a new look at a”two faced”old devil
I enjoy astronomy just as much as I do astrology and I do believe that we astrologers would be more able to fend off our critics far more effectively if we took even the smallest interest in our brother ‘ology’. We need to be reminded that our answer to most of our critics is the old chestnut that ‘they’ have never studied ‘our’ art properly. However, dear fellow astrologers please remember that the reverse is also true, we cannot look the other way when plausible arguments are made against us. We need to know (indeed should know) our adversary’s subject. It never ceases to amaze me that most astrologers have not the slightest idea as to what each of the planets looks like or can even identify them in the sky apart from the Sun and Moon. As for naming constellations or stars then you might as well talk about a train timetable for all the interest it generates. Tropical or Sidereal Zodiac systems can sometimes stimulate interest but only when our critics point out the difference to us. Most if not all the early great astronomers were astrologers and also a handful of recent ones, but in the main I have found most astronomers to be rather monomaiacal. Which brings me to the discovery of Chiron.
Some of the early astrology books on Chiron gave various dates for its birth chart. However, in the majority, there is usually very little in the way of any interpretation other than the chart pointing to the galactic centre or having a Sagittarius ascendant, all very symbolic. The symbolic explanation for the glyph for Chiron is also given reams of type space. After reading some of this stuff I can only agree with Patrick Moor’s Dictionary of Astronomy explanation for the word astrology as ‘a discredited science’ (A very nice and clever chap, but I still can’t understand why he went to all the bother of putting it in). It was in late 1977 at the Mount Palomar observatory, California, that Mr Charles T. Kowel discovered Chiron and in keeping with the international rules on these things, he named this new object after somebody in mythology. Astronomers noted its position on their star maps by drawing a small circle around it and writing the first initial of its discoverer above it i.e. ‘Object Kowel’, in a similar way to how the planet Uranus was identified ‘Object Hershel’. Sorry, unlike the classical planets there is no cosmic key, mystery or deep symbolism, just routine astronomy. However, Chiron had a lucky escape with its name, as history shows that Kowel was not a slave to convention. Being one of the most successful and prolific asteroid hunters, he has had the pleasure of naming one of the asteroids he has discovered after the city were he met his wife (Paris, No. 3317) and another after one of his dogs, but unfortunately I’ve lost the reference.
After some years observing Chiron, astronomers noticed the stirrings of a corona around it as though it was about to transform into a comet. Its strange appearance did not allow them to fit Chiron into any of the nice pigeon-holes that astronomers had constructed. It was too small for a real planet but too big for an asteroid. It was also much too big to be a comet nucleus either; ‘planetoid’ was one label given it, as was ‘super-comet’. At Chiron’s perihelion on 14 February 1997 the expected comet tail did not quite materialise due to Chiron being rather too distant from the Sun for it to acquire enough heat. But it was enough for the scientific community to confirm Chiron’s second designation, that of a comet. So Chiron was given the unique distinction of having the dual classification of both asteroid (No. 2060) and comet (95P).
Now most astrologers regard asteroids and even Chiron as little more than a fashionable complication to be lumped together with mid-points, minor aspects and arabic points. But we should not forget that the scientific community has been lobbying hard for Mercury and Pluto to be demoted to asteroid status and some astronomers would even like to raise the status of Ceres to that of a planet. What will the astrological community do if that happens? Ignore Mercury and Pluto, followed by a greater emphasis on Ceres?
We should remember just what asteroids actually are. They are made from the oldest material we know and were formed at the very birth of our solar system. They are therefore representative of the most deep and dark areas of our psyche. Some of them never coalesced into the planets we see today, others did form a planet of sorts, which was later catastrophically blown apart. So they have the essence of birth, death, rebirth, disaster and transformation. Would you not agree, that this is all very Pluto like? All things in the solar system (asteroids, planets, ourselves, etc) are made from this solar ‘soup’. Just as we are part of them, they are part of us and so we have an affinity with them. Similarly, ancient man considered comets to be the harbingers of ill omen but today’s scientists believe them to be the seed bearers of life on Earth. Asteroids and comets may be small and insignificant but I doubt if the extinct dinosaurs would consider them insignificant as one once wiped them out. If that catastrophic event had not happened, mankind would not be here.
