Libra the Celestial Scales, Balance of the Seasons in the Stars

The zodiac sign of Libra, what’s the story?

Most of us know our sign of the zodiac or sun sign, but where did get its name from, and what does it look like in the night sky? 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

Public Domain: Justice from the Rider-Waite Tarot

Astronomy

Libra (and I say Lee-bra too, like most people, but technically, it is correctly pronounced Ly-bra as in Library) is a small but distinct constellation next to the constellation Virgo in the evening sky. It looks like a lopsided diamond, or a small child’s drawing of a house, and is visible in the northern hemisphere between April and July.

Libra is most visible directly overhead at midnight in June, and is 29th in size of the 88 constellations.

Public Domain: Libra

Libra is bordered by the head of Serpens to the north, Virgo to the northwest, Hydra (the biggest known constellation of all) to the southwest, Lupus to the south, Scorpius to the east and the serpent bearer, Ophiuchus to the northeast.

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

There is a red dwarf star ,Gliese 581, in this galaxy, with three orbiting planets, one of which may possibly be suitable for life. This system is about 20 light years from Earth.

Libra used to be regarded, not as a constellation in its own right, but as part of neighbouring Scorpio and Virgo. This legacy remains in the names of its brightest stars.  The brightest star in Libra is a binary star about 77 light years from Earth. α Librae. Its common name is Zubenelgenubi, meaning “the Southern Claw” in Arabic. The second-brightest star in the constellation of Libra is β Librae, known as Zubeneschamali, from the Arabic for “The Northern Claw.”

Public Domain: the Scorpionic Scales, from Mercator  

Since 2002, technically, the Sun has actually appeared in the constellation of Libra from October 31 to November 22. But signs of the zodiac are not dependent on the positions of the actual constellations. Western or tropical astrology, which is based on seasonal phenomena, not the actual positions of the constellations, which remain the basis of Eastern or Sidereal astrology.

The Sun did used to be in the constellation of Libra at 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 Libran key concept of natural balance, and the change of the seasons is still marked by the first days of the zodiac sign of Libra, 23 September.

But Western or Tropical astrology was designed as a construct based on arithmetic, not on current astronomy. The signs of the zodiac were inspired, modelled and named according to the heavenly bodies, but actually based on seasonal phenomena, these being presented as an arithmetic model, dividing into 12 pieces of a pie, the circle of the visible skies of the zodiac as seen from Earth, as calculated by the Greek mathematician, astronomer and astrologer Ptolemy in the 2C AD.

Mythology and History

Justitia by Howard David Johnson, 1954 –

Public Domain

Libra was once included as part of Scorpio, and was known in Babylonian astronomy as MUL Zibanu (the “scales” or “balance”) with an alternative name, the Claws of the Scorpion. In ancient Greece Libra was also seen as the Scorpion’s Claws.

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

Libra was first recognised as a constellation in its own right in ancient Rome, when it began to represent the scales held by Astraea, also known as Dike, who in Greek mythology was actually associated with Virgo. In ancient times, the stars of Libra, The Scales, were also intermingled with those of  Scorpius by the Greeks, but were always considered as a separate group by the Romans.

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

The start of Libra starts with the autumn equinox, when days and nights are almost of equal length, i.e. balanced, and Roman astrologers considered that the constellation of Libra represented the scales held by Astraea, the ‘star maiden,’ goddess of Justice and innocence. Astraea was a daughter of the Titans, god of dusk, and Eos, goddess of dawn.  She dwelt on earth alongside humans during the Golden Age of Man, but the Iron Age dawned, bringing war and wickedness, and Astraea could not abide this, nor the injustice of the killing of the bull who pulled the plough, until, sometime during the Bronze Age, she left earth for the skies, where she transformed into the constellation Virgo.

Here is pause for thought. This is all rather confusing. We are discussing Libra, not Scorpio, not Virgo, but Libra is a subtle sign, a comparatively newly created one, pulled somewhat, and aspects of it shared between neighbouring Scorpio and Virgo.

The seasonal story is straightforward. Libra is the autumn equinox in the northern hemisphere. But the mythos is complicated, due to the merging of several mythological personas, Babylonian, Greek and Roman. Astraea was also known as Dike, goddess of human justice (where Themis was goddess of natural justice) To the Romans she was Justitia. She was the protector of fair judgement, and continues embodied in the blindfolded figure of justice used in our own law courts today. Virgo and Libra go together, and so do Libra and Scorpio. This close relationship was echoed in the sky, where Libra, the symbolic representation of Dike, lies alongside Virgo. According to the myth, Astraea will one day return to Earth, bringing a new Golden Age.

