Greetings and welcome back to Journeys for another in depth post. This month I am sharing with you some thoughts on the sign of Leo. You can find further writing about Leo here and here. If you enjoy this article please consider showing your support for more like it in Patreon.
“The cat . . . is for the man who appreciates beauty as the one living force in a blind and purposeless universe…the cat is such a perfect symbol of beauty and superiority that it seems scarcely possible for any true aesthete and civilised cynic to do other than worship it.”
― H.P. Lovecraft, Cats and Dogs
Remember the last time in your life when everything seemed to be passing through darkness? Perhaps it is now, perhaps years ago, but we have all been through such times. Times when dawn is an eternity away, the endless expanse of the night sky with all its glorious stars is completely smothered by gloomy grey clouds, and there seems no end in sight. Depression and sorrow have their own gravity wells which can suck us into a spiralling vortex of despair.
Now, think of something you did to entertain yourself during such a period, something you did to cheer yourself up. Remember the last cartoon or comedian who somehow magically managed to pop your bubble and release you, even if just for a moment, from your personal hell. Remember the last performance you saw by an actor or actress that managed to reach out to you and speak to you about your personal situation without ever really even knowing what it is or even actually existing as a character in real life. Remember the last song that made you want to sing and dance on a day when you didn’t think you could get out of bed. This is the power of Leo. In our darkest hours, when all hope seems lost, Leo rises like the Sun dawning on a new day to remind us that the future is always brightening for the young at heart and the brave. It teaches us about the art of living, the magic of being alive and the many roles we play in life’s strange but often comical dramas.
Yet make no mistake, this beast is red in tooth and claw. It is the consummate predator of the zodiac, regarding itself as the king of the beasts and possessing the qualities to back that up. It is feral and wild at heart, and not a solitary creature but a communal one, dependent upon the notice and company of others. To Leo, it is as if life forever holds up a mirror into which it gazes and its reflection of its own spirit becomes both an bewitching enchantment and a path to self-awareness and enlightenment.
Below I have presented you with some examples of the qualities of Leo as they might appear in a person’s character. Always remember that these examples are only meant as a guideline to get you started on your own inner reflection and your own observation of what Leo means in your life.
Trust in Life
Unable to Share a Spotlight
For about three thousand years, between 6,000 and 3,000 BCE, the stars of Leo were those which were the last seen to rise in the night sky in the east before dawn (heliacal rising stars) on the summer solstice of the northern hemisphere. This period is literally the beginning of recorded history with the emergence of writing, but it also sees the beginning of the Bronze Age and our modern world of agriculture and animal husbandry, with both of these taking root globally and transforming every culture.
As prominent stars of this time they were thus hailed as stars of summer, light, heat and radiance and were of great significance to the Egyptians. At this time of the year in that era the Nile would flood, bringing life back to the parched lands and sustenance to the people. To facilitate and honour this, the Egyptians constructed lion heads through which the gushing waters would be channeled and pour, and this is the origin of the commonly seen lion heads on many fountains today. It is an extremely ancient tradition going back millennia to a deeply magical society.
So there is an early connection with light, summer and waters which bring life (note that opposite these stars, its celestial partner, are the stars of Aquarius the Water-Bearer). For as far back as we can trace, these stars have been symbolised as a lion. It is the later Greek/Roman Nemean Lion (slain by Heracles/Hercules as the first of the 12 Labours), but it was also known to the Mesopotamians, Turks, Indians and Jews as a sacred or divine lion and has mythic and astrological origins stretching back beyond our memory of history.
In the Greek story of Heracles and the Nemean lion (which has an impenetrable hide and lives in a cave where it abducts young women) we seem to have an allegory for the powerful breaking of certain ‘pagan’ cults by an authoritarian religious pantheon – the lion is symbolic of feminine wisdom which was held within these cults, a wisdom which was being supplanted by a patriarchal shift towards masculine strength in world culture. So ‘Hercules’ may be the villain of the story, being a warrior (or series of them) sent out to subdue pagan practices by killing their priestesses and breaking the back of the transmission of their sacred lore. In essence I am saying that there was a time when the anciently great magical and social power that women held in society waned, and the matriarchal rulers were supplanted by predominantly patriarchal ones, and this period is connected to these stars. This breaking of a primarily feminine wisdom is associated most strongly with the star Zosma (Delta Leonis) in the back of the Celestial Lion. The heart, Regulus, is that part of the lion with a ferocious will to fight, but one that is tempered with grace and charm.
