(Note from Daven: Please note, this is NOT my article, but it is THE best article I have ever seen dealing with who Eris is and why we should care. Do not make the mistake of dismissing this goddess just because she seems scary like other trickster/chaotic deities (like Loki, Coyote and Discordia) have been in the past. They are CRITICAL to our world. I made a comment when I read this article, and the author said it was one of the best summations of how a Discordian sees Chaos: “Creative Chaos. Without chaos, no inventions can happen, no progress can be made, for it is the spark of the Chaotic that prompts inspiration. Total Order is stagnation. ” So, keep that in mind.)
Eris, the Goddess of Confusion, Chaos, and Laughter
by “Irreverend Hugh (otherwise known as Triskell), KSC, of the Discordians for Softer Sandpaper Society”
“Eris doesn’t want your soul. She only wants to talk to you.”
Eris/Discordia was feared and maligned, we think unfairly, by the ancient Greeks and Romans who saw in Her the personification of every thing that was a threat to their sense of a well-run, neat, and ordered Cosmos. Some Greeks adhered to the idea that there were really two deities known as Eris. (This double divinity of Chaos was known collectively as the ‘Erites’. Not to be confused with the Furies who are the ‘Erinyes’.) The ‘first Eris’ was the same old malignant ‘bitch’ Goddess from patriarchic fantasy who reveled in the causes, effects, and general confusion of warfare. The ‘second Eris’ was more of a benign ‘spur’ in people’s sides to get them off their lazy butts and start doing things to change their world in whatever way that meant. Other ancient Greeks thought that both of these aspects were one and the same Eris. Today’s Discordians usually agree with the latter approach, though the Eris of today is conceived of in ways that the ancients never did, at least according to remaining written Classical Hellenic evidence.
Traditionally, Eris was seen as the daughter of Chaos, though Her genealogy is a bit confused. In modern times, however, She is viewed as a personification of Chaos. The Greek word ‘Eris’ literally meant ‘strife’ or ‘discord’. Unless this is explained, people will get a nasty impression of Eris. To start with, Eris can be nasty, but who can’t be at times? But that is only one of Her moods, and most of the nastiness that the ancients attributed to Her was really their own damned fault. People often like to blame deities for their own shortcomings, and Eris gets blamed for causing a lot of things that humans themselves have willfully and gleefully created. The Discordian tendency is to see Eris as the mere catalyst, or agent of instigation, if you will. She simply picks at those with pompous and self-righteous attitudes and behaviors until they finally let it all out and act out their true vile desires. The Discordian adage “If people don’t want wars, why do wars keep happening?” sums this up nicely. We humans do all the deeds to each other, and then bicker over who is to blame – as used to the idea of ‘finding and denouncing the no-good-shits’ as we are. Eris is here for us to see that we are the ones to blame. Simply put: Stop your whining and take some responsibility for the mess you have created.
Today’s Eris, as is often said by Discordians, shows more of Her mellow aspects, at least to Her ‘co-conspirators’ who sometimes tend to err on the side of attributing to Her every sort of weirdness that intrudes into their lives. Eris is said to be responsible for generating bureaucracies among human societies to both keep the tyrants confused and to keep the intelligent perplexed. She is also here to tell us that, contrary to the religious, spiritual, and theological dogmas of the past centuries, We Are Free. Humankind is not inherently flawed, spiritually blocked, or sinful. Any flaws, blocks, or sins as may exist are entirely our own doing, and as such, they can be overcome, outgrown, or avoided if we decide so.
Today’s Eris is said to have returned to humanity after She had left back in ancient times. She has returned because humans are now socially, emotionally, and intellectually capable of growing up and finally learning how to live in the world. Our species’ ‘psychic development’ is ‘nearing completion’ as the oft quoted Principia Discordia line says. Many Discordians, of course, argue about just what the hell this means. Some of them reject it entirely, pointing out that human beings are no less capable of stupidity then at any other time before. The main difference between nowadays and ‘before’ is that human stupidity is now so dangerous that it can destroy all life on Earth. Perhaps that is the reason for Eris’s return. (Though many Discordians would ask “Why would Eris care about that?”)
