Follow the Lamp Lighter!
I released my astrology-based divination challenge for Virgo about a week ago, and it’s a bit of a beast for Instagram. I call it the #LampLighterChallenge in honor of the Hermit, who represents Virgo in the tarot. While I’ve decided not to release workbooks for these challenges this year, I have no problem posting the “books” that are the challenges so you all can follow along for now. There’s plenty of time left in Virgo to complete all ten exercises. And as always, you can dig into the challenges outside of their season if you want to tie into that energy.
If you’re unfamiliar with decans, you can read the little overview I give to them in my Thoth Tarot interview. Or you can Google the terms that are unfamiliar to you. This winter I might create a glossary, but I probably won’t get to it before Sagittarius at the earliest.
Virgo is the mutable earth sign of the zodiac, so Virgo natives are often filled with contradictions: they are very much of the earth yet are guided to transcend materialism. In this season’s challenge, we explore several characteristics typical of Virgos, but these mostly revolve around service to others, precision, and attention to detail. The focus on details means that we will also dig into specifics of tarot and astrology even more than we have in recent seasons (if you need a free natal chart, Café Astrology and Astrodienst both offer good, detailed charts for free). If you don’t use tarot cards, you should still be able to follow along since the tarot cards have archetypal concepts that will be carried into other forms of divination. I describe these concepts in the exercise descriptions in the comments below.
As with the challenge for Leo season, all ten exercises are included in this one post for easy reference and in case you want to do some exercises before I do. Detailed Virgo means a few of the prompts are longer of course. You better be ready to work if you want to channel Virgo! Feel free to take a few days in between each one: you have a month to do all ten if you want to do them all in Virgo season. Or do a few each day if you’re on a roll. Of course, you don’t have to fit them all into Virgo season—you can do them whenever you want to channel or understand your Virgo energy—but doing them in time would be an appropriately Virgo thing to want to do.
Exercise 1: Sun Lamp
In the major arcana, Virgo is represented by the Hermit, who serves as a guide to lead the querent to inner truth and divine wisdom if (but only if) actively sought out. In some depictions, the Hermit holds a lantern with a sun or star as the light inside.
The Hermit is appropriate for Virgo because they both serve others and share a tendency toward ego destruction. They both can get lost in their own thoughts and self-centered obsessions, which is what Virgo’s excessive self-criticism so often is, however “anti-self” it can seem. There’s also the constant striving to be more or better in some way.
Select your favorite interpretation of the Hermit (or what it represents) and use it as a guide to interpret two cards you draw in response to the following two questions:
1. “What’s the most important lesson I can take from Leo season?”
Guiding Others: “How can I use that lesson to guide others?”
Exercise 2: Prudence, Gain, & Wealth
In the astrological minutiae of the tarot are the 36 minor pip cards (2s–10s) that each represent 10 degrees of the zodiac. The three decanic minors for Virgo are the 8–10 of Pentacles/Disks. In the system of the Golden Dawn, these cards are titled Prudence, (Material) Gain, and Wealth. Hard work leads to beaucoup bucks. Simple, right? Maybe not.
Place the three decanic minor arcana of Virgo before you so you can use them as visual aides. Then ask each question and draw a card in response.
Prudence/2: “Where would I benefit from greater diligence & care?”
Gain/3: “Which of my talents could help me achieve comfortable independence?”
Wealth/4: “In what area can I create a lasting legacy?”
Exercise 3: Perfectionist’s Dilemma
Virgos are known for their attention to detail, sometimes to a fault. Perfectionism can lead to great success, but the need to constantly improve a thing can lead to ruining that thing. Sometimes Virgos seem to have, in the words of that stunning and hilarious Virgo Jenna Marbles, a “too-much gene.”
While Virgos often spend too much time in their heads, you know I Iove some good self-reflection. Ask the following question and draw a card in response.
5. “What is an activity at which I could excel but where I tend to go overboard?”
Then ask for help identifying when you’re about to go too far and mess things up.
6. “Show me a card that will help me recognize when I am about to go overboard.”
Look at the card for sensory cues that can help prevent you from expressing any evidence of a too-much gene.
