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Monthly Archives: December 2012

Capricorn

Capricorn Constellation

Those familiar with Greek mythology, will no doubt be familiar with the image of the Sea-Goat known as Capricorn. The lower half of Capricorn resembles that of a fish, while the upper half is that of a goat. There are a few different conflicting myths regarding the Capricorn constellation.

Astronomy & Astrology

Much of the foundations of Western knowledge regarding the fields of Astronomy and Astrology owe its roots to Ancient Mesopotamian cultures. Many ancient cultures studied the stars, seeing in them patterns that are called constellations. These ancient astronomers were able to make predictable, annual turnings of the heavens that they could divide and mark for the passing of the Seasons and time. For the ancients, Astrology served as a precursor to Astronomy and they believed that by studying the heavens, they could foretell future events and even a person’s life path.

These ancient cultures would also meet and exchange ideas frequently and in this fashion, when the Greeks encountered the Persians, there was an exchange of knowledge regarding Astronomy that becomes the constellations and zodiacs so many know today. Eventually, there is no clear distinction between what ancient Mesopotamian Astronomers and Greeks Philosophers knew. Even in current, modern times, the influence of these ancients is still known.

Western Astronomy

The Capricornus or Capricorn constellation is Latin for “Goat-Horned.” This constellation is one of 48 constellations that were identified by Ptolemy, an astronomer who lived during the second century. In modern times, Capricornus is one of 88 known constellations and is bordered by the constellations of Aquila, Sagittarius, Microscopium, Piscis Austrinus and Aquarius. Many of the constellations bordering with Capricornus are water-related and are located in an area of the sky known as the Sea or Water. The latitude at which the Capricorn constellation appears overhead and can be seen by observers and star gazers is still known as the Tropic of Capricorn. This is when the sun is at its most southerly position during the Winter Solstice. The term also applies to the line on the Earth, on atlases that marks when the sun is directly over head at noon on the Winter Solstice.

Chinese Astronomy

In the Chinese system of Astronomy, the constellation Capricornus is located in The Black Tortoise of the North or Bei Fang Xuán Wu. Its name in modern Chinese is mó jié zuò, meaning “the rub ram constellation.”

Middle Eastern Astronomy

The Arabs, Persians, Turks and Syrians all knew of Capricornus as the Goat. In certain places of the Middle East, the constellation was known as the Southern Gate of the Sun, indicating that it is in this constellation that the Sun reached its lowest point in the solar year before the days become longer and the nights shorter.

Other Cultural Astronomy

The Nakh people call this constellation Negara Bjovnaš, the “Roofing Towers”

In the Society Islands, the figure of Capricornus is called Rua-o-Mere.

The planet Neptune was discovered in Capricornus by German astronomer Johann Galle, on September 23, 1846.

Mesopotamian Mythology

The constellation of Capricornus dates back to the ancient Babylonians and Sumaria. The first recordings and depictions of this constellation date to the 21st century B.C.E. before 1000 B.C.E. It was associated with the planet Saturn and the Mesopotamian god Enki, the Babylonian Ea. In the beginning, Enki was the God of the city Eridu. He was the god of artisanship, water, saltwater, lake water, intellect and creative activity. Enki or Ea was described as being fish-tailed and was called the “Antelope of the Sea.” He was seen as coming up from the abyss of the deep ocean teaching humans knowledge and the wisdom of the gods.

Enki’s symbols were the goat and fish that both combined into the sea-goat. This symbol of a goat-fish represented the great propriety of the buildings of Babylon out of the low, damp lands they were once located in. The horns of the goat represented the towns of Nineveh and Babylon built on the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.

The Capricorn constellation is called “šaxû ibex” in Babylonian. The sun in that month moves into the “suxûru” or fish constellation, which is called the star of Tashmetum, named after a goddess of Akkadian mythology. Tashmetum is the wife of the god known as Nabu. Nabu is the god of wisdom and writing in Babylonian legends. The ancient Babylonians revered Nabu because he was the son of Marduk and his wife, Sarpanitum. Finally, Enki or Ea is Nabu’s grandfather.

