Chiron, the wounded healer

An astrological and mythological perspective

Copyright Alison Sinclair 1999 

                                                                             This two dimensional image is in the public domain

 

In Greek, the word planet means “wanderer” and this description applies quite well to Chiron.  Its erratic, elliptical orbit passes between Saturn and Uranus, and then between Saturn and Jupiter.  Some have interpreted this to mean it is bringing in energies from areas that formerly lay outside out conscious awareness.  Chiron was discovered in 1977 at about 10 am on 1 November by Charles T. Kowal of the Hale Observatories at Pasadena, California. Although a photographic record going back to the 1890s was assembled from the observatories in various countries, the planet had never before been noticed.  Several astrologers had made predictions suggesting something would be discovered e.g. Dane Rudhyar postulated a “Higher Moon” between Saturn and Uranus and Charles Jaynes predicted that a new planet would be found in 1975 near its own node within an orbit of about 50 years.  Chiron’s position, size and behaviour are unusual, large for an asteroid and small for a planet.  Some think that it could be a comet that wandered into our solar system and became trapped into orbit.  

Melanie Reinhart, in her book Chiron and the Healing Journey: an Astrological and Psychological Perspective, traces the symbolism of Chiron back to the pre-Hellenic root system of Greek mythology.  By the time most of the Hellenic myths were formulated by Hesiod and Homer around 750 BC, the split between the spiritual and instinctual sides of ourselves had become institutionalised, as patriarchal social and religious forms replaced earlier matriarchal forms.  Before then, in Europe and the Near East, the Great Mother was worshipped in many forms.  Being synonymous with fertility and instinctual life, the suppression of her worship meant the feminine became devalued.  With the advent of Christianity, the world of the senses was relegated to the realm of the Devil.  The mythic image of Chiron may be invoked to heal this split, leading us back to Palaeolithic times and the dawning of human consciousness.

Furthermore, horse worship was a feature of many pre-Hellenic cultures e.g. the Mycenae and Amazons, ancient Ireland and England.  The story of Lady Godiva who rode naked through the streets of Coventry was later mythologised and linked to tales of the goddess of earlier pagan fertility rituals. Horses were also important in Scandinavian, North American and Vedic Indian ancient cultures. The taproot of the archetype, which emerged in Greek times to form the story of Chiron, is the figure of the shaman, the Wounded Healer. 



Any mythic figure that is half animal and half human is described as “typhonic” by Ken Wilbur, a term which he also used to describe the mode of consciousness that prevailed 200,000 to 50,000 years ago. This involved a direct experience of the life force underlying all things. In tribal living, our individuality was embedded in a totality comprising the family, ancestors, the natural world and the whole of life. Our wound of isolation from the cosmos may be seen as a fundamental illness in western industrialised society. 

 

White chalk horse, Wiltshire, England, Copyright, Alison Sinclair 2006


In Greek myth, Chiron was a Centaur: half man and half horse.  His father was Chronus (Saturn).  Cronus took the form of a horse when he ravished the nymph Philyra (daughter of the boundless ocean).  (Already suggesting a combination of Saturn with outer planets.)  When Chiron was born, he had the torso of a man but the body and legs of a horse.  He was the son of a God, but mortal.  Rejected at birth by this mother, he was raised by the Apollo, the solar deity. He became a great healer and was given the gift of immortality. He also taught the art of warfare to famous heroes such as Hercules, Jason and Achilles.  Hercules fatally wounded him with a poisoned arrow, by mistake.  However, being immortal, he could not die. The gift of immortality became a curse because he was in constant pain.  Eventually he renounced immortality, in exchange for Prometheus’s freedom from torment being the punishment for acquiring fire for humanity. Chiron was finally able to die and as a reward was elevated to a place in the heavens by the Zeus as the constellation of Sagittarius for his bravery.

Chiron was discovered between Saturn and Uranus and from an astrological perspective has been taken to embrace both of these planets.  On the one hand, the psyche is fixed in time and place by fate, through parental and ancestral influences, social conditioning, and by the spiritual inheritance and karma we bring with us to life; yet on the other hand, the psyche is also limitless, fluid and in process. A major theme symbolised by the Chiron is the reconciliation and healing of the fundamental split between the spiritual and instinctual sides of us.  Healing becomes possible when we are able to integrate all our disparate energies, creating a fusion of opposites and paradoxes, both as an individual and as a part of the human collective.  Chiron combines a number of paradoxes in his person: he is warrior and healer, human and animal, he was mortally wounded yet could not die.  The inrush of Uranian energy can cause pain and shock, being the opposite of Saturn.  However, with Chiron’s power, we can ease the gap between these two opposing planetary energies. In connection with Apollo, the Sun God represents our soul reaching down to teach our lower self via Chiron, the Shaman.  Synchronous with the discovery of Chiron, depth psychology started to be incorporated into astrology.  Many astrologers find it useful to use Chiron in their psychological counselling work.  Other alternative health therapies also gained greater popularity.

