Fates

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The Fates are a common motif in European polytheism, most frequently represented as a trio of goddesses. The Fates shape the destiny of each human, often expressed in textile metaphors such as spinning fibers into yarn, or weaving threads on a loom. This trio is composed of sisters who go by the names Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos (also known as the daughters of Zeus and Themis). These divine figures are often artistically depicted as beautiful maidens with consideration to their serious responsibility: the life of mortals.[1] Poets typically express the Fates as ugly and unwavering, representing the gravity of their role within the mythological and human worlds.[2]

The Fates controlling the thread of life with their tools.

Individual roles[edit]

The Moirai, meaning "allotted portion" or "share", separated each sister into a different role in order to handle the fates of humans. The Fates were expected to appear within three days of a mortal's birth.[3] Clotho was the first of the three, known as "the spinner", due to the fact that she would weave the threads of human life while in the womb.[4] This act is used to represent her divine duty, also incorporating pregnancies or birth when referring to her. The second Fate, Lachesis, is known as "the Allotter," given the fact that her responsibility includes determining how much mortal life is assigned to the souls of each individual.[5] This, in turn, determines the number of tribulations that individual is predestined to face. The final Fate, Atropos, is known as the most stubborn sister of the three, coined the nickname "the un-turnable".[6] Completing the cycle, Atropos is expected to cut off the thread of life, determining when a human will die. She is typically seen hand in hand with death and the Underworld. Once Atropos cuts the thread, each soul is sent to the Underworld where they receive judgement and are sent to one of three options: Elysium, the Fields of Punishment, or the Fields of Asphodel.[7]

Elysium is labeled a land for the blessed, whereas those who committed horrible deeds were sent to the Fields of Punishment. For the mortals who lived neither an objectively good or bad life were sent to the Fields of Asphodel.[8]

In mythology[edit]

The Fates have appeared in numerous cultures with similar tales. In Greek mythology, they appear as incarnations of destiny named the Moirai.[9][10][11][12] The Roman counterparts of the Moirai are known as the Parcae.[13] This trio also makes a name in Slavic culture as the Rozhanitsy,[14] figures who foretell an individual's destiny. Similar to Greek mythology, the Fates are known as incarnations of destiny called Norns[15][16] in Norse mythology. The biggest variant within these cultures remains in Baltic mythology, which characterizes the Deivės Valdytojos[17] as seven sisters who weave pieces of clothing from the lives of humans.

In the visual arts[edit]

A depiction of the Fates, specifically Atropos, exercising her power on a captive man.

Considering the roles of each divine sister, Clotho is typically portrayed as a younger woman because of her relationship with the birth of humans, whereas Atropos is pictured as an old woman because of her hand in the death of mortals.[18] Each sister has been pictured with a tangible representation of their power: Clotho with thread, Lachesis with an eye glass, and Atropos with scissors.[19] The Fates make a specific appearance within the artwork of Francisco de Goya's black paintings. These were a series of 14 pieces completed by the artist nearing the later stages of his life. Their dark tone, literally and figuratively, capture the Fates holding an individual hostage as they are deciding his destiny.[20] More recently, Anne-Katrin Altwein depicted the divine sisters through sculptures that originally resided in the entrance of a German hospital as a means of creative inspiration to patients.[21] Altwein sculpted Clotho as a pregnant woman as opposed to simply holding the thread of life in order to present her in a more positive light.[22] The sculptures have since been moved to the city center of Jena, also home to the same hospital.[23]

The three fates, Clotho, Lachesis and Atropos, who spin, draw out and cut the thread of life. (Flemish tapestry, Victoria and Albert Museum, London

In fiction[edit]

This motif has been replicated in fictional accounts, such as:

