M. Reinhart 2020: Mandala of the orbits of Saturn and Mars (see below)
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The article below explores the Coronavirus phenomenon from the perspective of astrology, mythology, etymology and associative thinking, with some speculations, some numbers and a few factoids. Prompted by personal curiosity and the question "What is this?", I allowed my mind to wander and loosely tracked the journey of discovery which unrolled in front of me and behind me. Indeed, above and below me too. This record of my meanderings became a very large webpage, and if you are somewhere in 'lockdown' I hope you may find some hours of enjoyment while you browse it!
Astrologically, the current 'world cataclysm' is well symbolised by the conjunction of Saturn and Pluto in Capricorn, which was exact on January 12th 2020 ... the de-struction of 'old structures' in preparation for the incoming new personal identity and habits. Also, new societal structures. And the in-struction for relating to these 'new ways' while we are 'in transition'. It goes like this:
The apocalyptic tone of these two Titans resonating together is very apparent, and led me to recall their last conjunction, on November 8th 1982 at 27°35' of Libra. In the aftermath, my whole personal world broke down after a veritable cascade of personal loss. Being unable to process all the grief at once, I became seriously ill. I had already been researching Chiron since shortly after it was discovered in 1977, but it was this 'trail of disaster' (which is how it felt to me) that opened the door to a deeper understanding of the Chiron process. Indeed, I can truly say that recognising the 'Chiron story' that was unfolding in my life helped me through this time of "The Dark Night of the Soul". Looking back, I can see that this total breakdown invited me into what turned out to be my 'life work' - with Chiron and the Centaurs and the multi-dimensional reality that beckons from their realm.
We are now living through a collapse of many of the narratives which have formed the basis of how the world has developed (and also not developed!) over the last few centuries. This is not the place to explore those in detail, as many writers and educators have focussed on this. But certainly, we can see the cherished 'Myth of Eternal Progess' getting stopped in its tracks. In a very short time, too! Now we see a 'crash and burn' process at work as 'the old' is getting destroyed. Radically so. But narratives - stories - are as essential to the Soul as food is to the Body. In the telling or the hearing, story helps us from the vantage point of 'now' to process experiences past. And to imagine, dream and create experiences of the future, portraying new values, ethics, and visions in whatever form is possible, and so 'seeding the future'. (See the film 'New Story'.)
If you are reading this, you will almost certainly be interested in astrology. How fortunate we are to be connected with this Sacred Mystery, which contains an astonishingly rich repository of 'world stories' held in and reflected by the Sky. Layers and layers of them, from diverse cultures, back to the very dawn of time. When things get difficult on Earth, a little beauty, meaning and order goes a long way. And astrology offers exactly this to those who are willing to listen, hear and explore ...
So I began to be curious about what the 'Chiron Story' might be, of 'these times' ...
The first thing I noticed was that the Saturn-Pluto conjunction in January was right inbetween the two final exact squares between Chiron and Pholus, the final one occurring on March 8th. I had been 'tracking' these squares since 2015, and was aware that the Pholus 'tagline' of "The Lid Comes Off" was taking real shape and form as the months went by ... sometimes shockingly so. I recalled that Pholus was almost called 'Chaos' when it was first discovered in 1992!
The Story of Pholus a.k.a. "The Lid Comes Off"
Back to the story. When Hercules visited the cave of Pholus, he asked for wine with his meal. Pholus hesitated, as he did not own this wine - it belonged to all the centaurs. However, the jar was duly opened, and then Chaos broke out! The undifferentiated herd of nameless centaurs smelled the wine and began to storm the entrance to the cave of Pholus in order to get to it. A battle ensued, during which Hercules shot dead a number of centaurs, and in some versions, it was during this battle that Chiron was wounded. In astonishment, Pholus picked up one of the arrows of Hercules to see what made them so deadly. In fact, they were poisoned, having been dipped in the blood of the Hydra which Hercules had to overcome during one of his famous Labours. The arrow slipped from the hand of Pholus and dropped, piercing his foot. He died immediately from this poisoned wound.
