THE IMPACT ERIS had on astronomy and our concept of the solar system is essential to her delineation. Being a bit bigger than Pluto (which is smaller than the Moon), her discovery prompted a reevaluation of the notion of a planet and thus the rearrangement of planetary definitions. This took place late in the summer of 2006, mixed up with much controversy, some fanfare and notably, a solar eclipse in Virgo.

Eris to me is about how we make sense of who we are in troubled, chaotic times. She reveals how complex we really are, which fact remained just below the surface of awareness.

She also represents the shadow feminine — the aspects of womanity that have been cast off as evil, dark, unacceptable and unmentionable. She is one of several of these archetypes that are gradually being embraced by astrology and to some extent by culture. This represents the idea that we are beginning to call back that disowned part of womanity and embrace her: the witch, the whore, the bitch, the unfulfilled woman; no matter what form she may take, the woman who is setting aside the war with herself and embracing her own selfhood.

Eris speaks about the chaos and discord of the world, reflective of our time in history — this, one of the co-discovers told me personally. Yet the roots of this crisis, the crisis of discord, are in the psyche. The havoc and discord of our era are not just about stupid wars; they’re also about cultural overload and a crisis of consciousness.

The Psyche, and Society, in Crisis

This mass-scale crisis in turn has led to a social environment in chaos. Relationships in American and English society used to be very structured. (In Europe too, but things are currently a bit more structured and traditional here than in the US or the UK.) There were strict rules of courtship and establishing relationships, and most people tried to follow them. Over the past century, a kind of anarchy has set in.

On the one foot, anarchy is great because it presents opportunities to do things differently, and to invent your way as you go along. On the other, this is very difficult because there is a creativity gap in the average human brain, and when most people are not told exactly what to do, sadly, they do not know what to do, and don’t typically feel creative enough to make it up as they go along.

Young people face a particularly painful dilemma. Every young person in the United States was raised under the influence of abstinence only sex education, which is vicious by any humane standards, but seems friendly on the basis of (for example) the Muslim world. Then, young people, whose hormones are raging, are exposed to an overwhelming volume and intensity of sexualized marketing and “culture.” There are few things that could start an internal war more effectively.

I view Eris as a nexus point in the psyche were we can peer through this crisis into the real person. She is ultimately the goddess of peace, which also works in terms of an archetype arising when its time has come.

World peace is difficult to achieve when even two people who quite like each other can turn a petty disagreement into World War III. Eris’ story is an everyday occurrence.

Eris is a creature of Aries; she has been there for most of this century and will be for some time to come. The point of Aries (the “Aries point”) is that the personal is political: that the individual is inextricably linked to the whole — and that’s why it’s next to Pisces. The Aries Point is where they meet, or fuse. Eris appearing in Aries is saying, “OK, this will be a long job, but it starts with you.”

Until you can let your ego take a hit, knowing you’ll never live up to how gorgeous the next celebrity is, knowing that the real you hasn’t been touched by your own life, you will continue to fight. You will fight unnecessary and potentially catastrophic battles over nothing, and will continue to be a part of the problem. The things we are most afraid to lose, and will fight for, are the things by which we define ourselves (e.g., beauty), threaten the ego and watch even the most apparently sophisticated of people (e.g., the goddesses) lose all perspective.

This will continue until you truly seek and find your Self, your unified self, and live from that core of your being. Eris may at times be where we provoke or are provoked. She seems very Centaur-like in her teaching methods, working with shaking up the known order of reality until it becomes fully conscious and we have the ability to make a decision. But the decision of Eris is ultimately this: to be who you are.

Discovery and Naming of Eris

Eris was discovered in 2005 and takes about 557 years to go around the Sun once. It’s currently about 10 billion miles from the Sun. The length of the orbit is deceptive in that it seems like it’s not much farther from the Sun than Pluto (which takes about 251 years to orbit once). However Eris is currently further than even Sedna, which has an orbit of 10,666 years.

Eris was discovered by Michael E. Brown, Chad A. Trujillo and David L. Rabinowitz, who have a knack not only for finding quite a few planets, but also for giving them names that are intuitive and apropos of the moment. Trujillo said recently, “It was the obvious choice to name it after the goddess of discord. ” (Members of this team were also involved in the discovery and naming of Sedna, Varuna and Quaoar. ) ((Varuna is not discovered by this team, Varuna is discovered by Spacewatch.))

