Asteroid Files: Phaëthon

Originally posted on Astrogeek’s Skywatch

Helios– OK, i don’t know about you guys, but i am getting bored with these water gods. Not that they’re not fascinating, but i don’t want to be called a one-trick pony. Lets see what else i have here…. Orcus, no way, still don’t know enough about him myself; Mekemeke, enh, not today, I’ve had enough birds to last me for a month; Borasisi, nope not trying to deal with any more drama about whats real and whats not…is this it?

Oh wait, here we go. Phaethon. Might as well give him a shout, as hes the one who’s been wreaking havoc on my life at the moment. Ties in nicely with the Leo theme, too.

The Astronomy– Ok, so i know hes not a TNO per se, but rules were made to be broken right? Anyway, Phaethon is really cool. He is an Apollo asteroid, and has the distinction of being the asteroid that comes closest to the Sun, getting right next to Mercury at perihelion.  His orbit crosses that of Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars. It was also discovered that Phaethon is the parent body of the Geminid meteor shower. He shows characteristics of both an asteroid and a comet, despite the fact that no coma (the comet’s tail) has ever been observed.

The Myth– Now I admit, this is one of my favorite myths. I’m going to try to do it justice. Phaethon was the son of Helios (not Apollo. Long Story), and grew up as a normal kid in ancient Greece, where 40% of the population were godlings. His mother Clymene made sure he was proud of his parentage, and he did not hesitate to tell everyone he knew that his dad rode through the sky everyday in a golden chariot. Unfortunately, kids being kids even in year one, he was laughed at mercilessly.

Not one to give up (and putting way too much faith in his mother), Phaethon goes to seek out Helios in his shining castle and claim his birthright. Helios rejoices to meet his son, and is so happy that he swears an unbreakable oath to do anything to prove that he is Phaethons father.

Phaethon arches his eyebrow and says “anything, huh?”

The kid demands to drive the Sun chariot for a day, so he can prove to all his stupid friends how cool he is. And then maybe go see his smoking hot girlfriend (she lives in another city-state, you wouldn’t know her), but only if there’s time after the wicked awesome robot battle. Helios understandably is freaked out by the idea, and tries to get him to pick something else. Phaeton is having none of it, and without anything else to offer him, Helios makes the worst mistake ever and GIVES IN to his kid.

There’s no way this could possibly go wrong right? Its just the sun, how much harm can a chariot cause? Wait, its horses are made of fire, breathe fire, and the chariot itself is hotter than the forges of Hephaestus (who incidentally made the chariot)? Oh gods.

So the dawn comes, and Helios tries to talk him out of it, but the kid is stubborn. He takes the reigns and heads out. At first, everything is fine, just a leisurely jaunt, same as every day. Then the horses notice that its not the same guy as it usually is. They freak out and try to bolt, as horses are prone to do. First they go too high, and the Earth starts to freeze. Then they go too low, and that’s when everything goes south.

Cities, people and rivers start to burn. Africa goes from a jungle into a desert. Posiedon is pissed and waves his trident around for a while and dives back down when it gets too hot, being just about as useful as Aquaman, despite this being an incident where being able to control large amounts of water just might come in handy. But no, its cool; we got this bro, just do you. At this point the poor kid is blind and badly burned. Zeus shoots off a thunderbolt, puts him out of his misery, and he falls into a river. His seven sisters, the Heliades, who saw the whole thing cry for a week and get turned into trees. His mother laments Helios, “who men rightly call Apollon (destroyer)”, leading to the confusion over the two.

Why He Matters– So what did we learn today kids? Don’t try to bite off more than you can chew is the right answer here. Astrologically, Phaethon is a powerhouse. His name means “shining one”, so to start off with, hes the golden child, who has so much potential to do amazing things. But his Achilles heel is his pride, and how easily he lets the criticism of others get to him. He gets laughed at, and he childishly allows them to get a reaction from him, and it leads to his downfall. News flash: life is tough, and then you die. You’re going to get laughed at. The only thing you can do is ignore it and just do you. Or you can get even, which never ends well; Just ask Eris.

Alternatively, Phaethon can represent someone who “sets the world on fire”, whether this is for good or ill. This is very prevalent in the case of Casey Anthony, who has Phaethon exactly conjunct her Midheaven (in the public eye), Opposed to Pluto (death), Sextile the Moon (motherhood, children), Trining Ceres (the loss of a daughter), the Vertex (fate) and Neptune (the media, alcohol, poor decisions, celebrity status), quincunx Saturn (responsibility, being an adult). After her not guilty verdict, the internet blazed with public outcry to give her capital punishment for her (alleged) crimes. Howard Stern, another great example, has Phaethon exactly quincunx his Mars (actions). Rush Limbaugh, a public figure well known for being very vocal about everything he disagrees with, has Phaethon conjunct his Part of Fortune (one’s place in the world) and Eris (stirring up trouble), square Mercury (ideas, radio), Uranus (shocking, rebellious) and Pallas Athene (political beliefs), and Opposed to Saturn (the established order, authority, good sense).

Look to Phaethon any time you have something going wildly out of control, or when circumstances feel like they’re out of you’re hands. Some parental emphasis is suggested as well, due to the mother’s prodding and claiming the absent father’s birthright.

Also, there is the mundane element of his rulership over chariots, or for us modern folk, our cars. Trust me on this one, I bought a new car, and little did I know i was going through a Phaethon Return (which just so happens to take place right on my sun, tying in the irony). I wanted to show it off to my family, to show them that i was more responsible, and doing better for myself. Long story short, I ran into some rain, hydroplaned, did a 360 degree turn, went off an embankment and totaled the car. First day, no less. Then, a week later, the car I was replacing ALSO hydroplanes, this time in a development, and I drive it away, but it overheats and blows up. Luckily no one was hurt in either case (except my pride and bank account).

In closing I leave you with this epithet, written on Phaethon’s tomb.- “Here lies Phaethon: Greatly he failed, but Greatly he dared”

To find out where he shows up in your chart, go to astro.com, put in your birth details and in the extended options, all the way at the bottom of the next page, there will be a menu of additional objects. Under that is a blank space where you can enter the number 3200, for Phaethon. Once you have it entered, generate the chart! Where does {haethon affect your life? Let us know in the comments below!

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