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Western Astrology Articles by Julene Packer-Louis
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The Mythology of Chiron
From Chiron's birth, through his life's journey, and to the end, his story provides us with archetypal symbolism this centaur represents in our charts.
Chiron's life begins with his initial abandonment by his mother Philyra. Born half man, half horse, Philyria "was so disgusted that she pleaded to be changed into anything other than what she was" [Reinhart, 20] thus abandoning Chiron. This points to three archetypal themes inherent in Chiron right off the bat: one the fear of abandonment, two the lack of nurturance from mother, and three not having validation of the ego due to not being good enough or deserving. The second is re-iterated by the fact that he never knew his father, Kronos (Saturn), who certainly made no overt attempts to validate him either. Kronos' involvement, or more aptly his lack there of, carries a fourth theme of the absent father. Wow four themes all from his birth and very early years! This is symbolic of how these types of wounds are unconsciously passed down through the generations.
The next phase in Chiron's story is his 'adoption' by Apollo, a "god of music, prophecy, poetry, healing, a noble paragon of youth, beauty, wisdom and justice. He was never vengeful, but purified men of their guilt and transgressions" [Reinhart, 21]. Apollo taught Chiron all these things. Chiron in turn taught these things to "Jason, Achilles, Hercules, and Asclepius" [Reinhart, 23]. The adoption holds the fifth and sixth theme inherent in Chiron, this time more positive.
We have the fifth theme of the surrogate parent, the one who cares for Chiron despite his more repulsive qualities, probably because Apollo was not so close as to have to feel responsible for and eaten up by guilt and fear of fault/responsibility every time he looked at him. This helps to some extent to heal the wound of the first and fourth themes I mentioned above of abandonment and absent parent.
Also we have the sixth theme of having a teacher/mentor/guide/guru type who sees beyond what has been rejected and nurtures the more creative qualities or potentials. This helps to heal the lack of nurturance to some degree even though the emotional nurturance is lacking and it helps to validate the ego because Apollo believed Chiron worthy to be taught such divine things. Because this is a positive experience that makes Chiron feel good and worthy, a seventh theme of becoming the teacher/mentor/guide/guru type enters the picture as Chiron emulates his mentor role model. By teaching others and having others look up to him, his self worth & ego is validated through his pupils or disciples, which helps to heal the third theme above. So here we see that Chiron shows us where we can be taught as well as what we have to teach others, thus validating the ego and feeling not so separate. So here the fifth and sixth themes merge as we heal others who share our wounds, teach others what we ourselves needed to be taught - as both sides of the coin are apparent here.
Later in Chiron's life we find one of his pupils, Hercules, returning from his Hydra labor. The bottle of Dionysus' wine, which had been carefully guarded and preserved for centuries by the centaurs, was opened for him to drink from. (More on this in the mythology of Pholus.) When this happened all hell broke loose and the Centaurs all started shooting each other. Hercules accidentally shot Chiron in the thigh, knee or foot depending who you read - none the less the animal part - with an arrow that had the poisonous blood of Hydra on it. This wound Chiron could not heal. Being immortal he could not die either, so he went to a cave to live out his days in agony. There are a three more themes here bringing us to seven, eight and nine.
The seventh is one of family patterns that no one wants to admit to and would rather keep shoved in the closet which suddenly come bursting forth causing all hell to break loose. This is represented by the person who carries the family shadow. Perhaps the one arrested for drunk driving all the time bringing the family pattern of alcoholism out into the open, or perhaps the one who continues to have miscarriages when there has been a family pattern of hushed up abortions over generations - or any other seemingly gazillion case scenarios.
The eighth theme apparent in this part is of Chiron's own opinion of himself. He was the great healer who could not heal himself. What a blow to the ego, what a self-pity ego infliction. With this comes the whole downward spiral of bringing up all those other initial early wounds of not being good enough and worthy of abandonment. In fact the wound becomes so strongly put there by himself that he took himself away and in a sense abandoned his dream of self. The wound here is way beyond physical pain; it is one of emotional torment where he undoubtedly continues to inflict his old parental programs on himself.
In a way going to the cave signifies his inability to face himself. He feels humiliated based on what he thinks others will think of him - sort of a fall from grace type thing. So the eighth theme is humility through a fall from grace where one feels wounded in his/her own creativity/instinctual animal half stuff.
Once in the cave we encounter the ninth theme. In the dark isolation of the cave the shadow and ego battle each other. In order to have a transformation, to attain internal alchemy the shadow must be faced. Certainly beating one self up over their shadow and retreating to isolation over it brings up the half of facing one's own shadow. However somewhere in there is also the ego that realizes one is not all shadow material. So the ego has to fight against all the old programs not only of what made the shadow material, but also what gave the ego validation, for the ego must be validated from within or it is false validation. One's own self of self must kick in as a survival mechanism. Shut off from the world in the isolation of the cave, one has oneself to offer validation of the ego and shadow material. So the ninth theme is one of finding the true self, attuning to the voice within, not subject to outer influences, programs, or opinions that honors both the animal/instinctual and human/intellectual halves and brings them to center like a point of Tao.
