by Boots Hart, CAP
Discovered January 5, 2005, dwarf planet Eris is one of many members of the Kuiper Belt. These bodies, orbiting beyond Neptune, have earned the name TNOs—Trans Neptunian Objects. Pluto is probably the best known member of this celestial crowd, even if it isn't the biggest planetoid out there. Which is the largest of them all? Eris. And yet Pluto (more correctly called Pluto/Charon) "feels" so much a part of our world. Eris doesn't. Is this only because we've heard of Pluto for years now and Eris is new to us?
Maybe. But astrologically—as metaphysically—there's a big difference, which speaks to why we'd be aware of Things Pluto (transformation, control, death, taxes, sex, dominance/submission, fear) and understand where they come from without this being true of Eris.
The difference is physical: Pluto orbits way, way out there, but as Pluto travels around the Sun, its orbit crosses that of Neptune, bringing it into the realm of things we comprehend as knowable. This doesn't mean we control most Plutonic elements—we don't. It doesn't even mean we like all Plutonic elements—we don't! We humans don't seem to like any of the transpersonal planets (Pluto, Neptune, Uranus)—probably because they're connected with things we at best cooperate with, but never totally control. Still, we do understand. We "get" how earthquakes function and that they have a purpose in the grand geological scheme of things. Hurricanes, tornadoes, death—all very much of the same ilk.
In other words, transpersonal symbols are part of our world. We understand their origin and (sometimes begrudgingly, their) function. But Eris? Known as Discordia among the Romans, Eris symbolizes energy which simply disrupts. But what about Uranus, you say? Uranus is change: a form of evolutionary growth which, if denied, produces growth through revolutionary processes. But again, Uranus affects areas of life we comprehend. That Eris is different reflects its orbit being beyond all that. Thus it feels like an "outside influence"—something which arises unbidden.
Is it? Can anything which is part of our solar system or cosmos be truly "beyond" us? Not if E=mc2 is true. If all of Existence is energy, then it all has meaning and (one suspects) a purpose, whether we comprehend that purpose or not.
Unbeknownst to us, the universe is unfolding as it should. This is the thought which supports faith in that we cannot see. Through this idea, those of us who believe in God, believe—and if you believe in astrology, you believe we come to know about celestial objects and name them in harmony with all Which Is. So in that light, probably the best place to look for an understand of Eris is the myth the Greeks told about this bitchy Goddess Discord.
The tale is one of those pithy "damned if you do, damned if you don't" stories which begins with someone forgetting to invite Goddess Eris to a wedding. Who this unforgivably lax entity might be isn't specified, but one hopes it was an immortal rather than some poor human schlub who could (in classic Greek style) simply get turned into a self-poisoning toad by an irate god with a fondness for toadies.
Of course…it might be possible that having this error committed by an immortal is even worse. Not in the "gods are infallible" sense we might think today—Greeks never held that their gods were flawless, which may actually be a more realistic version of mankind having been created in the image of one's Maker. The whole idea of divinity equaling infallibility has actually grown more and more emphatic as time has gone along, making it an interesting manifestation of human evolution through the ages. But as for the errant entity who left Eris off the guest list, considering that eternity is a really long time to suffer Olympian denigration, maybe we should hope that this offense was committed by an ordinary human who could die and forget, given that the Greeks believed that after death we descended to an Underworld and got handed a cup of "forgetfulness" (River Lethe water) which made all our memories go bye-bye, a foundation for reincarnation if I ever heard one. (And wouldn't a few of us like a bottle of that water in real life?)
But back to the story…simply that there was an error with regards to inviting Discord to a marriage is an interesting comment, especially since Eris (in true discordant tradition) showed up anyway. From this, we can deduce that you can't not have Discord around—the issue isn't inviting Discord in, and in fact to think that you can exclude Eris Discord because you want to is naïve. In other words, avoidance creates problems.
