ORBITAL SYMBOLISM IN ASTROLOGY
Trying to discover the astrological meaning of new planetary objects is not a simple question
of playing with a name, beginning with the fact that many of them do not
have a name yet Their orbital dynamics, the place they occupy in the structure
of the solar system, their physical characteristics, they all establish a
framework, a "niche" where they belong, a "gesture", a way of acting. Then
the astrologer fills this form with his observations. In practical terms, as part of the mathematical-astronomical model, we use
celestial mechanics (orbital behavior), as a metaphor that models or "screens"
the astrological characteristics of the centaurs, so we concentrate on the
orbits, which are perceived as an interplay ("music") making the particular
characteristics evident by differentiation or contrast in their movement,
like a dance. I like to use the words "orbital gesture", and compare it with
the movement of the hands and arms when someone is speaking. It is not conceptual,
but similar to listening to music. From the effect the music produces on
you, you "know" without knowing what it is. As I imagine this "orbital gesture",
a moving, living image appears in my mind which "whispers" to me. Then, it
becomes a matter of identifying in the specific event or experience or feeling
being charted that same quality that the music or movement or gesture is
producing in my imagination.
The most elemental principle of astrology is the foundation of this approach:
"as above, so below", except that the "above" is the abstract, heliocentric
perspective, not directly observable. The whole of modern Astrology is based
on this abstract and non-observable world of "above", closer to mathematics
than to what is physically experienced with the senses.
There is nothing "magical" in this. It is a reason that follows its own
logic based on concordances and different from the logic of mechanics and
of "cause and effect". This doesn't make it "irrational" in any way. It
is just more analogical and metaphorical.
All observations must be interpreted and given a meaning. To do this, the
scientist uses paradigms and builds explanations based on premises and certain
cultural assumptions about the nature of the object under observation and
about the nature of "reality". The astrologer doesn't make anything different.
He also follows paradigms. Symbolical association and metaphorical thinking
is one of these paradigms, one upon which rests the whole corpus of classical
When we apply orbital dynamics to the study of centaurs, one thing that becomes clear is that
they tend to be very dramatic. They speak stronger and with more poignancy
to the imagination than ordinary, almost circular orbits. It is just a question
of getting used to their orbital language and gestures, a language that springs
from the "orbital paradigm", which we can define as follows: the shape, place,
and velocity of an orbit, the "orbital gesture", corresponds to similar gestures
--psychologically or in external circumstances-- in the lives of people.
The distance ranges outlined here numerically, describing orbits that intercalate
across the regions of the slow-moving planets of the solar system, establish
the main framework on which their orbital symbolism is based, defining unambiguously
some basic dynamic characteristics. They provide the information necessary
to establish the foundation of this symbolism, to which is added information
furnished by the orbital periods and mutual recurrences, the angle of crossing,
and the orbital inclinations and latitudes.
For example, all centaurs share certain characteristics derived from the orbits that define
them as a group. They all can be included in at least 3 basic categories:
1- Their sphere of action. They all work at the level of Saturn through
Pluto; therefore their sphere of action is very different from the level
at which the regular asteroids of the main belt between Mars and Jupiter
work, much faster and closer to Earth. Their slow motion means that their
transits can be used to map the great breakthroughs in the life of a person
as we are used in the case of the planets from Saturn onwards. They are
"visitors" from the trans-Neptunian, Plutonian world, which through them
becomes more human, more compassionate, closer to us.
2- Their marginality. They are a clear minority among minor planets, less
in number than all the other dynamical asteroid groups, and --because of
their large orbital eccentricity-- they are "marginal", i.e., "do not belong"
to a specific place but "wander" through the space dominated by the giant
planets of the outer solar system, in many cases more or less aggressively
crossing their orbits or "invading" their spheres. They are "renegades"
that do not belong to an established, institutionalized world, which in turn
they "intercept" or "break", carrying a symbolism very similar to that of
Cain in the Genesis story.
3- Their instability. The orbits of centaurs, because of the way they intercept
the distance range of the giant planets, are subject to very strong gravitational
attractions or perturbations that make them unstable and "precarious", with
a tendency to become chaotic or unpredictable in a few thousand years only.
