Myths of the Zodiac: Libra

Libra is the seventh Zodiacal constellation and is symbolised as a pair of scales – often representing justice and balance. The constellation itself was first noted in Babylonian times, where it was sometimes known as Zibanu (scales) but more often was thought of as the ‘claws’ of its neighbour constellation Scorpio. In astrology, Libra is one of the three air signs  alongside Gemini and Aquarius. People born between September the 23rd and October 23rd fall under this sign.

Mythology

The ancient Babylonian God of justice was called Shamash, and the divine scales of Libra represented an aspect of him in the cosmos. Interestingly, Shamash featured in the Babylonian Epic of Gilgamesh where he helped Gilgamesh kill the man-lion-titan Humbaba – who was a symbol of the constellation Leo.

In Greek Mythology, Libra is most often associated with Dike – another fair-minded justice deity, this time a goddess. Libra is the Latin the name for weighing scales, which was Dike’s symbol. She was the daughter of Zeus and Themis,

The Ancient Greeks didn’t actually classify Libra as a true constellation; probably because It is quite faint in the sky, with no first magnitude or above stars. However, they did have a mythological story associated with its creation. According to the Greeks, Dike lived on Earth before the advent of war and other disasters, in a Garden of Eden type scenario. However, the humans there grew greedy and selfish leading Dike to reject their companionship. She left her Earthly body behind and flew up into the stars to observe and silently judge humanity for evermore. After she left, humanity declined, and all the sins of our modern day became more prevalent.

Interestingly, the Ancient Egyptians (despite having a scale wielding Anubis at the centre of their afterlife beliefs) didn’t see Libra as a set of scales either. They took the three brightest stars in the group and imagined them as a heavenly boat.

The first people to categorically recognise Libra as one of the modern zodiacal constellations were the Ancient Romans. They associated Libra with their goddess Justitia, who was very similar to the Greek’s Dike and eventually went onto form the ‘Lady Justice’ symbol that is familiar to many people all over the world today.

Astronomy & Astrology

In modern astrology, Libra is still a symbol of balance and harmony. Those born under Libra are said to be people-oriented and enjoy a balanced lifestyle. They may be more conscious of ethical decisions in their lives and they may also flit between careers or jobs as they enjoy all things but master few. Libra’s dominant planet is Venus.

In astronomy, Libra is most interesting as the star Gliese 581 falls within its boundaries. This star is unusual, as it contains three of the first few confirmed exoplanets – two of which may be Earth-like and in the stars habitable zone, with the right temperatures for liquid water to exist on the surface.