Leo and the Sphinx
Once I lived down the street from the Great Sphinx for a week. What was most impressive was how unimpressive it was — at first sight, that is. It’s not nearly as large as it seems in photos, or maybe the scale of the desert background creates the sense that it’s smaller than it is. Or perhaps all the tourists buzzing around, snapping pictures like lunatics, creates a distraction. It doesn’t necessarily whack you on the head with the statement Big Mystery or Great Monument.
To really see the thing, and all the mystery around it, you have to look, and you need to feel, and most important, you need to give it time.
The Sphinx represents many mysteries; for example, nobody really knows how old it is, or who built it. At times it’s been estimated that it was constructed as recently as 2000 BCE, though it’s now known that there are repairs on the body of the lion that date to the old kingdom, in about 3100 BCE.
Newer geological evidence puts it back at least to 5,000 BCE — which seems like an underestimate as well. The point is that it’s older than anyone really knows for sure. For this reason, its existence represents a kind of unsolvable mystery, as well as offering what may be the oldest archeological relic on the planet.
One clue to its age is that there’s quite a bit of water erosion on the Sphinx that’s not present on other man-made monuments in the area. This suggests not only that the Sphinx is older than the adjacent pyramids, but also that it dates to a time when the local climate was entirely different.
Much like the Sphinx rises up out of the Egyptian desert, set amongst the foggy ruins of time known as the zodiac is another big cat, which we call Leo. Leo is the sign of the Sun, associated with the human heart and the metal gold. It is THE sign of human vitality and in many respects the source of strength, light and creation. As the sign associated with gold, it is the reference standard for all things valuable.
Leo is one of the most important signs that directly references sex. Leo-styled, sex has a certain curiosity-driven quality, a childish innocence, and a sense of creation, expression and sharing. It’s the kind of sex that humans experiment with until ideas about commitment and morals get in the way.
Leo is also the sign of children and one’s inner child — passionate, dramatic, giving and sensitive.
In Greek and Roman mythology, Leo is associated with the story of the Nemean Lion, which was terrorizing the people of Nemes in ancient Greece. It was the first labor of Heracles, assigned to him by Hera (his namesake), to find and kill the lion. This reminds me of the biblical story of Samson, so we have evidence of a cycle of myths in which “the strongest man on Earth,” despite his other frailties, proves his vitality by killing the king of beasts.
In the esoteric sense, we have in the taming or killing of the lion, a symbol of mankind mastering himself or his personality. Or, it can represent the taming and gaining control of the sexual nature so that it can be experienced and enjoyed without wreaking havoc on the world.
However, the mythical lion is not always killed by man; the lion is also a symbol of protection. At the Sacred Lake on Delos, lions stand guard over the birthplace of the Sun and the Moon, Apollo and Artemis. You can see that here, with a bit of background:
If we look to older sources with similar feelings, we can wind up in ancient Egypt. The astrological signs are home to the most ancient mythological relics in the sky, the landscape within which all the other myths and cycles are set. Their stories have been around longer than the planets, and have been taken over and recast by more cultures. At times, they fade to obscurity and ambiguity.
The ancient Egyptians were a culture of Sun-god worshippers, and they revered lions. So going back much further than Delos (where the Sun was born, and which is guarded by lions) we have associations between lions and the Sun.
Australian fixed star specialist Anne Wright tells us, “The Egyptian king Necepsos, and his philosopher Petosiris, taught that at the Creation the Sun rose here near Denebola in the Lion’s tail (the star beta Leonis); and hence Leo was Domicilium Solis, the emblem of fire and heat, and, in astrology, the House of the Sun, governing the human heart.”
She continues, “The adoption of this animal’s form for a zodiac sign has been attributed to the fact that when the Sun was among its stars in midsummer, the lions of the desert left their accustomed haunts for the banks of the Nile, where they could find relief from the heat in the waters of the inundation; and the Egyptians worshiped the stars of Leo because the rise of their great river, the Nile, was coincident with the Sun’s entrance among them.”