As for the marriage in question—that being between Peleus and Thetis—it was hardly a perfect match. Peleus was a mortal with a history of jealousy, anger, murder (etc.) and Thetis was the daughter of a primordial sea god: a nymph always referred to as "silver-footed" who was to become the mother of Achilles—he of shining helm and Troy fame. So that Thetis was marrying Peleus and Eris Discord showed up at the wedding says a lot. Being a goddess (and evidently in the good graces of her deep sea family), Thetis could hardly have been obliged to marry Peleus, suggesting that something in the qualities brought to the process of choosing Peleus led to the inciting of Discord. The reference to "silver-footed" is one good clue—as is the idea that Thetis was elementally bound to a water life (i.e., a life based in emotion). Feet symbolize grounded-ness: the ability to move in a direction of one's choosing. The implication is thus that being "grounded" in terra firma (reality) is an important factor in making good choices and that Thetis, in her water (emotion)-oriented life was virtually incapable of making a choice grounded in solidity. In other words, she's unrealistic. So it follows that her choices are unrealistic as well, which leads to Discord.
As for the color silver, it's often a reference to the Moon, the light of which is reflective, not proactively generative, which is associated instead with gold and the solar principle. In astrological terms this refers to the idea of yin versus yang: the Sun is yang—it acts. The yin Moon is reactive—it works with what it receives, giving us the picture of Thetis partnering up with this classic "bad boy" Peleus because she is so emotional, unrealistic and ungrounded that she won't think for herself. Add to this a little footnote about the guest list thing—the lack of attention to that (which is plainly any bride's responsibility) brings in the idea that a lack of responsible attentiveness, and inattention to detail, is another way to get Discord to show up in your life.
Ancient Eris (Discordia)
Even if we choose to see this all as a function of Thetis being a sea nymph, and of how silver as a metal tarnishes when exposed to air, we get this idea. Evidently all of Thetis' choices are going to "tarnish" once "aired" in a realistic light.
As applied to our modern world, metallic silver recalls the idea of "lesser wealth," implying everyday transactional commerce—an idea underscored by the Moon's astrological rulership of Cancer (real estate, national populace, families), its exalted status in Taurus (security, life resources), its detriment in Capricorn (government, commerce, punishment for transgressions) and its problems with give and take/emotional morality (responsibility) in Scorpio (debt, credit, power, corruption, investment, taxes, emotional responsibility). And considering this, the 2005 timing of Eris' discovery seems particularly apt as the US housing bubble, built on a mountain of subprime mortgages, peaked in late 2005/early 2006, spinning off the derivative instruments which have resulted in today's international financial crisis—i.e., national and international financial discord.
Was inattentiveness to detail involved in this crisis? Yes! Everywhere you look, from regulators to speculators to those who bought into derivatives, to people signing mortgage documents they either didn't read or understand—on and on, the lack of attention to detail has been stunning. Emotion drove the market, investors, risk, greed—and the speed of the decline when the housing bubble finally burst. Everything which has happened regarding deregulation, investment, over-extending and overuse of credit—it's all about the very type of emotional lacks in realistic fiscal grounding which considering the myth we would associate with Eris.
So it was that though uninvited, Eris showed up at the wedding anyway. Whether she brought a gift for the happy (?) couple or what said gift might have been is (alas!) not recorded. What is told of however, is Eris' showing up (one can only imagine wearing what—stilettos and a pitchfork?) …she shows up with a gift: an apple labeled "for the fairest."
Now we get to give Thetis some credit, as she evidently knew well enough not to pull the "I'm the bride" thing and claim she had to be the fairest since it was her wedding. Who knows—maybe she had a premonition of Cinderella's problems. Or maybe she'd already read the Adam and Eve story. Or maybe she just knew Eris, and figured any apple Eris brought had to be the proverbial bad apple.
Recalling the obvious parallel to the Biblical image of an apple as the fruit of the tree of knowledge (or conscience) adds the idea that merely to possess an "immortal apple" is to know too much about something one is not supposed to know, or would be better off not knowing. Such apples can also be seen as tokens which if taken on (or even worse, bit into) can make you a person who becomes known for something better left alone, unknown or not done. It's so safe to think any or all of these attributes would be implied by anyapple proffered by Eris that the message "for the fairest" becomes highly suspicious.
But now the critical question: who is said apple going to?