Eris is, besides all that, a Goddess of laughter. And laughter is what Discordianism is mainly all about. The key insight that humanity can solve its problems when it stops taking itself so seriously is what keeps Discordians fluid and humorous. It also helps those Discordians who practice the mind-discipline of magic from succumbing to the occult mental illness known as ‘magusitis’, whereby magical practitioners begin to believe themselves to be ‘above the herd’ or better than the rest. Laughter is the most important component of Discordian practices. It is considered by some to be the central way of reverencing Eris Herself.
Eris is a paradoxical being Herself, and each Discordian has their own perspective, or set of perspectives, about Her – either due to Her shenanigans, the pineal gland of the Discordian in question, and/or some weird combination of both. She does exhibit some of the qualities associated with other divine beings. She does ‘smite’. She visits people in their visions and dreams, if not in other ways. She tends to reserve a special spot in Her heart for those Discordians who can cause the most amount of activity on Her behalf. She also reserves a place in Her heart for people who have lost their minds, either willingly or not. She appears when Her ‘followers’ least expect it, despite the ritual or lack thereof.
In terms of imagery, Eris is usually portrayed as a disheveled haired women in an equally disheveled white dress. Sometimes, however She wears slick urban night life clothing. Her hair and eye colors tend to vary from depiction to depiction. She is chaos, after all. She is shown sometimes holding a golden apple with the word ‘kallisti’ (Greek for ‘to the prettiest’) inscribed thereupon. Discordians also like to think of all women being physical embodiments of Eris. This was originally because most Discordians were heterosexual men. But such a masculine heterosexual numerical dominance of a Goddess-centered ‘irreligion’ was bound to evaporate due to its inherent absence of sexism. The Discordian Society of today actually has a higher proportion of women than men and a good number of them are of many sexual preferences. (And due to the non-focus within Discordianism on such sociological categories as above, this is the only place in this whole treatment you will find them discussed.)
Eris also represents the active principle of standing up for oneself in the face of exclusion, betrayal, or injustice. In Discordianism, getting ‘even’ is considered a valuable experience in one’s ability to recognize a need for redress without having to rely on so-called authority or parent figures to tell them so. How a Discordian goes about gaining redress is left up to each person. The Myth of the Golden Apple (discussed below) is often cited as a prime example of doing so.
Eris is freedom, creative chaos, and laughter itself, as discussed above. The following is a piece written years ago for my home-group’s website which takes quite a different angle of approach with Eris. I include it merely to show how conceptions of Eris can vary. (And not, I promise, to pan out this treatment with filler.)
Eris was much maligned and feared by the Greeks and Romans. It is suspected that they feared and maligned Her because She wasn’t a weak willed Goddess of Beauty or some other such patriarchal construction. Like the ancient Celtic Goddess, Macha, She embodies all the aspects of human femininity from a time before the advent of dominator cultures and their insistence upon endemic warfare. She would not fit into the mold that the warrior castes needed. Thus they slandered Her and attributed to Her all of the negative aspects of warfare that they saw in themselves. (You can witness this behavior today when women get slandered by rejected suitors and such.) Being the dominators that they were, they turned Her love of Creative Chaos and Disagreement into something evil. And what is more evil to dominators than disagreement and loss of control? People who consider themselves Discordians/Erisians are befriending and getting to know Eris (and that’s about all they agree upon, if they even agree on that). She delights in confounding the intelligent, confusing the seeker, and illuminating the lover…all for the purpose of getting us to open up to the possibility that play is one of the highest celebrations in life. As to warfare, She has told humanity that if they didn’t want war then they should stop it. She also provides a good example to everyone who has ever been snubbed or maligned. She didn’t sit there and accept it. She took action by throwing Her golden apple of Discord among the other Goddesses who then proceeded to fight bitterly over it because it had “to the prettiest one” written on it. If only those Goddesses knew the simple truth that we are all the prettiest ones…but our history is littered with the slaughter of people fighting each other to prove that they are the prettiest/best/perfect/chosen ones and all the others are no good shits. The Erisian Movement is dedicated to stopping such stupidity by subverting the means by which people choose to remain locked into stupid behaviors.
