“The dual substance of Christ- the yearning, so human,
so superhuman, of man to attain God…
has always been a deep inscrutable mystery to me.” [The Last Temptation of Christ]
In Greek mythology, Chiron was a centaur (half human, half beast), albeit a very civilized one: his front legs were human-like, in contrast to traditional centaurs whose lower body would be horse-like. However, in transition from Greek to Roman mythology, Chiron lost his human front legs, and developed an equine lower body to become more of an average centaur, as it seems Romans did not have patience for too much ambiguity: they preferred an exact 50 / 50 ratio of man / beast, rather than a centaur which might be just a tad more human, and therefore not quite “balanced”.
This story in itself depicts the “subtlety” involved in interpreting Chiron, and how like Romans, most astrologers have lost patience in dealing with this uncategorized being. For some astrologers, Chiron has no interpretive value, as the twelve archetypes implied in the zodiac are already complete in themselves. For others, Chiron is simply a “Wounded Healer”: where we feel wounded in ourselves, and thus where we have a potential to heal others. There are, of course, a number of valuable books written on the subject (e.g. works of Melanie Reinhart), yet the mainstream astrologer would often find it difficult to interpret Chiron in the natal chart of a client in an intelligible manner. I hope this introduction and what follows offer further insight into possible meaning(s) of Chiron in the birth chart:
Chiron is roughly situated between the orbit of Uranus and Saturn. From an evolutionary perspective, one may thus interpret this as what comes “between” the “individual unconscious” (Uranus) and the “individual consciousness” (Saturn). Therefore, Chiron in the chart of an individual seems to symbolize a “passage” from the realm of collected unconscious memories of past incarnations to the conscious realm of present life. Apropos its “ambiguous” nature in mythology, Chiron’s symbolic function in the psyche is also “ambiguous” in that it seemingly represents a “transition” from the “unconscious” to the “conscious”, yet we do not know which “side” of the equation it actually belongs to. Is it merely a “bridge” connecting the two realms, or is it more like a “shade” of color, spreading from one side of the spectrum to the other?
Such contemplation is necessary before embarking on conjecture about possible meaning(s) of Chiron in natal charts, as it would make us less inclined to adopt an over-simplistic approach to this symbol. I will offer some “imagery” here that may help us understand Chiron intuitively:
- “Water breaking” that takes place during birth: the baby comes out of watery womb (i.e. the unconscious) into the airy life (i.e. consciousness). This “rupture” of the membranes of mother can be symbolized by Chiron [Incidentally, it seems that children born by C-section have a prominent Chiron in their charts]: the infant makes an “exit” out of the Neptunian womb and is then “transferred” into the Saturnian realm of mortality. Chiron can symbolize what lies in between these two moments.
- Moses “opening” the Red Sea for the Israelites to pass through (my brilliant astrology student, Stefano Soranzo, suggested this Biblical image as a “Chironic” moment). Moses, a Saturnian figure, associated with religious “Law” and “Ten Commandments”, opens the waters of Red Sea, a Neptunian symbol, for the Israelites to pass through. This “chasm” in the sea, which can also be read as a “departure” from the old world Israelites used to live in (Saturn), and a motion towards an unknown future (Uranus), can be symbolized by Chiron.
- A dialogue between two fictional characters, Judas and Jesus, in the movie The Last Temptation of Christ (1988) can hint at yet another dimension of Chiron:
Judas: Is there some secret? Tell me your secret.
Judas: Pity for who? Yourself?
Jesus: Pity for men. Our enemies are men. I feel pity for everything. Donkeys… grass, sparrows.
Judas: And ants? You feel pity for them, too?
Jesus: Yes. Everything’s a part of God. When I see an ant, when I look at his shiny black eye… you know what I see? I see the face of God.
At first glance, this dialogue may sound quite “Neptunian”: “Everything’s a part of God” is definitely a Neptunian declaration. Furthermore, most of us associate the character of “Jesus” (fictional renditions or biographical versions) with Neptunian qualities, including an all-encompassing love, a universal sense of compassion, and a will to sacrifice. Yet, the keyword here is “pity”, which gives a decidedly Chironic twist to this conversation:
Despite the fact that “Pity” and “Compassion” can be understood as synonyms, the word “pity” is etymologically connected to the word “piety”, which comes from the Latin “pietatem”, which, among other things, implies “faithfulness to natural ties”. Here, Jesus is not simply talking of an elevated and “noble” sense of “compassion” evoked by a knowledge that “all is God”, yet a very human and heartfelt “sorrow” aroused by a deep understanding that we are all unavoidably “hurt” by the inherent impossibilities of earthly life… an understanding which would inevitably create “natural ties” among us all. The character of Jesus in this passage (and throughout the entire film) knows that there is nothing “noble” in earthly existence: all creatures are doomed to suffer, despite all their efforts (including the little ant, with her “shiny black eye” which is a metaphor of “hope”). By extension, Jesus in this film perceives everything (including himself and God) “tied” to this condition. In fact, “pain” seems to be interwoven into the very fabric of being, and this — rather than a Neptunian belief in “perfection” or an eventual triumph of “goodness”– would make us truly com-passionate (i.e. “partners in pain”). In this sense, Chiron can symbolize a “departure” from spiritual nobility (i.e. the ideal realm of Neptunian “perfection”) and coming to an “earthly awareness” of the hopelessness and helplessness “naturally” implied in material existence (i.e. the Saturnian realm of time, and thus mortality).
Apropos the possible connection of the word “Chiron” with the Greek word “kheirourgos” which means “surgeon”, I also believe Chiron in the birth chart tells us about our very first impression of earthly life, right after coming to the surgery room: we could not come to this world without inflicting a “wound” on our mother, the most cherished creature to us. The very process of birth is an apt metaphor for what Chiron stands for: the impossibility of life without suffering. As someone “cut” our umbilical cord and we cried through our first earthly breath, we registered that we had been expelled from the Neptunian Eden of our mother’s womb, where all was “perfect” and “one”, and we had been pulled into an “awkward” existence which contains “dualities”, carrying an “immortal” soul bound to a “mortal” body. This very first “cut” and what we registered immediately afterwards is symbolized by Chiron: it represents an “aspect” of reincarnation we particularly identified as “wounding”, which invoked a sense of “pity” in us, for ourselves and for all creation.
For those who do not want to deviate from the perfection of “Twelve Archetypes”, Chiron can be best understood as an earthy version of Neptune, less lofty, and more “pitiful” rather than simply “compassionate”. Alternatively, Chiron can be understood as a less traumatizing version of Uranus, as the “rupture” it may symbolize is generally “closer” to the edge of “consciousness”, and thus less difficult to work with. In other words, Chiron usually symbolizes a “wound” which makes us “softer”, rather than a long-term “trauma” which can emotionally “harden” us as is usually indicated by a challenged Uranus in the birth chart.
In the following posts, I will address Chiron in association with astrological archetypes, trying to offer a very basic explanation of the possible meaning(s) of Chiron in the birth chart.