Fixed star:  SPICA
Constellation:  Alpha (α) Virgo
Longitude 1900:  22LIB27 Longitude 2000:  23LIB50
Declination 1900:  -10.38' Declination 2000:  -11.08'
Right ascension:  13h 25m Latitude:   -02.03'
Spectral class:  B2 Magnitude:  0.98 Varible

The history of the star: Spica

from p.466 of Star Names, Richard Hinckley Allen, 1889.

SpicaAlpha (α) Virgo, Spica, is a binary, brilliant flushed white star marking the Ear of Wheat shown in the Virgin's left hand.

Spica signifies, and marks, the Ear of Wheat shown in the Virgin's left hand — the Greek astronomer Aratus, circa 270 B.C., wrote "in her hands"; Vitruvius and Hyginus, "in her right hand"— when she was thought to be Ceres. All the Romans called it thus, Cicero saying Spicum, and their descendants, the modern Italians, Spigha; the French have l'Epi. In Old England it was the Virgin's Spike, and even Flamsteed thus designated it. For at least twenty-five centuries, and among all civilized peoples, the Latin word, or words of similar import, has obtained; although the English astronomer Smyth (1788-1865) mentioned an attempt before his day to secure for it the illustrious name of Newton.

(Greek) Stachus, perhaps of the same signification although another has been assigned to it, appeared with the Greek astronomer Aratus, circa 270 B.C., Hipparchos (circa 160-120 B.C.), and the second-century Greek astronomer Ptolemy, transcribed by the Latins as Stachys. Manetho had (Greek) Stachuodes, which we have seen {p.467} used for Virgo by another Graeco-Egyptian author, Nonnus. The 17th century German astronomer Bayer cited Arista for the star as for the constellation; Aristae Puella occurs in some Latin doggerel by the 17th century Dutch astronomer Caesius; as the brightest of the figure it bore the latter's Erigone; while Vindemitor and Vindemiator, which better belong to epsilon (ε Vindemiatrix), have been applied to it.

Other titles—Sunbala; Sunbale; Sumbela; The Italian astronomer Riccioli's (1598–1671) Sumbalet, Sombalet, Sembalet Eleandri; and the 17th century German astronomer and ephemeris creator Schickard's Sunbalon—are from Sunbulah and Al Adhra, Arabic words synonymous respectively with Spica and Virgo, although the 17th century English orientalist Thomas Hyde derived them from (Greek) Sibulla, the Singing Sibyl, of the constellation. The Persian astronomer Al Biruni (973-1048 A.D.) said that it was Al Hulbah, the Bristle, but his explanation of this only served to show the strange confusion in titles that existed in the Arab mind between Spica and Al Dafirah in the Lion's tail (Denebola). And the Persian astronomer Al Biruni (973-1048 A.D.), again, said that it was the Calf of the Lion, with Arcturus as the second Calf; but the 13th century Persian astronomical writer Al Kazwini designated it as Sak al Asad, the Shin-bone of the Lion, this Lion being the enormous figure already alluded to, of which a part of Virgo formed one of the legs. [Arabs had an enormous Lion, their early Asad, extending over a third of the heavens, of which the stars Arcturus and Spica were the shin-bones; Regulus, the forehead; the heads of Gemini, one of the fore paws; Canis Minor, the other; and Corvus, the hind quarters. Many Arab starnames come from this tradition. — Star Names p.97.]

A still more widely spread native name in the Desert was Al Simak al A'zal, the Defenceless, or Unarmed, Simak, i.e. unattended by any nearby star; the other Simak, Arcturus, being armed with a lance, or staff, represented by adjacent stars of Bootes; and it doubtless was this isolated position of Spica that induced the Coptic people of Egypt title Khoritos, Solitary. The Alfonsine Tables turned Simak al A'zal into inermis Asimec, adding Acimon, Alaraph, Almucedie "of the Chaldaeans," and Alacel; while the 1515 Almagest had Aschimech inermis. From all these come the 17th century German astronomer Bayer's Alaazel, Alazel, Azimon, Alzimon "of the Nubians," Hazimet Alazel, the alchemists' Alhaiseth, Riccioli's Eltsamecti and Eltsamach, and the Azimech still occasionally seen. The 16th century French scholar Scaliger had Hazimeth Alhacel, and the 17th century German astronomer and ephemeris creator Schickard Huzimethon. The Italian astronomer Riccioli (1598-1671) cited a "Nubian" title, Eleazalet, that some have said came from Al Azalah, the Hip-bone, but it probably belongs among the derivatives from A'zal; and his Eleadari has been transferred to Spica from the constellation.

