The Leo constellation is one of my personal favorites as I am a Leo Rising. The myth teaching us the lessons of the star sign comes from none other than The Twelve Labors of Hercules. Although, interestingly enough it is Hercules who teaches us these lessons and not the lion.
There is a little bit of a prologue as to why Hercules is performing these Twelve Labors. Without getting into a whole other story, but so you have some context for the setting, Hercules is having to atone for murdering his wife, Megera, while he was made insane by Hera. If you are interested in knowing the full story, here is a link. However, many zodiac signs only refer to snippets of the story.
Without further ado, the myth of Leo
The very first labor Hercules undertakes for king Eurystheus is to slay the Nemean Lion. This is not just a regular lion though. It is quite literally a monster. If you remember the mention of the monster-god Typhon from previous articles, this is one of the children of Typhon. It is a huge lion and it’s hide is impenetrable. Eurystheus had other men try to slay it but none of their weapons were able to damage the creature.
Hercules sets out to fight the lion, not entirely sure what he is getting into. At first he makes the same mistake as other men and tries to kill it with arrows. The arrows bounce off the hide of this monstrosity doing nothing. The lion becomes enraged by this but, instead of running away and trying again, Hercules charges towards the lion. The creature retreats into its cave (I assume in response to a mad man running towards it). To prevent it from escaping, Hercules moves boulders in front of the entrance trapping the Lion. He enters the cave from another entry point higher up the hill side.
Our first lessons from Leo
Right from the start, we see how bravery is a quality of the story. Hercules overcomes his fear of fighting the lion, and even though he is a demigod, he is still very capable of dying. In addition, he knows from the arrows not working that this is not an ordinary lion. Much like the other fire signs, Leo thrives off its bravery. A strong leader needs to have conviction for their goals when obstacles arise. This is symbolized by Hercules charging towards the Lion when he realizes other tactics will not work.
The lion teaches us a lesson about spiritual maturity; the importance of having thick skin, or hide for that matter. When pursuing our goals in life we will undoubtedly face adversity. There will always be someone or something standing in the way. Developing a thick skin enables you to push through these obstacles. If we are wounded by every little comment, or even a major setback, then our dreams will remain in our heads and never become reality. The lion’s hide symbolizes the strength of character needed to withstand adversity.
There is one darker lesson taught here as well, the lion retreating into its cave. This is symbolic of someone retreating into themselves. When the world mistreats us and we feel freighted by the challenges we perceive, it is not uncommon for to run away. However, this is a dangerous way to respond. As we see, Hercules then traps the lion inside the cave. The comfort zone of the cave will be the place where the lion dies, as the story will soon tell. If we run away from the things we fear, we very well may expire without ever having seen what we are capable of.
Now back to Hercules and the Lion
With the lion inside the cave, Hercules comes in from a higher entrance in the hill. He descends upon the lion with a huge club and hits it over the head. The lion, although stunned, is not dead and they proceed to wrestle. Yes, you heard correctly. Hercules wrestles a lion with his bare hands. The demigod manages to strangle the lion to death.
In order to prove his triumph, Hercules must return the pelt of the lion to King Eurystheus. There is one issue however. No knife or tool he has can cut the creatures hide. Hercules shows some ingenuity and realizes the cat’s own claws can cut it. He uses the claws of the creature to skin the pelt off and fashions it into a breastplate to wear. He then returns to King Eurystheus to prove his victory over the beast. Afterwards, he keeps the pelt as his personal armor in battle. In order to honor the Nemean Lion, Hera places the constellation in the sky for all to see at night.
What do we learn from all this?
The story ends in the way you might expect it to. Yet there are still several lessons to learn: Hercules fights bare handed with the beast. Symbolically, this is every human’s battle with their own animal nature. Leo is considered the sign of the king. Individuals born under this star tend to have very high ideals for how people should act. Naturally, humans are flawed. Even those with Leo placements do not match the standards they believe in. However, this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t still try and overcome our lower nature.
Every religion or spiritual practice tells of this battle against our instincts. When we conquer our base desires, we gain the freedom to choose our own path. If we succumb to them, then we are metaphorically killed and eaten by the beast inside of us. The version of us fighting the lion is our ‘higher self’. Now that you know this, with every decision you make onward, ask yourself, who am I helping in this battle?
Another major lesson in the battle with the Nemean Lion is symbolized by the cutting of its skin. Only the lion’s own claws can cut the creature. This represents how we can only truly be hurt by ourselves. It is the ancient Greece version of sticks and stones. Whenever we suffer an offense from someone else, it is really us cutting our own hide. Otherwise all verbal attacks from the outside bounce off of us like the arrows in the beginning of the story.
When we are hurt by someone, it is because we are allowing them to use our own traumas against us. Guarding against this is by no means easy. After all, Leo favors high ideals. If someone makes an insult towards you and it is completely unfounded, you are more likely to be confused than hurt. In fact, you likely see how much the other person is hurting. How their pain is causing them to lash out. This completely shifts the way we handle interactions with other people.
Closing up the Leo myth
The lessons we learn in the myth of Leo come both from Hercules and the Nemean Lion. Compared to the other stories we deciphered, I do think the lessons in this one are a little more lofty, but the rewards are far greater. If we achieve them, we will get to wear the impenetrable lion hide armor throughout our lives. As Hercules does in the remaining eleven labors.
Astrology is a tool of the magician to achieve gnosis. The self awareness we gain through the zodiac signs and through understanding our natal chart is profound. If you are interested in having a professional astrologer read your natal then definitely check out my services page. If you are more of the self study type, I encourage you to learn more about the energetic nature of your current incarnation!
To my fellows, may your seeking be fruitful and your findings bountiful!