Centaurs in Myth & Zodiac

Mythic Chiron and Pholus connect through the story of Hercules, which enshrines a twelve-fold archetype of the Hero’s journey to redemption through ordeal. Guided by his mentor Chiron, Hercules found Pholus guarding the elixir that would reward one of his labors.  Inside the centaur’s cave, Hercules taunted Pholus to open his sealed flask of wine. A scuffle ensued when the neighboring centaurs got wind of the wine. To fend off the Centaurs, Hercules shot them with his arrows laced with the Hydra’s venom. Chiron received his fateful wound, and curious Pholus accidentally poisoned himself with the same arrow, too. Thus astrological Pholus is the “small cause, big effect.” Once the champagne is popped, it’s hard to get back in the bottle. Events under Pholus’ influence quickly take on a life of their own and get out of control. Subjectively this can feel ecstatic or euphoric (Robert von Heeren’s adjective of choice for this centaur).

Planetary Pholus was the second centaur discovered (1/9/1992), clueing astronomers in that Chiron was not a singleton, but a pioneer of his own class. At the first degree of Leo, the symbol for Pholus’ Discovery Degree is “Not knowing what to say, a woman blushes.” Quite apt for a shy centaur guarding drink.

Chiron’s story culminates when he takes the place of Prometheus, who was tortured for his trickery: giving fire to his creation, humanity. Planetary Chiron was discovered at 4° Taurus, for which the Pleiadian symbol reads: “In a shadowy place in a forest an iridescent fire arises from the ground.” Through 2019, Uranus approached the place in Taurus where we found Chiron (3°50’). Did we gain electrified insight into Chiron’s purpose at the conjunction of May, 2019 and once again in Spring 2020?

If Chiron is the “wound”, then where is the medicine? Chariklo is famed as the Centaur’s wife, yet with a fine pedigree herself, she holds her own as a planet. Daughter of Apollo and assistant to Vesta in the temples of Athena, Chariklo embodies the spiritually accomplished Medicine Woman. We can relate her placements to healing, trance visions, and spiritual relationships. Chariklo’s discovery (2/14/97) degree of 7° Leo is symbolized as “A man’s astral body travels into the sky to see the stars more closely.” This astral body is what leaves during dreams and out-of-body experiences, the kinds of events for which astrological Chariklo plays a vivid role.

Pegasus, from Wellcome 373 Persian (Nujum al Ulum)

Okyrhoe was born to Chiron and the nymph Chariklo. They named her after the “swift flow” of the river on the banks of which their daughter took birth. She speaks truths that unsettle the gods in power. In his Metamorphoses, Ovid recounts how the girl fell into “the mystic mood of prophecy.” In such a trance she once spoke of Chiron’s future wounding, and its aftermath. For her soothsaying, Zeus transformed her into a mare so that she would be mute. One story tells us how in her equine form, Okyrhoe flew off to the stars of Pegasus. When discovered as a stellar body on September 19, 1998, Okyrhoe incarnated conjunct the alpha star of Pegasus, Markab, at 25° Pisces. The degree symbol reads “At the river, singing and purification by water.” Okyrhoe was thus found “in her myth body” of Pegasus, at the degree symbolized by the waters which give her name.

New Methods For New Planets

Climbing up Mount Pelion to the Chironian cave, a seeker would find two very different kinds of teachers in residence there: half-brothers Zeus (the Sagittarian) and Chiron (the Virgoan). One more likely to dispense wisdom and grace from atop his lofty throne, the other to gallop down the hillside to teach a disciple with his own hands, hooves on the ground. His name means Skillful Hand, and as master of healing with herbs, he taught the biggest names in ancient medicine (such as Asclepius). As guide of the hunt, he prepared Hercules, Achilles, and Jason for their quests. Chiron was also the foremost of astrologers.

In my recent article in the Career Astrologer, I introduced the Centaur planets Chiron, Pholus and Chariklo. We saw how their themes of healing come into play during the transits of 2020. Lets deepen our understanding of how these Centaurs guide individual lives, by delving in to notable case studies (in next week’s blogs).