Sensory cues are sensations that you experience in your day-to-day life (sounds, images, textures, emotions, scents) that your intuition (or angels or whatever) can bring to your attention in order to send a message or guide you (like the “hotter / colder” searching game). To help you help your intuition guide you to the things you care most about (in this case it’s the values we’re talking about), you can ask yourself what will help remind you of something or what will help you know you’re on the right track toward something and pull a card/rune/book passage/etc. You then focus on that thing and enter into its world. You “look around” within that world, you “listen” within that world, you “smell” whatever’s in that world, you “touch” that world, you “taste” what’s in that world, and you “feel” (in an emotional way) what’s in that world. Not all senses will be triggered, but the idea is to collect a lot of details from the world of the card/rune/book passage/etc. so that you have concrete touch points for your intuition to draw your attention to in the real world, like breaking glass or the smell of vanilla or whatever. You are not limited to what is depicted on the card. If you see a swan in the card, but when you go into that world you see a goose and it caws like a crow, then you keep the visual cue of the goose and the auditory cue of the crow, ignoring the swan altogether. The next time you notice a goose or a crow’s cawing, you will (hopefully) be reminded of your conscious values or you will be encouraged to know that you’re on the right track to connecting with your higher value. Does that make sense? If not, let me know. I also have a blog post about it if you’re curious.
Exercise 4: Ashes to Ashes
The mutable signs (Virgo, Sagittarius, Pisces, and Gemini) include the endings of their elements. For Virgo, that’s the end of earth, or our materialism as exemplified by the lower vibration of the values in Exercise 2.
Select your favorite interpretation of the Hermit and use it as a guide to interpret three cards you draw in response to the following two questions:
7. “Where do material concerns hold me back from my highest self?”
8. “What can I do to let go of unhealthy forms of materialism?”
9. “What might I experience after I’ve let go of those things?”
Exercise 5: Creative Altruism
When Virgos function as their best selves, they can be of tremendous service to others. Close your eyes and visualize the Hermit’s lantern piercing the darkness. Then think on this quotation attributed to MLK, Jr.: “Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.” Visualize the light of your lantern expanding and shedding light on your surroundings and the path that you travel. What do you see? Look around. Who or what is by your side? Who or what is just behind you, trying to get into your light but not quite there? Who or what remains in the darkness? Is it by choice?
After you’ve finished examining the scene and reflected on what it might mean for you, take a few minutes (or longer) to create something—writing, drawing, whatever—that reflects where you are on that path to being of service to others. Feel free to draw a card or two if you need inspiration. Save this creation for later.
Exercise 6: Dust to Stardust
Now that we’re moving beyond the earthly realm, it’s time to turn to the heavens with some astrology reflection by considering the roles of Mercury, Chiron, Pallas, and the Sixth House in our charts before asking the most important question, “So what?” It’s an especially salient question for those who aren’t that interested in astrology beyond the twelve zodiac signs.
In astrology, each zodiac sign has a natural House and a ruling planet. Virgo’s natural House is House VI: area of work/tasks (distinct from career/status in House X), service to others, and health. Virgo’s ruling planets are more complicated. In the ancient system, most planets rule two signs. But in the modern system, which includes Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto, only two planets rule two signs: Venus and Mercury. There, Mercury rules Virgo because it’s a mentally active sign, and Mercury was a guide to the Underworld, which is a pretty literal interpretation of the mutable’s “end of earthly matters.” But I’ve also seen it suggested that Chiron, an asteroid-ish centaur, would be a good contender for Virgo’s ruling planet because Chiron was a suffering servant, the Wounded Healer, very in line with Virgo. And since I like to include more female planets in my astrology, I’ve also personally considered whether Pallas, a large asteroid in the same belt as Ceres, might fit. The female Pallas has an imprecise etymology including both the strategic goddess Athena and an accidental victim of fate that Athena killed. Also very Virgo, right? Let’s see what the cards have to say about all this.
Think about the placement of Mercury, Chiron, and Pallas in your natal chart and about any planets that fall in your House VI. Then draw a card for each component of Virgo (official and idiosyncratic) before interpreting them all together.
“What should I know about my relationship to Mercury?”
“What should I know about my relationship to Chiron?”
“What should I know about my relationship to Pallas?”
“What should I know about my relationship to my Sixth House?”
After you’ve interpreted those, ask “So what?” (10) and draw a card.
Exercise 7: Decanic Details
We now look at the natal chart with a Virgo’s precision. In Exercise 2, we talked about decans, the 10-degree sections of each zodiac sign. For Exercise 7, we look at the decans in which our planets fall and what nuance those can provide when interpreting our natal charts. The ancient Chaldean system of decans uses only the 7 classical planets, which is where we’ll start. Swipe to the penultimate image for the relevant diagram (or comment to ask). You’ll see one of the 7 classical planets ruling each decan. That doesn’t mean that they’re the sign’s ruler, just that they influence the way that a sign is expressed during those 10 degrees, and that will interact with the sign’s ruling planet and with whatever planets are in that sign.
