Chiron and Pluto – The Comet Brothers

“…the runt planet Pluto is actually the king of the ice dwarfs, the leader of the cosmic centaurs…Some astronomers, only partly tongue in cheek, say we should regard Pluto not as the smallest of planets, but as a comet to end all comets.” [1]

–Nigel Henbest, The Planets: Portraits of New Worlds  



Like the quotation above, this article is only partly tongue in cheek.  Aside from that warning,  I think it’s only fair to tell you my astrological biases, before I step up on my soap box.  I am a Chironoholic [2]–a Chiron fanatic. It’s not easy preaching the gospel of the Rodney Dangerfield of astrology. [3]  Now nearly 18 years since its discovery, it is amazing to me that the planet named after the wise centaur must still struggle to gain a little respect and hoof-hold in the astrological community.  Those of us who regard Chiron as the missing link in chart interpretation and the key to an individual’s life purpose and whole-making process often wonder where went wrong in conveying the importance of this small but mighty planet to our more skeptical colleagues.

Perhaps planets, like people, have karma–and Chiron was simply destined to be the underdog.  In mythology, Chiron was the half-brother of Pluto and Zeus (Jupiter).  Chiron shared a cave on Mount Pelion with Zeus, but he didn’t get any respect there, either.  Zeus took the light side of the cave,  Chiron got the dark.  When Zeus got care packages from his mom, Chiron was lucky to get the crumbs. [4] (The good news is that it was Zeus who later released Chiron from his suffering and turned him into a constellation.  So maybe there’s hope for Chiron, the planet, yet.)

Some of the advertising for my newsletter, Chironicles, begins: “Imagine a chart without Pluto… if you’re not using Chiron, you’re missing more than you can imagine.” The parallel I am drawing isn’t overly dramatic.  In fact, the newest research indicates that Chiron and Pluto are more alike than most of us would have ever dreamed.  If we put so much emphasis on Pluto, astrologically, it follows that we should regard Chiron as an equal. (Anyone who has ever experienced these two forces in a stressful aspect to each other, either natally or by transit, knows I’m not kidding.)  Surprisingly, astronomers may be ahead of astrologers in giving Chiron the respect it deserves.


Astronomers Jump on Chiron’s Bandwagon

Astronomers have discovered that Chiron is only  the first of many composite objects with the characteristics of both a planetoid and a comet. They are “refugees” from the Kuiper Disc, a flattened reservoir beyond Neptune, where all short-period comets, like Chiron, are believed to have been born. The International Astronomical Union has designated Chiron and the class of objects it represents as  “centaurs,” in Chiron’s honor. [5]  These scientists are onto the parallel between mythical Chiron’s composite form and the fact that the planetary object named after him is also a  composite entity. [6]  (This is ironic, inasmuch as Chiron’s true astronomical nature was unknown when it was named by its discoverer.)  Here is but one example of how some astronomers are giving Chiron more respect than many astrologers.  Not only has an entire new class of planets been named after Chiron, but astronomers are so jazzed about Chiron’s upcoming perihelion next February–their chance to view the centaur in rare position closest to the Sun–that about 50 of them have formed a Chiron Perihelion Committee (CPC) and are exchanging e-mails fast and furiously on the Internet.  They hope to engage astronomers, both amateur and pro, in viewing Chiron, during this once in 50 years window, to compare notes. [7]

Alan Stern, the same planetary scientist who writes informative, easy-to-understand,  and exciting articles on Chiron’s latest astronomical developments is also an advocate of including a trip past Chiron in NASA’s next fast fly-by. It is only through one of these unmanned reconnaissance missions that we will ever see Chiron’s surface features, measure its mass and density, probe its composition, and get photos of this prototype centaur.


How Pluto Is Like Chiron

Although it is at least ten times bigger than Chiron, Pluto is roughly 3-4 times further away from the Sun, depending on it’s location in its orbital path.  Balancing distance and size factors, it is no more far-fetched to consider Chiron as a significant astrological influence than it is to use Pluto. Let’s look at their astronomical similarities:

* Both have highly tilted, eccentric orbits

* They share a blurred identity, i.e., both are so unusual, astronomers wonder if they should be called planets at all (opening quote)

*  Each is relatively tiny
– Pluto is 2,360 km in diameter, and it would take 25 Plutos to make up the mass of Mercury, the next smallest planet [8]

– Chiron is estimated to be 200 km in diameter, roughly the size of New Hampshire

*  Both are composed in large part of “ices” containing carbon monoxide, methane, and/or nitrogen

*  Each is believed to be a fragment of a larger mass

– Chiron is thought to be what remains of “the mother of all short period comets, ” from which all others split off  [9]

– The latest theory on Pluto is that it was originally bound to Neptune’s Moon Triton [10]

*  Each crosses the orbit, at some time during its own orbital path, of the planet next in toward the Sun (Chiron crosses Saturn’s path and Pluto crosses Neptune’s).