When inviting them into our charts, remember that they are visitors from the distant Kuiper belt. Imagine these planetoids swooping toward our region of space with their orbital lassos that weave outer-planet energies into familiar Saturnian turf. Although the outer planets’ transpersonal influences can be difficult to grasp, Centaurs mediate between inner and outer realms. As “rainbow bridges,” these planets provide a missing link for the counseling astrologer.

Since his discovery in 1977, Chiron has worked his humble way into the astrological mainstream. Many know him as a Wounded Healer, Maverick, and Mentor. Now that Chiron has moved into Aries for the first time since discovery, we may find ourselves in a new era of working with the Centaurs.

The other members of the Centaur’s family lend their names to lesser-known planets which may be equally important. I have found that the Centaurs’ power to describe a “journey to enlightenment” is seen most clearly when dealt with as one whole family. This includes wife Chariklo (energy healer), daughter Okyrhoe (oracle), and friend Pholus (diviner). Viewed together, this crew of maverick planets can enlighten any chart.

In addition to the tools I introduce here, we can get to know our astrological Centaurs by tracking their transits to our natal planets and watching their natal cycles (such as the Chiron square). Yet, in working with the charts of hundreds of visionary and mystical experiences, I’ve found three methods that clarify the messages of these galactic oracles. Here I will share these ways of  revealing a Centaur’s purpose in our charts. We will look into the stories of Carl Jung, Edgar Cayce, Allen Ginsberg, and Jim Carrey to see how, with the right tools, Centaurs alone can speak to our most profound moments.

My astrological method to understand our new galactic messengers is summarised by the use of:
•Discovery Degrees: The degree on the tropical zodiac transited when astronomers first identify a new planet, especially when described by the Pleiadian degree symbols, a version of the Sabians reworked by John Sandbach. (DD)
•Centauric Progression Charts: a half-life progression for half-human Centaurs. Inspired by Davison’s Relationship Charts, calculate a chart of the midpoint in time between a birth and key event. (CP)
•Reciprocal transits between any of these points: e.g. Okyrhoe’s Discovery Degree (a), and someone’s Centaur Progressed Chariklo (b); a-b, b-a. (DD-CP, CP-DD)

Considering discovery degrees (DD) is especially helpful to understand Centaurs in action. Does the discovery of a new planet affect our consciousness? Is there cosmic significance to the moment we find a new astrological planet? The degree transited when a new planet is first observed becomes a sensitive degree on the zodiac. It’s a placeholder for that planet: when traversed by another, it’s as if a ‘shadow transit’ to the discovered planet occurs. Even transits prior to discovery seem to reflect the planet’s essence.

The Centaurs weave connections between ethereal Neptune and the solid ground of Saturn. Melanie Reinhart finds that they “help us integrate the high voltage frequencies of the outer planets, which without mediation, may blow apart our Saturnian reality.”

What does a Centaur feel like in our chart? How does it appear in our lives? We all know the feel of Saturn as we thud against its stone wall during a hard transit. It’s part of us: our bones, our time. Neptune, by contrast, is both dream and delusion, a misty lack of definition. Natal Chiron can appear first as the thorn in our side, the hurt which makes us seek help. If we find a spiritual friend to show the way, our hero’s journey takes shape. Chiron can represent each of these steps on the path.

As she weaves across the threshold between Saturn and Uranus, Chariklo connects our bodies with the beyond. She relates to our aura, the spirit around our form. This fits her planetary situation: Saturn is our skeleton, and Uranus sparkles through us as vibrating currents of kundalini. Though both Chiron and Chariklo travel near Uranus, Chariklo’s orbit – less eccentric than the others – resonates with Uranus. Chariklo thus activates our subtle bodies. She can appear as the grace of love’s healing power. At her more Saturnian side, she guides relationship boundaries, while her Uranian face is the thin veil between soul and cosmos.

Traveling beyond Saturn’s turf and crossing Neptune’s boundary to the Kuiper Belt, Pholus brings us closer to the realm of pure consciousness. We may find astrological Pholus deep within our personal caves, guarding goblets of potent brew.