In human terms, a Pholus process indicates a very rapid transition from one phase to another, leading to a feeling of shock and disorientation. A super-quick change in stage of life, situation, state of consciousness. Being swept along by something one did not expect, to where one knows not. The "Lid Comes Off"a situation previously contained, hidden or repressed. Feeling de-stabilized and having to find a new, more broadly-encompassing point of reference. Like now! A veritable 'metalogue' of Pholus.
Pholus was not a 'Wounded Healer' like Chiron. He was a diviner and seer, who would read the omens in order to advise the gods, heroes and mortals. So he is also associated with oracular speaking, and so with the 'bardic' spirit. The ancient role of the bard was one which held significant esteem and authority within traditional societies. He was the keeper of the history of the tribe and clan, knowing by heart the stories of the ancestors, and the creation myths which upheld the soul-world of the group. Indeed, this is still so in many parts of the world.
What creation stories uphold our world? The 'Big Bang'? Adam and Eve cast out of paradise as a result of their 'sin'? Hmm. Both lead to destruction, along linear lines - the cooling of our Sun, so that life cannot be sustained on Earth, or the Apocalypse as in the book of Revelations. Or human extinction as a result of climate change. Hmm. Maybe we need some new stories ... personally, I'd vote for a cyclic view. Astrology fits nicely in there - The 'Great Round' rather than the 'Straight Line'! In fact, even better, astrology is a 'both/and' perspective. We use the 'straight line' of clock time, but, crucially, it is informed by the cyclic time of the planetary cycles.
It is very common for people undergoing a strong activation of Pholus in their horoscope to get in touch with this. To learn about the stories of their ancestors, to speak with them inwardly, to study the history of where they came from, to make pilgrimages to ancestrally significant places, and so on. If we think of the current Pholus activation as a 'world-wide process', what happens in our concsiousness? Perhap the question of our deeper, species ancestry opens out and the question,"Where have we come from?" brings profound lines of enquiry that remind us that the human kingdom is not the only one. We live amidst the stars and the celestial realms as well as the animals, plants and planets, rocks and stones, water and fire, earth and the subterranean realms, down to 'The Smalls' in our own body - molecules, atoms, bacteria, microbes, microbiomes, and .... viruses ...
"Small cause, big effect" is a phrase coined by astrologer and researcher Robert von Heeren in relation to Pholus. Watch microbiologist and animist Dr. Siobhan Watkins in a stunning interiew with Dr. Daniel Foor, talking about 'The Smalls' - here.
Etymology and the 'VIR' story
VIR (Latin) translates to "man, hero, husband, soldier, individual", with
VIR-ILE (from the Latin, as above) strong, energetic, yang
VIR-US. Playing 'fast and loose' with the etymology, we note that the word VIR-US (from a different Proto-Indo-European root) means 'poison, venom, slime, potent fluid'. The very opposite of VIR, explored above. Something which afflicts both humans and computers!
VIR-AL - spreading uncontrollably, like a virus. Disease, information, ideas, emotions ...!
CORONIS - a goddess beloved of Apollo, the Sun god - the 'Sun connection' again - and also the bringer of plagues. While pregnant, Coronis commited adultery and Apollo was so angered that he instructed his sister Artemis to kill her. As her arrows flew, countless others were also killed. Apollo felt remorse and saved her still-enwombed child Asklepius, handing him over to the care of Chiron. In time, Chiron's foster-child Asklepius became a great healer connected with the chthonic mysteries learned in the cave of Chiron (who in turn had been fostered by Apollo).
In the story of Pholus, above, we can see both VIR (Hercules) and VIRUS (poison). Indeed, this thematic juxtaposition appears in several stories involving the centaurs: Chiron's poisoned wound, the poisoned arrow which struck Pholus, the poisoned blood of Nessus, made into a 'love potion' which indirectly resulted in the death of Hercules, who had previously collected the poison to help him against the 'Future Foes' he would meet during his epic Labours. What goes round comes round. Lots to reflect on there ...
Mars and Saturn tell their story ...
So is all this a reflection of the long-term consequences of the Mars principle (Chiron in Aries) running riot, out of control, being mis-used, and so becoming infectious and toxic? Invoking a chaotic (Pholus) and characteristically Saturnian response (Pholus in Capricorn)? So ... fear (Saturn) 'going VIRAL' (Mars). Quarantine, isolation, curtailment, hardship, interception of social habits ... and so on. Now being 'policed' in some countries. All very Saturnian. The HERMIT rules the day? Or perhaps shows the way?
