Moirae: The Greek Goddesses of Life and Death

Moirae in greek mythologyMoirae is a name given to a group of three sisters that instruct, maintain, and conduct the fates of mortal and immortal beings. In Greek mythology, the Moirae sisters are feared as well as worshipped for their control over everyone’s destiny. The story of the sisters is explained in Theogony by Hesiod. Here we have gathered all the information on the Moirae sisters, their origin, relationships, and most importantly their characteristics in Greek mythology.

Moirae

Moira, Moirai, and Morai are all names of the creatures of destiny. The name means parts, shares, or allotted portions, and in the broad sense is fitting for them. The three fates goddesses allocate parts of life to the man and follow a pre-written and pre-devised path.

Power of Moirae

The power that the sisters have is beyond the powers of the gods and goddesses as they are responsible for both mortal and immortal beings. In many instances, it is explained that no god can influence the sisters in any way. However, interestingly, Zeus is seen to be governing and instructing the sisters. Nevertheless, the sisters hold the key to life and death for all the living and the dead.

But where do they come from? They must have been around from the start of the time when the immortals came into being. Let us get into the details.

Origin of the Moirae Sisters

The Moirae sisters are known to be the daughters of Zeus and Themis, the Olympians born to the Titans, Gaia, and Uranus. The latter shows that the sisters are from the third generation of the gods in Greek mythology. They were among the many children of Zeus. Moirae sisters quickly became one of the most influential bodies on Mount Olympus and later on the Earth as well with the emergence of human beings.

The sisters were three in number. They were called: Klotho, Lachesis, and Atropos. The sisters are associated with the symbol of thread and spindle most often. It is said that the sisters weave out a thread at the birth of each individual and as long as they weave it, the person stays alive.

There are a number of different stories about how the sisters rose to so much power and how they use it. Collectively, they are also called Fates because they govern the fates of the people. Zeus and the sisters were very close as they had the relationship of a father and daughter between them but Zeus also used them for his own benefits.

Characteristics of the Moirae Sisters

Even though the sisters were the caretakers of faith, they were portrayed as the ugliest witches in Theogony. Hesiod explains their appearances as ugly, sulking old women that could not walk properly. Obviously, they must be normal looking in their youth but no. They were born this way. One of the reasons for their untimely aging is that each death and each birth went through them which only made them older.

They lived in solitude away from the world on Mount Olympus. No one ever saw them and no one ever tried to build a relationship with them, neither their mother, Themis, nor their siblings. Zeus, their father, was the only being who was on any terms with them and they also liked him.

The literature links the parentage of the sisters to Zeus and Themis but they themselves were immortal gods living on Mount Olympus, being the second generation of gods and goddesses. However, the question goes, how come they can be the producers of such creatures that have the most influence on everyone’s lives? The answer to this question is not as simple.

What Exactly Did the Moirae Sisters Do?

The sisters worked in an orderly manner. Each sister had a specific and important task to do. Following is a list of all the functions that the sisters perform from the birth of a baby to his death:

  • The thread is spun from the day the baby is brought into this world.
  • On the third day, his destiny is sealed which includes his personality, his job, his health, his partner, and his physical characteristics.
  • The baby is then left to grow up until sometime when the sisters arrive again and make sure that he is following his pre-decided path. The sisters keep a check and balance on him throughout his life or until the thread is being spun.
  • The thread is bound to be finished and when it does the person dies.
  • His thread is no longer in the spindle and the sisters are no longer looking after his path in life.

These aspects of how the sisters do their job of fate association. The sisters are also responsible for sealing the fates of gods and goddesses but the process is a little different. As not, all the gods and goddesses came into being naturally. Every god has its unique story, which is why the pre-decided destiny works a little differently for them.

In all fairness, the gods and goddesses did not really care that someone was responsible for their death which is pre-written. Also, a lot of times, the decisions regarding the gods and the goddesses of Mount Olympus were heavily influenced by Zeus because his daughters, the Moirae sisters, would never go against his word.

The Three Parents of Moirae Sisters

Greek mythology is famous for its jaw-dropping scenarios and twists. One such twist is related to the Moriae sisters and their parents, Zeus and Themis. Even though the Moirae sisters were born from Zeus and Themis, they have an additional parent, Nyx. Nyx is the Greek goddess or personification of night.

She was born from Chaos. Nyx further gave rise to many personifications, the most important among them being, Hypnos (Sleep) and Thanatos (Death), with Erebus (Darkness). This is the reason why the sisters have such immense powers and status in mythology. Their powers outweigh those of Zeus and any other god or goddess in the matter.

These Primordial deities were thus born from the most unique combination of three parents. Theogony by Hesiod explains their existence as nothing short of a miracle and rightfully so. This formation was also very fruitful for the sisters as they had a strong familial background and status.

Moirae Sisters

There are three of these sisters that govern fate. The sisters decided on the life and death of humans, gods, and goddesses. Here we look at each of the sisters namely Klotho, Lachesis, and Atropos in detail:

Klotho

Clotho or Klotho was the first sister to start the fate of any being. In Greek culture, Klotho started the thread. She was called upon on the ninth month of pregnancy when the baby was just about to be born to the mother. She was somewhat nicer and more gracious than the other two sisters.

She was the eldest sister of the lot and was known as the Spinner of thread. She was very famous in Greek mythology and her Roman equivalent was Nona. She made important decisions about people’s lives that were allocated to them since they were born.

Lachesis

Lachesis was commonly known as the allotter because she used to a lot the length of life of each person. She measured the length with her measuring rod from the spindle of Klotho and the length that was measured would be the age of the person. Her Roman equivalent is known as Decima.

