Chiron Mythology

by Anne Beversdorf

To start with, Chiron wasn't discovered until 1977. November 1 at 10:00am in Pasadena California, to be exact. There is still discussion as to the nature of this little body. but the consensus is that it's a comet, trapped within our solar system. Astronomers feel that it's likely to break free at some point in the not-too-distant future, at least as reckoned by long astronomical time standards. They thought it might be a "planetoid", and then an asteroid --- but it doesn't fall anywhere near the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. All agree that it has the nature of a maverick --- unpredictable, wandering. Its elliptical orbit takes it beyond the orbit of Uranus, at the outer edge, and inside the orbit of Saturn at the inside edge. So in its orbit, Chiron encircles both Saturn and Uranus, co-rulers of Aquarius --- particularly interesting since we are now living on the cusp of the Aquarian age. It spends most of its time on the outer end of its orbit, and oddly enough, that's where it was discovered --- not when it was closest to us. It will reach its first perihelion (be closest to the earth) since discovery on February 14, 1996. When making the standard "lists" of planets, Chiron is considered to be between Saturn and Uranus, and Barbara Hand Clow considers it a "bridge" between the structure of Saturn and the chaos of Uranus. Hopefully, Chiron provides us with a means of accomplishing evolutionary change, rather than simply revolutionary (and so often destructive) change.

When a new astronomical/astrological object is discovered, one way to gain insight into its meaning is to examine its mythology. In the case of Chiron, the story is fascinating, and often confused. I was fortunate in having access to a dissertation, completed in 1978 --- a year after Chiron's discovery --- by my brother-in-law, Krin Gabbard, in which he discusses the two types of centaurs --- Chiron and the "others", and their representation in myth and art of ancient Greece. Upon the discovery of Chiron, there was confusion about the association of Sagittarious with Centaurs, and discussion about whether Chiron was "one of" these centaurs, or "king of" the centaurs... Well, the old (Sagittarian) Centaurs were a mortal race. Part horse, with the upper torso of man, they were the wild-Sagittarian party-animals. They were revellers, partiers, drinkers, given to rape and pillage and tearing up the environment. They were rowdy and uncontrollable, and were generally seen as a pest in the Olympian community. Chiron wasn't even related to them. His centaur-like form was actually a "birth defect". (In telling Chiron's story, I am substituting the Roman names for the gods, since they are those we are familiar with as planets. "Cronos" of Greece becomes, therefore, Saturn in the Roman pantheon.)

The story goes like this: Saturn fell in love with a sea-nymph, Philyra, but Saturn was married to Rhea. (Rhea, by the way, was actually one of Saturn's sister, and together they produced Pluto, Neptune and Jupiter. Chiron, Saturn's bastard son, had powerful brothers!) To escape detection by Rhea, Saturn and Philyra turned themselves into horses to pursue their affair. When Philyra was delivered of their child, she was so ashamed to see its centaur-like form that she begged the gods to turn her into a tree, and she abandoned the child on Mount Pelion, near a cave. Being immortal, the infant Chiron didn't die, but grew up alone. Some versions of the story say that Apollo came to teach Chiron, but this is a rare version. Whatever the case, Chiron studied and learned much, became a master musician ("even the stones (stars?) stopped to listen when he played"), and became known to the Olympian community as a wise and honorable being. In time, parents sent their sons to Chiron to be taught and trained to meet their fates. Chiron was the tutor and foster-parent to many of the great heroes, including Jason (of Argonaut and Golden Fleece fame), Achilles, Hercules, and Asclepius (whose symbol is the Caduceus --- the snakes curling around a cross --- the symbol of modern medicine, and whose constellation, Ophiuchus, coming between Pisces and Aquarius has led Robert Hand to suggest that we are now entering the "Age of Ophiuchus" [Asclepius]). Chiron's teachings focussed on integrating the physical, spiritual/moral, and intellectual natures, because only by developing and integrating all three could heroes realize their true nature. Then came a turning point in Chiron's life. But before continuing the story, let's look at what we already can deduce from the Chiron story.

First, Chiron was a bastard child. He was born without sanction of the marriage of his parents, had a severe and humiliating birth defect, and was abandonned at birth. Not a propitious beginning. The word I associate with Chiron's placement in a chart is "alienated". Where Chiron is in your chart is where you will feel "different", isolated, and unable to share your true nature with others. It produces a sense of alienation, from a very early age, which does not necessarily include wounding. My first interpretations of Chiron's placement were "where one has been wounded and where one has the gift to heal others"; but over time, I realized the wounding associated with Chiron does not necessarily start with the beginning of life. Chiron knew no other life. He survived. He thrived. We can only speculate whether or not his alienation and isolation was wounding to him. (More about this later on in the story.) We also see Chiron as a teacher, as a musician, and as someone dedicated to integrating the multiple nature of human beings. He recognized the factors important in what today we might call "self-realization" -- e.g., the true integration of the spiritual, intellectual, and physical natures.

As time went on, Chiron became known as a master musician and a profoundly knowledgeable creature. Gods and Titans eagerly sent their sons to him to be trained in the herioc arts. The story of his wounding came later in his life --- after Hercules had become a famous hero and Chiron's most favored pupil and close friend. Interestingly enough, the stories of how the would came about are also slightly differing... leading me to draw links between the astrological Chiron and the AIDS epidemic, for one thing. Chiron was wounded by an arrow from the bow of Hercules. Hercules had been visiting the "good centaur" Pholus (a recently discovered object between Uranus and Neptune was just named Pholus), when a band of maurauding centaurs attacked them. Hercules chased the maurauders all the way to Cape Malea, where Chiron himself was struck by one of Hercules' poisoned arrows, after it had passed through another centaur. The wound would have been fatal, but since Chiron was an immortal, he couldn't die of the wound, and its pain led him to a search for healing. In his search for a cure for his own wound, Chiron was the discoverer of medicine, which he taught to Asclepius. After many years, Chiron gave up his immortality to Prometheus, and Jupiter was so impressed that he made a new constellation, Sagittarius, honoring Chiron in the sky.

Since Chiron's teachings were unique in helping each of his students learn to reach the summit of his physical, spiritual, and intellectual nature, it is appropriate that Chiron's orbit is so erratic as to make its effect in each person's life totally individual. We can point to the "mid-life crisis" of the Uranus opposition and the Neptune square; we can identify long generational periods where people will experience a Pluto square at a certain age. But with Chiron, the first square can come as early as 5 years of age or as late as 28 years of age, and people only a few years apart in age can have entirely different Chiron squares. Since the first square of Chiron to itself seems to correspond to the "installation" of the "wound", this leaves individuals with entirely personal experiences that tie in very directly to the issue of "meaning" in the birth chart. We talked about Pluto as identifying a "purpose" to life; the nodal axis as a "goal"... well, Chiron's effect on our life has to do with where we need to find a sense of "meaning", of where we seek meaning, and where we are likely to find a sense of meaning in our lives. And the definition of meaning is unique to its sign and house placement, and to the individual's response to the circumstances of the opening square.

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