Eris Speaks: I want to see you scrabbling on the ground, hands bloodied, hair matted, face twisted. I want to pull your strings to see which way you jerk – maybe to see if you ARE a jerk. I want to bite and twist and lash and make you see where the bad things are. I see how the butterfly’s wing can be transmuted into chaos and I delight in this tiny thing that can become so vast – as big as the space between me and the Sun – as big as the space between your love and your hate. But when I cast my hand and twitch the thread, you’ll see that the space between love and hate is a fine line, like that of a hairline crack in a bone china cup. I do not taint beauty, nor do I make a good man bad. I simply reach out and stir to see which way the wind blows. Lie to my face and you’ll see my wrath, deny your fear and you’ll see my wraith curling her fingers around the dividing curtain. I tinker with time and pluck at apples, placing them in your dirty little hands. Here is my knowledge of you my dear. Is it what you wanted to know?
The Eccentric Grey Lady
Eris was officially discovered by astronomer Mike Brown in 2005. A dwarf planet around the size of Pluto, she lies in an unstable area of the solar system know as the scattered disc, a subset of Transneptunians. She is the most distant and one of the most cold objects in the sky. She appears grey in colour due to her surface being covered in methane gas.
The orbit of Eris is highly eccentric and tilted to around 44 degrees of the ecliptic. Currently she’s almost as far away as she can get in her orbit around the Sun. With her orbital period being 557 years, it will be a very long time until she moves to slightly warmer climes. She has one Moon called Dysnomia – one of the daughters of Eris.
The Name and The Fall
When Mike Brown and his crew first discovered Eris, they nicknamed her Xena (after the famous television series with a female superhero). The meaning of Xena is ‘guest’ or ‘stranger’ – and things were about to get very strange! With our new heroine appearing much bigger than Pluto at the time, the International Astronomical Union decided to thrash out a new definition of what a constitutes an actual planet. By welcoming in this stranger into our midst, the human race was exposed to new ideas and concepts. As a result, Pluto found himself demoted to a Dwarf Planet.
Critically perhaps from an astrologer’s eyes, along with the ‘fall’ of Pluto, astronomer Mike Brown suggested Eris as an official name for pet Xena because the symbolism of the Goddess of Discord neatly echoed the argument that raged between astronomers. His acknowledgement momentarily bridged the gap between astronomy and astrology. In old magic, they say that to give something a name is to give it power. After the dust stirred up by Eris settled, our solar system was forever changed.
Interestingly, newer research suggests that Eris is not actually much bigger than Pluto – but somehow she flattened him anyway!
Eris and her Moon Dysnomia were officially named on September 13th 2006.
The Story of Eris
Eris has a range of faces, from that kind of petty jealously that puts you in a competitive mood to work harder to get what another has, to full on vindictive bitch who wants to see your entrails sprawled across the ground and will laugh whilst you howl in pan. Daughter of Nyx (Night) and Cronos (Saturn) she gave birth to a notorious brood including Famine, Sorrow, Battles, Murders, Lawlessness (Dysnomia), Lies, and Oath (who plagues those who swear a false oath). In some tales she is the sister or companion of Ares.
She is most remembered for instigating the Trojan War. Seen as a troublemaker, Eris was snubbed by not being invited to the wedding of Peleus and Thetis. As it was one of those ‘everyone’s going to be there darling’ parties, Eris was furious. Seeing an opportunity for trouble, she threw an apple into the proceedings marked ‘for the fairest’. Three of the most beautiful Goddesses (Hera, Athene and Aphrodite) started to fight over who the apple was meant for – each believing they were the most fair. The squabbling trio asked Zeus to decide but being wise, Zeus decided to stay out of it and gave the decision to Paris. Each Goddess paraded herself naked in front of him but still he couldn’t decide. Finally the Goddesses fell to bribery with Aphrodite promising him the hand of Helen of Sparta, considered the most beautiful human woman in the world. Paris of course couldn’t turn this down and named Aphrodite the winner of the apple.
Aphrodite however, had neglected to mention that Helen was actually married but this didn’t deter Paris. He took Helen from her home and husband and brought her back to Troy triggering the Trojan war and the downfall of Troy in the process.
Eris seems to have a knack for sparking a downfall – whether of Troy or of Pluto or in each of us.
The Meaning in the Myth
Eris has a talent for pressing our buttons but the point is that the button is there to be pressed. Eris shows what happens when we let our wounds get infected, when hurts fester. We create our own buttons. We react from place of pain instead of a place of healing. The three squabbling Goddesses could have reacted entirely differently. They could have divided the apple between them, each honouring the beauty in another – but they didn’t. They showed their greed, vanity, jealously and petty-mindedness. Because they didn’t have an apple each, it could suggest that there is an underlying sense of ‘scarcity’. When food is scarce, animal turns upon animal – and we are just another animal. The apple is a symbol for abundance amongst other things.
