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Thursday, July 8, 2010


An Overview of Chiron

By Eric Francis

The Centaur planet Chiron is an astrological force for healing, transformation, service, spiritual growth and the lifelong process of becoming aware that some call enlightenment. In a word, it could be summed up as "holistic," which means making whole. Everyone has Chiron in his or her personal natal chart, which may be in a more or less emphasized position. At different times in our lives we are under the influence of Chiron by transit, and learning about these transits is the purpose of Part Two this article, after the introductory materials which follow in Part One. In the second part, I will also include links to last year's materials on Chiron, as well as any links to my prior articles that are still available, and to some by other writers.
Chiron, an actual planet, was the first major planetary discovery after Pluto in 1930. Discovered by Charles Kowal in late October 1977 (though most reports say Nov. 1, 1977), you probably did not learn about Chiron in science class, and most astrologers still do not recognize Chiron as a "legitimate" planetary influence, much less an important one, though the community of astrologers is starting to wake up. Yet many astrologers did not consider Pluto a legitimate planet until the 1970s, though its existence had been known for 40-plus years; this, despite its clear associations with the social progress, creative eruptions and cultural upheavals of the late 1960s. Though Chiron was finally discovered in 1977, pre-discovery photos exist from as early as 1895. In other words, though it had been photographed repeatedly by observatories, it was not actually noticed, catalogued and named till nearly a century later.
Chiron is relatively small, about 160-180 kilometers across, and has properties of a planet, an asteroid, a comet and a Pluto-like object. It defies simple classification, borrowing different attributes from pre-existing categories, crossing the orbit of Saturn and extending almost out to the orbit of Uranus. It rounds the Sun in an elongated path that takes 50.7 years to complete. Because of this elongation, it stays in Libra for just 18 months while taking 9 years to cross Aries, being in the other signs for approximately two to seven years. This creates unusual patterns in our lives which may go unnoticed until we check out the timing of Chiron transits and their corresponding life events.
After the announcement of the discovery, a few astrologers took an immediate interest in Chiron. Among the first was Zane Stein, who was given the first ephemeris (zodiac position table) for Chiron by astronomer Dr. Brian Marsden shortly after the discovery. This allowed Chiron to be placed in the horoscopes of Zane's clients so that he could research its meaning. Dr. Marsden's cooperation with the learning goals of an astrologer would prove to presage the later cooperation between the Centaur Research Project, an informal committee of astrologers specializing in the Centaurs and other unusual small objects, and the International Astronomical Union (IAU), the scientific institution which is responsible for the cataloging and formal naming of new astronomical discoveries. Today, the Centaur Research Project, created by Robert von Heeren of Munich, provides the name suggestions for the new Centaurs, all of which have so far been accepted by the IAU (Nessus, Chariclo, Asbolus and Hylonome).
We live in an unprecedented era in which astrologers and astronomers are working together, and in which scientists are accepting the research findings of astrologers as intellectually valid. At the same time, a number of astrologers in the Centaur field are themselves accomplished astronomers, able to do the difficult mathematical calculations required to track the orbits of these planets. This is a long way from the unprovoked and intellectually bereft attack of the scientific community on astrologers in the late 1970s.
Back to the beginnings of our tale, Zane Stein wrote the first article about Chiron, published in the January 1981 edition of Dell Horoscope magazine. With the help of Neil F. Michelsen of Astro Computing Services (publishers of the American Ephemeris, currently the only major U.S. or British ephemeris to list Chiron's position), Zane published a Chiron aspectarian for the 20th century later that year, and had by 1983 published a pamphlet called "Interpreting Chiron." The same year, Erminie Lantero, Ph.D. published the first book, The Continuing Discovery of Chiron (Samuel Weiser, 1983). In 1985, Zane's book Essence and Application: A View from Chiron was published by astrologer Al H. Morrison. This was followed up by what is probably the best-known work on the new planet, Chiron: Rainbow Bridge Between the Inner and Outer Planets by Barbara Hand Clow (Llewellyn, 1987). Barbara, for her part, relied heavily on the research of her predecessors, particularly Zane Stein, to create her popular and informative work. In 1994, Richard Noelle brought out a worthwhile short work called Chiron: The New Planet in Your Horoscope (American Federation of Astrologers).
To date, the most in-depth look at Chiron has been written by the London-based astrologer Melanie Reinhart, called Chiron and the Healing Journey (1989, Penguin/Arkana). Written during a deeply transformative moment in the author's own healing journey, Melanie's work brings to bear her training and experience as a Jungian depth psychologist, her compassion as a humanitarian, and her considerable talent and breadth of mind as an astrologer. Melanie has followed up with a second book, To The Edge and Beyond (1996, Center for Psychlogical Astrology Press) which looks at Saturn, Chiron and the next two Centaurs, Pholus and Nessus.
