Eris: The Radical Feminine Rises

 

 

 

*Greek myth tells that upon exclusion from a wedding, Eris threw into the midst of its revellers an apple marked ‘for the fairest’. An argument ensued between the goddesses Athena, Hera and Aphrodite as to its intended recipient, the settling of which eventually led to the Trojan War*

 

Mythological Eris is the goddess of discord and rivalry. On the face of it, the trouble she caused in response to not getting a wedding invitation sounds petty, but she knew something far more important was going on. In fact her exclusion from wedding celebrations epitomises the experience of the feminine throughout history: snubbed, shunned, marginalised, demonised, ignored and rejected. In her reaction, Eris embodied the dark and feared feminine which rises up to reclaim her place in a world long fractured by patriarchal power. Astrological Eris challenges us to look with eyes wide open and free from all guile at who we are and what we do – personally and collectively – to perpetuate inequalities and oppression the world over.

About astrological Eris

Eris is a trans-Neptunian dwarf planet. She was discovered on 5th January 2005 whilst at her direct station (that is, at the end of her retrograde cycle) in the 20th degree of Aries, by Michael E. Brown, Chad Trujillo and David L. Rabinowitz using images originally taken on 21st October 2003. Positioned beyond Pluto, she moves very slowly, taking approximately 557 years to travel through the entire zodiac, and will finally leave Aries in the year 2058.

The Sabian symbol for her discovery degree is ‘a young girl feeding birds in Winter’. In this image we see the ‘maiden’ archetype, providing sustenance to creatures in need during times of low supply. It augurs a rebirth of the feminine principle, to nourish us during times of lack and vulnerability. In this, coupled with her mythological reputation and the Sun in Capricorn and Moon in Scorpio at the time of her discovery, we see a reawakened and pragmatic feminine, ready to act and get things done, coupled with a passion for the shadow realms and a desire to expose the most enduring sources of human dysfunction. Saturn in Cancer at her discovery affirms her commitment to the widest sense of family, in which everyone has a valued place. And a concomitant conjunction between Mercury, Venus and Pluto (communication of feminine power) affirms just how influential her message will be during this critical period in human history, in which our very existence is threatened by the consequences of choices previously made.

Originally named Xena before finally being named Eris, her energy is that of the wild warrior feminine. No longer prepared to tolerate oppression, subjugation and abuse at the hands of a patriarchal system that subverts the human narrative into one of masculine superiority, she is mobilised to overthrow it, whatever it takes.

Eris as chaos

When Eris was snubbed at the aforementioned wedding, a ferocious force was let loose: the wrathful feminine, dishonoured and rejected. She refused to slink away silently, diminished and shamed, instead initiating war to make her point. She let loose chaos and demands we be swept up in its unremitting force. Pitting the goddesses Athena (goddess of wisdom), Hera (goddess of marriage) and Aphrodite (goddess of love) against each other in competition for the title of ‘fairest’, she exposed the diminished feminine, divorced from its sovereignty and subordinated to the power of the masculine gaze. Now she returns power to us all, inviting us to embrace the light and dark feminine and all shades between: the Venusian delights of sensuality, the cyclical intuition of our lunar nature and her visceral challenge to all that perpetuates patriarchal mores of gendered worth.

In Eris we meet the untamed feminine: wild and radical, owned by no one, shaped by nothing and prepared to do what it takes to expose the enduring lies that diminish and debilitate humanity. She points the finger without hesitation, names the oppressor and fights boldly all lies presented as truth. Her fingerprint is found in both aggressive resistance to the status quo and the violence used to maintain it. She confronts us with our primal nature and demands we both embrace and transcend it, turning the battle for individual survival into a collective movement towards unified well-being. Eris is our power – men and women, one and all – to take a stand; to face the unpalatable facts of our sterile life; to honour the deep, gutsy knowing in our very bowels that life itself is born of the rawest passion which cannot be tamed. She reveals the chinks in our armour and flaws in our carefully woven existence. She pressures our weakened places to reveal where we must toughen up and stay the course or be devoured by a world much harsher than we care to acknowledge or dare to name.

Eris speaks of violence and revenge. She will fight to the death if she must and is active in revolution, warfare and the objectification of the ‘other’ which enables people to oppress, exploit and kill with impunity. She is the violent struggle for survival, the ‘kill or be killed’ aspect of Mother Nature and the sheer bloody-minded tenacity of life even in the direst of circumstances. Eris dishes out retribution for transgression of natural laws and seeks revenge for wounds inflicted. She is a powerful force of cosmic nature, who wakes us up to our potential for both violent resistance and peaceful but unrelenting struggle. She suffers no fools, takes no prisoners and refuses to back-down in the face of the greatest forces stacked against her.

We all have some Eris in us, but whether we meet her face to face depends upon our capacity to accept the ‘darker’ sides of our nature: aggressive impulses, deep-seated hatred and yearnings for revenge. If we struggle to recognise that, given the right circumstances, we too can become the terrorist, the oppressor, the revolutionary who sees blood spilt as an acceptable price for freedom, we’ll project Eris onto the world around us, fearing the ‘other’ with their dearth of moral backbone and lack of humanity. Eris brings into sharp relief the temptation to see only others as the problem, to project our own wild rage or vengeful spirit onto ‘them out there’.