A lot of natal astrologers that I have talked to have found little of significance with asteroids. For my part as a mundane astrologer I have observed them to be significant in the charts of man-made disasters, like aircraft and ship disasters. Maybe I should say person-made disasters, as they are essentially feminine or androgynous in name like Mercury. I personally think that as they were discovered during the beginning of the industrial revolution they are connected in some peculiar way with the mechanics of everyday life. Is this not similar to how Mercury operates by sometimes upsetting our communication networks? Let us not forget most of us give our motor vehicles female names and such things as ships are referred to in the feminine. As the main four asteroids are somewhat feminine in nature they are representative of the animus in all of us, a deep seated and hidden side of our nature that we mask from all comers. This I feel is the reason why natal astrologers have found little or nothing in discussions with clients to link asteroids with outward behaviour in the same way that we find little to associate Mercury with. It requires more than our natural senses to physically view asteroids and the outer planets and the same is true of our deeply hidden (animal?) nature that we hide, sometimes even from ourselves. As any counsellor will testify, you have to get the client to see themselves as others see them otherwise you’re at an impasse.
From the word Chiron we derive the word Chiromancy (the reading of palms) and Chiron was said to have taught astrology/astronomy. One of the links between astronomy and palmistry is how astronomers use their hands to get a rough idea as to the angular (aspect) distance between objects in the sky. For instance, the visual width of the little finger on an outstretched hand is about the angular width of the Sun or Moon, 30 seconds of arc. The width across the back of the knuckles is about 8 degrees of arc, the width across the fingers of the outstretch hand is about 22 degrees, and so on.
I should at this point say that one of my talks is entitled ‘Planets, Myth & Astrology’. In this talk I not only discuss the social circumstances surrounding the discovery of the outer planets and asteroids, its birth chart and the mythology associated with them, but also the planets actual physical appearance and how their appearance fits with our astrological interpretations. This is aptly demonstrated with Uranus; not only does this planet rotate on its side (strange and unusual), but it also has the least interesting surfaces to observe (with the naked eye). Its extraordinarily cold pale blue atmosphere has practically no surface detail (all very Aquarian). When the Voyager spacecraft flew by to observe it, the excited and expectant imaging team was dumbstruck by the planets utter blandness. They where dubbed the ‘imagining team’ as they had nothing to observe, it was only later using other instruments that the true nature of Uranus’s atmosphere was revealed in deference to its initial cold featureless appearance. It’s also interesting that Uranus’s satellites are named after characters in Shakespeare’s ‘A Midsummer’s Nights Dream’.
I could continue and point out the parallels with the rest of the planets, but the point I am trying to make is that not only do the planets correspond (in astrological terms) with their mythological counterparts but also corresponds with their physical appearance as well. And so it is with Chiron. In mythology Chiron had all the appearance of a Centaur but strictly speaking he was not. He only appeared that way being the result of an ‘unusual conjoining’, a phrase that should be borne in mind. In the same way that the planet Chiron appears to be one thing (asteroid), yet is another (comet). So for me Chiron, like Gemini and Sagittarius, it has a dual nature and that nature can be both friend and foe in rapid succession. Remember that Chiron and Hercules were good friends until one of Hercules’ arrows accidentally poisoned Chiron. In the space of a few seconds this friend became synonymous with unseen pain and hurt.
I have an interest in Chiron because he was the subject of the first talk I ever gave on astrology back in 1998. The date of my talk was 18 October and in the lead up to it my research showed that by coincidence this was the same date 21 years before that Kowel photographed Chiron. I felt at the time that he had come of age and he should be given much more credence in a birth chart. It is the chart for 18 October 1977 that I use as the alternative chart of Chiron’s discovery and not the November date as is sometimes given. This is because I take the view that has Kowel exposed his photographic plate, Chiron became manifest on Earth. Mundane astrologers always agonise over what is the significant time of an event and you have to use both the practical conditions of the time and your intuition to decide just what the quintessential moment is. The October chart for Chiron is now beginning to be widely used by other astrologers and would make him a Sun sign Libran. Some astrologers have noted his significance in relationship charts and have thus given him rulership of Libra, the house of known open enemies; what better way to describe one’s spouse or partner? I usually refer to Librans as Aries in sheep’s clothing. We now have two very different “discovery” charts for Chiron and is thus in keeping with my opinion of his duality in astrology.
