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© by Zane B. Stein

Glyph for Pholus
This is the inside cover
of the world's first
Pholus ephemeris,
as well as the first
publication of a symbol
for this Centaur.
A special thanks to
Al H. Morrison
for being my publisher,
and my friend.


One day Hercules was on the way to one of his 12 labors, the capture of a wild boar that was wrecking havoc around Mount Erymanthus in Arcadia. This same area was home to the tribe known as the Centaurs.

On his way to the mountain, Hercules stopped in to see a friend of his named Pholus. Like Chiron, Pholus was an unusual centaur. Unlike the majority, Pholus was fair, gentle and wise. Anyway, Pholus played the good host and entertained Hercules.

For this next part of the story, I have found three different versions. In one, Hercules is thirsty, but Pholus refuses to give him any wine, saying it was not his, but the property of the whole Centaur tribe. Hercules, however, has a powerful thirst, so he takes the cask, breaks it open, and guzzles it down. A second version has Hercules talking Pholus into giving him the wine. And in the third, Pholus plays the excellent host and offers the wine to Hercules.

In one story, by the way, Pholus was given the wine as a present. He was asked to resolve an argument between Dionysus (god of wine, ecstacy) and Hephaestus (also known as Vulcan (god of the forge, metallurgical arts.) Guess which one Pholus sided with? Well, let me give you another hint.....Pholus' dad was often pictured as Silenus, who was almost always pictured being drunk; Silenus was said to be the son of Pan, as well as the tutor of Dionysus.

Anyway, from this point on the stories all agree. The smell of the wine pervaded the area, and the whole tribe of Centaurs became intoxicated by the smell, rushing to the scene, creating havoc, demanding their wine. Pholus tried to calm them down. Chiron came too, and tried. But to no avail. So Hercules began shooting at them, using poisoned arrows. The ones he didn't kill turned and ran. But Chiron was wounded (some say in the knee, others in the heel). Chiron was immortal, so he might have suffered pain for all eternity, if Zeus hadn't allowed him to trade his life for Prometheus' freedom. (That's another story.)

And Pholus tried to remove the poisoned arrow from a fellow Centaur, and was pricked by the same arrow. Since he was not immortal, this killed him. In some versions, Pholus tried to save the fallen centaur. In others, he removed the arrow out of a strange fascination that so small a thing could kill so great a beast.

There are a number of Neptunian overtones to this story. The wine, for example. Pholus' self-sacrifice, in one version. Pholus stepping outside of the safe and secure to investigate the unknown mystery of the arrow. Perhaps these relate to the fact that Pholus orbits between Saturn and Neptune....and links them up in much the same way that Chiron links Saturn and Uranus.

We haven't had very long to study Pholus, so not much of his astrological nature has been verified. But there does seem to be an element of selflessness in his actions...of involving the self in something to the point of losing the self in the process. Much more study is needed, though.


Pholus, as it moves between perihelia and aphelia, actually crosses the orbits of three planets, Saturn, Uranus & Neptune. Here are the most recent of these significant dates:

Pholus reaches Perihelian Feb 4, 1901
Moving out, it crosses Saturn's orbit Feb 26, 1904
Next, it crosses the orbit of Uranus Mar 8, 1915
Then, it crosses Neptune's orbit, Dec 4, 1934
And then it reaches Aphelion July 9, 1946
Going back inward, it crosses Neptune's orbit May 5, 1957
Next it crosses the orbit of Uranus, Feb 10, 1979
And then, it crosses Saturn's orbit Jul 9, 1988
Perihelion is reached on Sept 24, 1991

Check out Juan's site for other Pholus orbit crossings


There may be something to be gleaned from the Pholus discovery chart, as well. Pholus was 0 Leo 36 R in the 9th, in close quincunx to Mercury (29 Sagittarius 01), Mars (29 Sagittarius 59) and Ceres (0 Capricorn 56) in the 2nd. The quincunx IS an aspect of adjustment, and can be one of sacrifice, even of death & transformation.


When a new body is discovered, we can learn some of its nature by looking at what is going on in the world at that time, and Pholus is no exception. Here are a few of these:

Apoptosis is a term you may not have heard of, unless you work in the medical or biological fields. It is, simply, a form of programmed cell death, and is referred to prolifically in scientific literature nowadays. However, cell biology textbooks with copyrights PRIOR TO 1992 DO NOT CONTAIN THE TERM in their indexes, and BEFORE 1992, the National Institutes of Health DID NOT LIST apoptosis as an area of research interest. Yet, suddenly, in 1992....the year of Pholus' discovery...this term began to pop up in textbooks, as well as in research projects. In 1993 grant funding for projects whose title mentioned the word nearly doubled over the 1992 figure, and in 1994 grant funding doubled again.

Cell death. Pholus' main myth is about the circumstances surrounding his own death. Intriguing that when Chiron was discovered, scientists began to find out the functions of a protein called Ubiquitin, which seems to start the process of cell-death. But it was not until Pholus' discovery that the term Apoptosis burst into the medical lexicon.

Nitric oxide is a gas, primarily seen only as a toxin...until 1992. Then, it was discovered to be an essential neurotransmitter...a biochemical messenger that enables nerve cells to communicate with each other. Nitric oxice was the first gas identified as a neurotransmitter; since then, others have followed.

Toxins. Pholus died as a result of the poisons on the arrow.