So there is in the stars of Leo a possible connection to the tragic mis-balancing of genders – the ‘breaking of the backbone’ of feminine mystery schools and the skewing of our notion of what constitutes strength towards raw, muscular force, an occult mystery which, in part, is what is being encoded in the imagery of the Strength Arcana of the tarot. To be clear; this is a feminine strength and power we are dealing with, not a masculine one. This is clearly shown in all feline characteristics, facial and body features, which are remarkably feminine (unlike those of dogs). We must also bear in mind the matriarchal hierarchy of lion society. This is a Lioness. It needs nothing so crude and course as brute strength to accomplish its will. It needs only its inner light of conviction, its generosity of spirit and its development of poise in the universe.
The star Regulus which serves as the heart of the constellation is a major star in magical tradition and may be regarded from this point of view as a stellar ambassador of the pristine Fire Element, or ‘Divine Light’. For centuries the light of this star has held watch over the births and coronations of imperial and royal families, making it a star whose power is well known in the establishment, particularly in Freemasonic circles. Across the world it is heralded as an influence that brings success, honour and recognition as well as spiritual power, but the ancient astrology of the star (going as far back as Persia) bring warnings about any success being taken away and swift ruin if a nemesis is not avoided at all times, this nemesis being the spirit of revenge. It is certainly a kingly star (and also a queenly star) but its resonance and mythic significance often attach themselves to rulers who are sorely tested and lose all their honour through acts of vengeance. In Persia the tragic king is a legendary figure called Freydun and his story is that he was a beloved and respected ruler of the entire world for over 500 years until his death. He divides the world, giving the two eldest sons the Greek and Roman lands (the west) and central Asia and China (the east), while bequeathing the central kingdom of Iran to his youngest. When his two eldest sons attempt to take the inheritance of their younger brother by killing him Freydun takes revenge on them by giving away everything to his youngest sons grandson, with the result that this great grandson plots additional revenge against the eldest brothers and the spiral of vengeance then brings the kingdom (and thus the world) to ruin. This mythic theme of a noble king being tempted to take terrible vengeance with their power and suffering the loss of everything if they do has occurred in other forms, one of the most popular and well known being the tale of King Arthur, but there are also similarities with the tale of Osiris and other legendary rulers. Disney’s popular animation ‘The Lion King’ is also very resonant with these stars.
So in reality Regulus is a star with heavy karma attached to the misuse of power and thus is a star which punishes those who do so, often spectacularly. Additionally the warnings about not using our power to take revenge would not be necessary if we were never placed in a situation that sorely tempted us to do so, and so the star is not all brilliance and glory but is instead a harsh taskmaster that demands a noble attitude. This is the will that drives the burning heart of Leo – to ennoble and exalt itself, to rise above the petty and embody the majestic. Its spirit is cast down by indignities and crushed by the use of its power to punish those who have wronged it. It can be a soft and generously affectionate pussycat or a ferocious and savage lioness, but it is always a ruler, a sovereign over its own internal light, the light it seeks to share with the world and thereby make it a better place. Little can extinguish its sense of poise in the universe and few things can diminish its development.
In Egypt, the deification of Cat took Earthly form in Bubastis, a major city of worship southwest of Tanis on the eastern banks of the Nile, although the height of its power was not until much later around, 1000-500 BC. Herodotus describes it to us then as follows:
“Temples there are more spacious and costlier than that of Bubastis, but none so pleasant to behold. It is after the following fashion. Except at the entrance, it is surrounded by water: for two canals branch off from the river, and run as far as the entrance to the temple: yet neither canal mingles with the other, but one runs on this side, and the other on that. Each canal is a hundred feet wide, and its banks are lined with trees. The propylaea are sixty feet in height, and are adorned with sculptures (probably intaglios in relief) nine feet high, and of excellent workmanship. The Temple being in the middle of the city is looked down upon from all sides as you walk around; and this comes from the city having been raised, whereas the temple itself has not been moved, but remains in its original place. Quite round the temple there goes a wall, adorned with sculptures. Within the inclosure is a grove of fair tall trees, planted around a large building in which is the effigy (of Bast). The form of that temple is square, each side being a stadium in length. In a line with the entrance is a road built of stone about three stadia long, leading eastwards through the public market. The road is about 400 feet (120 m) broad, and is flanked by exceeding tall trees. It leads to the temple of Hermes.”
