Chiron meets Pluto at the Big Turn

Or Roosters Encounter Owls

There is a curious zeitgeist sweeping across the western world. It goes by a number of names. In religious circles it is known as Millennialism. In the secular world of science, computers and technology, it has been dubbed the Millennial Bug and more recently, the Millennial Bomb. Whether the focus is religious or secular, the underlying theme seems to be the same – the fearful anticipation of global chaos and breakdown and ultimately, The End of The World as We Know It. This apocalyptic Spirit of the Age is not so apparent yet in Australia, but in the United States, and particularly on the Internet, the contagion of fearful expectation is spreading daily. The countdown to the year 2000 is on. No matter that the official beginning of the next Millennium is January 1st, 2001, [1]  for within the human psyche, there appears to dwell a deep-seated belief that when the numbers tick over from 999 to 000, life miraculously changes, usually for the worse.

Millennial fever is not a new phenomenon. In fact, fears that the world was about to face an imminent demise were just as rife at the end of the last Millennium. What is new is that this time the usual millennial fears have synchronously coincided with a computer glitch known as y2K.

What exactly is this much talked about ‘y2K bug’? It began as a shortsighted computer programming short-cut, designed to save much-needed memory space on main-frame computers. Instead of allocating four digits to a year, programmers shortened the years to only two digits, for example, 1996 was recorded as ‘96’. That was fine for this century, but what this means is that when the date ticks over from 1999 to 2000, the computer systems which have not been upgraded will only register the 00. Instead of registering that the year is 2000, these computers will ‘think’ it is 1900. This may sound like a minor ‘glitch’ and yet the repercussions may indeed be far-reaching. The evidence is quite compelling that we are   likely   to   expect   at   least   some    degree   of  communications breakdown, with possible systems failures, some loss of essential services, and so on.  It is in the degree of the expected crisis that opinion varies. Some are prophesying all sorts of frightening scenarios – life support systems going dead, aeroplanes dropping out of the sky, nuclear reactors exploding, the collapse of Wall Street, a global economic meltdown, and so forth.

It is not my intention to add fuel to these potent fears, which I believe would do nothing but add to an already growing sense of mass panic. Instead, I intend to look at the chart for the Millennial Turn in an attempt to garner from it some sense of meaning and hope for the future.

It is an astrological hypothesis that the primary characteristics of an entity, event or period of time may be better understood by looking at the chart for the moment of birth of that entity or event. It therefore seems reasonable to expect that the chart for the very beginning of the year 2000 (12:00 AM, January 1st) may lend some insight into the forthcoming period for which so many of us are waiting with bated breath.


The Millenium Chart

After constructing charts for a number of world cities, including Adelaide, Washington, London and Madras, I noticed that the charts for the three Northern Hemisphere cities were almost identical. Even the chart for Adelaide contained all planets in the same houses. I therefore decided to select the most common chart and one that represents the centre of the Western world – the chart for Washington, the seat of the United States Government.

The most significant feature in the Millennium chart is the almost exact Pluto/Chiron conjunction at 11+ degrees of Sagittarius. In fact, this aspect is exact on the 31st December, 1999. This is the first Pluto/Chiron conjunction since Chiron’s discovery in 1977, suggesting that the collective is now ready to embrace the archetype of Chiron.

Rather than attempt to cover all the minutiae of this chart, I will instead focus primarily on this pinpoint meeting of Chiron, comet of healing with Pluto, planet of transformation.  Interestingly, this conjunction falls in the 3rd house, highlighting communications systems, transportation, commercial trade and networks of all sorts (including computer networks). It is also noteworthy that Chiron has been associated with computers and the internet [Stein, Donnell (1996)]. The position in the 3rd house would seem to reinforce the theme of some sort of powerful transformation in the arena of global networking, adding weight to the belief that the y2K computer bug may cause a degree of disruption in these areas.

The conjunction falling in Sagittarius suggests the possibility of paradigm shifts to do with religious ideals, knowledge and belief systems. What might a transformation in this area involve? We could see a re-defining of ‘religion’. Perhaps, given the close conjunction of Ceres with the Ascendant, this may include a shift towards more Goddess-based religions, or at least religions which incorporate and honour the feminine aspect which seems to have been largely denied during the last two millennia.

