The Centaur planet Chiron is an astrological force for healing, transformation, service, spiritual growth and the lifelong process of becoming aware that some call enlightenment. In a word, it could be summed up as "holistic," which means making whole. Everyone has Chiron in his or her personal natal chart, which may be in a more or less emphasized position. At different times in our lives we are under the influence of Chiron by transit, and learning about these transits is the purpose of Part Two this article, after the introductory materials which follow in Part One. In the second part, I will also include links to last year's materials on Chiron, as well as any links to my prior articles that are still available, and to some by other writers.
Chiron, an actual planet, was the first major planetary discovery after Pluto in 1930. Discovered by Charles Kowal in late October 1977 (though most reports say Nov. 1, 1977), you probably did not learn about Chiron in science class, and most astrologers still do not recognize Chiron as a "legitimate" planetary influence, much less an important one, though the community of astrologers is starting to wake up. Yet many astrologers did not consider Pluto a legitimate planet until the 1970s, though its existence had been known for 40-plus years; this, despite its clear associations with the social progress, creative eruptions and cultural upheavals of the late 1960s. Though Chiron was finally discovered in 1977, pre-discovery photos exist from as early as 1895. In other words, though it had been photographed repeatedly by observatories, it was not actually noticed, catalogued and named till nearly a century later.
Chiron is relatively small, about 160-180 kilometers across, and has properties of a planet, an asteroid, a comet and a Pluto-like object. It defies simple classification, borrowing different attributes from pre-existing categories, crossing the orbit of Saturn and extending almost out to the orbit of Uranus. It rounds the Sun in an elongated path that takes 50.7 years to complete. Because of this elongation, it stays in Libra for just 18 months while taking 9 years to cross Aries, being in the other signs for approximately two to seven years. This creates unusual patterns in our lives which may go unnoticed until we check out the timing of Chiron transits and their corresponding life events.
After the announcement of the discovery, a few astrologers took an immediate interest in Chiron. Among the first was Zane Stein, who was given the first ephemeris (zodiac position table) for Chiron by astronomer Dr. Brian Marsden shortly after the discovery. This allowed Chiron to be placed in the horoscopes of Zane's clients so that he could research its meaning. Dr. Marsden's cooperation with the learning goals of an astrologer would prove to presage the later cooperation between the Centaur Research Project, an informal committee of astrologers specializing in the Centaurs and other unusual small objects, and the International Astronomical Union (IAU), the scientific institution which is responsible for the cataloging and formal naming of new astronomical discoveries. Today, the Centaur Research Project, created by Robert von Heeren of Munich, provides the name suggestions for the new Centaurs, all of which have so far been accepted by the IAU (Nessus, Chariclo, Asbolus and Hylonome).
We live in an unprecedented era in which astrologers and astronomers are working together, and in which scientists are accepting the research findings of astrologers as intellectually valid. At the same time, a number of astrologers in the Centaur field are themselves accomplished astronomers, able to do the difficult mathematical calculations required to track the orbits of these planets. This is a long way from the unprovoked and intellectually bereft attack of the scientific community on astrologers in the late 1970s.
Back to the beginnings of our tale, Zane Stein wrote the first article about Chiron, published in the January 1981 edition of Dell Horoscope magazine. With the help of Neil F. Michelsen of Astro Computing Services (publishers of the American Ephemeris, currently the only major U.S. or British ephemeris to list Chiron's position), Zane published a Chiron aspectarian for the 20th century later that year, and had by 1983 published a pamphlet called "Interpreting Chiron." The same year, Erminie Lantero, Ph.D. published the first book, The Continuing Discovery of Chiron (Samuel Weiser, 1983). In 1985, Zane's book Essence and Application: A View from Chiron was published by astrologer Al H. Morrison. This was followed up by what is probably the best-known work on the new planet, Chiron: Rainbow Bridge Between the Inner and Outer Planets by Barbara Hand Clow (Llewellyn, 1987). Barbara, for her part, relied heavily on the research of her predecessors, particularly Zane Stein, to create her popular and informative work. In 1994, Richard Noelle brought out a worthwhile short work called Chiron: The New Planet in Your Horoscope (American Federation of Astrologers).
To date, the most in-depth look at Chiron has been written by the London-based astrologer Melanie Reinhart, called Chiron and the Healing Journey (1989, Penguin/Arkana). Written during a deeply transformative moment in the author's own healing journey, Melanie's work brings to bear her training and experience as a Jungian depth psychologist, her compassion as a humanitarian, and her considerable talent and breadth of mind as an astrologer. Melanie has followed up with a second book, To The Edge and Beyond (1996, Center for Psychlogical Astrology Press) which looks at Saturn, Chiron and the next two Centaurs, Pholus and Nessus.
