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Mapping the Psyche

An Introduction to Psychological Astrology, by Clare Martin


Discovered in 1977 by the astronomer Charles Koval in Pasadena, California, Chiron has been described as a 'planetoid' or as a trapped comet, most probably originating from the Kuiper Belt. Its orbital period is between forty-nine and fifty-one years, but the question remains whether it is a temporary visitor to the solar system and, if so, for how long it will be with us. The answer is that we don't know, because it was only discovered less than thirty years ago. I would certainly recommend that you read Melanie Reinhart's excellent books on Chiron and the Centaurs. [29]

Audience: Is this possible that the planets could also leave their orbits?

Clare: Planets are caught firmly in the gravitational field of the Sun, but comets have a much more tenuous connection. They are considered to originate in the Kuiper Belt outside the solar system, which they visit from time to time. Chiron is one of many bodies in our solar system which are now called Centaurs - in fact a whole herd of them has now been discovered. Chiron was the first and, like Pluto, it has an extremely elliptical orbit. This means that it spends a great deal more time in some signs than others.

Audience: Has Chiron now been completely integrated into astrology?

Clare: No, not at all. There are many astrologers who don't use Chiron, which is of significance in itself, since Chiron is a maverick - it is not accepted and it doesn't belong. However, for psychologically inclined astrologers I believe that Chiron is proving to be very meaningful. My own explanation for this is that Chiron only becomes real for us when we actually experience it for ourselves. In this sense it is similar to Pluto. As a concept, we can take it or leave it, but as an experience there is no doubt that it is profoundly significant. Having said that, I completely accept that there will continue to be a resistance to including Chiron in the birth chart, because it is painful to the ego, and can be humbling and humiliating. However, in the same way as the outer planets, now that it has been discovered out there in the solar system, we know that it also exists within the human psyche. So the question is what it is doing there and what it has to teach us.

Chiron is portrayed in this Roman fresco as the teacher of the hero Achilles. The wise centaur is not part of the iconography of alchemy, but the element of sulphur - the active, masculine component in the opus - is referred to in alchemical texts as the medicus or "wounded physician".

In Greek myth Chiron was a centaur, with the torso of a man and the body of a horse. Chiron was a wise teacher, who taught music, mathematics, astronomy, the art of war, medicine and all the other arts and sciences to the sons and daughters of the Gods on Mount Olympus. He was also a particularly gifted healer. However, centaurs are rowdy creatures, particularly under the influence of alcohol, and easily get themselves into wild fights and brawls. At a particular wedding feast to which the centaurs were invited, a brawl developed and one of Hercules' poison tipped arrows accidentally became embedded in Chiron's thigh. The point about this story is that, although Chiron was a wonderful healer, he could not heal his own wound, no matter how hard he tried. This is the basis of the myth of the wounded healer and of the phrase, 'Physician, heal thyself.' After a tremendous amount of suffering, from which Chiron was unable to die, since, as the son of Zeus, he was immortal, he chose to exchange places with Prometheus, who had been chained to a rock as a punishment for stealing fire from the Gods for the benefit of mankind. This exchange enabled him to surrender his immortality and die. After his death, he was cast in the heavens as the constellation of Centaurus.

This myth has much depth and is of great astrological significance. Like the centaurs, we ourselves are part animal, instinctive and mortal, and part immortal and spiritual. It is significant that the poisoned arrow pierced the thigh, the animal part of Chiron. The myth indicates that it is our animal bodies which are injured, and Chiron in the chart indicates where we have the potential to reconnect and to integrate our pure spiritual awareness with our dark animal wisdom. The last few hundred years has seen the tremendous explosion of scientific developments, which have enabled the human race to harness the world's resources for its own benefit. We have even started to fight against our own mortality, with the Uranian development of cryogenics. We are investing heavily in cloning and stem cell research and, although these developments are entirely logical in terms of the Uranian vision, they completely miss the point from the Chiron point of view.

It was not until the 1970s that a collective awareness emerged that our scientific and ecological developments could be damaging to our planet and to our bodies and that there may be a high price to pay. There was a new awareness of the fragility of the world, a new awareness that the food we were eating, the water we were drinking, the medications we were taking, the power cables running over our heads that could be poisoning our bodies.

Audience: Did this only start in the 1970s?

Clare: It is hard to realise now that there were times when it was taken for granted that all scientific developments were positive and that the earth's natural resources could be exploited for our benefit, with no consequences. The theme of Chiron describes the price we pay for thinking that we are immortal and all-powerful and in full control of ourselves and of the world. In the end we cannot live as immortals, dissociated from our animal bodies. In some ways, Chiron could be seen as the evolution of a kind of dark wisdom which is the counterpart of the brilliance and clarity of Uranian insight. It is the animal part of ourselves which is flawed because it suffers and because it is mortal. Chiron is therefore our Achilles heel, the part of us which can't be healed, and where, ultimately, we need to accept our imperfections and develop compassion for ourselves and for others.

In the birth chart, Chiron indicates where and how we feel awkward and flawed and where we feel as if we are not accepted or acceptable. In this sense, Chiron also describes where and how we are likely to be scapegoated by the group, where we expose the imperfections which the group is denying and are therefore blamed and excluded. There is a strong connection between Chiron and the shamanic calling. In all cultures and groups there have always been and still are shamanic figures who suffer the burdens and ills of the clan or group, and function as the group's healer. So Chiron in the chart is where we both suffer and heal, but the healing is for the benefit of others, not for ourselves.

