Beware the Wild Centaur

My days of late have been taken up with re-reading Robert Graves and a host of other commentaries and originals, such as Horace, Virgil, Herodotus, Hesiod and of course, Homer. I studied the classics at school and have continued to go back to those wonderful stories time and again over the years. Reading of the Fourth Labour of mighty Heracles of course reacquainted me with the salient facts of Chiron’s (or Cheiron’s) demise, the accidental wound to his knee – according to Graves, not his foot, suggesting a Capricornian connection, Graves suggests that it was Pholus who was wounded in the left foot – and his desire to be rid of the excruciating pain caused by it. His subsequent placement in the firmament as the noble Sagittarian archer finishes the tale neatly. Thus, the Chirotic wound is born and accepted into astrological lore. It is a fait accompli and I have written on the received wisdom many times.

But there are elements of the story of Cheiron which are not properly accounted for in the understanding we have gleaned from the original sources. Some accounts attest that Chiron was accidentally wounded (in the left foot) by a dropped arrow while he, Pholus and the young Achilles were entertaining Heracles on Mount Pelion. This was the location of Chiron’s cave where the wedding feast of Thetis and Peleus took place and where Eris, snubbed, cast the golden apple which prompted the war on Troy. According to this version of the myth, Pholus is the archer of the heavens and in others, it is Crotus an adopted brother of the three muses.

Thus, intriguingly, the three hosts at Pelion all died from an arrow wound to the left foot: Chiron, Pholus and Achilles.

Another little known fact maintains that Centaurs were not half-man, half-horse, but were actually half-goat! Another reference to Capricorn and Saturn. Quite beyond this there is so much more to the story of Chiron than his death and yet the astrology makes reference to this single mythical facet with utmost exclusivity.

What else do we know about the King of the Centaurs? Well, first of all, he was a king, and he was profoundly respected throughout the Hellenic world. The greatest heroes were sent to study under his tutelage where he taught them the arts of medicine (he was the first doctor), astrology (he was the first astrologer), and war (he was supreme in his knowledge of the martial arts too), not to mention riding, hunting, prophecy and pipe-playing. A strange combination perhaps, but here is somebody then who knew better than anyone how to wound and how to heal and yet his final wound was beyond his power to remedy. That is the key principle of Chiron, in at least one version of the myth. What this ultimately refers to is the dichotomy between the animal nature which ‘red in tooth and claw’ operates at the instinctive level and understands unconsciously that only the fittest will survive and the human nature, which understands consciously that another path is possible, the path of healing. Note that Chiron did not reject the ‘lower’ impetus, he disciplined it and used it to his (and his pupils’) advantage. He was supremely dignified and self-controlled.

So, what this suggests, however subtly, is that there is a possible reconciliation between the two natures through the medium of Chiron, but while we are ruled by our animal nature, we cannot find the power to heal. It really is that simple.

Derive insight from the knowledge that the race of Centaurs was for the most part an unruly bunch, driven wild by the smell of strong wine, they habitually abducted and raped attractive human womenfolk when under the influence and yet (and yet!) Pholus was given guardianship of the sacred Dionysian vineyards. Who better to guard the drink than one who has made the paradigm shift? The Centaur model teaches that in order to operate under the steady dictates of a noble human spirit, one must first recognise that there is a lower, compulsive nature; because indeed, the vast majority simply operate utterly blind to the understanding that such drives do not have to move us! The unevolved Centaur does not see the strings that make him into a puppet to his or her lusts and rages. Wild Centaurs mistake their compulsions and their passions for aspects of the divine and rationalise them into imperatives from God (or whatever originating spark from whence they hail) and thus wound themselves and others indiscriminately, justifying with sage aphorisms even as they lay about themselves with brutal intent. “It’s for your own good!”

Chiron of course could not have become so universally respected as an astrologer, healer and mentor if he had not first recognised his animal nature and then honoured and assimilated it consciously. If you understand that such a process is possible then you are on your way to a Chirotic shift in consciousness.

So where, understanding this, does Chiron lead? It leads to a subtle and suffering form of self-awareness. Once made, this quantum leap in understanding will leave you in a position of extreme vulnerability, and hence the eternity of suffering. That is the true wound of Chiron, or at least the post-transformative wound. The original wound, the one with which we are born is the animal wound, the point of pain that grates at our blind compulsions to better persuade us to take note of who we are and how we behave. Once we have woken up to ourselves we are given a new awareness – not all at once, but gradually widening; it is a slow awakening after all – and with this perspective we can see that we are surrounded by unruly Centaurs, driven wild by strong drink and their ever besieging lusts and passions. Can we condemn them even as they wound us and everyone they claim to love in the name of whatever hollow mask they choose to wear that day? Condemnation itself is the mark of the wild Centaur.