There are many more synchronistic and metaphorical similarities, e.g., Pluto has a Moon (Charon) with an identical name to Chiron except for one letter (and the two are often confused); both were discovered this century; and as far as the slow waltz of planetary movements goes, their perihelia follow each other, like a two-step (Pluto reached perihelion in 1989).  From the standpoint of astrological application, their functions are so similar, people often confuse Plutonian and Chironic energy.  Both involve, at least in part, issues of death and sexuality. Pluto transforms; Chiron transmutes., meaning “…to have an identical event occur, but to have a different reaction to it…”  [11]  Soon after Chiron’s discovery, the late Tony Joseph noted the connection between Chiron transits and “…pregnancy and birth, sex, parenting, illness, and death” and suggested co-rulership of Chiron between Scorpio and Sagittarius.  [12]  Barbara Hand Clow distinguishes them this way: “Chiron is a master teacher of bravery…of clearing that which isn’t strong and healthy.  Chiron deals with Pluto willingly instead of avoiding the Underworld till the very last second…It is hard to face Pluto without Chiron as a guide, and now we have the assistance.” [13]


Hot Chironic Events Coming Up

There is trio of events, about to occur for the first time in most of our lives, that I hope will rock Chiron out of relative obscurity and into its rightful place among the stars.  First, Chiron’s ingress to Libra on September 9, 1995; second, its perihelion (its orbital pass closest to the Sun) on February 14, 1996; and third, it perigee (pass closest to the Earth) on April 1, 1996.

For one thing, with Chiron in the relationship sign, I trust that anyone who hasn’t gotten Chiron in any other way will surely be awakened when the subject of healing relationships goes global.  Old wounds from the battle of the sexes  [14] will be up for lancing, and following this letting of bad blood, alternative ways to make modern relationships work will be the opportunity of the hour.  Chiron will hit many of us where we live when it enters the sign that rules not only partnerships and our sense of peace and beauty, but social interaction, and the law.  (This may be especially true for those of us living in front of the tube at the O.J. Simpson trial, where the deep wounding around so many of these issues in our culture has never been more obvious than during the past year.)

Many of us, arguing only half-heartedly about Chiron’s rulership,  [15] suspect we will find associations between Chiron and Libra never before noticed during its shortest (15-month) sojourn in the Venus-ruled sign. (Pluto is in perihelion in Scorpio, its rulership sign.  Will we find Chiron’s true ruler in his–Libra? After all, isn’t wholeness a question of balance?) I personally hope that during this period, we will uncover more about Chiron’s seemingly good relationship with his wife, the sea nymph Chariclo.  (If references to Chiron are piecemeal in mythology books, references to Chariclo are the proverbial needle in the haystack.) Last but not least, I hope Chiron in Libra will stimulate further insights about why Chiron received his incurable wound at a marriage ceremony.

As to perihelion, followed closely by perigee, Chiron pioneer/astrologer Zane Stein has pointed out Chiron’s interesting affinity for holidays next year.  What a sense of humor in cosmic proportions to manifest these significant astronomical events on Valentine’s and April Fool’s Day–all the same for some of us!  If anyone ever doubted that “laughter is the best medicine,” surely one of the great healers of all time–mythical Chiron–has the last laugh and the last word on Chiron in Libra!

On a more serious note, I do believe that perihelion is the time when we can expect the spirit of the centaur healer, and mentor of heroes to bring new insights about his meaning to us, including new information about his astrological significance.  If Chiron is the bridge between Heaven and Earth, perihelion is the time to walk across it and get the best view of the other side (lit up by all that sunshine).  Perhaps at perigee, the insights will come “down to earth” for our practical implementation.


