Tuesday 17 September 2013


I have to declare an interest where Chariklo's concerned, because she's the Centaur I feel closest to and the one I've done the most inner work with. I think this is because I'm coming up to my Chariklo return, which occurs around the age of 62-3. Now that living to 90-100 and a second Chiron return is no longer an impossible dream, Chariklo's is the first return that is definitely not going to be repeated, so to me it's special.

Let's look at her vital statistics. Chariklo was the second of the female Centaurs to be discovered, on 15 February 1997. She orbits between Saturn and Uranus, whose orbit she just grazes. Her orbit is the gentlest and most 'contained' of all the Centaurs. She is also the largest of the Centaurs (around 160 miles or 258 km in diameter), apart from the one they lost (1995 SN55, which was observed several times after its discovery but then astronomers lost track of it. Presumably it's still out there somewhere!). 

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 Note the perfect Grand Sextile that forms when Chariklo is added to the chart, and that Chariklo's opposition to Uranus was exact the next day.

Chariklo orbits in the same space as Chiron, but he's closer to Saturn and she to Uranus. This reflects their different natures. Chiron is the teacher or mentor who draws on tradition – which by its very nature comes from the past and is very steady and weighty (all Saturnian qualities). Chariklo, however, looks more to the future than to the past and is concerned with how things could be. They make an ideal couple, you might think, and you'd be right. Chariklo is Chiron's wife. Also relevant is that Chariklo is not a centaur. She's a nymph, or nature spirit. Sometimes described as a water nymph, sometimes as a mountain nymph, she is still closely linked to the land but more ethereal than Chiron, the man-horse who lives in a cave.

As well as not being a centaur, there are no stories about her – she just gets a passing mention or two – and yet for me she possesses a power and a radiance unlike any other Centaur. She sees life from a completely different perspective and constantly questions what passes for reality. Her nature is very much that of the Saturn-Uranus cycle, with the emphasis on the Uranian side, always challenging the Saturnian fortress of the status quo. Anyone who is strongly Saturnian and prefers to keep things how they are because they've always been like that (and it's safer that way) will not respond well to the call of Chariklo as she blows a hole in the fortress wall to find out what lies beyond.

Also of note is that, when you think about it, she's the only female figure in the heavens who reaches maturity. Goddesses don't – they either are mature or they aren't. The other female Centaurs don't. In terms of astrological cycles, she's the only female figure whose return occurs in later life. Venus returns and asteroid goddess returns occur too often to be hugely significant, in my opinion; and dwarf planets' cycles are well beyond the length of a human life.

Continuing her connection with Saturn and Uranus, the Chariklo return links the second Saturn return and the waning Uranus square, making a transition period of about five years between the ages of 58 and 63. The Saturn return is an opportunity to look back on your life and appraise both your successes and your failures. This clears the ground for the Uranus square and the Chariklo return (either of which could come first). Both of them are future-oriented. They're about leaving a legacy, not one built in stone with your name emblazoned on it nor money in the bank, but one which results from the distillation of ife experience. They have a wider perspective and better judgement about what works and what doesn't than they had when they were younger. They know what's important and what's ephemeral and they can see through the posturing, gesturing and strutting about on the world stage that passes for leadership these days. Because they know they're entering the final stages of their life, there is also a sense of urgency – this might be their last chance to make a difference, while they still have their health and vigour. Where they differ is in their approach. Chariklo works in a quiet, compassionate way and can temper the worst excesses of iconoclastic, disruptive Uranus. Whereas for Uranus revolution is an event, for Chariklo it is a process.

