Chiron and Shamanism

The Shaman archetype is a familiar character from the adventures of Carlos Castenada, who studied sorcery under the elusive, enigmatic don Juan Matus. In recent years, no doubt partly inspired by the bestselling don Juan series, Shamanism has taken root in the spiritually-conscious community as an important mode of healing and being. By Shamanism, I'm not speaking about the formal religious practice of the North American Indians, but rather the cross-cultural archetype which shows up as the medicine man, seer, holistic healer, sacred teacher and spiritual guide.

In 1977, the Shaman arrived on the astrological scene. What astronomers thought was a planet was sighted and named Chiron by its discoverer, Charles Kowal. (Later it turned out to be a huge comet orbiting the Sun between Saturn and Uranus, but according to Chiron researcher Barbara Hand Clow, the original announcement that it was a planet spurred rapid response from the astrological community.)

Chiron is best known as the famed physician of Greek mythology. But as the first Centaur, or half-man, half-horse, he was no ordinary being and no ordinary doctor. Chiron was also the astrologer and teacher of metaphysics to the Greek gods, as well as a skilled practitioner of a variety of holistic and hands-on healing arts, and a sacred warrior, and a musician.

His students included Achilles, Jason and even Aesculapius, the god of healing and medicine.

Later in his life, Chiron sustained a wound that baffled all his expertise and skill as a healer, in which his hoof was accidentally cut by a spear poisoned with the blood of the Hydra, the many-headed woman. Accounts of the incident differ, but according to all versions, he suffered for many years while working unsuccessfully to heal the injury, though because he was immortal his wound could not kill him.

He eventually surrendered his immortality in an arrangement made with the gods, in which he was released from his eternal suffering, and ascended into the constellation Sagittarius. In exchange, Prometheus was released from his eternal suffering chained to the rock on Mount Caucasus, where a vulture ate his self-renewing liver every day as punishment for bringing the fire-light of spirit to humans.

Two of the most important marks of the Shaman are shared by Chiron: that he or she is in some way radically different than everyone else (Chiron was the first of all Centaurs), and having sustained a wound which she or he had to heal and overcome in order to attain true power. Often it is an early wound that sets a person on a Shamanic path; Chironıs involved total rejection by his mother, who was so disgusted by the horse-child she had just birthed that she asked to be turned into a tree.

In the case of don Juan, his early wounding involved the brutality and racism he witnessed in the white man's treatment of the Yaqui Indians.

My favorite example of a Chirotic wound is from the life of the late Jerry Garcia, the chiming, ringing guitarist of the Grateful Dead, whose right middle finger was accidentally amputated by his brother in a wood-cutting accident when he was a child. Garcia has commented that it was this wound that prompted him to take up the banjo, which led to his playing guitar and then ultimately becoming a profound influence, with help from the mythical, alchemical lyrics of Robert Hunter, in the lives of millions of people worldwide.

So itıs no big surprise that in addition to representing the specific healing powers of the native, Chiron represents the wounding we sustain in life that teaches us how to be powerful, and those crises in life which teach us the most about the reality of spirit and the power of faith. And this is the essential path of the Shaman, who always goes through some extremely traumatic crisis or near-death experience which sets him or her on their unique path toward self-mastery.


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Chiron and Holistic Consciousness

Chiron's influence has been so great that modern language is replete with references to his name in the context of healing and psychic arts. Barbara Hand Clow writes in her book Chiron: Rainbow Bridge Between the Inner and Outer Planets:

Chiral means the polarization of light from one hand to the other; chiromancy is reading of the hand or palmistry; chiropractic is healing of the joints and bones by means of manipulation; chirothesia is energy in the hands during sacred rites; a blessing with the hands is chirotony; and chiurgery is an ancient usage which became surgery.

The theme of hands-on healing is crucial to Chironıs manifestations in the world, and any healing art which uses direct contact between the patient and healer would come under his astrological influence or rulership.

The sighting and naming of planets runs parallel to emerging movements in the culture, as if the planet somehow appears in material form, is named (by an astronomer or someone else who has no connection to astrology) at the same time a body of knowledge, awareness, major discovery or other advancement following the themes of the planetary archetype is emerging within the collective consciousness.

