From the recent film Sinbad to the Principia Discordia to the Theogany of Hesiod, the Greco-Roman Goddess of Chaos, Discord, and Strife has been showing up a lot recently. Often, she steals glimpses at us from the corner of her eye, watching what we’re doing and waiting to pounce. Some might say that she’s even affected ADF recently, but this is a rumor started by her detractors.
Eris is the Greek goddess of chaos and discord, her Roman equivalent being Discordia. She is listed as both the daughter of Night (Hesiod) and the twin sister of Ares (Homer). Her children are listed in the Theogany as follows: The Children of [“Stubborn”] Eris:
“Hateful Eris gave birth to painful Distress and Distraction and Famine and tearful Sorrow; also Wars and Battles and Murders and Slaughters; also Feuds and Lying Words and Angry Words; also Lawlessness and Madness – two sisters that go together – and the Oath, which, sworn with willful falsehood, brings utter destruction on men.”2
From this we can tell much. She is the mother of things that are an undesirable part of the human experience, but sometimes these things are good (as in the case of Oath), unless used wrongly by mankind.
Eris is represented in ancient depictions with wild, unbound hair streaming from her head, her garments ripped and torn, and often hiding a dagger. In the Renaissance, she was represented with her golden apple, or hiding in the background during the judgment of Paris (more on that later). Most recently, we can find that she is usually represented with her apple, often in various states of undress, and often seductive and occasionally the “eye of the storm,” chaos swirling about her, but constantly smiling and enjoying herself.
As a Discordian myself (a devotee of Eris), I once asked her why her image had changed so often. She claims that the Greeks and Romans were a “constipated folk” and “victims of indigestion.” Asking her about modern Pagan reconstructionists who see her as a nasty, evil force, she said that they are obviously “re-constipated, the poor things.”
Modern Discordians and Erisians worship a very different goddess than that of the ancient Greeks and Romans. Here, Eris is a deity of creative chaos, always putting her devotees in situations where they are forced to find their own ways out, and she quite often makes sure that someone is having fun in the process (even if it is only Herself who laughs). Discordians are not afraid of their Goddess (except at certain times of the month), and often poke fun at her, draw her in suggestive poses, and create strange prayers3 to her that they refuse to use (because those prayers might just come true).
She is a deity of troubadours and clowns, scientists and children, cats and artists, and other groups that are no farther apart than their own definition. When you hear the word, “Oops,” you know that she’s active. When you have lost your keys and find them in the bag you rifled through six times, she’s working hard. When everything goes wrong just before it goes right, you know she’s blessed you.
She has a bartender’s ear and a beachcomber’s style. Her smile is that of the Cheshire cat, and the sparkle in her eye is amazingly seductive. Sometimes she takes you, your life, and everything you know, adds ice, and shakes you until everything seems wrong, but when you’re dumped out, you generally land on your feet.
Academically speaking, though, Eris is not all skittles and beer. It is she who caused the first war among men, the Trojan War, because she was not invited to the wedding of Peleus and Thetis (let this little allegory be a story to those who don’t invite the Outdwellers to rites). When Eris found out that she had not been invited to the wedding of Peleus and Thetis, she created a golden apple. Upon it was written the word “Kallisti”, a Greek word meaning, “For the prettiest (one).” She took this apple to the wedding and rolled it in among the guests. All the goddesses assumed it was theirs (obviously), but three in particular out-fought the others. These were Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite. This fight was eventually broken up by Zeus, who declared that they would find someone else to make the decision of who was “the prettiest,” as Zeus is no dummy. He picks out a Trojan prince who just happens to be herding sheep, and he’s offered bribes to pick each one (Hera offers wealth, Athena offers victory, and Aphrodite offers the most beautiful woman in the world). Being a wonderfully intelligent (and strapping young) lad, he gives the apple to Aphrodite and gets the hottie.
You know the story from here, because we’ve all seen the major motion picture that came out of it (i.e. Orlando Bloom goes all invincible elf on everybody, and lots of hot men get oiled up, and Brad Pitt’s rear-end gets its own salary and mention in the credits). The point of this whole story is that bad things do happen when you try to force chaos out of your life and/or your rites. Quite often, we forget that chaos and disorder are a part of nature, and while we may not be comfortable with them, we are still forced to think about them and respond to them in ways that may be vastly different than anything else we might encounter.
