Nessus was a centaur who was ferryman at the river Euenos, where he carried passengers across the waters on his broad equine back. Nessus is most noted for his abduction and attempted rape of Heracles’ wife Deianeira. The couple came to the banks of the river and requested passage; Nessus took Deianeira first, then attempted to force himself upon her when they had reached the other side. Heracles saw the struggle, and shot Nessus through the breast with an arrow dipped in poisonous Hydra blood. As he lay dying, Nessus committed one final act of malice, and whispered to Deianeira to collect his blood, telling her it would ensure that Heracles remained forever faithful to her.
Years later, Deianeira suspected Heracles was having an affair, and so retrieved the blood from its vial and smeared it across a robe which she gifted to her husband. Heracles died an agonizing death as the Hydra’s poison mingled with Nessus’ blood burned the robe into his skin, killing him. After his death Zeus elevated Heracles to the Olympian pantheon to honor his many feats of strength and skill.
Astrologically, Nessus represents inappropriate or criminal sexual acts, including rape, as well as the general theme of “men behaving badly.” There is a component of family history and the transfer of sexual or other abuse from generation to generation. Additional themes include long-simmering resentments, deferred revenge, and abuse of trust.