Images of the Zodiac: Contemplating Leo


Johfra Bosschart, Leo

The whole scene is bathed in golden light of the most beautiful shade of gold. The landscape is regal and luxuriant – the intricate golden frame, the majestic palms, the erect cypresses, wonderful sunflowers, citrus bushes and the oak tree on the right. Nothing short of perfection for the King to show off his dominion.  The keynote of Leo, according to Rudhyar, is personalized expression of creative power. This sign is aligned with the realm of Logos and its symbolism revolves around emotional instinctuality, the heart, the sun, kingship and, as Rudhyar put it, “an emotional urge to go forth and to conquer, to multiply oneself through a multitude of creations stamped with one’s image.”

The sign Leo is the channel of enormous fiery power – fire in being, which is fixed, stable and indistinguishable. This power keeps the heart beating and the rhythm of life operating. Leo begins the second quarter of the Zodiac, which, according to Rudhyar, represents individual and personal activity. Each level begins with a fire sign because the element Fire releases the power to transform what has been into what will be. Let me stop or a moment by that oak tree although it is not the central image. This is a hollow tree, which is significant from an alchemical perspective. In alchemy, the hollow oak was an image of Athanor – a furnace which had to be kept at a constant temperature for the Philosopher’s Stone to be born. Leo’s quest is to give birth to the Philosopher’s Stone – the radiant Self.


How did the Lion become such a powerful and universal symbol? The first appearance of the Lion as a symbol seems to be the Great Sphinx of Giza. Recent geological tests seem to prove that the Sphinx is much older than the pyramids. In his book Fingerprints of the Gods, Graham Hancock argues that the Sphinx may date back to 10,000 BC, when humanity was in the Age of Leo. In his other book, Heaven’s Mirror, Hancock wrote: “Computer simulations show that in 10,500 BC the constellation of Leo housed the sun on the spring equinox – i.e. an hour before dawn in that epoch Leo would have reclined due east along the horizon in the place where the sun would soon rise. This means that the lion-bodied Sphinx, with its due-east orientation, would have gazed directly on that morning at the one constellation in the sky that might reasonably be regarded as its own celestial counterpart.”  It is important to remember that at one time in history, the Vernal Equinox indicated New Year’s Day in our calendar until Julius Caesar moved it to January 1 in 45 BC. So, in the time of the Sphinx, a new year started with the sign Leo, not Aries.  The Sphinx was probably built to face the rising Leo constellation with its brightest star, Regulus, each morning. Edgar Cayce, the sleeping prophet, who I always listen to very closely, had a vision that the Sphinx had been built in 10,000 BC. He claimed that the survivors of Atlantis had concealed beneath it a Hall of Records containing the wisdom of their civilization and the history of the human race. Possibly in the approaching Age of Aquarius this truth will be revealed since Aquarius is the sign opposing Leo. In addition, the fixed star Regulus moved from Leo, where it had spent over 2000 years, to Virgo last year, which further emphasizes the mystery of the Sphinx, as the Sphinx is a lion with a maiden’s face and its symbolism rests on the interconnection between Leo and Virgo. I have already written about the Sphinx here and here.


Next to the Sphinx figure, archaeologists have discovered the remnants of the Sphinx temple dedicated to sun worship. The temple was designed to track the movements of the sun; furthermore, the sacred complex was supposed to harness the power of the sun. According to some channellers, notably Rudolf Steiner and Madame Blavatsky, this links the Sphinx to Atlantis, whose inhabitants worshiped the sun and harnessed its power with expertise.

The reason why I am writing about the Sphinx at such length is primarily to trace back the origins of the archetypal connection between the lion, the sun and kingship, but secondly because for some mysterious reasons I resonate very deeply with the symbolism of Leo. I once had a dream that I was a master of two lion cubs, who trusted me completely, lay on my lap and were tamed and loyal to me.  Then I read that lions were indeed kept as pets in ancient Egypt, which I had not known before. I have a strong Leonine energy in my birth chart – my Ascendant is conjunct the star Regulus mentioned above and my Venus is in the first degree of Leo in the twelfth house. All I can say is that the symbolism of the Sphinx and Leo always struck me on a deep and profoundly personal level, awakening distant memories and feelings I cannot exactly describe. I have no logical proof for scientists out there but there is no doubt in my mind whatsoever that Edgar Cayce was right about the significance of the Sphinx.

