CHIRON: A DISCARDED GREEK GOD REDISCOVERED © Copyright by Hilary Bond PhD.
Chiron, a possible comet or planetoid in our solar system, with an amazing elliptical orbit; which travels between Saturn and Uranus; but also can be found as close to us as Jupiter and as far out as Neptune; was rediscovered on November 1st, 1977 by Charles Kowal. Kowal immediately called Chiron a “maverick”, because of this elliptical orbit. Zane Stein, Barbara Hand Clow and Melanie Reinhart are the best known of the first researching astrologers, who sought to analyse this steadfast, healing, mentoring Greek God. The immortal Chiron’s major concern, in his myths, is to accomplish his own brand of mentoring (with unfailing success), equipping heroes with the strength and abilities needed for their lives ahead. I too have been interested in Chiron since his rediscovery, as I have Chiron dominating my chart. In this article I reconstruct the archaeology, anthropology and ancient historical stories about Chiron.
Chiron, who was originally called Kheiron, was half-man, half-horse and he existed long before the Centaurs, a tribe of half-horse men. Chiron was a son of the Titan Kronos and his mother was the nymph Philyra (daughter of the Titan Oceanus) who was being loved by Kronos (Saturn) when his wife Rhea suddenly appeared unexpectedly. Cronus transformed himself into a horse, and fled; so in this metamorphosed form Saturn fathered a half-horse son. When the tribe of Kentauroi (or Centaurs) were born on Mount Pelion by the cloud nymph Nephele, Chiron and his daughters adopted the Centaurs and raised them as their own. It seems that Nephele and Philyra were both Oceanids and daughters of the great Titan Oceanus and his sister Tethys. Chiron was an immortal god, probably an original Thessalian god from the days when the northern Greeks were in their Neolithic tribal times, long before the Classical Greeks of the Athenian city states.
In Athenian vase painting Cheiron was depicted with the full-body of a man, from head to foot, clothed in chiton and boots, with a horse-body attached to the human rump. The image probably reflected his appearance in Greek drama, where costume-limitations reduced his centaurine-form somewhat. By contrast the other Kentauroi, who do not appear in Athenian drama, were depicted unclothed with fully equine forms below the waist.
Chiron was a great teacher who raised and mentored many of the great heroes. Eventually, Chiron left the earth, after accidentally being wounded by Heracles with an arrow coated in Hydra-venom. The wound was incurable, and unbearably painful, so Chiron voluntarily relinquished his immortality and died. However, instead of being consigned to Hades, he was given a place amongst the stars by Zeus as the constellation Sagittarius or Centaurs. Chiron is a healer of renown who stills the anxieties of others and his character is never allowed to display any potential for malevolence; the worst act of which he is capable is death, and his death is (according to Pindar) a loss to mankind.
Kheiron’s name was derived from the Greek word for hand (kheir), which also meant “skilled with the hands.” The name was also closely associated in myth with kheirourgos or surgeon. The name Chiropractor comes from Chiron.
Chiron’s Family Tree
According to an archaic myth (a quote from the lost Titanomachia, provided as a scholium on Apollonius Rhodius’ Argonautica I.554.) Chiron was sired by the Titan Cronus when he had taken the form of a horse and impregnated the Oceanid nymph Philyra. The Greeks of the Classic period or the Olympian tradition attributed Chiron’s uniquely peaceful character and intelligence to teaching by Apollo and Artemis in his younger days.
According to Apollodorus (i. 2. § 4), Philyra, Chiron’s mother, was an Oceanid nymph of Mount Pelion in Thessalia (Thessaly) loved by the Titan Kronos (Cronos). When his wife Rhea came upon their rendezvous, Cronos quickly transformed himself into a horse to escape detection. As a result, Philyra birthed a half-horse, half-man hybrid, the centaur Chiron. To ease her shame, Kronos transformed the girl into a Philyra or linden tree.
We hear much of Thetis, the enigmatic sea nymph and her wedding to Chiron’s grandson Peleus in his cave and it is the sea world of Thetis, the bay of sepia or cuttlefish which contrasts with the mountain (Pelion) which dominates the Magnesian (Thessalian) litoral zone; the eastern shore; the wider marine network within which the region should certainly be viewed. Intrestingly, sacrifices were offered to him there by the Magnesians until a very late period, and the family of the Cheironidae in that neighbourhood, who were distinguished for their knowledge of medicine, were regarded as his descendants. (Plut. Sympos. iii. 1 ; Müller, Orchom. p. 249.)