Greek Mythology

Amalthea

In one account of Greek mythology, this constellation is the symbol for Amalthea, the she-goat who nursed the god Zeus when he was an infant. Her broken horn that was used to feed Zeus was changed into the horn of plenty or cornucopia. A slight variation to this is that Amalthea is the name of the nymph who raised Zeus and took care of the goat that provided milk and nourishment for him. After Zeus had grown up and was able to over throw his father Cronus, Zeus placed Amalthea up in the heaven in thanks as the constellation of Capricornus.

Cornucopia

The horns from Amalthea the goat later become the Horn of Plenty, or Cornucopia. It is also said that the association with cornucopia is because this is the period of time when the sun is resting and “nourishing itself” before moving northwards on its solar path across the heavens. This was also seen as a symbol of discipline.

Pan

In Greek mythology, Capricorn is known as Pan and he is usually portrayed as the son of Hermes. He had the upper half of a man and the legs of a goat. How Pan becomes associated with the constellation of Capricorn is that one day when Pan and the other Gods were down by the Nile River, they were attacked by the monster Typhon. The Gods all changed themselves into various animals and forms in order to escape. In the confusion and panic, Pan jumped into the Nile River, intending to change into a fish, but only his lower half changed while his upper half turned into a goat. When the other Gods saw this half-goat, half-fish form of Pans, they laughed so much and decided to place an image of it up among the stars where it becomes the Capricornus or Capricorn constellation.

This myth is called “Egyptian” by Gaius Julius Hyginus in his Poetic Astronomy and serves as a way to justify a connection of Greek-Roman Deities with those of Egypt. Something the Romans loved to do, equating all of their gods with those of other cultures. Pan is one example here, as some retellings of this story will call him Aegipan and depending on the source, some scholars will say that Aegipan is a separate deity from Pan, or that he is one of the Panes or many names by which Pan is known.

Aegipan

In a more elaborate retelling of the story of the Greek Gods versus Typhon, while the Gods did change into various animal forms, Zeus changed into the form of the ram, Aries and remained in this form for a while. Other gods like Aphrodite and Eros became a pair of fish that form the constellation of Pisces. Now Aegipan had also transformed himself into an animal to escape Typhon, but he was already halfway submerged in the Nile River when he finally decided what animal form he would be. He had decided to be a goat, but only from the waist up and a fish from the waist down. And its this result of indecision during panic and trying to escape that results in the familiar half-goat, half-fish from of Capricorn.

Zeus finally reappears back in his own form and battles against Typhon, but he was however defeated. Typhon proceeds then to cut out the tendons of Zeus’ hands and feet and therefore unable and helpless to move. Typhon hid the tendons in a cave in the land of Cilicia. The draconic being known as Delphyne, a half-serpent, half-woman creature was tasked by Typhon to guard Zeus’ tendons.

Between the gods Hermes and Aegipan, they were able to steal back Zeus’ tendons and return them so Zeus could become whole again. With his strength restored, Zeus was now able to battle Typhon again and this time, defeated him hurling thunderbolts at him. For Aegipan’s role in this battle the Titan, Zeus set the Capricorn constellation up in the stars to honor him.

Aegipan or Pan?

Well now that all depends… some scholars will say that Aegipan is a separate deity from Pan like Nomios and Phorbas who are collectively called the Panes. Other scholars will say that the Panes are merely different aspects of the same god, in this case, Pan. Additionally, Aegipan is sometimes said to be the father of Pan and not Hermes. It can create for a lot of confusion. Which is what Pan is good at and hence the origin of the word panic.

Winter Solstice

During the early Bronze Age, Capricornus marked the Winter Solstice, the day and time of year when the days are their shortest and the nights are at their longest. Due to the rotational axis shift of the Earth, around 130 B.C.E., the Winter Solstice occurs earlier and no longer in the Capricorn constellation. The solstice still marks the start of the astrological sign of Capricorn in the Zodiac with the sun in Sagittarius.

As of 2002, the Sun now appears in the constellation of Capricornus from January 19 to February 15. In tropical astrology, the Sun is in the sign Capricorn from December 22 to January 20, and in sidereal astrology, this time is from January 15 to February 15.

Zodiac

The constellation of Capricorn is the tenth sign of twelve signs that form the Zodiac. It is the second faintest constellation of the zodiac after the Cancer and can be seen at its brightest in September about four A.M. in the morning.

For those who study and are into the classical Greek Zodiacs, this time is typically said to be sometime from December 22 to January 19. Oftentimes, this is very close to the time and start of the Winter Solstice.

