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Its Origin and Meaning in Astrology
The above image is the established symbol (also called glyph) for the Zodiac sign Libra, the Scales. It’s a simplified drawing of a scale. Both the Zodiac sign and its symbol have been along for ages.
The Zodiac division of the ecliptic into twelve parts, each assigned a Zodiac sign, is probably of Babylonian (Mesopotamia) origin. They were very early with astrology, mapping the sky and noting planetary movements thousands of years ago.
The Zodiac, very much like the one we know today, might have emerged in Mesopotamia around 1000 BC. But Babylonian astrology is probably far older than that.
Always the Scales
Already the Babylonians connected this Zodiac sign and the constellation to a scales and called it so. They may have gotten it from the shape of the constellation in the sky.
The constellation of Libra is not that hard to see as a picture of a scales, if the right stars are connected with lines. There are the two equal sides and a center piece, just like the very old equipment used to weigh things. Through history, this has been the image related to the constellation.
Several of the Zodiac constellations are much more vague in depicting their Zodiac sign. Here’s the constellation Libra:
As you can see, the formation of the stars suggest the shape of a scale, although tilted on the picture above.
Below is an antique illustration of the same constellation, where the figure of a scale has been added. It’s from a 17th century book: Firmamentum sobiescianum, by Johannes Hevelius, 1690.
Libra in Ink
Below is an ink version of the symbol for Libra, which I did a number of years back in an experiment of using Japanese ink calligraphy (shodo) for old European astrology symbols. I’ve used these pictures on my astrology websites, mainly for fun and for the odd graphic effect, and I’ve seen them copied all over the Internet. I’m fine with that, although I think it wouldn’t hurt if the source was mentioned. Well, what to do?
Anyway, here’s that ink again, this time in the original black and white (click on the image to see a bigger version):
Libra the Sign
As for the picture commonly used to represent the Libra Zodiac sign, it’s been an image of scales for as long as that has been its name – surely longer than the symbol described above has existed. Below is one typical example, where the stars of the constellation Libra have also been marked. It’s an illustration from Poeticon astronomicon, a 1482 book by Hyginus.
For the header of this website, I simply combined the symbol for Libra with a statue of Justitia, the personification of the principle of justice, something dear to every Libra. The background is simply the sky, as a reminder of the Libra air element.
Here are the symbols (glyphs) of all the twelve Zodiac signs, and links to pages telling more about each Zodiac sign symbol.