Here is another Discordian’s take on our Goddess which is found in the Book of Eris:
“Eris is beyond mere words. [For example,] Discussing the glass [as half-empty or half-full] can never replace the experience of drinking from it; describing the various perspectives will never get you closer to the actual act of savoring the water.”
Even though the essay was focused on the old proverbial glass of water metaphor, it is a succinct way of exposing many of our approaches to the world and Eris Herself. (I must also parenthetically mention that the essay is also one of the freshest and creative takes on the old glass of water metaphor.)
Another Book of Eris section entitled “Seeing Eris” goes: “How can the divine Eris be seen? In beautiful forms, breathtaking wonders, awe-inspiring miracles? Eris is not obliged to present Herself this way. She is always present and always available. When Speech is exhausted and mind dissolved, She presents Herself. When clarity and purity are cultivated, She reveals Herself. When sincerity is unconditional, She reveals Herself. If you are willing to be lived by Her, you will see Her everywhere, even in the most ordinary things.”
As a final insertion of examples of approaching or viewing Eris, here is a text on the issue which I wrote for a sermon entitled “Erisianity”. It deals with five major aspects of Eris as revealed to myself and those of my Discordian home-group. As the above examples, it is in no way meant to be taken as the ultimate definitive statement. Again, these are merely for the reader to understand the plethora of possibility in Discordian approaches to Our Lady.
Many people like to believe Hesiod (that old Greek writer) when he wrote that there were two deities called Eris; one a spur in your side to get you off your ass; the other a violent and angry war-causing spiteful power that strikes fear into the hearts of humankind—or probably just ‘mankind’ as women usually had no reason to fear Eris. However, Hesiod was just fiddling around with semantics. We know both descriptions of Eris are about one and the same being. And She is your Goddess. Of course, the description of Her being the one who spurs you to get off your ass, fits well with modern Discordian ideas, in as much as it can be said that we have ideas, in as much as it can be said that ideas can be possessed. But we know that the angry spiteful description of Eris fits Her as well. Snub Her and watch how She gets. (I must add that insulting Her really doesn’t anger Her, especially if you are one of Her Children, and She sort of expects that sort of thing from people going around calling themselves Discordians anyway.) Hesiod, though ancient and long dead, really didn’t know what he was talking about, and his mindfuck, while possibly effective back when he wrote, has no effect on we Discordians today. Though it might still be useful to use on THEM.
Let’s forget about Hesiod. In keeping with the law of fives, or something of that sort, there may be five main aspects of Erisian manifestations or visitations; Chaos, discord, confusion, bureaucracy, and the aftermath. Chaos being Eris’s usual aspect of laugh-happy freedom and the dynamic balance between creative order and disorder—the Hodge and the Podge. Discord being what happens when Eris and/or Her Children are snubbed, ignored, or attacked—Eris gets angry and She gets even, and so does Her Children. Confusion can be considered both the result of this discord started by Eris and Her Children (otherwise known as ‘us’), and the result of THEM—the snubbers, etc.—trying to manage the ‘problem’. But we know THEY can’t really manage the problem now, can THEY? Because of this confusion, THEY start to make laws, procedures, and ideas to cover every possibility in a feverish attempt to use confusion to get out of confusion, a.k.a. bureaucracy—and it’s because of ‘us’ that THEY do so. Of course bureaucracy is Eris simply making THEM look silly, and we are, of course, in on this gag. Eris also gets us to stuff the society at large with so many papers, files, reports, revelations, and ideas. So many uncategorizable damned things start popping up everywhere that society at large must use vast resources (such as paper or file space) to try to keep up. (Remember that when faced with Eris’s bureaucracy aspect of confusion trying to solve confusion, THEY begin to go bananas, whereas ‘we’ tend to laugh.) It is inevitable that the bureaucracy becomes so large and unwieldy by THEM that THEY begin to succumb to Eris’s whispers or shouts of freedom—the aftermath being the aspect of Eris turning on the pineal gland. Many of THEM become ‘us’ and do not even know it, unless we tell THEM. Or Eris tells THEM.
