“Libra, whose Scales, when Autumn turns the Signs,Marcus Manilius, Astronomica tr. Thomas Creech
And ruddy Bacchus treads the juicy Vines;
In equal Balance, poize the Night and Day,
Teach how to measure, and instruct to weigh”
- Element: Air
- Modality: Cardinal
- Ruler: Venus
- Date: September 22 – October 23
- Symbol: Scales
The relatively faint group of stars that make up the constellation of Libra have long been depicted using the symbol of the scales. The ancient Babylonians called it MUL.zibanu, and it represented the scales of the deity Shamash, the god of justice and equity, and associated with the Sun. The symbol of the scales may have entered the Hellenistic world via ancient Egyptian mythology, where the heart of a dead person was weighed against the feather of Maat, the goddess of truth and justice, to judge if they had lived a righteous life. The Romans associated it with the scales held by the goddess Astraea, herself identified with the constellation of Virgo.
While now a part of the 12-sign system of the Zodiac, Libra was not recognized as an individual constellation by early Greek authors, but instead was associated with Scorpio. Known as chelae, meaning “claws” in Latin, its brightest stars represented a balance between the energies of the neighboring signs: Zubenelgenubi, Arabic for “the southern claw”, has a martial, malefic nature, whereas Zubeneschamali, “the northern claw”, is considered more benefic and is associated with legal skills. The juxtaposition of these two natures finds a remarkable parallel in Greek mythology: when Themis, the goddess of divine justice, was disregarded, she did not exact punishment herself. Instead, she left the task of delivering retribution to the winged goddess Nemesis.
The glyph for Libra is derived from the Egyptian hieroglyph Akher, signifying the place of sunrise, perhaps because of the Full Moon in Libra occurring near the spring equinox. Rome was supposedly founded when the Moon was in Libra, and Roman authors such as Manilius associate the sign with legal professions, such as judges.
With the Sun entering Libra at the autumn equinox, the equal length of night and day espouses the Libran values of balance, measure, and judgement, especially at a time of year when agricultural societies would assess the harvest before the winter ahead. In the Christian tradition, the feast day of Michaelmas fell closest to the equinox and celebrated the Archangel Michael, who was considered a warrior of justice and defender of the innocent in both Judaism and Christianity.
The only zodiac sign represented by an inanimate object, Libra is nonetheless considered a humane sign, thanks to the goddess of truth and justice typically seen as holding the scales. Librans possess natural charm and an awareness of good manners, with their drive toward coexistence and justice at the center of what it takes to establish a civilized society.
The average Libran, regardless of how extroverted or introverted they are, has an intuitive grasp of how social interactions work, and most can change the sides of themselves that they present to fit the context. They make a good first impression and typically can get along with anybody—or at least hide it if they cannot. Librans may not show all of their cards in social interactions, demonstrating a strategic approach that many, less subtle signs might see as disingenuous.
The cardinal modality of Libra is often expressed in a sanguine manner typical of an air sign and is made clear in contrast with Aries, its opposing sign. Where personal choice and autonomy are at the center of the Aries ethos, the Libran native defers to consensus and compromise, preferring to support the will of the group over that of the individual. This is echoed by the fall of the Sun in Libra: the other is often prioritized ahead of the self, with Libras often opting to forgo their desires so as not to rock the boat. Whereas an Aries might spring into action in pursuit of what they want, a Libran native might spring into action in pursuit of what others want—or at least what the Libran thinks they want. As a result, many people with strong Libra placements have difficulty making decisions, preferring to let others, or the context, decide for them. Preserving a sense of harmony is often more important than acting on their desires.
In line with the diurnal rulership of Venus, Libra espouses the ideals of romantic love, harmony, and beauty. Whereas Taurus’ Venusian nature is earthy, sensual, and rooted in fertility, Libra’s is idealistic, tied more to pleasures of the mind and soul than of the body. Those with Libra placements, especially Libra rising, command an effortless grace. They value appearances, and will shape their style—and often, that of their partner—to make a good impression. The result is a refined, if understated style of dress.
While a Libran might not stand out in a crowd with colorful combinations, a close look reveals a sense of proportion and an appreciation for quality. Their creative power comes from this aesthetic balance, the ability to combine disparate elements into a complementary whole, with everything in its right measure. Librans prefer well-ordered living spaces, with an appearance that matches the harmony that—hopefully—reigns within their walls, and untidy or chaotic spaces can severely affect their personal sense of equilibrium.
Libra’s role as the exaltation of Saturn could be traced to the Romans associating the planet with their god of agriculture. The constellation’s alignment with the Sun during the autumn harvest season emphasized this, with weighing and measuring essential activities of this time of year. Similarly, Libra is a prime place for the limits and distinctions loved by Saturn—although the sign’s dedication to impartiality is not always as waterproof as they might have you believe. Rather, this association with weighing and measuring, clear in the symbolism of the scales, speaks of the central drive of the sign—the pursuit of balance.
Librans are the peacekeepers of the zodiac, often trying to reconcile conflicting views, either in social settings or within themselves, to maintain a sense of harmony. Not unlike their sister sign, Taurus, their nonconfrontational nature can lead them to ignore issues until it is too late, or land them in the middle of conflict. Similarly, whereas Scorpios seek unfiltered passion, Librans may have trouble grappling with deeper emotions, no matter how social and affectionate they may appear on the surface. A Libran native prefers to remain dispassionate, an objective observer, rather than get caught up in the messiness of the raw human experience. An extension of this is an unwillingness to get one’s hands dirty, a tendency that can come off as laziness. Some Librans may pass up opportunities, no matter how attractive, if getting involved is too messy for their taste.
While Virgos display a dedication to serving others or a higher cause, Librans are more interested in equality and partnership. The presence of another, often a romantic partner, provides a sense of balance to the vacillating air sign, or at least a valuable sounding board. Funnily enough for a Venus-ruled sign, this drive for partnership is less about love than reciprocity and mutuality.
The typical Libran requires the example of another to get a better grasp on how they themselves feel. This tendency can earn the derision of more opinionated signs, but like any good legal professional, Librans prefer to gather all of the facts before coming to a conclusion. Libran natives may vacillate between rather disparate views, at least until they have made a decision. Those expecting a Libran to take their side in a dispute might end up sorely disappointed—even if they are supportive, they will not necessarily shy away from voicing the valid concerns of the other party. That being said, Librans are bridge-builders extraordinaire, and excel at helping warring parties reconcile their differences, even if only to coexist without incident.
In traditional astrology Libra is associated with the lower back and kidneys, the latter of which was considered the seat of fear and anxiety in traditional Chinese medicine. Libra can add a sense of refinement or a concern with balance to a planet. Libra on a house cusp can represent an area of life where the native strives for balance or an area of life where the native is keen to share experiences with others. The beauty industry is associated with Libra, as are legal professions.
It is their reticence to choose a side or stand passionately by a conviction that gives Librans their unique capacity for justice. By weighing each situation and viewpoint as impartially as they can, the Scales strive to build an atmosphere of cooperation and coexistence. With night and day in equal measure, as the fruits of summer are weighed and stored for the coming winter, Libra knows that one of the greatest human strengths is to see through the eyes of another and, in doing so, creep closer to the truth.
- Star lore of the Constellations: Libra, the Scales – skyscript.co.uk
- Libra: the Scales by Deborah Houlding
- Manilius on the 12 Signs, Jim Eshelman
- Libra (constellation): Wikipedia
- Libra: Wikipedia
- The Contemporary Astrologer’s Handbook, Sue Tompkins
- Christian astrology, William Lilly