This is a (printer icon) printer-friendly page

Click here for translations

Eristically Speaking

I'll be co-authoring a more extensive article on Eris with Janis Page, friend and astrologer, on the basis of our joint explorations of the energies of this newly-discovered planet in the (hopefully) not too distant future. For the moment, this more personal perspective outlines some general themes and resonances. It correlates initial impressions with some provisional themes recently identified by astrologers and the nature of a homeopathic proving I was conducting at the time of the original announcement of the planet's discovery.


Eris And Themis at the judgement of Paris. Vase painting in the collection of State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg, Russia


Xena, Warrior Princess, played by Lucy Lawless

“ I tell you: one must have chaos in one, to give birth to a dancing star. ”
Friedrich Nietzsche

“ Herakles was making his way through a narrow pass. He saw something that looked like an apple lying on the ground and he tried to smash it with his club. After having been struck by the club, the thing swelled up to twice its size. Herakles struck it again with his club, even harder than before, and the thing then expanded to such a size that it blocked Herakles's way. Herakles let go of his club and stood there, amazed. Athena saw him and said, 'O Herakles, don't be so surprised! This thing that has brought about your confusion is Aporia (Contentiousness) and Eris (Strife). If you just leave it alone, it stays small; but if you decide to fight it, then it swells from its small size and grows large. ”
Aesop, Fables 534 (from Chambry 129)

“ After the Olympians merged in the men's company [on the battlefield] strong Eris, defender of peoples, burst out, and Athene bellowed standing now beside the ditch dug at the wall's outside and now again at the thundering sea's edge gave out her great cry, while on the other side Ares in the likenesss of a dark stormcloud bellowed. ”
Homer, Iliad 20.48

“ To one place Eris (Strife incarnate) drew them all, the fearful Battle-queen, beheld of none, but cloaked in clouds blood-raining: on she stalked swelling the mighty roar of battle, now rushed through Troy's squadrons, through Akhaia's now; Phobos (Panic) and Deimos (Fear) still waited on her steps to make their father's [Ares'] sister glorious. From small to huge that Fury's stature grew; her arms of adamant were blood-besprent, the deadly lance she brandished reached the sky. Earth quaked beneath her feet: dread blasts of fire flamed from her mouth: her voice pealed thunder-like kindling strong men. Swift closed the fronts of fight drawn by a dread Power to the mighty work. ”
Quintus Smyrnaeus, Fall of Troy 10.51

“ GREATER POOP: Is Eris true?
MALACLYPSE THE YOUNGER: Everything is true.
GP: Even false things?
M2: Even false things are true.
GP: How can that be?
M2: I don't know man, I didn't do it. ”
Discordian koan, from Principia Discordia


Eris spies on the goddesses, observing the result of the casting of the apple of discord. Vase painting c440 BCE in the collection of Badisches Landesmuseum, Karlsruhe, Germany

“ The common defect of all mystical systems ... is that there has been no place for Laughter. ”
Aleister Crowley

“ Fit sentinels hold watch there [the Thracian palace of Mars-Ares]: from the outer gate wild Impetus (Passion) leaps, and blind Nefas (Mishief) and Irae (Angers) flushing red and pallid Metus (Fear), and Insidia (Treachery) lurks with hidden sword, and Discordia (Discord) [Eris] holding a two-edged blade. Minis (Threatenings) innumerable make clamour in the court, sullen Virtus (Valour) stands in the midst, and Furor (Rage) exultant and armed Mors (Death) with blood-stained visage are seated there; no blood but that of wars is on the altars, no fire but snatched from burning cities. ”
Statius, Thebaid 7.64

“ 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 [and fetched Aedon's sister Khelidon, raped her and brought her back disguised as a slave for his wife. The pair on discovering each other's identities murdered Polytekhnos' son and fed him to his father: the gods then transformed them all into birds]. ”
Antoninus Liberalis, Metamorphoses 11

