Our Lady of Discord

Our Lady of Discord

The Magician from the PoMo Tarot by Brian Williams, published in 1994.

Xena / 2003 UB 313, the discovery that led to the rearrangement of the solar system, has been named Eris. The largest known planet beyond Neptune has been named for the Greek goddess of strife, who is called Discordia in Roman mythology. She has also been given minor planet number 136199.

[In other news, Pluto was designated minor planet 134340.]

As meaningless as this statement may be, I want to caution readers not to be conclusive at this point, but to do your best to keep an open mind as to what this planet is about. Myths are extremely complex. New planets, the meaning of which is not based entirely on the myths involved, never reveal their delineations quickly, and experience is always a meaningful factor. My impression is that, whatever may come, Eris is a brilliant name, and one that represents the crystallization of awareness about something we very much need to notice.

In all, my sense is that Eris and Xena are compatible names, and together they offer a clue as to what’s going on beneath the surface of this planet astrologically. I’m going to do my best not to go too far today — there is a heck of a lot here to consider and there are some people I have not checked in with whose viewpoints I think will be worthwhile. So these are my opening thoughts, the day after the announcement.

One thing we should bookmark is how things became gods and goddesses to the ancients. Granted, we were not exactly there, but we do know something. As Richard Tarnas explains in Cosmos & Psyche, in the enchanted world, the world before reason and rationality took over (as gods!), a god was not an abstract concept onto which we attached attributes — for example, the current God of many monotheistic religions. We tend to think of this God as a concept first, and then describe it, second: God is love. God is good. God is holy. God is in everyone. God judges us. For most people, this is entirely divorced from anything they can hold in their minds or hands, and is associated with a mystical longing rather than some kind of human fulfillment.

Notably, it’s also subject to extraordinary abuse, as in a United States president telling us that “God” wants him to bomb Iraq or that Hiroshima was bombed in service of “God.” People will only believe that when they have no actual relationship with God or the gods — and who don’t recognize that these leaders are actually speaking about their own inflated egos.

A few civilizations back, it worked differently. Tangible attributes of humanity and the world were identified, and being genuinely powerful and having the ability to shape our lives, they were given the roles of gods and goddesses. Examples might be childbirth, trees, fire, technological leaps forward, or the longing to fly. Gods and goddesses of the ancient world are personifications of real things rather than abstractions that we subsequently tried to give meaning to. To those who “believe in God,” this may seem offensive, and indeed, it is browbeaten into the minds of those who belong to monotheistic religions that any form polytheism violates the Ten Commandments as a form of idolatry. One supposed attribute of the abstract God is that he’s jealous of all the tangible ones.

But consider how much more satisfying it might be to take something concrete, like our experience of nature or the feeling of passion, and hold that as an aspect of deity — rather than something that directly contradicts it. One thing the ancients had going for them was that their notions of deity were part of life and experience, rather than being divided from it, or taking stands against it. If something existed and was meaningful, it was personified in the form of a god or goddess.

People who worship Mary are onto this: Mary is tangible, someone we can relate to: she’s a mom. She gave birth, and loved her son, she endured all that happened. This is tangible, something that many people can relate to directly. This is closer to how it worked in the ancient world. In this way, a tangible relationship to something real and natural was established; attributes seen for what they are; and a real measure of psychic chaos (Psyche and Chaos both deriving from ancient deities) sidestepped.

If you’re paying attention, one of the things you notice is all the strife and discord in the world. Blood is spilled, nations and civilizations are routinely destroyed, the wealth of the people is converted to bombs — and we don’t have a name for it. It’s just “the way it is” an “God wants it that way.” Given the astonishing state of discord in the world, it’s a great idea to give this factor a name. Her name is Eris.