While the vast majority of astrologers remain in ignorance or denial of Chiron today, the progress that has been made in creating a body of work around a new planet in just 23 years is astonishing. Consider that at the time of Chiron's discovery in 1977, just one obscure book had been written about Pluto, which had been discovered 47 years earlier (Fritz Brunhubner's book on Pluto was written in 1934, but went unpublished in English for 34 years). It was only in 1985 -- 55 years after its discovery -- that the first comprehensive book on Pluto was published, Jeffrey Wolf Green's Pluto: Evolutionary Journey of the Soul (Llewellyn). Note that the first major work on Pluto entered consciousness just as the first books on Chiron were appearing. This suggests that the two energies work together, like a unified polarity; and moreover, that Pluto, as suggested by Jeff Green, functions as a subconscious process. Chiron works in full awareness, it can be easily subjected to scientific and psychological scrutiny, and is not easily given to issues like denial or avoidance.
Chiron's Mythos: Maverick, Mentor, Healer
Most people who have heard of Chiron associate it with the words "wounded healer," but this would be like summing up the life of Albert Einstein as the "confused physicist." Chiron's first keyword, as described by its discoverer, was maverick. Chiron was different and stood out as a unique scientific discovery. Mythologically, this holds true, yet Chiron was more aptly known for his role as mentor to the great heroes of the Helenic world. Finally, we know that Chiron was a healer and teacher of healing. He reflects all of these qualities when working as an astrological force. <><>An immortal born to Kronos (Saturn) and Philyra, Chiron was the first of the Centaurs, creatures who were half-man, half-horse. This mix occurred because Kronos was fucking Philyra behind the back of his wife Rhea; when Rhea caught them, Kronos turned himself into a horse as a disguise. At that moment, Chiron was conceived. Philyra, later seeing her son after she gave birth, was so horrified that she turned herself into a tree. Chiron was raised by mentors and surrogate mothers.
Yet Philyra seems to have over-reacted, for Chiron was not the monstrosity she feared. Zimmerman's Dictionary of Classical Mythology (consistent with other sources) reports that Chiron was the one "gentle, learned and wise member of the Centaurs" (though the lesser-known Centaur Pholus surely fits this description as well) and says further that Chiron was "famous for his knowledge of medicine, music, [and] shooting; taught mankind the use of plants and medicinal herbs; instructed the greatest heroes of the age [including] Achilles, Aneas, Asclepius, Heracles, Jason [and] Peleus." Chiron taught not just herbalism, but medicine and surgery to Asclepius, the Greek god of these arts. His name remains in the language today in the art "chiropractic," which is the adjustment of the bones of the neck and back as a means of healing a variety of ills. In one chiropractic textbook I was shown by a colleague, there is an old etching of "asclepian manipulation," an early word for the practice. Since Chiron was the teacher of Asclepius, this suggests he may have also taught him chiropractic as well.
It is noteworthy that Chiron's vastly significant place in mythology was left largely to obscurity till it was dug out and revived by astrologers seeking to understand the meaning of a new planet. Perhaps Chiron was forgotten because he reveals that humanity is at least half animal in nature, and indeed, that half below the waist, where the human body meets the horse body of the Centaur. Chiron, intelligent, compassionate, and loving the teaching and healing of others most of all, has four hoofs and a tail, a reminder to those who think we are all the wiser for walking upright on two feet, while killing our fellow men and women. Chiron was content to live and work in his cave, the Chironian, living in peace and married to the nymph Chariclo. He is one of the very few male figures in Greek mythology not defined by his infidelities, sexual conquests, military conquests, gross flaws or false pride. Indeed, perhaps these are expressions of the denial of one's animal nature rather than a connection to it.
Yet those of Chiron's tribe, the thousands of other Centaurs (most of whom were not his blood relations), were a rogue band of thugs, rapists and warmongers roaming the forests of Greece. David Arner, one of my astrology teachers, recently commented that the Centaurs are the Hell's Angels of Greek mythology: "If there had been motorcycles back then," he said, "they would have been half-motorcycle."
Later in life, during what seemed to have been an inevitable war between Heracles and the Centaurs, Chiron was accidentally shot by Heracles, and hit with an arrow poisoned by the blood of the many-headed monster, the Hydra, whom Heracles had killed on an earlier mission. Though immortal, Chiron was mortally wounded, thus doomed to suffer eternally. The wound was to his animal-half, representing the injured and frightened animal within us all. He created many healing remedies in an attempt to heal his injury, though unsuccessfully. Finally, after long suffering, he proposed the following arrangement to Zeus: Chiron would be released from his pain and ascend to be the constellation Centaurus. In turn, Prometheus would be freed from the rock where he was chained, doomed to suffer for eternity (with his liver being eaten each day, only to grow back each night) in punishment for stealing the "fire of the gods" and giving it to humankind. Thus, Chiron and Prometheus were freed from their unending struggles and began new lives.