Often, as Druids and as an organization, we’re seen as “stilted” or “stiff ” by people outside. Most other Pagans look at ADF and call us “high ritual” or “stuck in supplication and never in experience.” One of the lessons that Eris can teach us is that sometimes experience is more important than book-learning. Sometimes, we can remember that while sincerity is no substitute for competence, neither is competence any substitute for sincerity. We need to be able to laugh at ourselves as loudly as we pray, and we need to remember that our worship and Our Fellowship are both made up of individuals who need to experience our gods, not just study them.
Eris is the heart of playfulness and joy in ritual, and it is through her that we are finally able to experience these things as if we were children. She is a deity that should be taken only in moderation, though (two before bed, and call your doctor if symptoms persist in the morning), for if you dive too deeply into her world, you will have problems ever seeing things seriously again.
I’ve already mentioned her as an Outdweller. Chaos is not something that one should generally invite into a rite, where (if you happen to believe Eliade) you are recreating a sacred past that is ordered and structured. There are times, however, when chaos is a perfectly acceptable (and perhaps even highly useful) attribute to call upon. As mentioned above, ADF rites have a reputation of being stogy and boring. If the rite can use some spice, you might change the Outdweller offering to invite Eris to the party (I suggest having a bowl of punch and a hotdog sans bun available for offering), but if you do you should make it perfectly clear that her “help” is not what you’re asking for, just that you’re letting her know that she has not been forgotten.
Using Eris as a Patron for a rite becomes a bit tricky. It should go without saying, but invoking her to certain rites (such as the ADF Unity Rite) might not be a good idea unless you craft your words very, very carefully, and even then only a Discordian Pope should undertake such a serious thing. If you’re running something like a Fools’ Rite or a Rite of Inversion, Eris might just be the kick in the pants your ritual needs. The emphasis she can place on creative forms of chaos can be amazing, and she is excellent for starting new projects that you don’t know where to start with (and even better for starting projects you aren’t at all sure you do want to start).
One final (though by no means the last) way to incor- porate Eris into an ADF rite is as the unformed chaos potential that the rite uses to form itself. Remember that she is a daughter of Night, and as such has control over the formless things of the void, as she is one herself.
As you can see, Eris isn’t the boogy-woman some have made her out to be. She has legitimate uses here and there for any person. Those of us who have a relationship with her urge you to run the other direction. If you are a glutton for punishment, though, and embrace her as she does you, you’ll be in for the ride of your life. The carnival doesn’t stop once it’s begun.
Remember, next time you do a ritual and something goes wrong, the laughter in the background is simply a reminder from your resident crazy-woman-god that everything is going according to plan.
1 Full title: Pope Cockroach the Green, POEE, Devotee to St. Gulik, Emperor and Lord Protector of the Lands Between State Lines, Chairman of the Committee to Move Independence Day back to July 2, Keeper of Souls stolen by photographs, Chief Librarian of all libraries on the Moon, Second Assistant to the ResNet Goddess, Fifth Poet of the State of Chaos, Excommunicator of YOU, De-excommunicator of YOU, Preceptor of the Emperor’s New Clothes Coven, Chief Hunter and Skinner of Fluffy Bunnies, Lounge Singer at the Hotel Nirvana, Game Warden for the Happy Hunting Grounds, and National Swashbuckler for the Nation of Djibouti.
2 Hesiod. Theogany. Trans. Norman O. Brown. Prentice Hall; June 1953 (ISBN: 0672602024)
3 Discordian Meal blessing:
Eris Good and Strong and Bright,
Make this food safe tonight.
Anthrax, chicken pox and hugs,
Please keep at bay such thugs.
Kitty claws and dragon teeth
Do not contaminate my beef.*
My veggies and salads green
Are not replaced with dolphin spleen.
Eris, O Mother Discordia and Poof
Take this as prayer, not spoof.
Through your guidance and strife
May we see our lessons in life!
*Vegetarians may change this to:
Kitty claws and dragon sneeze
Do not contaminate my cheese.
“Eris.” submitted by Rev. Michael J. Dangler