Its Origin and Meaning in Astrology
The above image is the established symbol (also called glyph) for the Zodiac sign Leo, the Lion. It’s a simplified drawing of the lion’s head and mane. Both the Zodiac sign and its symbol have been along for ages.
The Zodiac division of the ecliptic into twelve parts, each assigned a Zodiac sign, is probably of Babylonian (Mesopotamia) origin. They were very early with astrology, mapping the sky and noting planetary movements thousands of years ago.
The Zodiac, very much like the one we know today, might have emerged in Mesopotamia around 1000 BC. But Babylonian astrology is probably far older than that.
Always a Lion
Already the Babylonians connected this Zodiac sign and the constellation to the lion.
The constellation of Leo is not that hard to see as a picture of a lion, if the right stars are connected with lines. There’s the body as well as the mane. Through history, this has been the image related to the constellation.
Several of the Zodiac constellations are much more vague in depicting their Zodiac sign. Here’s the constellation Leo:
As you can see, the formation of the stars suggest quite clearly the shape of a lion and its mane.
Below is an antique illustration of the same constellation, where the figure of the lion has been added. It’s from a 17th century book: Firmamentum sobiescianum, by Johannes Hevelius, 1690.
Leo in Ink
Below is an ink version of the symbol for Leo, which I did a number of years back in an experiment of using Japanese ink calligraphy (shodo) for old European astrology symbols. I’ve used these pictures on my astrology websites, mainly for fun and for the odd graphic effect, and I’ve seen them copied all over the Internet. I’m fine with that, although I think it wouldn’t hurt if the source was mentioned. Well, what to do?
Anyway, here’s that ink again, this time in the original black and white (click on the image to see a bigger version):
Leo the Sign
As for the picture commonly used to represent the Leo Zodiac sign, it’s been an image of a lion for as long as that has been its name – surely longer than the symbol described above has existed. Below is one typical example, where the stars of the constellation Leo have also been marked. It’s an illustration from Poeticon astronomicon, a 1482 book by Hyginus.
For the header of this website, I simply combined the symbol for Leo with an image of an actual lion, which shows the similarity between the symbol and the actual animal.
In the background is a royal palace, connecting to the pomp and circumstance of the Leo traits. It’s the Mysore Palace in India, which has been restored several times since the 14th century. It was given its present form in a restoration done in the early 20th century. Here it is:
Here are the symbols (glyphs) of all the twelve Zodiac signs, and links to pages telling more about each Zodiac sign symbol.