Hygeia, the Virgoan Principle?

Hygeia, Klimt.

In about 400BC, a Sicyonian poet named Ariphron composed a paean to Hygeia, underlining the profound importance – to the Greeks – of this deity, an importance on a scale which is  not remotely mirrored by the astrologer of today:

Hygeia, best of the Blessed Ones to men,
May I dwell with you for the rest of my days,
And may you be kind and stay with me,
For if there is any joy in wealth or in children,
Or in royal rule which makes men like the gods,
Or in the desires which we hunt,
With Aphrodite’s secret snares,
Or if men have any other delight,
From the gods or respite from their labours,
With you, blessed Hygeia,
All things are strong and shine with the converse of the Graces,
And without you, no man is happy.
(ep. Athenaeus, Deipnosophistae 15.701F; {7}, pp. 104-105)

Furthermore, the original Hippocratic Oath, states: “I swear by Apollo the physician, and Asklepios, and Hygeia, and Panakeia, and all the gods and goddesses, that, according to my ability and judgment, I will keep this Oath and this stipulation . . .”

Asclepius, of course was Hygeia’s father and Panacea her sister. She is depicted throughout the mythology with absolute consistency as a virgin and a dutiful daughter to Asclepius. Lycimnius referred to her thus: “Bright-eyed mother, highest queen of Apollon’s golden throne, desirable, gently-laughing Hygeia.”

Hygeia was also, in every likeness, shown to be clasping a serpent; symbolically then, she held in her grasp the power of fertility and also a connection with the earth (Gaia), snakes are frequently associated with birth and regeneration, due both to their resemblance to the umbilical cord and their ability to regenerate the skin wholly. Her aspect, despite these overtly biological themes is singularly modest and moral, unassuming and gentle-natured.

According to the Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, although she is originally the goddess of physical health, she is sometimes conceived as the giver or protectress of mental health, that is, she appears as mens sana, or huliea phrenôn (Aeschyl. Eum. 522), and was thus identified with Athena, surnamed Hygieia. (Paus. i. 23. § 5; comp. Lucian, pro Laps. 5.)

Thus the phrase, healthy mind: healthy body, seems to encapsulate most succinctly the Hygeian principle. This realisation is entirely in keeping with the emergent fundamental of contemporary holistic healing theory that all disease is conceived in the psychic substrate of being, and this concurs most affirmatively with my own observation in the astrology.

In every sense, Hygeia resonates completely with the Virgoan ideal; she is Virgo personified, chaste, demure, unassuming, pure, virtuous, particular and assimilative, she governs the distilled 6th house principle of those health benefits that are derived from moderate habits.

I am not particularly enamoured of the idea that Virgo is the natural domicile for Mercury, the ‘breaking-down’ function of Virgo can of course be applied to mental process such that an idea can be digested and the nutritive constituent taken out of it, but the same might be said for any of the signs who will process the stuff of the mind according to its own dictate. Mercury is Geminian, in every possible way, and it requires no further dignity, and whilst Virgo might be the sign of its exaltation, there is simply no question that Hygeia responds to Virgo in every sense as perfectly as Mercury does to Gemini.

But this still leaves a void. Not least because it changes so many observations and for those with Virgo rising there is the question of the Ascendant ruler, and the flavour of things is altered immeasurably in this sense alone; when you consider the received wisdom of Virgo and the question of rulership you might well be disposed to question the power of Hygeia in real terms: it seems to be no great thing this Hygeia, not when compared to the Sun or Saturn or even something obscure and far distant like Neptune.

But this fails to question an assumption so fundamental that it is almost completely taken for granted. Consider the words of Ariphron, “With you, blessed Hygeia, All things are strong and shine with the converse of the Graces, And without you, no man is happy.” This cuts to the heart of the matter, because it demonstrates actually how very profound is Hygeia’s power; without her gentle blessing all your Leonine splendour (“For if there is any joy in wealth or in children, Or in royal rule which makes men like the gods“) and Libran charms (“the desires which we hunt, With Aphrodite’s secret snares“) are rendered meaningless and somehow trite and empty. We cannot enjoy love, wealth or anything else if we are ravaged by sickness, so Hygeia’s modest reputation belies her fearsome import – and that resonates again with all measure of Virgoan power.

Therefore, Hygeia holds the key to the most fundamental state of grace in all human aspiration, for without her all other ambitions and talents become undermined. Hygeia gives insight into something far more profound and intrinsic to this life than her footnote status implies, and the astrologer who wishes to fully appreciate the import of Virgo should take note.

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10 thoughts on “Hygeia, the Virgoan Principle?

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  1. What does it mean when you have your natal Hygeia and Pluto on top of each other? They are both at 12 degrees Libra, opposite the Ascendant, and the apex of a minor trine with Neptune in the 9th house and Venus in the 5th.

  2. A need to transform your relating habits I’d guess, and certainly a supercharging of Hygeia. Intriguing if Pl/Hy is at the midpoint of Ve/Ne, then you’re onto something.

  3. Hmm. I have very intense one-on-one relationships, both romantically and platonically, and they have deeply changed the way I relate to people and think about politics/economics/the arts/the larger world in general. These relationships tend to filter into my writing, which mostly entails essays that explore the arts from a political perspective. I am also very interested in exploring how politics happen on a personal level. Is it significant that my sun sign is Virgo? I was born in La Mesa, California, at 8:05 PM, 9/6/77.