Capricorn is recognized by the name of the “Gate of Death” and is opposite to the constellation Cancer, the “Gate of Birth. “ Capricorn relates to the time the Sun embarks on the tenth part of its orbit and relates to a time of new knowledge. The planet Saturn is said to rule this Zodiacal sign and constellation. Its element is Earth, an introverted sign and is one of four cardinal signs.

Capricorn people or those born under this sign are thought to be well ground and capable of exercising a lot of discipline as needed. They make for great listeners due to their great patience. This ability allows Capricorns a good insight into the lives of other people, traditions and personal histories. They can be very cultured and knowledgeable about the world and society. Capricorns may also care a great deal about personal appearances and perceptions, always seeking to dress neatly or be very stylish. They can be seen as generous, interesting and tactful as dispensers of wisdom.

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Sagittarius

Sagittarius
Etymology – The Archer; “sagitta” means “arrow” in Latin. Toxotes in Greek

For those who study either Astronomy or Astrology, the constellation of Sagittarius is easily recognizable by the image of a centaur drawing a bow. It is found between the constellations of Ophiuchus to the west and Capricornus to the east.

Astronomy & Astrology

Much of the foundations of Western knowledge regarding the fields of Astronomy and Astrology owe its roots to Ancient Mesopotamian cultures. Many ancient cultures studied the stars, seeing in them patterns that are called constellations. These ancient astronomers were able to make predictable, annual turnings of the heavens that they could divide and mark for the passing of the Seasons and time. For the ancients, Astrology served as a precursor to Astronomy and they believed that by studying the heavens, they could foretell future events and even a person’s life path.

These ancient cultures would also meet and exchange ideas frequently and in this fashion, when the Greeks encountered the Persians, there was an exchange of knowledge regarding Astronomy that becomes the constellations and zodiacs so many know today. Eventually, there is no clear distinction between what ancient Mesopotamian Astronomers and Greeks Philosophers knew. Even in current, modern times, the influence of these ancients is still known.

Greek Mythology

In Greek mythology, I’ve come across a couple of different stories related to the constellation of Sagittarius.

Chiron

Most people will identify Sagittarius as a centaur, half human, half horse, wielding a bow. Generally this centaur is supposed to be Chiron and in others, it’s the centaur Phollus. Upon their death, they were placed up in the heavens to form the familiar constellation of Sagittarius. More scholarly sources will point out that the story of Chiron is actually more correctly identified with the constellation of Centaurus.

Crotus

Interestingly, it wasn’t until I went looking up information on Sagittarius that I’ve come across the name of this satyr, Crotus. None of the books I have mention, name or come close to referencing him. Everything I’ve come up with on him is through on-line and these sources reference Theony Condos’ book Star Myths and two ancient sources of Eratosthenes (1st/2nd century C.E.) and Hyginus (1st century B.C.E.).

Just who is he? Crotus in the myths I found, place him as the son of Pan and Eupheme, apparently a nursemaid to the Muses and one of the Charities. Eupheme is another name that once I went looking up Crotus, I couldn’t find anything on her in my books except for on-line sources. But I can see why there’s a mix up with Chiron who was peaceful by nature and Crotus who was also peaceful by nature where other Centaurs and Satyrs were known for wild and rowdy behaviors.

But this story makes far more sense for Crotus to be the figure shown in the constellation of Sagittarius. Satyrs, depending on the source and book read, are sometimes described as having a horse’s tail along with the hooves and goat-like horns. And in the myths that I’ve found regarding Crotus, he’s described as being a very skilled hunter and the inventor of the bow. So well loved was he by the muses that they asked Zeus to place Crotus up among the stars to be commemorated as a constellation.

Perhaps in a vague effort to connect Sagittarius with its earlier Babylonian astronomy, the constellation of Sagittarius is said to aiming an arrow at the constellation of Scorpio, specifically the star called Antares, the heart of the Scorpion.

Babylonian Mythology

The constellation of Sagittarius was well known to earlier civilizations in the Middle East and Mesopotamian cultures. When the twelve constellations were listed sometime around the third millennium B.C.E., Sagittarius, the Archer was on it. It’s generally agreed by many that the Babylonian’s constellation of Sagittarius later becomes the root of the Greek Sagittarius mythology.

