Libra the Scales or Balance is the part of you that seeks equilibrium, harmony, beauty, peace. Ruled by Venus, this side of you is looking to find your reflection in others through relationship and interaction.
I never knew I had one 'til I saw yours shine,
Spinning from your laughter, sparkling in your eyes,
Sharing my confusion, sharing my surprise,
At finding part of me in you... alive! ~ Juluka (South Africa's first multi-racial rock band)
Before we talk about the zodiac sign Libra, indulge me for a moment... When you look out, what do you see? When you peep out through your eyes, what peers back at you? Your internal feelings, thoughts, ponderings, ideas, dreams and intuition could be categorized as "You." The world that you perceive outside yourself could be regarded as "not-You," although what is "not-You" can reflect back much about you!
But let's go back a few steps. As babies, we believe that Mom, Dad and everything around us are but extensions of ourselves. In this primitive state of enmeshment we believe that who we are is mirrored back to us, and that what is reflected back is an accurate portrayal of who we are. This mirroring effect forms the basis for the symbiotic bonding with one's mother (or the primary caretaker). But wait! Doesn't this sound a little like Cancer? All that Mother stuff and bonding? And doesn't that self-centred orientation sound like Aries?
Welcome to the 3rd Cardinal sign, Libra! The first two Cardinal signs are (you guessed it) Aries and Cancer. Collins English Dictionary defines "cardinal" as meaning "fundamentally important; principal," coming from the Latin word for "hinge," meaning "that on which something depends." The Cardinal signs (Aries, Cancer, Libra, Capricorn) represent parts of ourselves that are essential and central to our lives, on which subsequent development depends as a foundation for growth.
Libra represents our ability to relate to other people, but this is actually a very complex task. What, exactly, are we relating to? If "You" are inside, then the outside becomes "The Other" or "not-You." We relate to whatever is outside ourselves. And yet, if we are all One underneath, where do we draw the line between what is "You" and what is "not-You"?
This is the lesson of Libra to explore the razor's edge between ourselves and those with whom we are closely connected. But this ability to relate to others doesn't just happen out of nowhere. To understand Libra on a personal level, it helps to look at the sign from an archetypal perspective, at what comes before Libra and what follows after it.
Relating Through the Quadrants
Before we can relate to others, there must be a sense of self to relate from. The emergence and formation of our spirit essence in the form of the conscious ego (Aries) is the basic building block of identity and everything that follows from it. This ego consciousness develops through the signs of the First Quadrant, in the archetypal or natural chart. (Beginners may want to check out Notes For Novices, at right, to follow this part of the article). We ground that spirit essence in the physical world (Taurus) and develop self-awareness through mutual communication with our immediate surroundings (Gemini). These stages of growth in the First Quadrant form a Subjective experience of the Self.
The basic ability to bond with another (Cancer) is the next building block of relationship. This provides the foundation needed to become and express oneself as a separate entity (Leo). Having a strong sense of self enables us to reach out beyond that Self, to give selflessly to others and thereby stretch the potential of who we can be (Virgo). These developmental stages form a Subjective experience of The Other (Second Quadrant).
Now we arrive at Libra, in which we continue the exploration of our relationship with others from a more objective perspective. "The Other" is now something apart from ourselves which we can observe, interact with, and react to (Libra). We must then come to terms with the intimacy and power dynamics that result from that close interaction (Scorpio). From such an intense encounter with The Other, it becomes necessary to discover and share the higher truth and deeper meaning of that experience to understand how to get past the inevitable problems that arise (Sagittarius). This is the Third Quadrant, or the Objective experience of The Other.
In the Fourth Quadrant, we take all that we've learned and take it to a context greater than ourselves, initiating our Objective experience of the Self. We apply this first to our personal goals and role in society (Capricorn); then to friends, associates, groups and humanity as a whole (Aquarius); and finally expand our perspective to the encompass the Universe, Itself (Pisces).
The most profound relationship we'll ever have is with ourselves. ~ Shirley MacLaine
As you can see, when we talk about "relating" we must ask "to what?" There are many different contexts within which we can and do relate. Libra begins the task of relating to others objectively. However, this is anything but straightforward! The aura of enmeshed Oneness from infancy tends to linger, making it hard to distinguish where "You" stop and "not-You" begins.
