Homer Hesiod Hymns Tragedy Remythologizing Tools Blackboard Info
MORAE
Form: Gr. Moirai.
The Greek goddesses of Fate: Homer in one passage (Il. xxiv 209] speaks generally of the Moira, that spins the thread of life for men at their birth; in another [ib. 49] of several Moirai, and elsewhere (Od. vii 197] of the Clothes, or Spinners. Their relation to Zeus and other gods is no more clearly defined by Homer than by the other Greeks. At one time Fate is a power with unlimited sway over men and gods, and the will of Fate is searched out and executed by Zeus with the other gods [Il. xix 87; Od. xxii 413]; at another Zeus is called the highest ruler of destinies, or again he and the other gods can change the course of fate (Il. xvi 434], and even men can exceed the limits it imposes [Il. xx 336). In Hesiod they are called in one passage [Theog. 211-7] daughters of Night and sisters of the goddesses of death (Keres), while in another (Theog. 904] they are the daughters of Zeus and Themis and sisters of the Horae, who give good and bad fortunes to mortals at their birth; their names are Clotho (the Spinner), who spins the thread of life, Lachesis (Disposer of Lots), who determines its length, and Atropos (Inevitable), who cuts it off. As exerting power at the time of birth they are connected with Ilithyia, the goddess of birth, who was supposed to stand beside them, and was invoked together with them, these and the Kere's being the powers that decided when life should end. As at birth they determine men's destinies in life, they are also able to predict them. While on the one hand they are regarded as the impartial representatives of the government of the world, they are on the other hand sometimes conceived as cruel and jealous, because they remorselessly thwart the plans and desires of men. In art they appear as maidens of grave aspect. Clotho is usually represented with a spindle; Lachesis with a scroll, or a globe; and Atropos with a pair of scales or shears, or else drawing a lot (as in the cut). The Romans identified the Moirai with their native goddesses of fate, the Parcae. These were also called Fata, and were invoked, at the end of the first week of an infant's life, as Fata Scribunda, the goddesses that wrote down men's destiny in life.
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