Libra is distinct amongst the Signs for two reasons. The first is that it represents the only man made or inanimate object, with the other constellations all either representing a god, goddess or a living creature, whereas the Constellation of Libra is represented as a pair of scales. Secondly, in the ancient world, Libra did not appear as a separate Sign until late in the game. The word Zodiac means the ‘circle of animals and souls’ and a set of scales is neither of those. In ancient Astrology the 30 degrees that are now Libra’s domain belonged in part to Virgo and part to Scorpio, Libra’s next door neighbours on either side, with the largest part going to Scorpio. In ancient times there were only 11 Signs in the Zodiac, 10 covering 30 degrees (as all Signs do now) and Scorpio covering 60 degrees – twice as many as it does today. When the ancients looked up into the sky they saw the ‘Scales’ they were seen as either ‘the claws’ of the Scorpion, belonging to the Constellation of Scorpio or as the ‘scales’ of Astrea, Goddess Justice, and part of the Constellation of Virgo. It wasn’t until later that Libra became a constellation in its own right. Thus, Librans to this day are said to be able to lose themselves into other’s lives or into their relationships or else there is a fear of not being noticed, paid attention to or taken seriously, which they fight to avoid. Librans are often therefore fiercely independent as a result and from an early age, determined not to be overlooked and to be noticed.
In old star maps, the ‘Scales’ are depicted as Astrea, Goddess of Justice. It is Astrea’s image we see outside courthouses blindfolded, holding a sword in one hand and scales in the other. This is a symbol that is well known and is associated with justice and judicial systems. As the Goddess of Justice Astrea was said to weigh the souls of the departed after death to determine their moral worth. It was she who determined whether they should go to the Elysian Fields, where they could enjoy eternal happiness or be sent to the Underworld for redemption. The stars of Libra were seen as the ‘Chelae’ or ‘claws’ long before they were identified as the ‘Scales’, representing balance, but Libra didn’t become a constellation in its own right until Roman times. Then the ‘claws’ were referred to as ‘Jugum’, ‘the Voke’ or ‘beam of balance’. The most accepted theory is that she was transformed into the ‘Scales’ because the Sun goes into the Constellation of Libra on the autumn equinox, a time when day and night are balanced. The first time historical records that mention Libra are when Caesar (Pontifex Maximus) instigated the Julian calendar. Thus, the Romans claim to have created Libra. The Romans liked the notion of balance implied by the ‘Scales’. In fact they believed that Rome was founded when the Moon was in the Constellation of Libra. They thought that the balance and order that Libra brought, represented their idea of how society should be. They didn’t think that Libra belonged with the dangerous energy of Scorpio, rather the gentle energy of Virgo and Astrea.
In 43 BC a comet appeared in the Constellation of Libra. Shortly after, in September, Caesar was assassinated and it was said that the comet carried his soul to heaven. Whichever constellation the stars of Libra are now associated with, the group of stars that form Libra have been associated with the judgement of the living and dead as far back as 2,000 BC, in Babylonian times. There they were seen as Zabanitu, who weighed the souls of the deceased. The name Libra comes from the Libyan goddess of Holy Law who carried the scales of judgement. In Egypt she was Maat, the spirit of equilibrium, justice and truth. The Egyptians saw in Libra a set of scales they called ‘the Scales of Maat’. It was said that she weighed each human heart after death. A feather was put onto one side of the scales and a human heart on the other. If the heart was too heavy, the soul would have to return to earth and reincarnate, until it was ‘light’ enough for final liberation. The Greeks mingled the stars of Libra and Scorpio together and the ‘Scales’ were not recorded as a separate entity in their own right, until Roman times.
The stars of Libra were also seen as an altar on a mound and as the Tower of Babel in the distant past. They have also been recorded as representing the lighthouse of Alexandria, one of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world and also as the great lamp between the Scorpion’s claws. Throughout the Mediterranean, the birthplace of western Astrology, the time of year ruled by Libra, is the time of year when the crops were gathered and weighed. In fact, it was ritual in many ancient cultures to weigh the crops under the Full Moon that fell closest to the autumn equinox, when the Sun moved into Libra, a Full Moon known to this day as Harvest Moon. This is a particularly bright Full Moon, so it allowed them to work well into the night, after the sun had set. The ancient Chinese called the stars of Libra ‘Show Sing’ (or star of longevity), later changed to ‘Tien Ching’ (the Celestial Balance). The appearance of the Constellation of Libra happened at a time of year when the annual regulation of weights was made by Chinese law. In ancient India they called the stars of Libra ‘Tula’ (balance) and they depicted the constellation as a man bent on one knee holding a set of scales aloft.
Libra is the constellation of the ‘Scales’, which are a symbol of harmony, balance, rights and justice. Libra lies between The Virgin and the Scorpion and the Sun passes into Libra around 23rd September each year, a date when the days and nights are of equal length.
Venus has been associated with Libra since ancient times. In fact according to Macrobius, Roman writer of antiquarian lore, Venus appeared in this constellation at the time of Creation and you can’t go any further back than that. Macrobius also said that the goddess bound human couples together under the yoke of matrimony. Venus is a planet of exquisite beauty. The third brightest object in the skies (behind the Sun and Moon), it was once thought of as two separate planets as it is visible for part of the year at sunset and part of the year at sunrise. The ancients knew, however, that the ‘morning star – Eosphorus’ and the ‘evening star – Hesperus’ were one in the same, but to this day Venus rules two Signs – Taurus and Libra. Venus is the second planet from the Sun and the sixth largest in the solar system. Because it’s closer to earth than any other planet, to us it appears the largest.