Bast or Bastet is the feline goddess of the Egyptian pantheon who is not only the protector of cats and of people but also a deity of warfare in earlier traditions. Many cats lived alongside the people in beautiful Bubastis and were regarded as sacred. Many were mummified and the site is the principle area where mummified cats are found in Egypt. An oracle of Bast dwelt within the temple to the goddess and there was an annual procession and celebration in honour of her which eventually drew many foreigners for visits during the festival. Herodotus (considered a reliable witness by historians) also tells us about this festival, describing it in this colourful way:
“Barges and river craft of every description, filled with men and women, floated leisurely down the Nile. The men played on pipes of lotus, the women on cymbals and tambourines, and such as had no instruments accompanied the music with clapping of hands and dances, and other joyous gestures. Thus did they while on the river: but when they came to a town on its banks, the barges were made fast, and the pilgrims disembarked, and the women sang, playfully mocked the women of that town and threw their clothes over their head. When they reached Bubastis, then held they a wondrously solemn feast: and more wine of the grape was drank in those days than in all the rest of the year. Such was the manner of this festival: and, it is said, that as many as seven hundred thousand pilgrims have been known to celebrate the Feast of Bast at the same time.”
Here we can see some of the imprints passed onto Leo as a zodiac sign with the festival of Bast clearly being a celebration of life and light and joyousness, celebrated through feasting, dancing and the entertainment arts. And it happens in front of a huge audience of 700,000 pilgrims who have come from all over the ancient world. Add in the countless revered cats, and you have what must be heaven to all true Leos.
Leo is a Fixed (or Stable) Fire sign, an emanatory expression of the solar Electric Fluid as forces of externalization, expression and individual life. It is innately creative and noble, heart-centred, regal, courageous, gracious, merciful, artistic, vibrant, flamboyant, generous, confident, self-assured, charismatic and commanding in its presence. The primary virtues of Leo also include (but are not limited to) stellar confidence (i.e. confidence in the unique talents and gifts of ones spirit or nature), spontaneous creativity (improvisation), a bold flair for colour and design, warm humour, talent in entertainment and drama or theatrics, inner radiance, dignity and poise, power being carried gracefully, nobility of spirit, honesty and integrity.
These are some of the key positive qualities that inform the zodiac sign of Leo, but they can result in many effects when cast through the prism of the zodiac. The spiritual child of this Celestial Lion, Leo the zodiac sign, the Stable expression of the Element of Fire, can be easily perceived in our physical world in a flames (or stars) intention to keep burning as brightly and as long as it can. Leo is therefore willfully motivated and wants to hungrily outshine everything around it gloriously. But this is not mere ego (although it can be); it is also exceptionally generous – it wants to shine in order to warm the world into life and, despite having the feral lioness in its heart, it is both soft and romantic for the Leo intuition is that all things want to be adored and most deserve to be. It seems like a fairy tale, and to Leo that is fine. It just knows this is the way it is, and does not care a bit what the rest of us say about it or how things actually work in the grittiness of the world. It knows, in the core of its being, that we are all unique and thus all special, and we deserve to have a chance to show that off in life.
Whereas Earth signs are connected with physical matters, Water signs are connected with emotional matters and Air signs are connected with mental matters, Fire signs are innately connected to the most sublime and subtle of currencies, the substance of life itself. Leo is connected to the inner spark of life within each individual thing which informs it that it is unique and therefore has unique gifts to share with others. It is the part of the Fire Element which embraces life as a creative process but which needs an audience of others in order to witness and receive the emanation of inner light. As a Stable or Fixed sign, this process is about an accumulation of an Element, in this case the Fire Element, which means that the emanation of the inner light in a continuous and ongoing illumination of life does not deplete it but instead there is a feedback loop which actually strengthens the presence and power of the Fire Element as it is emanated. One simple way to understand this is to imagine yourself as a performer on the stage – when the audience reacts to you when you feel connected to the audience because you have their attention, their energy feeds back into your performance and helps to enhance it. Without an audience to watch you, there is no feedback loop and you are left shining into an empty, dark space. The Stable nature of Leo is a chain reaction of creative forces like a nuclear reaction that builds in power the more it receives input (especially adoration) from external sources. This is why it needs to command some kind of spotlight in life, because without it the connection to life itself begins to wither.