From Mythos to Logos
Mythos, that is, the tales of a mythological figure, and the logos, how the planet named after that figure functions astrologically, work very differently. Mythos is to logos as the sapling is to the tree. Somewhere within the form of a tree is both the idea and the reality of the sapling it once was; but the years, the environment and destiny have created a very different being in the mature tree.
While there are similarities in theme and story-structure, the logos is often more complex and has surprising, subtle expressions that can redeem what is often a not-so-happy mythological tale. Further, in the case of a new planet, astrologers, who (like scientists) are never free from bias, are able to assign meanings, and make selective observations and intuitive associations between a planet and its expressions in life. The planet works differently for different people, and humans have the capacity to learn from one another.
Because Chiron was a newly discovered planet, astrologers went to work seeking expressions of its logos in their clients through what amounts to psychological research. They examined the natal placements of clients they knew well, checked events at times of significant transits and watched how Chiron worked in synastry, that is, when two charts are read in comparison to one another, such as with married couples, parents and children and friends.
Astrologers also examined the birth chart of the new planet, as well as astronomical information such as its orbit. They looked at its numerology, and at events in history when Chiron was in aspect to major planetary influences. Through this organic process of reason, exploration, investigation and intuition, a functional meaning of Chiron emerged. Yet as Erminie Lantero suggests in the title of the first book about Chiron, this is indeed a continuing discovery, made all the more adventurous by the two-dozen new planets in Chiron's class which astrologers and astronomers are working to understand.
Most important, we have learned from the experiences of our own lives, and those of the people we call clients, with whom we travel along the road to awareness, wholeness, health and life.
Chiron's Logos: Healing, Awareness, Power Wounds and Transformation
Chiron has many expressions and it is impossible to summarize them in an article or even a book. But it's possible to skew the discussion in a productive direction. This would start with the idea that Chiron works as a bridge. It closes the space between phases of growth, layers of awareness, people, belief systems, countries and phases of history. It provides a link between the celestial and earthly orders of consciousness, to the extent that these seem to be separate realities from our viewpoint here. Thus, its function is as a healer, since healing is always about closing separation.
Another way to look at healing is as a process of becoming aware. We give special words to describe this awareness, such as "enlightenment," "mastery," "expertise," "spirituality," and so forth. But awareness is awareness. The choice to use it, I might add, is another story entirely. Where Chiron is present in the natal chart, and where Chiron is acting by transit (that is, where the current position of Chiron is acting upon the natal chart), we will feel some form of need, desire or compulsion to raise our awareness.
Chiron is associated with healing crises, that is, the conscious confrontation of that which makes us sick or holds us back, and inspires the ultimate use of such "negative" things as opportunities to grow and learn. In this way, pain and suffering do not enter our lives to teach us a lesson, but rather, we learn how to learn lessons from that which would otherwise be pointless struggle.
In the current models of medicine and psychiatry, we view the patient as an entirely passive entity in the healing process. In holistic healing, astrology and many other more balanced models of growth and wellness, a person is far from passive but is rather the central figure in the healing journey, with a greater element of control over his or her destiny. In this way, the healing crisis is a call to growth, personal empowerment, and most of all, consciousness. We learn to let go of what holds us back, recognize who we really are, and to use what we know. We learn to make choices. In these ways, what starts as sickness becomes not just health but also a means to arriving at a new place of strength, integrity and freedom. One person's healing crisis can provide important information for other people as they grow into their own wholeness.
Some of us are familiar with the idea of the shaman. The shaman in aboriginal cultures is the bridge between humanity and the outer forces, a concept very much akin to that of Chiron or a healer. People working in this modality typically will serve a community, or be in the service of the culture, functioning in service being one of the identifying marks of a person on a spiritual mission in life. Without exception in the life of a shaman there is a wound inflicted, such as early disease, blindness, a near-death experience, a bout with insanity or some other experience that causes the shaman to gather their strength and power and thus become who they are. With Chiron we can see this process working, on some level, in all people. This wound may be the early loss of a parent, an injury, a disability, or even a talent that rendered a person different and forced them to confront a particular aspect of reality early on, perhaps well ahead of their years.
