The big question for Leo, and indeed all of us, is Who am I? Here is a roll call of culturally influential Leo personalities and how they have answered that perennial question.
Who am I? At my highest and best, I am a spiritual teacher dedicated to helping others to realize the Self as I have done. I am Sri Aurobindo, Carl Jung, and Barry Long.
Jung, on a personal level, was an archetypically Leonine character. A big man with a correspondingly large appetite for life, he lived a long and full life, and produced a large body of work whose influence continues to grow, not least in providing the conceptual underpinning for a modern psychologically oriented astrology, which has most notably been further developed by astrologers Dane Rudhyar and Liz Greene.
“I am Guru – don’t put the ‘I’ on me” – Barry Long
Australian guru Barry Long, self-styled ‘Master of the West’, was quintessentially Leonine in his use of language. Note his early signature declaration quoted above: “I am Guru – don’t put the ‘I’ on me.” Meaning, the ‘I’ that declares itself to be Guru is not to be understood as any privileged individual called ‘Barry Long’, but is rather the one identical cosmic consciousness referenced as ‘I’ in all beings.
And how about this gem: “there is no selfishness, no self-isness, in me” – unlike less conscious Leo’s who tend to be full of themselves. Let such Leo’s reflect on this also: “The process of knowing yourself, through facing yourself, is at the same time the reduction of self and the separating from it. Finally self is perceived as a whole and this means that the perceiver, ‘I’, am not my self – quite an amazing realization.”
Who am I? I am a creative artist. I get to know myself by seeing myself reflected in my works of art. I am writers J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series; John Galsworthy, author of The Forsyte Saga; Frank McCourt author of Angela’s Ashes; Emily Bronte, George Bernard Shaw, Enid Blyton, Beatrix Potter, Herman Melville, Aldous Huxley, Alex Haley and V.S Naipaul; poets P.B. Shelley, Samuel Coleridge, Alfred Tennyson, Robert Graves, Ogden Nash and Ted Hughes; visual artists Aubrey Beardsley and Albert Namatjira; classical composer Claude Debussy; jazz musicians Louis Armstrong, Charlie Christian, Count Basie, Johnny Hodges, Cootie Williams, Benny Carter, Oscar Peterson, Bill Evans, Roland Kirk, and Don Ellis; contemporary musicians Isaac Hayes, Jerry Garcia, John Lee Hooker, Mark Knopfler, and Whitney Houston; dancer/choreographer Pina Bausch; actors Robert Mitchum, Gene Roddenberry, Dustin Hoffman, Robert Redford, Robert De Niro, Peter O’Toole, Steve Martin and the star of Dirty Dancing, Patrick Swayze; cinema mogul Cecil B. Demille; directors Alfred Hitchcock, Stanley Kubrick, Roman Polanski, John Huston, Bruce Beresford, Wim Wenders, Sam Mendes, Peter Weir, James Cameron, and the controversial Nazi propagandist Lenni Riefenstahl; and finally, photographer Henri Cartier Bresson.
Who am I? I am a political leader – an Emperor, President, Prime Minister, General or Dictator. I am Napoleon Bonaparte, Simon Bolivar, Ras Tafari Haile Selassie, Benito Mussolini, Fidel Castro, Deng Xiaoping, Menachem Begin, Slobodan Milosevic, Musharraf Pervez, Thaksin Shinawatra, John Howard, Bill Clinton, and current US President Barack Obama. The preceding US President, George W Bush, a Sun sign Cancer, also has strong Leo influence in his chart.
Who am I? I am an entrepreneurial designer. My name identifies my product and is your guarantee of quality. I am Coco Chanel, Yves St Laurent, Henry Ford, and Giorgio Armani, a Leo Ascendant, Sun sign Cancer.
Two other notable business entrepreneurs with larger than life leonine personalities are Richard Branson, the flamboyant British head of the Virgin group of companies, also a Leo Ascendant, Sun sign Cancer; and Conrad Black, the corrupt Canadian newspaper baron, a Leo Ascendant, Sun sign Virgo. Ostentatiously erudite, Black was brought low by a whole gamut of leonine vices such as arrogant hubristic pride; avaricious hunger for money, power, and status; a contemptuous condescending attitude toward those he regarded as his intellectual inferiors, [almost everybody therefore;] and a misplaced sense of grandeur to match that of his personal hero, Napoleon.
