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Astrology of the Heavens and Astrology of the Hands

(Editor’s note: This is a slightly edited article, originally published in the FAA Journal, March 2023. Republished with the kind permission of Chris Skidmore.)

A few years ago a woman named Anna came into my practice for a consultation. In the midst of her second Saturn Return, she had just come back from Peru where she’d been doing ceremonies using plant medicines such as Peyote and Ayahuasca.

As we sat down to read her chart together, she told me that in Peru she had been using medicine to create a direct line to the energies underlying each of the planets. When I mentioned Saturn it was not an abstract concept, a list of keywords and phrases. It wasn’t even simply an “archetype” or a “primordial form.” For her, Saturn was a real being with definitive (and changeable) characteristics, just like her, you and me.

I’ll never forget how potent that session was. Rather than talking about Saturn we were able to talk with him (or her as the case may be). Suddenly the chart was alive in a whole new way. We were not so much reading her chart as communing with it.

In our modern Western consensus reality we might look at this as an example of anthropomorphising: giving human characteristics to non-human forms. The literal Western mind sees the planet Saturn as simply made up of rocks and gases with no sentience whatsoever. As far as Saturn the Titan, known as Cronus in Greece, he’s a figment of human imagination, a character in a story. He isn’t real.

Maybe that’s what the medicines of the Amazon do for those who ingest them — turn off the linear, logical mind that can come in like an overlord of consciousness.

The Planets as Living Beings
Eventually, all astrologers have to answer a question: “Do you really believe in astrology?” — i.e., Do you really think that the placement of the planets on the backdrop of stars millions of miles away has anything to do with life on Earth?

Most of us will have well-prepared answers to this question. Perhaps we focus on the impact of the Moon’s gravitational pull on the tides of the planet and relate that to human’s being 70% water. Or perhaps we speak of synchronicity being the underlying principle of reality, “As above, so below,” with astrology working via correspondences.

As we engage in these conversations we strengthen the mind that needs to argue its way into relevance. We try to give astrology a decent place in society, and to find its way into university curriculums. As we do this we are engaging in what I have begun to refer to as Astrology Urania: Astrology of the Heavens. This is a fine way to use astrology, and I encourage those of us out there who are drawn to this method, and have strong indicators of it in their chart — i.e., a prominent Uranus, planets in Aquarius, strong fixed planets and 11th-house signatures — to continue the good fight.

It should be easy to see, however, that that’s not the kind of astrology Anna was engaging in when she sat in the jungle conversing with Saturn. The word “anthropomorphic” is often used to denigrate those who give human characteristics to the non-human world. But if we break the word down it comes from two Greek words: anthropos (human) and morphe. Morphic is typically used to refer to changing shapes or forms. Morpheus, in ancient Greece, was the god of dreams. If we flip the words around, therefore, maybe anthropomorphic refers to the use of the human dreaming mind.

Does this dreaming mind “make up” the characteristics of Saturn? Or is it that by accessing the dreaming mind we are able to attune to Saturn as a reality, albeit a reality that lies underneath what can be perceived by the surface mind?

Astrology Chiron
What might we call this kind of astrology that Anna brought into my office that day — the astrology where we drop beneath the logical layer of reality and into the morphic dream world where the planets come alive with their own attitudes and preferences?

For me, the link to this way of engaging with astrology is the centaur, Chiron. Astronomically, Chiron traverses the space between Saturn and Uranus, sometimes even travelling within Saturn’s orbit. He is therefore able to bridge the gulf between the earthly (Saturn) and the celestial (Uranus). As Chiron is half horse it’s as though he’s never lost that inherent connection to his primal, animal self — the knowledge of how to live within the circle of life. As half human he is able to make use of the benefits of civilization, including the advances of technology and medicine.

Chiron’s home is in a cave on Mount Pelion. Geographically speaking, Pelion is on the “other side” of Mount Olympus. We can see here that Chiron doesn’t care too much about the glitz and glamour of godhood, even though he is a demi-god himself. He’s happier in his cave, tinkering with his potions and remedies, herbs and medicines. The sick somehow find their way to him, and he’s often able to help them in ways that aren’t always easy to explain.

The type of astrology I’m referring to here is very much “hands on.” The planets don’t remain up there in the sky, so many countless miles away, daunting and taunting. They arrive here in the room for us to converse with. With their appearance we can easily sense which of these figures we get along with and who casts us a sideways glance. We can feel in real time which of our planets are friendly to each other and which are hostile. Our felt sense prevents us from assuming that trines will get along and squares won’t. Instead we trust the reality of our experience. In this way the chart is truly animated by our dreaming mind.

In juxtaposition to Astrology Urania I’m calling this Astrology Chiron: Astrology of the Hands. The Greek root of Chiron is cheir, which simply means hands — Chiron is handy with his hands. The information that is useful to him comes from the bottom up rather than the top down. He teaches us to trust our instincts, to not be afraid to experiment, to see the rightness in the mistake, and to follow the natural rhythm of the emergent symptoms towards their healing conclusions.