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Myths and Legends of Ancient Greece and Rome". www.gutenberg.org. Retrieved 2022-11-29.
  2. ^ "Myths and Legends of Ancient Greece and Rome". www.gutenberg.org. Retrieved 2022-11-29.
  3. ^ Lichtenauer, Michael; Altwein, Anne‐Katrin; Kopp, Kristen; Salmhofer, Hermann (2020). "Uncoupling fate: Klotho—Goddess of fate and regulator of life and ageing". Australasian Journal on Ageing. 39 (2): 161–163. doi:10.1111/ajag.12772. ISSN 1440-6381. PMC 7496967. PMID 32686906.
  4. ^ "The Fates in Greek Mythology: Hanging by a Thread". TheCollector. 2022-05-31. Retrieved 2022-11-29.
  5. ^ "The Fates in Greek Mythology: Hanging by a Thread". TheCollector. 2022-05-31. Retrieved 2022-11-29.
  6. ^ "The Fates in Greek Mythology: Hanging by a Thread". TheCollector. 2022-05-31. Retrieved 2022-11-29.
  7. ^ "The Fates in Greek Mythology: Hanging by a Thread". TheCollector. 2022-05-31. Retrieved 2022-11-29.
  8. ^ "The Fates in Greek Mythology: Hanging by a Thread". TheCollector. 2022-05-31. Retrieved 2022-11-29.
  9. ^ Homer (1965–1967). The Iliad : with an English translation. W. Heinemann. OCLC 221448332.
  10. ^ Bulfinch, Thomas (2016). Bulfinch's mythology. Digireads.com Publishing. ISBN 9781420953046. OCLC 1017567068.
  11. ^ Homer (1938–1942). The Odyssey, with an English translation. W. Heinemann. OCLC 7440655.
  12. ^ Berens, E. M. "Myths and Legends of Ancient Greece and Rome". www.gutenberg.org. Retrieved 2022-11-21.
  13. ^ Day, John (1988). God's conflict with the dragon and the sea : echoes of a Canaanite myth in the Old Testament. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521256003. OCLC 1056600192.
  14. ^ Cross, Tom Peete (July 1919). "Celtic MythologyThe Mythology of All Races, Vol. III. John Arnott MacCulloch , Jan Máchal , Louis Herbert Gray". The American Journal of Theology. 23 (3): 371–376. doi:10.1086/480029. ISSN 1550-3283.
  15. ^ Goldenweiser, A. A.; Gray, Louis Herbert; Moore, George Foot; Fox, William Sherwood; Keith, A. Berriedale; Carnoy, Albert J.; Dixon, Roland B.; Alexander, Hartley Burr (1918-03-28). "The Mythology of All Races. Vol. I: Greek and Roman. Vol. VI: Indian and Iranian. Vol. IX: Oceanic. Vol. X: North American". The Journal of Philosophy, Psychology and Scientific Methods. 15 (7): 190. doi:10.2307/2940073. ISSN 0160-9335. JSTOR 2940073.
  16. ^ Med, Intervju; Horverak, Øyvind (October 1995). "Article". Nordisk Alkoholtisdkrift (Nordic Alcohol Studies). 12 (5–6): 303–304. doi:10.1177/1455072595012005-616. ISSN 0789-6069.
  17. ^ Klimka, Libertas (2012-03-01). "Senosios baltų mitologijos ir religijos likimas". Lituanistica. 58 (1). doi:10.6001/lituanistica.v58i1.2293. ISSN 0235-716X.
  18. ^ "The Fates in Greek Mythology: Hanging by a Thread". TheCollector. 2022-05-31. Retrieved 2022-11-29.
  19. ^ Lichtenauer, Michael; Altwein, Anne‐Katrin; Kopp, Kristen; Salmhofer, Hermann (2020). "Uncoupling fate: Klotho—Goddess of fate and regulator of life and ageing". Australasian Journal on Ageing. 39 (2): 161–163. doi:10.1111/ajag.12772. ISSN 1440-6381. PMC 7496967. PMID 32686906.
  20. ^ Lichtenauer, Michael; Altwein, Anne‐Katrin; Kopp, Kristen; Salmhofer, Hermann (2020). "Uncoupling fate: Klotho—Goddess of fate and regulator of life and ageing". Australasian Journal on Ageing. 39 (2): 161–163. doi:10.1111/ajag.12772. ISSN 1440-6381. PMC 7496967. PMID 32686906.
  21. ^ Lichtenauer, Michael; Altwein, Anne‐Katrin; Kopp, Kristen; Salmhofer, Hermann (2020). "Uncoupling fate: Klotho—Goddess of fate and regulator of life and ageing". Australasian Journal on Ageing. 39 (2): 161–163. doi:10.1111/ajag.12772. ISSN 1440-6381. PMC 7496967. PMID 32686906.
  22. ^ Lichtenauer, Michael; Altwein, Anne‐Katrin; Kopp, Kristen; Salmhofer, Hermann (2020). "Uncoupling fate: Klotho—Goddess of fate and regulator of life and ageing". Australasian Journal on Ageing. 39 (2): 161–163. doi:10.1111/ajag.12772. ISSN 1440-6381. PMC 7496967. PMID 32686906.
  23. ^ Lichtenauer, Michael; Altwein, Anne‐Katrin; Kopp, Kristen; Salmhofer, Hermann (2020). "Uncoupling fate: Klotho—Goddess of fate and regulator of life and ageing". Australasian Journal on Ageing. 39 (2): 161–163. doi:10.1111/ajag.12772. ISSN 1440-6381. PMC 7496967. PMID 32686906.
  24. ^ Shakespeare, William (1623-01-01), "Macbeth", The Oxford Shakespeare: The Tragedy of Macbeth, Oxford University Press, pp. 91–92, doi:10.1093/oseo/instance.00000007, ISBN 9780198129011
  25. ^ Ginsberg, Allen (2006). Howl. Museum of American Poetics Publications. OCLC 666904326.
  26. ^ "Boogie Nights, 1997 (Movie Review and Trivia)", Appetite, University of Pittsburgh Press, 2012, p. 24, doi:10.2307/j.ctt1b3h9zv.18, ISBN 9780822978459