They are "crude" and "wild", with a tendency to be aggressive, but --unlike
Pluto-- their orbits are "sick" and "tremble", destined to be transformed
or die as a result of their crossing the paths of the giant planets. They
are therefore related to pain and to death, but also to rapture, unconditioning,
As a well-established orbit-crossing category, centaurs tend to be dynamically
unique, strongly differentiated astronomically from the world of the main-belt
asteroids. They separate from the others by breaking the image of "a ring"
or "a belt" usually associated with asteroids, to follow their own excentric
path. This singularity makes them "special", and experience shows that they
are intense and powerful, in concordance with the large sweep of their slow
motion and high eccentricity, in a way almost inversely proportional to their
An example is the image of wings and of light that I often get from Pholus.
It comes from its orbital behavior, the way I perceive it, and also from
the sound qualities of its name, joined to my subjective perception of some
of the people who have it focal. The centaur-myth is not in this picture.
It is true that apparently, the "regular" orbits --rounder-- would appear
as "mute", but this doesn't happen when seen in comparison, in the interplay.
It is a question of images: you can imagine the massive giants being crossed
and "ringed" by the smaller and unstable asteroids, and this puts in evidence
the characteristics of both. In other words, it is an imaginative language,
like that of mythology.
As an illustration, let's consider, imaginatively, the main-belt asteroid named
"Nemesis": one utters the word and listens to it... a fast sound;
a cycle of nearly 4 years and an orbit or way of moving , of acting, a physical
gesture, that is wholly conventional, placid, circumscribed, with no highs
or lows. Circumscribed to what? To one aspect of Nemesis, one "face" of
the archetype which is necessarily limited by the particular nature of the
asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.
Which face of the archetype? What is the nature of the asteroid
belt compared with Uranus and with Pluto? What aspect of the archetype cannot
be expressed in the asteroid belt and needs other bodies to do that?
If we listen, for example, to the apocalyptic gesture of an object
like TL66, with a period of 800 years (200 times slooooooowwwwwwer), going
away from the solar system until it disappears in the remote darkness of
the unknown, and coming again centuries later, travelling 7 or 8 times faster
than when it is far away, breaking through the orbital realm of Pluto until
it "kisses" that of Neptune, like the visitation of a dark giant comet, only
to go away again and disappear soon after that, then we say:
"N E E E E E E E M M M M E E E E S S I I I I I S S S S S S S S!"
... and the sound of a cosmic "N" and a cosmic "M" stays sizzling ("S")
and resonating ("M"), like the effects of a terrific wind that has just passed.
II. THE ORBITAL PARADIGM
From a primal astrological perspective, and since the most ancient times,
planets are essentially points of light that move orderly and predictably
against the background of the fixed stars. Movement is therefore part of
their essence, and their symbolical attributions in classical Astrology are
a reflection of the particular characteristics of their motion as seen from
a geocentric point of view.
For example, Saturn's very slow motion placed it at the edge of the known
world, as the last of the concentric heavenly spheres next to the inmortal
world of the fixed stars, and from which came the symbolical associations
with earthly wisdom and with old age.
From the observed planetary motions, the ancients derived abstract/geometric
representations aimed at modelling and predicting each planet's position
at any moment of time, the so-called "epicycles" of the Ptolemaic system,
which were later refined after Copernicus and Kepler and became the heliocentric
orbits with which we are familiar today.
Each orbit contains the essence of the planet's astrological characteristics,
putting in evidence what we may call "the orbital paradigm", which implies
that orbital characteristics are the mental model or the point of reference
that we use for the elaboration of the different analogies and metaphorical
associations that constitute planetary symbolism.
One of the best examples of the central role of the orbital paradigm in Astrology
can be seen in the astrological attributions of the planet Uranus. At the
core of its characteristics is always the fact that Uranus "breaks" the ancient
order signified by Saturn and opens the door to the new, challenging conventions
and emphasizing individuality against the orthodox rules of Saturn. These
characteristics are based on the position its orbit has in the solar system,
one step beyond Saturn.
