The Moirai (Moerae), also referred to as the Fates, represent the idea of “destiny” in Greek mythology. The Ancient Greeks had a habit of creating deities to represent abstract concepts as a way of explaining their world. However, the Moirai do more than just represent destiny – they are the personification of it. It is understood that the Moirai controlled people’s lives in different ways from the time they were born to the time they died.
It is interesting to note that the word, Moirai, meant a portion or a part of a whole in Ancient Greek. The connotation here is that it referred to a portion of a bounty, as would be the case if people were to divide up a treasure. Thus, the Morai were seen as being keepers of a person’s destiny, or her specific allotment of life. Here’s more information about who the Moirai were and the role they played in Greek mythology.
Who the Moirai (Moerae) Were
It is largely understood that the Moirai, or the Fates, were three of the six children that Themis, the goddess of Justice, and Zeus, the king of the gods, had together. The other three children were the Horai, or the Hours. The names of the three Fates were Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos. They each had their own, unique characteristics.
- Clotho. She was known as the spinner because she “spun” the very thread of a person’s life. She spun the thread from her Distaff directly to her Spindle.
- Lachesis – Once Clotho spun the thread, Lachesis would measure it for each person. Each person had different lengths of thread, indicated that they all had different life spans.
- Atropos – She was responsible for cutting the thread, which indicates that she controlled when life would end. She also chose the way each person would die.
As you can see, Clotho was always associated with the beginning of life. She essentially created it by spinning the thread. Lachesis controlled the length of a person’s life, and Atropos was always associated with death. Thus, the three Fates essentially represent Birth, Life, and Death.
The Appearance of the Moirai
Unlike their siblings, the Horai, the Moirai were always depicted as ugly old women. Note that the Horai were always depicted as young, beautiful women. The Ancient Greeks appeared to have feared the Moirai. After all, one of the Fates (Moerae) were said to have controlled every aspect of a person’s life, including their death. As a result, most Ancient Greeks feared them and as a result, they imagined them with unflattering appearances. They were also depicted as crippled, stern, inflexible, and severe. They were usually depicted together as a group of three and they were often depicted with their objects. For instance, Clotho was usually shown with her spindle and Atropos was depicted with her cutting shears.
The Moirai, also referred to as the Fates, were an interesting part of Greek mythology. They were three of the children of Themis and Zeus and they were always associated with a person’s destiny.