As a planet, Okyrhoe’s reach is not quite as vast as that of her parents. She takes only 24 years to orbit, elliptically reaching out past Saturn in a cycle that puts her in 2:1 resonance with  uncle Jupiter. Orbiting in phase with Zeus/Jupiter grants her a direct line into the mind of the Gods. She is the uncanny voice within, our own inner oracle. If heeded, Okyrhoe flows to us the best cosmic information.

Up next: The Centaurs’ Mythic Zodiac, The Astrological Centaurs, and case studies galore! Then, Nessus.

Nodal Notes: Aquarian Entrances

In a recent post, which I expanded in an article published in the OPA and on Astro.com, I introduced the current transits of Chiron, Pholus and Chariklo with respect to their planetary nodes. That article took a wide view, back from the 1950s into the 2040s. Here we can focus on the present year: 2020. What a year it is. What perspective can Centaurs add?

As I’ve mentioned, the Nodal Axis of both Chariklo and Pholus span the zodiac in oppositions within a degree of each other. That is, Centaurs Pholus and Chariklo happen to share opposing nodal placements. 

From this we can infer an interchange of astrological function: a shared evolutionary axis points to a link in their planetary biographies, past and future. We can think of nodes as indicators of the planet’s purpose as a member of our astrological solar system. Like the Moon’s Nodes, planetary Nodes mark where a planet’s orbit crosses the ecliptic plane. Here we look at the nodes of planets heliocentrically, from the perspective of the Sun.

In early Leo/Aquarius, Chariklo’s nodes fall just beyond the Cancer/Capricorn boundary, where we find the Nodes of many planets including Saturn. Pholus, who travels between the known (Saturn) and unknown (Neptune), has nodal crossings at the end of the Cancer/Cap zodiacal axis. Chiron’s transit to this axis, in two decades hence (2041), will activate both additional Centaurs by means of their nodes. 

Mark Jones paraphrases Dane Rudhyar: “Nodes refer to the complete evolutionary arc of that planet and the archetype that it represents. The planetary nodes, then, refer to the meaning of the entire orbital cycle of that planet. This can include the whole history of that archetype as it operates on an individual and collective level.”

The Nodal Situation 2020 and 2041

Conjunction of one planet to another’s North Node represents a time of checking in with how the transited one is getting on with its mission. As the most Uranian of Centaurs, Chiron the maverick has nodes in late Libra/Aries, which make a cross to the other centaur nodes. 

This gets touched off when our Chiron-Pholus cycle culminates in 2041, at the opposition phase of the 360 degree journey around the Sun. That future opposition aligns with the Nodes of both Pholus and Chariklo, which straddle the Capricorn-Aquarius cusp (and its opposite). At that time (in August 2041) Chiron in late Cancer will conjoin Pholus’ North Node, and Pholus will inhabit his own South Node. Three Centaurs will link together in the transits of two: Chiron will land on Chariklo’s South Node, Pholus on Chariklo’s North Node. This rare occurrence befits our first ‘conscious’ iteration of their cycle, post-discovery.

Remember that this year (one long quarter through already) began with the Saturn-Pluto-Chariklo stellium, at Pholus’ degree of aphelion. The structures have fallen in pathetic clockwork, leaving us exposed, unhoused, unprotected by the crumbled edifice of previous cycles. Chariklo hovers, whispering the trans-Uranian-new… yet now is no time for romance. “Social Distance”, utterly base-level Chariklo, can at best provide us collective healing through enforced personal space.

And Saturn enters Aquarius, the social sign. Arbiter of worldly boundaries, Saturn transits the North Node of Chariklo throughout 2020, even stationing retrograde conjunct that point. The Senex travels close all year, passing back over the South Node of Pholus, approaching the Aphelion of Pholus as it stations direct in September.

Late March was marked by the reboot energy of Mars-Saturn in the first degree of Aquarius, and something bright hovers on the horizon as Winter Solstice hosts a Jupiter-Saturn conjunction in the same degree.

Pleiadian Symbol for Aquarius 1: In the desert a way station to comfort travelers.

Chiron-Pholus: The Sandpaper of Life

Welcome to Scorpio Season! The Sun today enters a new sign and shines a positive light on Pholus, recently into Capricorn. For all our talk, the Sun’s entry into a new sign is only a ‘background radiation’ for the month. The distinct patterns of time come into focus through a look at planetary aspects.

