Leo the Lion artwork by Deb Houlding

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Who praises all his kindred do; Expects his friends to praise them too?
And cannot see their senseless view? Ah, Leo.

sign symbolism & general traits | traditional rulerships | famous Leos
Sign symbolism

Leo the Lion

by Deborah Houlding

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Leo is the sign of the Sun, the central heart of the solar system, majestic ruler of the heavens. In ancient times the Sun came to its full glory and reached the height of its annual ascent as it joined the stars in the constellation of the Lion; ever since, lions have been portrayed in art, myth and iconography as powerful symbols of solar strength, supremacy, glory, light, and brilliance.

Widespread hero myths, such as those of Gilgamesh, Oedipus, Orion, Hercules, or Samson, depict tales of wrestling with the lion – all have been identified as calendar myths that relate to the sun’s annual journey through the sky. As the hero does battle with the lion, he absorbs the solar qualities and takes them as his own. In the widely reported Greek myth, Leo is said to commemorate the fierce Nemean Lion, brother of the Sphinx, which Hercules must defeat in the first of his trials. The Nemean lion symbolises the fierce and devastating summer heat that ravishes the land. No weapon, stone, club, or instrument made of iron or bronze can penetrate its skin; it is an ‘impossible’ task: unyielding to cunning, craft, or speed. Hercules can only succeed by summoning the entire strength of his being, the full magnitude of his inner will and fixed, determined spirit. His conquest becomes a testimony to the power of mind over matter, the individual’s capacity to move heaven and earth and attain the unattainable through connecting with the heart of one’s being and giving full reign to the creative force that resides, mainly dormant, within.

As the sign of the Sun, Leo is characterised by courage, an invincible attitude, and the gift of unsuppressed will to rise above the ordinary. Anatomically, Leo has rulership over the heart and blood. Symbolically, it signifies the metaphorical parallels that see the heart as the centre of strength and vitality, and the ‘blood raising’ process that allows us to engage in battles – moral, physical, territorial, or political – free from demoralising restraints imposed by fear or concern over consequences. The word ‘courage’ (or ‘encourage’) derives from the Latin word for the heart, Cor, and literally means ‘to take heart’, and therefore overcome one’s fears. In the blood-raising process we become bigger, more powerful, more conscious and more capable than we normally consider ourselves to be, and Leos have an easy ability to take on this grander persona whenever they feel the need to assert qualities of superiority.

The Sun is a natural symbol of power and command, so it represents the captain, the boss, the leader, or the king in astrological signification. In Leo, the lion, the ‘king of the beasts’, the theme of majestic grandeur is never far from observable traits. Put simply, whatever opinions others may hold, Leos perceive themselves to be the royal centre of activity. Lions are territorial animals and care little about what happens outside the boundaries of their terrain; similarly, all Leos need an area that they view as ‘their kingdom’ – their rightful place to shine, where they become the nucleus that directs, organises, and orchestrates. To some, it is the domestic environment, to others, a hobby or intellectual pursuit, or perhaps a wider professional or political arena. Wherever this ‘kingdom’ exists, a Leo takes great pride and expects to be looked up to. Treat them respectfully, and they demonstrate their well-earned reputation for being broad-minded, enthusiastic, and magnanimous.

However, should a Leo have cause to view another as a predator, you are unlikely to encounter an opponent more sensitive or responsive to assumed slights and imagined threats. Open-minded tolerance and relaxed confidence fall away as ego-driven urges swing into gear. A Leo as an adversary makes a bloody-minded opponent – their instinct for domination means they rarely feel appeased by victory unless it involves total annihilation of any challenger. Leos are well known for sensitivity to their own emotions yet are far less empathetic to the thoughts and feelings of others, and so this sign has a fearsome reputation for exhibiting brutal or extreme behaviour. Ancient astrologers referred to Leo as ‘bestial’, meaning responsive to primordial instincts rather than higher reasoning, and ‘feral’ because it is capable of savage and ferociously destructive traits. This is the darker side of Leo. It is rarely explored in sun-sign columns that dwell on the warmth, vitality, and sunshine-filled aura that Leos can demonstrate when not being pushed to the limits of their behaviour. Other negative traits include a tendency toward being dogmatic, a bullying mentality, self-conceit, vanity, and a snobbish, patronizing disposition.

