Standing in the bustling, crowded marketplaces of Babylon and ancient Egypt: here we find the Scales. No springs, no digital readout- only a simple balance. Three men watch from either side with one standing in the center. He puts ninety grams of copper on one platform and gold onto the other. Here is Libra: the seventh sign, the Scales across cultures for thousands of years. In the work of the Roman poet Manilius, this sign was a man holding a balance. However, this sign's nature as an inanimate object shows how impartial and logical it truly is. Human Virgo rushes to help those in need, animal Scorpio stings, but the Scales assess.
Read any magazine with an astrology column and you soon run into the idea that Libra is the sign of artists. This sign often elevates aesthetic sensitivity. But what is less understood is that the appreciation and creation of beauty both serve Libra's purpose. Both promote calm. Turn a corner on a mountain trail. Step from a dusky pine forest into a wide meadow overlooking mile after mile of blue-green ridges. See the delicate pinks and reds and blues of a flawless sunset. Feel the surprise. The pleasure. Our muscles relax. We sigh. The same mental and physical reactions occur when we watch a ballerina pirouetting across a stage, or see an attractive painting. Or look at our bedroom when we have finally gotten around to cleaning it up. The perception of harmony in the outer world translates into calm in the inner world. And that is one of the keystones of Libra's strategy: it must constantly beautify its environment. Learning to paint may do it. So will traveling to visually dramatic places like mountains and galleries. And so will making the bed.
Libra is the Cardinal sign which initiates consciousness in the upper half of the zodiac wheel, known as the transpersonal cycle. After the adjustments made in Virgo, the self emerges above the horizon to grow beyond its limitations. Here, Libra is representative of truly hearing others viewpoints, understanding their needs, and learning about oneself through comparison and relativity. Relationships become the focus in Libra: the intention is to practice balance and equality. Discordant aspects and extremes of our nature instead become tempered and united. From Libra to the end we will begin to relate to the social system, other people’s realities, and the role of the collective: here the pathway opens to socializing our being.
Libra leads consciousness to embrace the world of the social "other." The intent with this sign is to learn relativity. Seeking to evaluate itself, the soul compares and contrasts itself with that of others. Inherently, this sign is an archetype of extremes– we learn the balance of polarity through testing all possible extremes, and like weighing scales, Libra fluxes through its learning experience. In Libra we truly give, not just take, and listen to other people in a way that is true to their experience, as opposed to filtered through only our own expectations.
A Libra may also not be able to receive what comes their way because of their own unconscious projected expectations (displaced emotions) and then feels that no matter how much they give, they are not given to in ways that they truly need. It is the issue of equal giving and receiving, and the underlying need to be needed that must be addressed in order to create equality within relationships. In an empowered state, the Libra archetype will manifest as a person who has healthy boundaries within relationships (knowing when to give and when not to), and would not compensate their natural identity within relationships or society in order to gain approval. In this way, the Libran archetype is in line with the concepts of sharing, giving and inclusion, since it does not seek to dominate with its own ideas, but is willing to listen.
Many of our Libran neighbors choose to move in a different direction from normalcy, creating larger than life personas that shepherd people and conversations forward. The modern Libra gains popularity in the blink of an eye. This sign understands that being a person doesn't mean being an island— it reminds us that life is made of love. To the Libran, the symbolism of the scales is an intrinsic part of their nature— the need for balance and harmony is paramount. They need a harmonious background, free of undue pressure and strife, in order to feel happy.
Sitting on the fence until the problem goes away instead of committing to one side or the other sure makes it easy to win the favor of others. Thus Libra is easy to give people the impression of laziness; in truth they often show dissatisfaction before they take action, but once they set their mind, they move forward courageously. Libra, the medium between the Cardinal signs, exalts in Saturn. The lesson to be learned is that Libra must make firm choices and must be responsible for those decisions.
Mary thinks Jack is selfish. Jack thinks Mary is manipulative. Their friends are divided. One of them must be right. But which one? Only Libra understands. They are both right. Truth lies in the balance of the two. To Libra, every truth is composed of two half-truths. And no sign is less content with a half-truth. Truth is inherently ambiguous. If we can accept that, our perceptions are less clouded. But that knowledge is a terrible burden. We come to crossroads. We need to make decisions. And yet every decision is a definite step. Bridges burn behind us. Want to go to medical school? Then you can't go write poetry on Crete. Want to be married? That means you stop being single. The mind can hold both possibilities. But life is far narrower. There we must choose.
Libra stands at the crossroads. Take the high road; you are haunted by the ghost of the low road. Take the low road; you meet the ghost of high road. All the Scales can do is flip a coin and then act as if they passionately believed there were no alternative. Without commitment, life is nothing but a long wait. We cannot keep our options open forever. But Libra may try, and in that attempt it meets its shadow. Once captured, the Scales can only bide their time. They drift. They smile sweetly. They make no enemies because they hold no position. And yet beneath the peaceful exterior, tension is mounting. Something is fundamentally wrong. What is it? No threats. No pressures. No problems. Nothing is happening. And yet somewhere an ancient clock is ticking. With or without decisions, life goes on.
Aries is opposite to Libra, and in the perspective of this polarity, we learn to become aware of the needs and realities of other people. This corresponds with the lesson in Libra of learning to give to other people, as previously in the growth of our subjective awareness we have been taking from others.
Taurus and Libra are both ruled by Venus. This relationship expresses the comparison that our relationship with ourselves directly affects our ability to relate to others. This also may be another way of understanding Venus in her changing cycle as morning star and evening star. Ideally, when our relationship to ourselves (Taurus) contains a healthy dose of self-worth, and we have the self-sufficiency to identify and fulfill our personal needs, this is naturally reflected in the way we enter relationships. Here we are not looking for someone to fulfill us, but to share ourselves in equality.
Virgo, though previous to this sign, still may present a lesson of developing discernment between compulsion and proper self-awareness. For instance, say that someone has Venus in Virgo with Mars in Libra— it might be a likely outcome that such a person, in response to their central inner loneliness (Virgo) would initiate many relationships (Libra) on a compulsive basis to drown the void.
Pisces at an inconjunct to Libra, and Cancer at a square to Libra, present the possibility for instability with the expression of one's identity.