Leo is the singular sign of the Sun, an Electric and radiant expression of the spirit as a bright, commanding and self-confident display from a centrally fixed depth point. The creative urge of the Sun given to Leo seeks to warmly animate things to life, to bloom and glamorize them, to illuminate and reveal their beauty. It is a sign that is externally focused and directed toward activity in the mental plane where its spirit is most radiant. The action of Leo is to consolidate and focus individual power and light upon itself and then to radiate that quality outward in all directions as charismatic, impressive and generous creative acts, like the way a lion roars from the depths of its heart when touched by the dawning Sun. It burns with an inner light which refuses to be extinguished and a spirit of dominion which seeks to establish some kind of territory to prowl and shine upon.
Attuned so directly and centrally to the light of the Sun, planets in Leo instinctively sense the divine majesty and power within them, the power to co-create with life, and in some way will seek to consciously channel this into some form of creativity for which they can be recognised and beloved. Another way of looking at this is to say that Leo never really loses the essence of the inner child, and for this reason it engages life in a spirit of play and a sense of the sheer joy of being alive. Leo seeks to reunite with this inner child throughout life, by playing games, expressing it artistically, or showering others with generosity, which they can do, because generally these people look at life as an abundant playground. This is not to say they are not serious – when Leo is aroused to anger, you’d better believe they’re serious! Lion’s claws are savage and direct, giving new dimensions to the phrase ‘brutal honesty’.
So kindness, playfulness and an awareness that life is meant to be enjoyed and even celebrated are also at the heart of Leo. Leo is radiant and utilises the Fire aspect to shine forth an inner light that warms and melts the iciest heart. This sign is the sign of the kitten that pounces as much as the lion that roars, and the two can change places quite quickly. Often the lion will emerge when pride is injured, integrity is questioned or when there is no other option but an all out ferocious attack. At most other times the sign is by default ‘fluffy’ and cuddly in its attitude.
Fortune shines on Leo because it has an innate positive outlook; as the Sun infiltrates the darkest shadow so it also puts Leo in the light and shines a path in hard times, opening new fields of action when it looks as if no visible solution to problems is apparent. Here dwell spirits who are living proof that the power of conscious will and intent is the co-designer, the co-director and the co-creator of our experiences. Life itself always has the ultimate say, and it is also the producer, but Leo sees itself and knows that it is also part of life, and so can determine its own destiny. It embraces this task with gusto. When trounced by life – dumped, made redundant, sick – the spirit of Leo pounces back as soon as possible because it knows this as the best remedy. The immense courage of this creature has nothing to do with the reputation of the lion as a predatory beast, for what courage does it take for the lioness to kill the deer? That is a different instinct. The courage of Leo instead has to do more with the sheer and irrepressible spirit of play in life, the way the kitten immediately runs back to play some more after it is frightened by a noise, and by the indomitable will which is able to resist and overpower that of more villainous and less noble creatures when it is necessary.
Given that the sign must seek some kind of spotlight and given also its Fixed or Stable nature and the Fire Elements predilection for power, Leo is often drawn to leadership roles. Like the Sun, Leo is drawn to take command in a dominant position around which other objects are in orbit. This is why it has a long association with royals and stories of families of divine or special origin. Unlike Capricorn which is drawn to power out of the sense of responsibility, seeing itself as the only one capable and dependable enough, Leo is drawn to power out of the basic need for attention and praise and because it’s natural charisma leads it to believe that the adoration of people will be enough to secure its position. It is rarely the case, especially in the modern age. To win respect as a leader Leo has to avoid falling into its pitfalls of darkness (described below), for if it does not it will quickly draw only resentment, which it cannot be sustained by.
Leo is strongly harmonious with both of the other Fire signs, Aries and Sagittarius, and also with the two Air signs nearby, Gemini and Libra. It is most inharmonious with Taurus and Scorpio and has a polarised and opposing nature with Aquarius. Fixed (Stable) Fire is a modality of Light like Sagittarius and Aries, and as I have pointed out earlier the substance or currency of these signs is the experience of being alive and of life itself. All of these signs thrust themselves at life and are filled with vital life-giving energies. Leo is by far the most creative of the Fire signs, and the one with the most focus on other human beings. Gemini and Leo are buddies because Air always feeds Fire, and the gentle ongoing and restless enquiry of Gemini is often both communicative and flirtatious as well, qualities which Leo is fanned by (literally, this is probably the best place for Leo to find a fan), while Gemini is often impressed by the innate charisma and charm of Leo with its ability to warm and entertain people. Libra and Leo on the other hand are brought together by their shared need for other people, one in terms of partnership and the other in terms of audience. Both signs also possess considerable charm and persuasiveness which the other finds different to their own but equally effective. They make fantastic creative partners and work well together in anything artistic.
