Tuesday, February 11, 2014


 The 3 Fates Gathering in the Stars by Elihu Vedder
"You know how often the turning down this street or that, the accepting or rejecting of an invitation, may deflect the whole current of our lives into some other channel. Are we mere leaves, fluttered hither and thither by the wind, or are we rather, with every conviction that we are free agents, carried steadily along to a definite and pre-determined end?"
~Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, from the Stark Munro Letters.

Our human predecessors had found, or constructed, an answer to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's question. In Greek, Roman and Norse mythology we find related versions of the same story: "The Fates". In each case a trio of females representing past, present and future, prepare the destinies of gods and men, serve the unchanging laws of the cosmos. They were unanswerable to even the greatest of the gods.

Greek mythology called them the Moirai: Clotho, Lachesis and Atropos.
In Roman mythology they became the Parcae: Nona, Decima, Morta.
While in northern climes Norse myths had the Norns: Wyrd, Verdandi and Skuld.

Variations on a theme. Briefly the three females represent the thread of time: becoming/being/what will be. They weave the patterns of our lives, spinning the thread, measuring it and cutting it off. The story from Norse mythology varies somewhat by depicting the three Norns as living at the base of the World Tree, Yggdrasil. The Norns tend the World Tree by pouring mud and water from the Well of Fate over its branches to preserve it.
The Norns would seem to have been of even greater significance than their Greek and Roman counterparts. They were thought to be older than the gods, and originally came from Jotunheim, land of the giants, travelled to Asgard, home of the gods, where they spun a thread on which hung the destiny of the universe itself.

All versions of the "Fates" myths have one thing in common: they suggest an abiding belief that an unseen force shapes our lives.

“The man who believes that the secrets of the world are forever hidden lives in mystery and fear. Superstition will drag him down. The rain will erode the deeds of his life. But that man who sets himself the task of singling out the thread of order from the tapestry will by the decision alone have taken charge of the world and it is only by such taking charge that he will effect a way to dictate the terms of his own fate.”
― Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West.


mike said...

The notion of fate infers predestination or predetermination. I believe that it might be semi-fated, along the lines that astrology proffers the energy that is available, but the entity and the interaction with the environment determine how the energy will be utilized and directed, which can yield a myriad possibilities. Only one possibility can be selected at any given time, and the choice of selection is always appropriate and commensurate for that individual's needs.

Planting a seed is a good metaphor for fate. Plants have very specific requirements for optimal growth and reproduction, but most will grow, maybe even thrive, under the extremes...yet, many will wither and die. Even the same type of seeds planted side by side can have different tendencies. There are many types of soil, but probably only one specific type will be best for the seed. What will the weather bring and what are the moisture, temperature, and sun requirements for this seed? Native environments are preferable, but how will the seed grow in foreign conditions? Insect and microbial predators? Will the seed compete well with surrounding plants and weeds or will it have ample space to grow? Will the length of the season allow it to fully mature?

Hermann Hess' writings concern truth and fate. "Siddhartha" is loaded with this theme and this is a fine quote from it:
“The opposite of every truth is just as true.” I suspect that each of us has manifold fate potentials that evolve out of one initial fate (or natal chart!).

mike (again) said...

P.S. = The most elementary form of fate for all living things is to be born and then die. I suppose humans describe fate as what occurs between these two events.

Twilight said...

mike ~ Thanks for your thoughts - as always, interesting and insightful. :-)

The idea that some unseen force shapes our lives is valid in a way, because some unseen force brings about life itself.
We don't truly understand it in full even in 2014. Those early philosophers putting flesh and bone onto the mystery, were doing a good job for their times, I guess.

I don't know whether there's such a thing as fate/destiny, sometimes I think there is, sometimes think not exactly, but perhaps a bare outline is fated whereas we fill in the detail ourselves.

Erm...I thought you might mention your comment from yesterday - this paragraph:

The "Impossible Dream" reminds me of the Hindu trinity of Brahma (creator), Vishnu (maintainer), and Shiva (destroyer). There is constant tension between Vishnu and Shiva with temporary imbalances favoring one or the other, but always returning to stability. The "Impossible Dream" is created by the struggle of good vs bad, yin-yang, hope vs despair, creation vs destruction. The struggle can be man-made or a natural occurrence...it's all from the same universal pattern. There will always be saviors and there will always be despots.

That Hindu trinity you mentioned: creator, maintainer, destroyer is similar to the 3 Fates: becoming/being/ending

Do you think so?

mike (again) said...

I don't think that the Hindu trinity is similar, Twilight. "The Fates" represent a predetermined, proscribed of free will, final destination that time is forever taking us toward...a written book that we must live, but without access to each proceeding chapter or knowledge of the final pages.

The Hindu Trinity offers an almost perfect universe (99.99999999...9% perfect), stable for all practical purposes, but that tiny quantity of imperfection allows a touch of chaos to enter and to forever keep the universe in a continually evolving state. The book is continually being written as events unfold...more like a daily diary. Natural forces and humans' free will may be synonymous with Shiva and Vishnu...I reckon most of us see the Shiva disruption more acutely than the stabilization of Vishnu. We typically don't like change, but tend to not notice stability until it is destabilized.

Twilight said...

mike (again) ~ Oh - I see! I thought it might be the Hindu way of expressing the same thing, though probably in more depth.
It seems not then. :-)

mike (again) said...

Twilight, you stated in your post:

"All versions of the "Fates" myths have one thing in common: they suggest an abiding belief that an unseen force shapes our lives."

From that perspective, the Hindu trinity is very similar, with the unseen force being Vishnu and Shiva. My understanding of the definition of fate and "The Fates" is that free will does not exist and life is predetermined. The Hindu trinity differs by the constant stabilization-destabilization creating change and evolution, therefore a new future is constantly being spun out of the now.

Is your interpretation of "The Fates" inclusive of predetermination and no free will?