Moving on to the next Sign in the Zodiac, Libra the Scales does hold the distinction of being the only Sign represented by an inanimate object. In exploring where the significations of Libra came from, we must first begin a long trip back in time and explore the very foundation of astrological thought and philosophy, but this is the best way to explore and understand the grand field of astrology. As with several concepts, there is division between the modern and the classical, the difficult part comes in when both attempt to explain the same concept in different ways. This artilce will explain the beginning concepts surrounding the Sign of Libra and how these concepts continue on into present day astrology. Proving that the past is not so far behind.
Libra is actually a fairly unimpressive constellation, holding no first magnitude stars. However, it does hold the Gliese system within it. This system holds an earth-like extrasolar planet that is the first discovered to orbit around its parent star’s hospitable zone (the distance away from the orbited star that has the proper temperature to support most forms of carbon-based life), this planet was discovered orbiting the star Gliese 581 which lies in the constellation. There is argument about whether or not this earth-like planet can support life. The autumnal equinox point used to lie within the constellation of Libra, but due to procession of the equinoxes, this point now lies within the previous constellation Virgo.
The scales of Libra are often thought of as belonging to the justice goddess Astrea who is also associated with the adjacent constellation Virgo. However, there is a totally different history to Libra that most people don’t even know about. Libra is the youngest of the Signs of the Zodiac in that it originally did not exist, or at least, it did not exist in the way we know it today. The area of the sky where we now see scales was once seen as the claws of the scorpion; Scorpio. Most classical writers, including Manilius and Ptolemy, knew it as this and called this constellation by the Greek word “Chelae” meaning “Claws”. The Romans are the ones who are said to be responsible for bringing the association of a balance to this area of heaven sometime around the first century BC; however, there is evidence to suggest that the Sumerians had already made this association as early as 2000 BC. To the Romans, Libra was a favored Sign, it’s said that the city of Rome was founded with Luna in Libra.
Also, the symbolism of the scales is very potent in Egyptian mythology. The goddess Ma’at would weigh the feather of truth against the heart of a recently departed soul. Should the heart fail the test, then it would be devoured by Ammit and the owner of the heart would be doomed to suffer in the afterlife for all eternity.
In Lilly’s sixteenth chapter in Christian Astrology, he writes that Libra is “aerial, hot and moist, sanguine, masculine, movable, equinoctial, cardinal, human, and of the aerial triplicity”. Modern astrology supplies their own list of keywords associated with Libra, this list includes the words: diplomatic, cooperative, charming, sociable, kind, romantic, and refined. Now let’s compare the 17th century writer’s list to the modern list and see just how close they match up.
As a masculine/diurnal Sign, Libra is more comfortable openly expressing his opinion on the world around him. Libra feels very comfortable expressing his opinions on subjects of justice and equality, and he’s also not afraid to stand up and defend these opinions openly against attack. However, there is a certain hindrance in this ability in that Sol is traditionally depressed in this Sign, meaning that Libra has difficulty expressing Sol’s individuality and self-expression because Libra is more concerned about fairness and juggling the opinions of a million other people and comparing it to his own, often Libra will then feel as if they need to take on the burden of responsibility for those million other people. There is, though, a certain advantage to this planetary debility in that Libras are very comfortable having their own views and positions challenged and can easily consider the opinions of others taking the extra mile of looking at things through the opposition’s perspective. This way both views are considered before a stance on an issue is taken.
This is not the only instance in which a planet-Sign relationship alters the significations of Libra, in fact the ruler of Libra – Venus – simply accentuates traits that are caused by Sol’s fall in this Sign. Venus is a planet that centers on relating to the people around us; Venus wants to be wanted and needed by others. She needs to be accepted by others, and so too does this Sign under her rulership. With this powerful connection to Venus, Libra feels like he needs to be needed by others and so he will find that most of his problems and struggles in life center on other people. Venus does, though, offer a sense of grace and finesse to Libra and makes him very attractive and sociable, unfortunately, it also makes Libra too easily influenced on aesthetic pleasures and too easily swayed by a pleasant appearance.
Libra is also a moveable or cardinal Sign, being that the season of autumn begins with Sol’s ingress into this Sign, so all of the changes that occur in this season that differentiate it from the previous summer months are in full swing of motion. So too does Libra’s cardinal signification give him the will to initiate change. Houlding writes: “Yet of all the cardinal signs Libra is the most underrated force; for their non-intimidating personas can often fool us into thinking that they will give up on their goals far easier than they will.” Libra is a sanguine air Sign, meaning that the humoural qualities associated with Libra are warm and moist. This association makes Libra an optimistic and light-hearted Sign, enjoying the pleasantries and social circles while keeping things bright and charming. As a sanguine Sign, Libra seeks the middle ground and shuns extremes and eccentric attitudes. As a humane Sign, Libra is blessed with social graces, an accommodating attitude, a pleasant demeanor, and an abundance of manners and people skills that could operate very well for them in situations of public relations.
