In Greek mythology, the Moirai (Ancient Greek: Μοῖραι, "apportioners", Latinized as Moerae)—often known in English as the Fates—were the white-robed incarnations of destiny (Roman equivalent: Parcae, euphemistically the "sparing ones", or Fata; also analogous to the Germanic Norns). Their number became fixed at three: Clotho (spinner), Lachesis (allotter) and Atropos (unturnable).
They 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 men 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. 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 the Theogony of Hesiod, the three Moirai are personified, and are acting over the gods. Later they are daughters of Zeus and Themis, who was the embodiment of divine order and law. In Plato's Republic the Three Fates are daughters of Ananke (necessity).
It seems that Moira is related with Tekmor (proof, ordinance) and with Ananke, who were primeval goddesses in mythical cosmogonies. The ancient Greek writers might call this power Moira or Ananke, and even the gods could not alter what was ordained. The concept of a universal principle of natural order has been compared to similar concepts in other cultures like the Vedic Rta, the Avestan Asha (Arta) and the Egyptian Maat.
In earliest Greek philosophy, the cosmogony of Anaximander is based on these mythical beliefs. The goddess Dike (justice, divine retribution), keeps the order and sets a limit to any actions.
Personality and Appearance
The Fates resemble demonic hags and are dressed in simple black cloaks. They seem rather proud that they ‘know everything’, and never hesitate to emphasize this claim. This is only challenged at one point in Hercules, perhaps for the purposes of dramatic effect (see below).
They appear to relish ending mortal’s lives, each looking on with glee as Atropos cuts each thread (though they will only cut at each designated time and will not kill a mortal prematurely). They are not allied with Hades, and are not denizens of the Underworld; however, they seem to prefer Hades to the gods on Mount Olympus, at one point referring to Hercules as a ‘bouncing baby brat’ though this is probably because they live in Underworld, making Hades their landlord of sorts.
The three sisters bicker among themselves. They often snatch their single eye from one another quite aggressively, and do not always agree on matters.
Lachesis is the tallest of the three, with blue skin and a long nose. Her role is to measure out a mortal’s Thread of Life, and she knows all of the past. She appears to have a spider living in her nose; at one point, it makes a bid for freedom, but she sends it back up her nostril with a sniff. She seems to be the grumpiest and most disapproving of the three.
Clotho is green-skinned, with a large chin and worm-like hair. Her role is to spin the Thread of Life, and she knows all of the present. She is the most friendly of the three with Hades, and her readiness to provide him with information is frowned upon by Lachesis and Atropos.
Atropos is short and stout, with purple skin, serpent-like hair, and a single eye socket. Her role is to cut the Thread of Life, and she can see the future.
Powers and Abilities
- As goddesses, the Fates possess the natural powers & abilities of an Olympian goddess such as: immortality, omnipresence, superhuman strength, metamorphosis and teleportation.
- As the goddesses of destiny, the Fates watch over and weave the tapestry of fate. They are also able to see into the future and therefore know the outcome of all event to come. However the weaving of the tapestry is not something only they can do, anyone who can use the loom the tapestry is created with is able to weave it and alter fate, however this can have catastrophic results and only the Fates can properly weave the tapestry and maintain order and balance.