The sign Leo rules the heart. Like the sun is the centre of the Solar System, the King the centre of his tribe, so the heart is the central organ of the body. Interestingly enough, ancient Egyptians always left the heart inside the mummy while removing all the other organs. For the alchemists, the heart was indeed the image of the sun within an individual, while gold was the image of the sun on earth. We often talk of the necessity to follow one’s heart and intuition, to keep true to oneself instead of being stuck in social conformity. The Leo must learn to stand alone and, at the same time, integrate the Aquarian polarity, i.e. not to be estranged from the collective but rather to contribute his or her essence to it. Carl Gustav Jung was a Leo, who fittingly developed the concept of individuation, understood as the quest to find and develop one’s unique individual essence. This essence needs to be connected to something larger than the ego – to communicate with the realm of divine eternity. To attain his inner essence, Jung could not have stayed with Freud as his disciple and a faithful follower. He intuitively knew the inevitable truth: spiritually oriented Leos need to follow the lonely road into their own depths. What he developed was based on his experience, his intuition and his own deepest conviction. Once again, Rudhyar is spot on in expressing the essence of Leo-Aquarius axis:

It is before the New Age opens that the new creative impulse, the fecundating logos spermatikos, “descends” from the divine realm into one man, and secondarily a group of men, who incorporate it and make it manifest at least to a particularly open and responsive “creative minority.

The true change always starts with the individual fecundated by Spirit. Leos are so often disappointed with their biological fathers because their true mission, like that of Perceval, is to reunite with their divine father who helps them connect with their own radiant, transpersonal, divine essence.

But before a Leo can contribute to the collective and perhaps rule them as their benevolent King, he or she needs to wrestle with passions and fiery impulses. The lion cannot remain in his bestial form if he wants to be accepted by the society. In Johfra’s  painting this process is symbolized by Herakles’ fight with the Nemean lion. In Astrology of Fate, Liz Greene beautifully and in rich detail retells the myths of all Zodiac signs. She writes that the Nemean lion was actually sent from the moon to earth by Hera, who hated Herakles as an illegitimate son of Zeus. Since very ancient times and in cultures across the globe, lions have been associated with the Great Goddess, passionate emotionality, concupiscence and eroticism (they also followed Dionysos, the god of wine and ecstasy).




Cybele, Anatolian mother goddess

Herakles had to engage the lion, because the Leonine hero has to live through his bodily passions and instincts in order to learn how to tame them and achieve individuality. The lion fell and the hero flayed it and put on its hide. A real strength emerges from a full and direct experience of one’s instincts and impulses.

The heart depicted at the top of the painting is crowned because the Leo archetype is connected with that of the King. In a book King, Warrior, Magician, Lover: Rediscovering the Archetypes of the Mature Masculine, Robert Moore and Douglas Gillette describe this archetype beautifully but what is missing for me is the assertion that a woman can also embody this archetype. We all have the Sun in our astrological chart, and the Sun is the King archetype.

The King is the primordial man, the Hindu Atman, the inner image of God. Historically, Kings have always been sacred. They were larger than life and were sometimes possessed by this archetype, which posed a threat to their survival. Their physical lives were threatened because in ancient times they were killed when they were no longer able to fulfill their archetypal role for the collective. The advent of the new King always renewed the land and its people. He brought in a principle of order, fertility, creativity, vitality, joy and blessings to his subjects. The King was the organizer, the giver of laws and rational patterns – outside of his influence was chaos, demons and non-world. Like Apollo overcoming the Python, the King often fought the forces of chaos and overpowered them. He was “the earthly conduit from the Divine World… the central artery … that allowed the blood of the life-force to flow into the human world.” This archetype denotes our own integrity of being and of purpose, “our own central calmness about who we are.” A good King is able to nurture others and encourage them to express their true essence.

