An exploration of the outer reaches of the solar system may yield surprising possibilities. Once you get that far out, to the realm of Pluto and beyond, there are objects which not only intrigue but when you contemplate the mythical roots alongside these same physical realities, there is a suggestive resonance that hints at wider possibility.
Take Eris, the largest known Kuiper-belt object that is almost certainly somewhat larger than Pluto; the mythology conjures certain ideas of lawlessness (Eris was Goddess of strife and was known by the Greeks as “abhorrent Eris”) and her name loosely translates as discord. Here then, in the astrology is a discordant note. I have read about this and I consider it to be very difficult to relate to in the astrology. Some authors have attempted to identify Eris as a provocative energy; she manifests as a desire to sow mischief between others, the temptation to cheat and to set our competitors or associates at each others throats for personal gain or just for simple – albeit unevolved – amusement. There is also an intimation that Eris promotes material envy in the life and that this somehow results in a positive outcome, by feeling a comparative discontent and envy of our fellow man, we are impelled to improve our own position. So here Eris is considered to be a motivating force that creates desire out of envy. It is an astonishingly negative energy. Hesiod proclaims her power thus:
"She stirs up even the shiftless to toil; for a man grows eager to work when he considers his neighbour, a rich man who hastens to plough and plant and put his house in good order; and neighbour vies with his neighbour as he hurries after wealth. This Strife is wholesome for men. And potter is angry with potter, and craftsman with craftsman, and beggar is jealous of beggar, and minstrel of minstrel."
Eris’ orbit is profoundly eccentric; she travels so far off the ecliptic that she might be considered to be almost perfectly and continually out of bounds (astrologically speaking). Astronomer’s posit that this is because of an ancient encounter with Neptune, who flung Eris off the plane of the ecliptic. Here there is a small insight, after all, the promulgation of envious desire is easily deflected by a sense of spiritual proportion. Certainly the majority of Neptune-attuned and spiritually evolved types I have known have little time for Erisian pursuits.
This is important, after all, Eris appears to be an energy that we can reject if we so desire; or we learn that using such a degenerative power with impunity does seem to have unpredictable results, very often Eris energy appears to be of the type that backfires on the wielder: a little like Mars square Neptune. But there is no doubt that Eris has genuine power; mythologically, it was Eris who brought forth the “apple of discord” which started the Trojan War, which Paris was prompted to gift to the fairest of the three Goddesses, Hera, Aphrodite or Athena. There she exercised her true power, once she had set even the gods to quarrelling she assumed her true aspect, as noted by Homer in the Iliad:
Strife whose wrath is relentless, she is the sister and companion of murderous Ares, she who is only a little thing at the first, but thereafter grows until she strides on the earth with her head striking heaven. She then hurled down bitterness equally between both sides as she walked through the onslaught making men's pain heavier.
Here then appears to be a warning, the message of Eris then seems to warn of the strife that will be visited upon us if we allow our base instincts to overwhelm our good-sense and our spiritual sensibilities. It is then, how things seem to work out when we give in to the impulse to cheat, lie and create discord and disharmony. It might also give some clue as to our general conceptual approach to discord. Of course Eris moves very slowly, so only house positions are going to have much relevance, but configuration with planets will be interesting. Aretha Franklin has a Cazimi Eris in the 5th house of songwriting. So we might say then that Eris defines a point in our astrology, most especially by house and aspect, where we are most likely to feel dissatisfied with things, where we want to stir things up, to have more, and our methods may not always be very above board in realising our discontent, we may not be averse to producing our own apple of discord in this part of life too.
But the mythilogy only tells half the story, because when we talk about Eris we are talking about half of a polarity. To talk about Discordia without talking about her counterpart Harmonia is like talking about Tragedy without talking about Comedy; the one cannot exist in isolation. The Discordians – a cult founded in the 1950’s and a staple of modern pagan worship – understand this and suggest that Eris is a deeply misunderstood power or energy and are quick to point out that not only was Eris the sister of Aneris, but they both shared a brother: spirituality. Aneris is a facsimile for the Roman Goddess Concordia.
Now, there is an asteroid of almost non-existent dimension and note in that vast disc of dust and gravel between Mars and Saturn; its name is Harmonia. There too is an asteroid called Concordia. They seem to be of no particular significance. Perhaps Venus is the antidote to Eris? Maybe, as the ‘ancient encounter’ in the far reaches of space denotes, Neptune has some power to hold her in check, but for me the dissatisfaction I feel with the energy of Eris is either simply an echo of the nature of Eris writ large in my subconscious, or alternatively it harks back to the original dispute about the naming of Eris who was initially called Xena, in honour of the warrior princess of TV fame.
Maybe the lawless flaunting of male principles in female life that Xena speaks to has some archetypal quality of this elusive asteroid. Perhaps it simply represents our inner outlaw? Perhaps, as an undoubtedly feminine power I am not fit to judge her, but she feels incomplete to me, I await new namings with a keen sense of anticipation as a result of that, and I am hopeful of seeing the dichotomy healed.
From my perspective, I believe we miss a vital part of Eris. I think the name should stay. This is her name, let her keep it for goddess’s sake! Otherwise who do we turn to? Venus, too busy looking in the mirror to care about anything bigger? Ceres, handing out bread to everyone? Demeter? or Persephone, permanently caught up with that controlling prat Pluto? Where is the fighting spirit that a woman or a girl can access independently of a male archetype?
I also think that historical interpretations are coloured by gender biases of their time – that females should be peaceful and invite harmony, not kick up a fuss or start a massive argument based on principles or just to let off some steam, lol. Such as say the Trojan war, that let’s face it, according to this myth, was entirely based on the shallow, self-interested, competitive and entrenched beliefs of others anyway! “To the fairest”! If they were above it all, they would have laughed, cut the apple into three and given one third to each of the 3 goddesses at the party. see? One simple action from the Outsider exposes the underlying ideas that are quite brittle (imo). Eris simply saw it and was the agent of its exposure. So I would say yes that is seeding discord, but perhaps like pluto (in some ways), she also exposed hidden beliefs & fears, and hopefully one day we can allow her a stronger place in the pantheon where women argue and fight as equals without being blanketed by a judgement that passivity is Better.
(I also have Eris on my MC, opposing Pluto on my IC so I am particularly interested in this energy dynamic!)