Astrology of Eris: Cultural Disruptor, Truth-Force
You know the story, but it bears repeating.
The hero Peleus and the sea nymph Thetis had a magnificent wedding on Mount Olympus. Everyone was invited, except for the goddess Eris, or Discordia, as she’s known in Latin. Big mistake.
Just to mess things up, Eris threw a golden apple marked for the fairest into the middle of table. Three goddesses believed it was for them and started to fight — Athena (goddess of wisdom!), Venus, the goddess of love and beauty and Juno, the Queen.
Each thought the apple was meant for her. To settle the dispute, Jupiter, the king of the gods, plucked a poor mortal called Paris from a hillside and forced him to choose. All the goddesses tried to bribe him: Athena with intelligence and martial art, Juno with political clout, ruling Europe and Asia, but it was Venus’ offer that won. Paris chose to have the most beautiful woman in the world in return for awarding the golden apple to the goddess of love. Unfortunately, Helen, for it was she, was already married to King Menelaus.
And so Paris ran off with Helen, the Trojan War ensued, and a million works of art were inspired — from The Iliad itself, our Ur-text, to Sleeping Beauty to innumerable paintings. The story and the stories that result from Eris casual revenge are central to Western culture.
So what does this have to do with current astrology?
The minor planet Eris was discovered on 5 January 2005. She is waaaaaay out in the Solar System. It takes her 559 years to make a single circuit round the Sun. Compare that to the next nearest planet, Pluto, which is about the same size. He take a mere 260 years to go from A back to A again. He’s more than twice as fast, at 248 years.
This means that everyone born between 1922 and 2044 has Eris in Aries, the sign of war and beginnings. So it’s really only when Eris receives a transit from one of the other planets that we can begin to understand her.
On October 9, Pluto, the god of the underworld, makes a hard square to Eris. This is a rare occurrence, but when it happens, it tends to happen repeatedly over several years. This is the sixth and final square between these two this time around. The first was in January 2020. In fact, that giant stellium in Capricorn — Sun, Mercury, Ceres, Saturn, Pluto — not forgetting Jupiter trailing — was getting the square from Eris.
Welp, I guess we had an apple of discord thrown at our party! Hello, COVID.
But before jumping to any hasty conclusions, I looked back at the previous Pluto-Eris squares. This is a rare event, as you can imagine. But I did find some startling — and some encouraging — things.
What were astronomers thinking when naming her…?! It turns out though, that they have a point.
Let’s take a punt and suggest that Eris may well be a disruptive energy that when combined with Pluto becomes transformative and possibly destructive. After all, she wasn’t invited to that party because everyone agreed she’d be a downer.
So step into the time machine and go back the last three times we had the square from Pluto to Eris. I’ve plucked out a few events that fit precisely in those years — and that smack of possible Eris energy.
Pluto in Cancer-Eris in Aries
Joan of Arc is burned at the stake — May 1431
Ghent Altarpiece — May 1432
St Joan was martyred by burning (Aries). The identity of France as a nation (Cancer) was forged by this event.
The Ghent Altarpiece was an awesome, revolutionary work of art that took painting from the mysterious, imagined world of the Gothic to more realistic direct observation. It’s probably one of the most important single works of art in the Western canon. European art was about to be completely transformed during the Renaissance. Another work of art that you are probably familiar with from 1434 is the Arnolfini Wedding, also by Jan Van Eyck and also groundbreaking in its use of perspective and paint.
This is the beginning of the Renaissance, a period of incredible flowering in the arts and ideas across Europe. In fact, this cultural efflorescence was experienced also in other parts of the world from this time too.
Pluto in Aquarius-Eris in Taurus
Michelangelo start The Last Judgment
Ann Boleyn marries Henry VIII of England
Henry VIII declares himself head of his own church
Ann Boleyn is executed
Artistically we’re at the High Renaissance in Western Art with Michelangelo just starting on the wall behind the altar at the Sistine Chapel.
Politically, there is something really significant going on in a fog-bound island off the coast of Europe. Henry Tudor, King of England, married Ann Boleyn in 1534 and declared himself head of his own church. Anne, after producing a daughter who would later become the country’s greatest monarch (say some), was beheaded, since the aging Henry had become besotted with Jane Seymour. His career as a royal Bluebeard began, and the destruction and theft of all the wealth of the English monasteries.
But the king’s infatuations — and specifically his marriage to Ann Boleyn, which necessitated leaving the Catholic Church — would not only affect this country but the whole of Europe and arguably the whole planet.
Pluto in Gemin-Eris in Pisces
Gandhi begins Satyagraha (Truth-Force) campaign in South Africa.