Leo’s element is fire, and its nature is hot and dry. Fire types are characterised by spontaneity; swift, intuitive responses; vivacious and infectious ways of relating to others, and high energy levels. They are attracted to passion and drama and crave attention. The latter is particularly evident in Leos, who revel in positions that draw attention to them; where it is not forthcoming, they make conscious and unconscious attempts to foster it using strong, vivid colours, dramatic gestures and overblown expressions.

Traditionally the fire signs are termed choleric, deriving from the Greek Khole, ‘bile’. In humoural philosophy, bile, also known as gall, and the gall bladder that produces it, is said to be the seat for the expression of anger, so choleric types are typified as irascible and quick to show their temper: externally in their words and actions, and internally through the way their blood rate increases with their passions, leading to throbbing temple veins and flushed-red complexions. The 17th-century herbalist Nicholas Culpeper noted that choleric types are by nature “quick witted, bold, unshamedfaced, furious, hasty, quarrelsome” yet also “courageous”. He described them as often full of anger and light in movement with a swift and strong pulse.1

However, Leo is a fixed sign, so the choleric inclination toward hasty action is somewhat abated and more moderate than with the other fire signs, Aries and Sagittarius. Leos are unlikely to respond to every trifling event; they take time to let their opinions form, during which many minor irritations resolve themselves. They are often referred to as simple-minded, meaning they tend to relate to things exactly as they are expressed and see things just as they appear on the surface. Communication should be plain, simple, and direct, although literary types may reveal a signature of flamboyance in rich, colourful, artistic expressions. Leos don’t make a habit of looking for deeper meanings, nor do they have a very detailed eye, but tend to appreciate things from the broader perspective. This gives them a talent for seeing the whole picture and suits leadership skills that need a breadth of vision and a ready grasp of the overall shape of things. But Leos are out of their depth when dealing with the essential detailed practicalities that make the vision work, so they rely on the cooperation and support of more discerning types to ensure that particulars are not overlooked.

Leos are commonly known for opposing pettiness, and they mostly enjoy an optimistic belief that everything will work itself out in the fullness of time. Whilst a conviction that sweet providence is taking care of them is generally a blessing that sustains their confidence (and such buoyancy usually does foster success), this attitude can lead to major problems, especially when their disinterest in practical details combines with their leaning towards extravagance and exaggerated plans. Limitations of all sorts are alien to the Leo nature; many Leos are poor at budgeting themselves or restricting their financial output to what they can afford. They are prone to ostentatious financial commitments and material indulgences that predispose them to live at the edge of their means, if not beyond. Periods when balancing the books is necessary can be a very depressing time; this often comes in the form of a crisis that can no longer be ignored. The importance of self-limitation is a lesson that ought to be given to all young Leos. However, their lack of aptitude in this area is part of the downside of having a drama-filled, enthusiastic, and colourful attitude to life which appreciates living it to the fullest.

As lovers and partners, Leos are a strange mix of contradictory traits. They are expressive, extravagant, and warm with their affections, but equally, they have a self-obsessed quality that can become a point of conflict in one-to-one relationships that are supposed to be based on a platform of mutual equality. They can go through periods of excluding the partner, being totally absorbed in their own interests, and then make grand romantic gestures, becoming overwhelmingly charming for a while to make up for their neglect. Leos are usually loyal and straightforward with their emotions, striving for stability; they dislike subtle game playing and put great store by honesty and openness. However, traditionally, the sign is not favourable for marriage because Leos have a problem sharing their field and incline toward rigid, inflexible views on the essential way life should be. Successful relationships can occur with partners that are more flexible in their approach, able to tolerate periods of exclusion in exchange for lots of fuss and attention from time to time, and especially if that partner is malleable enough to maintain independent interests whilst helping to support the Leo in mundane practicalities.