While the vast majority of astrologers remain in ignorance or denial of Chiron today, the progress that has been made in creating a body of work around a new planet in just 23 years is astonishing. Consider that at the time of Chiron's discovery in 1977, just one obscure book had been written about Pluto, which had been discovered 47 years earlier (Fritz Brunhubner's book on Pluto was written in 1934, but went unpublished in English for 34 years). It was only in 1985 -- 55 years after its discovery -- that the first comprehensive book on Pluto was published, Jeffrey Wolf Green's Pluto: Evolutionary Journey of the Soul (Llewellyn). Note that the first major work on Pluto entered consciousness just as the first books on Chiron were appearing. This suggests that the two energies work together, like a unified polarity; and moreover, that Pluto, as suggested by Jeff Green, functions as a subconscious process. Chiron works in full awareness, it can be easily subjected to scientific and psychological scrutiny, and is not easily given to issues like denial or avoidance.
Chiron's Mythos: Maverick, Mentor, Healer
Most people who have heard of Chiron associate it with the words "wounded healer," but this would be like summing up the life of Albert Einstein as the "confused physicist." Chiron's first keyword, as described by its discoverer, was maverick. Chiron was different and stood out as a unique scientific discovery. Mythologically, this holds true, yet Chiron was more aptly known for his role as mentor to the great heroes of the Helenic world. Finally, we know that Chiron was a healer and teacher of healing. He reflects all of these qualities when working as an astrological force. <><>An immortal born to Kronos (Saturn) and Philyra, Chiron was the first of the Centaurs, creatures who were half-man, half-horse. This mix occurred because Kronos was fucking Philyra behind the back of his wife Rhea; when Rhea caught them, Kronos turned himself into a horse as a disguise. At that moment, Chiron was conceived. Philyra, later seeing her son after she gave birth, was so horrified that she turned herself into a tree. Chiron was raised by mentors and surrogate mothers.
Yet Philyra seems to have over-reacted, for Chiron was not the monstrosity she feared. Zimmerman's Dictionary of Classical Mythology (consistent with other sources) reports that Chiron was the one "gentle, learned and wise member of the Centaurs" (though the lesser-known Centaur Pholus surely fits this description as well) and says further that Chiron was "famous for his knowledge of medicine, music, [and] shooting; taught mankind the use of plants and medicinal herbs; instructed the greatest heroes of the age [including] Achilles, Aneas, Asclepius, Heracles, Jason [and] Peleus." Chiron taught not just herbalism, but medicine and surgery to Asclepius, the Greek god of these arts. His name remains in the language today in the art "chiropractic," which is the adjustment of the bones of the neck and back as a means of healing a variety of ills. In one chiropractic textbook I was shown by a colleague, there is an old etching of "asclepian manipulation," an early word for the practice. Since Chiron was the teacher of Asclepius, this suggests he may have also taught him chiropractic as well.
It is noteworthy that Chiron's vastly significant place in mythology was left largely to obscurity till it was dug out and revived by astrologers seeking to understand the meaning of a new planet. Perhaps Chiron was forgotten because he reveals that humanity is at least half animal in nature, and indeed, that half below the waist, where the human body meets the horse body of the Centaur. Chiron, intelligent, compassionate, and loving the teaching and healing of others most of all, has four hoofs and a tail, a reminder to those who think we are all the wiser for walking upright on two feet, while killing our fellow men and women. Chiron was content to live and work in his cave, the Chironian, living in peace and married to the nymph Chariclo. He is one of the very few male figures in Greek mythology not defined by his infidelities, sexual conquests, military conquests, gross flaws or false pride. Indeed, perhaps these are expressions of the denial of one's animal nature rather than a connection to it.
Yet those of Chiron's tribe, the thousands of other Centaurs (most of whom were not his blood relations), were a rogue band of thugs, rapists and warmongers roaming the forests of Greece. David Arner, one of my astrology teachers, recently commented that the Centaurs are the Hell's Angels of Greek mythology: "If there had been motorcycles back then," he said, "they would have been half-motorcycle."