Orbital symbolism was used --for example-- by Marc Edmund Jones exclusively
to explain all the astrological characteristics of the principal planets
in his "Astrology How and Why It Works" (1943), and also by Dane Rudhyar,
who explains it in "The Practice of Astrology" (1969) and who used it very
extensively throughout all his works. It is the basis of the humanistic
understanding of the roles of Uranus, Neptune and Pluto in modern Astrology.
This emphasis on orbital symbolism has also been present in centaur research
since the discovery of Chiron in 1977. Unlike the main-belt asteroids (such
as Ceres, Pallas, Juno, and Vesta), which have orbits circumscribed to the
region between Mars and Jupiter and whose astrological meanings were heavily
dependent on mythology, Chiron represented both to astronomers and to astrologers
a challenge of definition due to its odd orbit: it was the first slow-motion
asteroid that belonged to the outer solar system, and its orbit overlapped
that of Uranus and Saturn, swinging between both. The name "Chiron", half
one thing and half the other, is a reflection of this.
It was Chiron's astronomical oddity and the work of pioneers such as Zane
Stein, who relied on orbital symbolism rather than mythology, what established
a precedent in centaur research in which the orbit is "read" and interpreted
as a model of the astrological characteristics found or confirmed by empirical
evidence. When the other centaurs were discovered beginning with Pholus
in 1992, it became evident that their orbits stood out and were dramatic
when compared with those of the regular planets that they traversed. Centaurs
dramatize the "orbital gestures", their orbits are more eloquent, and in
the future they will inevitably help us redefine the astrological role of
the outer planets, such as Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto helped redefine the
roles of Jupiter and Saturn in the past.
III. THE CHARACTERISTICS OF THE ORBIT
Every orbit is described by a set of numerical parameters that refer
to its shape and its orientation with respect to time and space in the structure
of the solar system. For our purposes, we can describe these parameters
as an imaginative tree with branches which are a set of numbers and quantities
called "the elements of the orbit" describing the trajectory of the planet
A better metaphor is that of a musical score, made out of abstract mathematical
proportions represented in space that describe something that happens in
time. Like the flow of music, the imaginative representation of an orbital
trajectory, when compared to the other trajectories, will speak to the imagination
due to its relative placement in the whole and its particular shape and "gesture";
like the different themes in a large-scale symphonic movement, the orbital
trajectory or gesture acquires meaning when it is seen (or "heard") with
respect to other themes or sounds of the composition.
The word "gesture" regarding an orbital trajectory can be better understood
if we think on how we naturally "draw" images, emotions, and sounds with
our hands when we speak to an audience. Hands make unconscious movements
and gestures that describe shapes in the air which are geometrical analogies
of what we are trying to convey; these movements of the hands produce strong
impressions in the audience and are an integral part of the message being
transmitted. When we interpret the orbital gestures of the planets, especially
those with "dramatic" orbits like the centaurs, we are doing imaginatively
the same thing that we do when we inadvertently contemplate the hand-gestures
of a good story-teller. The gestures are intrinsic to the nature of what
is being told, and to the personality of the teller.
The orbital characteristics are essentially of 3 types:
a-) those that describe the position the object occupies in the solar system,
expressed in terms of distance from the Sun and the speed or frequency with
which it moves (the semi-major axis and distance range, transformed into
velocity by means of Kepler's third law). Distant, slow-moving trajectories
are like the low frequency sounds in music...
b-) those that describe the shape of the orbit (a combination of eccentricity
and semi-major axis), which determines the type of gesture, the "curve" the
orbit describes in space, the motion of the object from aphelion to perihelion,
the changes and contrast in velocity, the perihelion "visitations" and the
aphelion "stand-stills", the coming and the "going away".
c-) those that describe the orientation or "attitude", the "perspective"
of the orbit, its capacity to "dive", to "hover", to "plunge" or in general
its vertical orientation in space, how much it can get away from horizontality,
expressed in the orbital inclination and the argument of latitude of the
perihelion. The orbital inclination is one of the least studied orbital
characteristics so far.