Conflict (Mars) is all around at present, bringing an opportunity to choose carefully (Saturn) where we invest our Mars energy lest we get caught up in a maelstrom of negative polarization and chaos (inner or outer). Meanwhile, we can take heart from the HERMIT (Saturn), entering into our inner sanctum while eliminating non-essentials from our life. This helps preserve our balance, strength and vitality (Mars) for times when we may be called upon to respond by taking action. The restraint (Saturn) of these energies can help us discern the difference between RE-ACTION (negative Mars) and ACTION (positive Mars), and can help regenerate what has perhaps become degenerate in our own life.
An Astrological Mandala of Mars-Saturn-Sun
And ... remember ... we actually live 'inside' these cosmic patterns. I've put this on my desktop to invite celestial protection (Mars-Saturn) and healing.
Mandalas by M. Reinhart 2020 (left) and 2005 (right)
Click here to download a folder of hi-res images of the Mars-Saturn image
The specific dates of when this long transit was exact are listed below ...
Chi Sqr Pholus 1 Jun 2017 28°Pi29' D 28°Sg29' R
Chi Sqr Pholus 25 Sep 2017 26°Pi15' R 26°Sg15' D
Chi Sqr Pholus 5 May 2018 00°Ar56' D 00°Cp56' R
Chi Sqr Pholus 30 Oct 2018 28°Pi29' R 35°Sg35' D
Chi Sqr Pholus 10 Apr 2019 02°Ar55' D 02°Cp55' R
Chi Sqr Pholus 8 Dec 2019 01°Ar26' R 01°Cp26' D
Chi Sqr Pholus 8 Mar 2020 04°Ar20' D 04°Cp20' D ......
Note that this final square remains within very close orb for many weeks, and includes the Nodal Axis in T-Square with Chiron. Around March 8th, the final square, this controversial 'whodunnit' video was posted. And see this report for a rather different view.
On 'the skids' ?
In the graph below (2015-2022), the green wavy line represents Chiron, and the black one is Pholus. Lines crossing each other repesent the exact squares, listed above. You can see the overall arc of the aspect, already approaching in 2015, and beginning to finally separate at the end of 2022. (A segue to Pluto's entry into Aquarius 2023/04?)
It's not difficult to find 'world events' which 'ping' at the points where the lines cross - like arrows shot by Hercules or the centaurs! In 2016, the lines skid together, but then separate. This, of course, was the still-controversial final phase of the US elections which brought Donald Trump to power. A closer look at that period of time reveals that this 'skid' was already underway when the referendum was held on June 23rd in the UK, on the decision of "To Brexit or not to Brexit", to mis-quote Hamlet!
The long 'skid' of indecision concluded (sort of!) at the end of January 2020, when Britan 'officially' left the EU ... less than five weeks before the final Chiron-Pholus square, with the world teetering on the edge of a PAN-demic! This certainly changes the game of endless and often vitriolic 'negotiations' between the UK and the EU! Or does it? Now it seems like most of the world is 'on the skids'. Note the long 'skid' between December 2019 and April 2020, when the coronavirus pandemic was first escalating.
During the period of the Chiron-Pholus squares, the #MeToo movement has been emblematic of a process which has seen the smashing of many 'cultural idols' - Harvey Weinstein, Michael Jackson and a great many other 'well-knowns', or celebrities with connections to various nefarious activities, or who have clandestinely been indulging in harmful acts verging on the unspeakable. But true to Pholus and his tagline, the 'lid has been truly coming off'. And it ain't over!
Speaking of Pan ...
The prefix 'PAN-' means 'ALL'. For example, the Pan-African Congress works with issues that concern ALL of Africa, historical and contemporary. Panam - an airline for ALL of America. Pantheism sees God at work in ALL things. And so on ...
Read the Orphic Hymn to PAN, to whom we may perhaps direct our prayers in these times of
PAN-ic, PAN-demic, PAN-demonium, PAN-tomime ...
