Libra The Celestial Scales- Weighing the Balance in the Stars

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Read on for the story of Libra…

Common Associations

Symbol

Quality: Cardinal

Element: Air

Affirmation: I (seek to) Balance

Ruling planet: Venus

Body: Lower back, buttocks, kidneys

Colour: Indigo Blue

Flower: Rose, Hydrangea

Birthstones: Sapphire- September birthdays. Opal- October birthdays

Lucky Number: 6 (community, childhood)

Tarot card: Justice

Justice from The Legacy of The Divine Tarot, Ciro Marchetti

Astronomy

Libra (technically, it is correctly pronounced Ly-bra as in Library) is a small but distinct constellation, 29th in size of the 88 constellations, next door to the constellation Virgo. It’s been described as looking like a lop-sided diamond and is visible in the northern hemisphere between April and July.

Libra used to be regarded, not as a constellation in its own right, but as part of its neighbouring constellations Scorpio and Virgo. The stars representing the scales of Justice are the same stars representing the claws of the Scorpion.

Libra, like Cancer, is faint in comparison with other constellations, and contains no spectacular first magnitude stars, but contains a very old galaxy cluster, possibly around 10 billion years old, the same age as our own galaxy, The Milky Way.

There also is a red dwarf star Gliese 581 with three orbiting planets, two of which may possibly be suitable for life, about 20 light years from Earth.

The brightest star in Libra is a binary star about 77 light years from Earth. α Librae. or Zubenelgenubi, meaning “the Southern Claw” in Arabic.

The second-brightest star in the constellation of Libra is β Librae, or Zubeneschamali, from the Arabic for “The Northern Claw.”

Mercator

Equilibrium and Equinox

Since 2002, the Sun has actually appeared in the constellation of Libra from October 31 to November 22.

This is different to the dates used for this sign in your media horoscope, which is based on modern western or tropical astrology, and says Libra begins around 23rd of September, coinciding with the autumn equinox (in the northern hemisphere).

But astronomy is not astrology, which is a symbolic language, and zodiac signs are not to be confused with the constellations after which they were named.

The Sun did indeed used to be in the sign Libra from the northern autumnal equinox (c. September 23) to on or about October 23, when the hours of night and daylight were the same- hence the Libra’s concept of natural balance.

The zodiac sign of Libra ceased to coincide with the actual placement of the constellation in AD 730 because of the wobble of the Earth, and the resulting effect known as precession – the movement of the equinoxes relative to Earth.

This fact of astronomy does not invalidate your horoscope. The astrological concept still stands, based on the arithmetic model of the zodiac as designed by the mathematician Ptolemy in the 2nd Century.

Mythology and History

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We have the Romans to thank for the name of this constellation, as well as the sun sign or zodiac sign of Libra as we understand it today.

It is a complicated history. Libra began as part of Scorpio, and was known in Babylonian astronomy as MUL Zibanu (the “scales” or “balance”) but with an alternative name, the Claws of the Scorpion, while in ancient Greece Libra was also seen as the Scorpion’s Claws.

The scales were sacred to the Babylonian sun god Shamash, the patron of truth and justice, and ever since these very early times, Libra has been associated with law, fairness and civility.

Because 3000 years ago, the Sun entering Libra marked the equinox, when days and nights were of equal length, i.e. balanced, Roman astrologers considered that the constellation of Libra represented the principle of natural balance, equality, equilibrium and hence, justice.

It was in ancient Rome that Libra was first recognized as a constellation in its own right, when it began to represent the scales held by Astraea, or Dike, although in Greek mythology she had always been associated with Virgo.

Eh? Que? Claws, scales. Virgo, Scorpio. Confusing? Join the club.

Typically elusive Libra!

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According to the Roman writer and poet Marcus Manilius, the best Roman judges were born under the sign of Libra.  The Moon, which in astrology governs temperament, was said to be in Libra when Rome was founded, in a historical passage, which states “qua condita Roma.” 

The early born Libra may therefore be expected to have much in common with Virgo and Astraea, but the later born Libra may be expected to have quite a lot of Scorpio going on.

This same principle applies to all the zodiac signs, of course, whether you were born early or late in your sign, but is particularly acute in the case of Libra, on account of its shared/borrowed stars and very particular history as a relative newcomer to the zodiac story in its own right.

The Libra Archetype

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Libra is one of the three zodiac air signs, the others being Gemini and Aquarius.

 Libra is the only zodiac sign that is not represented by a human or animal, but the scales signify the collective and enduring human hunger for justice, as well as Libra’s own especially keen personal need for balance, order, and equality.

Many astrologers view Libra as an especially lucky sign because it occurs during the peak of the year when the rewards of hard work are harvested.

Libra is suave, clever and extremely easy to like. The classic Libra subject has charm and can be a great listener with sharp observation skills and acute perception.

Because Venus, the goddess of love, rules Libra, as it also rules Taurus, the Libra subject is especially, even acutely sensitive to beauty in anything, whether it is a person, nature, art, or music.

Libra intensely dislikes loud or sharp noises, cruelty, nastiness, and vulgarity, as they are naturally kindly and civilized people, and also, may we observe, a teensy bit delicate at times.

Born diplomats, but also anything for a quiet life, Libras try to co-operate and compromise with everyone around them. They can sometimes be a little tiring to be with as they are constantly re-assessing and adjusting their thinking, while remaining emotionally distant, or playing Devil’s advocate and this may be infuriating at times, or even seem to call their personal loyalties into question.

They are not averse to keeping secrets and can be more changeable even than Gemini. Those Libran scales are after all, seeking balance, which is not the same as attaining it.

Botticelli: The Birth of Venus, ruler of Libra

Libra may not receive or handle criticism as dispassionately as they dispense it. They can show jealousy when they are not the centre of attention, and may at times be moody; a practitioner of passive aggression, or they may be something of an ‘iron fist in a velvet glove’ – smoothly vengeful, or even ruthless.

But lovely Libra, charming, smiling, sophisticated, civilized. Sunny side up, what on earth’s not to like?

Till next time 🙂

Author: Katie-Ellen

Intuitive Tarot reader, consultant and writer.

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