The final three themes of Chiron, bringing us to twelve, come into play with Prometheus. Prometheus wanted man to be intelligent creatures, so he stole fire from the gods. He was punished for this by Zeus and bound to a rock while a vulture (or another ravenous bird, depending upon who you read again) tore at his liver. The liver is highly significant because it symbolically reiterates many of the themes that are already inherent in Chiron. The liver is the organ that stores our violence and resentment; so this goes back to the animalistic primal animal half stuff of the chaos of the centaurs apparent with the opening of Dionysus' wine and the resentment we feel for the wounds inflicted upon us by our parents/society/whom ever is in a position of authority. This includes the authority we have over our self, to beat up our ego over our lesser qualities or presumed failures. Thus the ninth archetypal theme of Chiron is our harboring of resentment and violence - self or other inflicted or other directed.
Zeus had said that Prometheus had to stay there forever or until someone was willing to take his place. Hercules found Chiron in the cave and told him of Prometheus'. Hercules then pleaded with Zeus for Chiron to descend to Hades in exchange for Prometheus' freedom. This is the tenth theme of the sacrifice for humanity. Chiron agreed to do this to allow the champion of humanity to gain freedom, which would inevitably lead to the human capability to think for themselves. Thus honoring the importance of the human intellect as it is recognized as worthy of a sacrifice for. Chiron too is a champion of humanity as much as the other, Prometheus, whose reflection he saw in his own wounded-ness that left the centaur compelled to save him and therefore help all of humanity.
This portion of Chiron's story also rings of persecutor/victim/savor tones and karmically we all play these roles to some extent. In Chiron's actual decent into the underworld, we have the theme of death which is a freedom from suffrage, freedom of the immortal walking earth forever unable to heal. This is more than a physical death, it is also a karmic death in the sense that we create and neutralize our own karma. That is the whole point of karma, neutralization; for good or bad, an abundance either way leaves us tied the wheel of death and rebirth unable to transcend this plane of existence and enter into mergence with the original womb or matrix of the One. Because Chiron was eventually placed in the heavens, the eleventh theme is one of cause and effect on a karmic level and acceptance of ones dharma (life's purpose). It too harkens back to the first theme of Chiron where he was abandoned by earth mother as much as anyone incarnate being is abandoned from the heavenly womb like bliss of mergence with God to a suffrage existence on the earth plane. It goes beyond karma to acceptance of one's fate, one's allotment, one's dharma or life purpose. Chiron knew what he had to do. He had been in the cave long enough that he was not making the sacrifice for anyone other than allegiance to his own inner voice, even if a messenger (Hercules) did bring the original word. This is where the inner guide, the inner healer, the internal alchemist comes in.
The twelfth and final Chiron theme is one of transcendence for after nine days Zeus put him permanently in the heavens as Centaurus. This is the return to mergence with the One of the all pervading cosmos. This is what tells us liberation is possible. We can be freed from the wheel of life and rebirth but in order to so that we must experience a death of the ego. Through the sacrifice our own individual goal for that of humanity's is the twelfth theme. Here we move to a transpersonal level of being as indicated by the previous theme.
Chiron is the inner guide that takes us to our own depths, is with us through our wounding, understands our suffering, nurtures us in the cave of isolation and helps us with the battle between the ego and its shadow. He understands both the logical human intellect and the creative, instinctual and primal urges and values both equally. He is what helps us bring the two to center where he is split in equal halves at the sacred heart center metaphysically. Chiron is the inner teacher/mentor/guide/guru who helps us personally heal ourselves and transpersonally heal others who possess a similar wound.
By listening to our inner guide, we can understand pieces of our own purpose or dharma for this lifetime. We can become conscious enough and self accepting enough to recognize when we are falling into the patterns that reiterate Chiron's themes. Melanie Reinhart said in a lecture at UAC 2002 "when the words stop the healing begins." She showed a painting by Gustav entitled "a centaur carries a dead poetess." This is metaphorical for our journey into the cave, the safe place for healing to begin. The understanding is beyond words. It takes place on a higher level than the intellect alone because it offers a more spiritual meaning by requiring it to see beyond self.
Chiron's orbit between the confines and structure of Saturnine reality and the freedom of Uranus' liberation backs up his being a karmic mentor of sorts. He orbits between the realms of the seen/known and the unseen/unknown. He is in a position to see the collective, higher octave reasoning for the personal struggles. We are here in this life because of our karma and by freeing it we free ourselves, Prometheus bound becomes unbound. This is backed up with the surge in eastern studies/philosophies that came with Chiron's discovery.
In my opinion Chiron rules the karmic esoteric journey through the exoteric life full of past stuff that we have no direct responsibility for (his would in accidental)in this life time (like the century old jar of Dionysus' wine), as well as guiding us on the karmic journey we create for ourselves in the now, which we are responsible for. Chiron helps us piece together the lost fragments of our Being by delving into the lower world (his descent to Hades) as well as seek guidance from the upper (his mentor Apollo). He teaches us how to solve our own riddle or cosmic puzzle by piecing together the fragmented parts, healing the ones that are wounded.
We are all capable of becoming our own shamans. Chiron's placement and dialogue in our own charts shows us how the inner guide works for us through both ourselves and others and how we work to guide others as well. Once we grasp the significance of the esoteric symbolism behind the exoteric reality, we really see it. There is a healer/guide/mentor in all of us as much as we are all capable of wounding another. The ways in which we wound others are really a reflection of our own wounds. Once we heal our own, we won't project them to the other causing suffrage because internal alchemy will no longer cause us to attract that pattern into our life anymore. We will no longer be a magnet for it because there will be no use for it. That part will be the gold, the gift in the wound that because we are now enlightened at least to that facet our self, and feel like sharing the wealth and spreading our gift to humanity.
© Julene Packer-Louis, 2004