The Libra Archetype

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

 Libra is the only 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, the Libra subject is especially, even acutely sensitive to beauty in anything, whether it is a person, nature, art, or music. They dislike loud noises, cruelty, nastiness, and vulgarity, as they are naturally extremely civilised people. Born diplomats, Libras try to cooperate and compromise with everyone around them to create a tranquil atmosphere. They can sometimes be a little tiring to be with as they are constantly re-assessing and adjusting their thinking, and can be more changeable even than Gemini.

Public Domain: Venus, the ruler of Libra, The Birth of Venus by Botticelli.

Libras may show negative Scorpio traits just the same as a Scorpio subject. They may be touchy, thin-skinned, and tend not to handle criticism as dispassionately as they dispense it. They like to be the centre of attention and may resent it when they are not. Libra can be jealous, moody, and an expert practitioner of passive aggression, or go further as the ‘iron fist in a velvet glove’ – smoothly vengeful, or even ruthless.

But- lovely Libra. Smiling, civilised, smoothie side up, what’s not to like?

Inheritance

Inheritance is a meeting point of past, present and future, taking many forms, physical and immaterial. Goods, prospects, genes, ideas. How different in character will the legacy you leave differ or depart from the legacies you have inherited?

The Tarot’s card of Inheritance, both material and immaterial: money, property, ancestry, genes, culture, is The Ten of Pentacles/Coins/Disks.

ten pentacles

From The Gilded Tarot: By Kind Permission of Ciro Marchetti.

See the harvest mouse, custodian of the family riches. These riches are about far more than money.Appearing in a reading right way up, I am being shown that the person feels well-supported by family. They have the security of a sense of belonging. Reversed, the picture is of someone struggling about this, labouring under a sense of alienation, or injustice over wills and other inheritance issues. Or they may be feeling that their family background has been a burden rather than a resource.

The Tarot’s comment to people coming to discuss the disinheriting of challenging children has so far been Justice above all. Equal shares between children, no matter what the relationship, no matter what the history. That one does not get on with a child is sad. It is a misfortune in life, and one may not like one’s child, just as a child may not like its parent. One might even love someone, without liking them. It happens.

But it could be argued that retribution through the power of inheritance is a betrayal of the principle of inheritance, that an unjust will is toxic and divides families for many years to come, perhaps for ever.

Where is our ‘true’ well-spring? Without knowing our family history, we’ll probably never know, and no-one can know all of it, but a lot can be guessed because it’s lodged in you somewhere still. You might be the spitting image of a great-great-grandparent. You might be wearing their face reborn, cast to reflect your own spirit. You might have their skills and talents, their voice and intonation, even their mannerisms, when all your life you had thought you were the ‘odd one out’.

“You and I can turn and look
at the silent river and wait. We know
the current is there, hidden; and there
are comings and goings from miles away
that hold the stillness exactly before us.
What the river says, that is what I say.”

William Stafford (1914-1993)

Time To Say Goodbye…retirement was on the cards.

I was in good odour with a regular client. In June 2010, a reading indicated that her husband had reason to be hopeful of early retirement with a viable retirement package.  He had been wanting to go for some time, but hadn’t found an early way out that he would find  acceptable financially.

The cards assessed the chances of an opportunity materialising before the end of 2010 as 6 out of 8, odds I translated as meaning it was highly likely, though not inevitable.

Nothing is inevitable but Death…and taxes, so the saying goes. The future consists of so many complex variables, I find it more meaningful to attach a weighting to ‘predictions’, or forecasts, as I prefer to think of them.

What’s the difference? Well, a prediction is a statement about the future presented as a virtual fact, a done deal. A forecast is an indication of the likelihood that something will happen, leaving space for the workings of undetected random chance and free will. Society uses all manner of forecasting…from the weather to the Stock Exchange.  tarot readers just offer another, personalised form, intuitively collected using tarot symbols as tools of assessment and translation, as our equivalent of the gathering and statistical analysis of hard data.

The chief cards I drew indicative of a viable ending coming into view over time’s horizon were The Emperor Reversed, Justice and Judgment.

The Emperor often indicates a man of mature years, or an organisation, generally a large one. His employer was a global defence company.
Justice = Law, contract.
Judgement = as in Judgement Day, in a benign way, a time of reckoning, the right time for completing or ending something.

I heard today he was invited to go in December, as part of a larger redundancy programme and – which will not necessarily the case for all such invitees – he is delighted.