Chiron functions as an integrating agent in the seemingly separate mind, body, emotions and spirit, and thus brings together the very different elements of consciousness that may exist within us. We are aware of these elements when, for example, we have insights during meditation, in rituals or on drugs that we find challenging to relate to our "normal life." We might recognize something about a person, perhaps someone we're very close to, and not be able to embody that knowledge into our relationship with the person. Or we might encounter wise teachings of an experienced person, but claim that they are impossible to apply to life. The process of Chiron works to bridge these realities: energy into matter, the spiritual into the mundane, the cosmic into the ordinary.
Three Kinds of Planets
To relate this idea, it will help to use some astrological metaphors, so I hope you'll bear with a short astrology class. Astrologers generally speak of three kinds of planets: The personal planets, the Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus and Mars; the transpersonal planets, Jupiter and Saturn; and the outer planets, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto.
We can all relate fairly well to the personal planets. On the most basic level, Venus and Mars like to fuck, eat good food and play out the polarity of maleness and femaleness (this is a somewhat superficial explanation, but not really). This is easy to grasp. Mercury is the process of communication, the inner light of the mind, and the self that is not bound by definitions but rather fleets from one idea about itself to another. The Sun represents who we feel we really are. The Moon represents our most basic needs and security issues, the place in consciousness where emotions are manifested, as well as the physical body. These are the personal or "inner" planets. Often these have been personified in the form of gods, which are really archetypal expressions of inner human reality. In other words, when I become a warrior, I invoke Mars, but I am really using an energy within my own being, which I perhaps recognized in myself because I know something about the great archetypal warriors.
Next are the transpersonal planets, which were the two most distant planets of antiquity: Jupiter and Saturn. These represent forces that don't seem to be so internal, but rather function as part of society; though there are some people who embody them very effectively, for good or for ill.
Jupiter represents great fortune (as if from outside), the process of culture, the idea of justice, and the sphere of embodied wisdom (such as the knowledge contained in libraries, universities and religions). Internally, Jupiter can represent the aspects of a person that are magnanimous (generous and kind of judgment), spiritual (Jupiter relates to Pisces and Sagittarius) excessive (Jupiter is big), and full of hot air (Jupiter is not a solid planet). Metaphysically it represents the principle of expansion. Perhaps this is why (according to Forbes magazine) there are so many Pisces millionaires.
Saturn represents concrete structures, such as buildings, corporations, traditions, institutions (like the church itself rather than the teachings of the church). Internally, Saturn represents the boundaries and structures of mind, body and interaction with and within which we must live. For example, we need bones, and we tend to treat our mother like our mother and our father like our father. Metaphysically Saturn represents the principle of limitation and discipline. Saturn is the edge. Beyond the edge, there is the vast chaotic cosmos, both internally (the subconscious realm, into which psychotics, artists and genius-types may dip regularly) and externally (speed limits and DUI laws that land us in court). Without Saturn functioning normally, which includes tending to our process of becoming mature and creating structures to live within, we have a very hard time staying sane or stable. When we do not work with Saturn as an internal energy (discipline) it will invariably manifest as an external energy (disciplinarians).
Last are the outer planets, also called the "modern planets" because they are the products of the modern world and its technology, and also because they represent humanity's delves into the deep space of consciousness in the form of psychoanalysis, spirituality, invention, industry, and mysticism -- not to mention mass insanity, holocausts, world wars and ecocide, that is, the poisoning of our earthly home and the mass poisoning of its living creatures.
The first of these planets, Uranus, discovered in 1781, is the first planet beyond the edge of Saturn. It is the planet of revolution, innovation, invention, and the divine electricity of the mind. Its processes can up-end or destroy the structures of Saturn, or with a light touch, those familiar with Uranian energy can modify, reinvent and adapt structure to meet current needs. It tends to operate far outside the reach of most people, since very few of us here are inventors, most of us cling to structure, and hardly anyone welcomes change. When it's functioning well in a person's chart, it will lead them to seek freedom, to be different, to think outside of boxes and to aspire to greater ideas about life and their personal experience on the planet.
Neptune, discovered in 1846, is even more difficult to grasp. It represents the presence of the numinous -- that is, the supernatural; the unspeakable, the invisible and the mysterious. In its less wholesome and most common manifestations, it shows up in life as drugs, drink, delusion, deception and denial. Unfortunately, the sprit we call alcohol substitutes for the spirit we call love or God, and the two have a very hard time co-existing. Usually one is a direct substitute for the other. Note that alcoholics have a strong tendency to deceive people, to be delusional and to be in denial. People who are on a conscious spiritual path generally work to be aware of their addictions, work to live for truth and not be in denial of what simply is so. In general, people work one side of Neptune or the other, though in all respects Neptune is a difficult concept to grasp, largely because it works through invisible means.