It is no surprise that Chiron’s mother is a sea nymph, his wife is a sea nymph , for Cronos and Philyra also were the parents of Aphros (who was Aphrodite’s adopted father) who was a gentle Centaurian like Chiron. Aphros had horse front legs and a fishy, serpent-like tail, like their grandfather Oceanus, the great peace-loving Titan. On a fragmentary archaic vessel of circa 580 BC (British Museum), among the gods arriving at the wedding of Peleus and the sea-nymph Thetis, is a fish-tailed Oceanus, with a fish in one hand and a serpent in the other, gifts of bounty and prophecy. Oceanus came to represent the strange, unknown waters of the Atlantic Ocean (also called the “Ocean Sea”), while the newcomer of a later generation, Poseidon (Neptune), ruled over the Mediterrean. Oceanus’ consort is his sister Tethys, and from their union came the ocean nymphs, also known as the three-thousand Oceanids (of whom Philyra was one) , and all the rivers of the world, fountains, and lakes.[ Nonnus, Dionysiaca 6.352.] Hera mentions twice in Iliad book XIV her intended journey “to the ends of the generous earth on a visit to Oceanus, whence the gods have risen, and Tethys our mother who brought me up kindly in their own house.”[ Iliad xiv. 200 and 244.]
In most variations of the war between the Titans and the Olympians, or Titanomachy, Oceanus, along with Prometheus and Themis, did not take the side of his fellow Titans against the Olympians, but instead withdrew from the conflict. In most variations of this myth, Oceanus also refused to side with Cronus in the latter’s revolt against their father, Uranus.
As the son of the Titan Kronos, Chiron was a half-brother to Jupiter and Juno, Poseidon and an uncle to Apollo, Artemis and Dionysius. Poseidon (Neptune) and Hera were ancient Thessalian Gods. Cheiron himself had been instructed by Apollo and Artemis, and was renowned for his skill in hunting, medicine, music, gymnastics, and the art of prophecy. (Xen. Cyneg. 1; Philostr. Her. 9, Icon. ii. 2; Pind. Pyth. ix. 65.) All the most distinguished heroes of Grecian story are, like Achilles, described as the pupils of Cheiron in these arts. His friendship with Peleus, who was his grandson, is particularly celebrated. Cheiron saved him from the hands of the other centaurs, who were on the point of killing him. (Apollod.)
Apollo in the Olympian age (the Greek Classical age after 800 BC) was a newer version of the ancient Titan Hyperion. Helios was the personification of the Sun in Greek mythology. Homer often calls him Hyperion, while Hesiod (Theogony 371) and the Homeric Hymn separate him as a son of the Titans Hyperion and Theia (Hesiod) and brother of the goddesses Selene, the moon, and Eos, the dawn. Homer described Helios’s chariot as drawn by solar steeds (Iliad xvi.779.) As time passed, Helios was increasingly identified with the god of light, Apollo. So even though the Classical Greeks called Helios, Apollo, Apollo was his uncle and in the tribal world all children are often adopted and raised by their uncles (Bond, 2004. )
Chiron frequented Mount Pelion and at Mt Pelion he married the nymph Chariclo. They had three daughters, Hippe (also known as Melanippe (also the name of her daughter), the “Black Mare” or Euippe, “truly a mare”), Endeis, and Ocyrhoe, and one son Carystus. (Apollod.)
Can we be sure that the historical myths (or sacred stories) are factual?
It well-known in history, that colonising or conquering nations, who take over a previous Indigenous or existent population who live in that country, always reduce the Indigenous people and their religion to dust. They mostly kill them, and reduce those who survive to drunks. They make fools of them so they appear to have low intelligence. The colonising powers reduce the Indigenous people or original residents to an uncivilised people. The colonised Indigenous people often are called savages, animals or Stone Age people (Bond, 2004) and are made to be seen as beings who are totally lacking in credibility. The conquering nations make sure that the beliefs, practices, myths, folklore education and medicines of the Indigenous people are forgotten, wiped out or illegal. The Indigenous residents are also “divided and conquered” so they fight among themselves. Propaganda is also spread about them. All this so the credibility and power of the new government and its presiding cartel of power is kept strong. This happened in Australia, in America, in Great Britain, in Africa and it happened in ancient Greece. Let’s look at what happened to the Thessalians, the people whom Chiron belonged in the North of Greece and Chiron himself.