In the case of the centaurs, the combination of a-) and b-) results in one
of their main characteristics: their orbital crossing or interception, of
which we have had in astrology for decades the example of Pluto crossing
the orbit of Neptune. Pluto also made us aware of the possible meaning of
orbital inclination, and is in fact the model and the fore-bearer of all
centaurs, which are considered to have physically originated in the same
region of space as Pluto.
In the past, the heliocentric distance was conceived geocentrically,
as a series of concentric "crystalline" spheres increasingly away from the
Earth and ordered according to the planet's velocity, starting with the Moon
(hence the expression "the sublunar world" or "sphere" to refer to the Earth's
realm above the surface) and ending with Saturn, next to which was the sphere
of the fixed stars. Man's spiritual experience after death or during "initiation"
was conceived as a journey of ascension through successively purer spheres,
starting with the Lunar sphere next to the Earth (the so-called "astral world")
and ending in the spheres of Saturn and the Fixed Stars, which were the abode
of the purest or virgin souls and the highest spiritual beings in the hierarchy
Today the planetary "spheres" are no longer conceived as geocentric circles
but as mathematical abstractions of the planet's trajectory in space around
the Sun (the heliocentric orbit), which describes an ellipse with the Sun
at one of the "centers" or foci; but we can still speak of "realms" or "worlds",
i.e., the "realm of Uranus", the "realm" of Saturn, etc. These realms result
from the fact that the solar system is ordered or structured and are defined
mathematically as "rings" established by the distance range of the planet
from perihelion (the closest it can get to the Sun) to aphelion (the farthest
it can get to the Sun).
Technically, the distance range or ring is determined by means of 2 orbital
parameters called "semimajor axis" and "eccentricity". The semimajor axis
is equivalent to the mean solar distance and is defined as half the distance
from the aphelion to the perihelion points. It is measured --as all distances
in the solar system-- in canonical units called "astronomical units" (AU),
where 1 AU is equal to the mean solar distance of the Earth (at the time
it was measured by Gauss in the early 19th century). The eccentricity is
a dimensionless quantity which measures the distance between the 2 foci of
the orbit; an eccentricity of "0" is a perfect circle, and an eccentricity
of "1" is a parabolic orbit. All other values between "0" and "1" are ellipses.
The eccentricity (the "e" parameter) is what gives the orbit its more (high
"e") or less (low "e") elongated elliptical shape.
The semimajor axis of the principal planets are quantities that should be
memorized by the astrologer. Given the semimajor axis of any centaur or
asteroid, we can immediately know the "mean" or "average" place it occupies
in the structure of the solar system, i.e., relative to the spheres or realms
of the principal planets, which, astrologically, is the same as knowing the
place the object has in the hierarchy, or the structure, of the solar system,
the place a specific planet has in the whole, the level at which a planet
is working in the structure of reality, its sphere or domain.
Let's see the mean semimajor axis (the "a" parameter) of the principal planets:
Mercurio = 0.39 (e=0.2056)
Venus = 0.72 (e=0.0068)
Tierra = 1.00 (e=0.0167)
Marte = 1.52 (e=0.0934)
Júpiter = 5.20 (e=0.0485)
Saturno = 9.56 (e=0.0555)
Urano = 19.22 (e=0.0463)
Neptuno = 30.11 (e=0.0090)
Plutón = 39.54 (e=0.2491)
With these numbers we can calculate the aphelion and perihelion distance range or "ring" with a very simple formula:
perihelion distance (the " q " parameter):
q = a ( 1 - e )
aphelion distance (the " Q " parameter):
Q = a ( 1 + e )
As an example, let's calculate the distance range of Pluto:
e = 0.249
a = 39.541
q = 39.541 x ( 1 - 0.249 ) = 29.695
Q = 39.541 x ( 1 + 0.249 ) = 49.387
In other words, the "range of movement" or "distance ring" of Pluto reaches
from 49.4 AU at aphelion to 29.7 AU at perihelion, putting in evidence how
it "crosses" or "intercepts" the orbit of Neptune and is closer to the Sun
than Neptune at perihelion. This means that Pluto, in the outer rim of the
solar system, is historically the fore-runner or dynamical prototype of the
centaurs. Although Pluto is a transneptunian object and not a centaur, the
centaurs have originated in the same region that Pluto and have similar Plutonian
qualities, like Pluto's "offspring" expressing themselves at a different
level, in the Jupiter-Saturn-Uranus-Neptune world, closer to us and more
"human" or "humane".
