NESSUS: The Master of Shadows
The collective story of the Centaurs condenses several myths that span the spectrum of life and death, nectar and poison.
We meet the Astrological Centaurs first through their namesakes in these myths. The Greek epics such as Ovid’s Metamorphoses record generations of interaction between people and the gods. Here we learn there are two bands of Centaurs: the wild, and the wise. The wild, such as Nessus, are sons of King Ixion, a villainous figure. The wise include Chiron, son of Kronos the titan, and Pholus, son of Silenus. Pholus is half-foster-brother to Dionysus himself. Intoxication is a theme of his story. Mythical cohort of the others, Nessus brings the shadow (and its redemption) to the Centaurs’ portfolio.
A client of mine once unearthed repressed trauma during a reciprocal transit of Okyrhoe to Nessus/Nessus to Okyrhoe. Another contemplated how to deal with news of abuse in her church when Nessus had stationed retrograde on her Ascendant. It amazed us both when the phone rang during our session—confirming that her donations were canceled: “the buck” stopped here, as Reinhart says about Nessus.
Nessus reaches farther than the other centaurs into Pluto’s realm, as he makes a 123-year journey around the Sun. As a Centaur guide, he brings us situations that incite maturity. This suits his myth, as he died at the hand of Hercules, after repeating the “sins of his father,” King Ixion.
Nessus guides us to redemption from wounds caused by misusing power. His myth completes the circle from wounding to healing. After the scuffle in Pholus’ cave, Nessus escaped to a distant river. We meet him during Hercules’ travels with his wife Deianira following the twelve labors. The heroic couple meets Nessus, who deviously offers to help them cross a flooded river. Carrying Deianira on his back, Nessus attempts to repeat his father’s crime. Hercules kills him with an arrow, setting off a chain of events that will destroy him, too.
Deianira is tricked by the dying Centaur, and saves his blood as a love-charm. Years later, she tries to apply this charm to her wayward husband. The poison burns Hercules, so he throws himself on a pyre to end his pain. The gods accept this self-immolation as purification. In a roundabout way, then, Hercules’ tangle with Nessus allows him to redeem his heroic destiny, becoming an immortal. (As an Olympian, he marries immortal Hebe. Sorry, Deianira!)
This unusual process of redemption might be foretold in the sky: planet Nessus was discovered at 5° Scorpio, a point opposite Chiron’s own DD of 4° Taurus. Such astrology implies how these Centaurs together offer tandem guidance along the Taurus/Scorpio polarity of natural (Taurus) healing (Centaurs) of trauma (Scorpio).
Nessus’ DD 5° Scorpio: “Sharp rocks splashed, dripping with sea spray.” The dynamic waters of purification, offered with harsh edges – much like the guidance we receive from this Centaur.