In some myths, the character of Enkidu, a feral man raised by beasts, was seen represented in the constellation of Sagittarius. Enkidu was a close friend and companion to Gilgamish of the city Uruk. In the Epic of Gilgamesh, Nergal, the god of war is found on two cuneal inscriptions. In Sumerian, Nergal’s name means “Lord of the Great Dwelling,” that is the Underworld. Nergal was one of seven deities to who sacrifices and offerings of sheep and cattle were made. Nergal was originally associated with fire and the heat of the sun. One of his epitaphs is sarrapu, “the Burner.” He later came to be seen as a god of War, Pestilence and Devastation.

The Babylonians saw Nergal in the constellation of Sagittarius. Nergal was said to be a strange centaur-like creature firing a bow. One source states that this image is usually depicted with wings, two heads, one being a panther, the other a human head and a scorpion’s stinger raised above it instead of a horse’s tail.

The Sumerian’s also saw their god Pabilsag. This deity’s name is comprised of two words, the first being Pabil, meaning “elder paternal kinsman” and Sag, meaning “chief head.” The thought or idea is that the name can then translate to “Forefather” or “Chief Ancestor.” Pabilsag’s look contains several complex characteristics not interpreted in the Greek icon of a centaur. Pabilsag had a scorpion’s tail, a dog’s head and wings. In other variants the characteristics are altered, the dog’s head or wings could be overlooked all together, while in other icons bird like feet supplant the scorpion’s tail.

Some scholars like to try making a connection of the Greek Sagittarius to the ancient Babylonian constellation through the etymology of words. With how Sagittarius is from the Latin meaning the Archer. This is translated from the word Sagitta meaning an arrow. This is then translated from the Greek word Taxotes, meaning the Archer, and when translated to the Akkadian language, is Nedu the Soldier. Once more this gets translated to the Sumerian word “Us,” meaning the Soldier). And ultimately, it is finally translated to the Sumerian words Pa.bil.sag, meaning the Archer.

The Arabs named a number of the brighter stars in the constellation after parts of the human body and for parts of a bow and arrow, indicating that they too associated this constellation with an archer. One star, called Nunki, is a fairly recently used name by navigators and comes from a list of Babylonian star names. The name Nun-Ki was the name of a group of stars representing the Babylonian’s sacred city of Eridu on the Euphrates River. This name is now used exclusively for the star Sigma Sagittarii, and is considered to be the oldest star name in use.

Chinese Astronomy

For the Chinese, they view the constellation of Sagittarius as two separate constellations of the seventh and eighth lunar mansions called Ji and Dou Ji, representing a winnowing basket used for separating rice grains from their chaffs. The chaff was represented by a single star called Kang. A related constellation called Chu, the pestle is to the south of Ji, used for pounding the rice to remove the husks.

Dou, “dipper” or Nandou “southern dipper” was formed by the stars Mu, Lambda, Phi, Sigma, Tau and Zeta Sagittarii. This constellation is also called the Milk Dipper. In Chinese proverbs, the southern dipper marks life while the northern dipper, Beidou, the familiar Big Dipper found as part of Ursa Major, marks death. A solitary star nearby was called Nongzhangren, an old farmer, measures out the grains in the dipper and winnowing basket.

North of Dou, an arc of stars, Upsilon, Rho, 43, Pi, Omicron and Xi Sagittarii is called Jian and represents a banner, possibly at a city gate. Next to it is Tianji, the “celestial cock” who is in charge of time as they’re the first to crow the dawn while all the other birds follow it.

To the south of Tianji are two canine related constellations. Gouguo which consists of stars Omega, 59, 60 and 62 Sagittarrii. The name Gouguo translates to “territory of dogs” or “dog kingdom” and could represent a nation of Chinese myth and history, possibly the Mongols. Next to Gouguo, is Gou, formed by the stars 52 and Chi-1 Sagittarii, and is said to represent a guard dog.

In the southern part of Sagittarius, a group of ten stars formed the constellation Tianyuan and represented a body of water such as a lake or ocean. Tianyuan was said to control or govern the irrigation of fields. A group of fainter stars in Sagittarius on the border with the constellation Ophiuchus form part of another constellation, Tianyue. This constellation lay on an ecliptic threshold and represented a lock or keyhole through which the Sun had to pass every year. It lays directly opposite in the heavens from Tianguan, a gate on the edge of Taurus.