Audience: There seem to be parallels here to the American Indians and to the Australian Aborigines. In both cases, they are very spiritually evolved, ecologically aware people with tremendous healing skills and crafts, and they have had their land taken away and their souls destroyed by the white settlers.

Clare: Perhaps it is significant that, since the discovery of Chiron, we are finally becoming aware of the value and wisdom of the knowledge of the aboriginal peoples all over the world. There is certainly a great deal of interest now in learning about and preserving the strong connection to nature and the healing wisdom of these peoples.

Audience: Can you say a bit more about the wounding and healing? Surely these are two very different things?

Clare: According to the law of opposites, which is so central to astrological and psychological thinking, the fact that they are opposites means that they are intimately connected and dependent upon each other. This is why we use the term 'the wounded healer'. Just to make things more complicated, I think it is more appropriate to see Chiron in terms of a triangular relationship between the wounded, the healer and the wounder. They are all aspects of the same thing. So, Chiron is wounded in the sense that this is where we are alienated, cast out, victimised and blamed. But it is because of this that Chiron also has particular healing gifts, because we can only be truly compassionate (which means to 'feel with') when we can truly relate to another person's suffering because it is our own suffering too. But this is also where we are capable of wounding others, because, like animals, we are extremely vulnerable when wounded and likely to lash out and attack as a way of defending ourselves. This is a fairly complex triangle but well worth bearing in mind.

Audience: How can we relate Chiron's decision to die to our own situation? What does this actually mean when we interpret Chiron in the birth chart?

Clare: I think it is important to look at this symbolically, because what eventually dies is our need to heal ourselves, our need to be perfect and flawless, and our need to be accepted. In a way, Chiron in the chart describes where our ego control needs to be surrendered. In the process, we learn to be loyal to our own instinctual natures. Chiron spent a great deal of time and energy trying to heal himself, which is what we all try to do where Chiron is in our charts, because it is such a deeply sensitive point. We try to force ourselves to perform, to be strong and powerful where our Chiron is. As long as we are still trying to 'fix it', we are likely to actually make it worse, and become more defensive or aggressive. Eventually, if we are fortunate, we will give up the pointless task and learn to accept ourselves just as we are.

Audience: What about a situation where you are caught in a relationship which feels completely wrong, which is destructive and hell-bent? Where it feels as if you are destroying each other? I can recognise very clearly the whole wounded, wounder, healer triangle in my own life.

Clare: Well, we would need to look at this much more closely, to see what is actually going on in your chart and whether Chiron is involved. As astrologers we are not in the business of trying to fix problems. If we were, then we would ourselves be trapped in a negative Chiron scenario of trying to force a solution. However, a careful analysis of the birth chart will help us to identify what is going on and just by making something conscious can make a difference.

Audience: I have heard that Chiron either rules Sagittarius or Virgo.

Clare: Either of these may be right, but personally I prefer to keep the jury out on this question. I think it is important not to try to own or possess Chiron by anchoring it into the zodiac. This may also be a way of trying to 'fix it' which is probably not appropriate to the symbolism of Chiron as an outsider.

Aspects to Chiron

Sally has Chiron in aspect to the Moon, Mercury, Mars and Saturn. This is a complex combination which will help us to understand something about Sally's wounded animal nature, where, as long as she is operating from a position of ego control, she will continue to feel vulnerable and therefore defensive. The Chiron-Moon contact indicates that Sally will be extremely sensitive to issues around mothering and nurturing. She may feel that, on some level, she was rejected by her own mother and may spend years searching for someone who will care for her and nurture her and make her feel safe. Equally, she may try to 'fix it' for her mother, whom she is likely to see as needing her help and support. The Chiron-Mercury aspect indicates that Sally is likely to rely on her mental powers and on analytical thinking, rather than her instincts, in order to resolve any problems or difficulties. With Chiron-Mars, Sally is likely to develop a kind of false strength and independence to enable her to function in the world, and may become overly aggressive and defensive if she senses that anyone is getting close to penetrating her defences. Chiron-Saturn is likely to be experienced as a fundamental lack of safety and containment, which is also indicated by the Moon-Chiron aspect. She is likely to try to fix this by developing a kind of rigid self-sufficiency and sense of responsibility for and duty to others.

These aspects indicate where Sally needs to let go, develop self-acceptance, and devote herself to the teaching or healing or guidance of others. With so many Chiron contacts, Sally's true vocation may well be shamanic. She has much to give, but as long as she tries stay in control and remain fiercely defended, she will not succeed. It is almost as if her life were intended for a different purpose than the one she is identified with. If she can come to terms with this and surrender her own neediness and defensiveness, and learn to trust her deep instinctive wisdom, she will be able to devote herself to others and focus her attention away from her own pain and woundedness.

David has Chiron in aspect to Mercury and Venus. How would you describe a Chiron-Venus contact?

Audience: Could this indicate a basic lack of self-worth, a feeling that he doesn't deserve to be loved or appreciated? He could try too hard to gain other people's approval, which will only make it worse, so that he will continue to drive people away.

Clare: Absolutely. However, if he can eventually learn to accept himself just as he is, then he will be able to value himself and others regardless of how awkward or flawed they may appear to be from a conventional point of view. The same can be said of his Chiron-Mercury contact. His own ideas and views and way of communicating may not conform to general expectations, but if he can listen to his instincts, he will learn to speak his own truth and be able to help others do the same.

nach oben

The Book"Mapping the Psyche"

First published 2005 by the CPA Press, BCM Box 1815, London WC1N 3XX, United Kingdom, www.cpalondon.com.
Copyright ©2005 by Clare Martin.
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