Dear Friend and Reader:
On April 20th Chiron enters Pisces for the first time since it left in 1969. In a recent edition of Planet Waves, I described our current era as the anti-Sixties, but Chiron in Pisces is very much a true-to-Sixties factor. Think of it as being a little like the Beatles. The Sixties were a tumultuous, often frightening time in history, featuring social upheaval, protests, lots of people taking weird drugs, assassinations of beloved leaders, nonstop war in Southeast Asia, and students at protests getting shot. But in the background, there were the Beatles, putting out a constant stream of peace and love. The Sixties would have sucked without the Beatles, and they would have sucked without Chiron in Pisces.
In case you’re not familiar with this odd little planet that goes round our Sun every 51 years, I will cover the basics in a moment — but first let’s review the basics of Sixties astrology.
What we usually think of the Sixties was the product of a conjunction: Uranus conjunct Pluto. This meeting of two ‘modern planets’ — planets discovered by science, rather than planets of antiquity — is a cycle of revolution and innovation.
Uranus bestows a surge forward. Pluto grants depth, intensity and soul. Put them together and you get an era like the one that brought the French Revolution. In the Sixties, Uranus and Pluto were conjunct in Virgo, with explosive results. Yes there were many positive developments, but always that constant sense of change and tension and the fear of where it was all going.
Across the sky in Pisces — unknown to astronomers or astrologers at the time — was a small planet called Chiron. Though it would not be discovered until 1977, planets are active long before we’re aware of them, and Chiron’s influence in this era was a protective spiritual backdrop that provided a kind of refuge, a source of inspiration and focal point within all the madness that could make a song like “All You Need is Love” meaningful. If you were born in the Sixties, Chiron in Pisces is likely to be a prominent factor in your astrology, and you’ve been working with it all your life.
Think of Chiron as a condensing device, gathering the viewpoint, imagery, sensations, feelings and the soulful quality of Pisces and concentrating these things into something tangible: call it a sense of contact with the world beyond this one, no matter how mad this world becomes.
In an earlier article on this subect, I write, “In Pisces, Chiron calls us toward the numinous, the mystical, the unknown. Barbara Hand Clow described it beautifully as a Siren’s voice calling from the ocean, beckoning us nearer to God or cosmic consciousness, but as a direct experience rather than as a theory. Chiron serves mainly to focus awareness, but it always does so through experience…The lessons of Chiron in Pisces, if we may call them that, are distinctly spiritual in nature, involving the life beyond the body, the vast mysteries and the surrender of concrete definitions.”
Let’s go over the very basics of Chiron, with which (thanks to Laurie Burnett) I’ve been working since my first days as an astrologer. Though Chiron was actually discovered in 1977, there are photographic plates on file going back to 1895 where Chiron can be seen. These are called pre-discovery photos, and the year 1895 is interesting because that’s when D.D. Palmer discovered or invented chiropractic — named for the centaur from Greek mythology. Chiron was a physician, surgeon and herbalist. The French word for surgery is still chirurgie, and the actual meaning of Chiron from old Greek seems to be “one who has hands.” However, by the time of the discovery in the late ’70s, the mythology of Chiron and the other centaurs was a meek footnote to classical literature.
Then came our awareness of [the minor planet] Chiron and, true to form, information started coming to the surface. Charles Kowal made his discovery the morning of Nov. 1, 1977 using what is called a blink microscope, a tool astronomers use to analyze photos of the sky for movement. The new body was the size of an asteroid, it had the orbit and composition of a comet, and it was described in a popular journalism article as a planet with an orbit between Saturn and Uranus. This made sure it got unusual attention. It was given minor planet catalog number 2,060 (in order of discovery) and, somewhat miraculously, astrology took notice.
Kowal — an astronomer, not an astrologer — gave Chiron its first keyword when he said, “This thing is a maverick.” Among other discoveries, Chiron stood out as highly unusual and as it works out, people with Chiron prominent in their charts also tend to stand out. They do things their own way. They thrive on being different.
He named it after a centaur presumably due to its hybrid nature; a centaur is a morph of a horse and a man. Naming it after the famous physician of Greek myth, the one who taught medicine to Asclepius, the god of medicine, brought in the dimension of healing. Chiron, an immortal, was injured in a battle, and this brought in the paradox of the wound or injury factor that is so often involved with Chiron, and so often misunderstood. On one level, we have an image of what we face as ‘spiritual beings’ inhabiting the mortal coil, rarely having that sense of being all the way here.
Remembering that mythology is based in symbolism, the ‘wound’ in most situations is the sense of imperfection and spiritual disconnection that we often drag around here on the physical plane. Where Chiron stands in our charts describes how and where this sense of imperfection might manifest, with lots of intensity, drama, effort and focus. Because Chiron is a centaur, we have an image of the paradox of whether a human is an animal or, you know, something else. Notably it was Chiron’s animal half that got hurt, suggesting that the injury we carry involves our deeper, older, primal and instinctual nature.
Yet this has another dimension. Under Chiron’s influence, often the things that seem to hurt us or challenge us make us not only strong, but also able to excel in some outstanding way. Chiron can represent the sense of debility, of not fitting in, or of constant struggle that brings out our greatest talents and develops our strongest character traits. In essence, Chiron is where we’re doing the most significant work on our human potential — or where we get hung up over and over again. Each time we have a Chiron event in our astrology is an opportunity to refocus the cycle.
In careful readings of Chiron in thousands of my clients’ charts, I’ve noticed a few other properties. One involves the holistic nature of Chiron; it wants us to take a whole system approach to any issue, such as our own lives. This also makes it an environmental harbinger: what we think of as ecology is about taking a holistic approach to life on our planet. Another is about raising awareness, which (not coincidentally) is often related to seeing the whole as opposed to a collection of parts. Chiron wants us to see the connections. Chiron transits are often described as ‘intense’ but that which is so intense is the attention factor. There is always a call to action, but it might take us quite a while to get there.