Later in life, during what seemed to have been an inevitable war between Heracles and the Centaurs, Chiron was accidentally shot by Heracles, and hit with an arrow poisoned by the blood of the many-headed monster, the Hydra, whom Heracles had killed on an earlier mission. Though immortal, Chiron was mortally wounded, thus doomed to suffer eternally. The wound was to his animal-half, representing the injured and frightened animal within us all. He created many healing remedies in an attempt to heal his injury, though unsuccessfully. Finally, after long suffering, he proposed the following arrangement to Zeus: Chiron would be released from his pain and ascend to be the constellation Centaurus. In turn, Prometheus would be freed from the rock where he was chained, doomed to suffer for eternity (with his liver being eaten each day, only to grow back each night) in punishment for stealing the "fire of the gods" and giving it to humankind. Thus, Chiron and Prometheus were freed from their unending struggles and began new lives.
From Mythos to Logos
Mythos, that is, the tales of a mythological figure, and the logos, how the planet named after that figure functions astrologically, work very differently. Mythos is to logos as the sapling is to the tree. Somewhere within the form of a tree is both the idea and the reality of the sapling it once was; but the years, the environment and destiny have created a very different being in the mature tree.
While there are similarities in theme and story-structure, the logos is often more complex and has surprising, subtle expressions that can redeem what is often a not-so-happy mythological tale. Further, in the case of a new planet, astrologers, who (like scientists) are never free from bias, are able to assign meanings, and make selective observations and intuitive associations between a planet and its expressions in life. The planet works differently for different people, and humans have the capacity to learn from one another.
Because Chiron was a newly discovered planet, astrologers went to work seeking expressions of its logos in their clients through what amounts to psychological research. They examined the natal placements of clients they knew well, checked events at times of significant transits and watched how Chiron worked in synastry, that is, when two charts are read in comparison to one another, such as with married couples, parents and children and friends.
Astrologers also examined the birth chart of the new planet, as well as astronomical information such as its orbit. They looked at its numerology, and at events in history when Chiron was in aspect to major planetary influences. Through this organic process of reason, exploration, investigation and intuition, a functional meaning of Chiron emerged. Yet as Erminie Lantero suggests in the title of the first book about Chiron, this is indeed a continuing discovery, made all the more adventurous by the two-dozen new planets in Chiron's class which astrologers and astronomers are working to understand.
Most important, we have learned from the experiences of our own lives, and those of the people we call clients, with whom we travel along the road to awareness, wholeness, health and life.
Chiron's Logos: Healing, Awareness, Power Wounds and Transformation
Chiron has many expressions and it is impossible to summarize them in an article or even a book. But it's possible to skew the discussion in a productive direction. This would start with the idea that Chiron works as a bridge. It closes the space between phases of growth, layers of awareness, people, belief systems, countries and phases of history. It provides a link between the celestial and earthly orders of consciousness, to the extent that these seem to be separate realities from our viewpoint here. Thus, its function is as a healer, since healing is always about closing separation.
Another way to look at healing is as a process of becoming aware. We give special words to describe this awareness, such as "enlightenment," "mastery," "expertise," "spirituality," and so forth. But awareness is awareness. The choice to use it, I might add, is another story entirely. Where Chiron is present in the natal chart, and where Chiron is acting by transit (that is, where the current position of Chiron is acting upon the natal chart), we will feel some form of need, desire or compulsion to raise our awareness.
Chiron is associated with healing crises, that is, the conscious confrontation of that which makes us sick or holds us back, and inspires the ultimate use of such "negative" things as opportunities to grow and learn. In this way, pain and suffering do not enter our lives to teach us a lesson, but rather, we learn how to learn lessons from that which would otherwise be pointless struggle.
In the current models of medicine and psychiatry, we view the patient as an entirely passive entity in the healing process. In holistic healing, astrology and many other more balanced models of growth and wellness, a person is far from passive but is rather the central figure in the healing journey, with a greater element of control over his or her destiny. In this way, the healing crisis is a call to growth, personal empowerment, and most of all, consciousness. We learn to let go of what holds us back, recognize who we really are, and to use what we know. We learn to make choices. In these ways, what starts as sickness becomes not just health but also a means to arriving at a new place of strength, integrity and freedom. One person's healing crisis can provide important information for other people as they grow into their own wholeness.
Some of us are familiar with the idea of the shaman. The shaman in aboriginal cultures is the bridge between humanity and the outer forces, a concept very much akin to that of Chiron or a healer. People working in this modality typically will serve a community, or be in the service of the culture, functioning in service being one of the identifying marks of a person on a spiritual mission in life. Without exception in the life of a shaman there is a wound inflicted, such as early disease, blindness, a near-death experience, a bout with insanity or some other experience that causes the shaman to gather their strength and power and thus become who they are. With Chiron we can see this process working, on some level, in all people. This wound may be the early loss of a parent, an injury, a disability, or even a talent that rendered a person different and forced them to confront a particular aspect of reality early on, perhaps well ahead of their years.