Vengeful victim

Despite her raw power, Eris speaks also of victimhood which catalyses the impulse to rise-up, reset the balance of power and reclaim lost ground. This is our most primal reaction to a loss of liberty and self-determination. She straddles the powerlessness of being subject to someone else’s malice and the remedial action of vengeance, only for revenge to trigger endless cycles of conflict. She wants her own back but is powerless to avoid being subject once more to the same impulse in another.

Through confrontation with Eris we reach the point of acceptance that sometimes people simply do terrible things and we must finally walk away if we want any semblance of peace. But for all that, she will fight for the disenfranchised and strengthen our spirit to stand against those who abuse positions of power for personal gain.

Nature becoming aware of itself

Eris reveals what it means to be nature becoming aware of itself. The primal instinct and vital force that fuels our existence is also that which kills for food or to protect her young. It’s the destruction of an earthquake, the boiling lava of a volcano, the devastation of a hurricane and monsoon rains beyond the land’s capacity to cope. Mother Nature can be a fearsome warrior as much as she is our mother. We must be too, at times, to protect her from the excesses of humanity’s obsession with its own desires. Eris insists we face uncomfortable truths about our exploitation of Mother Earth and each other. She challenges all that perpetuates inequality, oppression and exploitation, demanding searing integrity and the courage to stand up and be counted with wide open eyes and bold hearts.

Taking no prisoners, she stands beside those who honour our Great Mother and confronts those who exploit her. Unsentimental to her core, she’ll do what’s necessary to protect the beating heart of Gaia and asks of us a similarly gutsy attitude which stands firm in the face of intimidation and refuses to swallow the lies we’re so readily fed. Eris resists the imposition of another’s agenda and urges we do the same. It’s time to decide for ourselves what happens next; to rise up and change the agenda to one that serves our planetary home, not exploits it to destruction.

Patriarchy and a new paradigm

Venus and Mars, the archetypal feminine and masculine, joined forces three times in 2015 (February, September and November). Their first meeting saw them cross from the final to the first degree of the zodiac, a sure sign of the birth of a new paradigm. In doing so they shone a bright light on patriarchy’s legacy, affirming there’s still much to be done before the feminine in all its guises is embraced within the collective psyche. Still the gendered split between, not the integration of, masculine and feminine define the lives and experience of so many. Women and girls the world over are treated as chattels, and boys and men brutalised to continue this inhumanity. The deep wounds of patriarchy continue to fester and it’s easy to sink into despair at the seemingly unlikely prospect of global change.

As avatar of the radical feminine, Eris knows life as both bloody and beautiful, vicious and vibrant. She knows true feminine power: the raw and primal force of childbirth, the fierce protection of a mother’s love, the enduring strength of a broken but embracing heart and the creativity of an awakened womb which nurtures deep within the hopes and dreams of generations. To exclude her from the core paradigm that shapes our existence renders it sterile. This very sterility enables the plunder of natural resources, the favouring of financial profit over fundamental well-being and the promotion of short-term power over long term survival. Thus is created a world devoid of compassion which can dismiss the traumatised refugee as a drain on ‘our’ resources, the orphaned child as a ‘lost cause’ and the lives of countless women and girls as meaningless in the context of a masculine-dominant discourse which serves only its own perpetuation.

Unlike Mars (her mythological brother) who fights to impose and control, Eris fights to expose and liberate. She refuses to accept the social mores of conformity used to keep us down. Eris unflinchingly illuminates millennia of denial and degradation of the feminine, highlighting equally its trademark oppression of women and girls, alongside its brutalisation of boys and men. She uproots all that exploits and oppresses and demands a world in which dignity is a universal right not a privilege, where life is honoured in all its forms, gender is not an arbiter of a disenfranchised fate and the intuitive heart is aligned with, not subordinate to, the incisive mind. Her world is radical, daring and free. She is unafraid to face the wrath of those who prefer the status quo, the denial of those who seek to side-step truths so bright they blind us. She will not tolerate the fractured disconnection of disengaged spirituality that seeks escape from, not radical engagement with, this world. Nor will she allow to go unchallenged the retention of power in the hands of the few. And nor must we, for only in standing firm for change can we draw upon her power and know her mighty heart and fierce commitment to a world born anew.

Ultimately there are no winners in patriarchy, for even those holding the keys to power have sacrificed their humanity to own them. No matter who, what or where we are, we cannot stand aside from the world into which we’ve been born and ignore what we’ve created. Our very existence makes us part of the landscape, a fragment of the collective psyche living these experiences here and now. We can be part of the problem or part of the solution; perpetually divided or seeking wholeness – within and without – in which ‘opposites’ become a united force for change.