Before moving onto Pluto, it is very, very well worth noting that on New Year's Day 1801, two hundred years ago, a new kind of planet was discovered. This was Ceres, the first asteroid. Ceres was the second planet ever named for a woman and the first new planet named for a woman; and of course, she was "not a planet." Planets were only the big things going deeper and deeper into space. Ceres is the Roman name of the Greek goddess of agriculture, Demeter; she is about the Earth and its fruits, grains (hence "cereal") and the guardian of marriage. In discovering Ceres, not counting her for a planet (an issue for both astrologers and astronomers), and then abandoning her, we seemed to be reflecting a cultural process that would, in a very short time, foul the nest known as Earth and lead to many generations of failure to honor relationships, nutrition and nurturing one another.
Finally, in 1930, we have the outermost conventional planet, Pluto, discovered at the Lowell Observatory in the United States. My Zimmerman mythology dictionary tells me that Pluto is, "The Greek name for the king of hell, or for hell itself; his other names are Ades, Aides, Aidoneus, Hades and Pluton." It's clear that this was hardly an inviting or tempting energy for astrologers to want to dabble in casually. And, first came Pluto, then came Hitler, who came to power in February 1933 and started the Holocaust, or all-consuming fire (holo = whole, and caust = burn, like in caustic), a hellish enough image to make the point.
But Pluto, as he works astrologically, is not so simple. His primary function or effect is to drive evolution forward. Pluto, akin to Shiva the Destroyer of Hindu mythology, does indeed burn off old karma, remove old situations, and get to the heat of the matter. People with strong Pluto placements are able to cut to the truth, and push others to do the same. But Pluto rarely manifests as an entirely welcome energy. He is difficult to take all by himself, far more difficult than the other outer planets, none of which are especially easy to accept, comprehend or work with alone. They are all forces far beyond our control, greater than we are, affecting millions of people and compelling us to deal with the ultimate realities of life and death. Pluto takes what seem to be the most negative forces and possibilities and, with awareness, transforms them into constructive experiences and learning. But this is often extremely difficult because the further away planets are, the more difficult their energy is to grasp or comprehend.
Enter Chiron, and a New Kind of Planet
Astronomically, Chiron bears attributes of a comet (harbinger or messenger of change), an asteroid (a seemingly minor influence, though of great importance -- yet often ignored), a planet (a recognizable element in the consciousness of many people). But Chiron functions as an inner planet, piercing through the realm of Saturn at its closest point to the Sun and an outer planet, going way beyond Saturn, almost out to Uranus. He is, in this way, a bridge between the outer planets and the transpersonal planets.
He is like a utility which allows us to a) deal with the limitations of Saturn, and make productive use of Saturn and b) work with the cosmic energies of the outer planets. Chiron allows us to ground the pure energy of Uranus into the form and structure of Saturn, and vice versa. It works as a collector of Neptunian energy, allowing us to cut through the delusion and denial that so often accompanies spirituality, and to apply spiritual lessons in practical ways; and to deal with Pluto by bringing the subconscious forces to full awareness, where we can address it in a sane context (healing, ritual, committed relationship and so on).
Chiron typically works through experiences, talents and relationships, often in some combination. We know Chiron is active in our charts when we strive to make difficulty meaningful, when we seek healing rather than escape, and when we strive for awareness when in the past we desired to go to sleep.
The discovery of Chiron indeed proceeds, and now, there are nearly two-dozen planets identified as belonging to the Centaur class. The second was Pholus, discovered in 1992. The third was Nessus, disdovered in 1993. With these discoveries, the Centaur class was designated, the propterties of which include small objects in elongated orbits, usually crossing the orbits of larger planets. Most of these have no names. Pholus, to my knowledge, is mentioned in English only in To The Edge in Beyond, though I have a couple of articles about it which you may request, and I will be posting more here this year. One excellent book is available in German. To cast the Centaurs into your natal chart, you may use the free online ephemeris at the Centaur Research Project homepage. Printed epemerides may be obtained from Robert in Europe and from Phillip Sedgwick in the United States. If you want information about how to get a copy of To The Edge and Beyond, which I consider to be an excellent starting astrology book, please drop me a note. I also do Chiron astrological readings, and teach other astrologers the techniques I have developed. Some of these will be explored in a later article.

               Illustration, "GenEx Star," artist unknown.

When Astrology Listens
Chiron in the astrological counseling process

By Eric Francis
Planet Waves Digital Media. This article appeared in the German
astrology journal Meridian in the spring issue.

_____When I began working with a client named Orca, she wanted information about her career and had decided to contact an astrologer. She is a highly creative, intelligent, and intuitive person with diverse skills and strong leanings toward serving others, so she was understandably unhappy doing software product development. In graduate school, her dream had been to develop a technology that would allow deaf people to communicate in a written form of sign language, which is a language in its own right, apart from English. But instead, she was trapped in an office, doing boring research.