Dramatic Illustrations of Chiron in Recent History

If you have examined your conscience and came up short of giving Chiron a fair shake, ask yourself why.  There are a thousand honest answers–no time to learn a new planet, you’re already going crazy wondering about the asteroids, if I start with Chiron, where does it end with new objects being discovered every day…

Within the scope of this article, I can barely begin to suggest how important Chiron can be in an astrological chart. Naturally, not everyone has Chiron highly aspected.  Back to Pluto, not everyone could be called Plutonian; neither is everyone Chironic.  However, if you’re an astrologer (as was mythical Chiron), chances are you are Chiron-prominent.  And if not, try placing Chiron in the charts of those who are and see for yourself. To give two dramatic examples from the recent past (and since this article is about Chiron and Pluto), I would like to illustrate with the charts of David Koresh and Timothy McVeigh and the event charts of the Branch Davidian Fire and Oklahoma City Bombing. (The comparison seems especially relevant, since the bombing in Oklahoma was an alleged act of retribution for Waco.)

David Koresh had a close natal Sun in Leo/Chiron in Aquarius opposition (Birth data: 8/17/59, 8:49 AM, Houston, TX).   Without considering Chiron in his chart, you’d miss the tense T-Square focal to Jupiter conjunct Ceres in Scorpio in the 2nd house.  This suggests a religious zealot who would give total sustenance and offer to meet all the physical and material needs of his followers; and to defend what he considered to be his with the fixed intensity of a scorpion throwing thunderbolts.  As Chiron foster-parented so many young boys and trained them as warriors, Koresh’s Chiron gone awry adds to our understanding of the infamous tragedy. The real drama comes from the transits of Chiron, Pluto, and Saturn to his T-Square.  At the moment of the fire (4/19/93, 12:15 PM, Waco, TX), Pluto conjoined focal Jupiter, and Saturn was conjunct natal Chiron.  But what really tells the story is the exact conjunction of transiting Chiron to his natal Uranus at 17+ Leo, on the Sabian symbol A Chemistry Teacher Conducts an Experiment for His Students  (and the “lab” blew up).

Because angular placement is important when considering a Chiron emphasis, the full impact of Chiron in Timothy McVeigh’s chart is difficult to determine without the availability a birth time (4/23/68, Pendleton, NY). At the very least, his natal Chiron, creates an Aries stellium with Saturn, North Node, and Venus.  Used negatively, Chiron would contribute to his role as an anti-hero.  Chiron in Aries has issues with principles of anger, aggression, and war. As Chiron trained heroes in the martial arts, the militia movement can be seen as a negative use of the Chiron principle. Blending the planets involved, it is not difficult to understand McVeigh’s misguided mission to bring death and destruction by fire in a disordered quest for justice.  While Chiron can be such a positive force in the charts of healers and teachers, like any astrological principle, Chiron can be abused.  The Sabian symbol on his Chiron, A Comedian, is not funny when considering some of its negative key phrases–“puncturing illusions” (of safety and security) and  “being a trickster.” [16]

McVeigh’s Chiron opposes natal Uranus and quincunxes the asteroid Ceres.  In the Ceres myth, Pluto abducts innocent Persephone, grabs her from her mother and drags her to the underworld.  If guilty, there is no doubt that McVeigh ripped many innocents from their mothers and absconded with them to Pluto’s realm on April 19, 1995 (9:02 AM).  This is echoed by transiting Ceres within a degree conjunction of his natal Chiron at the time of the bombing.  Of course, the most dramatic aspects are the exact transits of Chiron conjunct and Saturn opposite his natal Pluto; and transiting Pluto in Sagittarius trine natal Chiron, adding fire to the fuel, as Pluto stationed before its retrograde dip back into Scorpio the next day.


A New Breed of People

Despite these sad stories, as a whole, we are mutating into a better species of human being.  I call Chiron the harbinger of homo improvement.  Chiron represents our cultural wound–the split between intellect and instinct.  We are on the threshold of bridging that chasm, the split between: left and right brain; masculine and feminine; yin and yang; light and dark.  Once these forces ebb and flow in harmony within us, whatever comes up, we will know instinctively what to do and when to do it.  Instinct integrates knowledge, wisdom, and those signals you get from the pit of your stomach.  If you could trust you’d always know just what to do, what would there be to fear?