Other Leo Ascendant famous people include the most famous artist of the modern era Pablo Picasso [Sun sign Scorpio]; the leading economist of the twentieth century John Maynard Keynes [Sun sign Gemini]; the leader of the Protestant Reformation, Martin Luther [Sun sign Scorpio]; the ‘sleeping prophet’ Edgar Cayce [Sun sign Pisces]; English Magus Aleister Crowley, once dubbed ‘the wickedest man in the world’ [Sun sign Libra]; founder of modern astronomy Galileo [Sun sign Pisces]; and heavyweight boxing champion, Muhammad ‘I am the Greatest’ Ali, [Sun sign Capricorn]. Ali combined the leonine traits of theatrical showmanship and feigned arrogance with prodigious skill and fancy footwork in his glory days as the reigning champion.
Back to Sun sign Leos and the first person present tense form of speech that rolls so naturally from their tongues. Who, or what else are you Leo?
I am famous, or at least notorious. The whole world knows who I am. I am the infamous spy Mata Hari; David Koresh, US cult leader of the Branch Davidian religious sect, who met his end in a blazing inferno; Monica Lewinsky, Jacqueline Kennedy/Onassis, and Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon.
Armstrong illustrates the truth of Shakespeare’s oft quoted lines: “Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them”, for he has always spurned the fame and glory that was his to exploit if he so chose. A journalistic profile on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the moon walk paid tribute in these words: “In a culture that crushes and disfigures the famous, Armstrong was Olympian in his discipline and humility, [reflecting the strong Virgo influence in his chart], never tarnishing the grand moment that fate handed him. The ultimate professional, he did what was asked of him, and then went home, spurning the fame.”
And of course, I, Leo, am a celebrity. To wit: “A person who works hard all his life to become well known, and then wears dark glasses to avoid being recognized.” [Fred Allen]. I am Andy Warhol, he of the much-quoted line “The day will come when everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes”.
Last, but certainly not least, I am a Star. A star of stage and screen who brightens the lives of legions of fans all over the world. I am extravagantly excessive. I demand the best of everything, and expect nothing but mega bucks, adoration, and loads of amatory experiences in return. I am the original ‘it’ girl, the silent movie star Clara Bow, movie stars Mae West and Arnold Schwarzenegger, rock star Mick Jagger, and pop star Madonna.
Buxom Hollywood actress Mae West, in typical Leo style was certainly not backward in making the best use of her considerable assets. She also had a gift for witty one-liners and the great virtue of not taking herself too seriously, a virtue many a Leo could do well to cultivate. Her humour has a playfully self-celebratory quality to it, which to my taste is one of Leo’s most endearing characteristics. Here are some personal favourites: “A hard man is good to find”; “Is that a gun in your pocket or are you just glad to see me”; “She’s the kind of girl who climbed the ladder of success, wrong by wrong”; “When women go wrong, men go right after them”; and “Too much of a good thing can be wonderful.”
The gifted gestalt therapist Fritz Perls, likewise endearingly celebrated himself in all his flawed Leonine glory. Although a Sun sign Cancer, he certainly warrants placement in the pantheon of influential Leo personalities given that he has Leo as his rising sign and also the planets Mercury, Venus and Mars in Leo. On the first page of his autobiographical memoir In and Out The Garbage Pail, he writes: “I know I am not called upon to write true confessions, but I would like to be honest for my own sake.” He is as good as his word for on page two we get: “I do what I do for myself, for my interest in solving problems, and most of all for my vanity .. I feel best when I can be a prima donna and can show off my skill of getting rapidly in touch with the essence of a person and his plight ..” A little later he confesses a ‘secret’ that many Leos hide from others and sometimes even from themselves: “I am sure that in spite of all my boasting I don’t think much of myself .. I am sure .. most of my showing off is overcompensation. Not only to compensate for my unsureness, but to overcompensate, to hypnotize you into the belief that I am something really special. And don’t you doubt it!”
Having acknowledged his vanity, boasting and ‘showing off’, he goes on to another classic Leo personality trait, the need for recognition. He writes: “I often ask for approval, recognition and admiration during conversations. As a matter of fact, often I push myself forward or bring the talk around to subjects not in order to be brilliant and shine, but to boast about the recognition I, or what I consider the same, Gestalt Therapy is getting.” Substitute ‘child’ or ‘husband’ for Gestalt Therapy and I’m sure you’ll recognize the boasting and unconscious need for recognition of many a Leo mother or wife.
Perls also owns up to name dropping, another classic ploy to inflate one’s self importance that Leo is especially prone to: “The fact is .. my meetings with such famous people as Einstein, Jung, Adler, Jan Smuts, Marlene Dietrich and Freud were casual encounters .. mostly resulting in nothing but providing material for boasting and indirectly impressing my audience with my own importance – glamour often overshadowing vision and judgment.”