Before going deeper into the possibilities offered by orbital metaphors
we must consider the range and distance characteristics of the centaurs.
The word "centaurs" is used by astronomers to refer loosely to a group of
asteroids that have their distance range somewhere between Jupiter and Neptune or Pluto.
There are to this date (May 14 2001) 28 objects that can be or have been
classified as centaurs, but we will examine only those that have orbits accurate
enough to be used for research. We will exclude 12 whose ephemeris uncertainty
after 10 years is more than 5 arcminutes (0,05'), and will consider only
the remaining 16, whose positions throughout the 20th century will change
little (probably less than half a degree in most cases) as the orbit is improved
with new observations.
Here is the list, with the semimajor axis ("a"), distance range ("r") and
eccentricity ("e"), the quantities we need for the theoretical and symbolical
development that will follow:
2000GM137 a= 7.84, r= 6- 8, e= 0.114
1998SG35 a= 8.22, r= 5-10, e= 0.321
1999UG5 a= 12.33, r= 7-18, e= 0.401
Chiron a= 13.52, r= 8-18, e= 0.382
Chariklo a= 15.78, r= 13-18, e= 0.171
Pylenor a= 16.74, r= 11-21, e= 0.303
1999XX143 a= 17.85, r= 9-26, e= 0.460
Asbolus a= 17.97, r= 6-29, e= 0.621
1998QM107 a= 20.19, r= 17-22, e= 0.135
Pholus a= 20.26, r= 8-31, e= 0.571
2000FZ53 a= 23.67, r= 12-34, e= 0.478
Nessus a= 24.57, r= 11-37, e= 0.519
Hylonome a= 25.06, r= 18-30, e= 0.247
1998TF35 a= 26.21, r= 16-36, e= 0.379
1999OX3 a= 32.24, r= 17-47, e= 0.459
1998BU48 a= 33.38, r= 20-46, e= 0.387
Typically, centaurs have orbits of high eccentricity, i.e., their orbits
are very elongated, in contrast with the orbits of the major planets which
normally tend to be circular. This means that dynamically and physically
they are objects of a different nature even though they move in the same
region of the outer planets. Like Pluto, their aphelion-perihelion distance
range is enormous, and many of them traverse the region of several or all
of the outer planets in a row, like homeless nomads or voyagers, crossing
or intercepting the outer planets' distance rings, linking what otherwise
is forever separate, "jumping" from one level or step of the ladder to the
next, moving directly towards the Sun --like many comets do, to which they
are related in many ways-- instead of around it.
Now let's see the distance range in more detail, in terms of perihelion and
aphelion compared with the "rings" of the main planets, so that what the
numbers say about spatial distribution can be better visualized:
This list was according to the perihelion distance "q". The list according to aphelion distances ("Q") is as follows:
============> APHELION OF PLUTO
These numerical data show what we can see in the graphics of their orbits.
For example, during its perihelion Chiron "penetrates" the sphere of Saturn
and during the aphelion it approaches the sphere of Uranus without "crossing"
it or intercepting its heliocentric distance. Nevertheless, if we take into
consideration the concept of the "distance ring" of a planet, defined by
the area or the ring between the aphelion and the perihelion distances, we
find that it is possible for Chiron to intercept not the heliocentric distance
of Uranus (the astronomer's loose definition of "crossing") but its perihelion
Let's see a concrete example, using the data of the last orbital cycle of
Chiron. The complete crossing and distance-ring interception dates from
1700 to 2020 can be found at:
On March 7, 1943, at the peak of World War II, Chiron intercepts Saturn's
heliocentric distance and goes "inside" of it, in the direction of the Sun.
