Leo Symbolism and Mythology Explained

Leo is considered the fifth sign of the Zodiac. It derives its name from the constellation of Leo. It is also known as «the Lion».

The constellation of Leo is composed of many bright stars, that when viewed in its entirety takes on the shape of a lion. One of the brightest stars in the center is called Regulus; which when translated means literally «the lions heart». It also includes many galaxies within its boundaries. Two galaxies in particular are of special interest to scientists. They are orbited by a mass of hydrogen and helium gas called the Leo Ring. It is supposedly left over from when the universe was first formed. (At least this is according to the popular scientific theory known as the Big Bang).

In Greek mythology, this constellation was known as the Nemean Lion which is the one Heracles had to kill as part of his penance for the 12 Labours of Heracles. (Heracles roman name was Hercules). The story begins the way all good myths do, with tragedy that has to be overcome.

It begins by stating that Heracles was in a rage, almost even a fit of madness that had been induced by Hera. (Hera was not only a goddess, but she was also his stepmother and she didn’t like him much). The story goes on to say that while he was lost to his temper Heracles killed not only his wife but his children as well. When the madness had passed, he realized what he’d done and couldn’t live with himself anymore. So Heracles ran away. Now the legend isn’t clear as to why he ran and hid. It doesn’t say if he isolated himself out of grief for what he had done, or if it was because he didn’t trust himself to not hurt someone else. Regardless of why, Heracles went into hiding for a time until eventually his brother managed to find him. His brother persuaded Heracles to go and speak with the Oracle at Delhi to find out what he needed to do to receive forgiveness for his crime. So Heracles did this and he was assigned 12 tasks or «labours» as they were called then that he needed to accomplish for his penance.

His first impossible task was to slay the Nemean Lion and bring back its skin to his cousin King Eurystheus. His cousin expected him to fail, because this particular lion was supposed to be immortal. When Heracles found the lion, he started shooting at it with his bow and arrows but he found that the lions hide was too strong. His arrows kept bouncing off it and wouldn’t penetrate the skin. All he seemed to be doing was enraging the lion, but not harming it at all.

Because Heracles was smart as well as strong, he came up with another plan. He followed the lion into its den and then used his great strength to suffocate the lion. When the lion was no longer breathing, he then used its very own claws against it and in this manner skinned the great cat. Then he returned to his cousin Kin Eurystheus, wearing the pelt from the Nemean Lion.

It’s been said that when his cousin saw him coming, wrapped in the pelt of an immortal lion that he ran and hid from Heracles. He was so afraid of Heracles great strength that from now on he would no longer speak with him in person. All the other tasks would be assigned through a neutral third party, the king’s herald.

The «element» that Leo is associated with is «Fire» while its «quality» is considered «fixed». Leos are known to be creative with great focus and strong powers of concentration. Sometimes they can also be viewed as being stubborn, as once they decide on a course of action they don’t like to deviate.

There are many different tattoos that a Leo could get. Obviously what comes to mind first is an artists rendering of an actual lion. However, you could easily superimpose the «element» of fire that Leo belongs to and etch that around the drawing as well. More subtle, would be simply using one of the many different languages that are used to describe a lion. Such as in Sanskrit it is called «Singha», or perhaps it would be better to use the Greek myth’s name for it called the «Nimean Lion» or just «Nimean». Or even another thought would be to use the star Regulus in your tattoo, since it means the «lions heart».

Whatever you choose, make sure to discuss it with the artist who will be giving you the tattoo. It’s possible that they could help you come up with an idea you’d like even better. A tattoo that could combine several different symbols that would all remind you of what it means to be a Leo.

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