Aphrodite is the goddess behind Venus, the ruling planet of both Taurus and Libra. In Taurus we meet the earthy, sensual and material side of Venus. Taurean energy is very old, dating back to the beginnings of time, when matriarchal society ruled. It was a time of fertility rites, fertility was revered and statues of well endowered feminine forms have been found by archaeologist’s world wide (all aspects of Aphrodite). In Taurus, Aphrodite is associated with the earth. In Libra we see the more intellectual side of Venus and more akin to modern times. Aphrodite was a complex goddess, for while she represents the desire for love, beauty and pleasure and it was said that wherever she walked, flowers grew in her footsteps, she was also vengeful and vain. The ‘Judgement of Paris’ is one of the myths that illustrate this aspect of Aphrodite. In Greek mythology there was a lot of vying for power amongst the goddesses, although Aphrodite proclaimed herself ‘No. 1’, as Venus energy does. Out of spite for not being invited to a wedding banquet a ‘miffed’ goddess threw a golden apple into the Wedding Hall and written upon it were the words ‘To the loveliest goddess’. A squabble broke out between Aphrodite, Hera and Athene as to who should get the prize. So Zeus commanded Paris (Prince of Troy) to judge the contest. Paris was an impressionable and hormone filled youth. He quickly realised he was in a ‘no win’ situation, as you didn’t want to make enemies of any one of those girls. In fear he offered to cut the apple in three. No way! Forced to choose the three goddesses each made their pitch. Hera offered Paris all the lands of the earth and Athene offered to make him the mightiest and most just of warriors.
Aphrodite, clothed in garb that left little to the imagination, opened her robes to reveal her naked body and offered Paris the love and the heart of the most beautiful woman in the world. Paris’ hormones got the better of him and he picked Aphrodite. Paris’ price was Helen (of Troy fame), the most beautiful woman in the world and while the other two goddesses proclaimed that there were no hard feelings, they walked off quietly plotting Paris’s downfall. The events of that scene held tragic reverberations, for Helen was married and when Paris claimed his prize and took Helen back to Troy, an event happened that comes down to this day as ‘The face that launched a thousand ships’. Helen and the ‘thousand ships’ belonged to her very disgruntled husband and what followed was the Trojan War and the downfall of Troy. Thus, Aphrodite also rules the consequences of inappropriate choices that come from the heart.
Libra is the first of the three Autumn Signs. In ancient, northern hemisphere times the Sun moves into Libra on the autumn equinox, a time of year when the days and nights are of equal length. At the autumn equinox the earth is going through a gentle transformation. It is halfway between the searing hot days of summer and the water logged, cold days of winter. The summer crops have been harvested and the earth itself is resting and through the last two seasons it has been planted, it has given birth to new growth and it has been ploughed in readiness for the new season and it can finally rest. It’s a time when the crops are being distributed and a careful balance is needed between what is kept for food and seed and what is given back to the earth, to regenerate new life for the coming year. The right balance and making the right choices could mean the difference between life and death in ancient times.
As the first of the Autumn Signs Libra is a cardinal Sign and it is also an Air Sign, representing a time of year when there is no work to be done in the fields. The work that needs to be done is of an intellectual nature. Discussions and choices need to be made, often long and deliberate. It’s the ideas and choices made while the Sun was in Libra that carried the ancients safely through the harsh winter yet to come.
Libra is one of the most harmonious and balanced of Signs, representing fairness and justice. For centuries Libra didn’t have it’s own identify, overshadowed by Virgo and Scorpio. It wasn’t until Roman times that she was officially recognised. Whatever the stars of Libra, that form the ‘Scales’ were called and no matter which constellation they were assigned to, the central theme has been balance, fairness and harmony, of measuring right against wrong and ensuring that justice is done. Venus energy is strong here in this Sign, with myths going right back to the Creation where she bound couples together, right through to Greek times when Venus better known as Aphrodite. Libra is a Sign deep in the concept of love and as the 7th Sign of the Zodiac it rules the 7th House in any chart, that of marriage, relationships and partnership. This part of the chart rules committed relationships and lasting partnerships. Cupid himself belongs to Libra and the 7th House, as does Aphrodite, but not in the sensual way she rules Taurus.
In Libra Venus works through Air energy and therefore the mind. Libra represents a time of the year that the harvest was being stored and sorted and the long winter months were looming. It was a time for finding a partner to keep you warm and help you through those times. In ancient times life and death often came down to having a mate or partner and her the romancing in Leo, makes way to a more serious commitment. Thus, Libran energy is very much one of balance, harmony and love, not the romantic love we meet in Leo. This is deep and committed love or commitment found between married couples and partnerships. In the Libran realm, which is that of relationships, Venus/Aphrodite energy also brings an important concept, that of choice. In the Judgement of Paris we saw the consequence of the wrong choice. In another important Aphrodite myth, that of Psyche and Eros, we see the consequence of having trust and integrity and risking all in the pursuit of truth. Thus, Libran energy is very much one of choice. The story of Psyche and Eros is one of divine and mortal urges, the very ones we face in our own lives.