views updated May 17 2018

scales1 an instrument for weighing, originally a simple balance (a pair of scales); the notion of a soul's good and evil deeds being weighed after death is present in number of early religions. In ancient Egypt, the heart of a dead person was weighed by the god Anubis; in Zoroastrianism, a person's good and bad deeds were thought to be weighed against each other.

Scales (in which souls are weighed) are the emblem of the Virgin Mary and St Michael. Justice personified is shown blindfolded and with a pair of scales.

The Scales is the name given to the zodiacal sign or constellation Libra.