Libra teaches us that we are both connected and separate beings, being both intimately attached to others and isolated as distinct individuals. Ultimately, we must honour and experience both sides, just as the scales (Libra's symbol) must be balanced from both sides. In relationships, however, this is tricky ground; like echoes in a canyon, what we perceive in "The Other" may actually be a projection of ourselves.
The Dynamics of Projection
Libra marks the midpoint in our journey around the zodiac, peering at Aries from the opposite side. It's as if we hiked half-way around a circular lake and are now looking back across the water to where we began. We see it as if for the first time, from a whole new perspective. We see that cottage over there, which seemed so large close-up, which looks surprisingly small against the background of the looming hills. The boathouse, built some distance from the cottage, now looks as if it's an extension of the cottage. And we see that the road running next to the cottage, which up-close seemed to disappear into the woods, apparently runs way over to that store over there.
The sign of Libra represents this kind of objectivity, based on distance and separation. When we view other people as a separate beings, we can see them clearer than when we're up-close and intertwined. Everyone wants to be seen and appreciated for themselves, and through our Libra nature, we have the maximum vantage point to do this. However, distances can also be deceiving and we must ask ourselves if we're really seeing what we think we see.
Libra and Pisces are the two signs most prone to distorted or atypical perception. When the Sun rises, we see it in the 12th House (Pisces natural house), and later it sets in the 7th House (Libra's natural house). At these times, the Sun's appearance becomes refracted and distorted near the horizon. The corresponding signs and houses (Libra/7th, Pisces/12th) are those most prone to perceptual and experiential distortion and deception.
When we look out through our 7th House lens, we perceive what we believe is the other person, but often we project our own desires, needs, issues and agendas onto that person. This can mean we're seeing only a glimpse of the real person, while filling in the blanks with our own hopes, fears and expectations. It's kind of like that lake scene, in which the road looks like it runs between the cottage and the store but may actually wind into the woods first and merge with another road first before it reaches the store. Just because we're seeing more of the scenery doesn't mean we see it accurately or understand everything about it.
In the same way, we tend to see in other people a combination of the real person and our own projections. In Libra we must learn to navigate through this strange Hall of Mirrors and decipher which is the reflection and which is the real thing. The best way to do this is to keep relating to others until we find a way that works. Hence, the Libra person is usually very focused on other people, especially those with whom they find some form of harmony or balance.
Love and War
One's initial relationship to the world of "not-You" is that of mirroring. The mother (or primary nurturer) reflects back and responds to what s/he sees expressed by the child. The baby smiles, the parent smiles and coos; the baby gurgles and makes sounds, the parent replies in baby-talk and encourages some simple words; the baby cries, the parent comforts and cuddles. A balance of similarities is achieved and all is right with the world.
The Libra person seeks similarities with others through harmony, symmetry, diplomacy, balance, fairness, love and beauty. If astrology's slogan is "As above, so below," Libra's is probably "As with you, so with me." The Libra person seeks to establish harmony through mutual similarities, a sort of sympathetic resonance. Like a tuning fork that will cause a guitar string to vibrate when they are both tuned to the same pitch, we instinctively gravitate to people whose "vibes" we relate to. We "resonate" with each other.
The tuning fork and guitar string will vibrate together regardless of which one initiates the sound. In much the same way, we tend to take on the mood and attitude of those around us and in turn modify our surroundings by our own disposition. It's as if our Libran nature is at one end of a teeter-totter, requiring someone to be at the other end to achieve equilibrium and symmetry. By mirroring our environment and being mirrored back, we connect to the world around us and learn the skill of give-and-take, ebb-and-flow.
This balance is most pleasantly achieved through similarity, where both people share similar qualities. This is a peaceful experience; a state of rest, harmony and love, wherein like attracts like. However, true to Libra's dualistic nature, there are two ways to achieve this balance. The second way is through polarization or complementary counter-balance. This is the attraction of opposites, in which dissimilarities fit together hand-in-glove to form a whole.
Like magnets, we may be drawn to people who possess qualities that (we believe) we lack. If someone is good at math and can balance a cheque book like falling off a log, s/he might attract a partner who hates math but is great at cooking, something which the first person may be lost at. This is the ideal way in which dissimilarities can combine positively each side compensates for what the other lacks. They complement each other.
