At midnight this week, the constellation Virgo appears high in the east, holding the star Spica in her arms, and trailing the return of seasonal light in her wake.
This seasonal position of Virgo has inspired a great deal of celebration throughout history, and it may be the very thing that stands behind stories of Ostara, the Germanic goddess whose name eventually gives way to Easter.
She is a goddess of dawn and a daughter of heaven, sometimes described as the reluctant bringer of light, for which she was punished.
The mystery of this Divine Feminine, of she who bears light into the world, is not only evident in the stars overhead, it’s also tucked into our cultural calendars: March 24th in the Christian calendar is the feast of the Archangel Gabriel, followed on March 25th by the feast of Annunciation, which celebrates Gabriel’s annunciation to the sacred feminine that, should she accept, she will bear the Christ Child into the world. March 25th used to mark New Year’s Day, before the 16th century.
Then something interesting happens in the star picture, because once the maiden Virgo rises up and Gabriel makes his annunciation, then the star Alphard, the star of the serpent Hydra, comes to its highest place in the sky, near Virgo. And when the Spring Moon comes to Full Phase in front of Virgo stars, it activates this drama:
For then can be seen a woman clothed with the Sun, the Moon beneath her feet, a crown of stars at her head. She is laboring to give birth, while a dragon lies in wait, to devour the child once it is born. While this vision is described in relatively few lines in the Bible, the accompanying star picture takes almost six months to fully unfold, only completing at Autumn Equinox with the feast of the Archangel Michael, who defeats the dragon just as Virgo stars set for the season.
Hear this week’s segment of The Storyteller’s Night Sky on Interlochen Public Radio.
To the stars!