I first made Eris' acquaintance in July 2005, just eleven days after preparing an essence from the summit rock of Mount Roineabhal, the day before the actual rock itself was returned to its rightful place, and in the early stages of the essence's proving. The discovery of the new planet was announced by astronomers Mike Brown, Chad Trujillo and David Rabinowitz in an unplanned and hurried response to a claim of discovery for one of three Kuiper Belt Objects they'd found (2003 EL61) by a Spanish team of astronomers, and over which there was some dispute. At that time Eris was known only as 2003 UB313, code-named 'Xena' after the Warrior Princess TV series (played by actress Lucy Lawless). From initial estimates, "Xena" was reckoned to be some 25-50% larger than Pluto (since revised to about 5%) and was consequently hailed as the solar system's tenth planet by NASA and much of the media. However, whether or not 'Xena' was to be officially accorded the designation 'planet' remained under discussion by various committees of the International Astronomical Union (IAU) for an unprecedented 13 months before the IAU in conference finally voted to oust both Pluto and "Xena" from the status of planet, demoting them to dwarf planets. 3 weeks later, on September 13th 2006, "Xena" was finally given her official name of Eris, the Greek goddess of strife and discord, and her primary moon, codenamed "Gabrielle", was named for one of Eris' daughters – Dysnomia ('lawlessness', but also meaning an inability to name).

The chart of the Roineabhal essence's creation is extraordinary for the large number of tight aspects creating many strong and inter-related patterns, resulting in the fact that there is not one planet or point unaspected, nor one aspect or aspect series that doesn't connect with every other by some means. It's a completely integrated chart. Eris is at 21°Aries05', conjunct the Imum Coeli (IC) by 1°14', within 3° of Mars and the N Node, and part of a prominent multiple grand trine focused on the chart's Ascendent that constitutes the primary focus of the chart.

At the time it would not have been appropriate, or even possible, to derive much meaning from Eris' position in the chart. Aside from noting that in her guise as "Xena" she emphasised the female and the warrior, both of which were prominent themes underlying both the rock's story and the nature of its proving, little else could be made of it.

Lane End Down, near Winchester, Hampshire. 10th July 2005 Photo © Steve Alexander

Crop circle appearing at Lane End Down, near Winchester, Hampshire, July 10th 2005. This was 10 days before abstracts for the meeting of the Division of Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Union were published containing work by Brown, Rabinowitz and Trudjillo which precipitated the events leading to the premature announcement of Eris' discovery.
(Photo © Steve Alexander)

The planet's final naming produced some consternation in astrological circles. Initial and superficial readings of Eris' mythology leaned towards a predominantly malefic interpretation of her influence, which was hardly surprising in the context of her representation in the texts of ancient Greece and Rome.

ERIS (Eris), the goddess who calls forth war and discord. According to the Iliad, she wanders about, at first small and insignificant, but she soon raises her head up to heaven (iv. 441). She is the friend and sister of Ares, and with him she delights in the tumult of war, increasing the moaning of men. (iv. 445, v. 518, xx. 48.) She is insatiable in her desire for bloodshed, and after all the other gods have withdrawn from the battle-field, she still remains rejoicing over the havoc that has been made. (v. 518, xi. 3, &c., 73.) According to Hesiod (Theog. 225, &c.), she was a daughter of Night, and the poet describes her as the mother of a variety of allegorical beings, which are the causes or representatives of man's misfortunes. It was Eris who threw the apple into the assembly of the gods, the cause of so much suffering and war. Virgil introduces Discordia as a being similar to the Homeric Eris; for Discordia appears in company with Mars, Bellona, and the Furies, and Virgil is evidently imitating Homer. (Aen.. viii. 702; Serv. Aen. i. 31, vi. 280.)
Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology. C19th Classics Encyclopedia

The goddess is credited with causing the Trojan War when, alone among the Olympians, she was excluded from the arranged marriage of Peleus and Thetis because of her troublemaking inclinations. But that didn't stop her. She tossed the Apple of Discord into the party, a golden apple inscribed καλλίστῃ (kallistei) – "to the fairest" – provoking Hera, Athena and Aphrodite to begin quarreling about the appropriate recipient. Paris, Prince of Troy, was appointed to be the judge. Each of the three goddesses immediately attempted to bribe him. Hera offered political power; Athena promised skill in battle; and Aphrodite tempted him with the most beautiful woman in the world: Helen, wife of Menelaus of Sparta. While Greek culture placed a greater emphasis on prowess and power, Paris chose to award the apple to Aphrodite, thereby dooming his city, which was destroyed in the war that ensued when the Spartans demanded the return of their queen.


