After reading about yet another storm in a teacup fomented by British TV “personality” Piers Morgan I have recently been giving some thought to the principle of Eris, an archetype that seems to me to be increasingly prevalent in society’s various discourses. I had a very strong sense of Morgan’s Erisian nature, and when I looked at his chart, I was right, his Sun is conjunct Eris. We do not have a birth time for Piers Morgan, so this conjunction will be anywhere between 0°49’ and 1°47 from partile.
When Eris, a sizeable TNO (Trans-Neptunian Object) was discovered in 2005, it was named Xena, after the TV character Xena: Warrior Princess, and this implied a measure of feminine strength and glamour. Maybe some of that glamour stuck, because a general reading of Eris’ domains gives a positive impression, an amalgamation of girl power, death to the patriarchy, and feminine independence. Eris emerged as a most positive feminine archetype.
But is this accurate? Mythically, Eris (also known as Discordia in the Roman pantheon), was the sister of Ares (and Mars). She was not a popular deity, and no ancient Greek offered her prayers, and she had no temples. She birthed an unsettling pantheon of demonic offspring:
- Dysnomia (Lawlessness)
- Ponos (Hardship)
- Atë (Ruin)
- Lethe (Oblivion)
- Limos (Starvation)
- Algos (Pain)
- The Hysminai (Fighting)
- The Makhai (Battles)
- The Phonoi (Murder)
- The Androktasai (Manslaughter)
- The Neikea (Arguments)
- The Amphillogai (Disputes)
- Horkos (Curses)
- The Pseudologoi (Falsehoods)
And mythologically, Eris has no uplifting stories to boast of. She is best known for provoking the doom of Troy, wherein she gloried in the conflict and bathed in the blood of the fallen. In another tale, two lovers, Polytekhnos and Aedon, declared that their love for each other was greater than that of Zeus and Hera. Hera, infuriated by their hubris, instructed Eris to bring them to ruin.
Here’s the original story, as told by Antoninus Liberalis, a Greek mythographer of the 2nd Century:
“One day they [Polytekhnos and Aedon of Kolophon in Lydia] blurted out the needless remark that they loved each other more than did Hera and Zeus. Hera found what was said to be insupportable and sent Eris (Discord) between them to create strife in their activities. Polytekhnos was on the point of finishing off a standing board for a chariot and Aedon of completing the web she was weaving. They agreed that whoever of the two would finish the task more quickly would hand over a female servant to the other.
Aedon was the quicker in finishing off her web – Hera had helped her in the task. Polytekhnos was infuriated by the victory of Aedon.”
The story concludes with Polytekhnos fetching Aedon’s sister Khelidon and raping her as revenge before bringing her back disguised as the promised slave for his wife. The pair discover each other’s identities, murder Polytekhnos’ son and feed the boy to his father. Dark.
We understand Eris as a Goddess of Strife and while this is true, we can infer a more accurate role for her. In these two famous stories, her part is to stir up feelings of resentment and animosity between others, whose normal relations would have been peaceful. So, she certainly is a Goddess of causing strife, and it is always through some seemingly innocuous device, such as the golden apple at the wedding of Peleus and Thetis. In each case Eris’ initiating ploy is out of all proportion to the dreadful outcomes.
So, when I think about the archetypal quality of Eris, I see it not as a positive female archetype, and find it hard to make one from it. Some make an argument for her as a kind of feminine Mars, an archetype of war, but to my mind, this does not describe Eris. She does not fight, though she provokes conflicts. A much more suitable female facsimile for Mars is found in the goddess Bellona, who had many temples and worshippers in ancient Rome, while the Greek Goddess Enyo was likewise a facsimile for and, in some tellings, consort of Ares.