Is the message a reference to physical beauty? If so, the apple should go to Aphrodite, she most gloriously beautiful and eminently attractive in nature.
But maybe the "faires" thing in life is that which provides security and sustenance, that which provides all upon which life—and the continuance of life—depends? If so, the apple should go to Hera, Olympian Queen and goddess of hearth and home, patroness and defender of marriage, family, and those in dire need.
Or is 'fairest' a reference to being fair? If that was the case, then Eris' apple should be given to Athena, goddess of righteous wisdom, impartial justice and clear far-sightedness.
Looking at this particular facet through the astrological lens, we get another fascinating insight: the nature of Aphrodite embodies the first zodiacal third (Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer)—youth (immaturity) and the search for Self through what we look like, value, learn, choose and in putting out there (all puns intended), receive. The second four zodiac signs (Leo, Virgo, Libra and Scorpio) are very Hera, embracing our fears and experience trust through risk and all involved in relationships, our active adult life and the building of a family. The last zodiac four signs (Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius, Pisces) are very "big picture" and like them, Athena symbolizes everything (perspective, perseverance, prioritization of greater needs) required to comprehend andunderstand the wisdom of—and thus necessity for—functional fairness in our lives, all systems social, spiritual and humanitarian and how through supporting and setting limits for all, thus is provided opportunity and protection to each. This is the wisdom of experience which truly only comes with age.
So! With all this on the table, who did Eris give her apple to? Initially, none of the above! Instead, she put it into a human hand—which is the mythic way of saying that to be human involves a measure of dealing with Discord, taking responsibility for how we incite Discord and the challenges we are confronted with as a result of Discord being present in our lives. And just what (un)lucky human hand did Eris put her "fair" apple into the hands of? That would be none other than Paris, Prince of Troy.
Paris (younger sibling of Hector), had a bit of an inferiority problem. He was the quintessential young prince with a need to prove himself—which says a lot of about discord: it tests not our strong traits but our vulnerabilities. Improving that which is already solid and strong isn't the point of Discord and probably not where we experience discord. Eris in the chart (and by transit) points to areas which are weaker than they might (or should) be and/or weakened by tendencies to make choices in that area based on emotions or lack of realism—which includes (oh, by the way) being too idealistic.
Without laying down a ton of math here, this is all reflected in the astronomical-astrological indicators by the close-to-exactitude with which Eris' orbit (which is 557.438324 years long) interfaces with an Anomalistic lunar month and the Nodal cycles of our satellite Moon. The Nodes represent society, with its transiting effects having to do with how we each interface with or approach that society. And while there are (at least) four slightly different measurements for a lunar month, the Anomalistic is that one measuring the Moon's movement from perigee to perigee—the perigee being the point at which the Moon is closest to Earth.
So both indicators have to do with proximity, thus pointing us to conflicts which arise out of being in proximity to other "moving" (i.e., not personally controlled) parts of our life. This isn't to say that proximity breeds conflict, but rather that conflict comes from the pluses, minuses and unpredictability involve in interactions and efforts to grow our life.
And this, in turn, says much about why the more anti-conflict or anxious we are as a person, the more we tend to rely on the verb "to hermit." As people grow older there is a natural decline in emotional/neurological resiliency, which also promotes a tendency to withdraw, but that this is not productive (healthy) is seen in the common medical/societal advice to stay active. In being active and able to tolerate the natural friction which comes from interaction lies that empowering life factor which allows us to grow, and in growth lies the essence of the youthful spirit which is the true elixir of attraction. Which—going back to our myth—would be why Eris' apple got given to Aphrodite in the first place.
The flip side of this is that the whole maturation and growth process is one which depends(to some degree) on the spinning out of wide-ranging choices which we whittle down in choosing a career, a place to live, a life partner, lifestyle and beliefs. We must endure friction in making choices, in living with our choices and in maintaining that vital life force which allows us to grow from and beyond choices already made. This makes discord (Eris) a cosmic "growth factor," the goal of which actually supports survival—and why holding to a status quo or old ways ultimately doesn't work, an idea echoed by Eris' tendency to change signs as Earth makes its seasonal shifts. Metaphysically this says life isn't about stasis—it's about change.