The Sagittarian influence also adds a sense of religious fervour, of fundamentalism and crusading zealotry, of clashes of beliefs.  The Maverick Healer holding hands with the Transforming Agent of Change in the Sign of  the Archer suggests that we may finally become aware of the extent to which our beliefs can hurt or harm others. Could it be that during the next 1000 years we may be forced to fully face our destructive collective compulsion to fight wars for religious reasons?


The Sabian Symbol for the Pluto/Chiron Conjunction

It can be instructive to look at the Sabian symbol for a planet to gain a deeper insight into its meaning in a chart. In this particular case, with the degree of 11+ Sagittarius particularly emphasized through its occupation by both Pluto and Chiron, the symbolic meaning of this degree may offer some treasure unobtainable via any other means.

The degree symbol is “A flag turns into an eagle; the eagle into a chanticleer saluting the dawn”. Dane Rudhyar describes its meaning thus:

“The spiritualization and promotion of great symbols of a New Age by minds sensitive to its precursory manifestations.

“In the background of this strange allegory we can recognise the deep-seated belief that the American nation and its basic democratic institutions were constituted in the cradle for a new step in human evolution. The “flag” is the abstract symbol of the nation; it becomes an “eagle” – another US symbol – when the concept is made alive by bold and transcendent action. The eagle symbolises spiritual will and the power to rise to the highest possible altitude of consciousness  and purpose. Flying at such an altitude, the eagle is the first living creature to perceive the rising sun. Having perceived it, it heralds it – and  by  so  doing  is  identified  with  the crowing chanticleer, who had convinced himself that his resonant cry was responsible for the rise of the sun and the coming of a new day.

“This symbol .… is completely future-oriented. It speaks of “peak experiences” instead of the wisdom found in the organismic depth of the body-consciousness. It urges us to bring our nobles ideals to actual life through the power of the spiritual will. A keyword might be ANNUNCIATION”.” [2]

A ‘chanticleer’ is another word for a domestic cock or rooster, while the ‘Annunciation’ refers to the announcement made by the angel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary that she was shortly to become the mother of Jesus. To “annunciate” is “to proclaim, to intimate as coming or ready”. [3]

Rudhyar’s keyword of “Annunciation” for this symbol is certainly interesting in the light of the announcements that are being made about the heralding of our new millennium.


The Secular meets the Sacred

In keeping with the Sagittarian flavour of the conjunction, this particular millennial zeitgeist appears to possess a quality of  an intersection or parallelism between the secular and the sacred, between science and religion.

Y2K activists are beginning to sound like religious zealots in their urgency to convert the populace-in-denial to the realities of a surefire post millennial computer-generated apocalypse. Indeed, some fundamentalist religious groups and individuals are wholeheartedly embracing the Y2K computer phenomenon as a clear manifestation of God’s will and intent for the ending of the world as we know it.  [4] Gary North, an outspoken Y2K activist and Christian Reconstructionist is quoted as saying: “This will decentralize the social order. That is what I have wanted all of my adult life. In my view, y2K is our deliverance”. [5]  Prior to the onset of the Year 1000, there were those who awaited The Last Judgement. One wonders if today’s more religious “doom and gloomers” perceive in the computer the form of the Anti-Christ?

There is certainly an inherent irony in this image of the End Times coming about through the agency of the human artifice of technology.

From the techno-scientific perspective, what began as a computer “bug” has now been renamed a “time-bomb”. The symbolism is interesting. A ‘bug’ attacks or infects the host organism, is contagious or is transmitted in some form which implies a sense of out-of-controlness. Unless we mere mortals can find an antidote, a whole system or interconnection of systems can be infested and laid to waste. A bomb is reminiscent of war – it is savage, it explodes, sears and destroys everything in its wake. It has no respect for human life. A time-bomb goes off at a preset moment in time. These are ruthless and powerful images and very symbolic of one facet of the archetype of Pluto. They seem to be tapping into the doom and gloom millennial mindset, one which breeds hopelessness, despair and a belief that time is running out.


The Healing Potential of Y2k

In spite of the gloom-and-doom scenarios, the marriage between Pluto and Chiron in the Millennial chart suggests that therein also lies the potential for healing and transformation. The Chiron process involves first recognising and identifying the problem and then embarking on the process of attempting to fix it. Ultimately, one emerges from the experience with an enhanced sense of knowledge and understanding. There are many computer technicians all over the world who are right now preoccupied with fixing this problem.

