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Posted Under Astrology

Dancing with the Shadow: Chiron's Role in Astrology

Astrological Symbols

Dubbed a minor planet, a Centaur, or a comet, Chiron is an often-misunderstood astronomical and astrological body. Commonly referred to as "the wounded healer" in astrology, Chiron is bantered about in a negative and limited way, implying that where Chiron lies in the natal chart is where we always try to heal others but never attend to ourselves.

Moving beyond simple stereotypes, let us look at the depth and breadth of Chiron's archetypal meaning. Informed by the story of Chiron's first sighting, the astrology of the moment of discovery, and the classical mythology and storytelling about Chiron, we can come to understand much more than the simple stereotype. By painting a brighter and more detailed picture of Chiron and the role this Centaur plays in astrology, we can understand how Chiron's archetypal meaning speaks to the psyche and the need to do our work of healing. When we embrace the wider and more meaningful context of the mysterious nature of Chiron, we can open up "what's in the darkness" and reveal it to light.

Add an understanding of "the shadow" (a concept from depth psychology), a variety of techniques to work with "shadow" material, and a look at what Chiron in each house portends, and you will have lots of information and understanding to take back to your own chart and the charts of friends, family, and clients. With one possible interpretation of what Chiron's placement, by house, in the natal chart could mean, we can better help ourselves and others understand where we "dance with our shadow" and where we need to focus our energy to facilitate deep healing.

Because astrology relies on the interpretation of archetypes—and there are many, many different ways any symbol can be interpreted—the following information is intended to inspire the reader to engage in the discussion and potentially deepen their understanding of Chiron beyond the simple stereotype. To further facilitate an in-depth knowledge, and the myriad interpretations, of Chiron as an archetype, a list of resources is included at the end of the article for a deeper dive into Chiron's meaning.

Classical Mythology
In classical mytholgy, Chiron's mother, Philyra, a sea nymph, was sweet, pure, and lovely. One day, gaining unwanted predatory attention from Kronos (also known as Saturn by the Romans), she was pursued and ran away. Kronos chased her. In an attempt to escape him, Philyra turned herself into a horse so she could run faster. To catch her, Kronos also turned himeslf into a horse, caught Philyra, and sexually assaulted her. Yikes.

Conceived as a result of the violence, Chiron was born half-man and half-horse. Shocked by his appearance and disgusted by the product of the attack, Philyra rejected Chiron and abandoned him at birth. Perhaps the sight of him reminded her of the violation.

Chiron was raised by Apollo and Artemis, from whom he learned many things—myriad ways to fight and many, many ways to heal. Widely educated, Chiron eventually became a healer, doctor, teacher, philosopher, and astrologer. He was known as a wise man despite his young age. As a result of the breadth of his knowledge, Chiron was consulted by demigods who sought his wisdom and teachings to aid them on their quests.

Because he was half-man and half-horse, Chiron commonly hung out with the Centaurs, other half-man, half-horse beings. But unlike the often-violent Centaurs, Chiron was known for his wisdom and healing abilities. He sought to help, not harm, others. And while he is considered a Centaur, Chiron's origins are different from the Centaurs who were born of the Centaur race.

Chiron was a combination of human and horse, a result of the magic and shape-shifting at play at the moment of his conception.

Mythically, Chiron was an immortal. But when he was wounded by a poison arrow while "horsing" around with the Centaurs, Chiron was unable to heal himself. He was a doctor yet could not heal himself. He was a teacher and was eventually wounded by his student Heracles.

The wound festered and oozed. Even though Chiron could counsel, guide, and help others on their quests, he couldn't solve the conundrum that he faced. These dynamics contribute to the stereotype of Chiron as "the wounded healer."

Because Chiron was in agony and was unable to heal himself, his suffering was ongoing. Exhausted, he begged Zeus for mortality, and it was eventually granted. Chiron became mortal and exchanged places with Prometheus. When Chiron eventually died, Zeus granted him a place of honor in the stars, in the constellation of Sagittarius. Much later, the minor planet discovered in the stars was dubbed Chiron.

The Astronomy and Astrology of Chiron's Discovery
Just beyond the asteroid belt are a number of items that are dubbed Centaurs. Discovered at 3 degrees 8 minutes Taurus on November 1, 1977, Chiron was originally called "Object Kowal," named after the astronomer Charles Kowal who found it. Later the name of this Centaur was changed to "2060 Chiron."