Due to his pain and suffering and eventual self-sacrifice, Chiron has been linked with the sign of Sagittarius or Virgo, others like myself give him rulership of Gemini. Rulership is a contentious issue and I don’t what to get into an argument for the reasons for why I think that here. But my main reason is due to him teaching and training the mythological heroes before they reached adolescence (the IC). As you all know, the third house is below the horizon and thus the secret part of our personality.
Lots of books on Chiron emphasise the healing aspect of Chiron, almost to the exclusion of all other characteristics, but I believe with the third house that healing is about the healing of oneself, by oneself just as Chiron taught his students to defend themselves. However, a number of writers have also noted that personal abuse and especially child abuse has been a feature of charts that have a peculiarly strong Chiron. Only since the discovery of Chiron have abused people discovered the inner strength and courage to talk about their experiences and bring their abusers to account. To do that they first had to face up to their inner fears and relive their pain in public. In other words they had to sacrifice themselves on the altar of the witness box to obtain justice. Abused people have a hidden pain within themselves that no others can see, just as Chiron had a hidden unbearable pain within him from the poison of Hercules’ arrows.
Chiron was physically not what he appeared and abusers never appear to be to be what you expect them to look like. So is nice ‘Uncle Fred’ or ‘Auntie Jean’ as nice as they appear? Usually only after the abuser has passed away does the real truth about them come out. So for me Chiron in a chart represents the areas in ones life that causes you the most difficulty, the most inner pain and the most personal torment (usually from the past), but it is something that only you yourself can deal with and come to terms with. You yourself have to find the inner strength and courage to confront your inner demons by dragging them out into the cold light of day. Then, and only then, can you face up to them and defeat them.
Almost all asteroids are characterised by their elliptical orbits (Ceres being one of the few exceptions) and Chiron has one of the most elliptical orbits in the solar system, more elliptical than either Mercury or Pluto. Its obit takes it from inside that of Saturn to close to the orbit of Uranus. I like the term ‘rainbow bridge’ and for myself I link him with the internet as it links our personal self with the rest of humanity. As I have already stated, I also link him with children and to some extent child abuse, so it is of little surprise to me that child pornography on the internet has been on the increase. Children are ‘groomed’ by the unseen face of their potential abuser who are not what they appear to be or as they describe themselves.
My reason for this article is to point out the other side of Chiron’s nature and show fellow astrologers what I feel is his deep and dark duality and this is mirrored in Chiron’s dual classification and his differing discovery charts. I don’t what to paint a too dark a picture of Chiron, as of course not all people with a prominent Chiron in their chart have been abused or are abusers, but it is a feature that is in need of further investigation. At the present time there is a rise in the number of people that change or alter their appearance through painful intrusive techniques or surgery such as body piercing, tattooing and extreme cosmetic surgery. This at the same time as the rise in the number of people using the services of sadomasochistic practitioners. These people have come to terms with their personality and sexuality; they’ve faced up to their demons and now happily live with themselves. These are my own thoughts when I associate these social changes with Chiron and I have to concede that it may all be just a red herring, but as astrologers we need to find a basis for these social changes.
CHIRON IN MUNDANE CHARTS
Chiron in hardly ever used or seen in mundane charts. The simple reason for this is that there was originally some uncertainty over Chiron’s orbit, and thus uncertainty in its placement in past horoscopes. For ancient and Medieval dates I agree, but with the recent advances in computing the accuracy of asteroid orbits, I believe that it can at least now be applied to dates in the recent past with sufficient accuracy. A further problem is just what layer of society does Chiron represent and how do you interpret it in a mundane chart? Here the mythology and modern history help. We now live in a (western) society that is beginning to accept drug taking, cosmetic surgery, sex changes and body piercing as a fact of life. However, there is another section of society that has been repulsed by the behaviour of their colleges and gone to the other extreme i.e. religious fundamentalism, abstinence, etc. These changes in our society could be assigned to the mutual reception of Uranus and Neptune but I believe Chiron is responsible for some of these social changes being highlighted in the public arena; as it is only from the 1970’s onwards that we generally hear of these changes in our attitudes and thinking.
As I have said, on a natal level Chiron represents or inner hurt and fears, especially when linked to our past. On a mundane level this can be interpreted as a nation’s fears and problems that it faces at the time of the specific chart in question. As an example, let us look at two charts from different eras. England 1649, and Israel 1948.