Some are already viewing Y2K as offering an unprecedented opportunity for individual, community and cultural transformation.  Economist and Futurist, Robert Theobold, believes the Y2K bug “provides us with an extraordinary opportunity to ask ourselves the profound questions which have been buried by our wealth and our technology. It is a time for us to ask what we really value and how can we preserve the ecological systems on which all life depends. It is a wonderful time to be alive”. [6]

In attempting to prepare ahead for the unknown effects of Y2K and in planning strategies to deal with any problems which do arise after the Big Turn, some have prophesied a scenario in which people, communities and organizations learn to work together in new collaborative ways.  Some feel we will be forced to realize just how interconnected we all are, and the extent to which we all rely on computer technology, much of which is hidden from our immediate awareness. This is particularly reflected in those billions of tiny embedded microprocessor chips which are found in everything from cars to video recorders and all sorts of other machinery, devices, appliances and equipment.  These chips are also date-sensitive and are expected to cause additional problems during the Year 2000 rollover.

Much of the material I have read about Y2K on the internet is coloured with Pluto/Chiron symbolism. One example: “Because of its complex nature, Y2K demands that we transform the ways we work together, that we forego traditional boundaries, and competitive behaviors, that we let go of past conflicts and injuries. We must turn to one another to solve the unsolvable, we must depend on one another to find solutions. We simply cannot get through whatever disruptions or breakdowns occur by remaining isolated or indifferent”. [7]

Given all this talk of foregoing competition and finding new ways of relating, it is also worthwhile noting that the Ascendant in the Millennial chart is in Libra, closely conjunct Ceres. If we look at the Ascendant as what we are growing towards, [8]  new qualities which we need to embrace, perhaps in the next Millennium we may learn how to be more respectful, understanding, inclusive and tolerant of each other. Venus, the chart ruler, is also in Sagittarius.  One can always hope!


Computer Bug or Mental Bug?

One of the most interesting and thought-provoking articles I have read about the Y2K phenomenon challenges the very notion of a techno-apocalypse and instead suggests that we are more in danger from the spread of “contagious beliefs” about the perils of Y2K.  The dissemination of contagious beliefs sounds very much like a Pluto in Sagittarius in the 3rd house scenario.

Aaron Lynch, the author of “The Millennium Contagion: Is Your Mental Software Year 2000 Compliant?” has borrowed the word “meme” from Zoologist Richard Dawkins to describe his concept of a contagious thought acting in the same way as a “gene-like or virus-like unit of culture”.  [9] Lynch asserts that we do have a bug that relates to the turn of 1000 years, that it does not lurk within computers, but within the minds of human beings. He says it “arises from a weakness in how we share information amongst each other” and has named it “the millennium thought contagion”.

His article goes into great depth about how both the religious and secular hell-doomsday visions spread from person to person. In his view there is an infectious panic swirling around Y2K and its adherents are taking on the cloak of extreme evangelism. His descriptions are reminiscent of established cult techniques. “Like the religious threat of fire and brimstone for those who renounce faith, the secular belief [of Y2K] threatens terrible things for those who “erroneously” change their minds. These include visions of starvation, violence, and death to oneself and loved ones. Such dropout prevention helps the belief not only persist, but also spread….Like an evangelical religion, the meme package says, “Convert and you will live” ”. [10]

Lynch maintains that those who aid in the spreading of this thought contagion use tactics like accusing “non-believers” of being “in denial” and stressing that “time is running out” and the importance of “saving your loved ones”.

I cannot quote enough of this article. It represents a restoration to normalcy amidst a sea of dire predictions.  Lynch declares that the Y2K apocalypse memes “also thrive on already prevalent religious doomsaying. Endemic beliefs that “the end is near” make it easier to think that the deadly sin of digital sloth will get the End started. For the time being, fundamentalists can stop looking for signs of the “end times” in places like the Soviet “evil empire” and turn their attention to technocrats”. [11]

Lynch urges us all to think twice about becoming a “contagious information carrier” (Pluto in 3rd) and to avoid becoming involved in the contagious spreading of fear and panic. At the same time, he does not deny that Y2K does present a real problem which still needs to be addressed and remedied (Chiron). He urges those who are not involved directly in fixing the problem (ie. non-technocrats) to focus instead on “helping the information health of society” (Pluto/Chiron in 3rd). He recommends that we not only bring our computers up to year 2000 readiness, but our minds as well!