Look at whatever planets in your chart seem relevant or interesting to you, perhaps including what you examined in Exercise 6. (This could quickly become a wormhole, so start with just one at a time.) Consider what effect the specific decan might have on the way that the planet (or House cusp) and sign interact.
For example, I want to look more at Mercury, which is at 0º Gemini. The first decan of Gemini is influenced by Jupiter. Having Mercury in Gemini (its “home”) is good because it gets to be comfortable there, doing its thing, although it can get a bit too comfortable sometimes. Having the positive influence of Jupiter means I probably have a bit of good luck in that area as well. Yay! However, Jupiter also leads to expansion. As I’ve discussed in previous IG posts, the expansive aspect of Jupiter can sometimes be a bit too much for the mercurial Mercury, and it’s easy to get distracted and flit too far too fast, or to over-explain things in writing. The decanic minor of the tarot that relates is the 8 of Swords, a card of self-limitations and mental interference. This helps explain some of the pros and cons of my Mercury position.
Looking at these details can get deep quickly, so attend to sensory cues that may mean you are about to express that too-much gene of Virgo before you get lost, confused, or frustrated.
Exercise 8: Faces in the Dark
Virgos are often very self-critical and when that’s not dealt with, it can become dangerous self-obsession (of a very different sort from Leo). So here we’ll build on decans and look at the modern system of 36 decanates, the ”faces” of each sign as affected by the modern system of ruling planets, and then we’ll do some shadow work.
Swipe to the last image to see the chart of modern decanates. These are similar in concept to what we looked at in Exercise 6, but they use the modern ruling planets, and they are based on each sign’s element: each earth sign’s three decans are influenced by the same three planetary rulers, but the ordering is different. The pattern is far easier to remember than the ancient method, and it relies on the planets that rule the other same-element signs.
I will assume that you want to look at your Sun sign, your Moon sign, and your Rising sign, but you should look at whatever you want. Find the sign and decan in which the component falls and then think about what that might mean. My Moon is in the third decan of Leo, so it’s ruled by Mars, Aries’s ruler. Some people interpret this as we did for decan rulers in Exercise 6, meaning that Mars would be important to understanding my emotions and inner world. But because the decan’s ruler is determined by another same-element sign, there could also just be an Aries influence to my inner life and emotions, which is slightly different. You can usually find an interpretation of the “face” of each sign online, but I’m going to ask you to divine a message from your cards about what it could mean for you in a positive light. If you still need interpretive help after that, then you can Google it.
Once you have uncovered a few of the sign’s faces and thought about what benefit they can provide, ask the following questions of each planet/aspect and draw a card in response to each.
11. “How does this benefit play out in my life?”
12. “When do I have difficulty seeing it?”
13. “How can I use it to counteract excessive self-doubt or self-criticism?”
You can use the decanates’ positive aspects to redirect any Virgo levels of negative self-talk.
Exercise 9: Fairy Lights
As I described in my explainer for the Hermit’s Guidance tarot spread, I like to imagine the Hermit as someone who helps folks who need it (and seek it) through a dark and confusing wood. What do you find in dark and confusing woods? Fairy lights of course, the seemingly beautiful or helpful floating lights that might signal a portal to another realm or a bog in which to drown. Either way, they’re dangerous to the unprepared. In that way, fairy lights serve as a useful metaphor when considering how channeling Virgo energy could help you approach your higher self. When you’re lost in the woods, where do you look for safety and guidance?
Ask the following questions and draw a card in response.
14. “What is it that I have to understand about my journey into the unknown?”
15. “What new worlds am I about to discover?”
16. “What could lead me astray?”
17. “How can I discern what is true and in the best interest of my higher self?”
Exercise 10: Marking the Path
Remember how I said Virgo at its best is in service to others? It was a while ago, all the way back in Exercise 5. Well, guess what? It’s almost time to stop thinking about yourself and your solitary journey, Hermit, and time to start thinking about how you can help others. Take out whatever you created for Exercise 5, as well as any cards you pulled to help you with that exercise. Accept your creation as it is without editing it or tweaking it. However imperfect it might be, it was created in a moment of connection with something beyond just you, and it’s beautiful that way. Take a moment to reflect on your journey into the dark, confusing, or previously uncharted parts of yourself (during this challenge and outside of it).
Now consider Virgo’s energy for servant-leadership and the Hermit’s role as a guide helping others. From there, look at what you created in Exercise 5 and what light that may shed on your own journey toward guiding others through the dark.
Last, pull out the card you drew in Exercise 1 about Guiding Others and use it as a guide to interpret the card(s) you draw in response to the following question. Draw as many cards as you want in response.
18. “What can I do now and in the near future to help make such a journey easier for others?”