This star marked the 12th manzil (Arabic Moon Mansion), Al Simak, and in early astrology was, like all of Virgo, a sign of unfruitfulness and a portent of injustice to innocence; but later on, of eminence, renown, and riches.

The 14th century Greco-Persian astronomer Chrysococca called it (Greek) mikros Kontaratos par excellence. And the 17th century English orientalist Thomas Hyde gave the Hebrew Shibboleth, the Syrian Shebbelta, the Persian Chushe, and the Turkish Salkim, all signifying the "Ear of Wheat"; other names being the Persian Çpur, the Çparegha of the Avesta, the Sogdian Iranian Shaghar and Khorasmian (east of Persia) Akhshafarn, all meaning a "Point" — i.e. Spica.

The Hindus knew it as Citra, Bright, their 12th nakshatra (Hindu Moon Mansion), figured as a Lamp, or as a Pearl, with Tvashtar, the Artificer, or Shaper, as its presiding {p.468} divinity; and some have thought it the Tistar Star that generally has been identified with Sirius.

In Babylonia, and representing the whole constellation, it personified the wife of Bel, and as Sa-Sha-Shiru, the Virgin's Girdle, marked the 20th ecliptic asterism of that name, and the lunar asterism Dan-nu, the Hero of the Sky Furrow. It was also Emuku Tin-tir-Ki, "the Might of the Abode of Life", a common title for Babylon itself.

In Chinese astronomy Spica was a great favorite as Kio, the Horn, or Spike, anciently Keok or Guik, the special star of springtime; and with zeta (ζ Heze) formed their 12th sieu (Chinese Moon Mansion) under that title. Naturally it was the determinant.

It is said to have been known at one time in Egypt as the Lute-Bearer, and was evidently of importance, for another Egyptian name was Repa, the Lord; and Lockyer thinks that the great "Mena may symbolize Spica, with which star we have seen Min-worship associated." According to this same author, one of the temples at Thebes, probably dedicated to this Mena, Menat, Menes, Min, or Khem, was oriented to Spica's setting about 3200 B.C.; and the temple of the Sun at Tell al Amarna was also so oriented about 2000 B.C., or perhaps somewhat later. A similar character attached to it in Greece, for two temples have been found at Rhamnus, "almost touching one another, both following (and with accordant dates) the shifting places of Spica," at their erection 1092 and 747 b.C.; "and still another pair at Tegea." Temples of Hera were also so oriented at Olympia 1445 B.C. at Argos and Girgenti; and those of Nike Apteros at Athens, 1130 B.C., and of "the Great Diana of the Ephesians," 715 B.C.

It was to the observations of this star and of Regulus about 300 B.C., recorded by the Alexandrian Timochares, that, after comparison with his own 150 years later, Hipparchos (circa 160-120 B.C.) was indebted for the great discovery attributed to him of the precession of the equinoxes; although Babylonian records, and the temple orientation of Egypt and Greece, may indicate a far earlier practical knowledge of this.

{p.469} It is one of the lunar stars much utilized in navigation, and lies but 2° south of the ecliptic, and 10° south of the celestial equator, coming to the meridian on the 28th of May.

With Denebola, Arcturus, and Cor Caroli it forms the Diamond of Virgo, 50° in extent north and south.

[Star Names, Their Lore and Meaning, Richard Hinckley Allen, 1889].

The Lunar Mansions

This star, α Virgo, Spica, marked the 12th manzil (Arabic Moon Mansion), Al Simak, The Unarmed.

Influences of the 12th Arabic Moon Mansion Al Simak: Causes marital love, cures the sick, helps sailors but hinders journeys by land.

With Moon transiting here: dig but do not marry or travel. [Robson*, p.72.]


The Hindus knew Spica as Citra, "Bright", their 12th nakshatra (Hindu Moon Mansion), figured as a Lamp, or as a Pearl, with Tvashtar, the Artificer, or Shaper, as its presiding divinity.

Influences of the 12th Hindu Moon Mansion Citra: Ruled by Mars. A soft asterism belonging to the serving caste and favorable for friendship, married love, purchase and making clothes and ornaments, music and auspicious deeds when containing the Moon. Those born on the lunar day will be mathematicians, surgeons, oculists, weavers, writers, singers, manufacturers of perfumes and dealers in jewels and cloth. With Moon here at birth native will be fond of clothes and flowers of many colors and will have beautiful eyes and limbs. Rules water banks and the neck. [Robson*, p.80.]