A Question of Time

The impending changeover from 1999 to 2000 focusses on the notion of time.  This is a crisis which revolves around how we have recorded time. Interestingly, the last time Chiron conjoined Pluto in Sagittarius was on November 28, 1752.  Shortly before that date, on the 3rd September, Britain and the British colonies adopted the Gregorian calendar devised in 1582. September 14th followed September 2nd creating confusion, panic and anger. Some even believed that their lives were shortened by 11 days! [12]

The synchronicity of another ‘time’ crisis occurring at the time of the last conjunction in Sagittarius is most intriguing and led me to explore this time connection further. What I discovered is that the word ‘Chiron’ is related to the Greek ‘kairos’, which means ‘time’, or an aspect of time. The Greeks actually had two words for time –  kairos  and kronus (Chiron and Saturn). Kronus time is rational and linear and measured by clocks, whereas Kairos time is cyclic and immeasurable.
Melanie Reinhart describes Kairos as symbolising “an opportunity, the right moment, when the timeless or eternal realms intersect with our clock or Cronus (Saturn) time….Kairos is the ‘aha’ experience which may unlock the door to insights and new possibilities”. [13]

Jean Shinoda Bolen, in her book “Crossing to Avalon”, identifies Kairos time as ‘feminine’ and Kronos time as ‘masculine’. Bolen describes the mythic Avalon as psychologically a ‘motherworld’, a world which is invisible and where “the veils between the worlds are thinner and we cross over”. [14] Essentially, this world is symbolic of the repressed  and denied feminine. According to Bolen, “Time in the fatherworld enters each January 1 symbolised by an infant and departs on December 31 as Father Time, a long-bearded, bent-over old man”.

There is an interesting parallel here with the astrological significators for the Big Turn.  The Pluto/Chiron conjunction is closely quincunx Saturn in Taurus in the 8th house.  To use Bolen’s analogy, Saturn or linear time begins on January 1st, 2000, and the fear is that all hell will break loose as our clocks move us into the next century and millennium. And yet, Chiron or circular time continues. What we have here is an intersection between Chiron and Saturn time. Bolen notes that “our sense of time alters when we are in Avalon…we participate [my emphasis] in time and therefore lose track of it”. [15]

The Millennial quincunx between Chiron/Pluto and Saturn perhaps points to a need for a collective readjustment regarding our perspective and understanding of time. After all, it is purely our human-constructed calendar which marks January 1st, 2000 as the turning point of all turning points for the next 1000 years. Some are already asking why such a seemingly artificial construct should have such a powerful collective impact. Perhaps during the 3rd Millennium we will learn to perceive time in new ways, ways at present unimaginable, but ways which may somehow embrace the notion of a more ‘feminine’ or cyclic approach to time. And perhaps it will be the crisis (if any) engendered by the Y2K bug which will catalyse this transformed and expanded perception of time. Of course, this is mere speculation, but nonetheless worthy of consideration.


Roosters encounter Owls

While researching this article, I stumbled across the most remarkable description of the major protaganists involved in both current and historical Millennial debates. Historian and Director of the multidisciplinary “Center for Millennial Studies”, Professor Richard Landes, has defined two fundamentally opposed stances during Millennial times – that of the roosters and the owls. [16]

Landes dismisses the notion that Y2K is purely a technological problem and notes its connection with apocalyptic “millennialism”, which he traces back to earlier historical periods. With particular reference to Christianity, he points to the eschatological foundations of this religion – rooted as it is in a “doctrine of death, judgement, heaven and hell”. [17]

Landes has highlighted another aspect of time which he calls “apocalyptic” time: “that perception of time in which the End of the World (variously imagined) is so close that its anticipation changes the behaviour of the believer”.  [18] At these times, he says, we meet the roosters doing battle with the owls.

The rooster represents the apocalyptic believer, “the one who thrilled at the prospect, heralds a new day by crowing at the dawn, stirring the barnyard to wake, piercing the air with his penetrating cries, joining in with other roosters. Even those who would resist, who are annoyed, find it difficult to ignore this chorus of crowing.” The owl is the anti-apocalyptic believer, “the one who prefers the caution and quiet of the familiar, who argues no, the night is still young and long hours separate us from the dawn, who warn that the foxes are out, the master still asleep, and only disaster can come from rousing the barnyard to untimely  activity”. [19]

Landes’  description of the apocalyptic-crowing rooster surprisingly echoes Rudhyar’s description of the chanticleer in the Sabian symbol for the Millennial degree of the Pluto/Chiron conjunction.

