When we look for the essence of the sign Leo, a powerful place of origin is rather obvious: ancient Egypt, with its famous Great Lion, the Sphinx of Giza.
Since the Great Lion is facing East, there is a high likelihood that it was waiting for the day that a specific star would rise before the sun, quite possibly the brilliant “Heart of the Lion,” Regulus. While the head of the Sphinx has been re-carved over the millennia to resemble a man/pharaoh looking at the morning horizon, the body, which appears to be thousands of years older, is clearly that of a Great Lion bearing its great heart: Leo.
Born in the midst of summer heat, Leos were viewed by the ancients as bearing the beautiful lion’s mane reflected by the rays of the brilliant sun – and many of you do! The lion was regal in demeanor and commanded the jungle, an independent leader. One might just want to consider our most recent leaders in the US as examples. Both Barack Obama and Bill Clinton are Leo sun natives. George W. Bush has Leo rising, as does the Mama Grizzly Sarah Palin, the self-proclaimed “maverick” Aquarian. Whatever your political view is, both charisma and an aura of leadership surround Leo.
Leo also rules the fifth house of creativity, frisky lovemaking and children, and its ancestry proves it. Sekhmet is the Lion Mother goddess in Egyptian mythology, and she appears to be an incredibly ancient archetype of fierce courage and protection. Her origins go so far into antiquity that we can picture her benevolently ruling the African continent and the Middle East. Today we can sense the ancient echoes of her giant paws, and feel her powerful stare through the dark, as she is seeing that all is well in the land. Her energy represents the primal assertiveness and protection that serves all mothers, and Leo is the archetype of this.
Leo Sekhmet was called upon by the ancient Egyptians to protect them from illness and violent enemies. She fiercely defended her “children,” the people of Egypt, with her immense power. As the consort of the creator of the cosmos, Ptah, she is the passionate vital love that drives partners, families and even some leaders of nations and cultures to give everything for the others’ well-being. Sekhmet and Ptah are also the fiery source of creativity, as is Leo!
It is legend, and real experience to many people who visit, that the entrancing statue of Sekhmet in her chapel at Karnak is seen breathing and displaying various facial expressions. The research of Dr. Carmen Boulter describes how the Egyptians of many centuries ago would visit her as an oracle. They would ask a yes or no question. If the answer was no, she would shed a tear. If the answer was yes, a little smile would appear. Sehkmet was also shown as one of the female protectors of the Pharaoh, along with Isis and Hathor. The ancient Egyptians believed that the most conscious person would be the ruler, and was accorded the divine guidance of the goddesses.
Sekhmet’s playful side was expressed through her feline sister, Bastet, whose statue is that of a domestic cat. The site of her annual festival was her sacred house at Bubastis. While it might be better known as the burial site of many sacred pet cats, the parties that took place on the way to her celebration site might have made today’s Mardi Gras activities look tame. This was the celebration of the joy of life, creativity, recreation and procreation, and the revelry was sacred and treasured, and very much Leo’s domain.
So while Leo is considered a masculine sign in modern Western astrology, the Lion really reflects the fiery charge between masculine and feminine that is built through sexual energy to create something new and protect it. Understanding the necessity of the balance and integration of these energies is key to our success and survival borne within us as individuals, as couples, and as nations.
The Leo of our modern Western zodiac is a combination of these Egyptian myths and the Mesopotamian Great Lioness Goddesses Inanna, Ishtar and Lilith, ruling with lions at the foot of their thrones, indicating the tender mother/lover relationships working with, not against, the fire of life within each of us – human, animal or planet. This is the “Heart of the Lion,” the nurturing of all that is precious to us.
Leo, the source of your sign is as deep as the chambers that run beneath the Sphinx temple, but it doesn’t have to remain a mystery. It is the source of greatness within you. If you are a leader or a lover, you combine your masculine and feminine energies to create an environment of courageous compassion toward all life.