There is much about Chariklo that is Uranian. She is spirited and independent, restless and always searching. But she does have a sense of duty too, which she gets from Saturn. Her husband, Chiron, was mortally wounded but, being immortal, couldn't die. We can imagine her trapped in a situation not of her making, tending and caring for a husband who is sick but cannot die, and wondering when or even if she will ever have her freedom again. How many people have found themselves in a similar situation with a family member? I did recently, when my father was diagnosed with a terminal illness but couldn't die. Like Chiron, he didn't want to live and longed for release from his suffering but it took fifteen long months before he departed. Okay, it's not quite eternity but it was something that hung heavy on both of us. He had lost his independence and I had lost my freedom, in that my life was to a large extent put on hold during his illness. The longer it continued, the more trapped I felt, as if I was never going to be free again. Although there's no obvious astrological explanation for this in our charts, and I don't consider my father to be a Chironic figure, while preparing my talk it suddenly hit me that I had been living part of Chariklo's story.

Another Chariklo quality is her sense of social justice. I used the example of Joan Baez in my talk to illustrate Chariklo energy (she has it closely conjunct her Descendant). I'm guessing that most people will be familiar with her life story, so I'll just put her chart up and a link for people who want to explore this further (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joan_Baez). I'm going to look instead at someone who is probably not as well known: Louise Michel, the Red Virgin of Montmartre. I heard her life story on the BBC Radio 4 'Great Lives' programme recently and it was somewhat more rounded than this account, but for those who don't know of her: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louise_Michel.

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Louise Michel has Chariklo conjunct Jupiter and, as Jupiter is conjunct Neptune, it can be seen as a triple conjunction. As such Chariklo works very differently here from how it works in Joan Baez's chart. Very briefly, Louise was the result of a liaison between servant and master and as such she received a good, liberal education. She went on to run a school in Paris but she earned very little money because she didn't like turning away poor children.

She also became involved in revolutionary politics and joined the short-lived Paris Commune of 1871, at first as an ambulance woman, treating the wounded, and later joining the National Guard, which involved carrying a gun and wearing a (man's) military uniform. I'm not sure whether she actually shot anyone (though she certainly offered to shoot the man who suppressed the Commune). At her trial she dared the judges to sentence her to death: 'If you let me live, I shall never cease to cry for vengeance' (for the suppression of the Commune). However, determined not to give her the martyrdom she craved, and possibly also afraid of the public reaction if they did, they sentenced her to a period of transportation instead. She and other rebels were transported to New Caledonia, where life was very tough as they were literally dumped there with no resources like food or shelter. Remember, these were Parisian urbanites and they now found themselves forced to live a Robinson Crusoe existence. Undaunted, Louise befriended the local Kanaks, educated them and supported them, morally if not actively, in their 1878 revolt. She also undertook an early anthropological study while on the island.

She returned to France in 1880 and continued with her activism, which led to several short terms in prison. She died on 9 January 1905 (aged 74) while touring France, lecturing on behalf of anarchist causes. Greatly admired during her lifetime, the local community in Paris still maintain her grave to this day.

Obviously neither Chariklo alone nor in combination with Jupiter-Neptune can explain the whole of her life. But Chariklo energy can be seen in her choosing to dress in men's clothing – not unheard of at the time (e.g. Georges Sand) but considered unconventional. Louise never married, she was wedded to the cause – again, unusual for the time she lived in. Significantly, her Chariklo is quincunx Saturn, which I see as Chariklo jabbing at the establishment, wanting them to see there are other, better ways to live (I have Chariklo in as close a quincunx to my Sun-Jupiter-Mercury, so I know what it feels like). She was a thorn in the flesh of the establishment for the whole of her life.

Whilst revolution is usually the territory of Uranus, the Jupiter-Neptune conjunction also contributes to this part of Louise's life. Alexander Ruperti (Cycles of Becoming, pg 239) describes them as being concerned with collective action. Neptune's idealism and interconnectedness shine through her life story, for example in her association with collectives like the Commune rather than treading a lone path, which would be more Uranian. The Chariklo-Jupiter connection is evident in her career as a teacher, with Neptune's idealism there too in her teaching pupils for free and encouraging the Kanaks in their uprising. And the Chariklo-Jupiter-Neptune combination is shown in her defiant bid for martyrdom.

This is just one example of how Chariklo works in the life of an activist – one that was a bit of a rough diamond, perhaps, but a woman who stuck to her principles and gave her all to whatever situation she found herself in.

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