Mythology of Chiron
A major theme which serves as a prototype for the many pairs which dwell in our psyche is Chiron the Centaur. He has a horses body and legs and a human torso and arms. A symbol of the split between the spiritual and the instinctual in ourselves. The rich, raw vitality of horses are symbolized instinctual energy, their libido. Horses are wild, but potentially can be tamed. They symbolize power channeled by discipline and consciousness, harmony between man and his animal self
In Greek mythology Chiron’s relationship with the Centaurs, the mystical beasts who were half human and half horse, is described in a variety of ways by different sources. Two common accounts are as follows:
In the prime universal version, Chiron is the son of Chronus (Saturn) and the nymph Philyra, daughter of Oceanus and Tethys. While Chronus was in Thessaly searching for his son Zeus, whom his wife Rhea had hidden from him (knowing of his repeated devouring of their offspring), he first encountered Philyra.
Much to Philyra’s regret Chronus began to ardently pursue her. In order to try and escape him Philyra had changed herself into a mare. Much to her dismay, it was to no success! Chronus deceived her by turning himself into a horse and thus reached his goal in mating with her. The result, Chiron the Centaur, a child of an instinctual union was born.
Philyra. could not rid herself of the repugnance she felt. She pleaded, probably prayed with a deep inner blaze of desire, to be anything then what she was. The gods obliged by changing her into a Linden tree.
Philyra rejected the product and expression of her own instinctual side to the point of preferring to be eternally in bondage, imprisoned in a tree. The wound of rejected instincts is shared by countless people in our society!
Chiron was alone, the rejecting mother and the weak and absent father are fine ingredients to the physically abandon and emotionally neglected child.
As a result, an early sense of the urging to develop one’s own individuality may emerge. The other side perhaps may be a drive in us to flee from the unusual and the one-sided way. The instincts may be repressed in order to maintain a sense of elevated consciousness, but instincts do fight back!
Apollo, the sun-god was Chiron’s foster father and teacher. He is significant in the primary masculine figure in Chiron’s development. Apollo was a god of music, prophecy, poetry and healing, a noble paragon of youth, beauty wisdom, and justice. He was never vengeful, but purified men of their guilt and transgressions. The reason and order (the LOGOS) was much more developed than his ability to relate (EROS). Apollo’s archetypal energy is the opposite of the instinctual union of which Chiron was the result. Again, it depicts the juxtaposition of unbridle instinctuality, with the controlling factors of reason and education.
Another version is that the Centaurs were descended from Centaurus, son of Apollo and Stilbe or from Ixion and Nephele (a cloud made to represent Hera). Mount Pelion in Thessaly was their home. Traditionally, part of their teachings came from Dionysus (God of Wine). Their neighbors the Lapiths were not happy with the unruly and even lecherous Centaurs. The Lapiths, disciplined in nature, were said to be quite the opposite in temperament and were even credited to have invented the building of houses. They represent the clash between the civilized and the uncivilized.
From various pre- hellenic sources Chiron becomes a wise man, prophet, physician, teacher and musician. He was the mentor of many great hero’s. Achilles, Hercules, and Aclepius who was eventually immortalized because of his own great healing powers. Chiron taught them riding, archery, hunting, the arts of war, and medicine (survival skills), ethics, music, religious rites, and the beginnings of natural science. Numerous accounts of healings and divinations performed by Chiron are available. Perhaps, the most relevant for our purposes is the healing of Telephus.
Telephus was wounded by a spear which Chiron had given to Peleus. Telephus consulted the oracle of Apollo after his wound would not heal. He was told, “the wound could only be healed by the wounder”. Chiron is associated with homeopathic healing where, “like cures like”. We can observe these principals at work in astrology where important transits of Chiron occur and in relationship to significant aspects between Chiron and other planets.
When a wound is still seeking healing a cycle of repetition will occur. The memory of a painful feeling that has been stored in the subconscious Will reactivate itself. It will create a situation in the present with just the right ingredient for revival. A change of attitude or expansion of consciousness is trying to manifest. At this time a healing is possible, however if the dose of repetition becomes too much, the person may be overwhelmed and the wound may deepen or turn into a chronic or fatal illness.
The widely known version where Chiron earns the title wounded healer takes place at a dinner party given by the Centaurs. A row erupted and Hercules began fighting with the Centaurs. An arrow of Hercules struck Chiron in the leg. It caused a wound that was unbeatable and caused him to suffer for the rest of his life. Another variation describes a Centaur who crawls into Chiron’s cave for refuge. White Chiron tried to help him the poison arrow cut him causing unceasing pain and agony. In yet another version Chiron was wounded when a battle broke out between the Lapiths and the Centaurs. A Centaur became drunk and tried to rape a Lapith bride.
The battle in which Chiron is wounded involves either Hercules or the Lapiths. This is a representation of the conflict embodied in Chiron’s form. The Centaurs are Chiron’s lower half or animal part of him, while the Lapiths and Hercules represent his upper half or human side.
The wound is the heritage of centuries of repressing and persecuting our instinctual selves. It is the condition which much of our so-called civilized world finds itself today.
The potential reconciliation of the two-halves proclaims his unique destiny. Chiron suffered immensely from his wound and could not die since he was immortal. Eventually Chiron was healed through a swap with Prometheus. Prometheus was bound by a rock as punishment from Zeus for mocking him. Every day a huge bird known as a griffin would peck at his liver ruled by Jupiter) which would grow back every night causing him continual torture. Zeus decreed that Prometheus could be released if an immortal agreed to take his place thus, releasing his immortality. Hercules pleaded Chiron’s case and Zeus eventually agreed to the exchange. Prometheus was freed. Chiron took his place and died after 9 days. Zeus immortalized him as the constellation Centaurus.
Hercules, invoking Apollo, shot the griffin through the heart. Rapacious monster-birds are often associated with the destructive side of the masculine spirit. Our negative thoughts which eat and prey on our creative self and sense of meaning. It turns us against the life of the body. These monsters can be stilled through the opening of the heart, by the acceptance and compassion for ourselves and others.
Take a look at Chiron’s position between Saturn and Uranus. Saturn represents form and tradition, the structure of society, and the urge to conserve and maintain. Uranus represents the desire to destroy or rebel against structure and the status quo in the name of freedom, individuality and progress. Chiron represents internalized authority that is socially responsible, aware of the limits of human mortality, yet committed to human growth.