Chiron came from the northern Greek state of Thessaly. Mt Pelion where Chiron lived all of his life was in the south-east of Thessaly. According to the Athenians (Classical Greeks) mythological Thessaly was homeland of the heroes Achilles and Jason, as well of mythological creatures and peoples, Centaurs, Lapiths, Phlegyans and Myrmidons. Ancient tribes in Thessaly mentioned by Homer or other poets were: Aeolians, Magnesians, Perrhaebi and Pelasgians. The Athenians associated Thessaly with witches, magic, and Orphism and this may have been one of the reasons that Chiron was officially made invisible. I remember my father reading me Greek myths as a small child and Chiron was not in those stories.
The name Pelasgians was used by some ancient Greek writers to refer to populations that either were the ancestors of the Greeks or preceded the Greeks in Greece, “a hold-all term for any ancient, primitive and presumably indigenous people in the Greek world”. In general, “Pelasgian” has come to mean more broadly all the Indigenous inhabitants of the Aegean Sea region and their cultures before the advent of the Greek language. This is not an exclusive meaning, but other senses require identification when meant. During the classical period, enclaves under that name survived in several locations of mainland Greece, Crete, and other regions of the Aegean. Populations identified as “Pelasgian” spoke a language or languages that at the time Greeks identified as “barbaric”, even though some ancient writers described the Pelasgians as Greeks. A tradition also survived that large parts of Greece had once been Pelasgian before being Hellenised. These parts generally fell within the ethnic domain that by the 5th century BC was attributed to those speakers of ancient Greek who were identified as Ionians.
Thessaly was located in northern Greece and is the largest plains area of Greece. It is almost surrounded by mountains, which are pierced by traversable valleys and passes called Tempe. On the north, the Cambunian range has as its highest mountain the home of the gods, Mt. Olympus. Pelion is the southern boundary of Thessaly while Olympus guards this northern region of Greece.
Classicist and astrologer, Brian Clark relates in his article “Pelion: the Land Apollo Loved,” that, “Olympus was the land of the gods; the estate of the divine Olympians, and its peak was heaven itself. Poseidon’s two giant, arrogant sons Ephialtes and Otus, known as the ‘Aloidae’, decided to attack Mount Olympus [ and] myth tells how they stacked Mount Pelion on Mount Ossa, another of Thessaly’s famous mountains, in order to storm the gods’ sanctuary.”
One can see why the Athenians saw Thessaly as a place of magic, because rather than the rocky slopes of southern Greece, the Pelion region was known as the ‘healing mountains’ because the slopes were prolific with both medicinal and magical plants. ‘Healing waters’ flow in the crystal clear mountain streams. Medicinal herbs cover Pelion: meadow saffron , hemlock, henbane, nightshade, mandrake, St. John’s wort, mullein, yarrow. Today they are just as profuse as in antiquity, still gathered in the fields, and sold in markets and villages throughout Pelion. Mount Pelion rises majestically out of the Aegean Sea and its eastern side is sheer cliff face. The wild, untamed, rugged side of the mountain belonged to Chiron and the more civilised, tranquil side belonged to his half-brother Zeus, who we know as Jupiter.
Chiron’s original home was his cave/sanctuary on Mount Pelion. Many heroes came to Chiron’s cave, to be fostered, trained, initiated and prepared for the heroic trials and labours that lay before them. Their master teacher was Chiron, a hybrid and healer; gentle, wise and just. Carl Kerenyi, classicist and friend of Carl Jung in his Gods of the Greeks calls Chiron “The inventor of the art of healing:” an amazing claim for a brilliant classicist who is not prone to exaggeration.
Brian Clarke who I would see as one of the most readable and knowledgeable of Chiron’s biographers has written:
Chiron’s cave stands as a great reminder of heroic initiation. However by the 8th century [before Christ] when the epic tradition sung the tales of the mythological cycle, Chiron’s shamanism, healing and magic were being consciously edited out. Homer barely mentions Chiron in the Iliad; instead Phoenix is Achilles’ tutor. By the classical period when the Hippocratic corpus and Platonic philosophical theology began to denigrate mystical healing ritual and practice, the mystical legacy of the Pelion region, along with the traditions of magic and shamanism, were fading. The chthonic healing legacy of Chiron was being forgotten.
