Libra – the Scales of Justice
Posted by Fredsvenn on June 22, 2016
Libra is a constellation and the seventh astrological sign in the Zodiac. It spans the 180–210th degree of the zodiac. The ruling planet of Libra is Venus. Libra is the only constellation in the sky represented by an inanimate object. The other eleven signs are represented either as an animal or mythological characters throughout history.
Under the tropical zodiac, Sun transits this area on average between (northern autumnal equinox) September 23 and October 22, and under the sidereal zodiac, the sun currently transits the constellation of Libra from approximately October 16 to November 17.
Libra’s status as the location of the equinox earned the equinox the name “First Point of Libra”, though this location ceased to coincide with the constellation in 730 because of the precession of the equinoxes.
Based on the modern constellation boundaries, the northward equinox passed from Taurus into Aries in the year −1865 (1866 BC), passed into Pisces in the year −67 (68 BC), and will pass into Aquarius in the year 2597.
The March equinox or Northward equinox is the equinox on the Earth when the Sun appears to leave the southern hemisphere and cross the celestial equator, heading northward as seen from earth. In the Northern Hemisphere the March equinox is known as the vernal equinox, and in the Southern Hemisphere as the autumnal equinox.
The point where the sun crosses the celestial equator northwards is called the First Point of Aries. However, due to the precession of the equinoxes, this point is no longer in the constellation Aries, but rather in Pisces. By the year 2600 it will be in Aquarius.
The symbol of the scales is based on the Scales of Justice held by the ancient Greek Titaness Themis, the Greek personification of divine law and custom. She is described as “of good counsel”, and is the personification of divine order, law, natural law and custom. Themis means “divine law” rather than human ordinance, literally “that which is put in place”, from the Greek verb títhēmi, meaning “to put”.
To the ancient Greeks she was originally the organizer of the “communal affairs of humans, particularly assemblies”. Moses Finley remarked of themis, as the word was used by Homer in the 8th century BCE, to evoke the social order of the 10th- and 9th-century Greek Dark Ages:
Themis is untranslatable. A gift of the gods and a mark of civilized existence, sometimes it means right custom, proper procedure, social order, and sometimes merely the will of the gods (as revealed by an omen, for example) with little of the idea of right.
Finley adds, “There was themis—custom, tradition, folk-ways, mores, whatever we may call it, the enormous power of ‘it is (or is not) done’. The world of Odysseus had a highly developed sense of what was fitting and proper.”
Themis occurred in Hesiod’s Theogony as the first recorded appearance of Justice as a divine personage. Drawing not only on the socio-religious consciousness of his time but also on many of the earlier cult-religions, Hesiod described the forces of the universe as cosmic divinities.
Hesiod portrayed temporal justice, Dike, as the daughter of Zeus and Themis. Dike executed the law of judgments and sentencing and, together with her mother Themis, carried out the final decisions of Moirai. For Hesiod, Justice is at the center of religious and moral life, who, independently of Zeus, is the embodiment of divine will. This personification of Dike will stand in contrast to justice viewed as custom or law, and as retribution or sentence.
Themis became the inspiration for modern depictions of Lady Justice (Latin: Iustitia, the Roman goddess of Justice), an allegorical personification of the moral force in judicial systems. Her attributes are a blindfold, a balance and a sword. She often appears as a pair with Prudentia (Latin: prudentia, contracted from providentia meaning “seeing ahead, sagacity”), a personification of the ability to govern and discipline oneself by the use of reason, who holds a mirror and a snake.
Libra was known in Babylonian astronomy as MUL Zibanu (the “scales” or “balance”), or alternatively as the Claws of the Scorpion. The scales were held sacred to the Assyro-Babylonian sun god Shamash (“Sun”), who was also the lord of truth, justice and law. He is depicted as wearing a horned helmet and carrying a saw-edged weapon not unlike a pruning saw. The symbol of Shamash was the solar disk, with a four-pointed star inside it.
Shamash was the god of justice, corresponding to the Sumerian god Utu (Akkadian rendition of Sumerian UD “Sun”). Just as the Sun disperses darkness, so Shamash brings wrong and injustice to light. As a powerful solar deity, Shamash, whose consort was the goddess Aya, exercised the power of light over darkness and evil. In this capacity he became known as the god of justice and equity and was the judge of both gods and men. At night, Shamash became judge of the underworld.
The personification of justice balancing the scales dates back to the Goddess Maat, the ancient Egyptian concept of truth, balance, order, harmony, law, morality, and justice. Maat was also personified as a goddess regulating the stars, seasons, and the actions of both mortals and the deities, who set the order of the universe from chaos at the moment of creation.