Throughout the world, numerous cultures, from China to ancient Greece to modern France and Germany, adorn their society with lions, which are always a symbol of the strength and power of the empire. Like the fixed sign it is, Leo seems to represent a not only enduring but somehow eternal symbol of existence, vitality and supremacy.
The signs of the zodiac each represent the inner nature of the following sign, and the Sphinx, with the lion’s body and a human head, seems to represent the relationship between Leo and Virgo. Anne Wright tells us, “The great Sphinx is said to have been sculpted with Leo’s body and the head of the adjacent Virgo who, in Egypt, was seen as the goddess Isis; although [some] Egyptologists maintain that this head represented one of the early kings, or the god Harmachis.”
In Leo, we get the representation of a lion and in Virgo, a woman or goddess.
Alice A. Bailey, in Esoteric Astrology, tells us that Leo represents two great mysteries, one being the mystery of the Sphinx. This is “connected with the relation of Leo and Virgo, and tied up with the secret of the solar Angels. This is not the mystery of the soul and form, but the mystery of the higher and the lower mind and their relation to each other.”
In Bailey’s system, the Sun is the ruler of Leo on both of her esoteric levels, the only planet to consistently rule one sign through all three spheres. For all the other signs, there is at least one other ruler involved.
Looking to the tarot, we find a symbol where a woman and a lion are depicted in the same card — Strength, the 8th trump card in some systems (based on the Waite tarot) and the 11th in others (based on older decks such as Marseilles, and preserved by Crowley and most of his successors). The card depicts a woman, whose divinity is indicated by an infinity symbol over her head (overtly in the Waite deck, and covertly in older decks as a hat), spreading the jaws of a lion, which is located at the level of her pelvis.
On the surface level, the card is associated with all the Leonine themes such as vitality, courage, taking care of oneself, and mastering the personality. It is the Leo card.
But if we go to the level of occult symbolism, the image of a woman spreading open the mouth of a lion at the level of her pelvis seems a little like spreading the lips of her vulva. Since it happens that Leo is the sign of the birth of children and children themselves; and often presented in orange (particularly by Crowley, in his Lust card), it is reminiscent of the second chakra, which is the biocomputer at the pelvic level which runs the energy of sex.
The vulva is one source of the divine waters. Ann Wright reminds us that the Egyptians’ “reverence for [the Nile’s] sacred, fertilizing waters, and for the Lion which was associated with them, is the origin of the many lion-headed fountains, where the water flows from the lion’s mouth.”
She also comments, “A lion guarded the tunnel through which the Sun god Ra passed at night,” a vaginal enough image to be obvious.
Is it possible that Leo represents the feminine aspect of the solar, which one of my readers pointed out is an archetype that is barely recognized by any culture? With the tarot image of spreading the vulva (a posture called anaserma, in Greek, which is the explicit revealing of the sexual nature or body), we have both a key to the goddess, and a depiction of what female sexual and creative self-mastery might look like.
There is a sense of unselfish self-possession, freedom, divine blessing and the complete absence of shame. She is not afraid to be noticed. An enlightened woman is the master of her own most fearsome quality; she herself is not afraid of the yearning sexual beast within. More to the point, she has gradually become a source of strength and creativity for herself, and those around her. These qualities seem to reside with womankind like a great Sphinx, rising up out of the dry desert, offering their nourishing waters, and underestimated by anyone — if they even notice.
But that’s a pussycat for you. They usually see you first.
Planet Waves by Eric Francis
Run On or Before July 22, 2005
Happy Birthday Leo!
The kinds of changes that take most people years or decades, you are going through in a few months or a few seasons. A rare, even unique, combination of factors is providing you with the motivation and awareness to develop yourself in unusual ways.