[Please note an updated version of this article is now published through the Career Astrologer on AstroDienst]

Earlier this year, the cup-bearing Centaur of divine ambrosia, Pholus, dipped into Capricorn, only to travel again in Sagittary for many moons. This was a reprise of his time in 2016-7 on his centaury ‘home turf’. Through much of 2016- and 2017 Pholus skirted the edges of the Galactic Center, at Sagittarius 27: “Sanding and sanding a sculptor is carefully modulating and refining a curve.” (Pleiadian Degree Symbols) The symbol feels right for a centaur like Pholus: cosmic sandpaper grinds down all the karmic rough spots: it hurts, yet we become smoother for having lived through it. What curves has life been artfully, if gratingly, modulating for you?

Centaur Pholos

Chiron and Pholus have squared, first from mutables (Pisces/Sagittarius), and now cardinal signs (Aries/Capricorn). Fortunately these two are friends, vs. being antagonistic. They have similar aims: of helping us reach spiritual healing. Visionary keywords for Chiron-Pholus together, which I derived from their mutual presence in the discovery chart of each, are Celebration of Life and Renewal. So however it feels in the process, the purpose of their lessons are joyful.

Centaurs are eccentric: they weave weird webs for our world. Their sense of time is not steady, like our even-keel around the solar zodiac in twelve segments. From our point of view (geocentric), the Centaurs make paths that are both elliptical and off-center around the Sun. This makes their travels through the signs of the zodiac hard to keep track of. It’s in the ephemeris, but it’s hard to discuss in a straight line. Especially when we are looking at the relationship of two centaurs, like Pholus with Chiron.

A Little Book of Coincidence in the Solar System (Wooden Books) includes a surprise end-plate illustration of what I’m talking about, here: you can see the beautiful symmetry between say, Saturn and the outer planets, compared to say Chiron as it blends with either planet.

(John Martineau)

As it happens, the 20th and 21st Centuries are host to especially weird centaur cycles. If we are trying to figure out the current Chiron-Pholus cycle (of healing ancestral karma), this is important. Where does the cycle (that now reaches an opening square) begin? And its history? Pedigree of a cycle: Checking out Robert von Heeren’s deep research is an ideal start. He’s plotted the paths of each centaur to the other – www.kentauren.info for the win. What a funny plot the Chiron-Pholus is:

via kentauren.info

We can see that historically, there have been many Chiron-Pholus squares (see all the curves running through the 90° line.) Most of those are in the 17th and 18th centuries on this 450-year plot. Actually, check out the 180° line at top — so many years have hits there: these two centaurs spend a lot of time at odds, at opposite zodiacal poles.

So, in a broad stroke we can see that much of our ‘Medieval’ and early modern history is colored by the Chiron-Pholus opposition. More recently, they also opposed in the 19th and 20th centuries several times.

In a 500 year period they can reach opposition about a dozen times, while actually conjoining only half as many times. The conjunction then, marks a mini-epoch in human history. For all the weirdness, their total cycle is of a (near-) regular 100 years: they meet every century, give or take a couple years, then do the whirly-gig dance of healing from then out.

But, to return to the point: check out this 100 year chunk, from mid 20th to mid 21st c. There was the conjunction of 1956 (in Aquarius), and then in the 1990s there was a close-but-no-centaur conjunction, before stretching way up to an opposition in a short few decades:

via kentauren.info
  • 1939 Opposition, mid-Cancer/Capricorn
  • 1956 conjunction in Aquarius, in the lead up to which they span 180 degrees in a few years;
  • 1956-2019 waxing into the slower opening square we find ourselves in today.

In the 2040s, Pholus will live out his stay in Capricorn that we are now entering. This exit won’t happen without lots of action, though, in the form of reaching two phases in their cycle:
Chiron and Pholus wax to their next opposition by 2041, in the last degrees of the Cancer/Capricorn axis (Aug 2041). Then, by late Aug 2048, Pholus and Chiron reach the waning square of this cycle.

