Today we leave the zodiac sign of Cancer, the mysterious and elusive Crab in the Starry zodiac sea, the sign of the zenith of the summer, and we move into the astrological sign of Leo the celestial lion. Most of us know our zodiac or sun sign, but what does it actually look like in the night sky, and what’s the story behind it?
It’s time to roll out the red carpet for the star-lion, Leo…
Dates: 22-23 July-23 August
Ruler: The Sun
Body: Heart and spine
Trees: Palm trees, laurel, walnuts, olive trees, lemon and orange trees.
Plants: Marigolds, sunflowers, dandelions, (dents de lion =lion’s teeth) celandines, passion flowers
Gemstones: Peridot, carnelian, ruby, onyx
Key phrase: I love
Tarot card: Strength
The Lady and the Lion. Perhaps it is Una. Or perhaps her name is Leona or Leonora, for the lion is also the lioness. Her hold on the leash could not be lighter. She is controlling the lion, but only because it is allowing it, not fighting her restraint, signifying that the lion is also a part of herself. This is just as one would imagine, a very welcome card of better health, signifying recovery if someone has been ill.
Leo: The Astronomy
Leo is one of the 48 constellations described by the 2nd-century astronomer Ptolemy, and one of the 88 modern constellations recognised by NASA today, between the neighbouring constellations of Cancer to the west and Virgo to the east.
Leo is the 12th largest, and one of the most easily recognizable constellations due to its many bright stars, and a distinctive shape suggesting a crouching lion, apparently facing right.
The bright light in the sky beneath Leo as seen in the photo below is Jupiter.
The best time to see the Lion is Spring in the northern hemisphere, from around the March equinox. In early April, the constellation Leo reaches its high point for the night around 10 p.m. By around May 1, Leo reaches his high point for the night around 8 p.m. local time In early May, the Lion begins to set in the west around 2 a.m. local time and by June, Leo is descending in the west in the evening, drifting progressively westward.
By this of writing, late July and into early August, the Lion is beginning to fade into the sunset, returning to the eastern sky and visible before dawn around late September or October.
Look out for the Big Dipper, Leo is below it. You are looking for a backwards question mark pattern called the Sickle; and you can see its curve outlines the Lion’s mane.
Leo’s brightest star, Regulus, or Alpha Leonis, ‘The King Star,’ is the heart of the celestial lion, a sparkling blue-white star at the bottom of the backwards question mark pattern. Regulus, means “little king” or “prince” in Latin. The star’s Greek name, Basiliscos, has the same meaning, while the Arabic name is Qalb al-Asad, meaning literally “the heart of the lion.”
It’s mind boggling to consider that Leo’s fifth largest star, Epsilon Leonis, 247 light years from Earth, is 288 times more luminous than the Sun, four times as massive and has 21 times the solar radius.
A triangle of stars in eastern Leo represents the Lion’s hindquarters and tail. The brightest star of the triangle is named Denebola, Arabic, meaning the Lion’s Tail.
Leo has 15 stars with 18 known planets between them, but none have planets in their habitable zones.
The Leonids are meteor showers associated with the constellation of Leo. They peak around November 17-18 every year, and then there are the January Leonids; a minor shower that peaks January 1 – 7.
The Ancient History
Leo the Lion has since ancient times been associated with the sun, ruled by the sun in astrology and is one of the oldest constellations collectively recognized with many ancient civilizations agreeing on perceiving it as a lion.
Archaeological evidence suggests that Mesopotamians recognized a constellation similar to Leo as early as 4000 BC. The Persians knew the constellation as Shir or Ser, Babylonians called it UR.GU.LA (“the great lion”), Syrians knew it as Aryo, and the Turks as Artan.
The story goes that the ancient Egyptians venerated Leo because the appearance overhead of this constellation used to coincide with the annual flooding of the Nile River, the lifeblood of their agriculture and indeed, the nation entire. Marking the end of drought, desert lions would arrive at the river, driven by desperation, and their appearance was welcomed as a certain sign that the floods were shortly on their way. The Egyptians accordingly honoured the lion with festivals, and even today many statues of lions can be found along the course of the Nile River, proof of their reverence.
It’s thought that the lion-headed fountains commonly designed by Greek and Roman architects equally symbolized the life-giving waters released by the sun’s presence in Leo.
Herakles’ first labour was the killing of the Nemean Lion.
The lion lived in a cave in Nemea, a town located to the south-west of Corinth. It was a man-eater, dining on the local folk, not OK, and a few had tried to kill it, only to find to their (terminal) horror, nothing could pierce the lion’s hide, it was so preternaturally tough.
But someone must have survived to tell this tale, for Herakles, being forewarned of this additional teensy problem, managed somehow to sneak up on the lion asleep in its cave, and strangled to death the uber-kitty; poor puddy-tat. He then rather disrespectfully, I can’t help feeling, if undeniably pragmatically, skinned the lion with its own claws, and wore its skin as a cloak, making himself even more ferocious in appearance, as well as presumably, and even more importantly, arrow-proof.
The Astrology of Leo
This fixed sign is known for its pride, ambition and determination, warmth and a certain generosity of spirit, not to mention, charisma, but above all, Leo is known for bravery; the lionhearted one, the divine expression of physical, mental, and emotional fortitude, which is a very great virtue. Leo parents are typically devoted, but rule their households, no question about it.
Courage takes many forms. There is the courage of initiative, the will to advance, engage and attack. There is moral courage, proceeding in the face of fear, “feeling the fear and doing it anyway.” And there is the courage to endure, and the fortitude that quietly says to itself, “tomorrow I will try again”.
The courage to withstand.
But Leo can be its own worst enemy; hasty, arrogant, reckless, self-centred, headstrong and careless, and for these reasons, unless these subjects learn patience, consideration and self-control, they are not necessarily always as lucky in life as the spirit of Leo deserves.
Alight on Chance
To someday seed
And newly golden