It reached its perihelion August 29, 1945, the same month of the atomic explosions
at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It then began its voyage back to his "home" (the
aphelion) towards the Uranian region. It entered the Uranian ring (crossed
the Uranus perihelion distance) September 17, 1965, and reached aphelion
December 7, 1970, without ever having intercepted the Uranus true heliocentric
VI. THE SPHERE OF ACTION
One cannot work with asteroids without defining their scope. This
scope and their domain is delimited by the place they occupy in the solar
system, which represents a ladder and is a function of the planet's velocity
or distance to the Earth or the Sun.
To the scope and domain one must add the form of action, because an asteroid
of very large eccentricity acts very differently from one with a very circular
orbit. 944 Hidalgo --very eccentric-- acts in a very different way from
Ceres --almost circular. Very eccentric orbits become crossers between one
planetary sphere and the other, or between several spheres or domains in
This is an astronomical fact. It is how an asteroid moves heliocentrically.
From there one follows the paradigm: if this is how it moves in the solar
system, if this is how it acts astronomically, then its astrological characteristics
must be an expression of this movement in scope, domain, and form of action.
This does not contradict what people working with asteroids have found to
be their astrological characteristics. It delimits it in order to be able
to organize the information and integrate their function within the whole,
avoiding the infinite expansion of meanings and associations, understanding
in what way a Centaur or a trans- Neptunian (slow moving and/or very eccentric,
crossing several planetary spheres in its motion) differs from those that
are very close to the Earth and move very fast, or those that move almost
in circles (the traditional main-belt asteroids).
The asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, considered collectively, establishes
a clear and obvious separation between the world of the gas giants, the transcendences
of existence (slow-moving), where by definition all the centaurs have their
home, and the much faster world of the inner or terrestrial planets. The
physical and dynamical differences between the two worlds are fundamental.
We have a set of small planets whose motion is almost totally controlled
by the Sun, i.e. their mutual perturbations or gravitational interactions
are small, then the asteroid belt, like a colony of the world of the fixed
stars inside the Solar System, and then, beyond the belt, we are in a world
of giants that are able to gravitationally push and pull the Sun enough to
make it swing around the Barycenter of the Solar System.
If we are to make the analogy between a human being and the solar system,
we could imagine the asteroid belt like a sort of navel dividing the higher
from the lower part of the body, or the higher brain and consciousness functions
(the transcendences) and the bodily or vital functions (the terrestrial planets).
Of course, we can reverse this and say the slow planets represent our "unconscious"
lower functions and the faster planets (Sun, Mercury, etc.) our "conscious"
part, which is the more superficial or obvious way one would think. But
this doesn't matter. My point is simply that structurally the Solar System
is clearly divided between inner and outer, and that this notion is important
to understand the nature of the centaurs, whose sphere of action is the outer
The inner solar system, from the asteroid belt inwards (the terrestrial planets,
the world of Apollo asteroids, etc.) is the "micro" scale, while the centaurean
world is "macro" (and the transneptunian is a sort of "cosmic" or *historical*
scale). Then, the "Jupiter group" (1998SG35, 1999LE31, 2000GM137) is transitional,
and the asteroid belt is the "meso" scale, like a sort of very open market
of possibilities and multitudinous variations of centering, stabilizing,
adaptive, assimilative activity, like a ring that holds together and at the
same time separates the 2 worlds, like a barrier, a membrane, a protective
ring which in society is represented by social institutions and the divisions
Let's imagine for a moment that only the planets up to Jupiter exist. How
would be the world without Saturn? I we answer this question, we may be
able to understand the sphere in which fast asteroids move, where there is
no Saturn and the farthest we can go is Jupiter. How would Astrology be
if there were no slow-moving planets? If you make a reading that does not
include Saturn, you will be approaching what it means to make an asteroid
astrological reading based on fast-moving asteroids, excluding centaurs,
and transneptunians, with innumerable details but without "weight or transcendence.
Frequently, I have come to see working with fast asteroids similar to shopping
at the local market; a big open Sunday market in the main plaza is an excellent
analogy of the meaning of the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Another
analogy is a street scene in a play: many people in different activities
sharing horizontally a common place. This is an apt astronomical description
of the asteroid belt.