12:00 midday LT, 29 May 1649 (New Style), London
This date may not at first sight be familiar with most British mundane astrologers. This is the date for the declaration of the start of the English Republic. The Republic was brought into being by an act of parliament some months after the execution of Charles I. The public’s pain and grief of that act is reflected by Chiron’s placement in Leo in the Eleventh house. During Charles’s trial in January of that year, the Sun would be in opposition to Chiron as the court passed judgement on Charles’s part in the painful and bloody civil war he instigated; a war that resulted in the death of one in ten of the adult population. With a Sun conjunct Pluto, the fledgling Republic held the seeds of its own destruction as it descended into petty self centred intrigue. It was eventually brought to an end by a military style coupe after the death of Cromwell.
16:37 LT, 14 May 1948, Tel Aviv
Israel was also born out of pain and conflict in a similar way to the English Republic.
A slightly more difficult chart to pin down due different opinions on the actual time but probably Chiron could be in the First or on the cusp of the Second house, but in both cases it would be opposite the Sun. Here you have a situation of a nation (a culture or sect if you like) that has a problem with its own national identity, but is at the same time fiercely protective of it. Here the pain of the past (the Holocaust) is most acutely accentuated. This is a very similar situation that England when through almost exactly three hundred years before.
During the 2004 Venus transit, Chiron was conjunct Juno, transiting Israel’s IC. I felt at the time that Israel would have to swallow a very bitter pill as its support may well be cut beneath it. I still believe this to be true, but it may be sometime before this comes into the public arena. What happens below the Ascendant/Descendant line is never truly obvious to the public at large. Aquarius is considered the great humanitarian, but let us not forget that it is ruled by both Uranus and Saturn. Uranus the great revolutionary holds man’s dreams and visions of a prefect Utopia. The problem with Aquarius is that this pink fluffy “bunny-wabbit” dream of the ideal world (Wouldn’t life be perfect if we were all friends?), is usually brought to a painful crashing halt when its mental ideology hits the brick wall of Saturn reality. With an Aquarian forth house (Cancer), Israel defends its dream of the perfect home life to the very end, but for how much longer, I don’t know.
P.S. If you think that the parallels between the physical appearance of Uranus and the god it is named after is just an isolated quirk (but just remember Saturn has a ring system and we all link him with limits) then take a look at the strange case of the asteroid Vesta. Connected with unblemished purity, the home, the fire in the hearth, sustenance, and hospitality of visitors, the asteroid has now been photographed by the Hubble telescope. Some scientists believe it to be a visitor from outside our solar system and its physical appearance is that of a smooth, unblemished object with a huge central crater, giving it a cup shape appearance. Hubble’s sensors show that the asteroid has, or had, a hot central core that provides internal heating. Strange, but true.
The Book of World Horoscopes, Cinnabar Books 1998 N. N. Campion. ISBN 1898495017
Charles the First, Butler & Tanner Ltd. J. Bowle. ISBN 0297769782
Asteroids-A History, Smithsonian Inst. Press, Curtis Peebles, ISBN 1560983892
A Handbook of Dates, Cambridge Press, C. R. Cheny, ISBN 052177845
The above reference gives a detailed account of the changes from the Julian to Gregorian calendar in England and Europe.
For Chiron’s October discovery chart.
For Chiron’s November discovery chart.
For the date of the start of the English Republic.
The above web site is a superb tool for investigating English history. Be aware however, that England and its colony’s (and that included some American colonies under British rule), did not accept the Gregorian calendar until 1756. This may cause problems with most astrology computer programs as they will compute (English) Julian dates as Gregorian, between 1582 and 1781 i.e. Charts can be anything between10-13 days out.
This is an edited and updated copy of a previous article published in the Astrological Association Journal of Great Britain. Volume 46 / No 4 / July/August 2004
John S Dawson is mainly interested in mundane and medieval astrology and is currently working on two books covering the eras of Richard III and Charles I. the books will concentrate on discovering just how much of an influence medieval and early modern astrologers had in the political decision making process. John gained his BSc in Engineering Science with the Open University while working as a research technician at Leeds University in his native Yorkshire. He gives talks to local clubs and has written a number of articles for his clubs news letter and the AA journal. John now works for a leading aerospace company where he has worked in a number of disciplines including Aerodynamics and Systems Engineering, he now works as is a technical writer.