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Eris Ever Delights in Confounding Us

Eris as the sign ruler of Libra?

This  morning I ran across a blog post in which an astrologer related that another astrologer/friend of hers had proposed Eris as the sign ruler of Libra.

Eris unknown - from Pinterest

Eris. (Artist unknown, via Pinterest.)

It was an interesting thought, so I’m gonna “think out loud” about it here.

Her name is Eris, and her name means “strife.” Her parents were Nyx, goddess of Night, and Erebos, god of Darkness. She was often portrayed, more specifically, as “the daimona of the strife of war, haunting the battlefield and delighting in human bloodshed.”

In Eris’s well-known myth, she’s not being a jerk for no reason. When, in practical terms, does strife ever arise in a vacuum? But as a goddess, “strife” is Eris’s essential nature, meaning her role is to embody what many would broadly consider to be the low-road response to a provocation. Does a low-road response disqualify a goddess from the “honor” of representing a sign? No, and I explain why later.

The initial provocation in her myth was simple, yet its consequences were far-reaching:  Eris was slighted by not being invited to a wedding. You don’t invite her to the wedding because she’s a shit-stirrer, but by not inviting her to the wedding, you practically guarantee that she’s going to stir some shit. “Damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.” So we begin with a situation that appears to be intractable.

Sometimes, strife arises around what people consider to be high and noble goals. Gandhi, anyone? Martin Luther? The U.S. Founding Fathers? How about Jesus Christ? As the saying goes, “One person’s terrorist is another person’s freedom-fighter.”

For me, trying to describe Eris in simplistic moral terms falls kind of flat to begin with. So I agree with the other astrologer(s) that we may be imposing some unnecessary judgment upon Eris’s approach to things. The essential nature of a god or goddess is inseparable from what they visit upon the world. But Eris is not here to facilitate justice. Eris’s role is to facilitate strife. Though we see in Eris’s myth that strife is, at times, necessary to call injustices to our attention. I can see a “shadow” of Libra’s purpose here, so it’s worth considering.

So how might the original proposal/question about Eris’s rulership of Libra play out in practice?

What if we asked Ceres to join the astro-party too?

Enter Ceres, Stage Right

If Eris were to be formalized as the primary ruler of Libra, what would we do with Venus? 

ceres - via de ondria may

(Ceres, Via De’Ondria Maye/Haiku Deck.)

Potentially, Venus and Eris could co-rule Libra, while Venus continued to co-rule Libra and Taurus. But Venus would be working awfully hard here as a co-ruler of two signs, and that’s not part of her essential nature. I think she would rather be lying on a dais while oiled, burly men peel grapes and feed them to her.

So how might we relieve Venus of double duty?

Jamie Miller at Pandora Astrology makes a pertinent and insightful case (here and here) for promoting Ceres to the position of sole ruler of Taurus. Jamie’s perspective makes quite a bit of sense to me, while I can still acknowledge that traditionally, Venus was a suitable fit for the indolence or the inertia of Taurus.

But there’s a fine distinction to be made here. While Venus clearly enjoys the fruits of the land, Ceres is the one who tends the land and stewards the land. She is the cultivator who takes direct responsibility for what the land produces–for the fruitfulness of the land. Venus would not be enjoying the fruits of the land if Ceres hadn’t done her job.


Ceres “as above,” Pluto “so below.” (Art:  unknown.)

When I think of Ceres’s Taurean role as the life and the health and the growth and the produce of the land, the Scorpionic polarity of Pluto as the god of the underworld is clear. He’s the shamanistic depth and complexity that contrasts the surface and the simplicity which Ceres tends. Pluto is the soil and the deep roots without which Ceres’s plants won’t grow. Ceres builds, while Pluto destroys. He’s the winter to her summer. He’s the Death to her Life. And, of course, these two are forever linked together as players in Persephone’s myth. So Pluto’s modern rulership of Scorpio as the polar opposite to Ceres . . . it’s flawless.

Since Ceres has Taurus well in hand, it works for me to send Venus on back to Libra for the sake of this discussion.

Eris and Mars:  Direct Action Versus Subterfuge

Let’s walk Eris on over to the Aries end of the polarity for a moment. Might she supersede her brother Mars as the primary manifestation of Aries?

If Eris were to be formalized as the primary ruler of Aries, what would we do with Mars? 

