This week we're taking a look at Libra, the seventh sign of the zodiac. Symbolized by the scales, this is the archetype of social justice and balance. Ruled by Venus, it strives for harmony, proportion, and what is fair. There is poise and grace when the two pans are equalized, but, it can also represent things out of balance when they're not. This lack of peace can be daily disagreements, court room battles or war.
Libra represents relationships, which can be business partnerships or marriage. When things run awry, it is open enemies and divorce. Intentions are generally out in the open in this sign.
The scales are the symbol for justice. This is the law and legal profession, court room etiquette, protocol and propriety. As an air sign, it rules contracts, agreements and oaths. It's the resolution of disputes, just as Venus and her bird, the dove, are symbols for peace. Venus is proportional and beautiful, whether sexy, cute, or simply charming. As a rule, Libras like to socialize, and will entertain or proffer gifts, usually taking into account the feelings, needs and desires of others. When the Goddess of Love bestows her gifts on the realm, there is peace and harmony in the land.
In Chapter XIX of the Iliad, we find just these themes coming to the surface in a celestial choreography of Homer's astrological primer. In Chapter I, at the very start of our epic poem, Akhilleus and Agamemnon get angry at each other (Aries), and the former vows not to fight for the Greeks again until he has been avenged. In Chapter XIX, after the death of his friend Patroklos, Akhilleus relents, makes peace with Agamemnon, and vows to return to the war. The official reconciliation takes place in the assembly, an open public forum, in front of all the troops and before God as witness. It is here that all the gifts Agamemnon had promised to Akhilleus are once again offered and finally accepted.
"And Prince Akhilleus
"Let the Lord Marshal Agamemnon
In other words, 'Let's kiss and make up!' I'll give you gifts, so we can have peace; you'll be more just, I'll be more just, we will all have learned our lesson and we can get back to the war! Standard Libra themes from 3,000 years ago!
"Glad I am to hear you, son of Laertes,
As an air sign, representing intellect and communications, notice how what is being said is emphasized. "Finding the right word at the right time", and, as we shall see, "...a fine voice." These are communication with Venus as the driving force, making it smooth, pleasant, comforting or reassuring. This theme is played over and over again throughout the chapter. Etiquette, protocol, and propriety are all in strong evidence, in an almost courtroom-like setting.
"...it is fair
"...as all the troops kept still,
"May Zeus, all-highest
Part of the emphasis of this chapter is in giving others their due, to have consideration for what they might say, just as our courts allow first one side to state their case, and then the other.
Mars is said to be in its detriment in Libra, being as far away from its rulership, Aries, as it can be in this sign. Enthusiasm and impulse may not work to everyone's advantage when placed here. While Akhilleus has been out of the battle for some time, and now chomps at the bit to get back in, Odysseus warns him not to be too hasty; that the troops need to be fed first in order to keep up their strength through the upcoming day. Consider the needs of others, he warns, before rushing in.
"Replied Odysseus, the shrewd field commander:
'Brave as you are, and like a god in looks,
No soldier can fight hand to hand, in hunger,
Mars in this cardinal air sign can be quickly depleted if one does not carefully consider the consequences. As an air sign, verbal commitments, promises and oaths are once more back in the picture. The sacred word is given a high profile as Agamemnon relates the story of an oath Zeus once made to Hera.
"But in her guile
Zeus failed to see her crookedness: he swore
(Zeus) picked up Folly by her shining braids
Oaths are more likely to be honored in Libra, a cardinal air sign, than in Gemini, a mutable (changeable, flucuating) air sign, where they were also being emphasized. Remember how Alexandros in Chapter III made a oath and then broke it? Here, in Libra's sign of balance and justice, all the oaths which are made are kept. Even though Zeus does not like what he has promised, he honors it. In terrestrial terms, Agamemnon underscores what he has already promised through Odysseus the day before...
"I here repeat my offer
Men in my service will unload the gifts
This notion of gifts is also repeated many times in this chapter, first as what Thetis brings as 'gifts' from Hephaistos (in the last chapter they served as finely handcrafted objects with detailed themes), and then as the 'gifts' which Agamemnon had promised Akhilleus.
Do it, or don't do it; the choice is yours. But the energy here is both in the sign of the scales, Libra, and in the planet that rules it, Venus. We have seen how this grace and harmony presents itself in the consideration that everybody has for each other, and the manner in which social decorum and ceremony is honored, but the beauty of the goddess makes an appearance as well. This is the woman which Agamemnon had taken from Akhilleus, promising that he had never touched her, who now returns. Coming back to the tent of Akhilleus, she sees the body of Patroklos.
"The girl Briseis, in her grace like Aphrodite,
And what, pray tell, is it that she remembers about Patroklos?
Other, more subtle themes which play out in this chapter which are of a Libran vibration are the counselors who advise Akhilleus to eat something before he returns to battle (we saw counselors as one of the principle themes in Chapter VII), the way in which Akhilleus promises to fight, until the 'sun goes down' (Libra's position on the western horizon, and the source of the symbol from which it is derived), and, in our example above, the way Akhilleus wants the troops to fight without eating, until the 'sun goes down'. In that same example, the Trojans are identified as enemies, and elsewhere as 'our enemies, our dangerous enemies', all terms which should be found in greater evidence under the sign of the scales. In the end though, it is heaven who weighs the balance and finally decides. From Ch. XIX, lines 245-246.
"Zeus (Heaven or the Sky God, is the one who)... tips the scales."