Chiron and Virgo
A growing number of astrologers see Chiron’s connection to Virgo, even calling him Virgo’s modern ruler. Some astrologers feel uncomfortable with this assertion, likely none more so than Chiron himself who is little interested in ruling or controlling. Perhaps then, instead of the word “rulership” we can think of Chiron as a guide or magical helper. Deeper still, perhaps Chiron is the “elder” of Virgo, the Virgin Goddess.

The modern mind is often quick to link the virgin to purity, innocence, naivety and the absence of sexual relations. The ancient Greeks had something else in mind — their virginal Goddesses such as Artemis (of the wild beast), Hestia (of the hearth), Athena (of strategic war) and Persephone (Queen of the Underworld) can help us dream into the potency of this sign and its links to wildness; maintenance of internal lifeforce; war craft; death and rebirth — all of which relate closely to Chiron’s realm.

Virgo’s opposition to Pisces also aligns with Chiron’s maternal lineage, Phylira the Oceanid. Interestingly, it was Chiron’s student Asclepius who emphasised the connection between dreaming and healing in Greece, something that would be picked up again a few millennia later by Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung and many other modern day Asclepiads.

Through the opposition from Pisces, Chiron is able to move us into altered states and drop us into an oceanic dream-like awareness. With Virgo he is able to sift and sort the Piscean information, bring it into sensory-grounded reality, perform the necessary rituals and rites of healing and follow the process through to its completion.

The Virgo-Aquarius Quincunx
If Virgo is the archetypal underpinning of Astrology Chiron and Aquarius of Astrology Urania we can see the quincunx that holds them together. I often think of a quincunx as two different channels on the television; you can’t watch them both at once. It’s unlike the oppositions and squares where you can hold the tension until the magical third thing arises. It’s also unlike the trines and sextiles that trend towards harmonising forces. The quincunx signs are in each other’s blind spots and can have the tendency to split off from each other.

In psychological language this suggests a complex between these two approaches to astrology. Astrology Urania, with underpinnings in fixed air Aquarius, wants to create stable philosophical and archetypal structures for astrologers to adhere to, a coherent system of logically linked parts. Meanwhile, Astrology Chiron carrying the mutable earth of Virgo, requires a certain malleability to the symbols so that they can change according to each unique individual who requires the medicine.

And yet, there is also a secret affinity between two signs in quincunx to each other. In the case of Virgo and Aquarius, what links them is that they each represent a certain form of individuality. For Aquarius, it’s the freedom to move away from the pack and go one’s own weird way. For Virgo, it’s the self-containment to dedicate oneself to one’s true calling.

In the collective, much like in the individual, when working with a quincunx, we do well to see that secret affinity and allow the “other side” to go on with its work, even if we don’t fully understand it. Chiron does his best to avoid the bright lights of Mount Olympus. The Olympians do whatever they can to avoid the caves. And yet, solar heroes sometimes seek out Chiron for guidance, and Chiron once officiated at a wedding of the gods. Mutual respect, perhaps even admiration, goes a long way. If we can’t have that then, at the very least, let’s look for acknowledgement and tolerance.

Process Oriented Astrology
When Chiron was discovered in 1977, Arnold Mindell was weaving together his background in theoretical physics with his time in the Jung Institute under the analysis of Marie Louise von Franz. (1) His synthesis became known as Process Work or Process Oriented Psychotherapy. He coined the term “dreambody” pulling on wisdom from Indigenous cultures who are still connected to the dreaming of the planet.

Anna and I were doing Mindell’s Process Work that day two years before I would go to school to learn it officially. Chironic work has a habit of doing that — pulling knowledge from both directions, future and past. By using Astrology Chiron we dreamed into the chart and it came alive, complete with its own compliments and grievances for how Anna was living her life.

Anna (Chart data withheld)

Perhaps it was Anna’s Chiron in the Aquarius 9th house squaring her 12th-house Taurus South Node/6th-house Scorpio North Node and opposing 3rd-house Uranus that was assisting her in the jungle of Peru. Chiron’s influence in the fixed grand cross, connected to the shamanic healing axis of Taurus-Scorpio, was re-membering the innate ability of the human animal to commune with nature.

In the jungle Anna found those medicines that Chiron had left behind. In so doing she was able to turn off, even briefly, the cultured side of her consciousness and reconnect to her animal self. By responding to that side of herself, it was natural to talk to other living things in nature, including the planets themselves.


(1) For information on Arnold Mindell and his wife: Amy and Arnold Mindell

Chris Skidmore is a PACFA registered psychotherapist and counselor, practicing in Bali, Indonesia. His work weaves together the threads of astrology and biodynamic craniosacral therapy using the intermediary of process-oriented psychotherapy. His podcast, On the Soul’s Terms, explores Greek Mythology and folklore to bring the morphic world of Psyche to life, whilst highlighting healers, therapists, yogis and astrologers straddling the worlds of the mystic and mundane through lesser-heard conversations.


  1. I loved this article. I am an astrologer myself and have a prominent Uranus in Scorpio, Aquarius in house 6 and my South Node in Taurus house 6/North Node in Scorpio house 3. I’ll continue spreading the practical ways we can use astrology to help and support ourselves to grow into the being we came to be.

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