Eris (strife personified) is depicted as a goddess with winged shoulders and feet. Vase painting c575-525 BCE in the collection of Antikensammlung, Berlin, Germany

But Pluto's representation in ancient myth is no rosier, and as with the progressive integration of the Plutonic into our psychological solar system, we can move beyond these narrow and purely dualistic conceptions to arrive at a more rich and archetypal understanding of what this planet represents within the individual and collective psyche.

DIS-CORD (lit. "hearts apart") is not just about strife. Fundamentally, it's about dissimilar resonance, and relates to breaking the ties of conditioning – the customs, rules and laws that bind us societally and culturally as well as individually. It's about the challenge to think for ourselves and to REAL-ise our deeper "truer" natures (which are embedded in chaos to a far greater extent than we take them for). It's about creating the dissonances in belief systems that shake them at their foundations and wake us up to the full extent of our being and our connection to the entirety of existence. Pure Zen, and just as hilarious, just as anarchic.

Appropriate then, that Eris was excluded from the wedding of Peleus and Thetis. The right to self-determination is excluded in a forced marriage. This aspect of Eris also gives us a common theme with her previous incarnation of Xena, the latter now seeming much more of a two-dimensional character – a kind of female Mars/Ares, too superficial in comparison to the vast depth and potential inherent in Eris. Given her place in the outer reaches of the solar system and her eccentric orbit inclined at 44° to the ecliptic, we can already predict that she will be deep, radical, chaotic, and have to do with far more fundamental aspects of the human psyche than the personal planets close to the Sun. Yet in Greek mythology Eris is closely identified with Enyo, the goddess of war and consort/female counterpart/sister of Ares/Mars. (Homer doesn't even distinguish between them.) This link between Mars/Aries/1st house, representing the first formulation and expression of individual identity, self-empowerment and ego integrity, and the goddess that so consistently seems to challenge that sense of integrity in the provocation of individual and inter-cultural strife, hints at her kinship to Pluto the transformer (the higher expression of Mars). A sense of individual identity that revolves purely around Mars/Aries/1st house is, after all, consigned to act out in very basic Martian ways without reference to thought, reason, spirituality or connection to a sense of collective coherence beyond the instinctively tribalistic.

Eris might have been instrumental in precipitating the Trojan War, but did she cause it? What about the reaction of the wedding guests to Eris' apple, reactions for which they alone were responsible? Were it not for the goddesses behaving like WAGs in their greed and egotism – potentially far greater vices than a bit of mischief-making – no trouble would have ensued. Just as much responsibility lies with Zeus and Poseidon who arranged the marriage of Peleus and Thetis in the first place. They failed to respect the right to self-determination in trying to engineer events to guarantee the outcome of the prophecy that Thetis' son (Achilles) would become mightier than his father. In this context, Eris begins to look like the scapegoat – blamed when ego's machinations fall victim to chaos, which has a habit of appearing large whenever ego oversteps its mark in the scheme of things. The cause of the problem is not chaos, which is a fundamental part of the fabric of existence and can't be excluded under any circumstances, but the over-inflated ego in vastly exceeding its remit.

Similarly, discord, dissonance, differences of opinion, are not of themselves problematic. What creates the problem is the idea that only one can be "right", so Eris and her chaotic mischief constantly challenges this perceived need for uniformity of outlook, the hegemony of the established order, and the tyranny and preciousness of ego identity along with it, not to mention the type of thinking that produces these viewpoints to begin with. She invites us to go beyond such superficial concerns to a deeper, more fundamental, more authentic level of reality. She invites us into the darkly chaotic.

It seems women bearing apples (though they were probably originally quinces in Greek mythology, but the same comments apply) have consistently been labelled as troublemakers in religious and secular mythology – Eris, Eve in the Book of Genesis, Snow White's step-mother – yet invariably there is a greater wisdom to be gained in looking beyond a dualistic judgement of their "wicked" acts. "Wicked" has its origin in words describing nature-oriented wisdom and its practices. (Perhaps no accident either that "wicked" is now used to describe something wonderful, great, masterful, deeply satisfying.) The apple is the fruit of the Tree of (self-)Knowledge: Snow White was asleep to herself long before she bit into the crone's apple and "leader to the light " or "light bringer" is Lucifer by any other name.

