The Cave of the Centaur
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In very ancient times, Chiron, the Wounded Healer, was originally a god of healing. In later mythology, as a teacher of heroes and an oracle, he survived as one of the centaurs. These wild creatures, half man and half horse, were not noted either for their sensitivity, or their intelligence and represented mankind's attachment to the lower animal passions. In modern astrology, he stands for the deep karmic wounds in the subconscious that we have come to this life to heal.
Immortal Son of Saturn
A comet-like planetoid now called Chiron was discovered by Charles T. Kowal on November 1, 1977. This rara avis flies between the courses of Saturn and Uranus in a highly elliptical 51-year orbit, closer at perihelion to the Sun than Saturn and almost as far out at aphelion as Uranus. This has the effect of moving him swiftly through some signs, such as Libra, but very slowly through others, such as Aries. The current scientific position is that Chiron probably originated in the Kuiper Belt, a disk of objects orbiting beyond Neptune. Chiron's discovery marked the burgeoning of a new class of celestial objects now known as Centaurs. Although he was neither the first (if you count Hidalgo) nor the largest (Chariklo, Chiron's mythological wife) of many such minor planets to be discovered, Chiron still remains the most significant in terms of human destiny.
Chiron, immortal son of Kronos (Saturn), governs healing and relationships; he teaches us, as he did with Jason, Achilles and Heracles, to fulfil our ultimate potential. Chiron taught his secrets to Asclepios, the divine healer, but in modern astrology he profoundly stands for the deep wounds we have brought into this life to be healed – and so to enable us to heal others. His emblem represents holistic understanding. The area of the chart in which Chiron is located is the focus of the karmic healing process, which is often very painful.
When Chiron is activated by major progressions and transits, experiences tend to occur that bring us face to face with what really drove us to come here to this beautiful, but often painful planet. The sorrows and sufferings of the deep past are activated, brought to the surface, and we are given the chance to resolve them: to awaken from the sleep of ages. These experiences are karmic in the true sense of the word, for they will shake us until we wake, so long as we do not dull their effects with alcohol, drugs, or other ways of remaining drowsy, such as overwork or compulsive sex.
Chiron shakes us according to our character, as revealed through the symbols of the natal chart. A person with strong Mars will turn to violent action, or aggressive behaviour to avoid the truth; someone with strong Venus will smother consciousness in pleasure; one who has a powerful Moon may become drug or alcohol affected; Jupiter will turn to gambling; Saturn to overwork and so on for all the planetary types. The key to this is understanding the opportunity to reach a new level of consciousness, so that our own wounds may be healed and so that we may become a healing beacon in our own communities.
Unlike the drunken centaurs, Chiron was wise, with extensive knowledge of the healing arts, astrology, music and medicine. Heracles (Hercules) unintentionally wounded his teacher in the knee, during his battle with the centaurs. Thus his wound was in a sense self-inflicted, for he himself had taught the hero to make the poisoned arrow by dipping it in the blood of the Hydra.
The last of his kind, Chiron relinquished immortality so that the titanic rebel Prometheus (who brought the gift of fire – stolen from the gods – to the human race) could be released from his eternal torment. Thus he died so that humanity might live. After his death, he was placed in the firmament as the constellation Centaurus, the Centaur.
Chiron is a knowledge-holder who transmits higher teachings, either as an outer teacher (Saturn), or as an inner teacher or spirit guide (Uranus). Embodying the archetype of "the wounded healer", Chiron stresses the importance of going within to find an answer – and then sharing it with others.
In education, music and medicine, Chiron unites the body and mind, instinct and intellect. His ancient teachings are now resurfacing through the advent of holistic health and education. Chiron is often seen to be a "maverick", perhaps due to his eccentric orbit, and his closeness to Uranus. He can also be held responsible for deep, dreamlike states of consciousness, especially when connected by a major aspect with Saturn.
Close to their fiftieth birthday, most people experience what astrologers call the Chiron Return, when Chiron by transit crosses over his position in their natal chart for the first time in fifty years. This is prime time for the karmic realisation to be unbound. In the words of astrologer and counsellor Brian Clark:
"Chiron, with his incurable wound, trades places with Prometheus in the underworld, freeing the imprisoned spirit. Chiron chooses death to relieve his suffering (the fate of his mortal side) yet this choice releases Prometheus from imprisonment on the rock in Tartarus. Hopefully what chooses to die are the misshapen and inauthentic parts of self. The initiation could then help reorder priorities, relinquish what is no longer appropriate or authentic and liberate the unlived spirit."
Clark argues in Brave New World: Forward into the Fifties that Chiron's fate embraces both the pain of incarnation and the fires of spirit:
"In reality, the spirit is often chained up in the cellar, buried under ancestral rubble, until the wound of living has reached its density then spirit bursts through. At fifty death is no longer just a psychological process or metaphysical metaphor; it is a physical reality. The pain of living is peaking. While death may seem unreachable, on a faraway horizon, nonetheless, it is visible, more visible that ever before. Moving towards that inevitability seems to also hold the key to a renewed release of spirit."
People born between 1961 and 1970 with Chiron in Pisces are now entering their Chiron Return phase. This release of a renewed spirit is very much the purpose of incarnation on this shining blue world. We all carry a hefty load of baggage, and most of us must endure the suffering caused by a profound psychological wound. We need to heal this wound in order to function in a world of wellness, to be able to dance lightly across the dreamscape – and to give of our own true beauty so that others may be released in order to join us in the dance of the free spirit. Chiron has entered our consciousness again after a sleep of some two millennia, and now it is time to let him express his healing gift.
A more detailed examination of Chiron can be found at Chiron and Friends, by Zane B. Stein.
NOTE: Chiron, recently discovered, is not a traditional planet, so has no essential dignities, and no long history of research. Interested astrologers are at variance with regard to his influence and even his name! See Hypnos (Bardo) vs Chiron.