Eris, along with much older discoveries Pluto and Ceres, was designated a dwarf planet in the summer of 2006. This was a kind of compromise between not considering it a planet at all, and considering it a traditional kind of planet more like Mercury. Had astronomers taken that road, we could have had a solar system with 60 planets, most of which would have been pretty small compared to even something small like Mercury.

Pretty much everyone agreed this would frighten young children and men with small dicks, so a new category of planets was created: the dwarf planets.

With the naming and designation of Eris, the fixed structure of the scientifically sanctified solar system was altered for the first time since 1930 when Pluto showed up — finally reflecting the existence of many thousands of discoveries beyond Pluto.

Only one of these — Eris herself — got added as a mainstream planet, but there are about 60 known objects that currently qualify as dwarf planets and the door is now open to their recognition. (Some you have heard of, such as Sedna, Varuna and Quaoar; some you have not, such as 1992 QB1).

They present us with a situation: if astrology uses the planets as a model of the psyche, what does it mean that there are now nearly a quarter-million of them known to be orbiting our Sun? What, then, is the structure of the personality?

If Eris is the goddess of discord, the first place we need to look is within ourselves. It is true that her discovers felt that this was an obvious name for such chaotic times, and for a planet that disrupted the known order of the solar system; but Eris represents a revolution of consciousness within ourselves.

She is a focal point in a world where we have too many options to be meaningful.

The issue of these newer planets is set in a larger historical context. Since 1801, when Ceres was discovered, astrology has had the option of working with asteroids, considered too small and too numerous to be meaningful. Since around 1978, it has also had the option of working with unusual bodies like Chiron. But astrology has been slow to adapt to scientific discoveries, and is skeptical to the point that would make a nonbeliever proud.

If anything, astrology has been obsessed in recent decades with a retro movement, wherein scholars including Rob Hand and Robert Schmidt have been digging up and translating classical astrological texts. These projects have certainly enjoyed more popularity and focus at astrology conferences than the new discoveries, which are typically given little more than a nod. As planets are discovered every week, other astrologers return to those simpler days of using “seven lights in the sky” — even omitting Uranus, Neptune and Pluto.

Originally Called Xena

Unlike any other planet, Eris had a provisional name that was popularly known: Xena, named for the warrior goddess of television fame. It is worth mentioning that there is no other planet that had a widely known provisional name. It was Xena who gave the first clue to the delineation: she is a postmodern figure. In other words, her story does not follow logic; the program could go from the birth of Jesus one week to ancient Egypt the next. Postmodernism throws away the concept of structure and orthodox adherence to reality.

Eris in Greek Mythology

In Greek mythology, Eris was the goddess of discord, who, because of her troublemaking tendencies, was not welcome at a big wedding party to which all the other gods and goddesses had been invited. There is plenty of interesting background, but the upshot is that Eris retaliated to being snubbed in a clever and exploitative way. She inscribed a golden apple with the phrase, “To the Fairest,” and rolled it into the door of the soiree. In this gesture, she is revealed to be something of a master psychologist, if a sinister one. Seeing the golden apple, the assembled gods and goddesses, in their vanity, held a pageant to determine who the fairest would be.

But the three contestants who were competing (Athena, Aphrodite and Hera) offered the hapless judge, Paris, different bribes. Aphrodite, one of the contestants, tempted Paris with the most beautiful woman in the world. That turned out to be the Helen of Troy, who was married at the time, among other issues. The result of Eris’s retaliatory prank was the Trojan War, the equivalent of an all-encompassing world war by today’s standards. Here, the personal became political in the most catastrophic kind of way: Eris felt hurt that she was not invited to the party, which we might count as vanity or just a touch of humanity. That hurt transposed to vengeance.

She then took advantage of the vanity of her fellow gods and goddesses, anticipating what they would do. Knowing she would be able to wreak some chaos, perhaps she underestimated just how much. She then stood by as her seemingly small gesture escalated into unmitigated world war, as thousands died and indeed as the world descended into darkness and discord. The

Greek myths offer a clever explanation for just about everything. But what, exactly, are we explaining? How the war started, or how humans came to be this way? In the first instance, is Eris to blame, or is vanity at fault? Well, the two support one another. Someone intent on getting revenge and inciting chaos exploits what you might call a narcissism wound, which exists on both an individual and cultural level as a real vulnerability. Yet still that thirst for specialness and uniqueness and power persists, to the degree of a mystical longing that is indeed answered and used by those who recognize it and can indeed use it to take power of their own.

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