Apples are also associated with knowledge as our old friend Lilith knows. Eris’s great strength is that she ‘knows’. She knows what makes us tick and what makes us stop. Whereas Lilith is raw and emotional, my sense is that Eris is a more thinking than feeling energy. It’s like she likes to play mind games, simply feeding off whatever is already in your mind, fanning the flames. There’s a coldness to her that sits uneasily with me; like looking into the eyes of a psychopath – a very clever one. Doctor Lector from the Silence of the Lambs springs to mind. But somehow, we all wanted Doctor Lector to get away with it in the end – didn’t we?
On a wider level, Eris exposes polite society and shows it for what it is with all its faults, inconsistencies and phony faces. She says it’s not hard to find the dirt when you look. She make everyone see that the Emperor has no clothes. Eris shows those nasty little pieces of ourselves that we like to pretend aren’t there and certainly don’t like anyone else to see.
Numbers and The Law of Eristic Escalation
The formal designation number of Eris is 136199.
In numerology this adds up to – 11/2
1+3+6+1+9+9 = 29.
2+9 = 11
1+ 1 = 2.
In the tarot, these numbers relate to Justice and The High Priestess.
Eris has secrets and an affinity with fairness and balance.
I was surprised to discover that there is a religion that honours Eris. The religion is called Discordianism. There are some arguments about whether this is a real or parody religion due to some rather comical basic tenants but aside from this, the ‘faith’ has its own holy book The Principia Discordia. What is interesting is that in the book there is contained a Law of Eristic Escalation. The law states that :-
Imposition of Order = Escalation of Chaos
Whilst there has been some silliness within Discordianism, there is something that rings very true about the law of Eristic Escalation. We have only to look to society – of the imposition of law after law that has created the concept of ‘the nanny state’ in Britain and farcical court judgements that protect the guilty instead of the innocent. Whilst some rules are necessary for society to live as a cohesive unit, too many rules can feel repressive and restrictive and consequently frequent rebellion both on a large and small scale. Perhaps part of this comes from an insidious awareness that many of the rules serve the few instead of the many. The games of Eris bleed brutal truths. She exposes the beast; the elephant in the living room.
A function of Eris then is to bring back balance by paradoxically knocking it off balance. This message seems to carry even more weight as Eris slowly travels through Aries. When trouble comes, it can either unite us or divide us. We can all pull together or we can fight between ourselves over what should or could be done.
Eris was in Aries at the time of her discovery and her proximity to the Ascendant is like a war cry announcing her arrival. Ruler of the chart Mars sits in the 8th house in Sagittarius. Mars in Sagittarius is on an endless quest but in this house, it’s much more of an inner quest facing and fighting the deepest fears and ugly beliefs about ourselves. Linking the questing vibe is a triple whammy of planets in the 9th in Sagittarius giving weight to the point – Mercury, Venus and Pluto are tightly glued together. Venus and Pluto can twist love to hate and give a perverse sense of humour. Mercury and Pluto gives a mind gifted with an uncanny ability to see other’s shadows as well as obsessive and possibly vengeful tendencies. This duo also can manifest as a voice that must be heard – someone who can make others listen to them. The 9th house stellium shows strongly held beliefs and a higher knowledge that can be used for good (Venus) or ill (Pluto). With Mercury being the middle figure of the three, there’s trickster energy at work and Eris can flit between faces in a split second.
Jupiter, ruler of the 9th house, sits in Libra in the 7th house. We are reminded of the Law of Eristic Escalation. Delivering justice is a function of Eris to bring things back into balance. Don’t forget this is the house of enemies as well as partners! Whilst her form of ‘justice’ may feel extremely personal, Jupiter’s position makes me think that she dishes it out to whoever and whenever – she isn’t choosy.
The Sun beams down from the 10th house square the Asc-Desc axis and Jupiter. Sun square Jupiter can give a God complex if you’re not careful. Of course, Eris IS a Goddess so she might be forgiven for thinking she’s special. The problem is when each of us think we are more special than someone else – that’s when Eris will slap us down.
In a natal personal chart, Saturn in the 4th house can show that on a deep level, we don’t feel quite good enough. Black Moon Lilith can indicate skeletons in the cupboard. This is exactly what Eris is looking for – those weaknesses and secrets that wobble our foundations. Note the trine from Saturn to Vesta in the 12th house. To be strong we must come to know our deepest most hidden self. Light up that house and that will help strengthen us.
The Moon is conjunct Ceres in Scorpio. Eris is a dark Mother – perhaps one of the darkest you can get but we need her. But boy can she feed on our fears.
Uranus in the 11th house shows the rebellious ‘I’m not playing your game’ tendency and also echoes the feeling of being left out of the party. Neptune also in the 11th house could be read as receiving dubious help from another! Conjunct Juno, we get an echo of another Eris story, where she dissolves the ties of a married couple through her meddling. At the same time though, if they had had unconditional love for one another, perhaps her rotten apple would just rolled on by. The square from Neptune to the Moon, shows how she infects and effects emotions – creating a deep tidal wave that starts within.
Chiron opposite Saturn shows her painful interventions which affect us both publicly and privately. Chiron with the Sun in the 10th, whilst not conjunct, shows a need to present your most authentic self to the world – and this is perhaps what Eris is striving for in a very roundabout way! She’ll shine a light on what hurts so you know what needs to heal.