The gathering and hunting cultures of Palaeolithic Eurasia lasted for around thirty thousand years from the emergence of art forty thousand years ago until around ten thousand ago. Then, most likely women since they were the primary plant gatherers invented methods to grow plants and select for more productive crops. This new subsistence strategy emerged in a number of cultures around the world. (Hawkes, 1976) The Neolithic was changed five thousand years ago by the discovery of metallurgy. This led to the need for huge amounts of wood for smelting the raw ore into usable metal. It began with copper, eventually leading to bronze and iron. The pressure of war and raiding may have been a major reason for the breakup of the large settlements that had developed across Neolithic Europe, including cultures in Thessaly. War came from many locations, including city-states expanding their domain and nomadic cultures raiding and conquering. Wars made it impossible for large peaceful communities to survive, but some such as the island of Crete survived for a while. By this time Thessaly had become a key factor in the struggle between the city-states of Athens and Sparta for domination of the Greek peninsula and lands beyond. Whoever controlled Thessaly could block attacks by land because they controlled the mountain pass that led from Macedonia into Thessaly and the rest of Greece.
Thessaly succeeded in making an alliance Athens. the earlier inhabitants, who had become the people of the mountains, were a number of different tribes renowned for their horse riding skills and herbal practices. In fact they are believed to be the legendary centaurs. One form of centaurs is the horse and human amalgam. But there are numerous other animals that are mixed together and also called centaurs. The centaurs were known as sorcerers or witches. They practiced the shamanic art of shape shifting by turning into animals, or using animals as allies to augment their human power. (Lawson, 1964 p.252)
Apollodorus suggested that Thessaly was “always the home of magic” (Harrison,1963 p.81). Archaeologists have maintained that the Thessalians used rain-making rituals and anthropologist Jane Ellen Harrison says that, “Magic was no hole and corner practice but an affair of public ritual, performed with full social sanction.” (Harrison, 1963 p.82). The rainmaking ritual is said to have included a dance on hobbyhorses, which is a further link to the centaurs. (Graves, 1996 p.199)
The Greeks were able to dominate the land of the earlier inhabitants, but not the spirituality and healing practices of the people. The name of the Thessalian Goddess was Enodia. She is represented riding a horse on the coins of a city in Thessaly beginning 480 B.C.E. (Rabinowitz, J. 1998 p.37). Enodia became the Greek Goddess Hecate in the fifth century. She was also sometimes called Artemis (the teacher of Chiron) and both were Goddesses of childbirth and of wild places.
Thessaly was hardly ever united under one government. It is rare for tribal people to be united as they exist in clans or families. Thessaly was home to an extensive Neolithic (or new stone age) culture around 5,000–2,500 BC, but Chiron as a religious figure may have existed as far back in history as 12,000BC- 13, 000 BC, around the time of Gobekli Tepe.
His nobility is further reflected in the story of his death, as Prometheus sacrificed his life, allowing mankind to obtain the use of fire. Being the son of Cronus, a Titan, he was immortal and so could not die. So it was left to Heracles to arrange a bargain with Zeus to exchange Chiron’s immortality for the life of Prometheus, who had been chained to a rock and left to die for his transgressions. Chiron had been poisoned with an arrow belonging to Heracles that had been treated with the blood of the Hydra, or, in other versions, poison that Chiron had given to the hero when he had been under the honourable centaur’s tutelage. According to a Scholium on Theocritus, this had taken place during the visit of Heracles to the cave of Pholus on Mount Pelion in Thessaly when he visited his friend during his fourth labour in defeating the Erymanthian Boar. While they were at supper, Heracles asked for some wine to accompany his meal. Pholus, who ate his food raw, was taken aback. He had been given a vessel of sacred wine by Dionysus sometime earlier, to be kept in trust for the rest of the centaurs until the right time for its opening. At Heracles’ prompting, Pholus was forced to produce the vessel of sacred wine. The hero, gasping for wine, grabbed it from him and forced it open. Thereupon the vapours of the sacred wine wafted out of the cave and intoxicated the wild centaurs, led by Nessus, who had gathered outside. They attacked the cave with stones and fir trees. Heracles was forced to shoot many arrows (poisoned with the blood of the Hydra) to drive them back. During this assault, Chiron was hit in the thigh by one of the poisoned arrows. After the centaurs had fled, Pholus emerged from the cave to observe the destruction. Being of a philosophical frame of mind, he pulled one of the arrows from the body of a dead centaur and wondered how such a little thing as an arrow could have caused so much death and destruction. In that instant, he let slip the arrow from his hand and it dropped and hit him in the hoof, killing him instantly. This, however, is open to controversy, because Pholus shared the “civilized centaur” form with Chiron in some art images, and thus would have been immortal. Ironically, Chiron, the master of the healing arts, could not heal himself, so he willingly gave up his immortality. He was honoured with a place in the sky, identified by the Greeks as the constellation Centaurus.