Chiron’s transits have unpredictable effects.  They tend to bring out our pain but offer a way to heal it, offering the integration of the animal instinctual side of man with the higher spiritual energy.  Chiron shows where we are wounded, the pain we carry, where we are vulnerable to being wounded by others, where we wound them and where we wound ourselves.  Chiron is the repeating pattern of our inner distress, where we are stuck.  Chiron is also the place where we have to give up our suffering and allow ourselves to be healed. The healing is not a matter just “making things better” but may involve a descent into our own darkness and an acceptance of part of us that may always remain wounded.  The warrior nature of Chiron can give us the courage to undertake this shamanic journey into the darkness.

Chiron may be seen as holding a sword in one hand, ready to cut away all that is diseased or outworn or fight if necessary, but on the other hand, he carries the caduceus and the herbs of healing.   He can cut through the patterns of the past and offer creative solutions to seemingly insoluble problems.

Chiron manifests in complementary medicine through its gentle, non-invasive approach. These energies may have been liberated by Chiron’s discovery.  The re-discovery of shamanism in the Western world may also be connected with the need for personal growth personified by Chiron.  A shaman links the unseen forces, the spiritual realms, with the physical level and acts as a go-between.   He or she has usually been wounded in some way and had to find inner healing, finding in the process initiation, transformation and empowerment.  


Transits


Melanie Reinhart says that when Chiron is strongly active by transit, we may see striking examples of the mythic themes taking form in individual lives.

A friend suggested that I should check what happened when Chiron conjuncted the mid-point between my natal Saturn and Uranus.  He said that something to do with healing should have happened.  I was somewhat sceptical, not having much truck with asteroids.  Checking the ephemeris, I found the date and had to go to my dream diary for a hint of what happened.  I was amazed to recall that the date when the transit was exact coincided with my initiation into Reiki healing.  The initiation was a powerful experience for me, and released considerable healing energy through my body. 
Another transit I observed in progress was the conjunction of Jupiter to natal Chiron.  At the time the conjunction was exact, I experienced medical and emotional issues, involving a descent into the kind of darkness with  experiences such as those alluded to above.  I had expected that the conjunction of Jupiter to Chiron would involve a greater healing, but in this case, it seemed to bring out the wound into the open. Certainly I had increased contacts with doctors and nurses during the transit.

Creative visualisation


I met with two friends to undertake a guided vision journey involving the archetypal figure of Chiron, using the book Power Planets below.  It involved encounters with Chiron and journeys in an inner landscape.  It gave me a sense of integrating the animal and spiritual parts of my personality, suggesting a release from duality. I had a sense of completion and harmony, and recognition of something corresponding to Chiron within me.  The brown door I entered through became green on the way back.  We each took a message from Chiron, and mine was “Go slowly to integrate the green.” For me, this meant the importance of being closer to nature to affect healing.  Several years later I realized the importance of this when I learned about living the shamanic path. 

Two of us had positive experiences. The other friend, H., had quite a frightening experience involving the opening of a gaping abyss in front of her and to her Chiron appeared as a terrifying monster emerging from the darkness of his cave.  She had difficulty keeping awareness throughout the journey and was incoherent about the images that kept changing.  When we discussed it, I realised something that should have been obvious, since I had encountered it before. The experience during the guided journey reflects the quality of the natal astrological placement.  H. has Chiron in Pisces on the ascendant in opposition to Pluto on the descendant.  The Chiron figure was very coloured by Pluto and her relationship issues.  My other friend R. relived a number of painful experiences in her life e.g. the death of her pet cat, and realised that this wounding had given her the impetus to enter the path to self-knowledge.  She has Chiron in the 6th house (pets and health concerns) close to Saturn. 


References:
- Astrological Images, Judy Hall, Findhorn Press, 1996

- The Karmic Journey: The Birthchart, Karma and Reincarnation, Judy Hall, Arkana, Penguin Books, 1990
- Power Planets: A manual for human empowerment, Luisa de la Lama, White Dragon Productions, 1993
- Chiron and the Healing Journey: an Astrological and Psychological Perspective, Melanie Reinhart, Arkana, Penguin Books, 1989

Home