The Chiron Return and Reflections on Being 52

by Daniel Giamario

Shamanic Astrology occupies a niche within the larger context of the astrological world. Whilst rejecting many of the dogma’s of western traditional astrology, it frequently will incorporate useful elements of many astrological and shamanic traditions, Eastern, Western, Mayan or aboriginal. The Mayans, for example, in their sacred calendrics, reset to 0 at 52 years as that is where the sacred and secular calendars intersect. Their ideas seem to be a convergence of starting over and of entering into the ‘Council of Elders’.

I have indeed found that almost without exception, that my clients and friends having this kind of experience. And definitely that goes for me. What corresponds in the framework of western astrology and in the planetary cycles generally used in Shamanic Astrolgy? I believe it to be the timeframe from the Chiron return (a 9-10 month cycle surrounding the 50th birthday) up until the conclusion of the Saturn square that occurs between age 51 and 52. Chiron had not been an astrological symbol until its discovery in 1977, yet what he symbolizes is pre-technological, archaic and shamanic. His mysteries emanate from a nearly lost lost libretto pre-dating the more patriarchal sky stories that have been projected over most of the night sky.

This libretto was sourced in a region below the southern ecliptic including the constellation of Centaurus, the shaman Centaur, the original constellation of Chiron. Also in this region are Lupus the she-wolf, Ara the alter, the magical and sexual thyrsus held by Centaurus, and Corvus, originally the oracular Ravens of Coronis, the mother of Aesclepius, who later became the great constellation Ophiuchus. Giuseppe Sesti writes eloquently of this lost libretto in his masterwork, The Glorious Constellations. This area of the sky was far more elevated in the Southern sky in antiquity, and then due to precession was lost to view in Northern latitudes. Thus, the Chironic mysteries have been largely lost to the masses, until an invisible to the naked eye comet/asteroid like body was found in 1977 and named Chiron, establishing a brand new class of celestial objects now called ‘Centaurs’. My sense is that Chiron the asteroid draws attention to these constellations and their mythological implications.

So what does the Chiron return symbolize for contemporary humanity? The Chiron return process around age 50 radically exposes the interface, the ‘fracture’, between the psyche and the soul, between the personality and the essence of who we really are. It catalyzes a process that restarts the ‘spiritual path’ on an essential level by exposing the ‘sacred wound’, which is the core of our humanity.

You might remember that Chiron, after suffering greatly from his wound was allowed to die. Being an immortal, he would have had to suffer eternally. In the Chironic process, an elixir can be produced from the poison of the sacred wound. One result of this is to really be able to help and heal others as the ‘wounded healer’. But perhaps more importantly, the key here is that COMPASSION FOR OURSELVES is obtained. We all have a wound, a fracture point. We are all both mortal and immortal. The Chiron return shows us where it is and leads us to compassion. For some of us, myself included, extreme measures were required to reveal the fracture. Frequently, fracture points are around family of origin issues and, as it was for me, around self-love. But there is an even more powerful Chironic motiff, no doubt due to the close connection between the Chiron return process and the Saturn square.

The Chiron return exposes the “myth of perfection” and I do mean myth in the connotation of untrue! A spiritual path is found to not be about self-improvement or getting better or achieving ‘perfection’. These approaches just give more opportunities for self-judgement and guilt, and then cynical disappointment. How many there are (I had been one) , particularly in the New Age movement, and other metaphysical and spiritual groups who will feel guilty when they get sick or have financial difficulties. This reeks of recycled and upleveled Calvinism. Remember Calvinism? How can you tell if you are the elect of God? Well, just check your bank account! That was Calvinism.

The Chironic approach is more like radical Buddhism in flavor. In the Buddhist view, if you get Cancer, then its seen as a tremendous opportunity to do your spiritual practice at that level. Compassion towards self and non-judgemental. The way I remember all this is to remember that there is no reward for perfection and nothing to atone for. Or the more ‘humorous’ reminder that ‘perfection itself is not good enough!’ Get the joke?

A foundational element of the current Shamanic astrological paradigm is we are now at the Turning of the ages, and the evolutionary process has greatly accelerated. While traditionally, the second Saturn return at 59 was the most important turning point, from one phase of life to the next, now it may well be the Saturn square at 51-52. In India, the shift at 59 was from ‘householder’ to ‘seeker’. It seems that a similar shift is now happening at 51-52 augmented by the Chiron return. And its still speeding up. The younger generations may find the Saturn opposition at 45 symbolizes the same kind of shift.

For those of us at or around 52, what else can we say of this Saturn square? Its definitely a time to CHANGE THE GAME. A time of reconfiguration. And of completing the phase of life where structure matters. Imagine the 52 cards in the playing card deck. By 52, you have gone through all the cards and you’re back to ZERO. And then…the Wild Card or JOKER year!

Pretty scary stuff, particularly if you have a Capricorn moon like me. It could be that at 52, everything we have thought that life was about, particularly the accomplishments and achievements, the structured knowledge, the answers, are all an illusion. We were trained that at this point we would have it all together and would ‘know’. But guess what, its now that we begin to dis-assemble the structure. Or as the psychologists would put it, tear down the superego. At age 52 it is time to reinvestigate the MYSTERY with a beginner’s mind, and the curiosity, of a child. My training didn’t prepare me for this! But then how could it. In summary I offer a poem that has given me some comfort:

There is no answer
There never was an answer
There never will be an answer

(originally by Gertrude Stein and modified by Paul Kantner)

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