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Friday, September 24, 2010

When the Moon Hits Your Eye... That's Moirae


Fate controls the two most profoundly dramatic, important moments of your life. Your birth and your death mark the span of your life but both occur outside of your control. The life of each individual is sandwiched between these bookends of inescapable destiny. Even though people may choose and follow different courses of action in their lifespans, the roads may lead to the same Divine fore-ordained end. Whether a person's "number came up" or "the bullet had his name on it," people invariably acknowledge a sense of destiny or fate. 

Yet, today, who professes a real belief in destiny?  Fate is seldom mentioned in intellectual discussions of belief because many think to do so would show shallow, non-critical thinking. Still, even the Christian gospels are filled with allusions to destiny. As Jesus, himself, hung upon the cross, he realized that He had to accept his fate. If not, He would have been selfish and irresponsible in rejecting the will of God, the Father.


The Moirae

The ancients believed the moon had three important phases, associated with three personalities that resemble their understanding of the three sisters of the Moirae:

1. New Moon, the Maiden-goddess of the spring, the first period of the year when the crops appear from the soil and weave their welcome patterns into the air. 

2. Full Moon, the Nymph-goddess of the summer, the second period, which allows the measure of the harvest, and 

3. Old Moon, the Crone-goddess (a hag marginalized by her exclusion from the reproductive cycle) of autumn, the last period before life subsides into the winter season.

Akin to the moon phases, the Greeks gave birth to three goddesses. In Greek mythology, the Moirae (Μοῖραι – the "apportioners", often called The Fates) were the white-robed personifications of destiny who controlled the metaphorical thread of life in the unique tapestry of every mortal from birth to death. As the eldest goddesses in ancient mythology, the Morirae spun out the thread of a person's life, followed his steps, and directed the consequences of his actions according to the counsel of the gods.

The Moirae were typically described as three ugly old women or hags, sometimes lame. Severe, inflexible and stern, they were viewed as independent spinsters inspiring fear rather than matrimony  The Greeks variously claimed that they were the daughters of Zeus and the Titanness Themis or of primordial beings like Nyx (goddess of the night), Chaos (goddess of invisible air and gloomy mist), or Ananke (goddess of necessity).

The Moirae were described as the following Fates:

Klotho - the spinner, who spun the thread of a person's life from cosmic forces. This made her responsible for birth, which in effect controlled people's lives. This control she had over people's lives didn't only enable her to choose who was born, but she also decided when certain gods or mortals were to be saved or put to death. She carried a spindle with the thread of life or a roll (the book of fate).

Lakhesis - the apportioner of lots, who was often portrayed as a matronly woman who measured the thread of life allotted to each person (time for life) and assigned each a destiny.With her measuring staff, she pointed to the horoscope on a globe.

Atropos- the inevitable cutter of the thread of life or "she who cannot be turned" (Thus, the word atrophy - decay of organic material.)The smallest in stature but the most terrible, she chose the manner of each person's death; and when their time was come, she cut their life-thread with "her abhorred shears." She possessed a scroll, a wax tablet, a sundial, a pair of scales, and a cutting instrument.

The Moirae were supposed to appear three nights after a child's birth to determine the course of its life. But, some sources claim the Greeks believed the Moirae appeared at the family hearth on the seventh day with the ancient Greek custom of waiting seven days after birth to decide whether to accept the infant into the Gens (race or family of origin) and to give it a name.

Sometimes the Moirae could be influenced but usually the course of destiny that they spun was irrevocable.  The Moirae were independent in this sense. At the helm of necessity, they directed fate and watched that the fate assigned to every being by eternal laws might take its course without obstruction. Even Zeus, the Father of gods and men, as well as the other gods and mortals had to submit to the Moirae. In the matter of fate, all gods were their underlings. 

However, the fate determined by the Moirae was not an inflexible fate; Zeus, if he chose, had the power of saving even those who were already on the point of being seized by their fate. The Fates did not abruptly interfere in human affairs but availed themselves of intermediate causes, and determined the lot of mortals not absolutely, but only conditionally. Even man himself, in his freedom was allowed to exercise a certain influence upon them.

For example, when Atropos cut the thread of King Admetus, who happened to be Apollo's friend, Apollo begged the Fates to undo their work. It was not in their power to do so, but they promised that if someone took Admetus' place in the gloomy world of Hades' domain, he would live. The king's wife, Alcestis, said she would take his place. But Hercules, who happened to be Admetus' guest, rescued her from the Underworld, and Admetus and Alcetis were reunited. This was a "twist of fate" or an example of someone actually "cheating fate."

Despite their forbidding reputation, the Moirae would be worshipped as goddesses. Brides in Athens offered them locks of hair and women swore by them. They may have originated as birth-goddesses and only later acquired their reputation as the agents of destiny.


Fate certainly influences your life and the way you live it. Someone born with a disability is very unlikely to become a champion of a physical sport. Yet, to squander the gift of free will limits your opportunities and dulls your consciousness. Aren't humans free with respect to much that holds them in bondage, yet bound by what governs their human kingdom? Destiny, in its very development, is still dependent on the action of your movements on the thread of life. To shape your life, a fateful gift from God, you must practice free will.


Free will helps control your course in life and without practicing it, you are left to deal exclusively with fate. Studying Klotho and Atropos as ancient Greek agents of fate helps you understand the concepts over which you have no control -- you were born and will die without personal input. Yet, maybe the Greeks were saying that Lakhesis apportions your life in a design woven with distinct flexibility.


So, the thread of life has been created, and the cut of the thread is inevitable. Maybe the accurate measurement of a life is not determined by the length of the strand but by the quality of the fabric.

Invictus by William Ernest Henley

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.


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