What is it about Libra?

by Eric Francis

Photo by Jeff Simpson. Taken from: Top of the Pops

"As usual, there is a great woman behind every idiot," opined John Lennon, who was a great man with a great woman next to him. Every astrologer has their poster children for the various signs, and Lennon is one of mine for Libra. I am not alone.

When you listen to that voice going at full-throttle, you can feel the mind and senses behind it. Lennon was a musician, but he was also an intellect, and social critic. Yet even in his most brutally honest moments, he presented himself with style. He understood one of the most basic laws of the Western world: you can do anything you want, as long as you do it well.

Libra's symbol is a scale. You could say it's the scales of justice. You could also say it's the image of what it takes to keep the universe in balance. The implication of scales, however, is that things can go out of balance as well, or that at times, one side of an equation can push itself out and be emphasized -- and this is part of the balancing process. Libra has the quality of equilibrium, but it also has the quality of excess in one direction, compensated by excess in the other.

Ask most any artist and they will tell you how important these extremes are to their work.

Scales are also used to evaluate. They are a symbol for measuring quantity that belies Libra's real gift -- that of assessing quality.

Quality is something that many Libras want in their lives, almost obsessively, and thus express in their work. Most do so organically. It's not a learned trait; rather, it's what they possess in their cells. There is a need to do it well, whatever it is; to do it right; and to make sure that the final result has an aesthetic appeal as well as a logical one. Libra, a member of the air sign family, is a mental sign, not an emotional one, but the world of feeling is never left out.

On the must ordinary human level, those scales may well represent the balance between the mind's ability to think and the senses' ability to feel and perceive. Libra does not do art for art's sake (that's a Leo or Pisces trait). Rather, Libra is the sign of practical idealism, which must always offer something to beauty as an aspect of its practicality. In other words, I can hear a Libra muttering something like, "If it's ugly, it's useless."

When one really begins to focus this combination of values, I could see a kind of fire igniting that spreads heat, light, and creative combustion.

But there's a quality to Libra that's more obvious. As the 7th sign, the sign opposite Aries, Libra is about relationships. Its existence establishes the first 180-degree polarity in the zodiac; the first mirror image or reflected sense of identity; the first opposite that comes through direct opposition. As a result, relating and confrontation, love and enmity, coexistence and judgment, are all made possible.

However, the Sun in Libra has what is perhaps the second worst reputation of any sign in the zodiac. Blamed mainly for being indecisive (a trait that hardly afflicts Libras alone; I meet relatively few people who can actually make a decision), even Alice A. Bailey, author of Esoteric Astrology, chimes in with an insult. Basically, she says, the special thing about this sign is that there's nothing so special at all.

But if that's true, then how ever do we explain John Lennon? You could not say that about him. We would also need some way to account for Julie Andrews, Margaret Thatcher, and Oscar Wilde. And Chuck Berry, Lenny Bruce, Truman Capote, and E.E. Cummings. Every sign has its outstanding natives, but Libras, particularly those who choose to express themselves, seem to be capable of morphing themselves from an ordinary tulip into the human blowtorch like few others.

They look so cute and speak so well that they blend into the scenery. Then, when needed most, or when we're least expecting it, bam. The Beatles.

I've also noticed that Libra has a knack for producing worthy, notable astrologers. Patric Walker was a Sun Libra, as is his successor, Sally Brompton. With Patric, who died 10 years ago next month, his gift was an ability to relate to his readers with a warmth and directness that many people can still feel today. Sally's gift is one of sheer intelligence: She is clear, she knows exactly what to say, and she manages to be tactful and sharp at the same time.

Then there was Aleister Crowley, who was the great man behind the esteemed woman named Evangeline Adams, considered the "mother of American astrology." Adams (an Aquarius Sun) was smart, a good mathematician, shrewd in business, and a better PR woman still; but she was busy, and not technically adept. Crowley, hardly a businessman but an indulgent scholar, a practitioner of Magik, and an impressive consumer of drugs, did a lot of ghost writing for her. Two of her best books were essentially Crowley's work, though he did not receive credit until recently.

There's a lot of energy coming from this sign. It's both intellectual and has creative potency; this is the nature of Venus (Libra's ruling planet), combined with the nature of a cardinal sign -- that is, a sign that commences one of the seasons. Venus rules two signs (three, if you count its exaltation in Pisces, which is revealing). There is that Taurus aspect of Venus, which is Venus reclining on her couch being fed peeled grapes, or having that natural gravitation for steadfast values, abundance, and turmoil (i.e., Bono).

The Pisces aspect is an irresistibility, and an early overwhelming power within the senses.

Then there is the Libra aspect, the one that reminds us that Venus usually runs a temperature of about 900 degrees. Being a cardinal sign provides impact and initiative. Being an air sign provides the vital quality of communication, awareness, and contact.

While Venus is the ruling planet of Libra, there's a second ruler in the form of Saturn being exalted in this sign. This is an interesting, even curious combination, and it was not for nothing that the ancients recognized that Saturn, the master planet, the lord of maturity, limits, and structures, was associated with the sign of balances.

Crowley said that the essence of the sign Libra is the drive for justice. I like this theory a lot.

He wrote, "The disposition given by the Sun in Libra is extremely deep rooted, and if the native should feel he is being abused or imposed upon, his indignation may make him seem cold and resentful. This same sense of justice seems to underlie every trait of the native. In religion, for example, he will not confine himself to any one system, but look for the best points in all and endeavor to strike a balance between them."

It is this same kind of mix-and-match principle Libras often use to decorate a room or cook a meal. If it works with dinner, it should also work with God.

He continues, "Sometimes the delicacy of mental adjustment may be interpreted as indecision; in undeveloped types, it may really amount to this weakness. It is certain that the native will not form snap judgments; he may prefer to suffer acutely than risk injustice to others."

If you ask me, this is because Libra is aware that others actually exist. When people are aware that others exist, they are a lot more careful about how they treat them. But this quality of relating -- of putting forth some expression directly to another person -- helps us understand why Libras so often can and do excel at anything that requires not only the gift of communication, but also the awareness that its main purpose is to convey love.

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