The problem with Taurus is essentially that it is too cautious and not spontaneous enough for Leo, which lives life more in the present and has to be spontaneous in order to appeal to its changing audience and to be true to its muses. Taurus is also very materially focused while Leo is focused more on security for the spirit through self-expression rather than accumulation of stuff. With Scorpio, the Leo urge to always seek the spotlight is directly at odds with the Scorpio need to avoid it and cling to the shadows, while the eternally optimistic and sunny disposition of Leo brushes aside and refuses to admit the existence of the dark, complex, emotionally disturbing world of Scorpio. Taurus, Leo and Scorpio can agree that change needs to be strictly controlled and directed, but not on how it should be done. The relationship with Aquarius, the polar opposite of Leo in the zodiac, shares core similarities around which cluster many opposite approaches and differences. If Leo is the performance then Aquarius is the collective reaction. If Leo is the unique capability of the individual, then Aquarius is the networked power of those unique individuals when they are combined in the formation of a collective or group. If Leo is the monarch, then Aquarius is the people. Leo and Aquarius I call the emanatory processes, because both are Elemental processes which either emanate from inside to outside (Leo) or from outside to inside (Aquarius) through a process akin to empathy but these being Fire and Air signs this is with a more Electric charge or nature than we usually think of in association with empathy. Yet it is there, taking the form of generosity (Leo is very generous in general spirit, and Aquarius is very generous ideologically and mentally, with its inspiration and utopianism).
The creatures of Leo include not only all felines and cats of every description but also every kind of creature which organises itself into a commune with the central leadership taken by individuals. It is analogous to the life of the cell itself. The playfulness of animal life, the ways animals entertain themselves, all belong to this sign, so particularly playful creatures have an affinity with its spirit. It is the fire of a sunny day, the bright light of the spotlight or the camera flash, the colourful expression of plant life in flowers and dramatic displays, the tail of the peacock and other visual mating signals designed to lure and attract, all creatures which laze around in the Sun and grow lethargic and languid in the heat, dry and parched places but also places where nature puts on some kind of show, steam vents and other places where thermal activity builds up, places where life is vibrant and the living is good. It is connected to gold, sunstone, amber resin and all precious gems, to crowns, laurels, coats of arms, robes of office, laurels, rings of power, all the flowers of the Sun (sunflower, heliotrope, etc), and the things which glitter.
Leo is the sign of high summer (northern hemisphere) and the radiant ruler of the heart centre (where it is analogous to openness and brightness of heart, courage, generosity, sincerity and emotional warmth), but is also analogous to the solar plexus (as charisma, power, strength of being and general warmth), as well as the spine (Leos have ‘backbone’), Its colours are golden and yellow, its direction is southwest, its musical note is F, and in the Hebrew Tree of Life it is associated with the 11th Path of Wisdom, the integration of individual empathy with individual consciousness, producing the Scintillating consciousness (“…the essence of the veil which is placed before the ordered arrangement of the powers. Who walks this way acquires a special dignity – he can stand face to face before the Cause of Causes”. – The 32 Paths of Wisdom). This Path is analogous to the letter Teth (‘Snake’), the task of which is for the initiate to consciously cast their coiled “scintillating consciousness” and attain the magic and arcana of the Strength tarot card (Mastery of the mental fluids). In plant alchemy Leo rules digestion, a process in which gentle heat is applied to a substance over an extended period of time. This is the first stage of the fermentation operation in which decomposing essences are reabsorbed.
Geographically it is the Sun sign of the current charts for Greece (1974), Netherlands (1581), Jamaica (1962), Bolivia (1825), Ivory Coast (1960), Singapore (1965), Bahrain (1971),South Korea (1948) and Estonia (1991). In general Leo is analogous to all grand or majestic places such as theatres, palaces, stately homes, public speaking halls or spacious public parks, in the wilderness where wild and predatory animals roam, while inside homes it is the place near the fire or source of heating or where the most luxurious furnishings, clothes or jewelery are situated.