There is usually no shortage of romantic candidates drawn to their vibrant and charismatic appeal, and young love can be intensely passionate. Like all the fire signs, Leos are idealistic and don’t hold back from expressing their ardour. They are extremely responsive to romantic attention, which gratifies their ever-hungry ego. As such, they can suffer from rash romantic liaisons that are impetuous and unsuitable long-term. “Guileless are the sentiments of their honest heart” claimed Marcus Manilius in the 1st century AD2 – they are known to act foolishly by placing too great a faith in human nature and expecting other people to see things in the simple, black and white shades that colour their vision. All the sun signs show us traits that we can use to connect with a powerful force that makes us distinguished individuals, capable of rising above our habitual fears. The faults of the Leo are no more than the extremes of a nature that recognizes this most easily of all. Where the Sun shines, truth, nobility and pure-penetrating vitality can be found. Used consciously, Leo represents an elemental power that is healing, light-bringing, direct, joyous and strong. We simply need to remember that the lion can act like a pussy-cat at times, but it in its own heart it is always a magnificent creature that can never be fully tamed or manipulated against its will.
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Resources & links

Leo the Lion artwork by Deb Houlding
If they stand behind you protect them
If they stand beside you respect them
If they stand against you defeat them



Dignified Planets

The Sun: ☉   - as the sign ruler and day-time triplicity ruler.
Jupiter: Jupiter  - as night-time triplicity ruler.

Debilitated Planets

Saturn: Saturn  - by detriment.

Typical Features

Large, round head and prominent eyes. Strong and active body, generally larger and taller than average, broad shoulders, narrow sides. Fair or sandy hair, or a glint of red or ginger in dark hair, often with a natural curl. The hair is generally thick and quick to grow but wherever the Sun is strong, as it is here in Leo, there is an inclination towards baldness. The complexion is usually clear but there is often a tinge of redness in the skin colour.

Traditional Rulerships

Direction:  All fire signs relate to the east. Leo signifies east tending towards north.

Anatomy:  The heart, blood and cardiac system; the back, spinal cord, and sides of the body.

Illnesses:  Unless planets are afflicted in Leo, the sign usually indicates strong vitality and a healthy constitution. It is susceptible to illnesses concerning the heart and cardiac arteries, including nervous palpitations. Also back pain and illnesses involving the ribs and sides such as Pleurisy (from the Latin Pleura 'side'). As a choleric sign it is prone to fevers and is linked to yellow-jaundice and sore eyes. It has affinity with diseases stemming from 'excess of blood' and is also (when debilitated) associated with anaemia. The Moon in Leo can indicate problems with the stomach or throat.

Places:  All 'majestic' and grandly furnished places such as theatres, lavish public buildings and monuments, public halls, auditoriums, parks; places connected with royalty and principle rulers: palaces, castles, forts. Also inaccessible places, deserts, forests and areas where wild animals roam freely. Inside houses Leo signifies places near to sources of heat and fire such as chimneys, or areas where the furnishings are particularly grand and rich - plush velvets in dramatic colours, gilt oridnts, etc.

Countries & cities:   Include Italy, Rome, the Alps; the Czech Republic, Turkey, Sicily, Prague, Alsace in France, Damascus, Lintz in Austria, Coblenz in Germany, Bristol in England.

Colours  Yellow, red and orange, gold and rich, deep and vibrant 'royal' colours.

Stones & Metals:  Stones and metals fall under the rulership of planets, not signs, but through its association with the Sun, Leo has affinity with gold, rubies, cats eyes, diamonds, dark red garnets and lustrous orange-yellow, orange-red, or yellow-brown zircon stones.

Animals:  Wild horses, tame lions, all animals with claws, black snakes.

Traditional Definitions:

Barren:  The barren signs are Gemini, Leo and Virgo. These can suggest difficulty in conceiving children, or few children when placed on the 5th cusp of the chart. Leo is known as a sign of 'single births' in questions concerning the possibility of twins.

