"There are many, many stories of Eris accompanying her brother Ares onto the battlefield. She is often described as having an insatiable desire for bloodshed. Even after all the other gods had withdrawn from the battle, she remained, rejoicing over the slaughter." (Zanestein.com)
Eris, the Goddess of Strife, is the new dwarf planet out beyond Pluto in the Scattered Disc (an area beyond the Kuiper Belt). She is associated with strife, with discord (which she created at a wedding she hadn’t been invited to, and which led to the Trojan War)and with revenge, but what I want to look at here is her bloodlust. Her discovery and naming suggest that this aspect of humanity will be coming more into focus.
This is, of course, traditionally Pluto’s realm. But Pluto has rather a large remit, having to stand for the whole of the Underworld, so it is maybe just as well that Eris has come along and taken some of it off him. It may lead to clearer definition around Pluto’s function. And it may also help us understand more fully that we are not just the civilised, rational human beings that we like to think we are – beneath the surface we are just as savage, animal, natural, ‘primitive’, as we ever were, and it can only help to be aware of this. It is often only in emergencies, or at times of war, that this side takes over – or at least becomes more apparent – and it can overturn our sense of who we think we are.
Synchronicity can often be a good pointer, and as I began thinking about Eris the other night, I saw an interview on TV with the novelist J.G.Ballard, and one of his points was precisely this, that we are a violent species, it is never far below the surface, and the current popularity of violent computer games expresses this.
I think this is an aspect of us that is beyond psychoanalysis. Yes, a lot of violence happens because somewhere we have been hurt or because of the way our parents treated us etc. But there is also violence in us that is just THERE. Hence the regular collective bloodlettings, called wars, that continue to happen. Hence, in peacetime, the popular outlets for violence, such as the Roman Games, bear-baiting, cock-fighting, public hangings, hunting, wrestling, boxing, and violent films and computer games. It could be argued that these are all necessary for a peaceful society. And Eris is a WOMAN – a message for any dinosaur feminists who still think that it is just men who are the cause of the world’s problems. Women enjoy the spectacle of violence just as much as men. They were the ones in Britain who sent round the white feathers in WWI. Private Lindy England, convicted of torturing Iraqis, is a woman. The Lakota women had a terrifying reputation for torturing prisoners. Nor we should be surprised when we hear about American or British soldiers torturing Iraqis. Or vice-versa. We should not be surprised at the cruelty of the Japanese in WWII. We are that discredited idea, the Killer Ape. Children can enjoy inflicting pain. So can adults, especially when they are given license to do it by the government in times of war. The famous Millgram psychology experiments, in which ordinary Americans gave what they thought were agonising electric shocks to people because an ‘authority’ told them to, shocked people. It shouldn’t have. This is Eris. Or the case of the man standing at a high window, contemplating suicide, and a crowd gathering beneath, cheering him on, calling him ‘chicken’ for not jumping. This in the modern West. Nor is it the preserve of thugs and rednecks and psychopaths and Muslim extremists and inner-city gangs and violent criminals and the mob mentality, which ‘we’ are not. Eris is within all of us.
I don't think she is something about ourselves we can 'transform', however distasteful we may find her. What we can do is to acknowledge and not judge her, and be aware of her as a power within us.
So what might it mean in a chart? (See Zanestein.com for an ephemeris). I did a bit of research among people, or events, involved with excessive violence or carnage, and it was remarkable how Eris just kept making significant hard aspects, especially to the Sun, Moon and Angles. There were very few charts where this wasn’t the case.
Eris has been moving at about 3 degrees a decade for the last century, beginning at 22 Pisces in 1900 and is at about 20 Aries now.
Here are some results:
9/11: (Eris) square to MC
The Lockerbie Bombing: conjunct MC-Mars
1st H-Bomb: square to Mars-Chiron.
Columbine Massacre: square ASC
Hiroshima: conjunct Venus-Node, opposite Chiron-Neptune
2003 Iraq invasion: opposite Moon, square Mars-Chiron
I include the Iraq invasion because of the carnage it has led to. Interestingly, Eris forms a t-square in George Bush’s chart (is anyone surprised?) to Sun, Neptune and Chiron. I have always associated GWB with death – he was of course noted for the number of executions that took place while he was governor of Texas, taking on average 15 minutes to make up his mind when presented with appeals for clemency. He has Pluto Rising, which I have used to explain it, but I think that Eris square to his Sun suggests a bloodlust behind it, an enjoyment of death and carnage – and carnage is precisely what he has caused in Iraq, an outcome predictable by anyone with knowledge of the region.
This is all a bit grim, but the (provisional) case needs to be made. On to a few people:
Jeffrey Dahmer: conjunct Moon-Desc, square Saturn, conjunct Mars
Fred West: opposite Sun
Peter Sutcliffe (Yorkshire Ripper): opposite MC-Neptune, square 8H Venus (women)
Ian Brady (multiple child killer): square Sun (ruler of his 5th-children), Venus and Mercury, conjunct Saturn, square Chiron
The Kray twins: square ASC
Mike Tyson: square Sun-Jupiter
Bill Gates (ruthless destruction of competitors): conjunct Moon-MC
Joseph Mengele: conjunct Sun
Ariel Sharon (accused of war crimes): conjunct ASC
Winston Churchill (who thrived on war): square Sun
The Incredible Hulk: conjunct Moon-Mars
Jim Jones: square ASC
Interestingly, Sharon Tate, who was on the receiving end of the Manson family’s bloodlust, had Mars square to Eris – so it can work the other way as well.
Phew! As I said, this is not systematic research, but it was remarkable how few of the likely individuals I chose at random did NOT have a hard aspect to Eris. And it does seem to bring Eris onto the stage astrologically, associated with bloodlust, carnage, and cruelty. Some may protest against the inclusion of Bill Gates, who is of course re-inventing himself as Mr Save-the-World (which in itself I don't want to knock), as well as being that morally superior type, the American Success Story. But Eris and the history of Microsoft suggest otherwise.
