Chiron-Neptune: The Shaman & the Mystic

Posted by on Nov 24, 2010 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Chiron: The Wounded Healer

Chiron: The Wounded Healer

Neptune-Chiron Workshop in Bath: Sat 27th November

Neptune and Chiron are currently conjunct in the heavens in the sign of Aquarius, and have been, on and off, for much of this year. It is the first time they have been conjunct since 1945, and the first time since Chiron’s discovery in 1977. I’ve been exploring this conjunction in some depth over recent weeks, and ran a workshop in Sunday in Worcestershire. And have another this Saturday, 27th November, in Bath. Here are some of my thoughts and reflections.

Superficially, Chiron and Neptune seem to share some similar attributes. They both suggest a longing and an otherworldly quality that seems to distance both of them from the material, tangible experience of everyday reality. But really that is where their similarity ends. For Neptune, the transcendental aspiration is absolute and all-encompassing. Chiron, on the other hand, is driven by his longing to be free of the pain of incarnation – his sacred wound – and remains thoroughly connected to the earth, even as he journeys beyond its normal limits. This key distinction gives us a clue, and as we penetrate deeper into the respective natures of these two divine characters, we find that their motivations are intensely opposed.

Neptune represents a longing for redemption, (as Liz Greene has so eloquently expressed it in her book), a longing to transcend material boundaries and to unite with a greater power that can dissolve individual distinctions and personal, egoic ambitions. Neptune is the Greco-Roman God of the oceans, the watery depths. We find his expression in the more sensitive and sublime characters of myth such as Orpheus (the God of Music) and Dionysus (God of Wine), and his heroic aspect is manifested in Odysseus, whose epic journey home required him to surrender an aspect of his will to Neptune, his ever-present Nemesis.

In astrology, Neptune’s role is to loosen the ties that bind, to unweave the tight stitchings of time and concrete perception. When Neptune comes through too strongly in a person’s horoscope, that person may be highly imaginative, artistic and compassionate, yet can appear very ethereal, gullible, naive in the ways of the world, rather undifferentiated in their judgments and with a tentative grip on everyday reality. We all bring through the Neptune archetype to a greater or lesser extent – it is that part of us that believes in the possibility of salvation, the healing of all wounds, and the sublime return to the great cosmic mother of all creation. It is Neptune that inspires our faith, our poetry, our capacity to forgive, our ability to let go and surrender our own egoic will. Neptune enables us to unite our consciousness with something beyond ourselves, to melt in another’s arms, experience bliss, divine beauty, epiphany, oneness. It may also drive us to alcohol or anaesthetising drugs that allow us to temporarily escape the limitations of our embodied condition.

Chiron’s story is very different. It is represented astronomically as a (recently discovered) small planetoid with a highly irregular orbit which at different times in its cycle sees Chiron move in closer to the earth than Saturn and further away than Uranus, prompting Barbara Hand Clow to dub Chiron as the rainbow bridge between the personal and the transpersonal. The clue to Chiron’s astrological meaning is contained within his story. Born as a centaur, and a son of Kronos, he is rejected by both his father and his mother, Philyra. He experiences himself as an outcast from society, but in his solitude he becomes wise and finds his vocation as a mentor to great heroes like Hercules, Achilles and Jason. Then during a scene of drunken “horseplay” between Hercules and the other centaurs, the on-looking Chiron is chronically wounded in the thigh by one of Hercules’s poisoned arrows. So Chiron receives a wound that would have been fatal to a mortal, but as a divine being, he cannot diefrom the wound, only suffer its agonies. Through understanding his own wound, he becomes a great healer, the fabled wounded healer of myth. Chiron’s story carries the hallmark of the shaman in traditional societies. Through his isolation from society, his “living on the edge”, he finds his place on the boundaries between the worlds, where he can neither fully die, nor fully live as others do. His privilege is to know both those worlds and to be able to journey between them.

