Most of the Zodiac signs come with a representative symbol that's illustrative of their personality: Private Cancers are represented by the hard-shelled crab; corporate ladder-climbing Capricorns have the mountain goat as their mascot. Libra has a similarly descriptive symbol, a set of balanced scales, but it differs from the rest of the signs' symbols in one key way: It isn't alive.
As the only sign that has an inanimate object for its representative symbol, Libra is certainly an outlier in the Zodiac — but this characterization was anything but an accident.
To learn more about the meaning of Libra's scales, we spoke with Judith Hill, an internationally known astrologer and award-winning author of ten books, including Eclipses and You and The Astrological Body Types: Face, Form & Expression.
For starters, Hill explains that this symbol makes sense purely from a timing perspective: "Libra is the halfway point in the seasonal cycle, symbolizing autumn and sunset." The four seasons of the year have long been associated with the natural life cycle, where spring represents nature's rebirth, while winter represents its demise. Libra's solar season coincides with the fall equinox, marking the midpoint between nature's "youth" and its "old age," Hill adds. Thus, its perfectly balanced and symmetrical scales.
From a more metaphorical standpoint, the scales encapsulate how Libras tend to go through life. "Libra represents stopping, observing, contemplation," Hill explains. She adds that the scales are suspended to indicate a lack of action — Libras tend to think (and think, and think) before they act. People born under this sign are known to take an even-keeled, thoughtful approach to questions and problems (in a less flattering light, this is where Libras get their reputation as indecisive). They wish to be fair, collaborative, and balanced in all things, and the scales capture this desire.
"It is a state of being, not a being," Hill says. In other words, the scales are just as accurate a symbol for Libra as the goat is for ambitious Capricorn. But, where the latter is more a depiction of Caps' behavior, the former reflects the Libran state of mind.
Even though Libras don't get to claim a regal lion or badass scorpion as their symbol, the scales still sum up a major aspect of their persona. Hill says there have been other representations of the sign, including a dove, the goddess Venus, and Lady Justice (also known as Blind Justice), but the scales are, nevertheless, the most common. That said, if astrologers are looking for a modern-day symbol for Libra, we'd like to nominate Kim Kardashian West, an exemplary Libra if there ever was one.