Symbol: The Scales Solar month: 22 Sep. – 23 Oct.
Element: Air Temperament:
Quality: Cardinal Gender: Positive/Masculine
of: Venus Detriment of:
Exaltation of: Saturn Fall of : Sun
Ancient & Traditional Libra
“The Claws which holy men have changed the name and call the Balance because it stretches out on both sides like the sides of a balance”
“Of people in its share are the marketplace people, judges, mathematicians, and merchants who deal in food and drink.”
The clear origin of the asterism of the Scales is
uncertain and in the early, preclassical times, this star pattern was seen as an
extension of its nieghbouring sign the Scorpion; even though the twelve solar
divisions of the ecliptic were still regarded. Libra is not a dominant
star-figure in the sky and is seen to be only just under 21 degrees of
arc. Some of the ancients mention it as being of ‘dim stars’. Thus
to early peoples this constellation was ‘Zibanitu’, or ‘Claw’/’Horn’. The
early Arabs also called in ‘the claws’, ‘Al Zubana’.
The preclassical and early classical writers of Greece also saw Libra as an extension of the sign of Scorpio and it was known as ‘chelae’, or again, ‘the claws’. In the far eastern solar zodiac of China, this asterism was the ‘crocodile’, or reflective of a national emblem as an aspect of the ‘dragon’.
Although initially seen in the
pre-classical astrology as having no independent identity, particular stars
within the constellation were to be called the ‘star of the north claw’ and the
‘star of the south claw’, later to become that of the north, or the south
‘scale’. Eventually the Babylonians were to call the claws ‘Rin’, or
‘Scales’, more towards the onset of the classical period. Through the
Hellenistic period and into the early Latin the symbol was also translated to ‘a
yoke’ or ‘that which connects’. In the images of claws and yokes
could be emblematically representative of the modern codependent aspects of
relationship and so on, as in the symbolism the focus on the self may ‘set’ in
this sign. The theorised reason for the change in name of this star
pattern is said to have a lot do with the contributions of many cultures in the
general area though the syncretism present in the history of the times.
The Hebrews called the
constellation of Libra ‘Moznaylim’, or ‘scale-beam’. The Indian
astrologer/astronomers had ‘Tulun’, ‘A Balance’, held by a kneeling man; the
ancient Persians also favoured this human element, their figure grasping the
scales in one hand and a lamb in the other. But in the ancient Egyptian Denderah
zodiac, this asterism appears represented simply as a scale-beam. To many
cultures this sign evolved to become the mechanical object and the scales are
often described as ‘golden’. To the Arabs it graduated to become ‘Al
Kiffata’, the ‘Trays of the Balance’, and the zodiacal symbol of the scale beam
is also to be viewed in the Alfonsine Tables.
As the scales appear in the early
astrological zodiac of Egypt and there also exist astrological cross-references
to some of the ancient hieroglyphic symbols. Many authorities seem to
accept that the sign of Libra ‘probably’ grew out of Egypt and its cultural
The scales are an important sacred symbol when viewed in Egyptian
mythology, particularly in regard to entrance into the afterlife. As
the human soul/heart was said to be weighed on the scales against the feather
from the headdress of the Maat, a goddess concerned with truth. If the
balance was tipped it was said that the soul must reincarnate again, in order to
shed the excess (spiritual) weight (become enlightened).
As a zodiacal component in the
traditional context, the natural (seasonal) philosophy relating to this sign in
the northern hemisphere, regards the onset of autumnal dynamics. It is
said that ‘Libra acts upon the air element by bringing into it heat and humidity
far removed from temperance, thickening it and making it dense. It
appears, in the elemental symbolism, that the warmth and moisture of air, may be
increased in the symbolism by Venus also holding a warm and moist essence.
Whereas Venus, as the ruler of the ‘yin’ sign of Taurus, is balanced in the
symbology, by the essentially cold and dry components of the earth
Thus there is an essence of decline that allows all growth to relax towards stasis, as the general polarity dynamics, within the seasonal sequence, are symbolically presented. Thus the ‘action’ of Libra promotes the decline towards rest, for the natural world, as Bonatti observes, ‘causing mixture and harm to individual species, seeds, herbs, and the branches of trees and their fruits,”. Some traditional descriptions and classifications related to this sign are as follows, ‘the day house of Venus’, masculine, diurnal, changeable, sanguine, equinoctial, moveable, musical, obeying, sweet, whole, western, nervous, speaking, humane.
Some More Symbology & Mythology
It is noted that the sigil of Libra is possibly derived
from that relating to an archaic Euphratean constellation known as the
‘Altar’. This figure was seen engraved on early gems, tablets and boundary
stones of the ancient culture. The shape of Libra’s glyph has, of course,
been naturally seen as indicative of the ‘scales of balance’ and is normally
thus considered such. There is also a more esoteric and pagan aspect to
this symbol representative of Libra being the point in the solar year of an
equinox, a time when day and night are equal. Thus the equinox is symbolic
of the point of the balance of the seasons changing and in this context; the
Libran glyph may become representative of the Sun setting.