However, differences between people that are not appreciated or assimilated tend to be perceived and experienced as repellent, and are typically met with attempts to change the other person. In order for a complementary effect to be reached, each person must honour, appreciate, and be open to the dissimilarities in the other person. (The mathematician must value the abilities of the cook and vice versa.) Complementary balance needs to take place in an atmosphere of mutual respect and tolerance. Unfortunately, this can often be very difficult to achieve, and opposites between people will often rebuff and oppose rather than attract.
Balance, however, must and will be achieved in some form. Just as water seeks a stabilized level, even if that means flooding to relieve the excess pressure, all relationships reach a state of equilibrium and normalization, be it healthy or dysfunctional. We instinctively find some way to relate to the other person, whether that's based on peace through similarity and symmetry, or war born of polarization and dissention. For this reason, Libra people are known as both the "peace-makers" and the "war-makers," instigating conflict and confrontation just as quickly and easily as peace and harmony. In either case, the motive is the achievement of balance.
The Hall of Mirrors
What we see in the other person may be something we feel we lack, or we may be drawn to them because they seem to agree with us. Regardless of our motive, what we are drawn to in the other person almost always lies in ourselves in some form. Whether we're attracted to someone through affection and liking, or morbidly fascinated through dislike and repulsion, we see something in them that "pushes our buttons." The other person may inspire pleasant or irritating feelings in us, but it is our buttons that are being pushed.
For example, we may feel an instant affinity for someone for no apparent reason, or we may see something in that person that we like or admire. We tend to believe that something in the other person is responsible for our feelings.
Reincarnational reunions aside, we're usually recognizing something in the other person that also resides in ourselves. Like Narcissus, who fell in love with his own reflection, we are fascinated by our own qualities that we see shining out of the eyes of The Other. However, we may be unaware that we also have this trait. We may not know how to own this quality, or we may believe we're undeserving or incapable of it; or we may lack the courage or resources to deal with the implications or consequences of that trait
The magic mirror of Libra teaches us that whenever we see a quality in another, some part of it originates inside of us perhaps the attribute, itself, or simply a fascination, empathy or identity with it. We project parts of ourselves onto others, thereby finding a way to learn, interact or wrestle with these qualities.
Astrologers have a wonderfully apt phrase to describe this action of projection it's called "giving away your planets." We unconsciously give away the characteristics, strengths and/or weaknesses of our own natal planet to someone else who seems better able to contain or express them. The good news is that by doing this we have an opportunity to learn about that disowned planet by observing and interacting with this other person, who can (ideally) teach us something about that part of ourselves.
The bad news is that by doing so, we also give away our power to choose how, when and why we will exercise and utilize that energy. Our access to that part of ourselves lies at the mercy of the other person, over whom we have no real control. To one degree or another, that person is free to withhold that energy, inflict it on us, reward it to us, or take it in whatever direction they see fit.
Unfortunately, this often doesn't match our needs or hopes, and we may wind up in bitter conflict as we come to feel controlled by or at crossed purposes with that person. Or, we may unconsciously attempt to control the other person in order to regain control over our projected qualities, rather than taking ownership (and therefore control) back within us.
Venus, the Inner Magnet
Libra and its ruling planet, Venus, represents our ability to attract people and things to ourselves, regardless of whether we attract "positive" or "negative" experiences. If we want to attract someone to us, we focus on them, resonate to them, get to know them, identify with them, appreciate them, understand them, love them, hate them get involved with them! When we fail to connect with someone, it may be because we're not focusing on them clearly or strongly enough, or we're not putting out an energy they can "resonate with."
This is the magnetic energy of Venus, whom we met in the Taurus article. Venus is the planetary ruler of both Taurus and Libra. The Taurus side of Venus attracts possessions, wealth and other valuable resources; the Libra side of Venus draws people into interactions, partnerships and one-to-one relationships.
Whether our Venus is attracting people or things, the principle is the same: magnetic resonance. During the upcoming Libra cycle, we all have the opportunity to hone our attraction and relating skills to a finer point.
© 1996, 2004, 2005 Wendy Guy. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission from Transitions Astrology Newsletter, Virgo-Libra 1996 Issue.