Alternatively Fatae and Harsh Spinners.
Greek and Roman mythologies include three spiritual beings called in Greek the Moirai, in Latin Parcae or Fatae, who were supposed to control the destiny of a person. They were named (probably after Hesiod) Clothe (or Clotho), who held a distaff on which was the material of life; Lachesis, who spun the thread from this material and, by doing so, assigned the individual his lot or fate; and Atropos (literately "the one that cannot be restrained"), who made that final cut of the thread which ended life.
The Fates were conceived as old women, who were present at every birth, ready to spin the new born's fate, according to the will of the gods.
Sometimes the three are called the Harsh Spinners, even though they do not all spin. Their 'spinning' was said to take place at birth, and in some periods also at marriage, when a new life or fate was made. The general word moirai means 'share' or 'apportioned lot'. Lachesis means approximately 'obtaining by lot' and atropos 'irresistible'.
The three witches in Macbeth have been linked with these three spinners, from the old English term weird, which means approximately 'destiny'; the three 'weird sisters' were the Fates who control destiny.
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Sources: (1) Cooper, J.C. (Editor), Brewer's Book of Myth and Legend, Cassell Academic Publishing; (2) Evans, Bergen, Dictionary of Mythology, Dell Publishing Co., Inc.; (3) Dixon-Kennedy, Mike, Encyclopedia of Greco-Roman Mythology, ABC-Clio Inc. Publishers; (4) Ayto, John, Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase & Fable, Collins Reference Publishing.
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