In Chiron's case, around 1977, the holistic arts were beginning to get serious attention and holistic consciousness was taking root in American culture. Many spiritual communities and centers were created. The concept of bodymind began to be understood on a more mainstream level, and practices like acupuncture, massage therapy, chiropractic, homeopathy and a variety of others were moving from fringe and folk-art status toward mainstream acceptance by society.

Itıs not that these are new technologies, but that their current proliferation represents a special phenomenon of our times.

Today, with HMOs providing acupuncturists, medical doctors prescribing chiropractic and massage therapy and MDs doubling as homeopaths, we can see how far we've come since the days when the American Medical Association had to be sued for under antitrust laws for a proven conspiracy to discredit chiropractors -- a lawsuit that was finally settled in the early 90s when the AMA, which lost, finally exhausted all its appeals.

We have a long way to go, of course, because holistic medicine is not readily available to most of the society and there's not much accurate information about it available to the general population, but something has clearly taken root. For example, recent surveys published by the media indicate that the majority of Americans would consider alternative medicine in addition to or instead of allopathic medicine.

The holistic healer fits the Shaman archetype because he or she is able to use more Earth-grounded methods, such as herbs, crystals or in particular their hands, for healing the individual. He or she is working in several different dimensions, such as the meeting place between mind and body in the case of a massage therapist, invisible, subtle energy meridians in the case of an acupuncturist, or vibrational medicine in the case of a homeopath.

In my experience, most holistic practitioners are also generally much more spiritually conscious than doctors and provide spiritual information as well as medical information to their clients.

And, like Shamanism, most holistic methods of healing transcend strict rationality. A massage therapist will work with the concept that a client's early sexual trauma might be stored in the thigh, and a homeopath prescribes a quantity of a drug so small that modern science would say it is not there. But at the same time, the Shaman is able proceed with his or her work despite being different, cross between the dimensions, call in spiritual assistance, and help the client effect changes that most scientists and medical professionals would likely think were impossible.


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The Astrologer-Shaman

It's remarkable to me that before Chiron, there were no astrologers represented in the astrological chart. So with the addition of Chiron, we can take astrology to new levels of practice, power and self-awareness. And we have a role model for an astrologer whose practice is grounded in a variety of healing arts.

Chiron practiced astrology but also taught it to his students, accentuating the role of astrologer as teacher.

Astrology is a system for integrating all the seemingly separate levels of reality: mundane, spiritual, energetic, physical, archetypal and others. Like Shamanism, it crosses between the dimensions and levels of reality, in considering, for example, how the placement of the Moon, which is theoretically a big rock, influences emotional the life of a human being. So for the astrologer using Chiron or working (knowingly or not) under his influence, astrology is about effecting conscious dimensional shifts with the client; bringing the hidden to light, where it can be resolved, explored or used.

And reading Chiron's placement in the chart means using the client's early wounding as the most accessible tool for their healing. Chiron in the first house can, for example, signify a severely damaged sense of self and a crisis over whether a person has a right to exist. Yet if this crisis is addressed, and it is likely to be at some level, then the person develops a dynamic, charismatic personality and a strong sense of their own presence in the world.

Chiron is associated with synchronicities and here-now consciousness, both of which are extraordinarily important in astrology -- particularly horary astrology, in which the astrologer divines off of the moment in time when a question is asked.

By grounding in the here/now, the astrologer is also able to move through time, reach into the past or the future, and look at the energetic influences found there. Like the Shaman, he or she might be practicing some form of soul retrieval, moving with the client, through the present, into the distant past to find the person's essential self that was damaged by a trauma, take hold of its essence and bring it back into present consciousness.

Chiron is also very prominent in many death and near-death charts, indicating his natural tendency to move between the worlds, offer protection, and at times deliverance in the form of death as the final healing from unbearable pain.

One of my clients, who had no knowledge of astrology or of Chiron, recently related a story to me in which she was caring for a dying friend in Manhattan. She heard a galloping horse one night, which seemed strange in the crowded city. The second night the horse was trotting, and the third, when her friend died, the horse was walking slowly. She walked toward the room where she heard the sound and had a third-eye vision of a bald centaur, identical to the one depicted on the cover of Chiron and the Healing Journey by Melanie Reinhart -- though years before the book was published. She described this being as exuding such power, she could barely look straight at him.

All such "paranormal" phenomena, multidimensional experiences and reports of non-medical healing come together with holographic theory, which is being explored by doctors, physicists and metaphysicians as a means of explaining how the brain works, how the universe is constructed and how psychic phenomena happen.