Eris retrograde

Eris’s next retrograde cycle runs from 21st July 2019 – 11th January 2020

Because Eris demands we know ourselves so deeply, her retrograde passage is of particular significance. As much as we recoil in horror from what humans do to each other, we do unending violence to ourselves every day. In each moment of self-hatred and punishment, in every moment identified with life as pain not awakening, we imprison ourselves in misery. Every hurtful relationship we endure because we can’t believe we deserve better; every put-down we accept from others because we fear standing up to their might; every self-critical thought and dismissal of our own worth…. This is the disempowering face of retrograde Eris, turning ourselves into a disenfranchised ‘other’ in our own psyche – unable to act effectively or live deeply. Forever trampled by lies, destroyed by past mistakes, pained by old wounds. In response, the empowering face of Eris retrograde demands that we fight first and foremost for ourselves, to establish the sovereignty refused us by our own lack of self-worth. We, she tells us in no uncertain terms, are our own jailer, abuser and oppressor. Until we recognise this we cannot change a world in which oppression has become the modus operandi of so many.

Her message is stark, always, and we’re only just beginning to hear. If we can’t accept ourselves at our most primal, we can’t begin to accept that the horrors of humanity are a part of us, not something altogether separate. If we can’t find a safe inner space for the rage we dare not speak, the vengeance we rush to deny, the hatred we refuse to admit, we’ll change nothing in the outside world which must accommodate energetically our own denied self, allowing it expression elsewhere. As we wrestle our inner demons into submission, we snuff out our vital spark with them, opting to die inside rather than live our truth. Whilst our planet shifts and we along with it, we must own all our feelings, knowing them not as terrifying forces to be subdued but as aspects of nature which become distorted only when used to serve egoic gain.

When we accept we can all be angry enough to kill given the ‘right’ conditions we don’t become killers, we become people who know ourselves well enough not to. When we recognise how far we could go for revenge if our own wounds were deep enough, we don’t become an uncontrollable harridan avenging all who cross her path. We become a force for compassion, knowing the importance of not inflicting wounds that elicit such deep pain. We understand how vital it is not to perpetuate cycles of violence and fear, but instead to heal…. whatever it takes.

While Eris is retrograde she asks us to see how we perpetuate our own suffering through a lack of self-love and compassion for who we are and all we’ve been through. She reveals how we reject and isolate parts of the self through fear and how embracing that very fear can be the key to their release and reintegration. Eris illuminates where and how we internalise our oppressors and do their work for them, be it a punishing parent, a critical partner or the many individuals and institutions across our path mobilised to ‘keep us in our place’. She reminds us we each carry a portion of the collective psyche in which all things reside: good and bad, terrifying and inspiring, shocking and supportive. We are all of it, each one of us, and the greatest, most courageous act is to know this about ourselves – viscerally and without flinching – opening our heart to all that the legacy of being human entails.

Fear and awakening

Many fear Eris and all she stands for. We balk at acknowledging our share of the fierce mother who will both kill to protect or devour her young depending on situation and circumstance. We don’t want to see in ourselves the forces of nature that destroy rather than nurture. Eris doesn’t fit neatly into a spiritual narrative that says we’re all love and light and rage has no place in the awakened heart. She tells us everything has a place, otherwise it isn’t awakened, for awakening knows all things intimately. It doesn’t pick and choose.

On the face of it she sounds like bad news. We don’t want to upset her because she knows no limits when it comes to revenge, nor do we want to keep her happy which may entail becoming the very thing we fear. We want her to go away but she’s going nowhere. The only option left is to open the door, hold our nerve and look her in the eye. Not out of fear – the pitiful peering of terror – but as an equal, knowing that she is us, the human race, a dominant force of nature which shapes this planet for good and ill. A force that can save or destroy all that we hold dear; that can raise up or tear each other down in the fight to come out on top.

Eris holds a mirror to the human condition so we can see ourselves staring back in the face of those we most fear, those we most demonise, those who commit the most heinous acts. She exhorts us to keep them in our hearts even as we recoil from and challenge their behaviour; to remember that change is most effective when we act for something rather than against something else. Eris speaks loud and clear: if we demonise the ‘other’, demons walk this earth. If we seek to counter suffering with healing, bigotry with understanding and hatred with compassion for all that has caused its arising, we can create, piece by piece, an alternative way to live – a world driven not by ‘power over’ but by the powerful force of collective striving for a better life.

The final word on the shadow self

Eris is the ferocious feminine, poised to do whatever it takes to right a wrong or address an imbalance of power. Rejecting the narrative of feminine equals weak or unworthy, she refuses to be disenfranchised or oppressed. She brooks no resistance, flinches at nothing and will do what even her most fearsome enemies would not dare. The final word on the shadow self, beyond the reach even of Pluto Lord of the Underworld, she commands the most intimidating but richly fertile aspects of the psyche where few dare to tread. Just as the light of humanity can shine through its own darkness, its darkness can snuff out its light. But when both are held in balance we encounter the treasure of Eris’s luminescent shadow, guardian of the dispossessed within and without.

Sarah Varcas

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