Hanging on by a thread…

The Fates in ancient Greek were called the Moirai. This translates as “allotted portion” or “share.” The idea was that the Fates would deal out humankind’s allotted portions of life. The three Fates each had a different role in the process of handing out fate or “portions.”

First of all, there was Clotho, the “Spinner.” When a human was in the womb, Clotho had the duty of weaving the threads of their life. Greek myth often uses textile metaphors to convey intangible destiny. The metaphor often appears in descriptions as well as in art, as the weaving of threads on a loom, or in some cases spinning fibers into yarn.

Each thread represented one soul’s life. This thread would follow the path of a human’s life, including their future choices and actions, and the consequences that could be created. Clotho would begin spinning the thread while the human was in the womb, and so she is often referred to during pregnancies or during the birth of human beings.

The choices of mankind were not absolute. Instead, there was freedom in choice, and the fate of a human depended on conditional choices. The Fates would take all decisions and outcomes into account when they wove the thread.

Lachesis was the second of the Moirai, or Fates, and her role was to measure the thread of a human’s life. Her name translates as “the Allotter” which fits her role as the one who allots a portion of mortal life to each soul. Lachesis would determine how long a human would live, and hence how many trials they would face in their life. Within the thread lay the fate of each soul.

The third sister was Atropos, whose name translates as “the un-turnable or she who cannot be turned.” Her name refers to her unshakeable position as the most stubborn of the Fates. Atropos was the one to cut the thread of fate, and at the point of the cut, the mortal life would end. Thus, Atropos resembles the death of a human. After the cut, a soul would then be sent to the Underworldfor judgment,  after which, it would be sent to Elysium, the Fields of Punishment, or the Fields of Asphodel.

Atropos’ role was vital, she chose how each person would die. She decided on the circumstances of their death — whether that was nobly or ignobly,  was up to her. The Fates were often depicted as old women and sometimes as young goddesses, so it majorly depends on artistic preference. Many representations show Atropos as an old woman — as she chose when people would die — and Clotho as a young woman — as she was often present when women gave birth.

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