With the above examples, one can see clearly that Eris is, always can be, and will be a profound being who reveals Herself in many ways to Her co-conspirators and worshippers. Those non-Discordian Neo-Pagans, or even non-Pagans, can begin to see that their oft leveled accusation that the worship and reverence of Eris is shallow and silly is plainly wrong (and a stupid prejudice at that). Eris and the practice of Discordianism is as profound as any other religious tradition, probably even more profound than many of them. We Discordians would agree with the ‘silly’ part, however. What’s the point of reverence if it can’t be humorous?
One of the silliest accusations leveled by many Neo-Pagans is that Eris is a completely modern invention of the Discordian Society. Such Neo-Pagans then assume that they are in a better position in relating to the Divine, because, of course, their own Deities are verifiably ancient, and therefore not modern inventions. (This is the old “Ancient is better” fallacy, yet again rearing its ugly head.) The accusation is dead wrong, as Eris appears, albeit fragmentarily, in Classical Greek writings. As to any modern Discordian ideas and practices relating to Her worship, reverence, and invocations; of course they are ‘modern’. But then again, so is the vast majority of other Neo-Pagan practices relating to other deities, regardless of the ‘ancient feelings’ or the scraps of remaining older pre-Christian practices that they contain. That some religion, spiritual system, or even ‘irreligion’ went ahead and created a set of traditions and practices, does not invalidate the insights or the profundity of it. Wiccans, of all the other Neo-Pagans, should know this fact first hand.
Also, since the accusation of the Discordian Society ‘making up’ Eris from scratch is so silly, who do you think is really responsible for that little gem of dis-information? (Besides all that, isn’t the argument over Who is a Real Deity™ as opposed to all the ‘fakes’ a bit similar to the same old Monotheist arguments? Aren’t Neo-Pagans supposed to be beyond all those theological territorial pissing contests anyway?)
Those of you Neo-Pagans who are concerned that such a being as Eris, the Goddess of Chaos, Confusion, Laughter, and Discord, could even exist, should really look at some of the other deities such as Thor, Diana, and the others. Those of you Neo-Pagans who are concerned about the effects of people going around worshipping Eris (the ‘oh-my-gods-they’re-revering-a-goddess-of-chaos’ line) should really ask yourselves why you are so prejudiced. Let me reiterate that each person who invokes Eris, has a slightly different idea of Eris. But that’s no different from any other relationship. All those who say that Eris was invented by modern Discordians should really learn to do their research- something that Neo-Pagans are notorious for avoiding, I know. And hey, if modern Wiccans can call upon an Italicized Goddess called Diana which either came down through folk tales from the Roman times during which She was worshipped, or was artfully created by Charles Leland (who wrote Aradia) -and the Romans learned about Diana from the Scythians, by the way- then obviously our Eris of today is of course going to be different from the way the old Hellenes thought of Her. (Diana and Eris get along well enough, I’ll have you know. At least, that’s what They both tell me.) Let me conclude by saying that many of us Discordians couldn’t give a hoot about whether or not Eris was ‘invented’ or not, and anyone who thinks She was made up in modern times are victims to some special line of bullshit that She-Who-Done-It-All has whispered into their ears.
Originally posted 2015-07-19 16:41:26. Republished by Blog Post Promoter