On the left side of the painting stands the God Apollo. Know Thyself, the inscription in his oracle of Delphi, is the ultimate motto of Leo. Apollo’s epithet was Phoebus meaning pure and holy. He was an unblemished image of the loftiness of Spirit, the most awe-inspiring god among the Olympians. When he was coming to this world on the island of Delos, miraculous golden light enveloped the island. The gold anchored the floating island to the seabed. Leo is a fixed sign, so that is very fitting archetypally. Our inner essence, the inner light of our Self, is like an anchor amidst the changing circumstances of everyday life. As Liz Greene put it: “He removes the pollution of corporeal reality and restores the unclean man or woman to a state of grace.” His art and music stilled turbulent emotions, brought back harmony and had healing properties. He personified beauty, clarity, rationality and order.

The dark aspect of Apollo was how easy he took offense, for example punishing the poor Marsyas for winning a musical duel with the god.  The punishment for Marsyas was quite gruesome – he was flayed alive. I think there are two possible explanations of this disturbing myth. On the one hand, it is a warning regarding the narcissistic side of Leos, who take offense easily and can be outraged and merciless when not worshiped or put on a pedestal. On the other hand, it was Marsyas who was guilty of hubris, i.e. excessive pride. Apollo embodied the divine Logos, the source of divine power that Marsyas misappropriated, thinking it was his own. The lesson here seems to be that humans are channels, not the source of this energy. The shadow of Apollo was Dionysos, associated with wild/chaotic nature and ecstasy. They always sat side by side at the Olympian table. There is a beautiful poem by Zbigniew Herbert, one of my favourite Polish poets, in which he seems to accuse Apollo of cruelty, tyranny and lack of compassion and no reverence for the human body, all traits of a tyrant, the wicked king.

Apollo and Marsyas

The real duel of Apollo
with Marsyas
(absolute ear
versus immense range)
takes place in the evening
when as we already know
the judges
have awarded victory to the god

bound tight to a tree
meticulously stripped of his skin
before the howl reaches
his tall ears
he reposes in the shadow of that howl

shaken by a shudder of disgust
Apollo is cleaning his instrument
only seemingly
is the voice of Marsyas
and composed of a single vowel A

in reality
Marsyas relates
the inexhaustible health
of his body

bald mountains of liver
white ravines of aliment
rustling forests of lung
sweet hillocks of muscle
joints bile blood and shudders
the wintry wind of bone
over the salt of memory

shaken by a shudder of disgust
Apollo is cleaning his instrument

now to the chorus
is joined the backbone of Marsyas
in principle the same A
only deeper with the addition of rust

this is already beyond the endurance
of the god with nerves of artificial fibre

along a gravel path
hedged with box
the victor departs
whether out of Marsyas’ bowling
there will not some day arie
a new kind

of art—let us say—concrete

at his feet
falls a petrified nightingale

he looks back
and sees
that the hair of the tree to which Marsyas was fastened

is white



Hans Thoma, Apollo and Marsyas

Compassion and empathy can sometimes be difficult for Leos. Where there is so much light and radiance, there must lurk a deep shadow. I find it fitting, though, to finish on a more radiant note by quoting a brilliant passage from the Upanishads:

‘Yâavalkya,’ he said, ‘what is the light of man?’

avalkya replied: ‘The sun, O King; for, having the sun alone for his light, man sits, moves about, does his work, and returns.’

Ganaka Vaideha said: ‘So indeed it is, O Yâavalkya.’

Ganaka Vaideha said: ‘When the sun has set, O Yâavalkya, what is then the light of man?’

avalkya replied: ‘The moon indeed is his light; for, having the moon alone for his light, man sits, moves about, does his work, and returns.’

Ganaka Vaideha said: ‘So indeed it is, O Yâavalkya.’

Ganaka Vaideha said: ‘When the sun has set, O Yâavalkya, and the moon has set, what is the light of man?’

avalkya replied: ‘Fire indeed is his light; for, having fire alone for his light, man sits, moves about, does his work, and returns.’

Ganaka Vaideha said: ‘When the sun has set, O Yâavalkya, and the moon has set, and the fire is gone out, what is then the light of man?’sound alone for his light, man sits, moves about, does his work, and returns. Therefore, O King, when one cannot see even one’s own hand, yet when a sound is raised, one goes towards it.’

Ganaka Vaideha said: ‘So indeed it is, O Yâavalkya.’

