How The Fates Fell Out

“So, as I said to Avery, the sisters got tired of all that spinning, weaving and cutting… and quite frankly they were sick of each other. Imagine spending all your time in your living room – all day, every day – never going anywhere?”

[Author’s Note: This is an excerpt from The Year of the Numen.]

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The Three Moirai – by By Johann Gottfried Schadow

“Hey, if it’s story time, tell Avery to call the shuttle, then we can all hear about it together.” Steve [the shuttle’s driver] said as he turned on the shuttle’s phone system. A minute later, they could all see Avery on the screen above the front window looking down on them.

He held up his coffee mug to them and said, “Live from New York…”

Hello, Avery!” everyone shouted at the screen.

“Quiet down, everyone,” Steve called out. “Olivia is going to tell us a story about the Fates splitting up.”

“I’m sorry,” the lady sitting next to Olivia asked. “Who are you talking about? Are they some kind of musical group?”

“The Fates, Ruby,” Avery explained, “were Greek goddesses. They determined the times of a person’s birth and death. One spun the thread of life, the second wove it, and the third determined how that person died by cutting the thread.”

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“Oh. But they’re not real?” Ruby asked, turning to Olivia. “You said you’re a Catholic.”

“I am. It’s just a story,” Olivia answered.

“Oh, thank God! You had me worried for a moment, because….”

“Ruby, we don’t have a lot of time left before we reach your stop,” Steve warned.
“Sorry. Go on, Olivia,” Ruby said.

“So, as I said to Avery, the sisters got tired of all that spinning, weaving and cutting… and quite frankly they were sick of each other. Imagine spending all your time in your living room – all day, every day – never going anywhere?”

“But, they were legends. The world came to them,” Avery objected.

“It wasn’t enough. They wanted to be liberated,” Olivia answered.

“I get it. They became feminists. That’s what this is about, isn’t it?” Steve asked, looking up at her through the rear mirror.

“Do you all want to hear the story or not?” Olivia asked. The shuttle became silent.

“So, one day,” she began again, “there was a knockdown, drag out fight between them…”

“About?” Avery could not help but interrupt.

“If you must know,” Olivia answered, “Atropos complained that her new dress had holes in it. She blamed Lachesis for not attending to her loom so that the fabric became full of runs. Lachesis said she wasn’t to blame, it was Clotho who was at fault. She was sloppy with her spinning and that caused the thread to be too thin in places so that it broke as she wove the cloth. Clotho said they were both nuts. She said that Atropos had the easiest job of all. All she had to do to get men to do what she wanted was to display her shears and she had them trembling at her feet. She was drunk on that power and probably drunk on wine. She must have cut her own garment with her own shears. Lachesis laughed scornfully at that, so Clotho said to her that she had become so full of herself – so entranced with her own handiwork, that she thought she could do wrong. Clotho said the two of them were worthless and that she could take up the franchise herself. She was sick and tired of toiling away at the spinning wheel while the two of them took all the praise from men. No one cared how hard she worked. No one noticed her. No one helped. And furthermore, she added, none of them would have any power over man without with her spinning men’s lives into existence to begin with.

“When Lachesis protested that she was praised by kings and wise men, Clotho said they that was because they were appealing to her vanity in the hope she would convince Atropos not to cut the thread of their lives.

“Well, that was more than Lachesis could bear. She punched Clotho in the eye. When Clotho recovered she went into a rage and went after her sister. While they were busy slapping and pulling each other’s hair, Atropos took her shears and cut at her sisters’ dresses as they passed by her, tearing them to shreds. When her sisters realized what she had done, they wrestled the shears away from her. Lachesis held her down while Clotho cut off her long, beautiful hair.

“After a time, the sisters seeing what they had done became deeply ashamed of themselves. They spent many days discussing their problem, but could find no solution. In the end they resolved that their situation was more than any god could bear and they could not go on living together.

“So, they went together to their father and laid out their grievances before him. After listening thoroughly, he said to them, ‘Although you have no power of life and death over me, I can’t keep you together against your will. So, I will divide mankind into three tribes. Instead of deciding the fate of all men together, each of you will be responsible for one tribe.

“’Is this agreeable to you?’ he asked his daughters. They agreed, so long as they each ruled over the same number of people. Zeus said that was fine, but that only one of the sisters would rule the spirit of a particular time and place at a time. But, he assured them, they needn’t worry. It would all even out in the end. The sisters agreed that would be fair.

“Because fairness was all the rage then,” Avery blurted out.

“Shush, Avery. Let me finish.” Olivia scolded him.

“’But,, heed my warning,’ Zeus said to them, ‘you will each be responsible for the work of your sisters. Where once one spun, one wove, and one cut, you will each need to become proficient in your sisters’ art?’ They all nodded – each thinking that her job was harder than the others.

“‘Okay,’ he said to them, ‘It is done.’ Then he floated up to the top of Mount Olympus. Once there, he took out three thunderbolts and hurled them down to earth, splitting mankind into three tribes.

“The sisters cheered, thinking that now each of them would receive the adulation and respect that they deserved. They forgot their animosity for each other and began to dance in their father’s courtyard as they had when they were children.

“Zeus, returning from the mountaintop, regarded them for some time without saying a word. Eventually, they noticed the sadness in their father’s face and stopped dancing.
“‘What’s wrong, father?’ they asked in unison.

