Author: Michael MacLafferty, LMFT
My client arrives and plops heavily onto the therapy couch. “It’s good to be here,” they say, “This is the first chance I’ve had to slow down all day.” I nod and smile. We spend a few moments without speaking, enjoying a restful silence. I have made my office as warm and inviting as it can be, with touches of my own personality. I tap into this intention and radiate it outward, letting it fill the space between and around us. I take a slower deeper breath, and my client does as well, before we dive into the day’s topics.
In this scenario, I am exhibiting a certain kind of presence. It is a presence of warmth, confidence, and grace. In terms of astrology as cosmic metaphor, this is solar energy. The Sun brings vitality, purpose, illumination, and certainty. The Sun’s home sign is Leo, and also has solar qualities including expressiveness, loyalty, and charisma. While I don’t have planets in Leo in my birthchart, my Taurus Sun expresses itself in a calm, deliberate, and grounding way.
As I talk about Leo, I am referring to the quality of the sign, and the energy it gives to planets that are within its borders. I am not generalizing about people born with the Sun in Leo. The sign of Leo is in every astrological birthchart, whether there are planets there or not, describing a potential of human nature; and the Sun’s place in your chart will tell you how that potential may manifest for you. For some, the Sun’s brilliance comes easy; those who have to work for it may find the effort affords more awareness and agency with that skill.
Celebrities, especially divas, demonstrate Leonine energy in contemporary culture. They are loved by many; their reputation precedes them. At concerts they hold court and meet their adoring public. The stage is set to amplify their presence, and the exchange of adoration and inspiration takes place on a grand scale.
Leo is regal; its symbol is the Lion, long associated with royalty. It is meant to be impressive, to lead by example. And while not everyone has the opportunity to sit on a throne, the Leo archetype exists as latent leadership within us all. Leo projects a shining aura that others want to bask in, and inspires them to be their best selves.
The adoration that Leo naturally evokes is a necessary component, and is the fuel that feeds Leo’s fire. That ego gratification is pleasing, and works as a fine motivator, but that satisfaction should not be mistaken for the true purpose of this energy.
In the tarot, Leo is associated with the Strength card. In the classic Waite-Smith illustration, the lion is present but not as a ferocious figure. The woman here shows a quiet power by being with the fearsome and wild nature of the lion. She has mastered her fears externally by meeting the lion and being in relationship to it; she has also mastered her inner fears by recognizing and being with the lion within. She gives the lion its due respect, and in return it fuels her own enduring presence and poise.
In our modern, materialist, capitalist culture, Doing is valued and promoted, while Being is undervalued. This is an aspect of Patriarchy, since Doing and Being are archetypally masculine and feminine, or yang and yin, respectively. Leo and the Sun are traditionally interpreted as masculine, but as you may have realized, I am suggesting an alternate interpretation.
I once had a client share some associations he had of me sitting in my wheelchair across from him: one that I was sitting on a throne (in a position of authority or god-like judgment), and another that I was Professor X of the X-Men. This reminded me not only of my inherent position of power as a therapist, but also the influence of presence that was not a result of anything I was actively doing. I was merely being, thinking, and feeling with him.
Professor X is a great example of a solar figure. He is the leader of a group of heroes with a strong sense of justice and compassion. And while he may not have a lion’s mane of hair, his psychic superpowers are often depicted as radiating out in a kind of halo. Notably, he is disabled due to a spinal cord injury and typically uses a golden hover-chair for a mobility aid.
Most people would argue that leaders have power because of their capability to exert control, or in other words, Ability. But if you think of a monarch on a throne, holding court in their palace, they aren’t doing much of anything physical (even the King of the Jungle spends over half of the day sleeping). In fact, they have servants to perform tasks for them, so as not to interrupt the display of Presence. They have power and authority because people have agreed to let them represent the group. When the greater community no longer believes in them to represent them properly, there is a problem.
People attempt to hold onto power beyond their limits with rules, tradition, laws, ideas of Divine Right and Social Darwinism, threats and fear. They conflate Presence with a facade of strength, and become a dark sun, a black hole hungry for validation and consuming the subservience of others in a mutually destructive dynamic.
This relates back to our previous idea of the Sun representing confidence. It metaphorically provides us the opportunity to reflect its brilliance, to channel that energy through us; we are a conduit for light, not the light itself. Our ego would like to think we produce that glow ourselves, and it might appear that way to others. But as we observe the phenomenon of Presence, and how the more we grasp for it, the more it eludes us, it becomes clear that Presence emanates from a Source that is beyond an individual self. That divine spark is ours to tend. Thus, true confidence, as a component of Presence, comes from a trust in Source and its unfolding, rather than trust in ourselves to remain in control of our circumstances. Again, resting in Being, not relying on Doing.
Professor X isn’t a good leader because of his devastating psychic abilities. I’m not a good therapist because of all the courses I’ve taken, papers I’ve written, or seminars I’ve attended; nor is it my ability to psychoanalyze or know the right thing to say in any situation (haha, I wish). I also want to point out that neither of us are going to physically protect anyone in the event of an emergency or disaster—another stereotypically important quality for protectors and authorities (males, especially). But that does not negate our value or right to be in those roles.
The patriarchal and capitalist over-valuing of Doing is harmful to everyone; this is demonstrated most clearly in the treatment of disabled people. We are forever defined in society by Ability, by what we can Do. The more productive and self-sufficient you are, the more valuable you are, or so we are told. But anyone who has a disabled friend or loved one knows this is not the case. Perhaps you have a beloved grandparent that doesn’t get around as well as they used to—does that diminish their worth in your eyes? Sometimes just being in the presence of the right person, held in their full attention, is the most valuable thing you could ask for. There is nothing else we need to do or be—there is value in existing, and everything beyond that is a bonus. Remember this before you assume what another person’s life is like, their quality of life, or their value in the world. In fact, we need people for whom this world is not designed, to learn how to make it more livable for everyone.
So as we contemplate the Leo archetype, the Sun, and the Strength card, let us remember that we all have access to that solar flair, filtered through us into our own particular shade and hue. Notice who in your life brings calm, safety, excitement, healing, love, and comfort when you are with them; notice who tells you they enjoy being with you. Within these natural connections, you can sometimes be the Sun, and other times soak up the surrounding glow, in your own twinkling constellation.