6. Ganaka Vaideha said: ‘When the sun has set, O Yâavalkya, and the moon has set, and the fire is gone out, and the sound hushed, what is then the light of man?’

avalkya said: ‘The Self indeed is his light; for, having the Self alone as his light, man sits, moves about, does his work, and returns.’

Ganaka Vaideha said: ‘Who is that Self?’

avalkya replied: ‘He who is within the heart, surrounded by the Prânas (senses), the person of light, consisting of knowledge.’

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37 Responses to Images of the Zodiac: Contemplating Leo

  1. Oh can’t wait to read this, but will do so later! Leo’s, I know so many! 😀


    More when I read later~


  2. So perhaps you lived before in Egypt? You know Odie from Eyes of Odysseus blog is a sphinx cat? I like this time of year because my ruler is in Leo and so is my descendant. The sun crossed over into my 7th yesterday. I had not heard beforeof Leo’s being disappointed with father figures, but have been told many Leo men are often disappointed in romantic love. I do appreciate the male Leo archetype of the Rock Star God such as Mick Jagger or Robert Plant. They embody the Leonine energies beautifully.


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  4. Yaz says:

    Good read. I don’t know any Leos strangely enough. I’m wondering if you’re going to do a piece on Virgo. My husband is a Virgo and your blogs have allowed me to explore levels of the psyche in ways I haven’t done before. I’m only wondering, not requesting. I know that we have to be inspired to write something. Thanks again for a quality article.


    • Virgo is up next! I started this when the Sun was in Aries and have been doing one sign a month when the Sun was in that particular sign. I also tried to have other planets in that sign so that I could feel the energy better. Thank you for reading. I promise you Virgo next month.


  5. ptero9 says:

    How did I miss this yesterday? Amazingly (again and again it seems), you posted this on August 9, my birthday. The symbolism of the Leo resonates very deeply with me with sun in Leo, moon in Gemini (uh-oh) and a bunch of squares in my natal chart, which I must admit I have not looked at in many years.
    For years, I struggled with my father, another Leo, and absolutely relate to a journey that forced me to accept the aloneness that I always have felt, leaving behind my childhood obsession with “not being who I wanted to be.” By embracing aloneness, I have come to find the courage to step into life and live it more fully, being truer to what calls me. Ironically, that embracing has led me out of the “curse of subjectivity” (ash Hillman calls it), and into you; curious about others and the world, learning a little bit more each day the importance of compassion, love, beauty and peace.
    Thank you Monika, a better birthday meditation I cannot imagine!


    • Wow, that is amazing. I wanted to post this on the day when transiting Mercury was on my Venus but subconsciously maybe I thought of you. Happy belated Birthday! By the way, my Sun is at 17 degrees of Gemini conjunct Mercury and I know and am close with quite a few Gemini Moons. Love, Monika


  6. I’m in love with the 5th house. I think it’s my favorite, actually. And that painting… it’s the musculature of the lion that’s so impressive, besides that amazing gold. I like how physical Leo is. 🙂


    • Yeah, the fifth house rocks – I like yours, and that North Node in Leo of yours falls on my Ascendant, Kelsey! Lions are such shamelessly erotic beasts, I agree. Sheer affirmation of Life.


      • Yeah. Super sexy! The 5th house is quite literally everything that I want out of life. It’s everything I love and celebrate unabashedly. Well, if my Node is on your Ascendant, it really is destined. I neglected that Node for a time, or tried to (academia’s a bit 9th house/Aquarius + 8th because they were funding me and always reminding me of that fact; an astrologer friend actually pointed out that it seemed to be the opposite of my destiny with a ton of past life yuckiness; and that’s certainly how it felt). That’s how I discovered/recognized/acknowledged my North Node. I think it, plus the 5th house and Chiron, are the main keys to my personality, on the basis of my subjective experience of myself. I know that other things might be more striking, but for my understanding of myself I consciously feel and sense those three aspects of my chart as incredibly important in understanding what attracts me and repels me. I really struggle with people en masse, that 11th house is a total stumbling block. (And the 4th.) What I most love and honor are all the themes of the 5th. No negative feelings there. Not even a little bit. 🙂

        How close is the conjunction, Monika?


      • The conjunction is not close. Your friend’s interpretation was spot on – s/he must be good. I also notice how my Venus in Leo supports your second house – hmm. I’m sending you my chart via email, so you can see for yourself.