Only two Signs in the Zodiac are equinoctial, Libra being the second. This means that Libra marks the Autumn equinox where the length of day and night are equal. This and the visual image of Libra being associated with a balance as well as one other point I will discuss in the following section make the Sign of Libra very much associated with balance, harmony, peace, comparison, and fairness. Libra is often thought of as a great counselor, advising us to step outside of our personal biases and see things through the eyes of others and “walk a mile in their shoes”. This balance is also seen as a symbol of moderation, which works with Libra quite well as he enjoys to distance himself away from extremes and excesses, this not only makes him more comfortable with himself and the environment he puts himself in, but also makes him more socially acceptable, which is necessary for a Sign that seeks to be approved. Unfortunately, the negative side of this Sign is seen in a similar manner, Libra is often extremely indecisive, bouncing back and forth between two ideas, it’s as if there is a see-saw in his mind, while the good news is he will often become very, very fixed in his decision once he has made it, the bad news is that it will take him a long time to make that decision as he will continually question it to make sure that that is the proper conclusion. Through the need to be accepted by others, it is often thought that Libra is shallow and gullible and he may very well be if he isn’t careful as he can be easily pleased by a pleasant visual presentation, so if something looks good, he feels it must be, which isn’t the case. While trying to keep things balanced, Libra has a problem dealing with emotional situations and be much more willing to brush it away and get away from it then seeking to deal with it.
As far as other significations go, Libra governs the kidneys, lower back, and reproductive organs in the body. He is also significant of all illness and diseases that occur within these areas of the body, including (as Lilly writes) “all diseases or the stone or gravel in the reins of the back, kidneys, heats and diseases in the loins or haunches, impostumes, or ulcers in the reins, kidneys, or bladder, weakness in the back, and corruption of the blood.” In more modern terms, Libra signifies diseases such as kidney stones, diabetes, sexual diseases, inflammation and ulcers in those areas of the anatomy signified by the Sign, and addictive tendencies in their ability to break the balance and overindulge. Places signified by Libra are any places off the ground (as is the case with all air signs), it also represents ground near sawmills or barns or somewhere where wood is cut and stacked. Sides of hills, tops of mountains, sandy and gravelly fields, second stories of houses, and rooms inside of one another.
While the association with the equinox and the symbolism of the balance is often cited as reasons for this Signs association with balance, equality, and fairness another seemingly forgotten reason is the stars contained within the constellation itself have an effect on this. Ptolemy refers to this constellation – in keeping with the Greek tradition – as the claws of the scorpion, saying that the ones in the extremities are of the influence of Jupiter and Mercury, while those in the middle have an influence of Saturn and Mars.
As you can see, the two chief stars of the constellation are Zubeneschamali and Zubenelgenubi. Zubeneschamali is Arabic for “the price to be received” and is a very benefic star and its proximity to the constellation Virgo (as opposed to Scorpio on the other side) makes half of this constellation benefic. The other star, Zubenelgenubi, is Arabic for “the price to be paid” and is a very malevolent star that keeps more in accord with the nature of Scorpio and the malefic planets, which would make the other half of the constellation evil as well. So it’s very interesting that a constellation that is associated with balance and harmony forms an opposition within itself of the nature of good (represented by the benevolent northern star Zubeneschamali) and evil (represented by the malevolent southern star Zubenelgenubi). Also, the later half of the Sign Libra is associated with a particularly malevolent part of the Zodiac called the Via Combustia (the Burnt Path, this also extends into the first half of Scorpio) and that is specifically due to the reign of Zubenelgenubi in the half of the constellation that lies closer to Scorpio.
Dignities and Degree Influences
Venus is said to be in her domicile in the Sign of Libra due to the friendly sextile aspect cast between its cusp the cusp of Cancer/Leo. Venus is the lesser benefic, and so is a fortunate planet, this benevolent planet is also a friend to the luminaries Sol and Luna, and so the friendly aspect links them. Libra is the exaltation of Saturn due to the length of darkness beginning to increase when Sol is in this Sign, it is the depression of Sol for the same reason, as he spends less time in the sky during this time of the year. Below are the degree influences according to Ptolemy and Lilly:
0° Libra – Face of Luna, Term of Saturn, Masculine, Deep
1° Libra – Face of Luna, Term of Saturn, Masculine
2° Libra – Face of Luna, Term of Saturn, Masculine, Increasing Fortune
3° Libra – Face of Luna, Term of Saturn, Masculine
4° Libra – Face of Luna, Term of Saturn, Masculine, Light
5° Libra – Face of Luna, Term of Saturn, Feminine
6° Libra – Face of Luna, Term of Mercury, Feminine, Deep
7° Libra – Face of Luna, Term of Mercury, Feminine
8° Libra – Face of Luna, Term of Mercury, Feminine
9° Libra – Face of Luna, Term of Mercury, Feminine, Dark
10° Libra – Face of Saturn, Term of Mercury, Feminine
11° Libra – Face of Saturn, Term of Mercury, Feminine
12° Libra – Face of Saturn, Term of Mercury, Feminine
13° Libra – Face of Saturn, Term of Mercury, Feminine
14° Libra – Face of Saturn, Term of Jupiter, Feminine, Increasing Fortune
15° Libra – Face of Saturn, Term of Jupiter, Masculine
16° Libra – Face of Saturn, Term of Jupiter, Masculine
17° Libra – Face of Saturn, Term of Jupiter, Masculine, Light
18° Libra – Face of Saturn, Term of Jupiter, Masculine
19° Libra – Face of Saturn, Term of Jupiter, Masculine, Deep
20° Libra – Face of Jupiter, Term of Jupiter, Feminine, Dark, Increasing Fortune
21° Libra – Face of Jupiter, Term of Venus, Feminine
22° Libra – Face of Jupiter, Term of Venus, Feminine
23° Libra – Face of Jupiter, Term of Venus, Feminine
24° Libra – Face of Jupiter, Term of Venus, Feminine
25° Libra – Face of Jupiter, Term of Venus, Feminine
26° Libra – Face of Jupiter, Term of Venus, Feminine, Light
27° Libra – Face of Jupiter, Term of Venus, Masculine
28° Libra – Face of Jupiter, Term of Mars, Masculine
29° Libra – Face of Jupiter, Term of Mars, Masculine, Void, Deep
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