As for Paris, we probably all know a bit of what Paris ended up doing in the long run (stealing Helen, starting the Trojan War), but the mythic reason given for his choice is worth a mention. Evidently Aphrodite tempted Paris with a promise: if Paris would give Aphrodite the apple, she would give him the love of the world's most comely woman. Temptation being Aphrodite's strong point, it's not shocking that Paris gave in. And thus we are told that Discord comes to us through who we innately are, which oddly is why this TNO feels so foreign.
We like to think life is all about external causes, but evidently that's not true. Eris teaches us that it is the degree to which, and ways in which we act out through our knowledge of Self—or lack thereof—which is vital to the engine of consequence, success and ultimately, security and satisfaction. Discord thus isn't about what anyone else does. Nor is it about "fate." It's about how we go about living and how we respond to what life presents, considering that what we attract (and are fascinated by), obviously is allabout us. Being human is the experience of life. Thus the question is how willing are we to recognize, deny or grapple with who's living that life? How realistic are we?
And this last certainly speaks to the idea that all "immortal apples" (unbidden gifts) come with a catch. Life blessings, talents, good fortune—with every gift comes implied responsibility. Paris' giving Eris' apple to Aphrodite earns him the love of (and for) the rapturously beautiful Helen. But Helen is already married to King Agamemnon, a gritty Greek who tolerates neither insubordination nor insult. Thus, through Paris' vulnerability to, or lack of, true self knowledge is begun the whole Trojan War, a war in which Troy is ruined and countless lives are lost, including that of Hector (Paris' brother) andAchilles, son of that marriage someone forgot to invite Eris to. And so we learn how not paying attention to the true portents of Discord can result in real and widespread collateral damage. Our choices therefore are never just about us. In being part of this world, this cosmos, this E = mc2, we are not responsible for all else, but responsible for how we add or detract from everything else—and there's no "stepping out" of the flow, except when we die. And maybe not even then.
Currently moving through Aries' 3rd decanate, Eris is activating a zodiacal precept which calls us to put who and what we are out there, allowing the world time, access, interaction and the ability to respond—through which we are likely to experience friction, but through which we are given a chance to grow weakness into strength. This alone is a very interesting comment on the recent economic crisis and the individual ways that has played out in all our lives.
We can expect this growth to come with a struggle—mostly with, or within, ourselves. Those born under Eris in Aries (b. 1924-2045) will live this dynamic through their entire life, suggesting that the gift of our modern society calls on all those born since 1924 to evolve to a whole new level of humanism without factionalizing and holding onto conventional or even ancient ways. Earth's move into the Aquarian Age isn't a call for conflict; indeed conflicts and resistance suggest areas where people are tempted to retreat into individual shells and personal enclaves not out of strength, but out of weakness. Eris' current position in that third house of the incoming Age underscores the need for our thoughts and choices to be tested and grow through conflict. From the Eridian perspective, this is a challenge to struggle with remaining involved in being human, not being human your way—or in those ways which seem comfortable to you and yours alone.
Given Eris' link to societal events, it's likely that being an agent of societal change is also part of the Eris' message. With Eris being so new, much research remains to be done, but the evidence seems to point to the idea that where Eris falls in your chart is not only where you are likely to feel discord, but also the area of life where you have the opportunity to harness your energies in making a contribution to, and thus affecting, the world. Eris teaches that we are ineffective in that world until and unless we know and grapple with ourselves. That's the discordant part. But the choice—again—is ours, for in the end, Eris isn't a problem, merely an opportunity cloaked in problematic challenge. What are we doing to explore ourselves and our lives? What are we doing with the time we are given? How do we get beyond personal fears, ego and desire to that place where embracing the needs we may or may not find in others brings no fear, in light of our having come to accept ourselves?
Boots Hart is an ISAR-certified astrologer with over 25 years experience. She is a featured columnist for New York Spirit Magazine, long-time contributor to Zodiac Arts and author of a humanistic science-fantasy book series being brought to publication and film production. Boots can be reached at Mentorus@gmail.com for questions or astrological services.