Astrological Portraits: BBC’s Sherlock as Virgo

Mythology  and storytelling — its place in astrology — is a never ending fascination of mine. While watching the recent BBC special the “Abominable Bride” over on my side of the pond, it occurred to me that there’s few characters who so embody an astrological symbol more than Sherlock. Having read Doyle and seen various interpretations, I think it’s fair to say that the modern revision has probably single handedly launched Benedict Cumberbatch’s career and suddenly made the dour detective sexy again.

Virgo probably isn’t the sign that comes to mind when people think “sexy”, but Virgo’s alignment with the concept of “virgin” is no indication of their actual sex lives. When we understand Virgo’s generalized characteristics, it’s fascinating to see how well BBC’s Sherlock is intertwined with it. From the detective’s manic attention to detail, interior sense of organization (mind palace, anyone?) we see the light of Mercury infusing nearly everything this new, retold Sherlock does, able not only to use every new device and gadget available to him, but to also communicate across social strata and various landscapes. All the while, Sherlock maintains a well-defined sense of identity that is never porous. When this sense of identity is threatened, as in the “Hound of Baskerville”, all systems shut down and he reaches a level of near hysteria, before order is restored and Sherlock’s identity is once again salvaged by rationality. Virgo, or the Virgin, earns its names in many respects, but also for the virginal quality of identity, through which nothing will penetrate.

Even the creators seemed to hit on this, albeit subconsciously. In building the modern character, they leave it in the air as to the nature of his sexuality, preferring to let things play out later on when the story warrants it. No better descriptor for a visual representation of the Virgo concept is given than when Sherlock manipulates his way into Irene Adler’s residence in “Scandal in Belgravia” — disguised as a priest, no less. In older definitions of what it meant to be Virgin, it meant a woman who owned her sexuality without answering to anyone, rather than a state of intact virginity. The concept of Virgin taken to its extreme is evident in Sherlock’s donning of the Roman collar. To the viewer, the character smacks of sexual naivete, but his mastery over his work suggests vast experience, titillating the viewer by these opposing contrasts, for we sense the Roman collar is a facade, a sham. His work smolders with funnelled libido.

As it is with many perfectionists, one need not be a Virgo to see how intense people become when focused on the details of their life’s work, often at the expense of the rest of their lives. It’s more apparent to us in public displays like the arts, where we can appreciate the violinist who has mastered his art through years of rigorous study, though we may only view the result. We can see it when we fall in love with a work of fiction, swept away by the heady illusion which often comes at the expense of years of perfectionist devotion to the word.

Naturally, the usual inclination is to perceive Sherlock’s character as being that of Scorpionic influence; after all, delving deep into the occulted is what this character builds his reputation on. That cannot be discounted. While Sherlock’s occupation speaks to Pluto, it would have no serious force without Virgo’s mastery in craft and attention to detail to bring it to bear. But I also think it’s no accident that as fixed star Regulus moved into Virgo in 2012 from its home in Leo, it’s interesting to wonder if our cultural values will reflect this in such heroic — or anti-heroic — characters. Certainly, it weighs heavy on my mind as the North Node prepares to conjunct Jupiter in Virgo at the start of 2016.

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