There is an element of this question that is feminist. Eris is a planet, not an asteroid or a theoretical point in space. She is also the largest dwarf planet, on a par with Pluto, who already holds modern rulership of Scorpio and the 8th house. And we’ve seen that for modern astrological purposes, Pluto’s depth and complexity are an essential part of the polarity with Ceres’s Taurus. But does she hit the glass ceiling? And if someone’s doing their job well, why would we need to replace them in the first place?

eris theoi dot com

(Eris. Image via Theoi.com)

Eris’s shit-stirring that kicked off a chain of events that precipitated the Trojan War. So strife that leads to war is certainly true to Eris’s essential nature. But if Eris is strife that leads to war, Mars is the war itself. While it’s true that generals strategize and enlisted soldiers enact those strategies on a battlefield, Mars’s most essential nature wants to be right up front in the melee, physically landing the blows and dropping the bombs. Mars is doing his job in Aries, and he’s doing it very well. Mars’s directness is still a better fit for Aries than Eris’s subterfuge.

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I can definitely envision Eris getting a big kick out of our conflictedness about whether or not, and how, we should invite her to the astrological party.  😉

One thing I will propose with Eris, relatable to every sign and house, is that part of her job may be to prompt us to study our own responses to provocation–especially, here, the low-road responses of women within the collective. In addition to Eris’s own low-road response to being excluded by her fellow deities, it seems like Venus, Pallas Athene, and Hera didn’t even stop to question why a golden apple just rolled into the party, seemingly out of nowhere. And something about the words “for the fairest” cut directly to the heart of each goddess’s essential insecurity. And all three of them, frankly, started acting like damn fools.

This is not to say that men are saints. They’ve certainly done their part to create the difficulties of Fate that so many of us currently live with. But there are other myths that lay that out for us. I want to stay focused on what I think Eris may be trying to communicate here.

So, said simply, women were the weak point where Eris saw a way in to the collective to accomplish her aim. Since I’m a woman myself, I think I ought to pay some attention to this.

Impeccable —> Authentic

This brings to mind for me HRC–Hilary Rodham Clinton. I’ve usually voted “blue” since 2000, but I got really angry at Madeline Albright’s comment that “there’s a place in hell for women who don’t support women.” That’s Eris to a T. What was Eris calling attention to here?

It is, for me, about impeccability. So what is impeccability?

Shamanic practitioner Colleen Deatsman explains it well:

“Impeccability has nothing to do with right or wrong . . . what shamanic impeccability demands is the unflinching and focused expression of the Soul’s intention . . . The great sages who teach about impeccability aren’t telling us that we have to be model citizens of our communities. They are teaching us to be internally consistent within ourselves.” 

call to authenticity mckennaWhen I think of those goddesses acting like damn fools, what were they inadvertently showing us? Allowing men’s perceptions  and men’s pleasure to define us is not impeccable. Ceding our power and agency to males in exchange for ego strokes is not impeccable. And voting for someone simply because they have a vagina like you do is not impeccable. We women aren’t just one thing, and thinking that we are is not impeccable. What I know of HRC’s chart, even though we don’t have a confirmed birth time, makes me question her impeccability. (Note to self:  Blog about HRC later.) 

This principle, impeccability, also translates rather effectively to how we might assign and view rulerships in modern astrology:  Assign the most internally consistent, most authentic expression of a planet to a sign, whether we deem that authenticity to be “seemly” or not. This is how we “strip away the judgments,” as the other astrologer said.

So Eris’s essential orientation toward strife, in and of itself, doesn’t disqualify her from sign rulership. If strife is the unflinching and focused expression of Eris’s soul, then she is living in impeccability. It looks trickstery to the rest of us, but it’s still impeccability for her. Yet I still question whether this works in favor of supplanting Venus in favor of Eris as the ruler of Libra.

So we have Venus, whose highest and most authentic expression is judiciousness and reconciliation in the interest of peace. And we have Eris, “the daimona of the strife of war, haunting the battlefield and delighting in human bloodshed.” Which is the better match for Libra, in polarity with Mars and Aries?

Placing Eris in Libra’s position on the Aries/Libra axis creates an imbalance. Because rather than a polarity, Eris as Libra and Mars as Aries reflects a complementarity. There’s nothing essentially wrong with complementarity, but when you put two similar, or  complementary energies on an astrological axis, you lose the polarity principle that’s encoded into the zodiac.

So Venus still seems the most essential (as in, reflecting her essence) home for Libra. Venus’s inclination toward peace and her difficulty in making decisions creates the polarity with Mars’s assertiveness and action.

I suggest that freedom and flexibility may be an essential component to Eris’s agency in the world. That this agency comes at the cost of pain and strife is a fairly human experience, though. How many of us have a story or two to tell about how taking possession of our own power and agency created strife with others? I certainly can.

Thus I would be reluctant to assign Eris to either Libra or Aries as its ruler. Eris seems to function very well as an outsider and a free agent.

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Who’s got additional thoughts about Eris’s rulership, roles, and functions in astrology? Share in the comments!