Introducing Eris


In the midst of all my travels and eclipse dealings, I've neglected to mention that our favorite new planet—wait, that's a dwarf planet—has finally received an official name and identity.

What was formerly known as 2003 UB313 (and affectionately referred to as Xena, after TV's warrior princess) is now Eris, in honor of the goddess of discord and strife.

Ooh, that's a good one, eh? Let the games begin.

Eris is an interesting choice (for any number of reasons that'll take us years to iron out, I'm sure)… not the least of which is that, though she generally suffers from a rather low level of name recognition among we moderns, she played a role of huge importance in mythological history. Troublemaker Eris is the gal who, rather spitefully, set in motion the events that developed into the Trojan War. As such, she's one bad bitch.

For those unfamiliar with the tale, here's a quick synopsis: Eris, pissed off because she was left off the deity-studded guest list for Peleus and Thetis's wedding, thought she'd wreak a little vengeful havoc over the proceedings. She tossed a golden apple into the party, with an inscription that read 'kallisti' (or 'for the fairest' in Greek)… and watched snidely as Hera, Athena and Aphrodite quarreled over which of them was its intended recipient. (Vanity, it seems, is a potent explosive that requires few preparatory measures.)

Zeus, who apparently knew how to cover his own ass, abstained from settling the row… instead delegating the task of judgment to poor Paris, Trojan prince and mortal. Hera offered him power and wealth to choose her, while Athena promised wisdom and strength in battle. Aphrodite, meanwhile, played to his horniness and volunteered 'the world's most beautiful woman'—Helen of Troy—to Paris, should he vote the apple to her.

Hormones won, and Helen was awarded to Paris. Problem was, Helen was already married to King Menelaus of Sparta… and needless to say, the king was less than pleased to hand over his wife. In fact, all of Helen's pre-marital suitors had vowed to defend the honor of her union, no matter who ended up with her hand. Thus, once Paris plucked Helen away, he faced a whole army of angry Spartans. A nasty war and a big wooden horse soon followed.

Mining this story alone, with our astro-symbolism-spotting goggles tightly affixed, provides plenty of fodder for speculation. Remember: We are in the preliminary process of exploring possible astrological meanings for the recently discovered body named Eris. We do so through combining (1) the tradition associated with the chosen name, (2) the synchronicity of themes and events that coincided with the body's emergence into popular consciousness, and (3) hands-on experimentation with how the body behaves in natal and transit examples.

Right off the bat, we can't ignore that Eris is an archetypal figure who started a war. And she did so by manipulating the innate differences between folks (i.e., the goddesses)… asking the social body (Paris, in the story) to choose a 'fairest' among their qualitatively incomparable traits. That is immediately reminiscent of the current global situation, most obviously epitomized by an increasingly rigid cultural divide between uncompromising single-side perspectives (thanks, Pluto in Sagittarius). Asking Paris to pick between, say, power or wisdom as 'the fairest' is a refusal to see the equal legitimacy in both. It's this 'either/or' thinking that Eris, the goddess of discord, feeds upon… and our own competitive narcissism that, so quickly and too easily, erupts into a war cry.

Noteworthy, too, that it was beauty (in the form of Aphrodite's tempting dangle of Helen's pretty head) chosen among the other values as 'fairest'. We can only conjecture about how it would've gone down had either Hera or Athena been picked by Paris. But suffice it to say, Paris went for the most surface-level appeal—let's be honest, he wasn't thinking about Helen's 'inner beauty'—and inadvertently led his people into strife.

Such shallow, short-sighted decision-making fits right in with our materialistic, appearance-obsessed culture… which, by pursuing 'beautiful' over 'wise', is leading us into a dangerously daredevil rapport with our own ecological security. The US wouldn't be 'fighting for freedom' in the Middle East, for instance, if there weren't a bunch of oil to be drilled out from there, sold for billions of dollars to tycoons with nipped-and-tucked wives, and ejected as pollutant vapors into our atmosphere, to collect over time and choke us to death. In my imagination, Eris hovers on the sidelines, tossing bling-encrusted apples in customized Louis Vuitton cases at us, giggling at how we go for the bait every time.

Eris, like the popular conception of our own mother-planet, is female… not an irrelevant fact, seeing as Venus is the only other feminine planet in our solar system. Yes, I know that Eris is not a planet officially. But gosh darn, were it not for her discovery, there'd be no kicking-out of Pluto, so she's important all right—planet or not. In fact, her presence on the scene initiated the discord among astronomers that has yet to be resolved in the social consciousness, no matter that Pluto will likely remain a dwarf.

At the present time, the only official dwarf planets are Pluto, Eris… and Ceres, motherly goddess of the harvest and formerly an asteroid. Pluto's downgrade was met by an upgrade for Ceres, another feminine archetype and closely linked to the Earth. I cannot help but connect our introduction of Eris with an increase in earth awareness—particularly as we begin to witness her feminine reactions to centuries of dominating masculine action, through climatological and ecological strife borne from our privileging the pursuit of 'beautiful' over all else.

While at this point it's admittedly difficult to piece together the fragments of archetypal relevance dancing through my head, I do sense a coherent picture of Eris starting to come together. Her discovery in a position way out past Pluto brought on major discord in how we think about our own planet's role in relation to the larger universe—in our inability to cope with the sheer magnitude of other things out there, we placed an artificial cap on our notion of 'planet'.

But that's not the end of the story. As political wars continue and ecological chaos intensifies, we'll look out there in the search for meaning… only to discover, thanks to Eris, that the universe is full of nearly-nonsensical, hard-for-us-to-conceptualize bodies and zones, and we can barely come up with the words to properly label them.

How small we are! How little we know! How delightfully discordant… and all we can do is live in it.