Leo Sun sign can be seen in the charts for Neil Armstrong, Orville Wright, Amelia Earhart, Andy Warhol, Henry Ford, Mata Hari, Petrarch, Coco Chanel, Alexander Dumas, H.P. Lovecraft, Alan Whicker, Whitney Houston, Madonna, Claude Debussy, Barack Obama, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bill Clinton, Haile Selassie and Mae West. The Moon is in Leo in the charts for Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Ezra Pound, Oscar Wilde, James Joyce, Jeane Dixon, Elena Ford, Mark Rockefeller, Stephen Fry, Charlotte Church, Karen Carpenter, Barbra Streisand, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Winston Churchill and Marilyn Manson. Leo rises in the charts for Frida Carlo, Henri Matisse, M.C Escher, Donald Trump, Pablo Picasso, Maya Angelou, Anne Frank, Richard Branson, Elton John,Tina Turner and Meryl Streep.
“In all the scriptures, the guru is described to be as good as God, but the guru never says ‘I am God’.”
—‘The Science of Self Realisation’,
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Praphupada
The primary darkness of Leo is not difficult to see – a creature that craves attention and thinks of itself as the centre of creation is on a slippery slope toward flaws like pride, vanity, resentment of others success, arrogance and self centeredness, pomposity, the will to dominate all others, a superiority complex or a need for excessive praise or attention, jealousy and envy, predation on the weak, tyrannies, controlling behaviour and childishness. In extreme cases Leo becomes very narcissistic, which is defined as a self-centredness arising from the failure to distinguish the self from external objects, either in very young babies or as a feature of mental disorder.
The tyrannical pushiness and bossiness of Leo is well known, as is its vanity and arrogance. These qualities tend to dominate the description of the darkness of Leo in modern astrological thinking, whereas in earlier times it seems to have been viewed more destructively as a hungry force of nature constantly on the prowl for prey. An overdramatic and exaggerated sense of self-importance and a craving for a special role can become easily distorted into a perverse need to outshine everyone and everything in every possible way. Ego trips and domination are also potential pitfalls of the sign which can get rapidly out of control if the hunger for them is fed.
Pride, vanity and ego can swell to epic proportions, especially if the Leo in us suddenly find itself the centre of attention. What Leo forgets at these times is that it is not the only beloved child of the Universe, that each created thing is equally unique and so has equally special gifts to offer, and that the Great Spirit sees no distinctions of greatness. In the quest to express talents – and Leo planets always have many creative gifts – Leo objects can lose sight of the importance of compromise and team efforts, because they want to direct everything according to their own view of ‘what is best’, which is what, in their view, is best for everyone. The natural aptitude for organising, motivating, leading and enthusing can make them appear domineering, bossy, inflexible and ego centred; some of the most zealous fanatics in history have been born under this sign, as have some of the most charismatic and radiant leaders and artists.
Another weakness of the sign is how easy it is to pacify, even when it is enraged. The simple truth is that mere flattery cools the Lions wrath even when that flattery is transparently insincere. Leo is easily manipulated by soft words and compliments, and deep down they have a need to make up with those that they fight with because they prefer things bright and sunny. Brooding and sulking like children when resentful or when they can’t get what they want, Leo can be a difficult person to be around when they are not receiving enough attention but most of the time they are already looking for a way out of it because they don’t like to sit around in the doldrums. More serious and lasting hurts or slights that the Leo will hold onto are often connected to their cubs, their actual or metaphorical children. Insult or harm these, and the claws will probably stay out.
This creature is truly ferocious when it is genuinely enraged as we would expect. It launches powerful and forceful attacks intended to cripple and incapacitate its foes as quickly as possible. The basest nature of this beast literally delights in the gush of hot blood over its jaws as its favoured prey falls beneath it. The glory of victory and the admiration of the gladiatorial arena are the meat and drink of this sign and its competitors are often intimidated by boastful and braggart behaviours designed to unsettle and humiliate them. Leo can tolerate no equal in its position as king or queen of its territory except perhaps in matters of love, where it is often able to share the spotlight. In most other cases contenders for the crown must be taken down and taught a lesson about who is really in charge, a lesson that will have to have an audience in order to be truly effective. Yet it is swiftly defeated when its reputation is attacked or degraded, as the source of its power is undermined. When Leo loses its followers it begins to lose faith in its ability to win battles. When its reputation is not to its liking, it lacks the tools it needs to achieve its ambitions. A monarch without a people is just a person with a pretty crown and no real power.
