Libra weighs in equal scales the year.
Of the zodiacal signs Libra is the only one not Euphratean in its origin, the figure having been imported from
. It is also the only zodiacal constellation that represents an inanimate object. It represented originally the balance of the sun at the horizon between the upper and under worlds, and secondarily the equality of the days and nights at the equinoxes. Egypt
The title " Libra," the " Balance," we owe to the Romans, but it is not known definitely how far back into antiquity the symbol goes. The constellation is anciently represented by the figure of a man holding a pair of scales. The human figure is omitted in all Arabian zodiacs, as it was held unlawful by the believers in the Koran to make any representations of the human form. On Burritt's Atlas also the Scales appear alone. The Greeks combined this constellation with the Scor pion, and the stars in Libra formed the claws of the creature. Greek writers mention "Chelae Scorpionis" (the claws of the Scorpion) in the place of Libra. Libra seems to have been made an individual constellation, and separated from Scorpio, in the time of Julius Caesar, for the Romans placed here the figure of Julius Caesar holding a balance in his hand, instead of the Claws, and among the titles "Libra" was commonly employed. In after time, the figure of the Emperor was taken away, and the Scales only were retained as we now see them. Some authorities hold that, in spite of the fact that the Greeks did not recognise a constellation figure between Virgo and Scorpio, an independent constellation existed at an earlier date. It is not clear just why the Greeks failed to discover it. Serviss states that there are indistinct indications that in the valley of the Euphrates, the constellation now known as Libra stood for the
. Besides the analogy mentioned respecting the sign of the Balance and the equality of the nights and days at the time of the autumnal equinox, we find that the Balance was the emblem of the office of Virgo, as the goddess of justice, so that there seems to have been a desire to connect these two constellations. The Balance in poetical fiction belongs to the goddess Astraea, and in the pans the fate of mortals was supposed to be weighed. Tower of Babel
The symbol of the sign Libra, represents it is said the beam of a pair of scales in equilibrium, thus denoting the equal duration of the nights and days. Brown however thinks that the symbol represents the top of the archaic Euphratean altar, located in the zodiac next preceding Scorpio, and figured on early gems, tablets, and boundary stones. Allen points out that the stars in Libra, seem to represent a circular altar.
These stars were also thought to represent a censer, or a lamp and fire. On an ancient zodiac there appears between the constellations of the Virgin and the Scales, the figure of a mound or altar, round which a serpent twines. Miss Clerke recalls the association of the seventh month, " Tashritu," with the seventh sign, and with the Holy Mound, Tul Ku, designating the Biblical Tower of Babel surmounted by an altar, so there is little doubt that in very early times the ancients saw in these stars an altar towering to the skies. Libra is thus connected with the constellation Ara, the Altar, just south of it, and many have considered that in Libra, the these figures are represented the altar of Noah, erected after the Deluge. In Brown's Euphratean star list Libra is designated "the Claws," "the Life Maker of Heaven," and "the Lofty Altair "
Libra has been a great favourite with the poets of all ages.
Manilius thus alludes to the Starry Balance:
Then Day and Night are weigh'd in Libra's Scales
Equal a while.
Milton refers to the constellation in his Paradise Lost :
Th' Eternal to prevent such horrid fray
Hung forth in heav'n his golden scales yet seen
Betwixt Astraea and the Scorpion sign,
Wherein all things created first he weighed.
And Homer sings:
Th' Eternal Father hung
His golden Scales aloft.
But Allen thinks this is not a reference to our Libra. Longfellow in his "Occupation of Orion" wrote :
the scale of night
Silently with the stars ascended.
And in his "Poet's Calendar" for September we read:
I bear the Scales, when hang in equipoise
The night and day.
In India Libra was regarded as a Balance, and in the zodiac of that country it is figured as a man bending on one knee and holding a pair of scales. In
this constellation first represented a dragon, but afterwards a celestial Balance. In their early solar zodiac it was the Crocodile, or Dragon, the national emblem. The early Hebrews also regarded Libra as a Scale-beam, as did the Egyptians, and it plainly appears as such on the Denderah planisphere. The beam was the instrument used by the .Egyptians in measuring the inundations of the China Nile, and some claim that because of this the beam was honoured by a place among the stars. The Egyptian symbolic head-dress which appears in many representations of their ancient gods, as shown in the illustration, has, according to Plunket, an astronomical significance in which the constellation Libra figures. The two feathers represent the equal weights of the scale of Justice, and there also appear the horns of a goat and ram, and the disc enclosing a scarabaeus, so that the head- dress is really an astronomic monogram containing four constellation figures in one, Aries, Cancer, Libra, and Capricornus. According to Virgil the ancient husbandmen were wont to regard this sign as indicating the proper time for sowing their winter grain.
But when Astraea's balance hung on high
Betwixt the nights and days divides the sky,
Then yoke your oxen, sow your winter grain,
Till cold December comes with driving rain,
Those who refer the zodiacal constellations to the twelve tribes of
, ascribe the Balance to the tribe of Asher. According to Serviss, Libra seems to be identical with a Mayan constellation, with which was associated a temple where dwelt a priest whose special business it was to ad- minister justice, and to foretell the future by means of information obtained from the spirits of the dead. The Peruvian asterism corresponding to Libra was en titled "Rainbow Lightning," "Sacred or Israel ," and "the Earth." These titles in a measure indicate the tempestuous nature of the weather when the sun was in this sign. Divided River
To the early Christians, Libra represented the Apostle Philip, and Csesius identified it with the balances of the book of Daniel, in which Belshazzar had been weighed and found wanting.
In astrology Libra is the House of Venus. Those born from Sept. 23d to Oct. 23d are said to be ruled by this sign. The natives of this constellation are tall and well made, says Proctor, elegant in person, round faced, and ruddy but plain featured. When old they are of sweet disposition, just and upright in dealings. It governs the lumbar regions and reigns over
Austria, Alsace, Savoy, Portugal, India, Ethiopia, Lisbon, Vienna, Frankfort, Antwerp, and . It is a masculine sign and fortunate. Vulcan was the deity that watched over it. The significant flower was the violet, the precious stone the diamond. The southern scale meant bad fortune, the northern on the contrary was eminently fortunate. Only two of the stars in the constellation are specially interesting, Alpha Libras was called by the Arabs "Zubenel- genubi," meaning the southern claw. It is a wide double and culminates at 9 p.m. on the 17th of June. It marks the Hindu lunar station signifying "Branched." It is a curious fact that the Peruvians of the west- ern world had in connection with Libra a ceremonial purification by bathing at the junction of two streams. This would be where the stream branched out, which shows clearly a similarity of representation respecting this star between two widely separated peoples. Beta Librae was known by an Arab name signifying the northern claw. It is the only naked eye green-coloured star in the heavens, and is an interesting variable. Eratosthenes called it the brightest of all the stars in the Scorpion, that is in the double constellation, and Claudius Ptolemy gives it as equal with Antares, the brilliant first magnitude star in the heart of the Scorpion. As it is now a full magnitude fainter than Antares, it must have lost much of its pristine brilliance, though there is a possibility that Antares may have increased in brilliance. Charleston
Source: ”Star lore of all ages; a collection of myths, legends, and facts concerning the constellations of the Northern Hemisphere”, 1911 by Olcott, William Tyler
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