After her role in creation and continuously preventing the universe from returning to chaos, her primary role in Egyptian mythology dealt with the weighing of souls (also called the weighing of the heart) that took place in the underworld, Duat. Her feather was the measure that determined whether the souls (considered to reside in the heart) of the departed would reach the paradise of afterlife successfully.
Her ideological counterpart was Isfet or Asfet (meaning “injustice”, “chaos”, or “violence”; as a verb, “to do evil”), an ancient Egyptian term from Egyptian mythology used in philosophy, which was built on a religious, social and political affected dualism.
Libra was also seen as the Scorpion’s Claws in ancient Greece. Since these times, Libra has been associated with law, fairness and civility. In Arabic zubānā means “scorpion’s claws”, and likely similarly in other Semitic languages. This resemblance of words may be why the Scorpion’s claws became the Scales. However, it has also been suggested that the scales are an allusion to the fact that when the sun entered this part of the ecliptic at the autumnal equinox, the days and nights are equal.
Libra only became a constellation in ancient Rome, when it began to represent the scales held by Astraea, the goddess of justice, associated with Virgo. According to the Babylonian Mul.Apin, which dates from 1000–686 BCE, this constellation was known as “The Furrow”, representing the goddess Shala’s ear of grain.
Shala was an ancient Sumerian goddess of grain and the emotion of compassion. The symbols of grain and compassion combine to reflect the importance of agriculture in the mythology of Sumer, and the belief that an abundant harvest was an act of compassion from the Gods.
Traditions identify Shala as wife of the fertility god Dagon, originally an East Semitic fertility god who evolved into a major Northwest Semitic god, reportedly of grain (as symbol of fertility) and fish and/or fishing (as symbol of multiplying), or consort of the storm god Hadad (Amoritic), Adad (Akkadian) or Iškur (Sumerian), the storm god in ancient Mesopotamian religion. In ancient depictions, she carries a double-headed mace-scimitar embellished with lion heads.
One star in this constellation, Spica (α Vir, α Virginis, Alpha Virginis), the brightest star in the constellation Virgo, retains this tradition as it is Latin for “ear of grain”, one of the major products of the Mesopotamian furrow.
The name Spica derives from Latin spīca virginis “the virgin’s ear of [wheat] grain”. It was also anglicized as Virgin’s Spike. Spica, along with Denebola or Regulus depending on the source and Arcturus, is part of the Spring Triangle asterism, and by extension, also of the Great Diamond together with Cor Caroli.
The constellation was also known as “AB.SIN” and “absinnu”. For this reasons the constellation became associated with fertility. According to Gavin White the figure of Virgo corresponds to two Babylonian constellations: the “Furrow” in the eastern sector of Virgo and the “Frond of Erua” in the western sector. The Frond of Erua was depicted as a goddess holding a palm-frond – a motif that still occasionally appears in much later depictions of Virgo.
The Greeks and Romans associated Virgo with their goddess of wheat/agriculture, Demeter-Ceres who is the mother of Persephone-Proserpina. Alternatively, she was sometimes identified as the virgin goddess Iustitia or Astraea, holding the scales of justice in her hand as the constellation Libra.
Another myth identifies Virgo as Erigone, the daughter of Icarius of Athens. Icarius, who had been favoured by Dionysus, was killed by his shepherds while they were intoxicated and Erigone hanged herself in grief; Dionysus placed the father and daughter in the stars as Boötes and Virgo respectively. In the Middle Ages, Virgo was sometimes associated with the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Due to the effects of precession, the First Point of Libra, (also known asthe autumn equinox point) lies within the boundaries of Virgo very close to β Virginis. This is one of the two points in the sky where the celestial equator crosses the ecliptic (the other being the First Point of Aries, now in the constellation of Pisces.) This point will pass into the neighbouring constellation of Leo around the year 2440.
Týr (Old Norse: Týr) is a Germanic god associated with law and heroic glory in Norse mythology, portrayed as one-handed. He is the Norse god of law and justice, who governs proceedings at the thing (the Germanic general assembly).
The word tiwaz, tyr in Old Norse, is the exact cognate to Sanskrit dayus, Greek Zeus and Latin Jupiter. Tiw was equated with Mars in the interpretatio germanica. Tuesday is in fact “Tīw’s Day” (also in Alemannic Zischtig from zîes tag), translating dies Martis.
The aspect of the world column expressed by the T-rune is that of the separator of heaven. This separation creates a phenomenological quality and is therefore necessary to multiversal manifestation as we know it. The column maintains world order, and protects humanity and the gods from the destruction that would come should the heavens (energy) and earth (matter) collapse into one another.