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Read Leo the Lion for meanings and traits of the sun-sign Leo.


Star Lore of the Constellations: Leo the Lion - by Deborah Houlding

Notable stars in Leo: Epoch 2000
Longitude Name Nature Mag. Position Lat. Dec.
20 Le. 42 Algenubi Saturn/Mars 3 Mouth of Lion 10N 24N
27 Le. 34 Adhafera Saturn/Mercury 3 Mane of Lion 12N 23N
27 Le. 54 Al Jabbah Saturn/Mercury 3 Mane of Lion 05N 17N
29 Le. 50 Regulus Jupiter/Mars 1 Heart of Lion 00N 12N
11 Vi. 19 Zosma Saturn/Venus 2 Back of Lion 14N 21N
21 Vi. 37 Denebola Saturn/Venus 2 Tail of Lion 12N 15N

In Greek myth Leo depicts the lion of Nemea, which Hercules was commanded to kill as the first of his twelve labours. Since the beast was invincible by arrow or club the contest was a test of physical strength and endurance. Hercules killed the animal by choking it with his bare hands and thereafter wore its skin.

Both astronomically and astrologically Leo is the antithesis of watery Aquarius. While Aquarius is noted for its moist conditions, Leo is hot and dry, associated with the full strength of the summer Sun. As the 17th century writer, John Minsheu, put it: the sunne being in that sign is most raging and hot like a lion. Ancient astrologers therefore avoided this constellation for any activity pertaining to fluids and warned against administering medicines, bathing, or commencing sea travel when either of the luminaries are in this part of the sky. In deciding when to launch a boat, Dorotheus advises not to choose a day when the Moon is in Leo:

it indicates that misfortune will reach whoever of men [are] in the ship; if the Moon is injured, misfortune increases upon misfortune for them.[1]

But the noble lion has always been regarded as a creature of kingly attributes and the constellation has a very ancient association with royalty, eminence and authority. Even the sound of thunder, when heard during the Sun's passage through Leo, was taken to portend the imminent death of some great person,[2] and most of its stars were capable of bestowing majestic qualities.

Manilius's description of the constellation included the familiar overblown characteristics we associate with Leo today - swaggering pride, and the need for adornment - though he also spoke of an inborn cruel streak with the urge to capture prey and bring terror. He gave it significance for the occupation of butchery, since its sons display mangled limbs at the shop-front, slaughter to meet the demands of luxury, and count it gain to kill. Yet, though their nature may be violent they are not malicious, their temper is equally prone to fitful wrath and ready withdrawal, guileless are the sentiments of their honest hearts.[3]

Ptolemy described the nature of the stars thus:

the two in the head [inc. Algenubi] act in the same way as Saturn and, to a less degree, as Mars; the three in the throat [inc. Adhafera and Al-Jabbah], the same as Saturn and, to a less degree, as Mercury; the bright star upon the heart, called Regulus, the same as Mars and Jupiter; those in the hip and the bright star in the tail [inc. Zosma and Denebola], the same as Saturn and Venus; and those in the thighs, the same as Venus and, to a less degree, Mercury.

He also included the group of stars known as Coma Berenices with this constellation. Some authors connected them with Virgo but most located them behind the Lion's tail. They are reputed to cause blindness.[4]

The main star of Leo is Regulus, a triple star, flushed white and ultramarine. The Latin term Regulus was first applied by Copernicus as a diminutive of its earlier form Rex, meaning King. The same title was given to it by the ancient Babylonians even though they originally knew the constellation as the Great Dog. In an ancient tablet from Ninevah, the following omen is found:

If the star of the Great Lion is gloomy the heart of the people will not rejoice.

The royal title is presumed to originate from Regulus's brilliance and ancient proximity to the summer solstice. Today, however, it is one of the faintest 1st magnitude stars, being only about one third as bright as Sirius. It lies very close to the ecliptic and in Persia was used - along with Fomalhaut, Aldebaran and Antares - as one of the four 'Guardians of Heaven', stars which rose at six hourly intervals and marked the four cardinal points and directions. Linked to the direction of south and the culminating point of the Sun, it was the natural symbol for glory and the height of power.