Now, this particular myth reveals perhaps some of the deepest hubris — tragic flaw — that we see in Greek mythology: a story about personal vanity leading to the equivalent of a world war. I was blessed to hear this astonishing myth for the first time spoken by the fireside by Stephen Larsen, Joseph Campbell’s biographer, one night in New Paltz, N.Y. Here is the Wikipedia version:

The most famous tale of Eris (‘Strife’) recounts her initiating the Trojan War. The goddesses Hera, Athena and Aphrodite had been invited along with the rest of Olympus to the forced wedding of Peleus and Thetis, who would become the parents of Achilles, but Eris had been snubbed because of her troublemaking inclinations.

She therefore (in a fragment from the Kypria as part of a plan hatched by Zeus and Themis) tossed into the party the Apple of Discord, a golden apple inscribed Kallisti – “For the most beautiful one”, or “To the Prettiest One” — provoking the goddesses to begin quarreling about the appropriate recipient. The hapless Paris, Prince of Troy, was appointed to select the most beautiful. Each of the three goddesses immediately attempted to bribe Paris to choose her. Hera offered political power; Athena promised skill in battle; and Aphrodite tempted him with the most beautiful woman in the world: Helen, wife of Menelaus of Sparta. While Greek culture placed a greater emphasis on prowess and power, Paris choose to award the apple to Aphrodite, thereby dooming his city, which was destroyed in the war that ensued.

I don’t know about you, but this a myth I have a daily relationship with.

One of my colleagues wrote last night and said that Eris was known for “delighting in human bloodshed and suffering.” She commented, “It’s difficult to find anything good about this. You’d have to be a masochist to be able to work with her.” But the thing is this. Our civilization DOES delight in human bloodshed and suffering. We do delight in the bombs we drop on others. Those of us who don’t delight in these things say very little to those who do, and act as if by ignoring it, it’ll all go away. But, as we’re seeing, it does not. Meanwhile, strife and chaos prevail.

Welcome to the postmodern world.

Xena and Discordia: Postmodern Goddesses

I am neither a fan of, nor a devoted scholar of, postmodern philosophy, but I know it when I see it — and it’s good to know that such a thing exists. It’s easier to give examples than try to pin down a definition; definitions are almost always controversial and defy the notion of ‘postmodern’ in the first place, and I’ll likely fuck this up royally but here’s a throw. Postmodernism says that everything people experience is a bunch of concepts. There is no actual reality. Postmodernism itself is a bunch of concepts precisely lacking the unified reality that it says everything else lacks, but then it takes one to know one.

Ten of Guns from the PoMo Tarot by Brian Williams, published in 1994.

Anyway, here’s an example. If we had elections in the modern world, in the postmodern world, we have mock elections and nobody cares. We go through the motions and have a mock democracy and a mock president, and it doesn’t really bother most people; we have mock fascism and our leaders wish for the real thing, but it’s not really possible any more because all the mental structures that would hold actual totalitarianism together are laying around in fragments. True, some of the concepts exist, but in weaker, self-defeating forms. George Bush evokes vague traces of leader worship, but he’s not exactly Cleopatra.

The Bush administration is a brilliant example of postmodern thinking. You can tell because they tried to evoke World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Cold War, the Vietnam War, the McCarthy Era and Richard Nixon all at once. They have no defining philosophy. As T.S. Eliot said in The Waste Land, “These fragments I have shored against my ruins.”

The sense that “there is nothing tangible to hold onto” is one of the most disturbing things about our lives and, at the same time, it offers us the most freedom, or at least the potential for freedom. One place this factor appears strongly is in many personal relationships. We lack all the formal social structures, courtship processes, community institutions, and [frequently] the meaning of lifelong vows, but we still try to have relationships; we need to relate, so in one sense we are relating to one another through pieces or fragments of former structures, but often without a unifying concept to hold them together.

Xena the warrior princess is an example of a postmodern figure. She could show up anywhere from ancient Greece to Egypt; she gave the donkey to Mary and Joseph the night that Jesus was born; she was bisexual and it was, apparently, not a huge controversy; and so on. Her story is made of many discordant fragments.