Chiron functions as an integrating agent in the seemingly separate mind, body, emotions and spirit, and thus brings together the very different elements of consciousness that may exist within us. We are aware of these elements when, for example, we have insights during meditation, in rituals or on drugs that we find challenging to relate to our "normal life." We might recognize something about a person, perhaps someone we're very close to, and not be able to embody that knowledge into our relationship with the person. Or we might encounter wise teachings of an experienced person, but claim that they are impossible to apply to life. The process of Chiron works to bridge these realities: energy into matter, the spiritual into the mundane, the cosmic into the ordinary.
Three Kinds of Planets
To relate this idea, it will help to use some astrological metaphors, so I hope you'll bear with a short astrology class. Astrologers generally speak of three kinds of planets: The personal planets, the Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus and Mars; the transpersonal planets, Jupiter and Saturn; and the outer planets, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto.
We can all relate fairly well to the personal planets. On the most basic level, Venus and Mars like to fuck, eat good food and play out the polarity of maleness and femaleness (this is a somewhat superficial explanation, but not really). This is easy to grasp. Mercury is the process of communication, the inner light of the mind, and the self that is not bound by definitions but rather fleets from one idea about itself to another. The Sun represents who we feel we really are. The Moon represents our most basic needs and security issues, the place in consciousness where emotions are manifested, as well as the physical body. These are the personal or "inner" planets. Often these have been personified in the form of gods, which are really archetypal expressions of inner human reality. In other words, when I become a warrior, I invoke Mars, but I am really using an energy within my own being, which I perhaps recognized in myself because I know something about the great archetypal warriors.
Next are the transpersonal planets, which were the two most distant planets of antiquity: Jupiter and Saturn. These represent forces that don't seem to be so internal, but rather function as part of society; though there are some people who embody them very effectively, for good or for ill.
Jupiter represents great fortune (as if from outside), the process of culture, the idea of justice, and the sphere of embodied wisdom (such as the knowledge contained in libraries, universities and religions). Internally, Jupiter can represent the aspects of a person that are magnanimous (generous and kind of judgment), spiritual (Jupiter relates to Pisces and Sagittarius) excessive (Jupiter is big), and full of hot air (Jupiter is not a solid planet). Metaphysically it represents the principle of expansion. Perhaps this is why (according to Forbes magazine) there are so many Pisces millionaires.
Saturn represents concrete structures, such as buildings, corporations, traditions, institutions (like the church itself rather than the teachings of the church). Internally, Saturn represents the boundaries and structures of mind, body and interaction with and within which we must live. For example, we need bones, and we tend to treat our mother like our mother and our father like our father. Metaphysically Saturn represents the principle of limitation and discipline. Saturn is the edge. Beyond the edge, there is the vast chaotic cosmos, both internally (the subconscious realm, into which psychotics, artists and genius-types may dip regularly) and externally (speed limits and DUI laws that land us in court). Without Saturn functioning normally, which includes tending to our process of becoming mature and creating structures to live within, we have a very hard time staying sane or stable. When we do not work with Saturn as an internal energy (discipline) it will invariably manifest as an external energy (disciplinarians).
Last are the outer planets, also called the "modern planets" because they are the products of the modern world and its technology, and also because they represent humanity's delves into the deep space of consciousness in the form of psychoanalysis, spirituality, invention, industry, and mysticism -- not to mention mass insanity, holocausts, world wars and ecocide, that is, the poisoning of our earthly home and the mass poisoning of its living creatures.
The first of these planets, Uranus, discovered in 1781, is the first planet beyond the edge of Saturn. It is the planet of revolution, innovation, invention, and the divine electricity of the mind. Its processes can up-end or destroy the structures of Saturn, or with a light touch, those familiar with Uranian energy can modify, reinvent and adapt structure to meet current needs. It tends to operate far outside the reach of most people, since very few of us here are inventors, most of us cling to structure, and hardly anyone welcomes change. When it's functioning well in a person's chart, it will lead them to seek freedom, to be different, to think outside of boxes and to aspire to greater ideas about life and their personal experience on the planet.
Neptune, discovered in 1846, is even more difficult to grasp. It represents the presence of the numinous -- that is, the supernatural; the unspeakable, the invisible and the mysterious. In its less wholesome and most common manifestations, it shows up in life as drugs, drink, delusion, deception and denial. Unfortunately, the sprit we call alcohol substitutes for the spirit we call love or God, and the two have a very hard time co-existing. Usually one is a direct substitute for the other. Note that alcoholics have a strong tendency to deceive people, to be delusional and to be in denial. People who are on a conscious spiritual path generally work to be aware of their addictions, work to live for truth and not be in denial of what simply is so. In general, people work one side of Neptune or the other, though in all respects Neptune is a difficult concept to grasp, largely because it works through invisible means.
