Astrology: Chiron Symbolism

Sun opposite Chiron 9.1.2014

The moon is void of course this morning and will be entering Sagittarius shortly, where it will then be applying to make the 1st quarter Moon by tomorrow morning.

The sun is meanwhile applying to oppose Chiron this week. Since I rarely mention Chiron it might be a good day to discuss the chirotic archetype.

It’s good to know a few basic things about the story of Chiron…

Chiron was a centaur and a masterful healer and teacher of the healing arts (including astrology!). Centaurs were wild and often unpredictable creatures, half man and half horse, and mostly ruled by their lower halves (though there were also highly civilized centaurs..they were rare!). Centaurs were known to crash parties, and to be completely unruly savages. Chiron stood out among them because of his birth…he was an immortal, given his horse half by his father Cronos (Saturn).

As the story goes, Chiron was accidentally wounded during a fight between the centaurs and one of his students, Heracles. The fight was caused in large part because of alcohol (wine). Though Chiron had nothing to do with the fight, he was accidentally wounded in the thigh by one of Heracles poisoned arrows (which had venomous blood from the hydra on the tip). Injured by his own student with a mortal poison, Chiron was suddenly in a precarious position….he would now have to live forever (immortal) with an incurable suffering (the mortal poison of the hydra).

Chiron decides that he will offer himself up in the place of Prometheus and trade his immortality for Prometheus’ life. Prometheus (for those who don’t know the story) had been chained by the gods to the side of a cliff for stealing the fire of the gods on behalf of humanity. The gods agree to Chiron’s offer, and after Prometheus is set free they also decide to release Chiron into the heavens and make him into a constellation (an important signal for all astrologers!).

At the heart of this story is an incredible teaching that gets lost with all the hype about the phrase “wounded healer.” This phrase should be put onto the temporary “ban list” of astrological jargon. Because the real message of this story is about chaos versus reason, about guilt and innocence by association, and the division between the gods and humanity or between mortality and immortality.

First Chiron is a centaur. He belongs to a class of half men and half animals. They are unpredictable…sometimes highly civilized, and other times, especially around alcohol, highly volatile. Like the image of the centaur in the Sagittarius constellation, centaurs are an image of the basic human dilemma…the primitive qualities of instinct, hunger, and the death and sex drive (the libido we might say), versus the “higher” rational faculties. The Sagittarian dilemma is almost always about the desire to expand and evolve “upward” against the lower aspects of animal nature…hence the Sagittarian relationship to religion, higher philosophy, and travel, as well as the classic Sagittarian hedonism or “party animal” side. Chiron is an immortal in the centaurs midst…we might say he is somewhat “above” the classic daily dilemmas of centaurs. And yet, once wine is involved (the classic centaur downfall) and the other centaurs go bananas, Chiron is accidentally wounded. He is brought “down” by their comparative “lower” qualities. It doesn’t seem fair at all. And in fact, it’s his own student that ignorantly shot him (can we see the symbolic resonance with the Gospel stories here?!). Doubly unfair!

But here’s the thing about “fairness.” Life isn’t always fair. Not even to the gods. And all this talk about wounded healing doesn’t mean much unless we can grasp this part of the myth. LIfe isn’t always fair…not even for the gods.

Prometheus is another great example of the unfairness of life. By all accounts he thought it was “unfair” that the gods should have higher knowledge (fire) and the humans should be left out in the dark. So he steals the fire and brings it to the people, but he’s punished by the gods as a result. Prometheus is therefore the perfect mythic character for Chiron to take the place of, specifically because Prometheus is a human who didn’t believe it was fair that the gods were “higher up” than the humans, while Chiron, an immortal and a god, is someone who needs something that only a human like Prometheus has….the ability and willingness to die for something “higher” than himself.

The message of the story of Chiron, who is placed into the sky as a constellation after trading his godhood for Prometheus’ life, is again that life is not first and foremost about fairness. Nor is it as simple as humans striving toward the perfection of the gods. We learn by Chiron’s situation that there is something about mortality, something about the “poison of the hydra” (an image of deep humanity), that can set even a god free from the burdens of his immortality (normally THE coveted prize!).

This story isn’t working on us unless it offends something of our higher sensibilities…unless it squashes something of our spiritual ambition, points to an all together human place that nags on painfully…a place we keep trying to fix, evolve, or enlighten…

With Chiron its this exact spot…this point where we feel most flawed, truly “less than” some image of the gods, that we have to start imagining as the entry point for what the gods most desire.

A quick example: I have Chiron in Taurus, right on my ascendant. For me it’s always been the feeling that my concern with how I look, physically, appearance wise, and whether or not I have a socially pleasing (Venus ruled) persona is a kind of lesser or lower quality about me…like my desire to look and appear pleasing is a tremendous curse or vanity that I simply can’t get rid of…

I once had an ayahuasca ceremony where I had a visionary experience with Chiron in Taurus on my Ascendant…the gist of the message was pretty simple: this is something you’re not going to change about yourself. You’ll find more peace if you accept it and then do your best to look and appear socially pleasing. The nagging feeling that you ARENT these things (that you aren’t socially/physically pleasing) won’t necessarily go away, nor will your feeling that you should not be preoccupied with such subjects…but your sense of humor about all of this will grow, your ability to suffer the suffering of it with more creativity will grow, and you’ll naturally help others to deal with the same complex situation.

This is what we astrologers mean by “wounded healer,” I think. It’s not that you’re MORE special because of your suffering, or not that you first must suffer before you become some kind of enlightened being. No. We need to let this kind of jibber jabber go. Wounded healing is a phrase that implies paradox. There is something about you that is NOT as high as it should be…and yet it’s in exactly this “lower” place that the GODS need something from you. In truth, the gods need and want to care about things like social and physical appearance. In truth the gods need vanity and recklessness and all our other “lower animal” faults. We’re so quick to say, “it’s the heart that matters, not what’s on the outside.” But this cliche misses the Chirotic mark (which looks like a skeleton key, by the way!). For Chiron there is nothing under the human sun that may not be necessary or valuable for the sake of the healing of the gods or for the god/human relationship. We’re always so quick to think it’s about the healing of the humans TOWARD the divine or TOWARD the gods. Chiron is a fantastic reminder, a revolution in the field of archetypal awareness, that the healing can flow in reverse. The gods frequently go “lower” in order to get something they need for the sake of their own healing, or release. Chiron’s death creates a NEW archetypal awareness…in much the same way the death and resurrection of Christ in the gospel stories creates a new religious paradigm…not of final “divine” redemption for humans from their “sins,” (too bad its been twisted that way! just like the ‘wounded healer’ twisting of Chiron!) but of the death of a god whose healing could only come through human mortality, chaos, and complexity. The real gospel message is that a sickly god was healed through an entirely human situation, including a brutal human death. That same god, resurrected like Chiron, becomes a new myth that goes directly into the stars….in fact the birth of the highly chirotic Jesus was heralded by eastern astrologers who followed a “star” to his birth place.

To close…as the Sun moves to oppose Chiron this week, look at your life and look at where you feel most “human,” most lowly, most in need of some “higher” quality. Imagine that it’s in this exact place that a wounded GOD is receiving a HUMAN healing. I know for me, and I suspect for many people, this sickly god is rather Christian in nature. Regardless, how can we allow this sickly god to receive its human healing…no longer fighting so intensely with this aspect of our humanity?

Prayer: Help me to reconcile the god in me to the humanity in me. Not through some kind of hedonistic extreme, but through a gentle, persistent, good humored and imaginative acceptance of all that resides in the depths of my soul.

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