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The Moirai (Ancient Greek: Μοῖραι) are the Destinies mentioned in Theogony, who are three daughters of the primeval goddess, Nyx ("Night"),[1] representing a power acting over the gods.[2]

The Moirai were the white-robed incarnations of destiny who controlled the metaphorical thread of life of every mortal from birth to death. They were independent, at the helm of necessity, directed fate, and watched that the fate assigned to every being by eternal laws might take its course without obstruction. The gods and mortals had to submit to them, but in the case of Zeus he is portrayed in two ways: as the only one who can command them (the Zeus Moiragetes) or as the one who is also bound to the Moiras as incarnation of the fates.[3]

In the Homeric poems, Moira, or Aisa, is related with the limit and end of life, and Zeus appears as the guider of destiny.

In later works the Moirai are daughters of Zeus, who gives them the greatest honour, and Themis, the ancient goddess of law and divine order.[4][5]

In Plato's Republic the Three Fates are daughters of Ananke (necessity).[6]

Moira

Schadow Grabmal Alexander 2

Marble statue of the Moirai

In the Homeric hymns, Moira, or Aisa, is almost always depicted as one. She acts independently from the gods. Only Zeus, the chief sky-deity of the Myceneans is close to Moira, and in a passage he is the personification of this abstract power.[7] Using a weighing scale (balance) Zeus weighs Hector's "lot of death" against the one of Achilles. Hector's lot weighs down, and he dies according to Fate. Zeus appears as the guider of destiny, who gives everyone the right portion.[8][9]

Three Moirai

Fates tapestry

Tapestry of the Fates

Klôthô spun the thread of life. Lakhesis then measured how long or short the thread of life would be and Atropos cut the thread of life.

The goddesses were depicted as ugly, elderly women who bore stern looks on their faces. Clotho always carried a spindle. Lachesis carried a staff that she used to point to a horoscope on a globe. Atropos carried several thing including a wax tablet, a pair of scales, a sundial, and a cutting instrument.

At other times these goddesses were seen with staffs, a symbol of power, along with crowns.

  • In the war against the Giants the fates killed Thoon and Agrius by beating them to death with maces of bronze

Trivia

  • All their names have a meaning to their assigned jobs.
    • Clotho means "Spinner".
    • Lachesis means "Apportioner of Lots".
    • Atropos means "She who cannot be turned".
  • The Moirai were also sometimes called the Fates.
  • These goddesses' companion was Eileithyia, the goddess of childbirth. They worked together because the Moirai needed to know when a new person was being born so that they could spin the thread of life.
    Fates Bronze Mace

    bronze mace like the ones the fates used to kill Thoon & Agrius

  • The Moirai were also prophetic goddesses.
  • They were also seen as goddesses of death so they appeared with the Keres and the Erinyes.
  • In Hesiod's Theogony, The Moirai are cousins of Ouranos & the 12 Titans as Nyx & Gaia were sisters.
  • In Roman Mythology they were called the Parcae. Their three individual names were Nona, Decuma, and Morta.

Gallery

References

  1. Rose, H.J. Handbook of Greek Mythology, p.24
  2. Theogony of Hesiod (ll. 211-225)
  3. Theoi project: Moirae and the Throne of Zeus
  4. Finley M. (1978) The world of Odysseus, rev.ed. New York Viking Press p.78 Note.
  5. Jeffery, L.H. (1976) Archaic Greece. The City-States c. 700-500 BC . Ernest Benn Ltd. London & Tonbridge p. 42
  6. Plato, Republic 617c (trans. Shorey) (Greek philosopher 4th century BC): Theoi Project - Ananke.
  7. :M. Nillson (1967). Die Geschichte der Griechische Religion. Vol I . C.F.Beck Verlag. Munchen p.361-368
  8. Ilias X 209 ff. O.Crusius Rl, Harisson Prolegomena 5.43 ff: M. Nillson (1967). Die Geschichte der Griechische Religion. Vol I . C.F.Beck Verlag. Munchen pp. 217, 222
  9. This is similar to the famous scene in the Egyptian book of the dead, although the conception is different. Anubis weighs the sins of a man's heart against the feather of truth. If man's heart weighs down, then he is devoured by a monster: Taylor, John H. (Editor- 2009), Ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead: Journey through the afterlife. British Museum Press, London, 2010. pp. 209, 215 ISBN 978-0-7141-1993-9

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