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Centaurs

 

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Nessus and Chiron

Description

The centaur is a mythological creature. Its head, arms, and chest are those of a human and the rest of its body, including four legs, hindquarters, and a tail is like that of a horse.

There are also deer-centaurs, dog-centaurs, and the Gaelic androcephalous or man-headed horse. Both Greeks and Etruscans sometimes painted a centaur-like animal with the entire body of a human rather awkwardly attached in various ways to the lower or back parts of a horse.

 

Origin

Presence and illustrations of centaurs date back to Assyria (2000 BC) and India (3000 BC). Some have traced the Greek centaur origins back to the Gandharvas who in Vedic mythology drove the horses from the Sun but it is now accepted that they were a primitive and rough population of horsed shepherds from Thessalony. According to Greek tradition, there are two families of centaurs. The more numerous and unruly centaurs are those born of the union of Ixion, King of the Lapithae and a cloud which Zeus disguised as his own wife, Hera, whom Ixion had bragged of having relations with.

Chiron who was the like the above centaurs in appearance only fathered a different race of centaurs, sober, learned and studious. His father was Cronus, the Titan and his mother was Philyra, an Oceanid (or ocean nymph). He was a famous physician and teacher and was renowned for his skill in hunting, medicine, music, and the art of prophecy. Taught by Apollo and Diana, Chiron went on to tutor the greatest Greek warriors, Aesculapius, Jason, Hercules, and Achilles.

  

Powers

Centaurs lived in herds on Mt. Pelion in Thessaly, Greece, and were a plague to the people around them. They went about drunk, eating raw flesh, trampling crops, and raping female humans. The intellectual parts they inherited from humankind left them ignorant and yet cunning.

 The Centaurs were creatures that were sometimes very hostile towards humans. They were always involved in brawls and battles. Often Zeus would send the Centaurs to punish gods and humans who had offended him. The hostility between man and Centaurs is said to have originated when the Centaurs were invited to their stepbrother's (Pirithous), wedding celebration. At the feast Eurytion, one of the Centaurs, becoming intoxicated with the wine, attempted to offer violence to the bride; the other Centaurs followed his example, and a dreadful conflict arose in which several of them were slain. This is the celebrated battle of the Lapithae and Centaurs, a favorite subject with the sculptors and poets of antiquity.

 

Symbol

The wicked centaurs are the antithesis of the knight and the horseman. Instead of mastering or taming their instincts, these centaurs are ruled by them. They symbolize violent lust, adultery, brutality, vengefulness, heretics, and the Devil. They represent the struggle within each heart between good and evil, moderation and excess, passion and propriety, forgiveness and retaliation, belief and unbelief, god and beast.

Centaurs may be seen in pictures of St. Anthony Abbot who met both a centaur and a satyr when searching for St. Paul the Hermit in the desert. According to some legends, this centaur was the Devil himself.

Chiron is known as the wisest of all Centaurs. He did not depict the regular character of a Centaur; he just had the same body of those creatures. To the Greeks he was a close representation of a saint. He was a father figure to many of the gods' children. They were given to him so he could teach them great knowledge of the world. Chiron represents the positive combination of man's animal and spiritual natures. As early Christians strove to modernize ancient pagan symbolism with Church teaching, the combination of the spiritual and the animal natures in the centaur-archer caused this image of Apollo and the sun to become a representation of Christ, the God-Man.

 

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