The god PAN was something of a 'household god' in ancient Greece, and may be considered as a universal, transcendent force of Nature. Perhaps we could think of him as portraying the etheric forces of the Earth which connect the world of matter and form to the spiritual world. The subtle energies of plants big and small, animals, rocks ... are an essential dimension of their capacity to offer healing to us humans. In the 'chemicalisation' and 'industrialisation' of medicine, this precious spiritual essence may be lost, and instead may even turn toxic. (Witness the staggering statistics of deaths through iatrogenic disease, worldwide.)
His figure is half-animal and half-divine (in contrast to centaurs, who are half-animal and half-human). Note that his father was sometimes said to be none other than Hermes! So here we have the 'Four Generations' theme mentioned above in connection with Pholus.
PHOLUS son of SILENUS, son of PAN, son of HERMES
We read in the Homeric Hymns of the birth of Pan, a "noisy, merry-laughing child" whose mother, a wood-nymph and daughter of Dryops, abandoned him in horror on seeing his goat feet and horns. (Similar to the story of Chiron!) However, his loving father Hermes gathered him up and "hidden in the thick skins of mountain hares" presented him to the gods and goddesses of Olympus, the abode of the Immortals, who named him PAN because he so delighted ALL of them with his outrageous form and charming laughter! He came to be known as a fierce hunter and also a nimble dancer; he took delight in playfulness, humour and 'riot'.
There is a famous anecdote from Plutarch's Moralia in which the captain of a ship, in response to an 'unseen voice' shouted out "Great Pan is dead!" whereupon a great lamentation went up amongst the people. This story was taken by Christians of the time (c600AD) to indicate the final subduing of the Pagan world, and thenceforth Pan became equated with the Devil. However, the presence of Pan has continued to inspire the artists, writers and poets of later ages, notably the Renaissance, the Romantics and more recently, in the field of archetypal psychology, the work of James Hillman and Rafael Lopez-Pedrasta.
Read Brian Clark's poignant and beautiful essay on "Pan and the Pandemic"
The Story of Chiron at Aphelion ...
Note how the 'designation' of the current Coronavirus keeps changing! For example, originally nCOV, then SARS-CoV-2 and now COVID-19 (the latter being 'shorthand' for the disease rather than the name of the virus itself). Does this remind you of anything? Chiron of course!
So what is it?
The cycle of Chiron is about 50.7 years long, so using the round figure of 50, it is easy to look back into history to see what was happening back then, and how it relates to now. So a 'Centenary' is roughly 2 x Chiron Returns. AND ... we see that the current pandemic is happening on the 2nd Chiron Return of the outbreak of 'Spanish Flu' (1918-20), just as WWI ended, with an estimated 50>100,000 deaths. So a powerful 'collective memory'. (For information on the personal process of the Chiron Return, click here.)
On an individual level, this 'aphelion process' has rich symbolism:
To the Edge and Beyond ...
This phrase is the original title under which my material on the Centaurs Nessus and Pholus was published in 1996 by CPA Press. It was changed to "Saturn, Chiron and the Centaurs" as the publisher thought that the original title did not give potential readers any idea of what the book was about. Definitely true! But I really liked the phrase "To the Edge and Beyond", so when Starwalker Press issued the revised version in 2011, it was added back in as the subtitle.
In 1992, New Scientist magazine announced the discovery of the Kuiper Belt, calling it "the pristine remains of the origins of the Solar System", and proposing that this was where Chiron had originated, along with numerous objects for which a new sub-category of celestial objects was created - the Centaurs!
In 2020, New Scientist declared "Ancient viruses buried in our DNA may re-awaken and cause illness" - here. Reminds me of the 'folk story' about the 'Curse of Tutenkhamun's tomb' - here. In 2018, a patent for coronavids (not the current strain, they say) was granted to the Pirbright Institute (UK) whose benefactors include the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. 'Patenting' the coronavirus? Not for the first time ... in 2004, the Chiron Corporation filed patent WO2004092360A2 for the SARS coronavirus (Swine Flu). A very murky trail accompanied the eventual demise of the Chiron Corporation, and their early activities (MMR vaccine) were controversial enough to evoke the bombing of their offices.
Viruses have been described as "organisms at the edge of life" (Wikipedia) ...