In Eris, we get the personification of discord. She happens to be a deity of a religion called Discordianism, which you’re familiar with if you’ve heard of Robert Anton Wilson and particularly if you’ve read any of the Illuminatus works.

Here is the Wiki summary:

Discordianism is a modern, chaos-based religion founded in either 1958 or 1959. It has been described as both an elaborate joke disguised as a religion, and as a religion disguised as an elaborate joke. Some of its followers make the claim that it is “a religion disguised as a joke disguised as a religion” (or “a joke disguised as a religion disguised as a joke disguised as…”). It can be viewed as a simple rejection of reductionism and dualism, even falsifiability — not in concept different from postmodernism or certain trends in the philosophy of mathematics.

If religion is based on serious principles that one is supposed to believe in, Discordianism is baseless and defies belief itself. For example, the Discordian Society’s definition is, “The Discordian Society has no definition.” Now you may be thinking, this sounds like something like some wiseacre guys in my high school would have come up with. But it has one thing over Republicanism: it’s honest.

What the Discordians are onto is that “belief” is usually a lot of bullshit. Beliefs are usually wrong, they almost always contradict one’s other beliefs, and as Robert Anton Wilson said, “Convictions make convicts.”

Borrowing from T.S. Eliot again, we have yet to recognize that so many things in our lives, that we perceive, that we call entertainment, that we call art, and religion, that we call love and even that we call war, are “a heap of broken images.” We have yet to give a name to our own sense of alienation, longing, fear and loneliness, even though we know that so many other people face the same thing. We have yet to identify our collective sense of dread for the world. With Eris, we can begin by giving this discord a name and an identity, so that we can establish a relationship with her, and start negotiating.

I’ll leave you with one astrological note: since around 1930, Eris has been in Aries, the sign of self and self-identity (and it’s going to be there for a long time to come). I think this speaks volumes about the story of humanity in the 20th century.

A Few Resources

Wiki on Discordianism

Wiki on Eris mythology

Wiki on the idea of “postmodern

Descriptions of postmodernism

“Postmodernism is incredulity towards metanarratives.” – Jean-Francois Lyotard

“A generation raised on channel-surfing has lost the capacity for linear thinking and analytical reasoning.” – Chuck Colson

“Postmodernist fiction is defined by its temporal disorder, its disregard of linear narrative, its mingling of fictional forms and its experiments with language.” – Barry Lewis, Kazuo Ishiguro

“Weird for the sake of [being] weird.” – Moe Szyslak, of The Simpsons

“It’s the combination of narcissism and nihilism that really defines postmodernism.” – Al Gore

Weekly Horoscope for Friday, September 15, 2006, #628 – By ERIC FRANCIS

Virgo Birthdays IV

The approach of a solar eclipse in your birth sign may feel like there’s some kind of urgent transformation arriving — which is true enough, though it’s unlikely to be quite what you think. Eclipses often arrive with a sense of ambiguity; the pressure feels general and difficult to point in one particular direction. Generally, the energy leaves us “where it will” and not necessarily where we choose. But this somewhat odd eclipse on the last day of Virgo is not the only factor in your chart right now.

Presently, the way ahead seems much less clear than the trail you’ve already blazed, but herein lies the mystery. If you turn and look back, you may notice that there appear to be several paths leading to the one place where you now stand. This is represented today by the many people you seem to be, and the many roles you play, some of which have little in common with the others and some which seem to directly contradict. But these “different selves” are actually relics of a many-faceted past that you seem to be working with all your might to go beyond. That is the basic nature of the eclipse.

And in truth, you’ve moved yourself further from that past than you may imagine.

Meanwhile, if you focus your eyes and look ahead, you will see that there is a fairly clear direction you can now take, though you may not trust it because it seems too easy, on the one hand, and like it will require too much devotion, on the other. Is this yet another meaningless paradox? Not quite, because often the things that prove to be the most challenging in the long run are those that were the easiest to get into in the beginning. The sense of ease is not merely a lure, but rather, a reflection of a choice that is in accord with our values.