      • She is good. She’s studied intensely for decades. That’s how I *know* that I am not, and never will be, an astrologer. Too many strands to suture together and so many aspects that mustn’t be overlooked, that may very well be key! (The North Node was never important to me until I was suffering from the South, and yet I had known it all along but because I couldn’t explain it…) I actually think that I’m too fundamentally impatient for astrology — although I love to hand draw charts and make the connections physically. Tarot, for its rather kaleidoscopic meanings that intertwine and overlay and take on different hues, is still far more direct, simple, and in the moment. You astrologers! Simply amazing. 🙂
        Uranus is the astrologers planet — or so we say in Tarot. It’s affiliated with the Hanged Man. Yours is very interesting to me, in light of your Sun stellium and Chiron. Wow.
        Confidence, Monika! Confidence! Hahaha…
        Let me know if and when you’d care to chat. And you have a roaring remainder to your Sunday, as well. 😉


      • Thank you so much. You are right about astrology, it is connected with Uranus and Aquarius. Tarot is more Neptunian – hazy, nebulous, kaleidoscopic. I love Tarot images but my problem is always the complexity of the cards – they can often mean contradictory things or so it seems for my airy mind. You are right that I need to stop wallowing in self-doubt and let out a roar for once! Thanks for your support, you are the best!


      • Yes! With Neptune in my 6th and an MC in Pisces, Tarot suits me down to the ground. Astrology is really technical. It’s only fun to draw. 😉
        Tarot seems more imaginative to me. And you’re absolutely correct about the Tarot cards having many meanings. Some cards are clearer, others not — at which point it becomes an extraction process — what is the underlying theme for ALL of these meanings *and* which meaning best suits my client and their circumstance, plus what are the other cards indicating? How do they fit? Tarot’s like painting, like mixing colors and trying to match a mood. So there’s extraction and then refraction — or like a centrifuge separating blood into all the component parts and corresponding data. I love it!
        Yes. You really need to stop wallowing in self-doubt!
        I have a long email to write you, but it may take a day. I do believe that I have quite a bit to say.
        I very much believed in reincarnation as a child. I said weird things, too, beyond speaking French. Like telling my mom that I felt like I had always existed, like I was 100 years old. And I said it as if… fatigued.


      • Great description of the Tarot reading process – I see in it your Virgo Mercury, Sagittarius Neptune and Pisces MC woven together magically. I could not say it better. How cool that my Sun/Mercury should complement this T-square and make it into a mutable cross.


  7. Bravo, Monika! Dripping with heart: essence and, like the sun, showing us the Path. This post “points” like the nose of the Sphinx to that which is always rising: the heart of the Sun/Son. I will read this post again (and again.) I have strong Leo, and through the myths you have offered me not only that which I did not know but that which will elicit the Light. Ahh, I can feel those upcoming meditations.


  8. Breathtaking . you are a magnificent curator. truly a glorious write .~m.s.


  9. This is a Splendid post ,so vast and deep …shall return to savour it …. and I too will see it as a BDay present . A spirit gift . Thank you from my heart . August 9 th also … and a Gemini asc around 21 degrees . , and a 5th house Stellium .
    thank you …


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  11. Mitra says:

    I love all your posts ! Can you please add your references in the end of each post? It helps a deal. Thank you again for this wonderful blog. By the way, I am a Leo 😉


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  13. ThePaganSun says:

    A great, thorough, and well-researched article! The connection between Leo and Virgo is fascinating. And as for the Sphinx, one interesting fact about Leo’s origins as the Nemean Lion is that the Greek Sphinx was said to be his sister (they were both born from the powerful and notorious Typhon and Echidna, or from the Chimera and Orthrus). So how interesting that Leo has a deep connection to the Sphinx even in his own myth. Great job!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for the kind comment and such a valuable elaboration on the myth. That really makes so much sense.


      • ThePaganSun says:

        No problem! Happy to help! Although some people think that the Greek Sphinx and Egyptian Sphinx are different, others think that after Oedipus solved her riddle in Thebes, she fled to Egypt. And I noticed that there was an Egyptian city called “Thebes” too.

        Liked by 1 person

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