by: X. Helia Allegra
1. AN ASTRONOMICAL VIEW OF LEO
A frequent comment about March is that it arrives like a Lion and leaves like a Lamb. It is no wonder that the month of March marks the return of the zodiacal constellation of Leo to optimal view in the night sky. To locate Leo in the mid-March sky, use the constellation of Ursa Major (also known as the Plough, Great Bear, or Big Dipper). Because Ursa Major is such a prominent constellation in the northern hemisphere (its seven major stars never set from mid-latitudes, and its shape is easy to recognize), it becomes an excellent guidepost in locating other constellations, such as the Lion. Trace a line in the sky from the two end stars of the Plough, (the same "Pointers" that are used to find Polaris) away from the celestial north pole and you will find yourself in the midst of Leo.
The Lion's head and proud mane is represented by the Sickle, which appears visually as an inverted question mark. The first magnitude star, Regulus (meaning "Little King"), dominates this constellation. Dante calls this star "il petto del lione ardente", the heart of the lion. It is considered the Royal star, and lies at a distance of approximately 84 light years away from earth and shines 160 times brighter than our own sun. Viewed under medium magnification, Regulus reveals its companions, that it is a triple star when viewed with the naked eye.
Leo's body is a rectangle of less prominent, but also noticeable stars, among them Algieba, Zosma, and Denebola. The Lion is often illustrated in a crouching position, as if ready to pounce. The Lion's tail is long and curved, the tip of which contains the brightest star in its hind triangle, Denebola, a blue beauty located 5 degrees north of the head of the Virgin.
Leo is also well-known for its numerous, relatively bright galaxies contained within its stellar dimensions. When viewed again through medium magnification, one notes that three of these galaxies form a visual triple, while two others are fainter, spiral galaxies. Many of these were originally observed and documented by French astronomer Charles Messier in the 18th Century.
Several meteor showers occur within this constellation. The Leonids radiate from the gamma region of Leo from November 14-20. The shower of Alpha Leonids commences from January 13 until February 13. From February 14 until April 25 the Beta Leonids are active. Nearly eclipsing the Betas are the Delta Leonids, observable from February 2 through March 19. The Gamma Leonids are weak, and short in duration, lasting only from August 14-September 12. The Rho Leonids were discovered by radio studies in the 1960's, but are rarely seen and somewhat of a legend, as are the Sigma Leonids.
The great Lion is hard to miss, but when in doubt, remember the Big Dipper will lead your way.
2. THE SYMBOLOGY OF LEO
The sign of Leo is ruled by the sun. The center of our solar system provides light, heat, and energy to all living things. The sun is astrologically the most powerful planetary influence, bestowing authority and vitality on the native.
Leo, the fifth sign of the zodiac, is symbolized by the lion, and these individuals can be said to possess similar characteristics as their animal counterparts: Leos are regal, brave, noble and proud. They can be dominating at times, even indolent, and are so generous that they are often viewed as extravagant. They can also be very stubborn, and are slow to change their opinion, for they like to weigh all the facts and feelings involved in decision-making.
Leo is the sign of the Universal Male, the life-giving Father. Leo's heart, and core purpose in life, is charged with creativity animated by the force of Life. It is the heart, the center of one's being, that is ruled by this sign. In light of this information, and assessing the glyph on physical terms, the pictograph represents two valves of the human heart. The first open circle is the vein leading to the main coronary chamber (seen visually as the large semicircle). The second open circle is the artery which distributes newly pumped blood from the heart through the circulatory system to the rest of the body. In this sense, Leo is the center to which all energy is directed and towards which all energy flows.
The pictograph is also an abstraction of the first letter of the Greek word, Leo, as well as an illustration of power derived from both the intellect and emotions by two incomplete circles joined by a crescent moon.
Leo embodies the quality of fixity (steadiness, thoroughness) with the element of fire, where Leo's consistent loyalty, spirituality, and creativity can be compared to an eternal flame. The nature of the Lion's flame (energy) depends upon the fuel (force) which directs him/her. A lesser-evolved Lion makes decisions that are ego-driven, often shaping one's character into that of a controlling, self-centered dictator (think about the plights of Mussolini and Napoleon, for good examples). These individuals make decisions rashly, without considering Divine Will, which only expedites his/her downfall.
The Lion that acts in harmony with the Divine energy of the Cosmos radiates its Light, and inspires others to greatness (Madame Blavatsky is a great example of this type of radiant energy). Viewing the glyph from a spiritual perspective, the esoteric meaning of the sign is revealed. In this instance, the first small open circle illustrates the intimate connection between Divine Will and humanity (the larger circle), a repolarization of this cosmic energy so that it is allowed to manifest in the material plane. The second, smaller open sphere represents the link connecting humanity to our natural surroundings. This is a graphic illustration of how the highest attribute of Leo is rulership by Divine (spiritual) Right.
3. THE MYTH OF HERACLES AND THE NEMEAN LION
The myth of Leo returns us to the story of the Twelve Labors of Heracles. The valley of Nemea was terrorized repeatedly by a fierce Lion, who was rumored to be unstoppable and impossible to kill. Heracles' First Labor, as directed by his brother Eurystheus, was to slay the lion in its mountain lair before it destroyed Nemea. His brother insisted that Heracles bring back the animal's skin as proof that the task was completed. Gallant as always, Heracles immediately sought out the lion and tried to spear it, then shoot it with arrows. Nothing could penetrate its hide, the arrows bounced off and the sword broke instantly. When Heracles discovered that the Lion's hide was indeed impenetrable, he decided to strangle it with his bare hands. It was no match for Heracles' strength, so he skinned the beast using its own claws and proudly delivered the carcass to his brother. Eurystheus was frightened to see the remains, and asked that Heracles leave the carcass outside the city gates. Heracles carried the remains away from the city and skinned the hide, making a cloak from the skin and a helmet from the hide. (Pictures of the hero nearly always portray him clothed in the skins of Nemean Lion). To honor the spirit of the Lion, it was placed in the sky. Its image is no longer a danger, but an object of beauty.
Hamilton's Guide to Mythology
Llewellyn's Daily Transit Guide