This tension – between the Leo need to be completely self-sufficient and dominant in its environment and the recognition that it’s existence depends upon the respect of others – is a major conflict within the sign itself, a conflict which is often a source of creative sparks but more often a source of temper and overcompensation. The glitter and glamour of the sign which is well-known (in both men and women Leo is attracted to adornments of all kinds) is also frequently an ugly trap which leads the Leo into greed, envy and covetousness akin to that of Taurus, but with less interest in the actual monetary value and more interest in the way these things attract eyes and hearts. Taken to extremes this urge results in a tasteless attempt to turn homes into gaudy palaces displaying wealth and opulence and symbols of power and authority to those who visit. Behind all of this there is always a devouring hunger for love and affection and attention, a hunger which regrettably only repulses and repels those who might offer it but who cringe because of an attitude of superiority and entitlement.
There is also often great integrity which refuses to be compromised and thus a somewhat inflexible code of honour which can be an attractive or repulsive quality depending on how it is applied. The rules of engagement in relationships and partnerships may be too ego-centric, sacrosanct or domineering, too inflexible to the way things are for other people because it is too fixed on the way they are for Leo. Bright ideas and feelings which excite can be overpowering and lead the Leo in us to disregard the creative input of others. In most situations the darkness in Leo will assess others according to one of two categories very quickly upon initially meeting them – either they are a threat to the role and position and territory that Leo regards as its own, or they are a subject of it, someone who can potentially supply them with the loyalty and respect they deserve. It even comes as a surprise to Leo sometimes that other people resent being categorised this way, for it sees its need to identify its rivals as a natural right while its subjects are privileged by its generosity. So the virtues of Leo described previously – its generosity, its integrity and its confidence – can easily become some of its more unattractive qualities when it becomes too myopically focused on the grandeur of its own existence.
In the modern age of Aquarius, Leo becomes the shadow side of our collective psyche. It seems abundantly clear to us now that the Age of Aquarius is dawning as a technological age, an age in which the technological advances humanity makes will lead to some kind of new era of human existence. Probably the primary development will be the development of artificial intelligence at some point in the relatively near future, but it may also come about as a result of contact with extra-dimensional or extra-terrestrial beings or through some significant breakthrough in our understanding of physics which transforms human society. Whatever it is, the shadow side of this is represented by Leo, which is the loss or the degrading of the soveriegn power of individual uniqueness. It is clear, for example, that if human beings develop an artificial intelligence or meet with intelligent life beyond this planet then our central role in the theatre of life as the sole and dominant sentience will be threatened. The Leo in humanity itself will find a serious contender for its own spotlight. The technological advances which are rapidly overtaking our ability to keep up with them also threaten our individual expression by putting us all under surveillance and shepherding us towards conformity. These are some of the ways I think we are already beginning to see the shadow side of Leo emerge as a dominant theme for the next 2000 years. If we look at the previous Age of Pisces, the shadow side of Virgo is clearly there in the form of an overemphasis on rationality and reason and a gradual rejection of intuitive and spiritual pathways to understanding human experience. This unbalanced shadow side of Virgo reason led to the creation of world-threatening scientific discoveries. If a similar dynamic were to occur in the Age of Aquarius, then we will be heading towards totalitarian, dictatorial, nationalistic rulers and governors as a shadow reaction towards the collective and globalist trend. This also seems to be happening in the present day. In essence we have to overcome the shadows and darkness of Leo collectively instead of fleeing to it in safety. The entire dynamic of the Age of Aquarius seems to depend on us overcoming the shadow of tyrannical rulership in order to prevent the emergence of a controlling world order that uses world changing technology against the interests of its people, while at the same time grappling with the existential question of our overall role in life when that role is irreversibly changed. And at the moment, in these early decades, we have as much idea about what that role is changing into as the world in the decades following the crucifixion did about what religions would mean today.
