S1. Ep7. Moirai – The Goddesses of Fate

Moirai, Fates – are the three goddesses who determined human destinies, and in particular the span of a person’s life and in doing so their allotment of misery and suffering.

Homer spoke of Fates as Fate, Moira, singular – as an impersonal power and sometimes makes its functions interchangeable with those of the Olympian Gods and places Fate above Gods – something that they could not intervene with – apart from Zeus in some exceptions.

From the time of the poet Hesiod (8th century onwards), the Fates were personified as three women thus become plural Moirai, who spun the threads of human destiny as he writes in the Theogony. Their names were Clotho, Lachesis and Atropos.

Clotho meaning Spinner, spun the thread of life, Lachesis meaning Alotter would decide how long this thread of life would be and Atropos meaning inflexible would cut the thread to bring the life to an end. So, the Moirai can be perceived as both goddesses of birth but also of death.

The word Moira means share or portion of something, whether meal, land or spoils of war so by extension Moirai means the apportioners, the ones who give to each his own portion – in this case their own portion of life.

The representation of the Fates evolved through time, and it seems that it often depended on the medium through which they were portrayed. Thus, in the visual arts, they were usually depicted as handsome women, but in literature, they are often imagined as both old and ugly. Any case, they are almost always pictured as weaving or binding thread. Sometimes, one – or all – of them can be seen reading or writing the book of fate. However, its widely understood that they were not concerned with the lives of mortal, they just knew the birth, extent of life and death of mortals, it was up to them how to be within that allotted timeframe. The thread of life they weaved, not to be cheated or changed exemplifies the life of humans. They were often accompanied by several deities and spirits, and they would assign one to each according to their situation.

Listen to the rest on The World of Momus: History & Myth podcast.

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