The astrological influences of the constellation Virgo

Legend: This constellation is said to represent Erigone, daughter of Icarius, who hanged herself through grief at the death of her father (Bootes). According to other accounts it is Astraea, daughter of one of the Titans, who sided with the Gods against her own father. [Robson*, p.66.]

Influences: Ptolemy makes the following observations; "The stars in the head of Virgo, and that at the top of the southern wing, operate like Mercury and somewhat like Mars: the other bright stars in the same wing, and those about the girdle, resemble Mercury in their influence, and also Venus, moderately . . . those at the points of the feet and at the bottom of the garments are like Mercury, and also Mars, moderately." By the Kabalists it is associated with the Hebrew letter Gimel and the 3rd Tarot Trump "The Empress." [Robson*, p.66-67.]

The astrological influences of the constellation Virgo given by Manilius:

"spicifera est Virgo Cereris"  —  "The Virgin with her sheaf belongs to Ceres". [Astronomica, Manilius, 1st century AD, p.117]

"Virginis in propriam descendunt ilia sortem",  —  "the belly comes down to the Maid as her rightful lot"  [Astronomica, Manilius, 1st century AD, p.119]

"At her rising Erigone (Virgo), who reigned with Justice over a bygone age and fled when it fell into sinful ways, bestows high eminence by bestowing supreme power; she will produce a man to direct the laws of the state and the sacred code; one who will tend with reverence the hallowed temples of the gods." [Astronomica, Manilius, 1st century AD, p.265]

"The temperaments of those whose span of life she pronounces at their birth Erigone (Virgo) will direct to study, and she will train their minds in the learned arts. She will give not so much abundance of wealth as the impulse to investigate the causes and effects of things. On them she will confer a tongue which charms, the mastery of words, and that mental vision which can discern all things, however concealed they be by the mysterious workings of nature. From the Virgin will also come the stenographer: his letter represents a word, and by means of his symbols he can keep ahead of utterance and record in novel notation the long speech of a rapid speaker. But with the good there comes a flaw: bashfulness handicaps the early years of such persons, for the Maid, by holding back their great natural gifts, puts a bridle on their lips and restrains them by the curb of authority. And (small wonder in a virgin) her offspring is not fruitful." [Astronomica, Manilius, 1st century AD, p.237 and 239]

The astrological influences of the star Spica

According to Ptolemy it is of the nature of Venus and Mars; and, to Alvidas, of Venus, Jupiter and Mercury. It gives success, renown, riches, a sweet disposition, love of art and science, unscrupulousness, unfruitfulness and injustice to innocence. [Robson*, p.211.]

If rising or culminating: Unbounded good fortune, happiness, ecclesiastical preferment, unexpected honor or advancement beyond native's hopes or capacity. [Robson*, p.211.]

With Fortuna: Great wealth, voluptuous propensities. [Robson*, p.212.]

With Sun: Great and lasting preferment, eminent dignity, immense wealth, great happiness to native's parents and children, help from friends among clergy, favorable for public and legal affairs. If culminating, Church and State preferment. If with Venus and Mars also the native is a potent king obeyed by many people, but subject to many infirmities. [Robson*, p.211.]

With Moon: Gain through inventions, success, wealth and honor from Mercury, Venus or Jupiter people. [Robson*, p.211.]

With Mercury: Neat, tidy, clever, ingenious, favor of clergy and people in authority, gain through investment, responsible position. [Robson*, p.212.]

With Venus: Benefits from friends, social success, false friends of own sex. [Robson*, p.212.]

With Mars: Popular social success, may have good judgment and quick decision or be violent in dispute, rigid, and nearly or quite a fool. [Robson*, p.212.]

With Jupiter: Popular, social success, wealth, ecclesiastical honor and preferment. [Robson*, p.212.]

With Saturn: Apt to be suspicious, sharp or rugged, but does much good, occult interests, good speaker, popular, many friends, gain through legacies but extravagant, good health, favorable for domestic matters. [Robson*, p.212.]

With Uranus: Mediumistic, popular, business connected with ornaments, gain through marriage, fortunate, sudden natural death. [Robson*, p.212.]

With Neptune: Well-born, comfortable surroundings, always sufficiently well off, associated with companies, gain through legacies, favorable for domestic matters, somewhat fast and extravagant, does not live to old age. [Robson*, p.212.]

References:

*[Fixed Stars and Constellations in Astrology, Vivian E. Robson, 1923].