By this time, if you have even a vague interest in astrology, you have heard that Saturn has entered your birth sign. Indeed, Saturn’s progress over the next few months will specifically cover those born in the first week of Leo, through July 31. So we can say for sure (with unusual certainty for astrology that does not specifically address your chart) that you are, or will soon be having, a direct experience of Saturn conjunct your natal Sun.
In the simplest terms, this is not a sign that your life is changing; rather, it is evidence that you are changing, and changing now. It’s a strong indicator of a maturing process underway at this moment, and a reminder that you were born into this life to be your own master.
One of the keys to this is going to be taking the lead role in your relationships. I don’t mean that you’re going to walk all over everyone, but I mean that you become either the agent of change, or the main person in the situation who is ready and willing to change. Sometimes being a leader means following the example of others, or responding directly to what they are doing or becoming.
With both Saturn and Chiron so strongly affecting your sign now, balancing out these two aspects of leadership, the passive and the active, are vitally important. If you can remain highly sensitive to your environment, you will know what to do, who to cooperate with, who to avoid, and you’ll see the various two-edged aspects of many of the decisions you face.
There appears to be some work-related or health-related matter that you will soon have an opportunity to attend to. This extends through the season into the next; by September, you’ll be onto exactly what you need to do. Since this is an old situation, you’ve had time and space to make the decisions you need to make in order to move this process along.
As with all things Saturnian, your new way of life will be increasingly incremental. A series of small adjustments made over a long period of time is what will gradually guide you to the new place that you want to be, and help shape you into the new person you are becoming.
Perhaps the most important thing that will change is your method of self-assessment. What most people do not realize is that behind your confident exterior and heart of gold is a person who has many more questions than is apparent. There is a difference, however, between evaluating yourself with a sharply critical eye, and doing so with compassion and love.
When Saturn is present in our lives, all things become fodder for discipline and growth, and this challenge is one of the more important ones that will assist you in having an easier life as well as true peace of mind. There must be no question that you are a kind, compassionate and fair person. The question is how you identify and change the things about yourself that you need to change.
For this project, certain people close to you will provide both negative and positive examples. Be sure you choose between them carefully.
Aries (March 20-April 19)
A close partner appears to be on the brink of a change that they don’t quite understand. A lot of how this development progresses depends on how you respond. You need to be supportive and clear-headed; what’s exceedingly familiar territory for you is rather mysterious and uncharted ground for them. The fact that you may perceive it as so logical and sensible, though, is not necessarily a source of comfort, so you need to maintain that balance between being helpful and letting someone you love find their way. Do less; listen more. With a spirit of love and cooperation, what transpires over the next few days could be distinctly pleasant.
Taurus (April 19-May 20)
You’ve got no need to push; the momentum of your life is carrying you along just fine. The problem you seem to be facing is not quite understanding the wisdom of your past decisions, but at this point you’re not in a good position to be assessing the logic behind them. Soon enough the logic will become apparent, as will the sensibility of taking a chance that you simply cannot leave unexplored. Make no mistake: taking this risk will change you, in the long run, in ways you simply cannot foresee today. But that’s part of a much larger process of your life that’s best assessed on a spiritual level rather than an intellectual one.
Gemini (May 20-June 21)
Among its dual reputations, Gemini carries one characteristic of a short attention span, and another for transcendent brilliance. With Saturn so well aspected in your chart, we don’t need to worry about the first one these days. You have nothing if not focus. As for the second, I suggest you apply your mind to seeing deep into problems and resolving to use them entirely to your advantage. To some, your best ideas may seem too far out or exotic to be of any use. But in this particular equation, you’re the one who truly can think globally and act locally.
Cancer (June 21-July 22)
You’re about to be given a series of opportunities to reassess your financial situation from a position of real strength. What you must remember is that many of your decisions involving money, and thus your mental habits abou tmoney, have been based on a position of weakness that simply does not apply to you today. Look at all you’ve been through, all you’ve learned, and how far you’ve come. Now, you need to imagine a destination or objective that your older way of life simply would not have allowed you to consider. The thing to remember is that there’s no rush, and that the most solid progress is slow and steady.