Cheiron himself had been instructed by Apollo and Artemis, and was renowned for his skill in hunting, medicine, music, gymnastics, and the art of prophecy. (Xen. Cyneg. 1; Philostr. Her. 9, Icon. ii. 2; Pind. Pyth. ix. 65.) Many infant heroes are brought to Cheiron on Pelion. The roll-call is extraordinary: Achilles, Aristaios, Aktaion, Asklepios, Jason: these are some of his famous charges. He ushers them from infancy into adulthood, equipping them with various essential heroic skills, but he himself is astonishingly constant in terms of age and state. We are given narratives to explain his birth, but hear next to nothing about his youth or upbringing; maturity, yet the attendant qualities of sophia and sôphrosunê, is Cheiron’s natural and unwavering condition. They are constant as his location is constant; he affects change, but does not undergo it; he inspires movement, but does not himself move. The exception to this is of course his death, discussed below. There is a form of ritual counterpart to this motif of the young heroes’ sojourn with Cheiron: the pilgrimage described by Herakleides, mentioned above. The relevant passage is as follows:
On the peaks of the mountain’s top there is the cave called the Cheironion and a hieron of Zeus Aktaios, to which, at the rising of the Dog Star, at the time of greatest heat, the most distinguished of the citizens and those in the prime of life ascend, having been chosen in the presence of the priest, wrapped in thick new fleeces. So great is the cold on the mountain.
Although Chiron is not the chief recipient of the rite, it may plausibly be argued that it, and he, contribute massively to the nature and the symbolic valency of the ritual’s destination, the mountaintop. (Buxton, p. 94.) The dominant theme of the ritual is changes of state, symbolised in the donning of fleeces, which entails a dramatic and programmatic transformation: the noblest of the citizens don the garb of the rustic and the primitive. Since fleeces and caves share this quality, the visitors to the area of the Cheironion are modelling themselves on their destination, and undergoing transformation in parallel with their spatial movement away from the cultivated plain and up into the wild territory of the oros, as Buxton observes. They are also, in a sense, stepping back into primeval time.Hence we have the theme of portals and interdimensionality where Chiron is. In the Australian Aboriginal world he would be an initiator, a high ceremonial Elder and mentor.
So little is left of his ability to be a surgeon, medical expert and herbalist. But these sources suggest some of his talents: Homer [Iliad] in the 8th Century BC states : “[Eurypylos addresses Patroklos in the Trojan War:] ‘Cut the arrow out of my thigh . . . and put kind medicines on it, good ones, which they say you have been told of by Akhilleus, since Kheiron (Chiron), most righteous of the Kentauroi (Centaurs), told him about them.’”
One thousand years later Pseudo-Apollodorus, tells us: “Phoinix had been blinded by his father . . . [and] Peleus led Phoinix to Kheiron (Chiron), who healed his eyes.”
And 1800 years ago Aelian[, On Animals 2. 18 (trans. Scholfield) (Greek natural history C2nd A.D.) ] tells us: “In Homer skill in treating the wounded and persons in need of medicine goes back as far as the third generation of pupil and master [see Iliad 11. 832 above]. Thus Patroklos, son of Mentoitios, is taught the healing art by Akhilleus (Achilles), and Akhilleus, son of Peleus, is taught by Kheiron (Chiron), son of Kronos (Cronus). And heroes and children of the gods learnt about the nature of roots, the use of different herbs, the concocting of drugs, spells to reduce inflammations, the way to staunch blood, and everything else that they knew.”
Three other writers tell us about Chiron’s skills. Pseudo-Hyginus says : “Inventors and their inventions . . . Chiron, son of Saturnus [Kronos, Cronus], first used herbs in the medical art of surgery.”