Bestial:  Bestial signs are those traditionally symbolised by four-footed animals. Also called quadrupedian (four-footed), these signs can lack in social graces and are reputed to display an animalistic reaction to their emotions, sometimes indicating coarseness and a poor appreciation of polite manners. They can also be a little inarticulate.

Feral:  The sign of Leo and the last half of Sagittarius are classified as 'feral' which literally means wild, uncultivated, savage or brutal. This relates to the cruel and insensitive streak that Leos can sometimes display when they disassociate their actions from their feelings and empathetic consideration of others. It is also one of the reasons why Leo is taken to signify uncultivated territory and places where wild animals roam.


Percy Bysshe Shelley 4 August 1792; Horsham, England; 10:00 pm LMT (RR:AA)View chart ⇨
Napoleon Bonaparte15 August 1769; Ajaccio, France; 11:34 am LMT (RR:C)View data, chart & notes ⇨
Alan Leo 7 August 1860; Westminster, England; 5:49 Am LMT (RR:B)View chart ⇨
Henry Ford 30 Jul 1863; Greenfield Village, MI, USA; 7:00 am LMT (RR:B)View chart ⇨
Mata Hari 7 August 1876; Leeuwarden, Netherlands; 01:00 pm LMT (RR:AA)View chart ⇨
Cecil B. De Mille 12 August 1881; Ashfield, MA, USA; 5:14 am LMT (RR:C)View data, chart & notes ⇨
Mick Jagger 26 July 1943; Dartford, UK; 2:30 am BDST (RR:A)View data, chart & notes ⇨
Robert De Niro 17 August 1943; Brooklyn, NY, USA; 3:00 am EWT (RR:A)View chart ⇨
Bill Clinton19 August 1946; Hope, Arkansas, USA; 8: 51 am CST (RR:A)View data, chart & notes ⇨
Arnold Schwarzenegger30 July 1947; Graz, Austria; 4:10 am MEDT (RR:A)View chart ⇨
Madonna Ciccone16 August 1958; Bay City Michigan, USA; 7:05 am EST (RR:DD)View chart ⇨
Antonio Banderas10 August 1960; Malaga, Spain; 9:00 pm MET (RR:AA)View chart ⇨
Barack Obama 4 August 1961; Honolulu, Hawaii, 7:24 pm AHST (RR:AA)View chart ⇨
Whitney Houston 9 August 1963; Newark, NJ, USA; 8:55 pm EDT (RR:AA)View chart ⇨
J.K. Rowling 31 July 1965; Bristol, England, 9:30 pm (RR:C)View chart ⇨
Meghan Markle 4 August 1981; Canoga Park, CA, USA, 4:46 am PDT (RR:AA)View chart & View chart & feature article ⇨ (PDF)


Plate from Uranographia by Johannes Hevelius, 1690

Aries | Taurus | Gemini | Cancer | Leo | Virgo | Libra | Scorpius | Sagittarius | Capricornus | Aquarius | Pisces

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Notes & References:
1 ] Culpeper, N., Semeiotica Uranica: Or an Astrological Judgement of Diseases from the Decumbiture of the Sick much Enlarged. (London: Nathan Brooke, 1658), III,iv.
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2 ] Manilius, M., Astronomica, (c.10 AD), tr. G.P. Goold. (Harvard: Harvard University Press, 1977), IV,v.190.
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Deb HouldingDeborah Houlding, creator of Skyscript, is based in the UK and has worked as an astrologer since the late 1980s. Founder of The Traditional Astrologer (1993 to 2000) and STA School of Traditional Astrology, she is the author of the STA Practitioners-Level Horary Course, The Houses: Temples of the Sky, and (with Oner Doser) Soru Astrolojisi: Horary Astrology (2015). She is also the editor of a modern retype, annotated edition of William Lilly's Christian Astrology and Griffin's Astrological Judgement Touching Theft.

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