Death is without a doubt one of the transcendental facts of life, together
with birth, sexual initiation, and marriage (this last one not so much lately!).
To understand the scope of the fast asteroids, let's imagine the common social
context of these experiences or events: the meaning they have is recognized
by everybody, there are a series of rules of behavior or rituals expected
from those that participate in them, giving and receiving support and solidarity,
and society as a whole acknowledges their transcendence and contributes with
social and religious ceremonies so that the individual can successfully go
through them; there are public recognitions, celebrations and festivals (or
parties); families get together with gestures of affection and generosity,
and we are also given the right, the space, and the time for our intimacy.
Amidst this world of social cohesion maintained through a "pact" between
the people, there are many elements, such as the thieve, the mentally ill,
the poet, the person in love, the immature, the alcoholic, the prostitute,
the car-racer, the diver, the rock singer, etc., that engage in "marginal"
activities outside this order, as if wishing to break it: these are the orbit-crossers
or interceptors among the fast asteroids (Phaethon, Icarus, Amor, Bacchus...),
acting as "meteors" that passionately irrupt and dramatize the contingent
and fragile, "chaotic" character of existence and of the supposed order,
which actually is always living hand-in-hand with chaos.
But somehow order always seems to assimilate the chaotic forces, and society always keeps its cohesion, the pact remains.
Now let's think in the world beyond Saturn, the world that opens forward
and outward, expanding beyond this institutionalized universe, the world
of the unconscious or the unmanageable that is not possible to assimilate
and is similar to the great floods that sweep everything away: divorce, revolution
(Uranus), proliferation of cultures and beliefs (Neptune), the psychological
walls that kill individuality so characteristic of the Xxth Century (Pluto).
It is here where the centaurs move, slow and self transcending, like Neptunian-Plutonian
misiles, intense and poignant, travelling trough the outer solar system ,
crossing space with "large wings" (very long orbital periods and very elongated
To illustrate the orbital domain and gesture of centaurs, we can consider, for example, the
sphere of action of 1181 Lilith, a normal asteroid of the main belt between
Mars and Jupiter, and compare it with that of the centaurs. [NOTE: This part is based on previous notes I wrote collected here]
We must make distinctions between the realm of the centaurs and
the realm of the main-belt asteroids. One cannot talk of a slow planet the
same way one talks of a fast-moving planet. Centaurs move 20 to 40 times
slower than the main-belt asteroids, and this requires that we adjust the
meaning we give to them or at least the way we interpret them.
1181 Lilith works within the bounds of present-day social values, which fits
the characteristics of the orbit, similar to the many other "facets" and
"divisions of labor" of modern-day living that I see relate to the main belt
asteroids where 1181 is found.
I would take any description of a main-belt asteroid like 1181 Lilith and
try to accommodate it inside the limits of the asteroid belt: they must live
in community; so asteroid 1181 Lilith could represent those aspects of the
Lilith archetype that are expressed in their most "civilized" or mediated
This is where it becomes important to consider the centaurs *together* with
the main belt asteroids to differentiate the qualities of one and the other,
where one sees a division of labor and not a duplication.
There are many asteroids (e.g. Hekate) with myths which do not match the
orbits at all. That is why it is necessary to accommodate people's experience
with 1181 Lilith within the framework offered by main-belt orbits: a very
large collectivity working together in community without breaking the social
The idea I am proposing is that all these archetypes have different ways
or "levels" of expression. The level that corresponds to asteroids of the
main-belt with regular-shaped orbits is everyday institutionalized living.
That is why the 1181 Lilith aspect of the Lilith archetype finds expression
in --for example-- the social worker: it is bounded and institutionalized,
and its aim is social integration: this is the dynamics of this type of asteroids.
"Lilith" here brings the socially marginal or rejected into society's institutions,
and is more integrative.
But there are other aspects of Lilith that cannot be institutionalized.