Eris's number is 5. (An apple – or quince for that matter – sliced across its equator has a 5-pointed star at its core.) She has a strong resonance with 5th house matters. Creative self-expression takes the Martian statement of identity to a higher plane, more in tune with the Solar identity than the personality. This is expression through the senses, procreation, pleasure and entertainment, games and play, sport, recreation, adventure, exploration, knowledge-seeking – and, in common with the Sun, the ruler of the 5th house, also has to do with self-determination. She is the flip side of the coin that features Geburah, severity, on its other face; the 5th sephirah within the Qabbalistic Tree of Life. Yet she is also strength, another designation given to Geburah. Note that briga, the old Celtic word for strife, derives from brig, strength, and that brigands were bands of outlaws bringing chaos wherever they went. Eris gets us comfortable with chaos and introduces us to the sheer fun of it all.

Elevated to 'master level', 5 becomes 55 and denotes: way shower, leader to the light, whole-brain thinking, quantum spirituality, universal mediator, mental telepathy, clairvoyance, ultimate freedom, ultimate oneness, integral consciousness. That the goddess of discord and strife should have the higher quality of universal mediator is entirely appropriate. And the shape of an apple mimics the shape of the torus, the fundamental energetic blueprint of the ever-changing thoughtforms and lifeforms within the vast sea of consciousness.

If Chaos Theory is the systematised face of Erisian energy, then Discordianism, "a religion disguised as a joke disguised as a religion" founded sometime around the late 1950s by Greg Hill and Kerry Thornley and dedicated to the goddess Eris, is the other. It's a wicked example of the mischievous, chaotic, paradoxical and irreverent nature of this energy, while also relating to the underlying truths revealed by it. For those counting Discordianism among their influences (inasmuch as any generalisations can be made), "beliefs are not seen as ends in themselves, but as tools for creating desired effects. To fully realise this is to face a terrible freedom in which Nothing is True and Everything is Permitted, which is to say that everything is possible, there are no certainties, and the consequences can be ghastly. Laughter seems to be the only defence against the realisation that one does not even have a real self." (from FAQs for the Usenet group alt.magick.chaos)

Recently I was forwarded a tentative list of keywords for Eris compiled by astrologer Francisco Schiavinotto in Italy. Their congruence with significant themes in the Roineabhal proving was instantly obvious. The keywords were (with some adjustment for duplication and unwieldy translation):
Aversion to what is extraneous
False compromise
Reciprocal aversion
Feeling of invasion
Ecological incompatibility
Underlying instability
What was particularly striking is that these keywords mostly refer to the underlying context of the proving – the successive waves of conquest and colonisation in the lands featured in the rock's story, the role of the entire question of "identity" and the fragmentation and chaos provoked when one individual or group is perceived as invading another's territory, whether literally or figuratively – which is entirely consistent with Eris' conjunction with the IC in the essence chart.

Seeing Eris defined in the context of the essence chart again made perfect sense of the personal strife which had constellated irrationally, absurdly, and ultimately comically around the proving despite all efforts to the contrary. It underlines even more emphatically the message from the proving concerning the wisdom of having no head, emphasising the transcendent qualities of Eris' energy outlined above and that "Laughter seems to be the only defence against the realisation that one does not even have a real self."

All of the above is also echoed in the charts for the various milestones along the road between Eris' original discovery and her eventual naming.

In the original discovery chart (the night of October 21 2003, Palomar Observatory, Southern California), the Sabian symbol for the Sun's degree, 28° Libra, is "Mankind's vast and enduring effort to reach for knowledge transferable from generation to generation." Keynote (Rudhyar): "A deep sense of participation in, and commitment to, social processes which seek to bring to all men Truth and a greater Life." The Sun is trine Uranus to within less than 1°. The Sabian for Uranus is "Deeply rooted in the past of a very ancient culture, a spiritual brotherhood in which many individual minds are merged into the glowing light of a unanimous consciousness is revealed to one who has emerged successfully from his metamorphosis." Keynote: "The ability for the person with an open mind and a deep feeling for self-transcendence to come in contact with higher forms of existence." Neptune is inconjunct Jupiter and Mercury/Sun inconjunct Black Moon Lillith, Saturn is in exact opposition to Chiron (within 5 arcminutes) a position which it maintains to within less than 2° right through to the announcement of the planet's discovery nearly 2 years later.