Pliny the Elder states in his Natural History : “He invented the science of herbs and drugs. ”
And Nonnus in Dionysiaca asks: “What ridge of the paturing woodlands must I traverse to summon old lifebringing Kheiron (Chiron) to help your wound? Would that I had what they call the herb Kentaurida (of the Centaur), that I might bind the flower of no-pain upon your limbs, and bring you back safe and living from Haides whence none returns!”
Around the same time Ptolemy Hephaestion maintains that : “Kokytos was the name of a pupil to whom Kheiron (Chiron) had taught medicine and who cared for Adonis when he was wounded by the wild boar.”
Cheiron, Pelion and the mountain’s native healing herbs form an inseparable triad in the works of many ancient authors. This is reflected especially strongly in a fragment of the Hellenistic author Nicander’ Theriaka, which gives the following medical instruction:
Choose first the medicinal root of Cheiron,
Which carries the name of the centaur, Kronos’ son; Cheiron once
Discovered and took note of it on a snowy ridge of Pelion.
It is encircled by waving leaves like sweet marjoram,
And its flowers are golden in appearance. Its root, at the
Surface and not deep, resides in the grove of Pelethronios.
(Theophrastos, On Plants IX, 11, 1-7.) It is clear from the description of the plant that Cheiron, is the mythical discoverer of a major natural resource, and a form of culture-hero. This plainly accords with his healing persona among the Magnesians. He gives his name to the plant called ‘Cheironeion’, whose properties are described by Theophrastos: it is used to cure the bites of snakes, spiders and other venomous creatures.
So Cheiron in a sense embodies the healing properties of Mount Pelion itself, in the form of its native herbs. Cheiron is, as has been said, the nurse and educator of a large number of heroes. Cave is a haven for the young, and Cheiron shares his nurturing role on Pelion with nymphs, his daughters. It would be easy to turn this into a cultic label, designating him as a – kourotrophic deity with a fertility-dimension.
Among the students of Chiron are:
Achilles: When Achilles’ mother Thetis left home and returned to the Nereids, Peleus brought his son Achilles to Chiron, who received him as a disciple, and fed him on the innards of lions and wild swine, and the marrow of she-wolves.
Actaeon: who was bred by Chiron to be a hunter, is famous for his terrible death for he in the shape of a deer was devoured by his own dogs. The dogs, ignorant of what they had done, came to the cave of Chiron seeking their master, and the Centaur fashioned an image of Actaeon in order to soothe their grief.
Aristaeus: Chiron taught Aristaeus the arts of healing and of prophecy. It was actually Chiron who grew wild honey and olives, but it is said by Classical Greek writers that Aristaeus discovered honey and the olive.
Asclepius: The great healing power of Asclepius is based on Chiron’s teaching. Artemis killed Asclepius’ mother Coronis, on Apollo’s orders, while still pregnant but snatched the child from the pyre, bringing him to Chiron who reared him and taught him the arts of healing and hunting.
Jason: In an early tradition, Aeson gave his son Jason to the Centaur Chiron to rear at the time when he was deposed by King Pelias. Jason was the captain of the Argonauts.
Patroclus: Patroclus’ father left him in Chiron’s cave, to study, side by side with Achilles, the chords of the harp, and learn to hurl spears and mount and ride upon the back of genial Chiron.
Peleus: father of Achilles, was once rescued by Chiron. Chiron arranged the marriage of Peleus with Thetis, bringing Achilles up for her. He also told Peleus how to conquer the Nereid Thetis who, changing her form, could prevent him from catching her. In other legends, it was Proteus who helped Peleus. When Peleus married Thetis, he received from Chiron an ashen spear, which Achilles took to the war at Troy. This spear is the same with which Achilles healed Telephus by scraping off the rust.
Ptolemy Hephaestion in his New History Book 4 also tells us that “Dionysos was loved by Kheiron (Chiron), from whom he learned chants and dances, the bacchic rites and initiations.”
Possibilities of explanations for Chiron and his family’s mythology.
In several Greek myths, human maidens or nymphs pursued by gods begged for protection from other deities and were transformed into trees. Crews (2005) suggests that the identification of trees with the human body is also seen in yoga, the Hindu system of meditation. In the tree pose the body is kept low while the arms are outstretched like branches. This pose is intended to instil a feeling of rootedness and upward growth. Most of these myths and practices point to an underlying identification of trees as receptacles for spirits or souls, a belief common in many cultures. In Australia, western Warlpiri Aborigines believe that souls accumulate in trees and wait for a likely woman to pass by so that they can jump out and be born (Warnayaka Art Centre, 2001).