Geron Corp. was founded in 1992, its purpose being to apply principles of cell senescence to treat disorders of aging. Since its founding, it has had several remarkable discoveries connected with something called telomerase, a compound found very active in cancer cells but almost non-existent in normal cells. This compound keeps the cells dividing indefinitely, unlike normal cells which divide so many times and then stop. This company announced, in December 1998, that placing telomerase in normal cells enables them to replicate themselves almost indefinitely, BUT DOES NOT CAUSE CANCER! Thus, they may have found the key to halt or slow down aging.

Going beyond aging? Perhaps this ties into Pholus' orb, going from Saturn out to Neptune.

When I first began studying Pholus, shortly after its discovery in 1992, I meditated on a symbol for it, and the above glyph entered my mind. After I had published a few articles on this new Centaur, Marianne Alexander wrote to tell me that my symbol was remarkably similar to a particular virus known as a T-4 called because it attacks bacterium by poking a hole into one and inserting its own DNA inside.

Well, looking over pictures of T-4's, (and other viruses in the same class), I was amazed at the similarities! Here is the outline of a typical T-4:

More on these viruses shortly.

What makes this connection even more intriguing are some of Marianne's initial findings on Pholus, which she published in her book, "The Centaur Pholus", in June 1996:

"One meaning of Pholus is viruses - AIDS, Ebola, Hepatitis, and others not so deadly, including computer viruses. It is also poisons, birth defects, DNA and gene research. The flip side of the coin - and there is always a flip side - is that Pholus is prominent in the charts of health care professionals."

Marianne, too, looked at world events at the time of Pholus' discovery. Here are a few of the headlines she mentions:

"103 killed in cholera outbreak in Mali"
"Scientist catch hot zone virus from 500-year old mummy"
"Firm hopes virus delivers"
"Virus killing shrimp"
"Double whammy: AIDS and TB - twin epidemics feed on each other, U.N. says"
"Deadly epidemic in Nicaragua still a mystery"
"Ebola death toll is 153 of 205 infected"

(Her book, delineating her preliminary research, can be ordered from: Pandora Publishing, P.O. Box 641294, Kenner, LA 70064-1294, USA. Each book is $25.00 in the US, $29.00 in US Funds if ordered outside of the USA. Tell her you saw mention of it here! She also has available an ephemeris for several thousand asteroids for the year 1999. If you would like to see where all of them will be transiting your chart during the year ahead, contact her to find out how to order this ephemeris. You can e-mail her at:

Back to the Bacteriophage. Let's look a little more at what the real virus looks like. Turn to this university site for several images, both drawn and photographed:


In one of them, you can actually watch a mock-up of a T-4 attacking a bacteria, poking through its cell wall, and plunging its DNA inside. What happens next? The DNA disables the bacteria's DNA, sets up a little factory to replicate itself, and eventually destroys the whole cell, sending thousands of new T-4's out to attack other bacterium.

Marianne said that this is reminiscent of a mosquito. I can see what she means....the way it inserts it's probe into its victim, and inserts the chemical that will keep the wound open while it does it's drinking. And of course the Malaria mosquito also inserts the parasite it carries.

There is also something reminiscent of how Pholus himself died...getting jabbed by the poison on the tip of the arrow which he had removed from the fallen Centaur.

Bacteriophage's may be a key to saving millions of lives. Scientists are now working on genetic splicing to create viruses which do their bidding, going to specific disease bacteria and destroying them completely. Similar efforts are in the works to destroy cancer cells, yet not harm any other part of the body.


Robert sent me some tentative keywords for Pholus transits:

Robert and Dieter published an article on Pholus in The Mountain Astrologer. They wrote that "the discovery of Pholus marked the beginning of important progress in the field of astronomy. It held answers to many questions that Chiron had raised." And, "Translated into astrological terms, this means that Chiron brings long and helpless waiting, while Pholus, on the other hand, brings immediate progress."

Nick Campion quotes Robert as saying of Pholus that "He intensifies very strong, brings you to your limits, raises a strong urge for growing (but often very spontaneously and unconscious), when at the same time you feel a lack of inner possibilities to grow in that specific area. Therefore you live in a very unstable 'borderline' situation, where you tend to do things impulsive (to cross the border) or you don't do anything at all, because you feel an inner blockade."

On Amable's blog, Transneptunian Astrology, there are some interesting observations about Pholus:
"Around Pholus discovery, fractal images get popularized, integrating science and art.
"Pholus has the ability to maintain alive the illusion (Neptune) and achive the necesary discipline (Saturn) to make a dream come true, like in the movies "Far and Away" (1992) or Nike's (Michael Jordan -Dream Team-) slogan "Just do it" (1992).
"Like in the movie "Terminator 2: Judgement Day" (1991), where the T-1000 can adopt the form of the people he touches, Pholus can identify with another person by empathy (Neptune) and cystallize (Saturn) in its own personality or in other individual, like John Connor teaching the T-800 to be more human in the movie "Terminator 2: Judgement Day" (1991).
"Pholus has self-control over empathy, like in the movie "Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope" (1977), were the main characters can keep distances (Saturn) aganist the victimism of the android C3PO (Neptune) in order to face the aims proposed.
"Pholus awakes the need to impose limits (Saturn) while investigating the paranormal energies (Neptune), like in the TV Serie "X-Files" (1992). Also, between reality and fiction, like in the movie "Basic Instinct" (1992)."


One way to explore the meaning of a body is to explore its aspects in the charts of celebrities. If you'd like to see who has Pholus conjunct their Sun, or square their Mars, please go to

Click here, Pholus, to find out how to discover where your Pholus is.

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