Leo (♌) (Greek: Λέων, Latin: Leōn), is the fifth astrological sign of the zodiac, originating from the constellation of Leo. It comes after Cancer and before Virgo . Under the tropical zodiac, the Sun transits this area approximately between July 23 and August 22 and under the sidereal zodiac, from roughly August 16 to September 15. The sign spans the 120th to 150th degree of celestial longitude. Leo is a fixed sign along with Taurus, Scorpio, and Aquarius. It is a northern sign and its opposite southern sign is Aquarius. The symbol of the lion is based on the Nemean lion.
The Nemean lion was a ferocious beast immortalized in Greek mythology that roamed near the city of Nemea. It was eventually killed by Heracles (Hercules) as the first of his twelve labors. It could not be killed with mortals’ weapons because its golden fur was impervious to attack. Its claws were sharper than mortals’ swords and could cut through any armor. The lion is usually considered to have been the offspring of the monsters Typhon and Echidna, as described by Hesiod in his Theogony. It is also said to have fallen from the moon as the offspring of Zeus and Selene, or alternatively born of the Chimera. The Nemean lion roamed the hills near Nemea in the Peloponnese and terrorized the city. Since it’s fur was impervious to weapons Hercules wound up having to get in close and strangle the lion with his immense strength.
Leo as Archetype
Leo is the fixed fire sign, the sun at its zenith of power, the heat of summer at it’s peak. The archetype of Leo is the King. Majestic, dazzling the subjects as well as himself with his shine, in the way Louis XIV designated himself the Sun King. It’s the personification of pride, self-confidence and dominance. It’s the attitude by which mankind accomplishes the greatest things and also the most devastating.
When did the Lion become such a powerful and universal symbol? The first appearance of the Lion as a may have been the Great Sphinx of Giza. Next to the Sphinx figure, archaeologists have discovered the remnants of a temple dedicated to sun worship. The temple was designed to track the movements of the sun. Of course Ra was the Egyptian sun gold and as with both the Greek sun god Helios and the Roman sun god Sol all are associated with Leo. Their symbolic act was to ride the sun-chariot across the sky each day. Each was considered the source of life. Another, later sun God, Apollo, is also associated with lions. The elaborate Terrace of the Lions is located at the temple complex dedicated to him on Delos in Greece.
Astrologists consider Leo rules the heart. As the sun is the center of the solar system and the king the power in the kingdom, the heart is the central organ of the body. Interestingly, the ancient Egyptians always left the heart inside the mummy while removing all the other organs. For the alchemists, the heart was indeed the image of the sun within an individual, while gold was the image of the sun on earth. There are an abundance of expressions of the idea that the human heart is a synonym for courage, truth, and unconditional love. Carl Jung was a Leo who developed the concept of individuation, the quest to find and develop one’s unique individual essence. This essential self needs to reach beyond the ego and connect with higher realms. The archetype of Leo involves balancing both personal self-expression and cooperation in the service of others. The archetype of the king can devolve to become the paranoid tyrant or reach self-actualization and become the secure, enlightened ruler, serving the best interests of the ruled.
In Tarot the archetype of Leo is found in the Major Arcana card Strength. While both kings and lions must be strong leaders Leos know that strength is not the only requirement. The Strength card is a reminder that strength comes in many forms, many more subtle than brute force. When faced with a challenge many instinctively respond with force, and then face very consequences ranging from undesirable to disastrous. The Leo archetype can either fall victim to this kind of reaction or develop a higher expression, showing courage, and dignity under pressure by exercising patience and self control.