Crews (2005) also tells us that the tree of life is a widespread motif in many myths and folktales around the world, by which cultures sought to understand the human and profane condition in relation to the divine and sacred realm. Many legends speak of a tree of life, which grows above the ground and gives life to gods or humans, or of a world tree, which is often linked with a “centre” of the earth. Crews (2005) maintains it is probably the most ancient human myth, and possibly a world wide myth.
In his book Nature-Speak , Ted Andrews states if you have the Linden tree as a totem you should keep the child and dreamer in you alive; follow your heart. In both Europe and America the linden is a tree whose spirit can teach healing and the ability to see the beauty beyond outer surfaces. Chiron’s lineage as the son of a Linden tree also reveals a person who has the spirit of the mystic, the poet, the dreamer, and the child who has the ability to see beyond appearances, because it has heart-shaped leaves which have a shiny underside. Therefore Chiron teaches how to work with the inner spirit to heal and transform and to find the beauty and joy in all transformations. She teaches that suffering is only good for the soul if it teaches us how not to suffer again. Linden trees remind us to follow our heart and pursue our dreams, since our dreams are never lost, only forgotten and we must pursue them if we want them to come true. The linden tree spirit reminds us of the dreams we have tucked away to the back of our hearts and it awakens the inner desire and strength to follow them. Linden is the spirit than can reveal the sweet honey of all life situations. In the spring, bees are drawn to the linden nectar, and the honey is lighter than the honey of other flowers.
In Europe, there has been a close association between the cuckoo and the linden tree. The spirit of the linden will often take the form of a cuckoo to leave the tree itself. The cuckoo is often the herald of spring, the time of rebirth. In parts of Europe, it was also the herald of death and marriage, all of which are symbolic of great transformation. The linden tree spirit holds the knowledge to life, death and transformation, and the true beauty and sweetness in those processes, no matter what form they take for the individual. This links Philyra to Juno-Hera the Thessalian goddess, who became chief consort of Jupiter. Juno’s symbol was also the cuckoo and she was originally a weather goddess.
In regard to Chiron as half man, half horse we can see a balance between instinctive and tamed part of your personality. Carl Jung observed the horse symbolically representing the intuitive aspect of human nature, and also he also thought it was a symbol of the human body in certain dreams, when we enter the theta vibrations, the akashic records or travel astrally. According to psychologist Carl Jung, horses symbolize natural forces mastered by human beings. Just like we harness a horse to ride it or use its power, we can harness our own energy or nature’s to serve us, awaken us and help us evolve. A horse spirit animal, especially when it appears to you in a dream, is likely to represent your energy or drive to express your authentic self and succeed in life.
In regard to the half man- half horse God, Chiron and his horsey offspring, the Horse is seen as symbol of power, grace, beauty, nobility, strength and freedom. Horses can also represent:
•A driving force, where you thrive or where your soul carries you in life
Horse spirit animals are likely to represent your inner strength and driving force in life. A typical symbolism for the horse is one of an animal representing physical strength, vitality, but also our psychological or emotional ability to go on in life. Horse spirit animals present life energy.
Though Liz Greene depicts Chiron as a savage hunter, Philostratus the Elder tells us in , Imagines that,
[Ostensibly a description of an ancient Greek painting at Neapolis (Naples):] The Education of Akhilleus (Achilles). A fawn and a hare, these are the spoils of hunting of Akhilleus as he is now . . . the exploits here depicted, done at Kheiron’s (Chiron’s) home, seem to deserve apples and honey as rewards, and you are content with small gifts . . . This Akhilleus, a child not yet conscious of valour, whom Kheiron still nourishes upon milk and marrow and honey… That the expression seen in the eye of Kheiron is gentle is the result of his justice, but the lyre also does its part, through whose music he has become cultured; but now there is also something of cozening in his look, no doubt because Kheiron knows that this soothes children and nurtures them better than milk.
He is according to mythology, anthropology, symbolism and archaeology, a great healer, astrologer, and respected oracle, first among centaurs, a famous judge and mediator, and highly revered as a teacher and tutor. Cheiron is the noblest specimen of a combination of the human and animal forms in ancient cosmology and works of art; for while the centaurs generally express the sensual and savage features of a man combined with the strength and swiftness of a horse, Cheiron, who possesses the latter likewise, combines with it a mild wisdom.
Argonautica Orphica 452.
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