This refers in particular to the northern hemisphere where the Sun is ‘turning toward the dark’, that is summer towards winter, via autumn and this is the first of the autumnal signs. Rather than darker or lighter the overall equinoctial symbolism is more essentially referential to the equality of either and then the eventual adjustment of light and realignment of life on the planet to the season concerned.
In other words, the amount and
power of the daily light is now seen to be decreasing, as the seasonal
experience continues to unfold. In symbolic astrological translation of
this occurrence, the effect of this seasonal turning point upon the Sun can
become, as the metaphor of the self that may be viewed as ‘setting’.
Particularly in modern astrology, this sign is well known as connected to the
emphasis of the ‘other’, as compared to any clear focus upon one’s own
life. The seventh sign of the zodiacal order becomes creative of the first
polarity to arise in the holistic sequential zodiacal model. One of this
signs apparent primary functions, of attaining ultimate balance and harmony
becomes evident, particularly in interrelationship mechanisms.
Confusion regarding the components
of this symbolism seems a part of the reinforcement of the ‘natural chart
model’, in assigning the 7th house/descendent, all of the kudos of Libra, in
order to define it. There also exists a reasonable ancient symbolism,
regarding this glyph and that it can also just as equally represent the Sun
rising, as well as setting. In fact the Libran sigil bears great
resemblance to an old Egyptian hieroglyph which reads ‘Akhe’, ‘the Place of
Sunrise’. This is postulated to be because the full Moon in Libra is
related to the return of the Sun in the Spring equinox, when the Sun is in
Aries. Thus the symbolism of Libra is not just about the setting/retiring
of the self, but the dual dynamics of both rising and setting, as befits this
Given the northern hemisphere connection to the seasonal
lessening of light, it could be said the Libran tendency is to retire and
compromise, but in the holism of the symbolism, the Sun is always seen to
return. Therefore the entirety of the birth chart becomes of importance in
defining the potential experience reflected in the duality/polarity inherent in
This is the only sign appearing
today to be represented by a mechanical object, the scales, rather then that a
human or animal figure. Such ‘mechanical’ symbolism may be viewed as
reflective of the air element and its personification of objectivity and logic,
qualities needed to develop clarity of balance. Libra has also sometimes
been depicted as a blindfolded woman holding the scales, a well known symbol of
justice. This woman has been nominated as the deity Astraea, the goddess
of justice and supposedly the last of the Olympians to withdraw her immortal
presence from humanity. This same goddess also has a very strong
association with the mythos concerning the neighbouring sign of Virgo.
The mythic stories of Adam and Eve, Eros and Psyche and other such archetypal pairings, also embody the Libran principle, as they are symbolic of the archetypal processes of ‘marriage’, the fall into polarisation and the eventual spiritualisation of love. The themes regarding polarities, relativity and relationship are brought to the fore here and this archetypal principle is also witnessed in the mythos of the ruler of this sign, the goddess of beauty, Aphrodite/Venus, and her marriage to Hephaestus/Vulcan, the deformed ‘smithy of the gods’. Not only male and female, these were two opposite characters, are representative of polarised characteristics. Not only deformity and beauty, but faithfulness and unfaithfulness, Venus was an extremely promiscuous immortal, as seen in her wide variety of mythos, her husband was not. Vulcan transformed base metals into refined objects of beauty (especially of gold), inspired by his desire and love for his disloyal wife, reflecting the Libran preference to refine and create beauty and harmony, for the sake of the mirror of the others response.
Harmonising of Polarities. Right Interrelationship. Refinement of the Shadow. Alignment and Accord.
Primary Archetypal Types Tactician Artisan Diplomat
Examples of Mythic Representations
All mythic lovers/couplings, e.g., Psyche and Eros, Tristan and Isolde etc – Myths involving themes of beauty, choice and relating, e.g.; The Judgement of Paris, Pygmalion, Adonis, etc. – All love goddesses e.g., Aphrodite etc - The Three Graces - The Muses - Marriage partners, warring and harmonious, e.g., Hera and Zeus – Deities concerned with justice and balance, e.g.; Maat, Astraea.
Examples of Archetypal & Stereotypic Personas
Partner, Consort, Arbitrator, Diplomat, Strategist, Counselor, Judge, Lawyer, Public relations person, Hostess, Designer, Beautifier, Refiner, Minstrel, Courtesan, Model, Matchmaker, Tennis player..
Examples of Archetypal Objects and Symbols
Scales, A line, Yin/Yang, Mirror, The Other, Polarities, Fulcrum, Abacus, Things that measure, Checkerboard, One-on-one games, Cupid, Swan, White feather, Sunset, The wedding and partnership rituals, Things concerned with symmetry.
Examples of Key Manifestations
Balance, liaison, relationship, harmony, adjustment, equilibrium, peace, fairness, beauty, indecision, ambivalence, refinement, pleasing, codependence, projection, attraction, open confrontation, strategy, polarization, reconciliation, regulation.
Primary Psychological Associations
Relationship dynamics and functions - Principles of projection and shadow - Finding of the self within interrelationship - Self refinement - Ability to compromise and to cooperate - Awareness of the other - Conflict and confrontation versus equipoise and fairness – Dealing with choices, balance and harmony.
CLICK HERE to read about Modern Libra!
Organic Divination for the Urban Jungle
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