Our present Chiron-Pholus cycle concludes in 2060, at the end of Aquarius. So this centauric “Age of Aquarius” begins and ends in the sign of the Water Bearer, which is a worthy symbol of Pholus, holder of visionary ambrosia. The Centaur’s function in both myth and reality is to safeguard what is most potent and valuable for when the time comes to pop the cork on that emergency bottle and drink deep from life’s mysteries. Times of sudden initiation, breakthrough, and spiritual crisis.

Square aspects, especially in the waxing phase that we find ourselves in, are never easy. Often the best solace we can take is seeing how the part fits into the whole picture. It is notable how the cycle begins in the ’50s, when the “Aquarian Generation” of Boomers took birth. We have inherited their crises, as all generations do from the prior one. This waxing square is the deep work of ancestral healing – even healing those ‘ancestors’ who still live. We heal the part of them that is in us: in our genes, habits, thought patterns. It’s the “Harmony is Strife” phase of the cycle, as warned by Heraclitus.

Pholus may have ‘died’ in Chiron’s [a cave], at the sharp end of Herakles’ arrow, but I can assure you that the wisdom-being inspiring that tale lives today, in his aquarian realm. Likewise, Chiron the Master Teacher and Healer exists in a crystalline presence as close to you today as any other dream-mentor. If that sounds inspiring to you, please just reach out to learn more.

This year (2019-2020) is conditioned by two major Centaur aspects: the Chiron-Pholus square, and Chariklo’s conjunction with Saturn-Pluto. Saturn has recently been dredged by a long dalliance with the South Lunar Node. Karma karma karma.

For the year ahead: first in late 2019 we experience a final Chiron-Pholus square, then the Saturn-Pluto conjunction of Jan 12, 2020. This is actually an exquisite realignment stellium of Pluto-Saturn-Ceres-Sun-Chariklo-Mercury, all within a day. My next article will focus on this grand astrological occurrence, which may be kinder than the rumor-mills have led us to believe…

If you would like to see how these Centaurs are playing out in your journeys through life, please contact me for an astrology reading and/or centaur energy healing attunement.

The Astrology of Ecstasy, Pt. 2

My own path of astrology is inseparable from Chiron: since that day I fired up my first chart on Astro.com, back in 2010, I was captivated by the key-shaped glyph at the edge of the zodiac circle. And it made sense: those early days coincided with a Chiron-Neptune conjunction a few degrees shy of my Pisces ascendant. What an omen for the start of my life with the planets!

Tumburu, chief of the Indian celestials called Gandharvas.

My work with astrology does align with that symbolism of Chiron-Neptune: as a healer (Chiron) in the realm of spirit (Neptune). I work with these archetypes as if they were real: Centaurs as planetary spirits, guides, and healing energies. The Centaurs are here to help: I’ve learned that we can communicate with them and receive guidance, in many ways.

I had just rented a small cabin in a Berkeley backyard, moving in under an eclipsing Full Moon, as Jupiter and Uranus conjoined at my Natal Moon (though I didn’t know that yet). I knew my Saturn Return approached, and this meant I should get serious with my “life goals,” somehow.

It was a fresh start after a blessed year and a half on work retreat at a Buddhist charity. I had given myself over to a worthy cause (during the Chiron square to my natal Chiron). In India, I worked 100 days without a day off. It was intense, but for a purpose. Reading my Astro.com daily horoscope, Rob Hand’s words were prescient as he described a feeling– my feeling –of losing your boundaries as you sacrifice to something greater. So that’s a Chiron aspect you say… It sure made astrology feel legit.

The Centaurs were up to the task of describing what I was going through; the shadow part at least. What about the light? Chiron is infamous as a sign of where we hurt. Perhaps his centauric kin can show us where it feels really good? Those months of sacred labors were some of the best in my life – maybe in any life. Could the stars catch those waves too? The events in question were so subtle, so interior. Were they even in the vocabulary book of a Valens or Kepler?

In brief, I was on a tantric pilgrimage through India, backed by a lineage of ancient siddhas and their spiritual offspring. What began in a yurt in Northern California culminated at an alpine lake in the Himalayas. Visionary experience, yogic knowledge, gnostic wisdom…. where do these appear in a chart?

