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The Sign Libra: Scales, Swords and Justice in Mythology

On September 22, the Sun began its month-long trek through Libra (the scales of justice), which is assigned to the justice card of the tarot. Libra also refers to the Greek word for yoke, of the type used to harness oxen and horses. The astrological glyph for Libra resembles both a balance and a yoke. Criminals are yoked by the balanced application of the law, and spouses are bound or yoked together by matrimony. Mythological images of scales, yokes and swords (another symbol of justice and a suit of the tarot) have early roots in Western myth and culture.

Greek Goddesses of Justice: Themis and Dike

The ancient Greeks spoke of two goddesses of justice, Themis and her daughter Dike (Astraea). Themis, the goddess of divine justice, was one of the Titans, a nature deity born of the union of the sky god Uranus and his mother/wife, the earth goddess Ge. Themis was an advisor to Zeus (Jupiter) after he purged the old pantheon. Classical images from Greece portray Themis holding the scales of justice in one hand and a sword in the other. Her eyes are covered, suggesting reliance on an abstract concept of fairness in making her decisions.

The goddess Themis mated with Zeus (Jupiter) to produce a daughter named Dike, who became the goddess of justice for the political and social affairs of the mundane world. Like Themis, Dike was depicted with a sword, but she did not carry the scales of divine justice. According to tradition, Dike was also called Astraea (the starry maiden) and was depicted as a virgin crowned with ears of grain and carrying a balance to weigh her grain.

Dike as the Virgin in Virgo

The poet Hessiod describes Dike as the virgin Justice, daughter of Zeus who sits beside her father and tells him what wickedness lies in the hearts of men. The virgin of the zodiacal sign Virgo, which precedes Libra, is none other than the pure and innocent Dike, goddess of mortal justice. Dike’s constellation Virgo in ancient times came just before Scorpio in the heavens. Demeter, the goddess of fertility and corn, whose daughter was abducted by Hades (Pluto), was the protector of Dike/Astraea, the virgin goddess of justice and grain.

The Horae: Dike and Her Sisters

Dike was one of the Horae, the plural of the Greek word for “hour” and origin of the word horoscope, which means “the marker of the hour.” The Greeks worshipped the Horae goddesses as the hours of the seasons of the year. The Horae were wardens of the skies and guardians of the gates of heaven. They also cared for, yoked and unyoked the horses that drew the chariots of the gods. It was the Horae who welcomed, tended to and adorned Venus/Aphrodite at her birth.

The Venus/Libra Connection

Venus is the planet that astrologers have assigned to rule Libra, the sign of the balance or the scales of justice. The empress, symbolizing female fecundity and fertility, is the tarot card associated with the planet Venus.

Libra was a late addition to the zodiac, carved out of the space between Virgo and modern Scorpio in the heavens. Originally, the region occupied by Libra was viewed as the claws of the scorpion. In the first century B.C., the portion of the zodiac earlier ascribed to the scorpion’s claws was given to the yoke of Libra or the scales of justice.

The sign Libra belongs to the element air, one of the four elements described by the Greek philosopher Empedocles. The tarot’s airy suit of swords depicts scenes having to do with balanced decision-making and dealing with the strife and conflict of everyday life.

Questions Posed by the Justice Card

When the Justice card appears in a tarot reading, we ask whether we have been acting in a fair and just manner. Have we been blinded by our emotions and petty jealousies in making decisions that will affect the moral balance of our lives? Are we honoring our commitments? Do we need to make amends for past injustices?

Tarot Meditations while the Sun is in Libra

This is an excellent time to meditate on the tarot’s justice and empress cards, as well as the suit of swords of the minor arcana. Study their images, look for their interconnections, and reflect on how they relate to your inner and outer life at the end of the summer.

Further Reading

If you are interested in the connections between tarot and astrology, here are some books you may find useful.

The Complete Illustrated Guide to Tarot by Rachel Pollack, Element Books.

Llewellyn’s 2000 and 2001 Tarot Calendars by Llewellyn Publications.

Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom by Rachel Pollack, Thoresons Publishing.

Tarot and the Journey of the Hero by Hajo Banzhaf, Weiser Publications.

Tarot Companion by Tracy Porter, Llewellyn Publications.

Tarot Plain and Simple by Tony Louis, Llewellyn Publications.

Notes

What is the Tarot?

The traditional tarot consists of 78 cards divided into 22 major arcana cards (greater secrets) and 56 minor arcana cards (lesser secrets). The major arcana cards depict 22 spiritual lessons in allegorical fashion. The 56 minor arcana cards are similar to a modern deck of 52 playing cards and consist of four suits containing ten pip or numbered cards plus four court cards in each suit. The most influential tarot deck of the past century, the Rider-Waite-Smith deck, was conceived by Arthur Waite, illustrated by Pamela Colman Smith, and published by Rider in 1910.

  

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Anthony Louis is the author of Horary Astrology Plain and Simple and of Tarot Plain and Simple (Llewellyn Publications) and has also authored computer reports on secondary progressions and vocational astrology for Halloran Software. He has lectured internationally and has been published widely in astrological literature. He is a member of the Astrological Society of Connecticut and maintains the website of that organization at http://www.geocities.com/asc_astrology/.

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For more information about Anthony Louis, click here.

Other StarIQ articles by Anthony Louis:

  • Tarot and the Sign Sagittarius   11/28/2002
  • Tarot and the Sign Virgo   8/20/2002
  • Tarot and the Sign Cancer   7/5/2002
  • Tarot and the Sign Pisces   3/1/2002
  • Tarot and the Sign Aquarius   1/13/2002
  • Tarot and the Sign Scorpio   10/31/2001
  • Tarot and the Sign Aries   3/26/2001
  • Tarot and the Sign Capricorn   12/19/2000
  • Astrology Looks at a Skeptic   11/12/2000
  • Michael Shermer: Astrology Looks at a Skeptic   10/25/2000
  • Tarot and the Sign Leo   8/6/2000
  • The Mystery of the Student Deaths at the University of Georgia   5/17/2000

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