However, while the images in which Eris was finally discovered were taken the night of October 21 2003, the planet's presence was not recognised until well over a year later at the precise time of 11.20am PST on January 5 2005 (below). In this chart, with Eris in the 1st house, Hades opposes a stellium conjunct the Galactic Centre comprising Venus, Mercury and Pluto which are the apex of a yod also featuring Saturn (conjunct Vulkanus) in Cancer sextile Admetos in Taurus, and also square the Vertex point which trines Chiron within 18 minutes. Prominent Sabian symbols (and Rudhyar keynotes) are:
Ascendent: "A triangularly shaped flight of wild geese."
Keynote: "An idealistic reliance upon the image of universal order."
MC "A veiled prophet speaks, seized by the power of a God."
Keynote: "The ability to act as a mouthpiece for the revelation of a transcendent will and truth determining future action."
Sun: "School grounds filled with boys and girls in gymnasium suits."
Keynote: "The need for physical activity and play, especially in adolescence."
Moon: "A drowning man is being rescued."
Keynote: "The deep concern of the social group for the safety of individuals."
Eris herself, as in the chart of her initial discovery, is at 19° Aries, signifying ""A young girl feeding birds in winter."
Keynote: "Overcoming crises through compassion."
Eris was retrograde at both the time of her discovery and of her identification.

Eris' identification chart

Eris' identification chart, 11.20am PST January 5 2005, Pasadena, CA
Eris is shown by the glyph used by the Discordians   Eris glyph
(The stronger the aspect line, the more exact the aspect)

The Sabian symbol for the Sun in this chart is interesting in view of its close similarities to the Sabian for the Sun in the planet's naming chart which is "A girls' basketball team." Keynote (Rudhyar): "Physical training as a means to inculcate the feeling of participation in a collective culture." Taken together with the Sabian for the Sun in the original discovery chart, there is a strong emphasis on cooperative team effort, and commitment to collective processes, as there is also in the wonderfully appropriate Sabian for the Sun in the chart of the anouncement of Eris' discovery – "The constellations of stars shine brilliantly in the night sky." Keynote (Rudhyar): "The power of basic spiritual values which refer to man's common humanity and to all enduring archetypes."

It's striking how exactly opposed all these indicators are to the superficial idea of dis-cord. Once again this would appear to point to a higher purpose within the discordant imperative – the achievement of social cohesion through an appropriate relationship to individual and group identity (in which, paradoxically, there is nothing to identify in). This transcends the Martian in favour of the Plutonic, yet refers back to the Martian in the interesting emphasis on physical activity, echoed in Eris' 5th house affinities and in the Sabian symbol for the Ascendent in the discovery announcement chart: "In the left section of an archaic temple, a lamp burns in a container shaped like a human body." Keynote (Rudhyar): "The value of the 'return to the body' advocated by modern thinkers in order to balance the stress on intellectuality and objective consciousness." The Ascendent (conjunct Cupido) is squared by Uranus in Pisces in the 3rd house of media and communications (exact to within 16'), and by Venus in Virgo in the 9th.

Eris' discovery announcement chart

Eris' discovery announcement chart, 4.00pm PST July 29 2005, Pasadena, CA
Eris is shown by the glyph used by the Discordians   Eris glyph
(The stronger the aspect line, the more exact the aspect)

The Sabian symbol for Eris in both the discovery announcement and naming charts (and also the chart of the Roineabhal proving) is "The gate to the garden of all fulfilled desires." Keynote (Rudhyar): "Abundance made possible by human togetherness and cooperation." (The planet is retrograde again in both instances.) This seems even more than especially significant in view of the symbol for the preceding degree – "A pugilist enters the ring." Keynote: "The release and glorification of social aggresiveness." – which the planet has been repeatedly moving forward and backward over during all the time between its initial discovery in 2003 and the present time. It returned to that degree a week after its naming and won't leave it again until the end of April 2007, returning to it once more in October and remaining until the following March, thereafter returning in November 2008 until March 2009, and for the final time from December 2009 until February 2010.


Most quoted references are hyperlinked from within the text.

Sabian symbols and keynotes from Rudhyar, Dane. 1974. An Astrological Mandala: the Cycle of Transformations and its 360 Symbolic Phases. Vintage Books.

Data for Eris' discovery, identification, announcement and naming charts from Mike Brown's website, together with previous extracts from the same site published by the North Colorado Astronomical Society in their Aug 2005 newsletter (which gives the time of the press conference convened to announce Eris' discovery).

Mythological data and images from the Theoi Project.


© W Howard, March 2007
Astrology :: Eristically Speaking
Creative Commons License  This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License