_____I started with a question: "What was going on when you were about ten months old?" Perhaps this seems like a strange question for a career reading. Here is the story she told.
_____At that time, Orca was a toddler and could not walk on two feet but could amble along the wall using her hands. She was the first child and was home alone with her mother. One day, Orca smelled some blueberry muffins baking in the oven. She wanted a muffin, so she toddled along the wall toward the oven and, arriving there, pressed her hands against it. Her hands burned and stuck to the side of the hot oven. She screamed, and her mother, who had stepped out of the room, ran in and scraped Orca's hands off the oven with a spatula.
_____The family did not have a car; they had just moved to a San Diego suburb, which was fairly empty during the workday, and they knew none of their neighbors. But the mother picked up her child and ran outside the house. At that moment, a woman was getting into her car right out in front. Mother said, "My baby has been burned. Help us!"
_____The woman responded that she was just now on her way to see a dermatologist who was also a burn specialist, and she drove them to the doctor. The specialist saw Orca immediately. It happened that he was doing research on contact skin burns for the benefit of napalm victims in Vietnam (this was during the Vietnam War). He explained that there were two ways to treat contact burns: the traditional way that involved breaking the blisters but could send a small child into shock and possibly be deadly, and an experimental method that he was developing. Mother opted for the experimental method; Orca's hands healed with full dexterity and sensitivity and only slight, barely visible scarring.
_____I had asked her about that time in her life because she has Chiron retrograde in the 6th house, five degrees from the 7th-house cusp. When she was ten months old, Chiron crossed the 7th-house angle, and that seemed interesting and possibly important; I was guided to ask about this mainly by my curiosity, which is intuitive. This transit had turned out to be a life-shaping event, a miracle that she would remember and acknowledge all her days.
_____Had I not asked Orca this question, our experience of working together would have been rather different.
The Charting of Experience
_____Even if two people had the same chart, we know that they would still experience the same astrology in significantly different ways. Using the chart to ask questions and then engaging in an active listening process gives both the astrologer and the client clues about the particular way the client is experiencing and expressing the energy of their astrology -- but without the prejudice of telling the client who they are or what they were supposed to have experienced. This allows clients to be themselves and to open up, enabling them to actively develop trust in the process, because they are being heard.
_____This process gives the astrologer a chance to see how the theoretical and static device of the natal chart works when you add the energy dynamics of moving time, real-life circumstances, and apparent destiny. It affords an opportunity to plot the trajectory of an individual's lifetime. Most important, it establishes a situation where the astrologer does not have to make speculative statements about a client's life based only on their chart. Rather, the important information comes from the client's history, ideas, and perceptions, while the astrologer's questioning process is guided by the chart. Then, the resulting interpretation is guided by both the client and the chart.
_____This process has the added benefit of removing the need to overcome a client's possible skepticism about astrology, because there is no guesswork involved. Good questions are strong statements in themselves and tend to validate the intelligence of astrology and the astrologer -- and the client.
_____I work with Chiron extensively, so I usually check Chiron's transits to itself -- the (waxing) square, opposition, (waning) square, and return to its natal position -- whichever apply, depending upon the client's age. I also check Chiron's transits over the four angles, and I note whatever else seems significant or looks interesting, such as the Moon. I'll often check the Saturn return and the Uranus opposition, if these apply to the client. When assessing the timing of a transit, I generally ask about the seasons of the exact contact. Many transits of Chiron, Saturn, and Uranus are exact three times, so I might ask about the spring of 1971, the Christmas season of 1971, and the summer of 1972. People tend to remember seasons but not exact months anyway, so this works well.
_____Other times (as with Orca), I will be more specific, sometimes asking clients to check a given day or week against their diary or old appointment book; however, experience has demonstrated that the most meaningful manifestations of transits occur over the course of a season or a year.
_____When checking transits, I prefer not to ask "what happened?" as if there were one big event, but rather, "What was happening at this time?" Then I listen to the basic circumstances, such as who their friends were at school, what was going on in the family, with lovers, their job, and so on. If there are significant events (there usually are at those times), they will come out in the discussion. Sometimes a client will say that "nothing happened," so I will ask whether they remember their address, and work from there: What was the neighborhood like? Who were your classmates? Who was your lover? What was happening with Mom and Dad? Often, they will spontaneously remember a very striking event or bring one up in the next session. Meanwhile, what you learn about the family dog can give you a lot of insight into how the client processes reality.
_____In career work, you can reverse this technique and also track the résumé against transits -- a convenient and effective tool; then you can ask how the client felt about each job, which will tell you a lot.
