I make a practice of not jumping too quickly into using a body in astrological analysis; normally I watch and wait, until a consistent interpretation picture forms, one that is born out in chart interpretation. That means I may not publicly use all the chart bodies my contemporaries do (and I use a few they typically don’t), but when I do feel comfortable, sure of it’s meaning after long observation, it becomes a part of every chart reading.
One of the things I’ve learned is that asteroids, dwarf planets (with the exception of Pluto), and other minor objects tend to enhance meaning, refining it and making it more specific, that’s carried in broader terms by one of the major astrological bodies or lights. Eris is no exception; my initial inquiry placed her as goddess of discord and chaos, relating her to facets of major bodies Uranus, Mars, Venus, and Pluto, and to the calculated point Black Moon Lilith. That means though she holds some of the same character and characteristics of other entities or points, she brings her own special viewpoint–and our task is to define that the best we can, sharpening her meaning within the chart over time and from experience and observation.
When I started my investigation of Eris, I looked to both the conclusions about meaning some of my contemporaries have come to, and to the myths about her and her character, and one big thing began to bother me: there are an awful lot of minor bodies named for female goddesses or other entities that are described as “vengeful”; in fact, many of them have rage as their defining (and sometimes their only) characteristic. And yet I don’t see male entities ever characterized that way. They may exact revenge, but it’s described as righteous, as appropriate (read ‘manly’) Warrior behavior or a seeking of justice, a righting of wrongs, as noble, or even just as a display of temper that they’re entitled to, while the female taking the same steps is portrayed as petty, acting from ego, vanity, or jealousy. Women are treated as if their anger is personal and toxic, typically coming from some form of rejection (though often that assertion almost has the quality of an afterthought, as if her anger needed a bland, no-questions-asked raison d’etre), while a man’s anger is seen as a reasonable response, a necessary action, as energy mobilized to redress injustice–and yet when they’re essentially the same thing, dressing them up so differently depending on who is taking the action tells us that the way these entities are described is rife with negative assumptions about women, positive assumptions about men, and the belief that these prejudiced lenses are required to understand these actions–and they are, if we’re talking about making those images fit into Western patriarchal culture.
But if we’re talking about making them speak in astrology, a patriarchal lens doesn’t do us any good at all, except to parse out how images may be distorted. Too, it doesn’t help that Eris is more of a personification of particular traits than an actual goddess, often referred to as Strife, and sometimes equated with Enyo, a Greek goddess of war and sister of Ares. A long list of Eris’s ‘children’ includes starvation, murders, lies, and forgetfulness, and Eris, having been snubbed on a wedding invitation, responded by ginning up the Trojan Wars–or so the most famous story about her behavior claims. Interesting side notes name her sister Aneris as representing Order and Non-Being (so does that suggest that chaos and strife are an integral part of being? I vote Yes), and Eris’ Roman equivalent may be Bellona, or Discordia, depending on how you sort things and who you ask.
In my search she struck me as very much a kind of Trickster in that her purpose seemed much more to sow chaos and confusion than to punish–and though I can’t count how many times I saw her referred to as ‘vengeful’ or ‘angry’, I can say that her characterization was paper-thin. Some have valiantly tried to give her more of a personality, to define her in something closer to three dimensions–but the reality is she appears to be more of a construct around a concept–which makes the attribution of vengeance and spite and rage at not being invited to the figurative party all the more puzzling (or more probably projection, or again, succumbing to the ‘enraged woman’ as some kind of short-hand explanation for everything, an explanation that satisfies the misogynist and the unthinking).
So, the more I searched, the less she seemed to be about creating discord, and the more she seemed to simply embody discord–that is, she seems to represent the state of disorder that is a natural part of the Universe. We can’t know order without the absolute of chaos, but there’s an enormous area in between when things aren’t completely chaotic, but they are discordant, not yet harmonious but with all factors searching for order, searching for pattern and rhythm, not through consciousness but through the tendency of dynamic systems to organize by interacting. In that sense Eris may be a catalyst energy, and that’s one of the functions (maybe the main one) I think she performs: her presence brings out the rage, upset, irritation, and, yes, vengeful inclinations, of others. She may set up the circumstances, but like the Devil, she can’t actually make anyone do anything–at least, that’s my hypothesis.
A couple other ideas on this: she definitely carries a ‘Warrior spirit’, but it seems to be one that responds to the unspoken messages in the environment, to what’s conveyed beneath the surface of things–again, like with the Trickster activity, I’m seeing her as linked more and more to Mercury–and that warrior tone isn’t so much that of a fighter but of an assertive quality–which, if you’re someone who expects smiling compliance from a female, you may interpret as aggressive–so in my reading modifying the martial nature of Mars to something less than the stereotypical warrior, to something more along the lines of confident and sure of right and wrong within the situation.
There might also be a difference in how we see this energy in the charts of males and those of females, just as we see with Juno: my thought is that in the female (or anima identified) chart Eris might indicate what issues she’s willing to fight for or about (this differs from Black Moon Lilith’s willingness to fight, in that BML is enraged, typically because of injustice done–in her case, the anger spurs her to fight, while fighting may or may not be part of Eris’s response); in a male (or animus identified) chart, Eris’ contacts may point to areas where he insists on the ‘upset’ nature of things (or just plain insists upon something, drawing chaos or ire by so doing), or possibly projects his own anger into related relationships or circumstances–but within the male chart, Eris always carrying the sense of ‘these aren’t my energies, they’re really out there’.
The fact that Eris is a dwarf planet, bigger by almost 1/3 than legit major body Pluto, suggests to me that her presence, her impact, is far greater than as humans we consciously acknowledge. Entropy is pervasive, and we may be exceptionally uncomfortable with that pervasiveness; I think it may trigger an animal response in us, so aggressively do we reach for order–because order means we have control of (or at least a chance of controlling) our world–and anything less is threatening, a requirement we acknowledge there are things bigger than ourselves in this Universe.
Many may be uneasy not having an explanation for why Eris would behave the way she does. Is enjoying chaos not enough for them? The tendency is to go straight for the idea that she must be angry, and that her anger must come from being told she can’t have something she wants, but I’m going to refuse that idea for now; instead I want to emphasize that she represents natural stesses that are just part of being alive. Her energy may be most comfortable in that space between chaos and order–and she just naturally brings that to anything she touches. Any results from her presence, then, should be read from where she sits in a chart, what rules her, and what she contacts, specifically as those stresses may ‘trigger’ those related or contacted energies that presumably are in their own, less-than-ordered state. It just may be, this is what Eris is meant to point out.
Of course, these theories of Eris’s meaning will be tested and modified over time–and discarded should they prove to be inaccurate. I’ll be back tomorrow with an example in the chart of a current newsmaker–until then!