They are more primal and wild, "breaking into" or invading a person's life
(centaurs), or more instinctive and related to repressed sexuality (succubi
and nightly demons, related to the lunar apogee). Of course words are very
relative, but it is not difficult to see the differences when one keeps in
mind the 3 realms: the lunar realm, esp. The lunar orbit and its dark side,
the asteroids of the main belt, the centaurean-plutonian tabu-breaking and
moral trespassing, etc.
If there are "rebels" and "wild" asteroids, then this has to show in their
orbits. Normal main belt asteroids do not show this behavior. I'm following
a paradigm that states that astronomical reality must match astrological
symbolism. The orbit of 1181 Lilith does not belong to this category of
"rebels". There are bodies that enter the asteroid belt but do not belong
there (like Hidalgo or the Damocles group) and there are others that travel
from one extreme to the other of the main belt but never leave (like Hopi).
We can always find an orbit that models the social behavior we are looking
for or want to chart.
The orbits of most centaurs, almost by definition are "on the margins" of
the solar system: they "cross" the orbits of others, they do not "belong"
to a specific place, they are "in-between", "out" of the mainstream, unstable,
chaotic, precarious, "sick", "resented", wounded", etc...
The orbit of Lilith is not like this. 1181 belongs to very large community
of orbits that are very stable, all bounded in the space between Mars and
Jupiter... it never goes out like all the centaurs do... and it also moves
much faster, 20 to 40 times faster than the centaurs...
Modern society's institutions all deal with people who are "different" (the
mentally retarded, the cripple, the deaf or the blind, the refugee, the very
poor or very "ugly", the minority...). I can see 1181 Lilith's "integrative"
work here. These people (or my fear of them) are all part of the community
in which we live. They are given rights, protection by the law, social institutions
to help them.
There is a whole system instituted for them. They are not "wild", they are
not dangerous, they are just different and need special attention and care...
the prostitute, the poor minority, the homeless, the mad, the widow, the
very old... etc.
This is all very much main-belt asteroids territory. They are all "bounded"
and controlled, under the control of social institutions... so maybe Centaurs
are not like this, they are wild and break everything, they trespass, and
wound, and kill, and also bring ecstasy, redemption, un-conditioning, etc.
Centaurs reach well beyond these boundaries and make you "fall" into a crack
that becomes a menace to the social order (the orbit-crossing). Female centaurs
are in this respect less aggressive than the male ones, i. e., Chariklo
never crosses Saturn and only gently crosses Uranus for a few years, although
it stays between the world of Saturn and Uranus, leaning much more toward
For example, a married woman (Chariklo) who is very "independent" about her
sex life... which of course most times means a crack, a division of her womanhood,
a wound, a painful conflict with the rules of society: this is the centaurean
paradigm. A (female) centaur, in this context, will transgress limits that
1181 never would.
Let's take for example a social worker who deals with street prostitutes.
His/her work is institutionalized, is "professional"... this is the Lilith
part: the daily living, the values, the problems, the opportunities, the
help they receive, their dealings with the police, their "humanity" and at
the same time marginality, the prejudices, the abuses, the cruelty or indifference
with which they are treated, etc. How I deal with all this is 1181 Lilith.
But when you, as a social worker, "touch" the other person's wound, or to
put it differently, the other person's wound touches you --which is the same
as touching your wound-- then you are out of it completely and you cannot
handle it any more, It ceases being institutionalized and becomes primal
and wild. It is a question of life and death, of agony and ecstasy, there
are no answers available, only pain, and grace, and joy, and passion... then
you don't give a damn, you are "taken" by the centaur's energy and you do
a moral trespassing, and pay the price.
The father rapes his daughter, the married woman opens herself to her lover,
the "door opens" and light and darkness come together and live in your wound,
and in the wound you inflicted on others.
This is the centaurs!
Of course, this is a hypothesis, based on the orbital paradigm: centaurs represent
the wild and hostile (also ecstatic and redemptive) qualities, while main-belt
asteroids represent the "civilized" and more gregarious and "tame" part of
the archetype. This is necessary if we want astronomical symbolism to match
the astrological use we make of it.
Juan Antonio Revilla
San José, Costa Rica
written in 2001