The Astrology of Listening
_____In the first session, which is more like a casual interview, I might cover five experiences associated with transits; by the time the meeting is through, I will have a pretty good hunch about at least one theme of the client's life -- elements of plot and story line add up to a theme, if you listen. I book new clients for three sessions, so we will have time during the next two sessions to understand the meaning of the events and experiences, and very naturally we will work our way into the present. After three meetings, we have usually done some very good work, and the client has gotten far more from the process than expected -- and we have established a solid working relationship for the future. When the client comes back the following month or year, we have a good foundation to build upon.
_____Not every client is thrilled with the idea of multiple sessions at first, but most people are very open to this approach (which is detailed on my Web page). If the client questions this as we are scheduling the initial appointment, I explain that we are past the days of instant fortunetelling, and more solid processes are now available to astrologers for doing their work here in the modern world. Of course, careful listening is not new, but it's the best healing and the greatest comfort that you can offer most people. These days, many clients know that; most of my clients want something halfway between astrology and therapy, minus the technical jargon and the Ph.D.
_____Unfortunately, listening is usually incidental to the traditional astrology process: The astrologer is there to "give the client information" and "do a reading of the chart," which means doing most of the talking. This can be very productive and useful to some clients. However, I started working with Chiron early on; most of us who work with Chiron understand that this process involves research of a newer planet, so we had better ask questions if we want a clue to what's up with the person.
_____But what do the clues add up to? How could Orca's experience at ten months of age influence her career choice 34 years later? Other transits revealed much, but this first one set the tone, establishing a firm basis for her true values. With this on the table, we could have a serious talk about her rather than just discussing her ambitions.
_____If we had begun with a detailed discussion of Orca's career, the burn incident might never have emerged, and a major clue would have been missed. She said recently that she probably would not have mentioned the event, had I not asked her about what happened when she was ten months old. This kind of early miracle is a defining moment in a person's life, even though they may be very young and not fully recall every detail. In Orca's case, something terrible happened, but the Universe was ready, with an expert physician nearby and an amazing synchronicity to transport the child to him. Had the burn occurred a minute or even 30 seconds later, the woman would have already driven off to the doctor, leaving Orca and her mother stranded there in front of the house in a lonely neighborhood. Treated by a less competent doctor, Orca might have died or been disfigured, or disabled, for life.
The Themes of Chiron Emerge
_____Notice that, in this one experience, we see many of the themes of Chiron emerge spontaneously: a wound; an injury to the hands (given Chiron's associations with the hands -- in Greek, Chiron, who was a centaur, or half-man/half-horse, means "one who has hands"1); the emergence of a healer and physician who entered into a relationship with Orca when Chiron was sitting on her 7th-house cusp, the most direct relationship angle. The doctor was a humanitarian who was helping the Vietnamese (a Chiron-in-Pisces theme); he was a maverick because he was doing unconventional, experimental work -- "maverick" being the first Chiron keyword, given to it by an astronomer. And Orca's doctor was a master healer, like the centaur Chiron himself, which corresponds well to Orca's retrograde Chiron in the 6th house. The doctor later claimed that his experience with Orca contributed to his research; this touches on another Chiron theme: the benefits of suffering.
_____Chiron is associated with synchronicities, which Carl Jung called "acausal" but deeply meaningful associations of otherwise unrelated events (in religious terms, miracles). Each time I reflect on the fact that a ride to the doctor was waiting outside Orca's front door, I am amazed. I believe that synchronicity is a merging or meeting of two orders of reality: In a sense, it's the intersection of the spiritual world with the material world. Because Chiron is understood to represent the "bridge" between these two orders of reality, I observe that its prominence in a chart can and does often indicate precisely such a conscious intersection of realities. In my Chiron process work, I follow this hypothesis and specifically use Chiron's transits to natal chart elements to search out synchronicities that reveal important facts about the person's life and growth. I recall the case of a client who was drugged in a bar and raped twice in her life -- both times close to the Chiron squares to her natal Chiron position, separated by 20 years. (From this, we can see that Chiron transits can have very different manifestations.)
_____How this process works is another question. Here is my theory. In a time-based model, Saturn, "Kronos," is the structure of rational or chronological time; Chiron, or what you could call "chiros," is the gateway beyond rational time, or rational perception of time, into another sequence (sometimes called aboriginal dreamtime). Therefore, when there are synchronicities or anomalies in time, I propose that we look to Chiron first. 
_____The overarching theme of Chiron is the kind of event that appears at first to wound us but actually teaches us vital lessons and, in some important way, empowers us.