As this article should by now have made clear, the magic of Leo is intimately connected with charisma, command, leadership and rulership, life-giving power, artistic creativity, renown and reputation, notice, charm and all the power of the Sun. A secret of the Sun is that it burns so brightly and so blindingly not for attention but simply because it just Is, and it emanates that Is-ness to everywhere and everything around it at once, never faltering or varying its illumination. So too must Leo become like a brilliant star that shines through all eternity as a jewel of bright light in the heavens of time. Sometimes Leo will give to be admired, but at others it will give simply because it can, and it is the latter giving that brings it the greatest joy and the only lasting satisfaction. This is the secret it needs to understand and put into play. Life is a performance without rehearsal, and we each have a starring role of our own to play in its drama. It is not to be taken lightly for it is a serious journey and a precious gift which we must do justice to by being what we are and shining the light we have been given by life to share with life. All that we give is given to life itself and all that life gives us in return is given to itself.
Leos discover that their true strength has nothing to do with popularity, the number of admirers or level of glory and fame, but that it comes from the recognition that we are all stars, embodied in human form. The spirit is eternal because it is a part of the Creation, and must exist for as long as Creation itself. Furthermore, the central lesson of Leo is that every created thing is the majestic light centre of its own universe, and therefore all of the Creation is present in each thing, as either potential or substance, and therefore each role we play is as significant as any other. What actually matters is not how bright we shine but what and why we shine.
This innate process is expressed in the Gra Tree of Life as the path connecting Tiphareth with Gedulah, meaning it is shown as the way the individual spirit connects with larger forces, with a sense of meaning bigger than its individual self, and this places things into a more majestic and often sunnier context. Along this path the Great Tree of Life projects the inner light of the core individual self, the temporal mental body or spirit, as a radiant light which emanates “downwards” on a path which leads it to form a “kingdom” of its own, a realm in which it is connected to other individual selves through strands of empathy and alikeness. The King or Queen is a symbolic figure who represents all of the people, and in the same way the individual self finds that it is like others and this similarity is what feeds it what it needs to shine. This is the process of Leo expressed in Kabbalistic terms. It establishes Force of Meaning on the mental plane by projecting the individual uniqueness and beauty of an individual life or spirit as commonality and similarity. Here is the esoteric reason for the need Leo has for an audience. It reveals that Leo is the magical expression of individual Light as empathy, integration of consciousness and symbolic essential meaning and therefore a key to attaining mastery of the mental Fluids.
In ‘The Practice of Magical Evocation’ Franz Bardon attributes the 30 spirits of the Earth Zone given to Leo with the following magical powers: the Fire principle (1°), the power of the Sun and Electric Fluid (2°), the origin of passions and the astral body (3°), magic of the Elements and the ElectroMagnetic Fluid (4°), the tetrapolar magnet (5°), the propagation of all seed (6°), the Air principle (7°), magical breathing (8°), mystical love and holiness (9°), resistance to fire (10°), ecstasy and trance (11°), divine theurgy and kabbalistic mysticism (12°), the way to perfection in accordance with the laws of creation (13°), synthesis of all religious systems and philosophies (14°), connections between the mental, astral and physical worlds (15°), omniscience and divine intuition (16°), magic of cosmic love (17°), occult anatomy of humanity (18°), talismanic magic (19°), metal alchemy (20°), prophecy (21°), esteem, power and wealth (22°), yoga and religious initiation (23°), reading of events in the Akasha (24°), sphere magic without separation of the mental body (25°), mediumistic phenomena (26°), wish realisation (27°), magic formulae of the Elements (28°), magic of water (29°), and protection against thunderstorms and gales (30°). It must be remembered that Bardon repeatedly states that these are just the Heads of the individual degrees of the zodiac and that many other beings operate beneath them, additionally Bardon has not fully described all of these beings capabilities but has instead provided us with one of their primary magical analogies. In many cases this differs vastly from the astrological ones. In others it does not.
The principal magic of Leo is Light. Much like the heart circulates warmth and life around the body, so Leo acts to focus and collect the power of the limitless Great Spirit, to release it in some life enhancing, life affirming way. That life affirming life enhancing way is you, me and everything that is created by its grace. It is in effect the supreme leader, this Great Spirit, and Leo is aware of its presence wthin its breast to the degree that even when it cannot articulate that to itself, it seeks to do so for others. The role we play in life which is such an integral part of the nature of this sign is ultimately an expression that this Great Spirit has pre-designed us for, and when we connect with its presence within us it effortlessly instructs us in how to become it. Beauty is what happens when we playfully shine our unique Light of being upon the Creation, encouraging it all to do the same.