Lachesis was the middle sister and was very loved by her sisters and Zeus. She was always seen dressed in white and chose the person’s destiny after the thread started spinning. She decided on everything that he would be, see and learn about his life. Lachesis can thus be named the most important sister of the three.

Atropos

Atropos means unturning because she was responsible for cutting the thread after which the human would die and leave his physical form. She was the most devious of the sisters because any amount of emotional persuasion to let people live would not turn her heart. She would not even give another minute above the allocated time. She was the youngest of three sisters.

Moirae and Zeus

Zeus was the father of the Moirae sisters. He was also the father of all the Olympians and the King of Mount Olympus. The relationship the sisters had with Zeus is controversial and many historians have tried to interpret it the best they could. But there are two possible ways to describe it.

The Moirae sisters instructed and constructed the fate of people from the day they are born till the day they die. Zeus on the other hand was the ultimate god who held the utmost power over his people. So there was a contradiction in power distribution among them. Some believed that the Moirae sisters chose the ultimate destiny of the man with no interference from Zeus whatsoever.

The others believed that the sisters consulted Zeus and constructed the individual’s fate with his permission. Both of these relations are different because one gives full liberty to the sisters and the other gives only half liberty. That is why the relationship is controversial.

Other Gods and Moirae

As the goddesses were out of sight and did not frequently reveal themselves, there were many speculations that maybe some other gods were the Moirae. The gods like Zeus, Hades, and others were thought of as the fate keepers because of their powers and control over the people. This was obviously false. There were only three goddesses of fate in Greek mythology who were responsible for giving a pre-set life to the people.

Homer in Iliad also mentions the sisters who governed the fate of the people and the gods above. So it proves that the Moirae sisters were the only sisters who were the goddesses of fate. The rest of the gods and goddesses had their own unique abilities and powers.

These sisters do have their counterparts in Roman mythology. Atropos is Morta, Lachesis is Decima, and Klotho is known as Nona in Roman mythology.

Contrubution of Moirae to the World

The sisters would appear within three days of the birth of the baby. There Lachesis would decide the destiny of the baby and Atropos would decide the length of the thread. This would seal the fate and destiny of the baby. This work was expected from the Moirae sisters because it was innate to them but other than this, the sisters also had some other important jobs to deal with.

Their biggest contribution to the world would be the creation of the alphabet. The alphabets are the basis of written language and education. In conclusion, the sisters gave the people alphabets thus teaching them the ways of education and literacy. So in Greek mythology, the Moirae sisters are the founders of the alphabet.

Moirae and Their Worshippers

The sisters were the goddesses of life, death, and everything in between. They knew everything about a man’s life. This was the beauty of them and also a curse. They gave fate to the mortals and the immortal beings.

The immortal beings could not care about the destiny being written but the mortals were all about it. They prayed to the sisters for their lives to be prosperous. They worshipped them day and nightstand and asked them for everything possible, small or big.

So in Greek mythology, the sisters were heavily famous and were immensely worshipped at various places in the kingdom. The people erected tall buildings where they held celebrations and sacrifices in the name of the Moirae sisters and their father, Zeus.

Moirae in the Underworld

The sisters gave life and consequently, they took it away. For this reason, they were known to have a strong connection to the Underworld. The Underworld was governed by Hades, the brother of Zeus. Eventually, the sisters were named as attendants to Hades because of their life-taking abilities.

The Moirae can thus be portrayed as the goddesses of life and also death because they have the ability to give and take.

FAQ

Who Are the Fates in Greek Mythology?

The fates are the three goddesses in Greek mythology that are responsible for sealing the fate of each mortal and immortal being. They were called the Moirae sisters and they were three in number namely Klotho, Lachesis, and Atropos. These three were the daughters of Zeus, Themis, and Nyx.

The sisters are this called the three fates of Greek mythology. They were worshipped immensely and often associated with different gods and goddesses that were related to giving life or death.

Who Were the Stygian Witches in Greek Mythology?

The Stygian witches were the three sisters that could see the future when they combined their eyes into one. These sisters were horrible-looking and the worst thing about them was that they fed on human flesh. So anyone who wanted to know about his future had to bring them some sort of human meat.

They bear some resemblances to the Morae sisters. Both of these sister groups lived alone in solitude from the world. All of them

Conclusion

The Moirae sisters were the three sisters that had one of the most important tasks to perform in Greek mythology. The three sisters had their work cut out for them and because of their abilities to give and take away life, they were decently worshipped all over the kingdom as explained in Theogony by Hesiod. Here we talk about all the main points about the three sisters:Moirae what was their role

  • The Moriae sisters were born to Themis and Zeus, the Olympians of Mount Olympus but these are not the only parents they had. They also had a third parent, Nyx. Nyx was one of the Primordial gods and co-birthed the Moirae sisters. This is the reason for the sister’s extraordinary abilities and powers.
  • The sisters were responsible for giving life, death, and destiny to the mortals and the immortals. They were three in number namely Klotho who started the spinning of the thread in her spindle, then there was Lachesis who was the one that chose and assigned a destiny to the baby, and lastly was Atropos, who would cut the tread when it was time for the person to die. So each sister had a proper task that she was responsible for.
  • In Greek mythology, the sisters were also the ones who gave man the alphabets thus teaching him the basis of literacy and education.
  • Zeus was the father of the Moirae sisters and often added to their work. He would assign fate and destinies to some of the immortal beings according to his own will. The Moirae sisters could not go against their father and thus he took advantage of it.

The Moirae sisters in Theogony by Hesiod are one of the most interesting characters and surely deserve recognition. Here we come to the end of the article about the Moirae sisters in Greek mythology. We hope it was a pleasant read for you.

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