The astrological chart cast at the time of the discovery of Chiron is fascinating. It shows all of the planets sitting above the horizon line, corresponding to "daylight" placement, except Chiron, which was below the horizen line. Alone, in the dark, even Chiron's physical position at the time of discovery intimates the association with "shadow" material. Add the square Chiron makes with Mars in the discovery chart, and astrologers have come to describe a Chiron-Mars square as a "stuck position," or when "our drives and instinctual urges may have been deeply conditioned by our understanding of the wounding process involved in asserting ourselves" (Astro Healer). The placement and aspects in the discovery chart incite many astrologers to interpret Chiron as a planet that deals with "what lays below," the "difficult material," and "what we fight against making peace with" within ourselves.

Later, when we look at the specific placement of Chiron, by house, in a natal chart, we can theorize about the specific nature of "the shadow," or the wound that cannot be healed, for that chart.

Archetypes Associated with Chiron
There are many archetypes associated with Chiron, not just "the wounded healer." Upon discovery, Charles Kowal dubbed Chiron a "maverick" because of its unique orbit pattern (White, 2018). A maverick is someone or something that is independent-minded or unorthodox, one who can break free of the matrix, as Chiron does in its orbital pattern.

In space, Chiron sits between the inner and outer planets. Its orbit crosses that of Saturn and sits just inside Uranus's orbit. The unusual back and forth pattern and location between inner and outer planets bestows Chiron the archetype of being a messenger, a link, door, bridge, key, or passageway. Psychologically, the movement between inner and outer planets suggests the movement between conscious and unconscious psychology. Chiron's traditional association with holistic healing, teaching, guiding, and mentoring makes Chiron archetypally a guide to the deep inner work, the turning point, and the "hero’s journey."

And, because he was rejected and abandoned by his mother, Chiron has come to symbolize our inner attachment wounds, where we struggle to feel worthy, attached, loved, and a sense of belonging. So while the poisoned arrow wound became Chiron's downfall, it was the early rejection and abandonment by his mother that really formed his deepest, most painful wound.

Compounding these archetypes, Chiron has become symbolic of where in our lives we experience shame, fear, rejection, or abandonment and how our lack of recognition of those wounds allows relatively minor wounds (like the poisoned arrow) to fester and become toxic.

Consciously choosing Chiron as a guide, we can explore our inner terrain, undertake our own quest, become our own shaman or spirit guide, and engage the necessary inner awareness for healing and transformation. Ultimately, we can comprehend the wound that we are often unaware of and consciously engage these parts of ourself, bringing what is referred to in psychology as our "shadow" into the light.

What Is the Shadow?
Two early pioneers in psychiatry and psychology, Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung, used the term shadow to mean aspects of ourselves that lay hidden from our conscious mind. Whether it is the longterm effects of trauma or abuse, epigenetics passed down through our biological inheritance, the collective subconscious of the human race that is contained within each of us, cultural trauma (such as the societal experience of war), or the dark matter of our daily lives that gets pushed down, compartmentalized, and forgotten, our "shadow" is the part of the psyche that we can't consciously identify and don't understand. Yet we act it out.

Whether he was studying astrology, exploring archetypes, or practicing psychoanalysis, Carl Jung was fascinated by "the shadow." He wrote extensively about the shadow and introduced many techniques for exploring it. Jung referred to "the shadow self" and states "the shadow personifies everything that the subject refuses to acknowledge about himself and yet is always thrusting itself upon him directly or indirectly" (Jung, vol. 9, part 1, 1959, 284).

He also wrote that even though the shadow is the part of the self that is hidden and repressed, often due to guilt, its "ultimate ramifications reach back into the realm of our animal ancestors and so comprise the whole historical aspect of the unconscious" (Jung, vol. 9, part 2, 1959, 266).

In order to heal the unconscious patterns of projection, it makes sense to identify and then bring the shadow to light.

Illuminating the Shadow
Not to be undertaken lightly, early shadow work is something that is often best done with the help of a therapist, guide, or counselor because of the volatility of stored emotion that may arise and the need to work through it in a safe and healing manner. Thankfully, Jung reminds us that the shadow "does not consist only of morally reprehensible tendencies, but also displays a number of good qualities, such as normal instincts, appropriate reactions, realistic insights, creative impulses, etc." (Jung, vol. 9, part 2, 1959, 266). It is possible that in the process of illuminating the painful aspects of shadow, positive aspects of character may also be revealed. While uncovering anger, fear, and obsessions, we may also discover we possess strength, resilience, tenacity, and endurance.

