© 2009 by Larry Williamson, Guest Blogger
Centaurus is one of two constellations said to represent the centaurs, mythical creatures with a human head and torso on top of a horse’s body. Centaurus was the name of the first centaur. The constellation Centaurus is primarily associated with Chiron, a wise, immortal being who was the King of the Centaurs. He was renowned for his healing skills and a wise teacher and mentor.
Chiron was the Son of Chronos (Saturn), ruler of the vanished golden age, where men lived in harmony with nature. His mother was the nymph Philyra, whose name means both “the love of music of the lyre” and “sweet-scented linden tree." Philyra gave birth to Chiron, was horrified by his appearance, and abandoned him. Chiron’s initial wound was the rejection and abandonment by his mother.
Apollo, the Sun God and Diana, Goddess of the Moon became Chiron’s foster parents—and along with the wild animals, his family. Chiron would become their first pupil and, in turn, he would teach humankind. Apollo and Diana taught him the art of healing, medicine, science, music, war, archery and all survival skills. All the greatest kings and heroes were taken to him as children to be raised in his cave. Some of his students were Jason, Achilles, and Hercules. Chiron taught Orpheus, the great musician, how to play the lyre in a way that made trees weep and rocks melt. He taught Asclepius, god of healing, the arts of healing and medicine.
Chiron’s healing powers were so great, it has been said that he cured those who suffered mortal wounds during the Trojan wars. Below Chiron’s cave lies a sacred valley where he grew powerful medicinal herbs, which he shared with his pupils, along with how to turn them into salves and potions. Chiron was the only centaur able to maintain his higher self. The centaurs were known for their rude, drunken and rowdy behavior, but Chiron was above the fray.
But, unfortunately, Chiron was not above harm. A stray arrow from the bow of Hercules accidentally wounded Chiron. The accident occurred during a wedding feast near Chiron’s cave. Pholus was the keeper of the jar of wine that belonged to the centaurs. He had been had been told not to open the jar. However, when Hercules arrived, he coaxed a reluctant Pholus into opening it, stating that the jar had been placed there generations ago waiting for his arrival. When Pholus opened the cask of wine as Hercules requested, the wild centaurs could smell the aroma from miles away. They sped to the scene, drank all the wine, went berserk, and tried to rape the bride. All mayhem broke out and Hercules tried to stop them. Elatus is the centaur associated with the woodlands and his name means “Fir Man,” because he used to pull up whole fir trees and use them as weapons. Elatus was killed by one of the poisoned arrows of Hercules, dipped in the blood of the many-headed Hydra, a poison from which there was no cure. This same arrow from the bow of Hercules passed through Elatus’s arm and continued its path to wound Chiron in the knee.
Hercules ran to him, pulled out the arrow and dressed the wound with a salve Chiron handed to him. Because the wound was incurable, Chiron moved to his cave yearning for death, but could not die because he was immortal. Ultimately, he passed on his immortality to Prometheus. Zeus saw what a grand and noble gesture this was, and then placed Chiron amongst the stars. In another version of the myth, Chiron offers to trade places with Prometheus who was chained to a rock for all eternity because he discovered fire—or as gods saw it, stole fire from them. Prometheus’s liver was being pecked out nightly as punishment, growing back each day for his vicious cycle of suffering. Since he was suffering himself without let-up, anyway, Chiron offered to take Prometheus's place. Both versions have the same ending. Zeus recognizes Chiron’s altruism, releases him from the bonds of his immortality, and raises him up in a constellation of stars.
In some versions of the story, in spite of his own pain and suffering, Chiron continued to help, heal and serve others. The term Wounded Healer seems to have emerged from this aspect of the myth. Others claim Chiron cured his wounds with the plant Centaury, the sacred herb of the centaurs, and never died. The best definition I ever heard of the Wounded Healer is “the ability to do things for others that we cannot necessarily do for ourselves.”
The kicker of the story is once Chiron was transformed into a constellation, it was not the archer centaur (Sagittarius) but actually the shaman centaur (Centaurus). The brilliant shamanic astrologer Daniel Giamario revealed this to me during an interview. Here the Shaman Centaur is dancing with a She-Wolf (Lupus) holding not a lance, or spear, but a magical and sexual Thyrsus, a staff of wild fennel topped by a pine cone, held by the centaurs. There is a region below the southern ecliptic including, Centaurus, the Shaman Centaur, the original constellation of Chiron. This area of the sky was far more elevated in the southern sky, and due to the precession of the equinoxes, it was all but lost to view in northern latitudes. Because the ancients Greeks couldn’t see the constellation Centaurus, they transferred it into the centaur of the archer, Sagittarius.
Before Chiron was discovered, astrologer Dane Rudhyar predicted there would be a new planetary body found between Saturn and Uranus that would act like a higher Moon. This is interesting, as both, Apollo and Diana, Goddess of the Moon, raised Chiron. One of the greatest paradoxes about Chiron astrologically is in our wounding lies the key to our healing, and it all has to do with feelings and emotions. All healing needs to begin with emotional healing.
This same paradox applies from an astrological interpretive point of view. Wherever Chiron is placed in the natal chart points to an area of possible woundedness, but it also indicates the area in which we can awaken the healing process for ourselves, and how we can best help, heal, and serve others towards integration and transformation. One of the first steps to accelerate the healing process is to “own our wounds.” You can’t change or transform anything you’re denying. Chiron, like Pluto, can serve as a powerful attachment breaker. “De-nial” isn’t just a river in Egypt!
Many astronomers believe Chiron is not an original member of our solar system, but rather came from outside it as a maverick, temporary visitor. They believe, in time, that Chiron will eventually leave. This is a symbolic parallel to the idea of the Bodhisattvas, who voluntarily return to the world of suffering to help assist others on the path of enlightenment. This clearly serves as a powerful metaphor of the Chironic themes of healing, helping and serving others.
It is this astrologer’s humble opinion that the connection between Chiron and Virgo seems clear. Both are associated with healing and service.
The humanistic astrologer Dane Rudhyar states that the trans-Saturnian planets owe allegiance to the galaxy, not the Sun! The former seems to imply “outside help,” the latter relates to “inner work,” or the power of change, transformation inherent in each of us. I feel it is incumbent for all astrologers not to become locked in or fixed solely on the principle of wounding with Chiron, but to cultivate and celebrate the teaching, mentoring, and meaningful service function. We all need someone in our lives at times to serve as a teacher, mentor and act as a bridge between two worlds.
Finally, let us honor our Inner Shaman, inner Teacher to help guide us on our journey towards healing, reconciliation and wholeness. The next time you need healing, go and heal someone else, and ask where have I failed to give? Out of the place of our wounds, will come our greatest gifts.
Catherine Tennant – The Lost Zodiac
Tim Lyons - Astrology Beyond Ego
Daniel Giamario – Reflections on being 52
COMMENT CONTEST WINNER! Congratulations to Sandra Moseley, second and final winner in our Mercury Direct Comment Contest. Sandra is an astrologer and Radical Virgo. Sandra and husband David Mosely have a wonderful website, Zodiac Arts, a visual feast and delightful to visit! Sandra has won a free copy of Joyce Mason's new e-book, Chiron and Wholeness: A Primer.