Regulus is frequently known as the Lion's heart or Cor Leonis, because of its position in the breast. It was said by Lilly to show a generous and civil disposition, ambition and the desire to rule. The direction of the MC, Ascendant, Sun or Moon to the star indicates a time of increased fortune, happiness and reputation, and suggests support from eminent figures. When well placed it promises the greatest of good fortune but, because of its choleric nature, Lilly adds:

... yet he finds some sharp alteration in himself for a time; he shall suffer some opprobrious [scornful] words; as also, an acute or choleric Disease, if not carefully by Medicine prevented.

Such a disease may equally affect the father of the native as well as the native himself, but is unlikely to prove mortal.[5]

An autocratic will and fixidity of purpose are also evident in those who yield power with the influence of this star. Sir Winston Churchill and Lady Margaret Thatcher are often compared as great British leaders who found their finest hour by displaying such qualities in leadership; both had their Moon's within one degree of Regulus.

Of the other stars in Leo, Denebola is a 2nd magnitude, blue star situated in the tuft of hair at the end of the tail and thus of the nature of Saturn and Venus. Its name comes from the Arabic Al Dhanab al Asad, 'the Tail of the Lion'. Whilst it can indicate generosity, nobility, and a rise to fame, this star does not share the fortunate influence of Regulus, and public elevation is often accompanied by disgrace and ultimate ruin. Ebertin and Hoffman claim that in mundane charts, major catastrophes are triggered by it. Robson suggests that it gives swift judgment, despair, regrets, public disgrace, misfortune from the elements of nature, and happiness turned to anger, and makes its natives noble, daring, self-controlled, generous and busy with other people's affairs. [6]

Also near the tail is Zosma, a 2nd magnitude, triple star of yellow, blue and violet. Again, it has an unfortunate Saturn/Venus influence and is said to cause disgrace, melancholia, and a danger from poison.

Al Jabbah and Adhafera are both 3rd magnitude double stars on the mane of the Lion. Ptolemy listed their nature as like Saturn and Mercury. Al Jabbah is the brightest and is notable for its distinctive orange and greenish-yellow colour. Lilly spoke of a very malefic influence when the ascendant was directed to Al Jabbah, and warned for its approach:

It imports the Native to undergoe no small damage in Honour, perill in his life, and many discommodities in Estate; let him beware of being murdered by souldiers, let him observe moderation in Dyet, and in all his actions, for he inclines to Violence and Intemperancy. [7]

Dorotheus also mentioned the Mane of the Lion as an area of blindness.[8]

The 3rd magnitude yellow star, Algenubi, marks the mouth of the Lion. Ptolemy listed its influence as like Saturn and Mars and it is reported to confer bombastic, arrogant and cruel qualities, with a bold and daring nature.

The best time to view Leo is during March. The annual meteor shower, the Leonids, the fastest of all meteor showers, appears in the constellation around mid-November. The Leonids are renown for storms which occur at 33-year intervals (the period of its associated comet). [ More details ]
The Sun crosses Algenubi around 14th August each year. It crosses Adhafera and AlJabbah around 21st August; Regulus around 23 August; Zosma around 4th September; and Denebola around 15th September.

Notes & References:
  1 ] Dorotheus, Carmen Astrologicum, (1st cent. BC), translated by David Pingree, republished by Ascella Publications, V.25.5 (p.283).
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  2 ] R.H. Allen, Star Names, Their Lore and Meaning; 1899, Dover Publications, pp.252-253.
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  3 ] Manilius, Astronomica, 4.180-191 (Loeb p.237).
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  4 ] Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos, 1.9 (Loeb p.49), 111.12 (Loeb p.321).
Tycho Brahe officially catalogued the group Coma Berenices (the Hair of Berenice) as a separate constellation. Its story is that Queen Berenice cut off her beautiful locks and displayed them in a temple as a sacrifice for the safe return of her husband from war. To the dismay of the Royal Couple the locks were stolen and to allay the anger of the King it was claimed that Venus had taken them and placed them in the sky.
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  5 ] Lilly, Christian Astrology, pp. 537, 621, 649, 678, 689, 690.
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  6 ] Ebertin & Hoffman, Fixed Stars and their Interpretation, 1971, p.56.
Vivian Robson, The Fixed Stars and Constellations, 1923, republished by Ascella, p.161
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  7 ] Lilly, Christian Astrology, p.667.
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  8 ] Dorotheus, Carmen Astrologicum, LVI. 109 (p.253).
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© Deborah Houlding

Stars & Constellations