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Just weeks after its discovery by scientists in 1977, a new planet found its way into astrology. It was named Chiron, after the famous surgeon and healer of Greek mythology. Though the majority of astrologers don't use Chiron in their charts, its themes have had an undeniable effect on astrology, providing us with the most spiritually-oriented planetary influence since Neptune, and guiding astrology to the level of a holistic healing art.

But What Does It Mean?

At the time of Chiron's discovery, there were, of course, no books on its meaning. There were neither records from Arabic, Greek or Latin texts, nor instructions for how to deal with a "new planet"—a concept that was undreamed of until the discovery of Uranus in 1781.

Around the time of Chiron’s discovery, something else happened that provided first clues to the meaning of Chiron: the emergence of holistic consciousness in popular culture. We take for granted that you can stroll into a health food store and buy kava kava, ginseng or colloidal silver, or get some Reiki for your migraine. Back then, people were, after years of philosophical discussion of "holism" among intellects and occultists, beginning to dig deeper into the mind-body-spirit connection.

Chiron's translation from Greek is "one who has hands." Massage therapy, acupuncture and other hands-on arts began to surface around the time Chiron entered astrology. The chiropractic profession won a lengthy federal lawsuit against the medical establishment (Wilk vs. American Medical Association), granting chiropractors the right to exist in the medical field as primary caregivers, protected from the degrading comments of conventional M.D.s they had long endured.

A New Kind of Astrology

A new planet is an unknown, and it was the mystery of Chiron that provided much of its power. Around the quest to understand what this planet means, a new kind of astrology has grown up: one that asks questions, listens to clients, does research and looks outside the box of conventional teachings. Much early information came from astrologers such as Zane Stein, Richard Noelle, Al Morrison and Barbara Hand Clow casting Chiron into the charts of clients they knew, studying transits in comparison to life events and deducing its meaning. Teachers were learning from their students, and though these early writings have provided a base of information, they strongly encouraged new astrologers to keep asking questions.

The first clue to Chiron's theme actually came from an astronomer, Dr. Brian Marsden, who termed it a "maverick" because it did not fit any typical scientific definitions. Chiron was a hundred times too large to be a conventional comet, but not as big as Pluto, so it wasn't really a planet in the previous sense. An asteroid-sized object located far outside of the asteroid belt, its elongated 51-year path (far longer than most asteroids, which orbit in about four years) crossed inside Saturn's orbit, and extended out to Uranus (a considerable variation). It broke all the rules.

People with a strong Chiron placement (angular or aspecting many planets) are almost always mavericks, too. Chester Wilk, the gutsy and persistent chiropractor who sued the all-powerful medical establishment, is a great example, with Chiron on his Midheaven, the Tenth House cusp. Strong Chiron-types must be different as a matter of survival. Yet often, their greatest contributions come as a result of a long personal struggle. Wilk's lawsuit, for example, lasted more than ten years.

The second keyword was "bridge." Chiron serves as a connecting point between different worlds. A direct link between the eccentric, unpredictable, futuristic and inventive world of Uranus (pure energy), and the traditional, structured, predictable and past-oriented world of Saturn (pure form), Chironic people often strive to ground new ideas into existing forms, and bring structure to innovative ideas.

Astrologers also turned to mythology, where Chiron was a great healer and teacher. The French word "chirurgerie" means surgery, and Chiron was the teacher of Aesclepius, the Greek god of medicine (incidentally, early forms of chiropractic were called "Aesclepian manipulation"). Chiron taught ethics, music, combat arts, battlefield medicine and healing arts to a generation of Greek heroes, including Jason and Heracles. "Mentor" and "multitalented" joined the list of Chiron-associated words. Look at the charts of healers and mentors, and you’ll surely find something interesting going on with Chiron.

Chiron and Pluto

To understand Chiron, it helps to understand something about Pluto, which represents the growth we experience by enduring the most necessary and at times painful life lessons, and integrating what we now call "shadow stuff."

Consider that at the time of Chiron's discovery in 1977, just one obscure book had been written about Pluto, which was discovered 47 years earlier (Fritz Brunhubner's book on Pluto was written in 1934, but went unpublished in English for 32 years). As late as the early '70s, the longitude of Pluto was not even listed in Raphael's Ephemeris. The first widely-read statement of Pluto's meaning was published in a 1973 pamphlet by Isabel Hickey. Finally, in 1985—55 years after its discovery—the first popular book on Pluto appeared, written by Jeff Green, the same year that Zane Stein came out with Essence and Application: A View from Chiron, the first book about Chiron in English.

This is an interesting cultural metaphor about how these planets work, and work together. You could say that Pluto, after its discovery, went largely ignored or denied, both by astrologers, and by the world. Jeff Green describes it as an "unconscious process." Indeed, less than three years after the discovery of Pluto, Hitler came to power, and began the Holocaust eight days later, but America did not get involved in the war against him until 1941.

Chiron takes these same lessons with full awareness and a sense of immediacy, serving as the conscious side of the evolutionary process. The easiest way to use Chiron is by viewing it as part of a system with Pluto. Pluto provides the deepest inner movements that bring the strongest lessons. Chiron offers the awareness that those lessons are necessary, meaningful and worthwhile—what you could truly call "spiritual awareness." Consider that before Chiron, there was no planetary energy that specifically represented healing. Isn't that strange? But now we have Chiron, and by using its natal placement and transits, we work on a level where astrology is raised to the level of a holistic art and a spiritual science.

For more information on Chiron click here.



Eric Francis, the Seattle-based astrologer and essayist, writes Planet Waves. His twice-weekly horoscope and news service covers astrology, personal growth, environmental issues and political affairs. Eric blends astrology with investigative journalism and personal narrative to create a humorous, alive, and even responsible news source unique in the world.

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For more information about Eric Francis, click here.

Other StarIQ articles by Eric Francis:

  • Venus and Mars Retrograde: Looking Back, Looking Within   1/25/2014
  • Beyond Death and Dowry: A New Sexuality   8/11/2012
  • Beyond Death and Dowry: A New Sexuality   9/3/2004
  • When Lovers Become Parents and What to do About It   2/12/2001
  • Imbolc: In the Belly of the Stars   2/1/2001
  • Unbroken Chain: Samhain, Halloween and Scorpio   10/31/2000
  • The Kursk: Things Fall Apart   9/20/2000
  • Getting It Right: What to Do When Astrology Goes Wrong   7/30/2000
  • Go Figure! Newspaper Astrologers: How Do They Do It?   7/12/2000
  • Spicing Up Mercury Retrograde   7/6/2000
  • The Nuclear Axis   6/30/2000

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