Thus the noble Centaur is doomed to suffer, for eternity. It is the suffering of being set apart, and there is no cure for it, only an acceptance of it. This last conclusion is made doubly poignant when considering the testimony of Apollodorus of Athens who claimed (as did Lucian in his Dialogues of the Dead) that Chiron simply grew weary of life.

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8 thoughts on “Beware the Wild Centaur

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  1. (SIGHS)

    I think I just had a chirotic moment. A flashback to my and my sister’s childhood. A time when I was her protector and a sudden flash of awareness that I have carried that protective tendency like a mantle concealing my own wounds throughout my life, followed by a moment of realisation that I am now safe and there’s no need to be side-tracked by the wounds of others any longer. Not to ignore the plight of those who are in need of help, but to cease to need to salve their wounds for them. I’m ready to leave triage.

    I currently have natal chiron at 1 degree of Aries on the MC with transiting Uranus and Jupiter conjuncting.

  2. So you are saying that Chiron has something to do with Sagittarius! That’s very interesting. (although the half goat thing is rather distasteful. I could lord it over my Capricorn friends; they were half goat (ewww) but I was half horse, a noble creature)
    Your description of the wound is very apt, in fact, it made more sense than anything else I have ever read about Chiron.
    As a human being, as I become more self aware, I do experience that sorrow; because I can see the big picture of how we humans relate to the rest of the world.
    Thank you.

  3. This could be quite depressing, Chiron growing tired of life. And I can relate, the sense of being set apart in a world gone mad (so it seems).

    Love the writing-articles, with a strong Virgo influence!

  4. How do you know that you have arrived at the point of self discovery where you have “mastered” Chiron?

    1. You grow weary and die. Just kidding, and you’re probably long gone as a commenter anyway. But I will just add that I think I have yet to experience someone in life that has totally “mastered” their Chiron (much like Pluto). While I’ve met or come into contact with a fair few that are certainly operating within the Chirotic healing realm, and are channeling a definite profundity of insight or deed, basically without exception I’ve also observed some measure of uncomfortability baked-in as well (maybe I’m wrong, and have been sensing something that doesn’t feel especially problematic to the person), and that there are dimensions of their Chiron’s sign and house that are neglected to the exclusion of their particular gifts of expression; that is to say their Chirotic expression is not quite seamless, and can wound unintentionally in ways corresponding to their Chiron’s placement, even while they bestow an increasingly greater rate of benefit.

      I guess that is to say that a person’s Chirotic expression is essentially and by necessity honed by the moderating influences of others, the flow of individuality of the wider human community they come in contact with, and since no one energy expresses itself in isolation, it’s also led by other forces within a person’s psyche, such as the more selfish prerogatives of Pluto. (If you ever want to get slammed back into some Chirotic material to work through, take a dip in Pluto’s pool for a minute.) I would hazard a guess it takes quite a number of years and amount of rehabilitative expression to really master Chiron, possibly more than most will have time for in a lifetime. Definitely seems like a case of having to appreciate the journey.

      I’ve reconciled a lot of my relationship to pain with the understanding that an animal in the woods, say an elk or a bear, that falls and breaks a leg, really has no great means of changing its situation, nor is it going to complain too terribly much. It could mean it dies in short order, or it might heal substantially enough to continue on with life, but the course of that animal’s life is irreparably altered by that wounding event. I like to remind myself I’m a wounded animal in the woods, there’s no hospital around the next bend that’s going patch up my soul, and complaining to the wind ain’t gonna do much.

      Since the Chirotic wound is pre-verbal and thus a built-in spiritualizing mechanism that’s waiting for the right conditions and stimuli to emerge, that metaphor isn’t necessarily about our sense of wounding itself, but those precipitating events in life that force the issue and prompt the path that will lead you through to the end of your life. So maybe not mastery, but a continual offering of yourself to the universe despite the fact that it hurts, pushing the edges of your experiental tolerances with the hope that at some point you will have wandered outside those.

      I’m still on it but I find the quickest route is humor and the recognition we’re all going to be dead fairly quickly and nothing really matters so much as simply getting on with it and loving and forgiving as much as possible.

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