of Eleusis, the sacred objects shown during the secret rites were held in a kiste, a sacred wooden box or chest that was opened only in the presence of initiates — another box holding the secrets of a life lived without fear of death. Ancient laws prescribed death to those who violated the oaths of secrecy of the Mysteries: oaths governing what was said, what was done, and what was shown during the rites. When we think about Mercury as the curator of symbols, and Hestia as both a goddess standing over the hearth as well as the hearth itself — we see that the third decan is really a place for the curation and analysis of symbols that help us cultivate change, both in our selves and in society at large.
The four dodecatemoria, or twelfth-parts, of Virgo III are recapitulations of Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, and Leo, replicating the initiatory process itself: that of being in a state of physical comfort before being confronted with the reality of being an immortal soul with mortal flesh, and then retreating into the emotional shell of our being which is our truest home, before bursting forth like a lion into new life in which we do not fear death.
The Ascendant in Capricorn I, with the Sun in Virgo, makes this a day chart, in which neither Saturn nor Jupiter holds a privileged role; the Sun is strengthened by being in his joy, but weakened by peregrine position and cadency — he’s picnicking with a lover in the open air, and answers his phone most genially:
“Gee I’d love to help you but I’m not at my desk at the moment, and I can’t get at my usual tools while I’m out in the field like this. Tell me your troubles, and I’ll see what I can do from here…” It’s not that you can expect no help from the Sun — you just have to expect that this help is going to be lackadaisical and half-assed.
Venus is a little better— she’s in her own term, in her chariot to use the ancient language (the Corn Queen riding in a golden-green Cadillac convertible on her way to the state fairgrounds, wave left, wave right, pearls, dainty finger-wave to the little ones). She’s in a generous mood, but you have to get her attention just right.
Four planets are angular — Pluto is in the first house, almost as far from the Ascendant as he can be but still in the same sign, suggesting a seething mass of worms in the dark soil, as old powers take command. Britain is currently in mourning, even as its first king in seventy years takes the throne… a king who is already 73 years old himself, the oldest monarch at accession England has ever had. Jupiter is retrograde in Aries (in his chariot — a judge riding high in a military parade), opposing Mercury retrograde in Libra (also in their chariot — the egghead expert in commerce taking a victory lap). Finally, the Moon in Aries is in the Second Mansion, the “Ram’s Belly”, a place of reconciliation after a period of harsh and difficult interactions between employer and employed, teacher and student, commander and commanded, leader and follower. A series of rearrangements between home, work and self are coming due this week, as school schedules begin to normalize and managers start to wonder about employees working at home — you should prepare to insist on the best arrangement for your own needs.
Only two planets are succedent, and square each other by sign and house: Saturn in Aquarius puts restrictions on funding and financial situations with an awareness that supply lines, inflation, and pandemic put unusual stresses on our wallet. Uranus in Taurus in the fifth house surprises us with questions about the material comfort and safety of children, and the role of our own personal efforts to have happiness in the face of unusual complexity and challenges to our autonomy. We can expect to act, and be acted upon, from these areas of our life — manage your finances carefully, and your children and your pursuit of happiness with even more care than usual.
.Four planets are cadent, indicating that they are more likely to represent things happening to us than things we can manage for ourselves: I’ve already discussed The Sun and Venus, but we should pay special attention to Neptune in Pisces in the third house, suggesting a strong tide challenging us in familial matters and relationships with neighbors; and undulating conditions in our schools and communications channels; be alert for rogue waves and cross-currents while on routine errands.
However, the planet to watch out for is Mars in Gemini in the sixth house of his joy — the maker of mischief, malice, and mayhem is strong here and newly empowered by being in his own decan in Gemini II, The Hermaphrodite. Mars is often depicted as the ultra-masculine warrior and oversexed man, and it should be challenging to us to see him in hybridized flesh here with both breasts and phallus, bearded face and vagina. Shakespeare’s character Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing screams at her suitor, referencing the man who has ruined her cousin’s reputation, “were I a man, I would eat his heart out in the marketplace!” The feminine is no less capable of expressing the urge to violence than the masculine, and no less capable of formulating savagery in the service of intellectual, political or social goals — and even something that we think harmless, bizarre, or unnatural is capable of violent action when challenged with ridicule, contempt or illegitimate restriction. The expression of freedom is always natural, and Nature herself makes no creature entirely defenseless. Believe in the harm that can come from unexpected sources, and show a healthy respect even for what might strike you as preposterous; a healthy and compassionate caution is wise.
Horoscopes by Rising Sign
Decan I of any sign (usually covering the 21st of the month to the first of the following month) is free to all visitors; Decan II is only available to Patreon and Ko-Fi.com subscribers; and Decan III is available to Patreon, Ko-Fi, and MailChimp subscribers.
I have a Patreon account for those who want to support this column as it continues its third year. Those funds support artists, artisans and thinkers that I regard as contributing to the well-being of the world. You can also buy me a Ko-fi in $3 increments; any column I write after receiving a Ko-Fi donation will be open to the public). You can also schedule an appointment with me using Accuity Scheduling, for a natal or solar return consultation.
If you want to read some of my astrologically-oriented poetry, the largest collection is called A Full Volume of Splendor and Starlight, available through my Etsy shop, and containing poems and hymns to the planets, constellations, decan deities, and Moon Mansion angels. While not astrological, Festae contains hymns to some of the older Roman gods and spirits from the calendar created by Numa Pompilius, the second ancient King of Rome.
I use iPhemeris for my charting software, and screenshot it to make charts. I want to thank the team that develops iPhemeris for the addition of Terms and Decans to their charts. I also use Hugh Tran‘s Physis typeface to craft logos for this blog, as well.
I use Christopher Warnock‘s The Mansions of the Moon as the basis of my Moon placement delineations, and Austin Coppock‘s 36 Faces for much of my planetary delineations. Neither gentleman endorses me.