Nessus Guide of Redemption

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.

Musee de Louvre

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.

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.

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 – for the win. What a funny plot the Chiron-Pholus is:


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:

  • 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.