This is part two of Trickster #1 in a series of trickster posts. No clue how many I’ll write because the freaky dudes and dudettes keep popping up out of the woodwork. There’s a cache of tricksters awaiting us, an assortment, quite a batch, an assemblage, a cluster, a regular caboodle, a glorious assortment. Absolutely tricksters galore, a lavish abundance, overflowing and concealed. We have tricksters plentiful to pick from, soak in, and learn from.
Strap in crazies, we’re in for a strange, sometimes odd, but always fun ride. It’ll be entertaining at worst. At best, you might meet a beastie you like.
(Reminder: I use the names Eris and Discordia interchangeably, as they’re the same goddess with two different names.)
Eris is credited with mothering multiple horrid children who caused destruction and pain for humans worldwide.
Strife, her son, who tags along when she accompanies Ares into the battlefield during wartime.
A daughter, Dysnomia, the personification of lawlessness. She’s called a demon in some versions.
Eris has a third child, a daughter, named Ate, or Folly. This child is the one I find interesting and the most telling. Ate is seen in two differing lights.
One, as a creature who leads others to make very bad decisions. When she did this to Zeus, he banned her from living among the gods.
Two, Ate was seen as an avenger of evil deeds. She justly punished the bad guys. So let’s recap here. Ate or Folly, known as a dual being. Cruel and just. Sounds kinda sorta like a trickster, no?
Which leads me to the possibility that Eris isn’t so bad after all. Rather, trapped in a mythos that was always going to see her as a villain, because she was a female.
Yep. It’s true.
I’m one of “those people”.
You know, the ones who think men and women are different but of equal value?
Now don’t get your panties in a bunch, this isn’t going to be an anti-male rant. Which has nothing to do with feminism or equal rights, as it is. But let’s not get into that. I might resort to throwing gold apples at people’s heads.
I wonder, as I often find when peering deeper into myths, if some of the women of mythology were painted in a bad light compared to their male counterparts, on purpose.
(Don’t get me started on the Medusa myth. We might be here for a while.)
Going back to the etymology from part one, you’ll notice one of the root meanings is “strife”.
As one author pulling apart Eris’ intricacies pointed out, use another tense of “strife”, and you have “striving”. He goes on to further add that during change, a person strives to improve their life, their situation, or their atmosphere, community, etc.
When a man is a good leader, he’s called a good leader. For a woman, however, they’re being “aggressive”, “bossy”, “bratty”, or a handful of cuss words.
That’s a good way to describe a lot of strong females in mythology. Not that there aren’t nasty women. But when they all crop up either nasty or helpless or raped…. Well, I’ll stick with my bet on the subject matter.
Eris is no exception. She’s seen as a goddess who causes issues.
When women want to compete with men, they’re seen as aggressive or just plain stupid.
Discordia causes strife, discord, war. She threw a golden apple into the mix, which started a competition which then led to a war.
I wonder if she was depicted this way not because she wanted to cause bloodshed and misery, but because she wanted to compete and was thrown to the dogs for it.
Then again, I could totally be reading into what isn’t there, as there are plenty of chicks who are goddesses of war in mythology.
Totally up to you. *cue Reading Rainbow theme song*
Eris and Disney’s Maleficent
Maleficent in Sleeping Beauty is rumored to be fashioned after Eris of Greek mythology.
Seeing the similarities?
During the Apple of Discord incident (also called the Judgment of Paris), Eris wasn’t invited to a wedding and thusly created conflict, which led to war.
In the fairy tale of Sleeping Beauty, Maleficent wasn’t invited to the King’s daughter’s christening and was thusly offended. She then cursed the daughter, which ended up creating an unconscious kingdom.
Maleficent is now a movie wherein she’s the hero. Wronged and wrongly accused, hated and demonized, she is in truth, an enraged victim who eventually finds her way back to who she always was, and rules her kingdom with justice and love. Becoming Sleeping Beauty’s true protector.
Maleficent, or Eris, is demonized in typical fashion for characters of myth and folklore. And yet, in the current cultural shifts, we’re allowing strong women to appear as something other than evil or bloodthirsty. Showing them rather as another human being who has the potential to lead and/or create a situation where people can strive to become better.
I wonder. If Eris/Discordia was created today, would she be Maleficent in the newest telling of the story?
Tricky to Pigeonhole
Then again, Ares, the god of war, was hated, even more so than Eris. So perhaps I’m looking for something that isn’t there.
When it comes to tricksters, it’s completely up to you. To each of us.
They are whatever we need them to be. They are the outer limits of the box, walking the fence, they are exactly what we don’t know we need, but often do. There’s typically a lesson within each of them, even if it’s only a cautionary tale of where we ought not go, what we needn’t do, what decisions we’re better off not making.
That’s what’s so exciting about tricksters.
Like Pocahontas suggested, you don’t know what you don’t know.
Tricksters are always ever so willing to point out to us what we’re lacking and where we have room to grow as individuals, families, and societies.
Eris as a Trickster
In a sentence, Eris was known as the cause of violent woe and bloody destruction.
This trickster begins insignificant, certainly not a major player. Eventually, however, Eris becomes quite the foe to tackle. Pretty soon she craves bloodshed and war and is constantly causing issues among humans, so she can realize her desires.
She’s known as a scourge on humankind and none of the other Greek deities want her around, except Ares, god of war, and occasionally, Zeus, when he can use her destruction.
But perhaps the best part of this tale is left to a few lines, tucked away in “Works and Days”, the Greek epic by Hesiod.
Perhaps you only make it to the best part of this trickster if you stick around and keep your ear to the ground, waiting, watching, believing there is something a little more to be gleamed.
Some consider Eris the daughter of Nyx (or Night). Others consider her the child of Zeus and Hera. This is where things get really interesting. According to Hesiod, there are two forms of Eris.
Did you bloody hear that?! Two forms! Two sides to strife, discord. Two forms of Eris.
The only form of Eris we ever hear about is the evil one, the woman who creates pain and bloody deaths for her amusement.
The second form of Eris is more competition than bloodlust. This is what the author I was talking about touched on when he referenced to striving. To strive for betterment, more, an increase of good things in life.
This form of Eris, when she is (rarely) spoken of, brings joy and hope to humans. She inspires within them to become the best versions of themselves.
To be honest, Discordia is offering two sides of a coin. People typically pick the negative, the drama, the bloodlust. So they can hate, jeer against, and throw all their problems on someone else. Eris might very well be the result of supply and demand. Story consumers want conflict, pain, nastiness, people to hate. Story creators create what their audience will buy, absorb.
That’s a pretty simplistic view of course. But it begs the question; what are we demanding of our stories? What do we want to see in the world, in our world?
After all, the best stories hold a mirror up to the person reading them.
What do you see when you look at, and really see, absorb, understand, Discordia, the trickster with a hidden dual nature?