In fact, my reading around the web in respect to Eris, I find rather perplexing. There are so many claims made for Eris that seem to have no exacting provenance, that they seem more like wishful thinking rather than astrological research, even if they are almost true. And it is not as though the mythology is especially rich or extensive. And lest anyone think that I am not much motivated to see Eris in a good light, my Sun is exactly parallel Eris who, conjunct my Aries Saturn, forms the apex of a Golden Yod from Sun quintile Jupiter. I would very much like to find in Eris, a taxonomy of goodness, but I fear, it is not to be, or at least, not without some creative application.
So, what are some of these claims? One that crops up repeatedly is that Eris incites a vigorous assertiveness, a standing up for one’s beliefs. There is some evidence for this, people with Eris strong do tend toward being highly opinionated, it is true, but this is not really the same thing as assertiveness. Some tenuous logic might be extrapolated from her part in the Trojan Wars, but it is hardly manifest. In the story, the celebrants, not wishing to have their nuptials ruined by the presence of Strife personified, do not extend Eris an invitation to their wedding. She exacts her revenge by provoking a quarrel between the Goddesses Aphrodite, Hera, and Athena, by asking Paris of Troy to gift a golden apple to whichever of the three was the loveliest. She is not exactly ‘standing up’ for herself, although she is certainly being revenged for her snub. Indeed, this seems a prevalent characteristic of Eris in the astrology: those who are not invited! And why might that be? Because they are seen as troublemakers. We will look at perceptible Erisian qualities in more detail soon but let us first examine more of the myriad proposed, and universally accepted, qualities of Eris.
The next claim is that Eris represents an archetypal struggle for feminine recognition in a patriarchal world. This is again difficult to substantiate, although it probably stems from what seems a slightly lazy association of the facts that Eris is both female and powerful. This rather ignores the understanding that all Goddesses were powerful, they were, by definition, divine beings with attendant celestial abilities. Eris’ power was considerable, but it was also indirect. She had the power to promote astonishing disorder with her ostensibly innocent schemes. Nowhere in the mythology does she inveigh against patriarchal systems, nor do her complaints focus on her feminine status. She is not excluded because of her gender, and she does not take her revenge against men, but in fact, against other goddesses, by provoking a quarrel between them fomented upon their vanity.
Having said this however, that does not mean that Eris cannot lend her provocative instincts to espouse a feminist cause. Consider the case of American novelist Erica Jong, with Sun conjunct Eris, whose 1973 novel Fear of Flying shocked readers with its frank discussion of female sexual desires. Jong freely admitted at the time of its publication however that she was not writing for women’s rights, but that she had “always been a feminist if that means you want to be your own person.”
In exactly the opposite vein, American singer and one-time Miss Oklahoma, Anita Bryant promoted the 1969 Save our Children campaign, a popular anti-gay cause, and later fought to allow gay couples to be discriminated against in law. She referred to gay people as “human garbage”.
Another keyword often associated with Eris is rebelliousness, and this is certainly true, but it is not rebellion for rebellion’s sake. In the two stories we have of Eris in the mythology, one episode of her strife-mongering is instigated at the behest of Hera, and the other in retaliation for the personal slight of being deliberately overlooked. Eris certainly does not care much for others’ opinions of her, nor does she evince any remorse for the outcomes of her schemes. She is impenitent and implacable. But her rebelliousness is of a different quality to that of Uranus because it is not overt. It has the sense of “who me?” about it.
So, these then form, for me, the key tenets of Erisian qualities, if we are to take a mythological reading:
- Subtly belligerent
- Reviled by polite society
- Sexually liberated (esp. in the female chart)
- Espousing unpopular views
This last theme is interesting because contrarianism is becoming rife in our society today, and as a result, Eris explains so much of the difficult discourse that dominates our media. Piers Morgan is a master at speaking to a discontented swathe of British society, one that is in line with broadly right-wing, nationalistic, and patriarchal views: ironically enough.
Next time, we will look at some more specific cases of Eris in the astrology, and thereby gain a clearer insight into the actual qualities and characteristics she confers.
Until then, thanks for reading,