The Pluto Story
Significant is the fact that Pluto, having been 'de-moted' from planet status, is now the 'King of the Kuiper Belt', perhaps still the most well-known 'dweller on the edge'. (See the Pluto section on this website). The Centaurs are said to have been drawn in to our Solar System by the gravitational pull of Neptune. The connection between the Centaurs and Pluto is an obvious one: they all cross over the orbits of at least one of the classical planets; their orbital paths are very elliptical and steeply inclined to the Ecliptic. We might say that the Centaurs are the emissaries, messengers or escapees from the Underworld.
The Greek Underworld consisted of many different terrains, ranging from the bliss of the Elysian Fields to the horror of places of torment. Working with the Centaurs, we can sense immediately the 'Pluto Connection'. It is as if they 'light the way' for us during times of suffering and loss in times of 'Descent' when we are called by the Underworld Mysteries. So instead of fleeing from the whole dark world of Hades/Pluto, we may trust the process and to turn and meet it - gently, gently, one step at a time, with the help of the Centaurs.
Chiron's form - half animal and half human - tells us that in his very form and being those two realms co-exist. The wound he sustained was healed once Chiron gave up his demi-god status and in compassion freed Prometheus from his suffering. Chiron was then immortalised in the constellation of Centaurus, whose major star Alpha Centauri, in his front left hoof, is the closest star to us, on Earth.
Source unknown. Note: Dieter Koch has pointed out that this iconography
Some ephemerides for Chiron only begin at about 750AD, making earlier periods impossible to research. It's my understanding that its obit was too chaotic and unpredictable before then for accurate calculations to be possible. There is also speculation that Chiron will one day leave our Solar System, like a comet. Indeed, Chiron was briefy categorised as a comet in about 1989, when it seemed to brighten and develop a 'tail'. Although this categorisation was not finally adopted, his 'comet nomenclature' remained - 95P/Chiron.
Consider Elizabeth Vreede's beautiful study of the spiritual nature of comets here. Might it be possible that Chiron (and the Centaurs) act in a similar way to comets? Being visitors to our Solar System, but staying longer in their elliptal orbits, steeply inclined to the ecliptic ... in order to undertake similar work? The revealing of 'poison and toxins', personal, ancestral and historical, so that these may be healed by whatever means are appropriate to the affliction: being dissolved and transformed in compassion and/or a change in consciousness, or purged out physically when necessary, or healed by prayer and divine intervention. The ways of healing are manifold but however varied, all healing effect comes from the Unknowable Source of Healing which some say radiates through the human heart.
May it be so.
Acknowledgements and Bibliography
Brown, Bibi: for encouraging me to write this piece.
B.B.: for preliminary reading, suggestions and editing.
Clark, Brian: for his material about Pan.
Francis, Eric: for his work with the Centaurs, and for reminding me that now is the 2nd Chiron Return of the 1918-20 Spanish Flu.
Grasse, Ray: Reflections on Coronavirus and the Saturn-Pluto Conjunction. The Mountain Astrologer (TMA), 20th March 2020.
Guttman, Ariel: A Look at Coronavirus with a view from the Stars. TMA, 11th March 2020.
Heeren, Robert von: for the phrase "Small cause, big effect". Co-author with Dieter Koch of the book "Pholus" (German language only).
Kearney, Richard: The Healing Power of Stories. Japan Mission Journal, Vol. 72 No.2, p.75.
Kearney, Richard: "The Hermeneutics of Wounds", in Unconscious Incarnation (2018), ed. Becker, Manoussakis and Goodman, p.21. Routledge, Taylor and Francis, London amd New York. (Contains a stunning analysis of the story of Chiron.)
Koch, Dieter: master ephemeris-programmer, co-author of Pholus, with Robert von Heeren, q.v. above. He first introduced me to Pholus, and has been a much valued 'Centaur buddy' since 1995.
Miller, Alex: for his material on the asteroid Coronis (and much other asteroid wisdom).
Rybicki, .P.: South African Journal of Science 1990; 86; 182-86, quoted in Wikipedia, under 'Virus'.
Vreede, Elizabeth: Astrosophy and Astrology (2001). Astrosophy Press, Barrington, MA.