Thursday 27 April 2017

Three Women and Prophecy

Three female figures depicted on a fountain (PHOTO: Adeyinka Makinde)

I encountered this fountain featuring three female figures at an intersection between Schaffhauserstrasse, Schindlerstrasse and Rotelstrasse.

It doesn’t appear to be on any list of famous sculptures in the city of Zurich but it caught my eye. My presumption is that it is a depiction of the Moirai of Greek Mythology.

Alternatively known as the Fates, they are a trio of white-robed female incarnations of destiny. They are Clotho (the spinner), Lachesis (the allotter) and Atropos (the unturnable). They control the metaphorical thread of life of every mortal from birth to death.

I took a particular interest in these figures after listening to a 1993 BBC radio drama production on Alexander the Great in which the scriptwriter uses them as part of the narrative. The spirits of Achilles and Patroclus consult and converse with these ‘daughters of Nyx’ at the time of his birth in Pella and his demise in Babylon.

Clotho gave Alexander “a thread of gold and iron thicker than a man’s wrist” and Lachesis, ‘lady luck’ bestowed on him “as much as I have given any man”. Atropos predicted a short life. And of his renown? All three answered in unison: “Everlasting”.

Near the end of his life, the three “gather their ragged skirts” and embark to meet him in Babylon where he acknowledges their presence at the foot of his bed.

“Ladies, is it time?”
“Time. Time. Time”

Three females of prophecy are a recurring feature in European polytheistic culture with parallels in different traditions.

Think of the three 'Weird Sisters' of Shakespeare's play about the Scottish King MacBeth…

© Adeyinka Makinde (2017)

Adeyinka Makinde is a writer based in London, England.

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