Chiron’s eventual release from suffering comes through one of the great altruistic acts of Greek mythology, when he offers to exchange his destiny with that of Prometheus, progenitor of humanity and punished by Zeus for stealing fire and give it to humans. Prometheus is tied to a rock in the Underworld, where vultures daily peck out his liver, which then grows back each day. Chiron exchanges places with Prometheus who is thus freed from his own suffering and Chiron is allowed to die. And for this act he is elevated to the heavens by Zeus, honoured in the sky forever as the constellation of Sagittarius.

The Chironic wound is a wound that will not heal, yet through it the journey of the healer is initiated.  That is what Chiron represents in our birth charts, and it is an idea that may be unpalatable to us. It certainly contrasts with our Neptunian faith that human suffering can be mystically transcended. In both Neptune’s longing to be free of the body, and Chiron’s shamanic wound we find an ancient echo, harking back to the original separation of spirit from matter, the founding duality upon which other dualities are built, each one dividing us further. Yet while through Neptune’s dreaming we may imagine ourselves able to merge the worlds, dissolve the boundary and transcend the division, Chiron lives on the boundary, knows the boundary, and is at pains to preserve the distinction between the worlds… Chiron reminds us of the suffering that we all experience, brings it into sharp focus and we suffer with him, never letting us forget our earthbound nature, and our need to attend to that ancient wound that cuts so deeply into our collective experience.

Neptune leads us to substances that inebriate us, and allow us to escape our bondage, or responsibility to the earth and our fellow beings. With Neptune we might feel invincible, and imagine ourselves as a great hero, semi-divine, merged with God, seeking ascension, going to heaven and into the arms of an all-loving God, leaving the earth behind.  Chiron, by contrast, leads us to medicines that connect us to our shame, our vulnerability, our connectedness to (though not merger with) all living beings.  Chiron leads us to the medicines of plant teachers who show us that our souls are inextricably bound up with the vegetable and animal kingdoms.  Chiron shocks us into the remembrance that the human being does not exist in isolation from the earth which feeds and grows it. Where Neptune promises transdendence, and the possibility of divine oneness, Chiron reminds us of the chthonic, polytheistic immanence of the divine.

So the conjunction of these two now in the sign of Aquarius draws us into an uncomfortable union of the Neptunian longing and Chironic wound. Neptune compels us to transcend and merge our consciousness for the sake of humanity, but Chiron will not let us forget the source of the suffering that each one us carries, and that is rooted in our collective, embodied experience.

Neptune has been in Aquarius now for a generation-spanning twelve years and will remain there until 2012, and I suggest that this is the generation that imagines itself doing away with individual differences, and becoming an interconnected community. It is a generation that seeks redemption through transcending traditional boundaries of community and friendship, dissolving the distinctions of class, gender, race and sexual orientation, and moving to a more sublime and inclusive version of friendship. Many of the innovative and progressive community programmes carry this hallmark and offer us much needed hope for the future. In a different way, this has also been evident in the way the internet has apparently levelled the playing field and made it possible for anyone with access to a computer to get their message across to the world.  Youtube is an extraordinary example of this and carries all sorts of Neptunian possibilities for communities coming together through an imaginative initiative, and well as it being a platform for exposing the Chironic wounds of shame and vulnerability. This trend has been evident particularly in the past five years since Chiron has also been in Aquarius, during which we have seen the meteroric rise of social networking, dominated by Facebook, which is redefining the notion of friendship. And this development carries a significant collective wound, as we spend increasing amounts of time in front of the computer, communicating virtually with our “friends” (how Aquarian) and becoming distanced further and further from nature, the earth, our bodies and our core wounds of separation, as we imagine ourselves (Neptune) being all one big network.

In Aquarius, Chiron manifests the wound through our vision of the future and our relationship to humanity as a whole. How easy it is to become consumed by our virtual communities, losing ourselves in the Aquarian abstractions of languages and technologies not obviously borne of the organic soil that feeds and nourishes us. Chiron offers us a healing journey in this sign and it may begin when we “circle up” with our peers and contemporaries in an open-hearted and inclusive way. Maybe this can happen online, but if it ignores or obscures or attempts to transcend Chiron’s sacred wound then it will be all the harder to restore balance between the worlds, which is the shaman’s foremost duty.

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