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Virgo is perhaps the most misunderstood sign of the Zodiac. Dismissed as neurotic and perfectionist, Virgo gets a bad rap. But this is only because of the nature of our culture, in which the essential principles of Virgo are all but thrown in the dumpster.
The symbol for Virgo is The Virgin. This is not referring to sex per se, or naïvité or inexperience, but to purity in the sense of belonging to no one. Virgo seeks wholeness. Essential to wholeness is integrity, and essential to integrity is discernment.
The season of Virgo is the time of the harvest, when the wheat is separated from the chaff. In the body, Virgo rules the intestines, where we break things down and separate the nutrients from the waste. Virgo discerns what is useful from what is useless, what is good for us from what is bad. Virgo is the ultimate fine filter, and there is nothing that gets past without scrutiny. God, or the devil, is in the details — to Virgo, it all amounts to the same thing: Every little thing matters. When considering what to keep and what to throw away — when your integrity is at stake — every detail matters.
This kind of discernment requires time and quiet, both of which are hard to come by in our over-stimulated, go-go-go world. Not to mention that individual wholeness is constantly undermined by powerful and relentless messages from corporate consumer culture telling us who we should be and what, therefore, we should want. Given all this noise and pressure, is it any wonder that Virgo’s reflexes are so often reduced to perfectionism and control-freakishness? Fending off the chaos — never mind finding true order and purity — is often the best one can do.
To see what a healthy Virgo can look like, there is beautiful example in composer Arvo Pärt. He has answered the Virgo call in the best possible way, having transcended the noise and unearthed his own values and voice.
Arvo Pärt (September 11, 1935) was born in Soviet-era Estonia. Early in his career, his musical influences were neo-classicism — a technique you can hear in his early choral work, Meie aed (Our Garden), and which was praised by the Soviet State — followed by the rigid formulas of 12-tone serialism — which you can hear in the later Perpetuum Mobile, and which was hated by the State but loved by Academia. Not coincidentally, both styles are very Virgoan in their strict adherence to a sense of order. Also not coincidentally, these highly prescribed styles led Pärt to a creative dead end.
In the late 1960s, he arrived at an impasse wherein music began to feel futile, and he lost his will to compose (remember, for a Virgo, things must be useful to be meaningful!). At this point, Pärt did the best thing a Virgo could do, and withdrew into what would become one of several periods of contemplative silence.
During this time he studied the roots of Western music, looking into Gregorian chant and the first developments of polyphony, or multi-voice writing, in the Renaissance. Out of his silence and studies emerged a whole new approach to music, something Pärt calls “tintinnabuli,” a reference to bells. For those familiar with musical lingo, here’s how The New Grove Dictionary of Music describes it:
“…a melodic voice moves mostly by step around a central pitch, and the tintinnabuli voice sounds the notes of the tonic triad. The relationship between these two voices follows a predetermined scheme and is never haphazard. Furthermore, the entire structure of a tintinnabuli work is predetermined either by some numerical pattern or by the syntax and prosody of a chosen text. Very often these two ideals are combined.”
For everyone else, here’s how his very first piece in the new style, Für Alina (1976), sounds:
What is remarkable about Pärt’s new sound is that, despite its stunning originality, it is not a wholesale rejection of his musical past. It is instead a digestion and discernment, a meticulous culling of what resonated with him from his old techniques and a discarding of the rest. From the neo-classical he kept the concept of the triad but abandoned harmony and traditional melody; from serialism, he threw away the 12-tone system but kept the concept of overarching numerical formulae. The result is a style all his own, true to himself, spiritually rich, and impervious to popularity or criticism… Truly, the Virgo fulfilled.