Yet this is a different kind of challenge than the usual overwork and stress the world so generously heaps onto us in these decades. Two things will be asked of you: One is a devotion to self-mastery. The other is living out your true values not only with truth, but with passion — and without delay. We would all do well to consider the various delays between what we determine is absolutely important to us, and finally acting on that realization.

At the moment, there seems to be neither time for delay, nor the inclination. But you stand in a relatively rare moment of being able to make a choice before you are compelled to do so. Today’s alignment of Mercury and Mars in Libra, exactly trine Chiron in Aquarius, presents you with the option that I will sum up as a special, rare challenge and opportunity.

A week from today, an eclipse of the Sun in your birth sign comes through and does one or more of several possible things: one is that it sweeps the deck of your life clear, making a vivid demarcation between the past and the present. Second is that it may serve to compel you to make a choice where you might otherwise have delayed. In any event, the effect will be to liberate you from elements of your history that no longer serve you and are no longer authentically you at all.

Yet the question of how far to allow in the influences of another person is something that seems to be an intense question for you right now. Part of the challenge you face, and it’s really a pretty good challenge as they come, is integrating the value system of another person into your own reality structure. You may feel, at times, like you are being asked to compromise, which is not entirely accurate. Really, you’re being asked to actually, genuinely consider another person’s point of view — and the fact that it contains something genuinely helpful for you. At the very least, you are being given a chance to raise cooperation on the most important matters in life to an art form. This will prove to be a refreshing change from the usual way of the world.

Aries (March 20-April 19)
Put all your extra energy into addressing matters of your long-term health and wellbeing, because the patterns you set now will stick with you for many months to come. Though you face many satisfying challenges on the work and relationship fronts, I suggest you shift your sense of identify from one known for getting things done to one known for taking care of yourself. Because next week’s meaningful solar eclipse occurs on the imaginary line between your house of well-being and your house of relationships — in essence, blurring the line — one good thing will lead to another. Family Focus: Work is play and play is work. Keep kids busy with productive activities.

Taurus (April 19-May 20)
When you sense the fear that making a particular choice is risky, pause and ask yourself just what you stand to lose — and though it may not occur to you, what you might gain. Being conscious this way will help you avoid secret fears running your life, and at the moment that’s a possibility. But there is power, as in strength and creative potential, wrapped up in that fear. This association is why so often we feel that it’s a huge risk to express ourselves in some creative way, and why, in the end, putting creativity into action is such a dare. Family Focus: Anger is not always inappropriate, we just need to know where the line is. I propose that line is when it’s used as a weapon to instigate guilt in someone.

Gemini (May 20-June 21)
It’s beautiful when intuition works, and so far yours has pointed you in all the right directions. Sometimes that inner voice whispers louder than others, and at the moment it’s likely to be calling you by the ear ever closer to a certain important individual in your life. This is not just a love affair; it’s a healing journey. The story lacks no passion, but the theme is about you stepping out of the mental world of all your notions of what it means to be safe, and into a phase of your life when having the actual experience counts for more than anything else. Family Focus: Remember that children are astute observers of adults.

Cancer (June 21-July 22)
You may be surprised at the impact you have on others and on the overall direction of events. Granted, at times it feels like you’re at the whim of the universe, your boss, your family and six different kinds of chaos theory. The happier truth is that your leadership is deeply valued by the people closest to you, and what is most interesting is how intuitive the whole process is: from how you make your own decisions to the way those decisions inspire the choices of others. Keep your self-confidence; you deserve it. Family Focus: Ease everyone through any tensions in your household by encouraging them to share their thoughts.

Leo (July 22-Aug. 23)
Keep track of the details involved in a certain financial transaction, but more to the point, never lose sight of the creative aspect involved in getting the most from that particular money, or any money. Now that you have something to work with, you can take what would appear on the outside to be an innovative approach. Meanwhile, keep your inner eye open for that one excellent idea that not only solves a problem, but opens a door. And remember, you have more than you think, not less; but at the moment, you can do more with less. Family Focus: Taking care of the small details adds up to seeing the big picture — not always, but for sure, now.

