Beware the Wild Centaur

My days of late have been taken up with re-reading Robert Graves and a host of other commentaries and originals, such as Horace, Virgil, Herodotus, Hesiod and of course, Homer. I studied the classics at school and have continued to go back to those wonderful stories time and again over the years. Reading of the Fourth Labour of mighty Heracles of course reacquainted me with the salient facts of Chiron’s (or Cheiron’s) demise, the accidental wound to his knee – according to Graves, not his foot, suggesting a Capricornian connection, Graves suggests that it was Pholus who was wounded in the left foot – and his desire to be rid of the excruciating pain caused by it. His subsequent placement in the firmament as the noble Sagittarian archer finishes the tale neatly. Thus, the Chirotic wound is born and accepted into astrological lore. It is a fait accompli and I have written on the received wisdom many times.

But there are elements of the story of Cheiron which are not properly accounted for in the understanding we have gleaned from the original sources. Some accounts attest that Chiron was accidentally wounded (in the left foot) by a dropped arrow while he, Pholus and the young Achilles were entertaining Heracles on Mount Pelion. This was the location of Chiron’s cave where the wedding feast of Thetis and Peleus took place and where Eris, snubbed, cast the golden apple which prompted the war on Troy. According to this version of the myth, Pholus is the archer of the heavens and in others, it is Crotus an adopted brother of the three muses.

Thus, intriguingly, the three hosts at Pelion all died from an arrow wound to the left foot: Chiron, Pholus and Achilles.

Another little known fact maintains that Centaurs were not half-man, half-horse, but were actually half-goat! Another reference to Capricorn and Saturn. Quite beyond this there is so much more to the story of Chiron than his death and yet the astrology makes reference to this single mythical facet with utmost exclusivity.

What else do we know about the King of the Centaurs? Well, first of all, he was a king, and he was profoundly respected throughout the Hellenic world. The greatest heroes were sent to study under his tutelage where he taught them the arts of medicine (he was the first doctor), astrology (he was the first astrologer), and war (he was supreme in his knowledge of the martial arts too), not to mention riding, hunting, prophecy and pipe-playing. A strange combination perhaps, but here is somebody then who knew better than anyone how to wound and how to heal and yet his final wound was beyond his power to remedy. That is the key principle of Chiron, in at least one version of the myth. What this ultimately refers to is the dichotomy between the animal nature which ‘red in tooth and claw’ operates at the instinctive level and understands unconsciously that only the fittest will survive and the human nature, which understands consciously that another path is possible, the path of healing. Note that Chiron did not reject the ‘lower’ impetus, he disciplined it and used it to his (and his pupils’) advantage. He was supremely dignified and self-controlled.

So, what this suggests, however subtly, is that there is a possible reconciliation between the two natures through the medium of Chiron, but while we are ruled by our animal nature, we cannot find the power to heal. It really is that simple.

Derive insight from the knowledge that the race of Centaurs was for the most part an unruly bunch, driven wild by the smell of strong wine, they habitually abducted and raped attractive human womenfolk when under the influence and yet (and yet!) Pholus was given guardianship of the sacred Dionysian vineyards. Who better to guard the drink than one who has made the paradigm shift? The Centaur model teaches that in order to operate under the steady dictates of a noble human spirit, one must first recognise that there is a lower, compulsive nature; because indeed, the vast majority simply operate utterly blind to the understanding that such drives do not have to move us! The unevolved Centaur does not see the strings that make him into a puppet to his or her lusts and rages. Wild Centaurs mistake their compulsions and their passions for aspects of the divine and rationalise them into imperatives from God (or whatever originating spark from whence they hail) and thus wound themselves and others indiscriminately, justifying with sage aphorisms even as they lay about themselves with brutal intent. “It’s for your own good!”

Chiron of course could not have become so universally respected as an astrologer, healer and mentor if he had not first recognised his animal nature and then honoured and assimilated it consciously. If you understand that such a process is possible then you are on your way to a Chirotic shift in consciousness.

So where, understanding this, does Chiron lead? It leads to a subtle and suffering form of self-awareness. Once made, this quantum leap in understanding will leave you in a position of extreme vulnerability, and hence the eternity of suffering. That is the true wound of Chiron, or at least the post-transformative wound. The original wound, the one with which we are born is the animal wound, the point of pain that grates at our blind compulsions to better persuade us to take note of who we are and how we behave. Once we have woken up to ourselves we are given a new awareness – not all at once, but gradually widening; it is a slow awakening after all – and with this perspective we can see that we are surrounded by unruly Centaurs, driven wild by strong drink and their ever besieging lusts and passions. Can we condemn them even as they wound us and everyone they claim to love in the name of whatever hollow mask they choose to wear that day? Condemnation itself is the mark of the wild Centaur.

Thus the noble Centaur is doomed to suffer, for eternity. It is the suffering of being set apart, and there is no cure for it, only an acceptance of it. This last conclusion is made doubly poignant when considering the testimony of Apollodorus of Athens who claimed (as did Lucian in his Dialogues of the Dead) that Chiron simply grew weary of life.