Last year at Fires of Venus, contemplating the deity in charge of my love life -- who is not, it seems, Aphrodite/Venus but rather Eris/Discordia, goddess of chaos and confusion but also of freedom and of silliness -- I had a revelation about the ur-myth of Eris, the story of the golden apple. The usual version of the story, as found in Bulfinch's Mythology, goes like this:
At the nuptials of Peleus and Thetis all the gods were invited with the exception of Eris, or Discord. Enraged at her exclusion, the goddess threw a golden apple among the guests, with the inscription, “For the fairest.” Thereupon Juno, Venus, and Minerva each claimed the apple. Jupiter, not willing to decide in so delicate a matter, sent the goddesses to Mount Ida, where the beautiful shepherd Paris was tending his flocks, and to him was committed the decision. The goddesses accordingly appeared before him. Juno promised him power and riches, Minerva glory and renown in war, and Venus the fairest of women for his wife, each attempting to bias his decision in her own favor. Paris decided in favor of Venus and gave her the golden apple...Now Helen, the wife of Menelaus, was the very woman whom Venus had destined for Paris, the fairest of her sex. She had been sought as a bride by numerous suitors...She chose Menelaus, and was living with him happily when Paris became their guest. Paris, aided by Venus, persuaded her to elope with him, and carried her to Troy, whence arose the famous Trojan war...
Last year's revelation was that this version of the story is an official history meant to make the opponents of the power structure -- i.e., anti-authoritarian types, such as Eris -- look bad. The apple was not a prank meant to stir up trouble, but rather a wedding gift. After all, who is the "fairest" at any wedding? The bride! Eris was simply giving a gift, and it was the jealousy of Hera, Aphrodite, and Athena that caused the trouble. And let's not neglect their bribery of the judge! The goddesses of business and household affairs, of wisdom and warcraft, and of love, all cheat! This explains much about how the world works, does it not?
I've just returned from this year's Fires of Venus, and as I danced around the bonfire I further contemplated this myth, as well as the chaotic state of my own love life at the moment, and was granted a further revelation to share with the festival attendees. So, yes, Eris had only good intentions and left a wonderful gift, but why did so much trouble come from it? How was it possible for the jealousy of Hera, Aphrodite, and Athena to turn a loving gift into such a disaster? Ambiguous communication. Had she clearly labeled her gift, "For Thetis, the prettiest one", the whole mess could have been avoided! And so I suggested to all present that they attempt to apply this lesson to their romantic endeavors, and indeed to all aspects of their lives. (Of course, it's easier to suggest this to others than to do it oneself.)