Suffragettes — Mud March 1907 kicks off series of mass demos, moving on to campaign of civil disorder
Desmoiselles D’Avignon — 1907
Diaghelev forms the Ballets Russes- 1909
Futurist Manifesto — 1909
Apres-Midi D’une Faune premieres — May 1912
Mahatma Gandhi was living in South Africa at this time, and 1907 was the start of his active campaign of non-violent resistance to British rule there. He called it Satyagraha which means Truth-Force. This sounds like an Eris-Pluto compound. One of his greatest weapons was language, Gemini.
The birth of modernism. Many examples of apples being tossed at the establishment here. Perhaps the most famous is Picasso’s Desmoiselles D’Avignon which depicts a group of prostitutes in radical cubist style, staring defiantly out of the painting. The painting caused a sensation — not as stunning as Apres-Midi d’une Faune which literally caused a riot when It premiered. This was the beginning of furious, rapid change and development in the arts through the 20th century.
The mass suffragette movement really took off in Britain in these years. Suffragettes went on hunger strike, held massive demonstrations and the movement grew.
Many other things happened in these years, of course, but these events are from strands of history with which I’m familiar. I think you can see that extremely disruptive things did take place. What surprised me was the strong artistic theme. Both Desmoiselles and the Ghent Altarpiece are considered to have changed the course of Western art — and there are very few paintings for which this is claimed. The same applies to the Ballets Russes for dance: of course, Pisces is the sign for dancers, since it both rules the feet and is ruled by that most musical of planets, Neptune.
Looking at these examples, it occurs to me that perhaps Eris gets an unfair press in astrological circles. She’s often described as warlike. Yet even combined with the Lord of the Underworld himself, that does not seem quite accurate. Just recently — in 2016 — Uranus made conjunctions with Eris in Aries — and although, as usual, there were plenty of wars raging on planet Earth, there was no major explosion battle fever.
What’s possible looking at these historical examples is a connection between politics and women. Ann Boleyn was fiercely political, so was Joan of Arc, so were the suffragettes. All changed the course of history. All fought for their beliefs.
This is what I think may be the running thread — changing the course of history. Henry Seltzer uses the term “paradigm shift” in his analysis of Eris, and I think that’s accurate. #MeToo which began during the Eris-Uranus conjunction may fit the bill here — although we cannot see the long-term consequences yet.
So what are we looking at now?
The easy answer is COVID, of course. The pandemic began just a few weeks after the first square, but our current state of viral overload could be attributed easily to other astrological factors. From all the planets in Capricorn, it was clear not only that something BIG was going to happen, but also that we were turning a corner in the human story back in 2020.
The Eris-Pluto effect may actually be invisible to us, of course, because we are in the midst of it. It could be something that we’ll only identify afterwards. After all, who knew about a Spanish guy called Pablo painting in an attic in Paris in 1907 — a few people but not many.
Certainly Eris combined with the stellium in Capricorn is working to shift us out of one age and into a new one. She gives this shift extra power — and she suggests that political women are an important part of it.
Capricorn is the sign of the Establishment. It’s conservative. And the establishment is being transformed from within by Pluto — and perhaps from without by Eris (and Uranus first in Aries making a conjunction to Eris back in 2016 and now less confrontationally in Taurus). Pluto is caught in the crosshairs of Eris.
She is in the sign of beginnings, initiation, youth and spring, Aries. Last time she was here, Greek scholars fled Constantinople bringing their humanistic knowledge and lighting a fire. The Renaissance burned across Europe. But also Constantinople itself was reborn as Istanbul, the minareted capital of a new Empire, where arts and ideas also flourished.
Eris and Pluto clash when they square, but they also influence each other directly. This is also a dynamic aspect not static. Things happen.
We know we are in a moment when history changes direction. This is a beginning, but maybe it connects directly with the birth of modernism and Satyagraha back in 1907, in the same way that the Early Renaissance of the 1430s connected to the High Renaissance of Michelangelo.
So our Pluto-Eris squares pair with those at the start of the 20th century. The next square is not until 2276. There is a sextile in 2042 when both will be at 29°, which should be interesting. Then it is the conjunction — and that won’t be until 2115.
Pluto is a planet that we associate with rebirth. Renaissance means rebirth. Can we look back on the 20th century, starting in 1907, up until our time, and call this the Modernist Renaissance, a cultural awakening, which only now is peaking?
Eris throws her apple into the that party and thousands of works of art ensue. We need disruption to change our point of view. And that is what both the Ghent Altarpiece and the Desmoiselles did. People were never able to look at art, or the world in the same way again. That is what Satyagraha and the Suffragettes did too. With Pluto, she is not some dark, vindictive warrior, but a disruptor, a truth-force.
We are all just feeling our way with Eris. She is a new, powerful energy. And when she gets a decent transit, she delivers a shock to our systems. Here are a few other articles worth reading.
Henry Seltzer wrote about her in the Mountain Astrologer, republished on astro.com
These two articles by Steven Forrest are also interesting.