Where we have Chiron in our chart is a place where we tend to put enormous energy, often thinking we’re getting nowhere. Then we find out just how much progress we have made; how much we have learned, developed and given to the world.
A profoundly influential 20th century astrologer named Al Morrison noticed that often, significant benefit came from Chiron events, but that it often arrived with a challenge: so he called it the inconvenient benefic.
Chiron is an intense influence: it accelerates processes, it pushes us to be independent, to look at ourselves, and to deal with our growth. Chiron will try to get our attention gradually; if we ignore the messages, eventually we will experience a collapse of some kind. Then if an astrologer checks the chart he or she might blame Chiron. This is why it’s necessary to look at the whole Chiron cycle when working with this body, which will reveal a hidden pattern of experience and bring together events that we previously thought were unrelated. I cover this in an earlier article called, “When Astrology Listens.”
Chiron in Pisces: Focusing a Vision
Chiron has an egg-shaped orbit that lasts about 51 years. Because of how stretched out the ellipse is, when Chiron is close to the Sun it will cover a sign in about 18 months. When it’s far from the Sun, it will take between seven and nine years. Chiron was close to the Sun in the mid-1990s as it passed through Virgo and Libra, so we all had a rapid succession of Chiron transits then.
Now Chiron is approaching its most distant point to the Sun, so it will take about eight years for Chiron to cover Pisces. Chiron enters Pisces for a 90-day visit on April 20, retrogrades back into Aquarius on July 20, then returns to Pisces to stay on Feb. 8, 2011. So this spring and summer we get a 90-day introduction to what this energy feels like.
If you like synchronicity, here is something interesting. Through all of 2009 and part of 2010, Chiron was in a conjunction with both the ancient and modern rulers of Pisces — Jupiter and Neptune in late Aquarius. So Chiron enters Pisces all charged up on Pisces energy, and we have been getting wave pulses of this combination for many months. The combination of Chiron with any Pisces factor is focusing that which was previously invisible.
So what do we think of when we think of Pisces? What is our experience of this energy? It’s a fairly wide spectrum, ranging from the highest reaches of the imagination to our direct experience of God or soul to the most liberating and soulful erotic pleasure; to the depths of denial, deception, drink and drugs. (Neptune has a lot of keywords starting with the letter D.) In all, Chiron in Pisces is about helping us see what we have been missing or not paying attention to.
If we focus the strengths of Pisces, that would feel like clarifying our vision for our lives. Most of us have a really hard time with this; many people have no interest at all. Pisces is full of ideas, ideals, and the desire to transcend physicality. Which of these work and which do not? Chiron is calling for a sober assessment of these, to test for what are authentic values and which are things we see through our rosy, New Age glasses.
To put it bluntly, we might discover that we’re not as spiritual as we thought, in the sense that we need to apply our beliefs and ideals to the world in a real way. Chiron calls for a practical approach to whatever it touches. If you believe you’re spiritual, what is the working end of that equation? Where does that quality make contact with society — not just your altar or your yoga mat? You could look at Chiron in Pisces as the focusing of dharma: acting as if to hold the world together. Chiron takes us out of the theoretical realm and directly into what comes with evidence and documentation.
Many people find that the whole spiritual thing is really elusive. Chiron in Pisces draws this ‘elusive’ quality into focus. It’s about making conscious contact with the deepest level of who we are, be it soul, or our true creative impulse, our deepest emotions or our erotic core.
The Missing Piece
Does it ever seem like something is missing from the world? Does there seem to be a lack of compassion, or empathy, or contact with the deeper nature of existence? We see all kinds of evidence of this, in contradictions like: someone opposes abortion allegedly for spiritual reasons, then they support war and the death penalty. That ‘missing thing’ is often the ability to see the whole picture.
We live in an impressive — though certainly not unprecedented — time when many religions are bashing it out for political supremacy; waging war; are involved in child sex scandals; and spending as much time taking advantage of the poor as they are taking care of them. And five years of Chiron in Aquarius has certainly brought us deeper into the digital dimension.
You could say that the missing piece is the actual experience of God or the human spiritual attribute. Of course, mood-stabilizing drugs are being sold by the kiloton to mask over the spiritual or psychological progress that we need to make, which is an attribute of toxic Pisces.
So, too, is the raw, unabashed negativity we get on networks like Fox, to which tens of millions of people are addicted, watching for hours and hours a day, thinking they are being informed. (Toxic Chiron in Aquarius.) And in a time when we need to be working together and focusing on our common interests, our culture continues to push us toward false individuality and separatism every day. The more we indulge these things, the more we really can believe that we don’t have anything in common; that we gain no real benefit from cooperation.
Chiron in Pisces is here to open our hearts and our eyes to these factors and to provide options so that we can see we have a choice in the matter of how we perceive and live our lives on the planet together.
Characteristic of Chiron, as the denial becomes transparent, this may come with a crisis. The crisis seems like it will be about noticing what is missing — perhaps what has been missing for a long time, and then wanting to do something about it. But if we’re talking about spiritual, then it’s right within reach: compassion, cooperation, and helping out a little when you see something needs to be done. Love is always available. We have the option to dismiss the notion of ‘separate’ interests. We have the option to act on our creative ideas and desires and not just hang out thinking about doing so. And you who have done a thousand yoga classes, gone to retreats and intensives and trained in different healing modalities who isn’t quite doing anything with all those gifts: I’m here as Chiron’s personal spokesperson to let you know it’s time to get busy.
Yours and truly,