“Wounded healer”, “maverick”, “shaman”: if you’re reading this site, chances are you have already stumbled upon at least one of these definitions in association with Chiron, the asteroid/comet named after the wise centaur of Greek mythology. While the astrological Chiron does typically mark the presence of a sore, vulnerable spot within the psyche/soul, we aren’t helpless in the face of our primal wounds: the root of our atavistic hurt is also where we can distill our existential wisdom from, in order to heal ourselves and others.
The astronomical birth of Chiron into the collective consciousness occurred on October 18th, 1977, when the celestial body was discovered by the American astronomer Charles Thomas Kowal, who found its orbit to be highly eccentric, with the perihelion inside the orbit of Saturn and aphelion outside the perihelion of Uranus. Because of these unusual characteristics, “maverick” was the first keyword associated with the newly discovered astronomical object: with a highly elliptical 51-year orbit, initially called an asteroid, Chiron was later found to exhibit behavior typical of a comet. We find the same interstitial, multifaceted quality in the mythological portrait of Chiron, embodying a combination of Saturnine mentoring traits, and Uranian eccentricity. He belonged to the tribe of the Centaurs, a tribe of half-horse men; yet, he stood out among his crass and uncultured brethren for his civilized disposition, superior skills and youth-nurturing role. He was, indeed, a maverick: an outsider in regards to his own tribe, he was highly revered by humans, but obviously unable to blend in with human society, because of his equine physical appearance.
Chiron’s hybrid looks are also linked with his earliest wound: his bodily form came about because his father, Kronos (none other than the Greek counterpart of Saturn), changed himself into a stallion while trying to violate Chiron’s mother, the beautiful sea-nymph Philyra. The nymph, horrified of giving birth to such a creature, abandoned Chiron at birth, imploring the gods to change her form as she could not bear the repulsive shape of her offspring; thus, she was accordingly metamorphosed into a linden tree. Born of violence and shame, Chiron deals with the stigma of rejection and abandonment since birth; he therefore reflects this energy, either in a symbolic or literal way, when working as an astrological force. Whether or not its placement in the chart refers to a similar circumstance of abandonment, Chiron condenses the feelings of frailty, inadequacy and inferiority that stem from a trauma that inflicts a basic existential deficiency.
Says astrologer Julie Demboski in her book Chiron in the Natal Chart:
“This lack of symbolic parenting in the Chirotic arena points out the way the Chiron sensitivity feels from within the individual: as if one has received absolutely no guidance in these matters, as if there has never been anyone or anything that would alleviate the pain, or to which one could turn for assistance or relief. This is an important point to understand; it explains what makes the Chirotic wound so potent and so difficult to heal.”
As we have seen, however, such lack of symbolic parenting is brilliantly overcome by Chiron himself, who came to be held as the superlative centaur. He acquired notable skills in medicine, music, astrology, prophecy and combat arts, and historic sources tell us that, as early as the 7th century B.C., he was regarded as the iconic preceptor of young heroes; Achilles, Herakles, Jason and Actaeon were some of the many heroic pupils whom Chiron trained. In his work Ars Amatoria (2 A. D.), Roman poet Ovid emphasizes the hunt as the paradigm for didacticism that enabled Chiron to train and civilize the unruly Achilles; in the context of ancient Greek and Roman culture, the hunt’s central purpose was to subdue the wild – both externally and internally – in order to achieve a higher state of being. The same process led Chiron to transcend both his savage, violent Centaur nature and his parents’ legacy of shame and neglect, allowing him to attain the revered status of teacher, healer and mentor. Like Chiron, we’re required to tame the beastly, primal nature of our deepest pain in order to access its gifts (and to share said gifts with others as our unique contribution to the collective evolution of humanity). For us, non-mythological beings living in a post-modern world, this equals to get past the – normal, and legitimate – stages where the raw, visceral experience of suffering elicits instinctual reactions of denial, bitterness, fury, self-victimization, defensiveness and depression, and accept pain as a precious guide in our quest for understanding.
However, not Chiron’s wisdom, nor his immortality, spared him from his final tragedy: accidentally hit in the thigh (or in the foot, depending on the version of the tale) by one of Heracles’ poisoned arrows during an assault, Chiron failed to cure himself. The atrocious pain of the incurable, festering wound was unbearable to the point of make him beg for death. He thus gave up his immortal condition, and Zeus (Jupiter), taking pity on him, granted him a place among the constellations.
Chiron’s death is a casualty: he was not taking sides in the battle, and the arrow which hit him was aimed at another Centaur. The Chirotic wound, signaled by Chiron’s placement by sign and house in our Chart, is nearly always accompanied by the feeling of being victims of a gratuitous cruelty, for reasons unbeknownst to us; we feel that life has been unfair to us, and that we did nothing to deserve our fate. And yet, moving beyond self-blaming and scapegoating, rising above this state of unfairness, we become able to transcend ordinary perception and turn our attention towards the cosmic patterns beyond our personal pain. This acceptance of our own spiritual, emotional or physical injury thus creates a space of empathy and openness: not only we’re able to share our therapeutic gifts with the world, but we also feel free to accept the healing gifts offered by others.