_____Orca explains: "A lot of those sorts of things happened to us when I was growing up because of the kind of lifestyle we led. We were often in a very precarious position. When you're in precarious situations a lot, you have plenty of opportunities for something miraculous to save you. When you take care of everything all the time, you don't have those same opportunities. Things were always happening to us where, at the last minute, something would show up."
Leaps of Faith
_____I asked Orca recently whether it was fair to say that the pivotal event that transpired when she was ten months old taught her faith. "I don't know," she replied. "The word 'faith' makes you think of mindless belief, which has been hard for me to identify with." But, she added, she's learned that, in life, "You just keep going forward even if things look really bad. And even when things look bad, you leave room to be surprised."
_____"Some would say that is the definition of faith," I replied.
_____"When I was doing paragliding, I was thinking a lot about this kind of thing," she responded. "Many people see paragliding as an exciting adventure sport. To me, it was like a philosophical or spiritual act. You can't do anything more dramatic than leaping off a cliff; you're taking your whole body, and you have to run with all your force off a hill, straight out into the void. You just have to run, because if you don't run with all your trust, it's not going to work. The wings are going to collapse, and you're going to fall down. If there is a cliff under you and you don't put all your energy and all your trust into the act of running, then you can easily hurt yourself. If you run with a pure heart, then you just run right off the edge of the cliff and fly."
_____Orca has both Uranus and Pluto in the 12th house: Jeffrey Wolf Green has aptly pointed out that either position denotes a relationship to the abyss. In Pluto: The Evolutionary Journey of the Soul, he suggests that these people are in one of three possible positions: They have either pulled way back from the edge or they have taken the leap. Or, they are standing there, deciding what to do,2 which is where I first found Orca in her career.
_____"We talk about things like leaping into the chasm or taking a leap of faith," she continued, "as if they are only metaphors, things you can't physically do with your body. It was very interesting to experience this with my whole body, not just something that was a metaphor. I am very afraid of heights. I can't stand on a chair to change a light bulb. I have to ask someone to do it, because I get dizzy with vertigo. So, it was not really easy for me to do paragliding, but I found it to be very powerful. This is more like the feeling that I had a lot when we were children, this feeling of just going into the void and not having any idea what would come out of it -- allowing for the possibility that you'll die and allowing for the possibility that something new will happen."
_____At the conclusion of our work, we had not resolved her career issue, but we had raised a lot of interesting questions.
_____When I talked to Orca a year later, she reminded me that, at the end of our last session, I had mentioned seeing the image of a synagogue in her chart.3 She explained that much had changed in her life. She had quit her job after deciding that the work she had done in her career did not really help people. She had met a man and, as part of that relationship, converted to Judaism, her father's religion; she and this man had gotten married. She did not have another job, but her life circumstances had allowed her to do a one-month, full-time art intensive and then pursue her interest in religion, which was cultivated in childhood; most of the family friends when she was a child had been Buddhists of various kinds. She is now studying Sanskrit.
_____Regarding observance of the Sabbath as a devout Jew, she said that it is interesting to see what happens when, one day a week, you "don't try to change the world."
_____I asked her whether she was thinking about becoming a rabbi. "That's what everyone asks me," she said. It was an obvious consideration. Knowing her story -- and her retrograde Chiron in Pisces in the 6th house -- I would say that she's already there.++
References and Notes
1. Chiron is the root of the words "chiropractic," which means adjusting the body with the hands; "chiromancy," which means reading the hands; and "chirurgerie," the French word for surgery. According to Swiss astrologer and ancient Greek scholar Dieter Koch, Chiron comes from one of the oldest roots in the Greek language. 
2. Jeffrey Wolf Green, Pluto: The Evolutionary Journey of the Soul, Vol. I, St. Paul, MN: Llewellyn Publications, 1985, pp. 215?216.
3. I did not remember saying this to her. I do remember noticing that Mars and Venus are placed in Sagittarius on either side of Orca's IC, and I recall (inwardly) associating this with Adrienne Rich's 1982 essay on women's Jewish identity, "Split at the Root" (republished in her book, Blood, Bread and Poetry); however, I did not mention this to Orca. Rich's essay explores the task of dealing with a multicultural reality in a cookie-cutter world, at a time when people cannot say definitively who or what they are. Rich tells the story of the search that led her to realize that she was a Jewish lesbian after being raised as a heterosexual Gentile. Orca's chart and her questing, original, intellectual spirit reminded me of Rich and that reference.

© 2001 Eric Francis ? all rights reserved

Eric is an astrologer, writer, and sex educator living in Seattle. His articles have appeared in Sierra, The Village Voice, Loving More, and on America Online. You can visit his Web pages at: or His e-mail address is; his office phone number is (845) 339-3339.

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