The Teapot

The eight brightest stars of Sagittarius form an easily recognizable, smaller constellation or asterism known as the “the Teapot.” Four stars form the body of the pot, while other stars form the lid, spout and even the handle. Another smaller group of these stars form a ladle shape called the Milk Dipper. Ancient Chinese astronomers also saw a dipper among these same stars as mentioned above.

The Galactic Center!

According to Astronomers, the constellation of Sagittarius sits at the center of the Milky Way galaxy as it is at its densest there. Many star clusters and nebulae are also found within the constellation of Sagittarius. Some of these nebulae are the Lagoon Nebula, the Omega Nebula, which is also called the Loon, or Swan or even the Horseshoe Nebula, and the Trifid Nebula. The brightest star cluster is called Messier 55. In addition to all this, it is believed that the exact center of the Galaxy is marked by a radio signal that astronomers call Sagittarius A.

Zodiac

The constellation of Sagittarius is the ninth sign of twelve signs that form the Zodiac. For those who study and are into the classical Greek Zodiacs, this time is typically said to be from November 21 to December 21. Due to the changes of the earth’s orbit and tilt, the best time to see this constellation is during early summer. The planet Jupiter is said to rule this Zodiacal sign and constellation. Its element is Fire, an extroverted sign and is one of four mutable signs.

Sagittarius people are said to like being straight forward, getting to the heart of the matter with honesty. Sometimes their sense of honesty and truthfulness can hurt as they may not necessarily sugar coat anything. A younger Sagittarius will be rather abrasive about this, sometimes coming off as a smart alec whereas an older Sagittarius has learned to better temper their words will still being very frank and forthright. A Sagittarius person may also aspire to a lot of athleticism, philosophy, scholarly pursuits, travel, adventure or high and noble ideals. They’re known for being loyal and being those who can give as well as effectively follow directions.

Chiron

Chiron - BK
Alternate Spellings: Cheiron, Kheirôn

Pronunciation: {ky’-rahn}

Etymology: Greek – Χείρων (kheir) “Hand,” Skilled with Hands

Chiron is the son of Philyra, a nymph and daughter of Oceanus and the Titan, Cronos who were horsing around and then really horsing around in the forms of horses so Cronos could hide his affair from his wife, Rhea. So naturally of course, later, when Chiron is born, he has the upper half and body of a man and from the waist down, he has the body of a horse. Philyra on seeing her half horse, half human son, abandoned him and he was raised by the other gods of Olympus. Chiron is also the god Zeus’s half-brother.

Having a parentage different than all the other centaurs, who were born from Ixion and a cloud, Chiron is known for his great wisdom and gentle temperament. Unlike the other Centaur who are known for their wild and reckless behavior. When the other Centaurs were created, Chiron and his daughters took them in and raised them as their own sons.

Chiron was learned in many arts such as medicine, music, gymnastics, literature, prophecy, strategy, hunting and warfare. This is usually attributed to his being taught by the gods Apollo and Artemis.

Along with his wife and children, Chiron lived in a cave on Mount Pelion in Thessaly where they had been banished to with the other centaurs by the Lapithae. Sacrifices were offered up to Chiron there by the Magnesian people. And the family known as Cheironidae was well known for their knowledge of medicine, that they were thought to be descended from Chiron.

Depiction In Art

In Athenian vase paintings, Chiron is depicted with the full body of a man, from head to foot, wearing chiton clothing and boots, with a horse-body attached to his human rear. This image probably reflected Chiron’s appearance in Greek drama, where costume limitations would have affected his depiction for the stage. This limitation however doesn’t seem to have affected the appearance of other Centaurs in their familiar half human, half horse forms.

Thessalian God

With his divine parentage, yes, Chiron started out as a God of Healing. Later when this mythology is subsumed by the Greeks, he becomes one of the centaurs. He was known as a great healer, astrologer and a well respected oracle. Chiron was the first to use herbs for healing and the medical practice of surgery.

What’s In A Name?

Chiron’s name is derived from the Greek word for hand (kheir), which also means “skilled with the hands.” The name is also closely associated in myth with the term kheirourgos or surgeon. And that makes sense when seeing how Chiron is the first surgeon.

