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J. Steven High
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  The Three Moirai (3 Fates)
9.5 inches in Diameter
Gouache and Opaque Watercolor
© John Styvn High 2000

 

The three goddesses who decided the individual fates of the ancient Greeks. Moirai means "allotters". The three Fates were Clotho (spinner), Lachesis (the drawing of lots) and Atropos (inevitable). The daughters of Nyx (night), the Moirai probably developed from a group of birth spirits, deities concerned with the future lives of babies. Thus their original purpose may have been to lay down the lot of each individual at birth.

Gradually, the Moirai acquired a wider role in Greek mythology, although the power of their decrees was by no means clear. Was ZEUS, as the king of gods and what the Moirai decreed? On occasion, Zeus appears superior, but perhaps he is best seen as the hand of destiny rather than the power that decides its course. The Moirai were envisaged as three old women, spinning out men's destinies like thread. Clotho drew them out, Lachesis measured their length, and Atropos cut them off. When the Moirai had arranged the time of death, the malevolent Keres appeared. These female spirits, with pointed claws and bloodstained cloaks, delivered the fatal blow and took their victims to the land of shadows.

___Macmillian Illustrated Encyclopedia, p.131

The Greeks and Romans were contemporaries of the Celts so their histories and cultures cross-pollinate, intertmix, and blend. The Celtic fascination with endless lines and the visual interplay of figure-ground, dark-on-light can easily be seen in the so called "Greek key", to which the Celts added a distinctive diagonal element. But, the proximity of these cultures is equally apparent in the mythology...as here, where the 3 fates are spinning out the patterns of mortals' lives; some to fit perfectly and elegantly in their appointed time-space, and others, tragically cut short by deliberate decadence, or perhaps just poor planning.