Why We Need Eris

It’s all too easy to connect the discovery and naming of Eris with the conflict and strife in the world today. I’m not having any of it!

The general concept that appears to be emerging among astrologers is that Eris symbolizes conflict born of ego conflicts and injured pride. From there, it’s not much of a leap to show how the world’s current conflicts all contain an element of national pride and ego struggles. Well, what war doesn’t? Show me a territorial conflict that doesn’t involve an ego, and show me a war that doesn’t involve a territorial conflict. Religion is never the real issue.

As I wrote in my article on Ceres, we need to guard against taking the mythology too literally. All of these stories from Greek mythology are metaphors for a deeper truth.

I do agree that Eris’s classification as a dwarf planet in a group with Pluto and Ceres is extremely significant, and we can start here. Pluto symbolizes the underworld, all that we seek to bury and deny. He also represents the dark place that we all have to go periodically, some of us more often and more noticeably than others.

Ceres expands upon that theme, representing the new growth and sustenance that come from going down into that dark place, experiencing death of some kind, and emerging renewed. Out of the decay, new life is born. Or, think of it as the energy breaking apart so that it can manifest into something new. Incidentally, the more energy we take down into the shadow zone with us, the more spectacular the treasure we come back with.

Eris throws a monkey wrench into the plans of gods and men. That she chose an apple is a clue. The apple is associated with the underworld, which is where all our subconscious impulses live. Eris represents what happens when we refuse to go into that place or to acknowledge what we’ve shoved down.

The truth is, none of us is ever completely sure of anything, no matter how much we may tell ourselves otherwise. Somewhere deep inside, there is always a little voice of dissent. Sometimes it’s very loud, and we disregard it anyway. When we seek to suppress that voice, it makes itself particularly obnoxious. There are no feelings so powerful as those that are repressed.

The story of Eris is a metaphor for the difficult emotions we shove down because they get in the way of moving forward with what we want or simply because they make us uncomfortable. Some of us don’t wish to admit to certain feelings, because we like to think we’re “better” than that. Few of us would want to admit to jealousy or to lust for the “wrong” person – for example, a best friend’s husband or, worse, a best friend’s teenage son. Few would admit the thrill of having power over others, to the point of being able to snuff out their lives.

Many of us don’t even want to admit to or feel anger, one of the most common feelings a human can experience. Repressed anger is particularly insidious, as it tends to express itself as illness and disease.

We mistakenly believe that we’ve got our emotions under control, when we’ve merely shoved them under the surface. There, they fester and gain power, just waiting for the right moment to be unleashed. Think of what happens when an entire population suppresses anger, hatred, and lust, and suddenly there’s a war. Do you think anyone’s going to give a shit about the Geneva Convention?

No matter how much any of us wishes to believe that we’re not capable of such base emotions, we are human and therefore susceptible. Emotional mastery comes with acknowledging and accepting these emotions and paying them their due – which was the point of ancient feast days and rituals such as the bonfires of Beltane, bacchanals, and such. Mardi Gras is a modern adaptation, and perhaps we might include Gay Pride parades, at least as they are celebrated in San Francisco. I’ve commented elsewhere that I don’t think it’s any coincidence that San Francisco is such a tolerant, friendly, non-aggressive city.

Nor is it any coincidence that our “leaders” in Washington jump up and down waving their arms in an attempt to enforce “family values” on the rest of the country while molesting the pages.

In astrological terms, some signs have a stronger tendency to repress emotions than others. The air signs often confuse talking about feelings with the feelings themselves, while the earth signs would rather just shove it all underground. Fire signs are good at getting it all out, regardless of how it might affect others. The water signs float in their feelings, with the possible exception of Scorpio, for whom emotions are like a subterranean water table, constantly flowing but hidden from view.

So what does it the discovery and naming of Eris mean for our times?

Once again, I believe the answer is not to be found in society or the state of the world, but within our individual hearts and minds. As the Age of Pisces draws to a close, this is the lesson – that each of us bears the responsible for the state of the world by healing ourselves and finding inner peace.

Eris is the voice that tells us where we are in conflict within ourselves. She is the voice for the part of us we have set aside or shoved down. We can’t just put it aside and pretend it doesn’t exist, because it will come out, and even more hideously than if we acted wantonly on it. Even if we’re too ashamed to tell anyone, we at least need to admit it to ourselves and perhaps write it in a journal. Most importantly, we need to accept it as part of being human.

Beyond that, we might want to re-examine what we’re forcing down because we think it’s “bad.” There’s poetic justice in Aphrodite’s triumph over Athena and Hera. Wisdom and hierarchical power are complex, whereas sexual desire is simple and straightforward. We can try to rationalize it away or overpower it with our minds. But desire will not be denied. Even if giving in to it would be inappropriate, it has to be acknowledged before we can be healthy, whole individuals.

There’s yet another way to look at Aphrodite’s triumph. The Greeks and Romans turned the love goddess into more of a sex goddess, but the “Venus” of earlier cultures was a goddess of desire, fertility, love and abundance, all rolled into one. Desire wasn’t a separate thing to be loathed and mistrusted. It was an integral part of love that was celebrated. As the human mind evolved, we got confused.

Eris is here to remind us that emotions are part of human nature – all of them, not just the “positive” ones. Even the goddess Athena, the personification of wisdom and intelligence, wasn’t immune. Ultimately, love and desire are more powerful than all the knowledge in the Universe.

Imagine that!

(This article originally appeared on The Pisces Chronicles on October 8, 2006.)

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