Children of Chiron

Chiron married the nymph Chariclo and with her, they had many fine colts and fillies. Among their children are Hippe (also known as Melanippe, the “Black Mare” or Euippe, “truly a mare”), Endeis, Ocyrhoe and Carystus, their only son.

Through his daughter, Endeis, Chiron is the grandfather of Peleus.

The family known as Cheironidae was well known for their knowledge of medicine, that they were thought to be descended from Chiron.

Students of Chiron

Chiron’s reputation as a teacher is so great, that he is said to have taught many students throughout his career. Though a lot of this may be poetic license and a desire on the part of any historians, story tellers, theologians and chroniclers wanting to attribute a Hero’s greatness to lessons and skills learned from Chiron.

Some of Chiron’s students are:

Achilles, Actaeon, Aeneas, Ajax, Aristaeus, Asclepius, Caeneus, Jason, Medus, Patroclus, Peleus, Perseus, Telamon, and Theseus. Sometimes Heracles, Oileus, Phoenix, and even Dionysus were said to have been students.

Peleus, Grandson of Chiron

Chiron’s friendship with Peleus, who is also his grandson, is of note. Chiron saved him from the hands of the other centaurs, which were on the verge of killing Peleus. Acastus had left Peleus out in the woods, hoping the centaurs would kill him. Chiron also returned Peleus’ sword to him that Acastus had taken and hid. Chiron further aided Peleus in marrying the goddess Thetis, telling him to hold tight to her as she changed forms numerous times.

Meeting the Argonauts

Chiron is also connected with the story of the Argonauts, whom he received kindly when they came to his residence on their voyage, for many of the heroes were his friends and students.

Death of Chiron

Chiron’s death comes when he was accidentally hit by a poisonous arrow coated in Hydra-venom shot by Heracles. This came about as Hercules, during his fourth labor in defeating the Erymanthian Boar, came to visit another centaur friend Pholus on Mount Pelion. While at dinner, Hercules asked for some wine to drink. The only wine that Pholus had was some sacred wine given to him by the god Dionysus. At Hercules’ insistence, Pholus was forced to bring it out and when Hercules grabbed it to drink, the aroma of the wine lured the other centaurs to the cave who became intoxicated by just the scent of it.

Led by Nessus, the other centaurs soon began to riot and attacked the cave, throwing rocks and trees at it. In self-defense, Hercules began to start shooting arrows, all poisoned by Hydra blood, to force them back. Eventually the centaurs ran to Chiron’s cave over in Malea.

It is there, that Hercules shot the fatal arrow that strikes Chiron. The potency of the poison is such, that even Chiron the master healer is not able to heal himself and the pain is more than he can bear, that Chiron dies despite being immortal.

Here, there are a few different variations of this story. Chiron dies, giving up his immortality in a bargain with Hercules and Zeus so that Prometheus can go free and humankind can have the gift of fire that was originally stolen.

Other versions of this story state that Pholus also died as when he came out of his cave, he pulled one of the arrows that Hercules had shot from a dead centaur and in the process accidentally drops the arrow on his hoof, killing himself that way. Sometimes the story goes that it is Chiron who accidentally drops the poisoned arrow on his hoof.

All versions do agree that Chiron dies of the poisoned arrow, regardless of it being accidentally dropped or shot. After his death, Zeus placed Chiron up among the stars where he becomes the constellation of Sagittarius or Centaurus depending on who is telling the story.

Chiron In Astrology?

What?

Yes, Chiron has a celestial body named after him. These celestial objects are known as centaurs, as they have characteristics of both asteroids and comets along with having unstable or transient orbits. Something of a composite nature just like their namesakes. Chiron was found in 1977 by Charles Kowal. At first astronomers weren’t sure how to classify these centaurs or what to call them due to their unstable orbits and conflicting natures. Chiron isn’t to be confused with a hypothetical moon of Saturn that has long since been disproved.

Some Western Astrologers have readily jumped on to the discoveries of new celestial objects within our solar system, adding them to the classical Astrology and coming up with meanings for them.

One such interpretation is that Chiron is “the wounded healer” and has associations with life traumas, bullying and wounds or inadequacies that are seen as incurable but can still be overcome or worked with. Basically this is turning a weakness into a strength. A few astrologers believe that Chiron should be assigned as the ruler of Virgo.