“He said, “You Clotho, now rule the new religions that are coming.’ He was referring to what we now call the traditional religions: The three Abrahamic religions and the Eastern religions such as Confucianism and Buddhism. ‘It is fitting,’ he continued, ‘that as the oldest of your sisters, that you will dominate for a time. You have heard rumors of these religions in the streets of Athens, but soon they will cover the whole world. They will be divided into East and West, and for a time will have the respect of institutions of learning and power, but as for you yourself – they will not know you. This tribe will banish you so completely from their lives that you will be but a distant memory. They will light no fires to you, offer you no sacrifice. You will spin, weave and cut, but they will give praise to other gods.”

“Clotho began to cry at these words, aware now of the terrible loneliness she had been condemned to. Her sisters, frightened for her, drew close to comfort her.

“’As for you, Lachesis, men will remember you,’ Zeus continued. ‘But, they will worship you in their minds, but not their hearts. The weaving of the lives of men will be of utter importance to them. They will believe they control their own lives. They will take credit for the work they achieve from their own hands regarding it as their own.’”

Then he turned to his youngest daughter, who was beside herself now, trembling at what awaited her. He said, ‘Fear not, Atropos, your tribe will worship you as they do now. They will offer you sacrifice and seek out your advice and aid. But you will have to endure many ages of hardship and ridicule from your sisters’ tribes. It was your skill, the inevitable end of man, that brought them to worship all of you together. Your sisters’ tribe will mock your tribe and drive them out of their cities.”

 

“’But, this is terrible,’ the sisters cried.

“’What’s done is done,’ Zeus replied. And with that, he sent them back to their cave to gather their things. The end.”

And so that’s how they fell out?” Avery asked.

“Yes, what do you think?”

“Interesting story,” Avery replied. “You are saying each of the goddesses had a special skill that the others could not replicate and that’s why we’re all confused today?”

“Yes, Clotho spun the soul of each person in which was infused the truth of their origin. Lachesis wove a person’s life experience and purpose in such a way that an individual could achieve maximum satisfaction with his life if he obeyed the gods. And Atropos controlled the passions of humans so that they could find their way at death to the next life. That was the skill of her shears, knowing precisely when the moment of death should occur.”

“Hmmm,” Avery said. “I don’t know. If it was so important to keep them together, then why didn’t Zeus explain it to them?”

“Oh, that’s easy,” Ruby explained. “They’re children. He’s put them in a time-out so that they can’t play with each other. He’s teaching them a lesson.”

“A bit rough on humanity, though,” Avery noted.

“Absolutely,” Oliva agreed.

“I need more details,” Avery said.

“Such as?”

“Well, what did the sisters actually say to Zeus to convince him they needed to set up their own shops? I can’t imagine he pulled out his thunderbolts on a whim of three silly girls. There had to be something of a compelling argument.”

“Of course. I’ll need to think on that. I’ll bet back to you.”

“And, for another thing. You say that Atropos’ image became distorted. Do you mean to imply she’s Satan?”

“Sure, why not?”

“Satan is a woman?” Ruby asked. “Do you believe that?”

“It’s just a story,” Olivia assured her.

“I have a question,” Steve piped up. “What about the other gods? They lost their powers, too?”

“Oh, of course,” Olivia answered. “Gods don’t have power when people stop believing in them.”

“So, they died or faded away?” Steve asked.

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“No, they left for another planet,” Olivia answered. “In living flower pod ship.”

“You’re going with the ‘gods were aliens’ trope?” Avery asked. “That’s been done to death.”

“I don’t know why you’re objecting, Avery,” Olivia replied. “As I recall, the last time we discussed the gods that’s about the only thing we agreed on; that they were aliens.”

“Yes, I forgot. We were twelve, though. But, okay, I accept that they all left. All, that is, except for Hermes and Dionysius, right?” Avery winked at her.

“Yes,” Olivia sighed. “If you insist. Zeus left Hermes and Dionysius behind.”

“To help out the sisters?” Avery grinned.

Olivia rolled her eyes. “Of course. He was always blind when it came to those two.”

“Now we’re talking. But, I don’t want to hear about how it’s a mistake to think Dionysius and the Jesus myth are the same story. No lectures.”

“Tall order there,” Olivia answered. “But, okay. I promise to be kind to Dionysius.”

“Who is Dionysus?” Ruby asked.

“Some people, like Avery, think Jesus is a white-washed version of Dionysus.”

“Goodness, you don’t believe that, do you?” The lady looked aghast.

“Of course not, Ruby.”

“And so,” Avery continued,” it makes sense, in this scheme, that as Atropos became Satan, Dionysius became Jesus?”

“Oh, no, no, no. That’s a bridge too far. However, I could agree that he lost his reputation BEFORE the Fates split up. I could have Zeus say to the sisters: ‘Look what the Athenians have done to your brother.’”

Avery laughed. “Yeah, there’s no coming back after that.”

“What did he do?” Ruby asked.

“Dionysius was a party animal, Ruby,” Steve said. “My kind of god.”

“Do you know the Greek myths, Steve?” Avery asked.

“Sure.”

“What books have you read? The Iliad and the Odyssey?” he asked.

“Nope, but I have all their comic books.”

“Avery,” Olivia said, trying to regain his attention. “Are we agreed, then? Dionysius’ was misunderstood before the breakup?”

“I can live with that,” he agreed.

“Dude, check it out,” Steve said. “Zeus left Dionysius behind so that he could redeem himself.”

“Ba bump bump,” Avery said, chuckling. “Good one, Steve. Hey, folks, I’ve got a meeting to get to. Catch you next time.”

“’Bye, Avery,” they all called out to the monitor before it went blank.

“Ruby, this is your stop,” Steve announced as the shuttle came to a stop. “Miguel, you’re up next.”

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