Illuminating the shadow can uncover wounds from early childhood life, compounded family dynamics, overarching cultural traumas, and personal historical wounds. When choosing to undertake shadow work, we can be aided by a multitude of tools and helpers: self-help groups, individual counseling, group therapy, therapeutic written work, journaling, and meditation can help one come to know their shadow. Supports such as rehab programs, healing retreats, somatic therapy, release work, and building therapeutic relationships can also support us in processing these repressed wounds, as can daily practices such as the use of affirmations, gratitude lists, journaling, prayer, and meditation.

Not just psychological tools, the cognitive tools of studying archetypes, mythology, and astrology and engaging in psycho-education can help support the unearthing and healing of shadow material.

Astrology and the Shadow
The shadow can be approached through many facets of astrology. Evolutionary astrologers rely on understanding the karmic axis, Pluto and its polarity point, plus the meaning of the south and north Node placements to understand the shadow. There is widespread astrological reference to Uranus as the awakener and the pivotal role that Chiron plays in identifying our shadow material.

If you are inspired to use astrology to delve into the shadow to further heal and transform yourself, consider the role of Chiron through the houses as a place to start, and consult any one of the resources below to learn more about Chiron.

Chiron Through the Houses
We all fear rejection, and where Chiron sits in the chart can be seen as where we specifically fear rejection of or for something. The following quick and dirty overview is paraphrased from Tom Jacobs series of videos on Chiron through the houses and signs (Jacobs, "Chiron Overview by Tom Jacobs"). Be sure to check him out for specific information on your Chiron house and sign placements (Jacobs, "Natal Chiron in the 1st House"): With Chiron in the… We fear rejection of…

  • First house: My body, my personality, how I show up. I have a fear of existing.
  • Second house: My money or lack of money, my values, my resources, how I use time, how I live life on my own terms.
  • Third house: My communication, speaking, writing, learning, speaking up or out, and publishing.
  • Fourth house: My inner emotional foundation, how I deal with my emotions, my sense of belonging, my family.
  • Fifth house: My creativity, my personal expression, taking up space, individuality, my opinion.
  • Sixth house: My daily routine, how I get things done, power imbalance, hierarchy, being a team player, owning my vulnerability.
  • Seventh house: One-on-one relationships with the "other," feeling un/worthy in one-on-one relationships, including love and dating.
  • Eighth house: Vulnerability, the deepest psychological trust and mistrust.
  • Ninth house: My beliefs, religion, worldviews, expression, and how I "think big."
  • Tenth house: The world of work, ambition, being part of the world, accomplishments and acclamation, being seen.
  • Eleventh house: Groups, community, what kind of world you want to live in, the neighbourhood.
  • Twelfth house: The collective, humanity, the psyche, mysticism, and magic.

Into the Light
As with all healing, there is no quick fix for the shadow. The human psyche is vast and complex, and research reveals new understandings of the psyche daily. Understanding that we have a shadow, and becoming aware of how our shadow manifests, is great groundwork. Being curious about how you project your shadow is also revealing.

If you do shadow work, go gently. Know you are not alone. There are many resources and tools, both psychological and astrological, to help you to dance with your shadow and reveal it to light. Go slowly, steadily, and with great self-compassion, and enjoy the Chiron journey of shadow dancing.

Astrologers on Chiron
For different perspectives on Chiron, check out these books:

  • Chiron, 2012, and the Aquarian Age: The Key and How to Use It by Tom Jacobs
  • Chiron and the Healing Journey: An Astrological and Psychologiacl Perspective by Melanie Reinhart
  • Chiron: Healing Body & Soul by Martin Lass
  • Chiron: Rainbow Bridge Between the Inner and Outer Planets by Barbara Hand Clow
  • Chiron: The Wisdom of a Deeply Open Heart by Adam Gainsburg
  • Essence and Application: A View from Chiron by Zane Stein
  • The Chiron Effect: Healing Our Core Wounds through Astrology, Empathy, and Self-Forgiveness by Lisa Tahir

And online resources:

References

Article excerpted from Llewellyn's 2023 Moon Sign Book.

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