Dinner was awkward, mostly because I finally got to meet Moirae. The “Fates” were embodied in this schizophrenic woman. She was middle-aged and average height, average build, average looking—brown hair, brown eyes, brown skin so light she could be any ethnicity. She referred to herself as “we,” and apparently had three voices vying for attention in her head at any given time. The past, present, and future; the young, middle-aged, and old; and the maiden, mother, and crone in one. Good times.
I sat next to Cassandra, and she moved me to an ornately carved wooden chair to the immediate right of where Hades would sit, heading the table. The banquet hall was surprisingly homey. I’d been expecting something as grandiose as the throne room. The floor was divided into wooden squares. The wooden paneled walls had sporadically placed paintings depicting different gods. Feeling out of place, I squirmed in my seat, watching as everyone else gathered around the table. Moirae turned in her chair to glare at me.
“It’s her,” she hissed, and then nodded in agreement with herself.
“Persephone,” I said helpfully. “Pleased to meet you.”
“You are the reason we’re down here.”
I looked at Cassandra for clarification and she shrugged. Leaning over, she whispered, “There’s a reason Hades keeps me around. She may be able to see the future too, but I’m way easier to talk to.” When I nodded in agreement, eyes wide, Cassandra laughed. “Okay, that’s not the only reason. She can’t see anyone who’s been marked.”
“When a god gives someone a blessing or a curse, it interferes with their fate. They drop out of Moirae’s sight. She can’t see gods, either; that’s why Hades needs me.”
I nodded again, amazed at how badly I’d misjudged Cassandra. She was without a doubt the most important soul in the underworld. No wonder she felt comfortable taunting Hades; her position here was completely safe. I turned back to Moirae. I was dreading the answer, but had to ask, “How am I the reason you’re down here?”
“We are the fifth generation of Fates. We took our sisters’ place before the fall of the gods. Hecate, your mother, and you are meant to release us and be the sixth generation of Fates. Instead, you will choose to remain in the realm of the living. Hecate with her witches, your mother with her foolish crops. And you . . . ” She sneered. “What will you do while shirking your duties?”
I blinked. “I . . . uh . . . what? I haven’t even come into my powers yet!”
“There’s something to be said for a self-fulfilling prophecy,” I muttered, shaking my head. If she wanted to be mad at me for something I hadn’t even considered doing yet, fine. I wouldn’t have to feel bad for not stepping up as the next Fate later. Good. I didn’t want to be a Fate.
Pretty much every mythology has some version of the three women that control the threads of life.
They were called the Moirai. The main three in most myths were Clotho (the spinner), Lachesis (the allotter) and Atropos (the unturnable). The Moirai always belonged to the Underworld but through their weavings directed life on the surface. Every event in life was fated. If you did something awesome it wasn’t all that awesome because you were always going to do that. If you did something horrific, it was really the fates who determined that you did that horrible thing. People were helpless at the hands of the fates, but I imagine it took the pressure off.
The names of the fates rarely changed, but their parentage changed depending on the myth. In early mythology they were the daughters of Nyx (Night) and Ananke (Necessity.) Later myths say Zeus is their father, and their mother is Themis.
That there are three fates isn’t coincidence. Ancient Greeks were big fans of the whole mother-maiden-crone relationship so pretty much all female goddesses were part of one of these triads. Persephone, Demeter, and Hecate are one set of triple goddesses, or Artemis, Selene and Hecate, as are Athena, Brigid, and Gaia. The three furies and the three graces form two other triple sets. Athena, the virgin goddess, Aphrodite (the erm… experienced goddess), and Hera, who generationally would be considered their mother or grandmother standing in for the crone, formed another triad during their doomed beauty pageant.
I try to explain the reoccurrence of triple goddesses in my story by putting the fates as a temporary position. So the weavers would have been the first generation, Gaia and group the second, Moirae the schizophrenic the third (okay, she was never referred to as schizophrenic but there is a myth where she appeared as a single entity embodying all three of the fates, so I took that to the logical place in my head), and Persephone, Demeter, and Hecate presumably are a future generation as far as Moirae is concerned.
In my universe, Persephone and group are never going to take their place as fates, so Moirae is pretty mad about that. She can’t see the future of other gods, but she can see her own, and her position as the Fates isn’t going anywhere.
My fates don’t actually direct anything either. Free will prevails. The fates judge where souls go in the Underworld. Moirae can see the past, present, and future act of every mortal being that hasn’t been touched by a divine hand. So she can tell if drinking from the Lethe will reform a soul or if a soul truly belongs in Tartarus based on all their actions, including things they haven’t done yet.
It’s a bit of a different interpretation, but I think it works.