In an episode of the TV series “Angel”, Fred (Winifred to the uninitiated) is dying of a mystical disease brought in via an ancient sarcophagus. She is the only girl left in the bunch, with Cordelia freshly dead from birthing a goddess/monster. The boys, Angel, Spike, Wesley and the culpable Gunn, are left to save the day. They follow their clues to a secret entrance, the tomb of The Old Ones—gods who once walked the earth. The guardian at the gate tells them that one of these ancients has escaped back into ordinary reality. It needs a body, a vehicle, and that is why Fred is dying. The boys are given a choice: they can let Fred die, or they can save her, the catch being that it would wreak havoc in the world, leaving millions of deaths in its wake. As Angel makes his difficult choice, Spike looks down the cavernous shaft. There is a hole piercing right through the center of the world, a rift lined with the sarcophagi of the sleeping Old Gods. Fred is left to die. She is taken over by the god Illyria, who rails about being trapped in a feeble human body. She is full of disdain. The world disgusts her. She cannot breathe. Yet eventually, she becomes the key figure in Angel’s battle for good, and the strongest member. But not before she must sacrifice some of her power.
Before we start, forgive me for mixing my mythologies. Everyone knows that proper references to rifts belong to Doctor Who…
I was sorry that Angel ended when it did when I read Joss Whedon’s future plans for Fred/Illyria. We would discover that Illyria did not completely destroy Fred from within, as we were told. One was to live within the other. Illyria was to have her god-power, but Fred would have the equal power of her intelligence and humanity. I would have liked to see what Whedon envisioned, as Fred came to terms with the god within her and Illyria found her compassion and purpose. Sadly, we’ll never know.
The story reminds me of our experience of Chiron. Fred, innocent, sweet Fred, without knowing it, has messed with the gods. An old one (read Uranus, Neptune, Pluto) has other plans for her. Once released, the god will not return underground. The genie will not go back into the bottle. Fred has to die to herself in order for the god to live. It isn’t an easy transition. Often, where the outer planets touch us, we experience a little death. It leaves us changed, often with great insight. And then what?
We continue to stumble through our lives and if we’re lucky, if we embrace the often painful experiences the outer planets bring us, we limp towards a kind of wisdom. We limp towards mastery of our lessons, but we still long for release. As long as we live a human life, we are a bit in thrall of the gods. Chiron forces us to come to terms with the limitation of our powers here on earth.
Chiron’s place points to not so much a wound as a place where we know and see too much, so much that it freezes us in our path. Wounds can be healed, but what is known cannot become un-known. (Chiron was hurt by the results of his own wisdom, by one of his own poisoned arrows.) One of the harder truths about Chiron is that, wherever Chiron falls, no matter how good we are at learning our lessons, we continue to feel abandoned because we know more than we should. It is often a place where we press our noses against the glass of divinity and are allowed a glimpse of what god-like achievements we might be capable of. One of the crueler aspects of Chiron is that it taunts us with possibility. It gives us a sense of life beyond the ordinary, and then it pulls that life away.
Where Chiron resides we find a most demanding teacher. Chiron, the hero-maker, demands that we use our hard won outer planet wisdom in the world. Chiron demands that we use our skills. Chiron, the centaur, demands that we come to terms with the physical side of life. Chiron may initially represent what we long for and what we perceive we lack, but it also represents the struggle to use what we know. Illyria, in human form, struggles with her earthly incarnation. In order to exist in this world she has to give up one of her most precious powers; her ability to transcend dimensions. Without that sacrifice, even as a god, she would die. Wherever Chiron resides, we have to make peace with our earth-bound selves.
Chiron, and the house it resides in, may not be a gateway to heaven so much as a hole in the Earth through which the outer planetary energies can release into the material world. What we do with them belongs to Saturn’s realm. It is Saturn’s work to ground Chiron’s gathered skills and wisdom. Leaden Saturn, practical Saturn, boring Saturn, Saturn of the ‘doing what I have to do but don’t want to do.’ Chiron is placed between Saturn and Uranus, between our greater ideas and the reality check of practical experience. The ‘wound’ of Chiron may not be so much an inherent wound within us, as an inability to ground our glorious vision in practical, real-life terms. Chiron conveys the wisdom, but Saturn must do the work. Then Saturn itself becomes suffused with divine purpose. (In mythology, Chiron is a child of Saturn.)
A gate, once opened, allows passage both ways. Practical use of our knowledge becomes easier with time (Saturn), allowing us greater access to the power of the outer planets. It’s fascinating to me that the one gift that Illyria must give up is her ability to transcend time and space. The god-energy must be limited to this physical plane in order to be useful. If we don’t focus our outer planet energies into the world, if we cling to our self-loathing and our solipsistic longing, we can become destructive to ourselves and others. If we concentrate on putting our hardest lessons to good use, we allow our lives to become a conduit for the gods.
“Chiron’s place points to not so much a wound as a place where we know and see too much, so much that it freezes us in our path. Wounds can be healed, but what is known cannot become un-known. One of the harder truths about Chiron is that, wherever Chiron falls, no matter how good we are at learning our lessons, we continue to feel abandoned because we know more than we should.”
- 08.26.09 / 11am