The Lion

The Sun went into Leo on Monday evening, with the Moon swinging into the opposite sign of Aquarius about two hours later, reaching exact full Moon less than 10 minutes after that. We had a clear evening with scattered cloud, watching the Moon rise in the humid warmth, drifting through veils of mackerel clouds, smoke and silver, floating free to shine cream in its low arc. In the distance lightning flashed and thunder rumbled, and occasional fat drops of rain fell, quickly evaporating as the downpour failed to materialize (though it would later, in the early hours).

Leo is high Summer, and high Summer will last for all of the Lion’s sign. There is something grand, decadent and rambling about the Leo time, with its parched grasses and mature, dark tree canopies, its clouds of gnats and ripening and rotting berries and fruits, its swarming ants and rustling crickets.

Quite a few Pagans would associate this time in their “wheel of the year” with harvest and sacrifice of their god (or an aspect of him). I don’t sacrifice my gods (why would I sacrifice what I love and find more beautiful than anything?), and you won’t find me waxing lyrical about the divine mother who births a son, that becomes her lover, only to be sacrificed when he’s impregnated her, to be reborn again, fatherless and obliging. Surely every religion has myths that are obscure to outsiders, but that pretty little design of maternal snuff pedophilia is indeed obscure to me. My wheel of the year doesn’t roll like that.

If Cancer the Crab opened up the watery dream world, Leo the Lion brings the object of desire and dream into vision, into touch and scent, taste and sensuous belly to belly contact. While Cancer was at the height of the light in the year, in Leo the heat is even greater, more materially manifest, yet accompanied by that lick of darkness that makes growth, ripening and decay possible. Between Cancer and Leo the grand fermentation gets under way.

In the tarot, the card associated with  Leo is Strength or Fortitude, showing a female figure in a wide brimmed hat opening (or possibly closing) the jaws of a lion. I learnt from Richard Gardner that this represented the great power of water consciousness, which was largely unconscious in us at present, and its capacity to charm and tame what we think of more conventionally as force and power, and indeed what we think of as “reality”. Again I find that the motif of wish fulfilment arises, but also some sense of the work in consciousness involved.

For the Ancient Egyptians, the sign of Leo was associated with the inundation of the Nile, and there is a story that lions would come down to the Nile at this time to drink in the Summer. It is said that Ovid makes reference to Leo in his Metamorphoses, where she (for it is a lioness here) is responsible for the Romeo and Juliet scenario of young love denied and tragically fooled into suicide, though ultimately united in death*. I could not find the explicit reference to Leo in the translation that I own, but the archetypal story of romantic love fits the themes of Leo and the 5th house all the same. It speaks of the enormous power of passion and love, and the price of its denial. Leo bids us to let love live, and to let life (with a capital “L”) and our personal dreams have their due. Leo gives us the innocent ultimatum, to start living, or to start dying. This is why Leo is one of the archetypal “child” signs, because it holds part of the elixir of inner youth.

The brightest star in Leo is Regulus, the “Lion’s Heart” and the “kingly star”, though it has actually now moved into the tropical sign of Virgo (though it of course stays in the starry constellation of Leo). Traditionally it has been given some of the astrological characteristics of Jupiter and Mars. Darkstar Astrology gives these key words for Regulus:

“Brave, bloodthirsty, gutsy, ambitious, driven, unstoppable, proud, pompous, majestic, magical, vain, arrogant, egotistical, regal, loyal, poised, famous, flamboyant, fabulous, dashing, flash, outrageous, chivalrous, courteous, conquering, entrepreneurial, outré, controversial, glorious, bold, hot, brutish, sexy, passionate, diva-esque, haughty, naughty, playful, flirty, childlike, extremist, romantic, generous, fanatical, bossy, unhinged, stalker, predatory, man-eater”

which is quite a plate full really! Constellations of Words website links Regulus with Raphael, the “healing archangel”.

Leo always seems to elicit a kind of sour, passive aggressive resentment from some. Too big, too innocent, too showy, too individual, too romantic, too unreconstructed, too believing in the self, not enough giving of fucks for the collective, for humility, and showing of humility. And all of that is true, and lots more besides, and none of it is in quotation marks. Because Leo doesn’t stop anyone else being Leo, it just doesn’t do it for them and then not take the credit. Leo is the genuine article, and that includes ego. You don’t like it, that isn’t Leo’s problem (though Leo does get hurt by rejection). But without Leo, the honesty, directness, sheer enthusiasm, pride, energy, creativity and romance of embodied fulfilment would not be possible.

People put it down, but they all use it just the same. It’s the gold of the world, found in your dreams, and it comes with a generous heart and a way with love. And between the miraculous water and the drive-you-crazy-with-desire fire at the heart of Summer, between the shining blue arc of sky and the dark ripening of forest and field, the sparkling lake and the dry fragrant grasses, a story unwinds which seems so old and yet so brand new and fresh. That innocence, love and life are true.

Lion in Chobe National Park, Botswana, by Gorgo (Photo taken by author) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

* Pyramus and Thisbe – Ovid, Metamorphoses Book IV, translated by AD Melville 1986.

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