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Libra Mythology

Ancient Greeks knew the part of the sky occupied by the Libra constellation as Chelae, or “claws,” and considered it part of the Scorpio constellation. Chelae represented the scorpion’s claws.

The myth of the constellations of Libra and Virgo are also intrinsically tied together in a way that no other two constellation myths could be.

Old woodcarving of Libra - a pair of scales

Astraea was a virgin goddess of justice. The only virgin goddess of justice who was also a primary caretaker of humanity (the true meaning of Virgo).

The woman holding the ear of corn in Virgo is Astraea. The scales of justice that glide by her side in the zodiac are her scales. The two never leave one another’s side, forever connecting the two constellations with single mythology.

Of course, Virgo could be represented by someone else. The scales are undoubtedly those of Astraea, and if she is not the caretaker figure shown in the Virgo myth, then she is surely both herself and the scales represented in Libra mythology.

The association of this region of the sky with scales was established among the Romans in the first century BC. It is said that the Moon was located in Libra when Rome was founded. The Romans considered Libra to be a favoured constellation, one associated with balanced seasons and equal length of night and day. The Sun was at the autumnal equinox in Libra until the year 729, when the precession of the equinoxes shifted the equinox to Virgo. The autumnal equinox will move to constellation Leo in the year 2439.

The Romans were not the first to associate Libra with the idea of balance. The Babylonians called it zibbaanna, which means “the balance of heaven,” about a thousand years before Christ.

Once Libra became associated with balance, its association with Scorpio’s claws faded and the one with the goddess of justice, the Greek Dike or Astraeia, represented by the constellation Virgo, became stronger.

As a reminder that Libra was once considered a part of the Scorpio constellation, the brightest star in Libra, Beta Librae, has the name Zubeneschamali, which means “the northern claw” in Arabic, while Alpha Librae, Zubenelgenubi, is “the southern claw.”

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