Ceres, Pallas and Vesta are somewhat understood in the astrology, and all seem worthy of attention based upon size alone (for those who consider such factors significant!), but far less is understood about Hygeia, the fourth largest asteroid in the belt between Mars and Saturn. It is not a great deal smaller than either Vesta or Pallas in truth but it is almost completely ignored as an influence, with some vague notions that she rules health, sanitation and is a healing goddess of one form or other.
I am going to make a very bold statement now and suggest the possibility that Hygeia is the natural ruler of Virgo and the 6th house. I know that this particular domicile is much contested, traditionalists will say Mercury and that might be fine if it were not for the fact that Gemini is so clearly a natural fit for Mercury that there really is nothing left for Virgo to offer. Others make a case for Chiron, and this seems more apt in some ways, the practical healing arts that Chiron taught were unquestionably Virgoan, but what of his astrology, his hunting, his teaching skills in such matters as war? There are aspects of Chiron (and major aspects at that) which appear to be decidedly anti-Virgoan! If anything you might make a case for Chiron ruling the second decanate of Virgo, but that’s a discussion for another day.
Who was Hygeia? Without getting into too much detail she was a daughter of Asclepius, who was himself the God of Healing, and the original Greek sources assign to his daughters various aspects of healing process with Hygeia being given rulership of cleanliness specifically. More broadly, she ruled over matters of clean-living, of washing, eating well, looking after yourself; actually of having a preventative attitude toward disease, preventing the onset of illness in the first place rather than trying to cure; although good sanitation is an important aspect of healing in its own right.
I often struggle to convey the archetypal ambience of the 6th house, but really this is exactly it. The 6th is concerned – at its heart – with principles of right-living, in a near Buddhist sense; right livelihood, right intention, right speech actually. It speaks to the principle that we should live according to a certain simple philosophy, of eating right, of looking after our bodies and taking care that our habits are conducive to a good state of mind and a healthy outlook. Thus if we are burning the candle at both ends, drinking too much, eating junk food and not washing enough we are offending Hygeia, and her judgement will be handed down in the form of illness, disease, degeneration and habitual instability. This is why Hygeia and the 6th house are a perfect fit; it is why Virgo and Hygeia are very comfortable together. Here is the exact kind of specific, attentive, habitual, nutritional and service-minded concern that is so beloved of Virgo. Virgo is Hygeia.
Consider the music of Bob Dylan. It is simple, it speaks to simple themes of human life, it gets down to the basics. It is not grandiose, overblown or showy, it is astonishingly simple, human and humane. Dylan has a peregrine Hygeia. As does Betty Ford, and we are talking here about clean living, right? Marks and Spencer, the British food and clothing retailer too has a peregrine Hygeia.
Anyone with a stressed, angular or debilitated Hygeia probably has quite chaotic lifestyle habits. They may not attend to personal hygeine well, they may eat badly, drink too much, get little exercise. As they grow older and work out their issues they will probably improve. Look to aspects with other placements and consider the quality; my wife has Hygeia closely conjunct to Mercury in Virgo; her mental habits are quite simply beyond reproach, she has a very healthy mind, and has never been depressed in her life. Not even for a day. If she is upset about something, she deals with it, thinks it through and gets past it; a characteristic that is explained precisely by this conjunction.
I finally managed to quit smoking some 5 years ago when Hygeia was conjunct the Moon in Virgo. This speaks to an emotional need for healthy habits that combined with a stellium transiting the 8th house of giving up and letting go really did the trick.
Anyone have any interesting Hygeia placements and possible interps?