When I moved out of my apartment and crossed the country in search of illumination, I did so with the two hundred dollars I inherited from my aged refugee of a dear and recently departed Grandmother. I was traveling on a wing and a prayer. What did the sagely Centaurs have to contribute to that prayer?

Centaur Pholus with Herakles

Centaur Pholus, holder of the hero’s prized ambrosia, trotted over to my Midheaven for the first time in my life: a great cork was about to be popped open. Precious elixir would pour through my life-stream. The Centaur Chiron’s daughter Okyrhoe, an oracle, skipped across my natal Sun: an initiation underway! By noting only these two placements we can locate a very precise kind of moment in time. Despite my outwardly rough situation, the guides were brewing up something delicious.

There are so many ways to do astrology. Maybe some progression, time lord, or dasha might show it. A pure expression of Mercury or Jupiter in just the right alignment could express these sort of things. That can feel to me like a massaged message, selectively choosing from a list of planetary attributes.

True, though: by transit (one of only several ways of noting the passing of astrologic time) an eventual Jupiter-Uranus conjunction to my natal Moon, under an Eclipse when I returned to California, marked a fitting culmination to the journey. I was at last spiritually (Jupiter) on my own (Uranus) in a way that felt right (natal Moon). Can’t beat that. But that’s the end of the story. How had it begun?

The Wisdom Dakini Mandarava

I remained near the woodsy yurt for six months, collecting what Buddhists call merit by working on an assembly line creating Tibetan sacred texts by day, and meditating by evening. That very first night, a bubble burst: a fairy godmother of the Indo-Tibetan variety visited me in a waking dream state. I felt true healing, deep in my physical cells, through the energetic body, and into my heart.

In addition to the movements of Pholus and Okyrhoe, the Centaur’s Consort, Chariklo, “spinner of grace”, was approaching a key point in my chart: the Ascendant of my Draconic chart (also a few of my planetary midpoints, including Saturn-Neptune). This transit happened twice. First, when I arrived for work under the Bodhi tree in India, and second, during a visionary moment that sealed my term with the Buddhist group.

That first transit of Chariklo to my karmic sweet spot found me cast as a fortunate emissary of the dharma printers, in a stint abroad on sacred ground. One full season into that intensive self-sacrifice, my spiritual reward was granted by another visit from the same fairy godmother. When I took a short vacation at a sacred lake (not just any lake, but the mythic home of that dakini – wise woman), the energetic cork popped. Kundalini awakened in a powerful new experience.

I know the date exactly (February 7, 2010). This day marks a Venus-Chiron-Neptune conjunction at 26° Aquarius. That degree is meaningful, in part because it sextiles my Neptune and trines my Pluto. Further, it’s the discovery degree of Neptune! This planet is the boundary of our solar system, the way-station between the transpersonal (Uranus) and spiritual realm (Pluto)… and beyond! It is Neptune’s orbit that the Centaurs weave in and out of, drawing down ethereal light to the world of Saturn’s three dimensions.

(In fact, this was Neptune’s first post-discovery return to its discovery degree (25 Aqu 53)—while conjunct Chiron! Venus lit up this pairing. It was a notable moment in time, full of blessings which I gathered by being at the right place at the right time.)

Then once more, by retrograde motion, Chariklo returned to my Draconic Asc. This time she marked a transformative Dream experience back in California. In the twilight between dreaming and waking, a blissful vision showed me the empirical reality of the Buddhist teachings. What happens after a mind leaves a body, such as in death, was revealed in what William James might have called a “conversion experience”. And with it, I could pack up my bags and move to that cabin, where I’d study astrology and try to live up to Saturn’s hope for a stable life.

In the chart of this Dream, a culmination of one quest, the Centaurs make analysis simple. They are very specific signifiers, and do precise things in this chart. These four Centaur planets are each found near key points. Chiron the guide approaches my Ascendant, Okyrhoe the oracle transits my Pluto, Chariklo the healer is at my Draconic Ascendant, and Pholus the catalyst is once again at my Midheaven.

Empowered by this case study, I turned my zodiacal buddies loose to explore the lives of my teachers and dozens of inspiring figures in world history. Together the results comprise an astrology of ecstasy.