Before moving onto Pluto, it is very, very well worth noting that on New Year's Day 1801, two hundred years ago, a new kind of planet was discovered. This was Ceres, the first asteroid. Ceres was the second planet ever named for a woman and the first new planet named for a woman; and of course, she was "not a planet." Planets were only the big things going deeper and deeper into space. Ceres is the Roman name of the Greek goddess of agriculture, Demeter; she is about the Earth and its fruits, grains (hence "cereal") and the guardian of marriage. In discovering Ceres, not counting her for a planet (an issue for both astrologers and astronomers), and then abandoning her, we seemed to be reflecting a cultural process that would, in a very short time, foul the nest known as Earth and lead to many generations of failure to honor relationships, nutrition and nurturing one another.
Finally, in 1930, we have the outermost conventional planet, Pluto, discovered at the Lowell Observatory in the United States. My Zimmerman mythology dictionary tells me that Pluto is, "The Greek name for the king of hell, or for hell itself; his other names are Ades, Aides, Aidoneus, Hades and Pluton." It's clear that this was hardly an inviting or tempting energy for astrologers to want to dabble in casually. And, first came Pluto, then came Hitler, who came to power in February 1933 and started the Holocaust, or all-consuming fire (holo = whole, and caust = burn, like in caustic), a hellish enough image to make the point.
But Pluto, as he works astrologically, is not so simple. His primary function or effect is to drive evolution forward. Pluto, akin to Shiva the Destroyer of Hindu mythology, does indeed burn off old karma, remove old situations, and get to the heat of the matter. People with strong Pluto placements are able to cut to the truth, and push others to do the same. But Pluto rarely manifests as an entirely welcome energy. He is difficult to take all by himself, far more difficult than the other outer planets, none of which are especially easy to accept, comprehend or work with alone. They are all forces far beyond our control, greater than we are, affecting millions of people and compelling us to deal with the ultimate realities of life and death. Pluto takes what seem to be the most negative forces and possibilities and, with awareness, transforms them into constructive experiences and learning. But this is often extremely difficult because the further away planets are, the more difficult their energy is to grasp or comprehend.
Enter Chiron, and a New Kind of Planet
Astronomically, Chiron bears attributes of a comet (harbinger or messenger of change), an asteroid (a seemingly minor influence, though of great importance -- yet often ignored), a planet (a recognizable element in the consciousness of many people). But Chiron functions as an inner planet, piercing through the realm of Saturn at its closest point to the Sun and an outer planet, going way beyond Saturn, almost out to Uranus. He is, in this way, a bridge between the outer planets and the transpersonal planets.
He is like a utility which allows us to a) deal with the limitations of Saturn, and make productive use of Saturn and b) work with the cosmic energies of the outer planets. Chiron allows us to ground the pure energy of Uranus into the form and structure of Saturn, and vice versa. It works as a collector of Neptunian energy, allowing us to cut through the delusion and denial that so often accompanies spirituality, and to apply spiritual lessons in practical ways; and to deal with Pluto by bringing the subconscious forces to full awareness, where we can address it in a sane context (healing, ritual, committed relationship and so on).
Chiron typically works through experiences, talents and relationships, often in some combination. We know Chiron is active in our charts when we strive to make difficulty meaningful, when we seek healing rather than escape, and when we strive for awareness when in the past we desired to go to sleep.
The discovery of Chiron indeed proceeds, and now, there are nearly two-dozen planets identified as belonging to the Centaur class. The second was Pholus, discovered in 1992. The third was Nessus, disdovered in 1993. With these discoveries, the Centaur class was designated, the propterties of which include small objects in elongated orbits, usually crossing the orbits of larger planets. Most of these have no names. Pholus, to my knowledge, is mentioned in English only in To The Edge in Beyond, though I have a couple of articles about it which you may request, and I will be posting more here this year. One excellent book is available in German. To cast the Centaurs into your natal chart, you may use the free online ephemeris at the Centaur Research Project homepage. Printed epemerides may be obtained from Robert in Europe and from Phillip Sedgwick in the United States. If you want information about how to get a copy of To The Edge and Beyond, which I consider to be an excellent starting astrology book, please drop me a note. I also do Chiron astrological readings, and teach other astrologers the techniques I have developed. Some of these will be explored in a later article.