If you still doubt the inter-relationship and equal importance of the Comet Brothers, consider their conjunction within minutes on January 1, 2000. I call this the Millennium Aspect. Blend just two of their key words–transform evolution. While there could be a less optimistic interpretation of this conjunction, the Sabian symbol for 12 Sag, where the brothers meet, further supports my theory about homo improvement: It is on the degree symbol, A Flag That Turns Into An Eagle; the Eagle Into a Chanticleer Saluting the Dawn.  The bird is the first to see the sun rising, so he believes his cry made the new day dawn.  It reminds us of the power of the mind and synchronicity, i.e., what we see (believe and declare) is what we get. Our highest ideals can be asserted proudly…there is a bursting forth of higher self. [17]  Rudhyar’s keyword for this degree is annunciation–evocative, because in a Christian context, the Annunciation refers to the day when an angel announced to Mary that should would become the mother of the Christ.  Does the Millennium Aspect herald the “second coming” of inner enlightenment? Another synchronicity–the eagle in the Sabian symbol is also a symbol for Pluto. To pair other key words and emphasize the large number of parallels between Christ and Chiron, the Chiron/Pluto conjunction is pregnant with healing.   But there is no doubt that healing will only come by way of a showdown between Good (Chiron as the Christ figure) and Evil (Pluto as Hades). The Sabian is an omen–that we have the choice, if we have the vision, to transform and transmute our deepest wounds into a blessing.

There were those who laughed when we meditated on mountain tops at the Harmonic Convergence. Holding that vision of a healed world is about to pay off. The doom sayers are right, but for the wrong reason.  The world WILL end in the year 2000–the world as we knew it.  (While it is a world I don’t mind leaving behind, it will be “the end of the world” to many who have benefited from its inequities, for whom greed is a way of life.)  The Internet and CNN mean we can no longer view ourselves as separate from the global community.  In five more years, this still-new reality will have taken hold.  While it’s painful now, even the bombings and the O.J. trial “in our faces” make us, well, have to face certain problems.  (It’s all metaphorical.)  Only then will we do something about them.

Comets have been seen as omens throughout history. If Chiron is the harbinger of homo improvement, there is no mistake that astronomical Chiron is the forerunner of something brand new going on “out there”– and that the “something” is “far out.”  Conjoined like a Siamese twin with Pluto in Sag during the Big Turn, Chiron, the mythical half-breed, is the messenger of mutations yet to come.  The mutations are both literal and figurative–contact with other planets and species is a wild possibility.

But whether or not Star Trek is on the horizon, we are slowly but surely evolving into the characteristics of Chiron’s namesake–gentle, well-rounded people, keepers of the ecology, who coach others, despite our own wounds and woes, to live life heroically.

– by Joyce Lee Mason




[1] Henbest, Nigel, The Planets: Portraits of New Worlds, Penguin Books (1994), p. 186.
[2] I am indebted to Elaine McCollough for coining this wonderful term.
[3] Astrologer Dale O’Brien was the first person I know to point out the Chiron/Rodney Dangerfield connection.
[4] O’Brien, Dale, “The Myth of Chiron,” audio tape, recorded at TMA’s 1991 Planet Camp in Philo, Calif.
[5] Stern, S. Alan, “The Chiron Perihelion Campaign,” (March 1995) Sky and Telescope, p. 34.
[6] Stern, Alan, “Chiron: Interloper from the Kuiper Disk?”, Astronomy, August 1984, pp. 28-33.
[7] The CPC Internet address is To log onto the CPC bulletin board, FTP to; the user ID is sbnguest, and no password is needed.
[8] Henbest, p. 173.
[9] “The mother of all short period comets,” Discover, February 1991, p. 9.
[10] Henbest, p. 178.
[11] Riddle, T. Stan, “Chiron’s Secret Identity and Association with Virgo,” Chironicles , April 1995, p. 10.
[12] Lantero, Erminie, The Continuing Discovery of Chiron, Samuel Weiser (York Beach, ME: 1983), p. 50.
[13] Clow, Barbara Hand, Chiron: Rainbow Bridge Between the Inner and Outer Planets, Llewellyn (St. Paul, MN: 1987), p. 8.
[14] I use this phrase in its most generic sense, referring to the anima/animus within anyone, despite gender or sexual orientation.
[15] I am aware of five theories about Chiron’s rulership: (1) Sagittarius; (2) Virgo; (3) Co-rules Scorpio and Sag; (4) No rulership — not consistent with Chiron’s nature as a humble teacher who was not a god; and (5) The Virgo-to-Sagittarius sector of the zodiac. While #5 is my own theory, I think of Chiron as having a strong affinity for this sector of the zodiac, rather than ruling it. I am not convinced that rulership is a useful concept when working with Chiron. Chiron represents a very personalized and experiential path to individuation. How can wholeness be just one thing (sign)?
[16] Klimczak, Rick, Degree Symbols of the Zodiac: The Sabian Symbols, Arachni Press (Silver Spring, MD: 1989).
[17] Because so many predictions have been made about the turn of the coming Millennium, it seemed only appropriate to use the interpretation in Lynda Hill’s new, The Sabian Symbols as an Oracle