Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Fates

                                   Because I could not stop for Death,
                                            He kindly stopped for me;
                                            The carriage held but just ourselves
                                            And Immortality.
                                                                         --Emily Dickinson

The Three Fates

They’re old. They’re ugly. And they want to run your life.

No, not your in-laws.

The Three Fates of Classical Greek Mythology, of course.

Atropos loses again.
Their names? I like to call them Spool, Tape, and Shears, but more accurately they are. . .
  •  Clotho – spinner of the thread of life
  •  Lachesis – the one who measures the thread
  •  Atropos – the one who cuts the thread.
Clotho is sometimes pictured with a spindle or a scroll. Lachesis carries a staff (a measuring rod), and Atropos frequently carries a pair of scissors.  When these girls were in grade school, Atropos would invariably lose at Paper, Rock, Scissors. Somehow the other two could always guess which she would choose. Go figure.

Together, they are known as the Moirai.

According to myth, three nights after the birth of a baby, the Moirai would appear and decide the fate of the child. This girl will be a raving beauty. This boy will excel at sports. This child will have seasonal allergies and marry a used car salesman. And nothing could change your fate. Think of poor Oedipus, doomed to murder his father and marry his mother, even though he worked so hard not to fulfill the prophecy.

The Fates show up in Shakespeare’s play Macbeth as the Weird Sisters. You remember—the witches who are cooking a can of Cream of Creepy Soup, while chanting. . .

Eye of newt and toe of frog,
Wool of bat and tongue of dog,
Adder's fork and blind-worm's sting,
Lizard's leg and howlet's wing,
For a charm of powerful trouble,

Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.

Banquo and Macbeth meet the Weird Sisters
(Remind me not to invite these ladies to the church potluck.)

The Weird Sisters meet Macbeth and Banquo on the road and deliver a juicy-sounding prophecy:

           All hail, Macbeth, thou shalt be king hereafter!

The Weird Sisters do "the wave" for Macbeth.

Wow! This was the very thing Macbeth wanted to hear. He would be king.

I’m sure it was an oversight when the witches forgot to mention that, somewhere between soliloquies, Mr. & Mrs. Macbeth would commit murder and mayhem in order to get the crown. Or that they would wind up dead and disgraced, not necessarily in that order. 


The Weird Sisters, by Johann Heinrich Fussli
When I was growing up, my brother had a catchy retort to shield him from any suggestion that he might have done something wrong: “I didn’t ask to be born.” This argument did not impress my father. 

No one asks to be born. And surely, if we could choose the hour of our death, we’d all just want to live indefinitely. The real point is that life is a gift. It has a beginning and an end, and we need to make the most of the middle.

Ancient Zodiac from Beth Alpha, Jezreel Valley

My advice? Don't let warty witches or horoscopes or even well-meaning busy-bodies try to dictate your life. We have choices to make for ourselves. Search your own heart. Pray for guidance. Use common sense. Consider the gifts you have been given. And don't be afraid to work hard.

The Fates don't run our lives. The stars are there to give us something to reach for! Some things are beyond our control, but destiny is there for the taking. Carpe diem!


  1. As is usual when I read your posts, I am laughing and learning at the same time! Wonderful!

  2. Good Morning! Love reading your blog!...this one especially good since I find the Fates "interesting." Question: Is that beauty babe your grand? Love, JJH

    1. Thanks so much! No, not one of my grands. We have three and another on the way.