Virgo (Aug. 23-Sep. 22)
Please don’t let the pressure get to you. Be conscious that due to a solar eclipse in your birth sign, which is the second New Moon in your sign in a single month, everything is under the cosmic exaggeration effect right now, particularly your own rather intense mental state. Oddly enough, your mental state is at center stage of this drama and the people in your life are pretty much playing supporting roles. What you are trying to let go of will indeed let go of you, so there is no use struggling. Family Focus: Remember what’s important to you — but don’t fight for it.

Libra (Sep. 22-Oct. 23)
Perhaps you have a glimpse of the unusual positive developments that soon await you, but it also seems something has you rather nervous. To an extreme. It’s as if you can see yourself, and see the world, but not quite focus on the point where the two meet. Looked at another way, the you that you dream of, and the you that you must exist as every day, seem to have little in common. Soon enough, the two halves of the universe will come together and form one magnificent whole. Till then, please keep breathing. Family Focus: Remind everyone that change is a natural part of life. This way, you’ll remember too.

Scorpio (Oct. 23-Nov. 22)
We use the word ‘friend’ way too casually in our society, though you tend to be one who never questions your own loyalty to someone else. You know your friends are the foundation of your life, and that the basis of that is your support of them. Still, you seem to have come to the end of a long cycle involving those with whom you associate. It appears to be time for a change of social scene, and to associate with those whose loyalty comes not in words, but in deed. Before that time, however, a phase of soul searching on all that’s happened lately would definitely be helpful. Family Focus: Ask loved ones to reveal their true feelings late at night, or early in the morning.

Sagittarius (Nov. 22-Dec. 22)
No doubt about it, a professional loyalty is on the line, and it may count for a heck of a lot. Yet it’s also clear that you’re at a natural point of transition around your highest aspirations, and at this point it would be wise to let one door close and a new door open. Next week’s solar eclipse in the career and reputation angle of your chart says to focus not on a ‘sacrifice’ but on the benefits of change — which is another word for opportunity. The people who are most supportive are the ones who will be sticking around. Family Focus: Children and your partner may seem like your friends, but remember that they are your family.

Capricorn (Dec. 22-Jan. 20)
The next week or so presents you with a test of your integrity, and raises the question of whether you can bring what some call the ‘higher self’ into the situations you face. This higher self is given many mystical attributes, but really it’s a perspective on life that allows us to exist exclusively in the present and not drag the baggage of the past into every situation. In the current situation, you will have about one single moment to make the choice of how you handle yourself, and it may arise when you least expect it. The story sums up simply as: do what you know is right, not necessarily what ‘feels good’. Family Focus: It’s healthy to be a slightly different person every day.

Aquarius (Jan. 20-Feb. 19)
You may still be too bogged down in the details of a business or partnership situation to see the big picture. I strongly suggest you take control of your perceptions and assess matters on every level, not just the ones that seem to be bothering you, or the ones where you’re the most devoted to making progress. If you strive for just a little perspective, you will have it. Much that was obscuring both your view and your emotional response to the situation is now out of the way. The main factor creating a distortion at this point is some version of the idea that this is your last chance to do something particularly important. Repeat, this is a distortion. Family Focus: Have a getaway weekend with the one you love — soon.

Pisces (Feb. 19-March 20)
So much activity in your opposite sign Virgo suggests that by all rights, you have your options open where love and passion are concerned. Yet it’s fair to propose that none seems to fit the feeling of what you want or need. I suggest you do a little analysis and find out what’s bothering you. It may relate to a need for emotional flow, questions about availability, or a feeling of being scrutinized. It may come down to too many ideas and not enough reality. Next week’s solar eclipse eloquently brings a long phase of your personal life to a close. As planets gather in Libra, I suggest you be open to the best possibilities, beginning now. Family Focus: This is a great time to discuss family planning, or at least get the discussion going with yourself

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