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Sign of the Centaur
Sign of the Centaur

BACK when there was more active discussion about Chiron, one of the questions often debated was which sign it ruled. The two main factions favored Virgo rulership versus Sagittarius rulership. The Virgo camp reasoned that Chiron, a surgeon, healer and teacher, should be associated with the sign associated with these subjects. The foundation of the Sagittarius theory was that in some versions of Sagittarius, a Centaur is depicted as one of the main images, and Chiron often comes with that bold, pioneering feeling of adventure associated with Sagg.

Barbara Hand Clow, author of one of the most enduring books on Chiron, proposed that Virgo was associated with the healing function of Chiron, and Sagittarius with the questing function: both are frequently seen attributes of this planet. Other writers have tried to resolve the difference other ways, including the proposal that Chiron is associated with all four mutable signs (Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius and Pisces).

Making matters more interesting, Chiron was described early on as a planet associated with the Christ energy. If Virgo is the sign of the Blessed Mother, then we have a beautiful affinity here as well.

Yet on one level, the discussion of rulership per se is moot, because the ancient system of associations between planets and signs (part of a much larger system called the Doctrine of Signatures), was devised when Saturn was the farthest known planet. The system is orderly, and includes rulership not just of signs but also of triplicities (for example, an element, such as water, is ruled by Mars), as well as divisions of signs, called faces and terms. There is also a day/night function. For example, the Sun is the day ruler of the fire signs, while Jupiter is the night ruler. Traditional rulership also covers other astrological properties, such as fall and detriment.

The Doctrine of Signatures takes the idea of rulership beyond signs and planets, however, and includes flowers, herbs, trees, metals, humors (i.e., blood, mucous) and many other attributes of nature that to my knowledge astrologers have not attempted to apply to the modern planets. It would be an interesting exercise, and a difficult one. A lot of knowledge is required, and the world is more complicated than it was in the 1st century BCE. We would need the assistance of trained alchemists and extremely talented herbalists. If I were putting together a committee, I would want a homeopath or two on board as well, since their knowledge embraces plants, minerals and animals and a wide variety of energetic states.

Yet as science discovered Uranus (1781), Neptune (1846), and Pluto (1930), astrologers have tried to neatly associate them with signs, and it's now commonly accepted that these three planets 'rule' Aquarius, Pisces and Scorpio, respectively. These rulerships work pretty well; in other words, when you apply them, you tend to get workable results. Except that they fall outside the ancient cosmic design scheme, and are literally afterthoughts. We need to remember this when trying to apply the notion of rulership to any planet discovered by science.

Changing Times, Changing Minds

In many ways, astrology is still getting used to what it calls the 'modern planets' -- Uranus, Neptune and Pluto -- and some astrologers are learning the names and attributes of the basic asteroids (which started to come along in 1801). There is also a movement largely headed up by Martha Lang Wescott that has laid down a foundation for using a large number of asteroids in a clear way, and she has a solid base of devotees.

But in the 29 years since Chiron's discovery (the first Centaur is indeed having its Saturn return right now), the number of known bodies orbiting our Sun has shot up to nearly a quarter-million, which, given the current rate of discovery, is obviously a vast underestimate. It is little wonder that most astrologers tune out the whole process of discovery and delineation of new bodies, because it just seems like too much information. How could it all be useful, and how is it possible to keep up? How do you keep from being overwhelmed, and where do you begin?

I recently was on the phone with a major astrological software developer -- and they had heard of Eris (a planet now classified as a dwarf planet, along with Ceres and Pluto) but did not know the name.

And what do you say, when you have to begin every discussion with some version of the statement that you really don't know? (Case in point, this article begins by stating we don't really know what sign Chiron rules, or if it rules any sign at all.) The problem is compounded by the fact that there are very few books covering these subjects (about five in total), and they are expensive and hard to find. When you look on the Internet, you can find a lot of conflicting information and a good dose of doom and gloom that often serves to prejudice astrologers from the outset of their work.

When you try to fit a newly discovered planet into the template of a personality description you find on a Sun-sign horoscope page, you're going to get a severe distortion or misunderstanding at worst, and a half-truth at best. In my experience, it's more useful and more grounded to discern what growth process a planet represents, rather than stating definitively what it 'means'. To give an example, people are fond of saying that Chiron is 'the wounded healer'. I would say that in one respect, Chiron represents the process of 'healing through raising awareness'. Which is easier to comprehend, or put to good use?

Archetypes are complex, and they don't exist in a vacuum. They are alive, they change, we change as we relate to them, and relating to them leads us to access information from another level of reality.

Any time you encounter an archetype, you're going to find a number of facets, some of which may conflict or present opposing polarities. To relate to an archetype, one must be observant, and train the mind not to think conclusively. An open-ended quality is necessary, and this defies our usual intellectual patterns, particularly scientific ones. We are used to believing 'this means this, and that means that', but it doesn't often work so well with new planets, or for that matter, with astrology at all. There are 'aha' moments along the way, and they are fun -- yet these are not the endpoint; they are points of continuation, doors we go through to the next layer of understanding.

I suggest strongly that we take the whole discussion in context. If astrology represents some depiction or symbolic illustration of the mind, and some representation of how individual and cultural processes relate to one another, then one thing at least is clear: the whole business is changing very fast.

Let's try this working from the general to the specific. We have seen that it's possible to use new planets to access information and identify vital processes of growth, healing and living. Now we know there are a quarter million or so of these things, and gaining fast, and if we presume that they all represent some complex process of the psyche, that is a comment about us. There is a lot about ourselves that we do not know; we have a lot to discover. Life is a quest, and astrology is a tool we use as a part of that quest.

A Look at Sagittarius

Speaking of the quest, planets are not the only thing that is changing. We have better and better telescopes pointed into deep space, and one direction they are frequently looking is Sagittarius. That is, among other things, the direction of the Galactic Core, also called the Galctic Center. For a quick introduction, here is a snip of the Wikipedia entry:
Because of cool interstellar dust along the line of sight, the Galactic Center cannot be studied at visible, ultraviolet or soft X-ray wavelengths. The available information about the Galactic Center comes from observations at gamma ray, hard X-ray, infrared, sub-millimetre and radio wavelengths.

The complex radio source Sagittarius A appears to be located almost exactly at the Galactic Center, and contains an intense compact radio source, Sagittarius A*, which many astronomers believe may coincide with a supermassive black hole at the center of our Galaxy. Accretion of gas onto the black hole, probably involving a disk around it, would release energy to power the radio source, itself much larger than the black hole. The latter is too small to see with present instruments.
This is a recent discovery -- but it's little wonder that Sagittarius has always been associated with far-away people, places and things. In one respect, it's the direction of home.

Another point in Sagittarius, if you can call it a point, is called the Great Attractor. It has taken scientists some work to locate it in space, but when you crunch all the numbers, you find it's at about 14 degrees Sagittarius. The Great Attractor is the biggest thing known to science.

Like the Galactic Core, you cannot see it; it broadcasts on every frequency but visible. But it's so massive that it's drawing a million galaxies toward it (including our own) at the speed of 24 million miles a day. Note that this arrangement is situated in the heart of what is called the Hydra-Centaurus Supercluster -- a group of galaxies and galaxy clusters.

Is it any wonder Sagittarius is such a compelling energy?

These are the discovery images of Sedna. The photo links to a series of minor planet articles by Eric.
These are the discovery images of Sedna. The photo links to a series of minor planet articles by Eric.

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