PBP - Eris, the Goddess of Motivation and Mettle

It seems that whenever I sit down to write during the week, the PBP is still in the back of my mind. I've been writing articles since Tuesday, and every article is now a stub for a PBP article, waiting for its turn.

Naturally, nothing started with "E," so I'm writing this off-the-cuff again.

Our Lady of Eternal Chaos by Candy Palmer
Our Lady of Eternal Chaos by Candy Palmer
Our Lady of Eternal Chaos by Candy Palmer (Image Source)

I have to admit that researching Eris and Discordianism is what brought me to Hellenismos. I don't believe in Discordianism, but I agree with some of their ideals. That caused me to dig deeper into my research until I discovered Hellenismos, something I hadn't known existed. It never occurred to me to go back to the source. In a way, the answer was in front of my face the whole time.

There aren't many myths involving Eris, the Goddess of Strife and Discord, but She always makes an impact whenever She's involved. She's usually considered a "minor" Goddess, yet She's mentioned twice per month on the Hellenic calendar. (If you don't read Baring the Aegis, you should.)

The Judgement of Paris and the Trojan War

I already wrote a quick synopsis of Eris's part in the Trojan War in my Pagan Blog Project article about apples.

When Eris was not invited to the marriage of Peleus and Thetis, She decided to cause a little mischief. She threw the Golden Apple of Discord and Paris's feet with the label καλλίστη (to the fairest/most beautiful). Aphrodite, Hera, and Athene all claimed it because of the label. Paris had to choose which Goddess deserved the Apple, and his decision led to the Trojan War.

Of course, the three Goddess each tried to bribe Paris. Paris chose the love of a woman over political power and skill. The problem was that the woman, Helen of Troy, was already married royalty.

Jove [Zeus] is said to have invited to the wedding of Peleus and Thetis all the gods except Eris, or Discordia. When she came later and was not admitted to the banquet, she threw an apple through the door, saying that the fairest should take it. Juno [Hera], Venus [Aphrodite], and Minerva [Athene] claimed the beauty prize for themselves. A huge argument broke out among them. Jupiter [Zeus] ordered Mercurius [Hermes] to take them to Mt Ida to Paris Alexander and order him to judge. Juno [Hera] promised him, if he ruled in her favour, that he would rule all the lands and dominate the rest in wealth; Minverva [Athena], if she left the winner, that he would be the strongest among mortals and know every skill; Venus [Aphrodite], however, promised that he would marry Helen, daughter of Tyndareus, the most beautiful woman in the world. Paris preferred this last gift to the previous ones and ruled Venus was the prettiest. Because of this, Juno [Hera] and Minerva [Athena] were angry with the Trojans. Alexander, at the prompting of Venus [Aphrodite], took Helen from his host Menelaus from Lacedaemon to Troy, and married her

 - Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 92 (trans. Grant) (Roman mythographer C2nd A.D.)

Goddess of Motivation

Eris in Sinbad
Eris in Sinbad
(Image Source)

As seen in the myth, Eris is subtle. She knows how to "play the game." It's for this reason She gets a bad reputation. She's even the villain in Dreamworks's Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seaspbp-eris-fn1. Not everything She does is "bad," though. In fact, there may be two Goddesses by the name of Eris, one being completely "good."

It was never true that there was only one Eris (Strife). There have always been two on earth. There is one you could like when you understand her. The other is hateful. The two Erites have separate natures. There is one Eris who builds up evil war, and slaughter. She is harsh; no man loves her, but under compulsion and by will of the immortals, men promote this rough Eris (Strife). But the other one was born the elder daughter of black Nyx. The son of Kronos, who sits on high and dwells in the bright air set her in the roots of the earth and among men; she is far kinder. She pushes the shiftless man to work, for all his laziness. A man looks at his neighbour, who is rich: then he too wants work; for the rich man presses on with his ploughing and planting and ordering of his estate. So the neighbour envies the neighbour who presses on toward wealth. Such Eris (Strife) is a good friend to mortals.

 - Hesiod, Works and Days 11 ff (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C8th or C7th B.C.)

This goes completely against the idea of "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's goods." Coveting causes (honest) people to work harder, building character and developing skills to create a more ideal, well-rounded person. George Carlin had a good breakdown of the Ten Commandments, and this one he dismissed entirely. (The relevant Commandment is at 3m35s.)

Watch on YouTube

Eris gives you goals to work toward.

Goddess of Mettle

1. Courage and fortitude; spirit: troops who showed their mettle in combat.
2. Inherent quality of character and temperament.

on (one's) mettle
Prepared to accept a challenge and do one's best.

 - The Free Dictionary

This is the true beauty of Eris.

Delphic Maxim 80 tells us to "despise strife." This is true. People should avoid bitter and possibly violent conflict if possible. You shouldn't want to fight.

However, when someone's back is to the wall, Eris reveals what a person is truly capable of. Deep down, are you a coward, or will you stand up for yourself? Are your friends true friends, or will they abandon you in your time of need? When everything is lost, do you accept your fate or will you take them down with you?

This situation is the basis for a tremendous number of movies and TV show episodes, especially if the plot involves an underdog.

Gizmo - Gremlins 2

Marshall - How I Met Your Mother

River - Serenity

It's easy to imagine yourself winning that bar brawl defending your friends. It's different when you're actually put in the situation. There is no build up, no fantasy, just pure strife put against your strength of character.

If you are not strong and well-rounded, Eris tests you in ways that you will not be prepared for. To deny Her is to deny who you truly are. That sounds like shame to me.

pbp-eris-fn1 Although, this is more likely due to cultural misinterpretations. For comparison, think of Hades in Disney's Hercules.