Perhaps the Shaman, the homeopath, the massage therapist, the astrologer, the psychic healer or the acupuncturist, are able to help heal the sick, retrieve the soul, or free a person from the grip of evil spirits because they understand that reality is a hologram, a kind of elaborate energetic illusion subject to very subtle forms of energy -- a fact Chiron seems to have no problem with at all.


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Welcome to the Youniverse

Several days ago, I ran across an article in the New York Times that was so incredible I just had to tell you about it.

It seems some scientists in Hawaii got jobs looking out to the edge of the universe with a big telescope, which is a great gig if I ever heard of one. Since it takes a long time for light to get to Hawaii from the brink of reality, all you can really see through the telescope are things that happened a long time ago. Like, billions of years ago. Pretty cool, right? We can look out across space and see backwards in time.

Sort of like looking at Bill Clinton with binoculars and seeing Cleopatra.

Hereıs the strange part: the scientists found a galaxy at the edge of time thatıs older than they were sure the universe itself is, an old galaxy in a young part of space. This has caused great confusion in their midsts, to say the least. They had all these neat theories about how things work, the way the universe is constructed, how it started, and how it will end, and now all of a sudden they discover a massive astro-archeological artifact in space and have an equally huge contradiction on their hands -- one that's causing them to completely rethink everything they thought they knew.

The discovery has "profound implications concerning the fate of the universe," the Times reported nonchalantly.

More amazing still is the fact that I found this item about the fate of the universe buried on page B-12 on a Thursday, stuck in the back of the Metro News section, as if people in Manhattan are the only ones who care about this kind of thing, or as though itıs just too trippy for page one.

In other news: Scientists peeking through the Hubble Space Telescope say they are now aware of an additional 40 billion galaxies in the universe.

And in local news, astronomers have discovered that there are thousands or millions of little planets buzzing around outside Pluto's orbit. Dubbed the "Kuiper Belt," it's causing astronomers to go over a lot of their assumptions about our little Solar System.

If you're wondering what this has to do with you, I would propose that it's only because the word "universe" is actually misspelled. It should be "Youniverse," because the "universe" is meaningless without you. You are an integral part of the Youniverse despite many popular versions of cosmology that describe Humanity as so much space debris.

But youıre also the central point of perception, the witness to everything that happens, the interpreter, the evaluator and the experiencer of life. You are the Youniverse.

By perceiving and being part of the whole, you contain the whole. It's exceedingly likely that your consciousness activates the events of the world around you in a kind of co-creation in which your attitude is the biggest variable.

We see this happen all the time. If you love life, life becomes lovable, and not just in your imagination. If you truly feel secure, you'll live on a safe planet. And if you think you should work at a job you hate for $5 an hour, youıll certainly get to do that. Yet the same mechanism that drives these little facts of life may also influence much greater events, and it also works on the collective scale. Our common beliefs and expectations create our common world.

Far from being something I made up yesterday, these are time-honored spiritual truths; but now they are facts being borne out by physicists, brain researchers and people who investigate psychic phenomena. Not that proof matters; itıs easy enough to demonstrate for yourself by changing your mind about something and seeing your entire reality shift.

In astrology, where the inner and outer worlds meet in a fireworks display of synchronicity, we know that the stranger and further away newly discovered celestial bodies are, the more deeply they reach into the collective psyche. Several new discoveries in this century, including Pluto and Chiron, have taken astrology lightyears from where it was just decades ago.

These discoveries provide strikingly private information and helpful insights when cast in personal horoscopes and read by people tuned to their energies.

At one level, our telescopes are the tentacles of our consciousness, reaching through the darkness and grasping the unknown -- a limitless, seemingly "outer" space filled with nothing but possibilities and mysteries that slowly unfold. As they point outward, the minds that receive the information have the potential to become deeper -- or just more open -- in order to understand ourselves and the relationship between the inner and outer depths.

As you venture out/in there, expect to find some things in yourself that defy common sense and leave you astonished. Expect a few puzzling contradictions. And look forward to those rare discoveries that blow apart all your theories about who you think you are.

Eric Francis is available for traditional and Chironic astrology readings. His e-mail is and he can be reached at (914) 339-3339 or by fax (914) 339-6129.

Copyright © 1996. Eric Francis.

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