    Moreover despite the intensity of feeling I have in a relationship, they never seem to last in terms of a physical proximity, whether because the person has moved, or I’ve moved, but I manage to find another person who feels just as deeply as I do about each other and the way the world should be like. But I suppose everyone finds these people anyways!

    Oh, and don’t get me wrong, I still feel very intensely about the people I’ve left behind, it breaks my heart to think of them, and I tend to write obsessively about them, draft after draft, until I’ve finally distilled what it is that drew me to them, and what they symbolized (usually something very good) about the world for me.

    1. Yes, you definitely have Pl=Hy=Ve/Ne. A vast number of other factors pointing to difficulties in relationships also (such as Ve/Le/5 teed from Ur/Sc/7 opp Ch/Ta/1: no doubt a body image issue which acts to cause sudden separations in the potentials for marriage, perhaps feelings of financial self-worth too, not necessarily on your part.) The Pl/Hy conjunction is utterly partile, mostly descending and in Libra, no question that married lifestyle is something that needs transforming and at the midpoint of Ve/Ne it will create a true yearning for that married lifestyle; overstrong actually, so that you might push yourself into partnership when it doesn’t have the necessary depth to sustain itself. This is why you experience this intensity. Ve/Ne always creates a refinement of feeling and Pluto here simply ramps it up.

      Equally if not more intriguing is the presence of Venus in the 5th but then Saturn peregrine in Leo. Cannot be easy to transform, makes a real test of love in Leo and the 5th of course.

  4. Regarding the body image issue: if anything, it is my partner’s insecurity re: my physical attractiveness that creates problems, although I have reassured him, time and time again, that I would never stray in that manner. (In fact, I think I’ve become rather asexual).

    However, I am very insecure about money, I feel I can never make any or that I am incapable of getting a job (hence my desperation to stay in school, indefinitely, and despite spates of seemingly good fortune, mostly from friends and in-laws).

    As for the yearning for marriage or intimate union, it’s true, I’ve always needed it to the point that I hanker and compromise until I feel depleted or something new takes my interest.

    As for Venus and Saturn in the 5th . . . this has been a big bother all my life (the lone kid on the playground, yearning to play but wanting to impose rules/my vision), and I don’t know if they’ll ever be reconciled.

    But Saturn is not entirely peregrine, it sextiles my part of fortune and squares my Juno. . . unless my chart via astro.com is wrong.

  5. If Hygeia, as the goddess of health, encourages fertility and thus creativity, I would suggest that my intimate relationships have definitely allowed me to grow as a person/writer. With each relationship, I outgrow an old skin (old beliefs and prejudices) and molt into something new that must be explored in future writings.

  6. Regarding this statement: ‘Thus the phrase, healthy mind: healthy body, seems to encapsulate most succinctly the Hygeian principle. This realisation is entirely in keeping with the emergent fundamental of contemporary holistic healing theory that all disease is conceived in the psychic substrate of being, and this concurs most affirmatively with my own observation in the astrology.”
    I have been working as a healer for over two decades, and there was a time when I believed this as well. However, after developing some diagnostic skills to understand the nature of people’s illnesses I have to conclude that I embraced this concept partly because I too have Pluto in Virgo was seduced by the sense of control it promised….that all illness originates within oneself, which implies that ultimately one has avenues to correct it and thereby restore order, healthy functioning, control. This is more comfortable than the realization that people are being poisoned by covert toxins in land, air, water, food, home etc. and those toxins are disrupting their endocrine function, immune systems, etc. and causing all sorts of inflammatory-based secondary illnesses. Yes, we can buy/grow organic and do detox regimens but once a person has lost their health it’s a long road back and the person has to face the impotence of knowing that they are suffering because of a legacy of greed ad irresponsibility towards our planet/lifegiver. ( Yes, I totally agree with you about Pluto/Virgo generation and environmentalism….also add “detox centers”….they are a phenomenon that is on the way….trust me!) And we know that Pluto does not do impotence well. Nor sabotage from prior generations. I must say, though, if we Pluto/Virgos are given a chance, we will find solutions and set straight everything possible. But honestly, not all disease originates in the substratum of a person’s psyche. In the end, we are physical organisms subject to the same laws of pollution and decay as every other organism on this planet, and so many of us are sick because we have been made to be sick, without consult or choice, and no amount of mining the subconscious or past lives in true Pluto/Leo fashion is going to change it. The planet needs some serious healing!

  7. Yes, I would agree that dis-ease is co-dependent on both external and internal conditions. If you have an internal/psychological/subconscious/karmic/fate, or whatever you want to call it, a certain internal conditioning that says you are supposed to live a clean, high-moral road type of life and you do not then you might be much more susceptible to environmental pollution than another who does not have such a lofty spiritual achievement in his or her life plan. In other words, if you are here to be intolerant of the environmental degradation that is occuring (possibly indicated by a strong Hygiea, Ceres or placement within Virgo or the 6th house) then you will be likely to be strongly affected by that poisoning unless you are actively doing something about it. And with a prominent Chiron you might get ill even if you are doing something about it (the wounded healer syndrome).

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