When the crowing chanticleer (rooster) beholds the rising of the sun, he believes that it is his cry which manifests the new day. Chiron specialist, Joyce Mason, has interpreted the symbol of the chanticleer thus: “it reminds us of the power of the mind and synchronicity, ie. what we see (believe and declare) is what we get. We can assert our highest ideals. The Higher Self bursts forth”.  [20]  Here we find yet another reference to the power of the mind and its role in envisioning the quality of our future.

While the roosters crow loudly that the end is nigh, the expectation of impending doom gathers increasing momentum. And as we have seen, these expectations are highly contagious and riddled with fear. It is at these Turning Point times that the roosters dominate, but as Landes writes: “their dominance is as brief as it is powerful. With the (inevitable) passing of the apocalyptic moment, the roosters must either change their tune (redate, expunge the apocalyptic element) or cede the floor to the owls who, retrospectively, prove correct”. [21]

What appears to be most important is to look at the coming Big Turn within its wider historical context. This has happened before. It will happen again, and through it all, we are still here. Liz Greene has pointed out that Millenarian fantasies appear to erupt every 500 years. Greene notes that around the years 1000 and 1500, fears were rife that the world was about to end.

Of course, the world is still here, but what did happen after the year 1500 had passed, was a major paradigm shift, or a change in the prevailing world-view. This change began in such a manner than it may have even gone relatively unnoticed at the time. Greene writes that the only odd thing which happened at that time was that “a very recalcitrant and bad-tempered monk called Martin Luther went around nailing nasty statements about the Church to cathedral doors, and a few people listened”. [22] Those few people talked to other people who talked to more people. And enter the Reformation! Thus began a period in our history which lasted for at least 300 years, and which some historians believe still continues today, a period wherein every aspect of established Christian doctrine was brought into question. The world did not end, but the world-view did.

Perhaps the eagle in the Sabian symbol, the bird which flies closest to the Sun, is a symbol of the perspective which is needed as we move through these times. Perhaps we need to consider the role which our collective fear and millenarian imagination plays in shaping our future, whether the source of our fear be centred around religious or technological concerns. Instead, we need to fly high and behold the bigger picture. As high-flying eagles, let us focus the power of our minds to envision a better future, to embrace change with equanimity, to transform our war-torn past into peace, to embrace the lost feminine, and ultimately to heal our wounded and suffering planet.

“What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from”
T.S. Eliot , Four Quartet

– by Candy Hillenbrand



[1] Pottenger, Maritha., Article in Millennium: Fears, Fantasies & Facts: “What Can we Expect after 2000?”, (ACS Publications, San Diego, 1996) p. 18.
[2] Rudhyar, Dane., An Astrological Mandala, (Vintage Books, New York, 1974) p. 216.
[3] The Concise Oxford Dictionary.
[4] North, Gary.,
[5] Davis, Steve., “On Doom and Gloom”
[6] Utne, Eric (Ed); “Y2K Citizen’s Action Guide
[7] Wheatley, Margaret & Kellner-Rogers., “Turning to One Another: The Possibilities of Y2K”,
[8] Greene, Liz., in Greene & Sasportas., The Luminaries (Samuel Weiser, Maine, 1992) pp. 192-3.
[9] Lynch, Aaron.,  “The Millennium Contagion: Is Your Mental Software Year 2000 Compliant?”
[10] ibid
[11] ibid
[12] Castleden, Rodney., The Concise Encyclopaedia of World History, (Magpie Books, London, 1994) p.373.
[13] Reinhart, Melanie., Chiron and the Healing Journey (Penguin Books, England, 1989) p. 266.
[14] Shinoda Bolen, Jean., Crossing to Avalon (Harper Collins, San Francisco, 1994) pp. 134-5.
[15] ibid pp. 134-5.
[16] Landes, Richard.,  “Apocalyptic Expectations around the Year 1000”
[17] The Concise Oxford Dictionary.
[18] Landes, Richard., op. cit.
[19] Landes, Richard., “Roosters, Owls, and the Millennium”
[20] Mason, Joyce, Article on A Place in Space, “Chiron and Pluto: The Comet Brothers
[21] Landes, Richard., “Roosters, Owls, and the Millennium”
[22] Greene, Liz., The Outer Planets and their Cycles – The Astrology of the Collective (CRCS Publications, Nevada, 1983) p 8