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.

On the Discovery & Pre-covery of the Outer Planets

The three outer planets of our solar system were discovered. That is, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto were not basic facts of night-time existence observable by humans since the dawn of time. Their discoveries marked crucial moments in astrological time. When looked at side by side, these events are linked together in a meaningful weave: a story told by the planets as they took birth into our awareness. Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto, as well as newcomer Chiron, each function as part of our Solar system’s wider aura of information. Together they step down and transmit cosmic wavelengths of starlight from the ethers at the edge of our orbital egg to the intra-Saturnian layer of reality we call 3D.

Let’s turn to the fascinating synastry the planets have with themselves: through their discovery charts, which reveal what Mike Harding calls the zodiac’s “infinite synastry with creation.”

By now, the historical record shows that it was Galileo who first sighted Neptune, as early as 1612. He mistook the distant giant for a star (conjunct Jupiter in his telescope). In 1795, French astronomer Joseph J. Lalande also pre-discovered (May 10) what would be Neptune. This fact itself was discovered by the team of researchers who collaborated to find Neptune in 1846. In between these precoveries, Uranus was found by Herschel.

Astronomical Synastry in brief: 26° Aquarius

  • Precovery Neptune-2 had Pluto near where Neptune was later found, conjunct Saturn in late Aquarius.
  • At the same degree of the Saturn-Neptune synod of 1846, Chiron lay in waiting at Pluto’s precovery in 1909.
  • There, too, was Chiron’s unknown daughter Okyrhoe (conjunct Mom’s friend Pallas Athena), when Herschel found Uranus in 1781.

When Pluto was discovered in 1930, Chiron was conjunct the North Lunar Node. When Chiron was discovered in 1977, Pluto was conjunct the North Lunar Node.

At Pluto’s earliest precovery in 1909, Neptune transited exactly 18° Cancer 19′ (8/21/09, photographed by Edward Barnard at Yerkes Observatory). When Pluto was actual-pre-discovered, by means of the photographic plates taken by Clyde Tombaugh at Lowell Observatory prior to his ‘discovery’ of the results (1/22/30), Pluto inhabited 18° Cancer 15′. Thus Neptune presaged its outer planet brother exactly.

Then, and maybe less significantly, trans-Neptunian object Borasisi was discovered at the same magic degree of 26° Aquarius in 1999. It’s not just a random space rock though: Borasisi shows up big time in a Neptunian-Uranian way. It’s the planet of ‘mad science’ or tech without a conscience.

A Pleiadian Interlude

 Neptune’s pre-discovery pair of future Piscean co-rulers Jupiter and Neptune (at 26.5 Virgo) coincided with one of the two degrees that the Pleiadian Degree Symbols* depict with a ‘tea ceremony’. At Neptune’s actual discovery in 1846, it was adjacent to the next of those degrees of ceremony. In 1612, at Galileo’s viewing, at 27° Virgo Neptune-Jupiter announce “A famous geisha performing the tea ceremony.” Here is a clear resonance with its future discovery at 26° Aquarius, adjacent to the symbol of 27°: “During a tea ceremony a man briskly mixing tea with a whisk.” I view Neptune’s birth degree with some orb due to the triple conjunction that year which formed with Saturn across both degrees.

Neptune in both its pre- and actual discovery is symbolized by a tea ceremony: the ritualized, conscious merger of the physical with the fluid. This imagery is appropriate for Neptune in Aquarius, a true bearer of water. The Pleiadian symbols for these two Aquarian degrees are remarkably evocative of the relationship between Saturn and Neptune, which govern ‘containers’ and ‘fluids’, respectively. Next to the “tea ceremony” degree lies Aquarius 26°: “A scientist measuring the mineral levels in a sample of water.”

These symbols appear to serve as ideal imagery for Neptune’s watery world as seen from within the boundary of our system: a Saturnian container for Neptunian spirit. Not only are both images of a liquid contained (Saturn-Neptune), but the acts of measuring minerals and brewing tea each invoke the relationship between solute (Saturn) and solvent (Neptune). This chemistry is the inevitable result of the Saturn-Neptune process: absorption and dissolution. 

*Pleiadian Degree Symbols are an updated series of Sabian Symbols by John Sandbach