Leo (July 22-Aug. 23)
There are times when we turn over a new leaf; times when we begin a new chapter; and times when the whole universe thunders with the message, “Now is the time.” The influences that are the most potent in your life now have been quietly influencing you for some years, so you may not necessarily see that this particular moment was the real turning point. But when you look back, it will be obvious. Now that you know this, how can you respond to the events and opportunities taking full advantage of their influence over your future? Make every decision like you really are the one with the most influence over your life.
Virgo (Aug. 23-Sep. 22)
You may be getting the feeling that you have no control over your life whatsoever. If that were actually true, you could stop worrying, because it wouldn’t make a difference anyway. If you can pause long enough, you’ll see where you really have the power to make a difference. Much of that has to do with how you handle the deepest aspects of your emotional psychology. You can, for example, project your fear of loneliness and being different onto the world. Or, you could work with them slowly, take ownership of your state of mind, and notice how the people you love are available to you right now.
Libra (Sep. 22-Oct. 23)
You may have taken many opportunities recently to express your views and use your allies. I suggest that under developing aspects, you take a step back and assess where you stand. It is true that you’ve put yourself in a unique position and staked out some kind of social or creative territory that you would normally be much more hesitant about holding. What you have yet to see is the strength of your position, and this will come only with a slow and deliberate assessment. You have time, and using it will only work to your advantage.
Scorpio (Oct. 23-Nov. 22)
Fortune and success are calling your name personally, but I don’t suggest you send out a press release. Rather, impress others with how genuinely concerned for their wellbeing you are, and make sure there are no little cracks in your reputation. If you find any, make sure you take care of the repairs with deeds and not just with words. The world needs leaders who can hold a vision, and certainly you qualify. But more in tune with the times is a need for leaders who are capable of setting a good example. This way, authority and recognition will work for you and not against you.
Sagittarius (Nov. 22-Dec. 22)
Long-term plans and ambitions come into focus now, and you owe it to yourself to take these things a lot more seriously. You’re typically someone who has a lot of energy, but in truth you only have so much. The way sensible people usually handle this is by prioritizing. There is one person’s advice and counsel, which will be exceedingly helpful in getting this particular rather touchy discussion going. You know exactly who she is, and you trust her because in addition to having your best interests at heart, she has no interest at all in the outcome.
Capricorn (Dec. 22-Jan. 20)
Others are willing to talk business, so you need to be as well. But I don’t suggest you do any thinking out loud. Rather, invest your energy refining some very specific proposals that are based on exactly what you want, and what you’re willing to do. Then, be prepared for what may be a prolonged period of negotiation and working out of the details. You can have faith in the ultimate outcome, and you don’t need to push. If you can put most of your energy into understanding and responding to what you perceive as people’s genuine goals and concerns, you will emerge from this discussion a winner.
Aquarius (Jan. 20-Feb. 19)
You’re suddenly figuring out not just where other people stand; you’re seeing how much you’ve learned in recent years, and how applicable it is to real life. Your star really is rising, and with that privilege come a number of added responsibilities that put the focus on keeping your relationships sane, healthy and directed in productive directions. It is true that you have a tendency to attract rather self-centered people into your life, who seem to use your ability to work with community goals as a public relations ploy. Now, despite themselves, some influential people in your life are poised to use that influence on behalf of you and what you feel is important.
Pisces (Feb. 19-March 20)
We don’t generally see descriptions of what excellent workers Pisces are in astrology books, but only you know the extent of your pride in a job genuinely well done. You have recently entered an era of your life where this particular quality is the one that moves to the top of your list of priorities. Your plans may not be moving with the speed you like, and you may feel you have not accomplished nearly enough for your stage of growth. But what you are doing takes time, dedication and most of all, the ability to give all you’ve got. Use that ability judiciously and it will serve you well when you need it most.