Let’s look at a few examples of people who seem to have been able to use Eris’ power creatively. Again, I got about 80% hit rate for the likely people I tried. For people born before 1900, I have extrapolated the Ephemeris (which begins in 1900) backwards. So it’s a bit approximate.
Sigmund Freud: Square Moon, sextile Sun. Freud posited the unconscious, suggesting that we are not the rational beings that we would like to think we are. He came up with the idea of Thanatos, the death wish (for oneself) and an aspect of that he called Destrudo, the urge to destroy both oneself and everything else. Though not identical to Eris, there is obviously overlap here.
C.G.Jung: Sextile Moon, trine mercury, Venus, square Mars. Like Freud, Jung explored our archaic depths. This is not something one can just decide to do. One needs the power to do so, the power to actually be taken there, and this is maybe also part of Eris.
The Dalai Lama: Square Sun-ASC. What is remarkable about the Dalai Lama is that he has been taken to Eris’ realm through the brutal invasion of Tibet by the Chinese, a brutality which has continued to the present day, and he has taken an approach of non-violence and non-retaliation. This is not a naïve or inauthentic position, but one of real insight into the nature of violence that has had a widespread influence. He has experienced and acknowledged Eris, and used her power for the opposite of her normal role.
Anthony Hopkins: Square Sun, Mercury, Venus, conjunct Saturn. Hopkins famously played the role of Hannibal ‘the Cannibal’ Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs. Jodie Foster, who played the detective who has to deal with him, has Eris opposite her MC. She was also subject to a graphic gang rape in The Accused. In both cases we have the power of Eris being used creatively to demonstrate her realm to audiences.
Glenn Close, who played a psychopathic ex-lover in Fatal Attraction, has Sun conjunct Eris, and Marlon Brando, who played the Godfather, had Eris trine ASC and widely square MC.
So these are examples of the creative use of Eris: to plumb the archaic depths, to gain insight into the nature of violence, and to reveal her realm on screen.
There is an attractive feature of Eris which is her free, unrestrained nature: she has an insatiable desire for bloodshed and glories in the slaughter, but what she is also doing is breaking taboos, the taboos which in some ways are needed to hold society together, but which also trap us. A ‘civilised’ person is in many ways an unfree person, trapped in notions of Good and Bad, Right and Wrong. (Pluto, through his rape of Persephone, is also a breaker of taboos.) It is in many ways our archaic nature, with all its power, that is suppressed by the laws and norms of society, so for consciousness to progress beyond a certain point, to plumb our true natures, we have not to feel inwardly bound by these laws. Practically speaking, it means dealing with all those internalised 'shoulds' and 'oughts' which we may be only half aware of, but on which Eris will exact her revenge if she is strong in our charts. (Interestingly, we are dealing with Saturn's realm here, and one form of Eris was his daughter, her mother being Nyx, 'Dark Night'.) This is not an easy matter, as these conditionings run very deep, but Eris also has the power to give us that freedom. Astronomically, her freedom from the normal rules is reflected in her orbit being way off the ecliptic, 'out of bounds'.
This principle is understood in Tantric Buddhism through the Dakini or Skywalker, a fierce, naked female figure, wielding a chopper, trampling on demons, her hair flung back in ecstasy, and completely unrestrained in her actions.
Any kind of creative activity requires an ability to suspend judgement and allow a deeper power to express itself. It is perhaps part of Eris’ function to help us do that.
So what might Eris mean in the chart of a ‘normal’ person? This requires a load of research, of questioning people who have her significantly aspected. I have one case history so far. This person has an unaspected Sun conjunct Eris in Aries. So quite a pure case, uninfluenced by other planets, in a sign that Eris would feel comfortable in. The only confusing factor is Aries, which is ruled by Mars, who shares some characteristics with Eris. One difference is that Eris functions outside of any rules, whereas we normally find Mars in the service of a governing king. And this often seems to be part of the Aries growing-up process, as they move from fighting for someone else’s cause – as warriors usually do – into fighting for their own vision. So Eris could be an esoteric ruler of Aries, Aries functioning at its best.
Anyway, this person tells me that when she gets angry, it’s like something else takes over, and this something is quite capable of grabbing the kitchen knife and killing. (Eris and the Berserker Warrior would also be worth exploring). Fortunately, another side of her remains aware of the consequences, and she’s never got anywhere near going for the knife! She has never used violence, but she believes that the assassination of certain people would be a good thing for the world, and feels that she could become an assassin herself. She has always been very aware of people’s capacity for violence. From my own observation, this person also has a conflict, basic to her life, between continuously judging herself according to rules she’s picked up along the way, and letting go of all that and feeling confident in what she’s good at. When she does this, remarkable things happen effortlessly. This sounds like Saturn as well, and I think it partly is (square to her ASC). But it also seems to me to be about Eris’ challenge to break free of the internalised rules, ignore the need for other people’s good opinion, and function freely from one’s true nature, which is able to draw on unusual, 'uncivilised' powers.
My only other case history is myself, with natal Mars in 3rd House Capricorn square to 6th House Eris in Aries. I suppose the fact that I have written this blog describes the aspect! But I have had to learn not to try and 'make' things happen (Mars) around society's ideas of 'achievement' (Capricorn), but rather just do the things I am deeply drawn to without pre-conceived notions of where it might take me -and these are the things that turn out to have real power, where other people start going wow! The square to Eris makes it unusually self-destructive (Eris) for me to be wilful (Mars), and surprisingly powerful and liberating (Eris) when I step aside and let something else guide me.
Eris Astrology 9/11 Bush