The Moirae were the three goddesses of fate who personified the inescapable destiny of man.

Residence: Mount Olympus
Symbol: Spindle and thread, shears
Parents: Zeus and Themis
Siblings: The Horae
Roman equivalent: Parcae, Fatae

A Golden Thread, painting by John M. Strudwick.

They assigned to every person his or her fate or share in the scheme of things. Their name means “Parts.” “Shares” or “Alotted Portions.” The individuals were Clotho, “the Spinner,” who spun the thread of life, Lachesis, “the Apportioner of Lots”, who measured it, and Atropus, “She who cannot be turned,” who cut it short.

The Moirae were described as ugly, old women and sometimes lame. They were severe, inflexible and stern. Clotho carries a spindle or a roll, Lachesis a staff with which she points to the horoscope on a globe, and Atropus a scroll, a wax tablet, a sundial, a pair of scales, or a cutting instrument. At other times the three were shown with staffs or sceptres, the symbols of dominion, and sometimes even with crowns. At the birth of each man they appeared spinning, measuring, and cutting the thread of life.

Late 2nd c. AD mosaic from the House of Theseus, Paphos Archaeological Park, Cyprus, showing the three Moirae: Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropus, standing behind Peleus and Thetis, the parents of Achilles. (c) Wolfgang Sauber

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