Profile of a Goddess: Parcae, Triple Goddess of Fate

By catalyst

Spun, measured, cut: We are each a thread in the fabric of the universe.
by Carol Koleman
goddess.jpgName: Parcae-Triple Goddess of Fate

Translation: Originally a single goddess named Parca meaning create or give birth, the Goddess of Fate eventually became the triple goddess Parcae, translated as part. The first Triple Goddess Nona, the spinner, means ninth month, the second Decima, translates as measurer, and the third Morta, cutter of the thread of life, means death.

Religion: Roman

AKA: The Three Fates, Tria Fata

AKA in other mythologies: the Moirae (Greek triple goddesses of Fate: Clotho, Lachesis, Atropos); Beten (Lithuanian triple goddesses of Fate: Ambeth, Borbeth, Wilbeth); Norn (Norse triple goddesses of Fate: Verdandi, Skuld, Urd). Single goddesses of fate are frequently found in other religions, but the triple goddesses of fate appears to be a uniquely Indo-European concept.


Nona spins the thread of life from her distaff onto her spindle; Decima measures it with her rod, and Morta cuts the thread with her shears. The Fates are depicted at times as old hags and at other times as the Maiden, Mother and Crone. The symbol of the three goddesses of fate can be seen in many aspects such as the three phases of the moon, the ancient three seasons (summer, autumn and winter), past, present and future, and the Norse translation of each goddess' name: Become, Becoming and Shall Be.

The symbol of a triple spiral is sometimes associated with the Three Fates. Each spiral represents a singular goddess (and perhaps spinning wheel) while also being intertwined with the other spirals, invoking the inextricability of our fate with the past and present. It's not a stretch to also see a galaxy in this image which suggests that, though individual, we are each part of a whole.


The Parcae appear in the ninth month of pregnancy to begin the process for deciding our fate. During this month, Nona spins out the thread on her spinning wheel, which is predestined to every child born. At the time of birth, Decima measures the length of the finished thread with her rod and takes it to her sister Morta, who then cuts it with her "terrible" shears and thus seals our fate, deciding how long we will live. Only the Parcae may decide our fate; it cannot be changed. Their decision is unknown to us until it inevitably arrives.

What if you knew the exact time of your death? Would you live each day differently? The Parcae remind us that we are fated to die. We may not know precisely when, but if we remain aware, we may shape our life with  greater joy and deeper wisdom.

We are each on an individual journey, but like each spiral that makes up the triple spiral, we are part of a bigger whole; a thread within the universal cloth. Yes, we are alone …but we are not alone. We are woven into our place within the galaxy, entering and leaving this life at different times and places yet always remaining.


Practice this meditation each morning when you wake. Take a few minutes to sit quietly and consider everything you have to look forward to; find redeeming aspects even in the mundane. Consider the Three Fates and the lesson they bring. We may have no choice or knowledge of our finite existence, but the one thing we can control is how we interpret our daily presence. Celebrate each moment; why would you choose to do otherwise?

Of course, you may spend your limited days complaining about the possible shortness of your thread. That's your choice. But wouldn't it be more exciting and satisfying to acknowledge what an incredible short thread it is? Look at the amazing color, and how well Nona spun it! It's up to you to spin your own present reality.

Consider yourself lucky that you know without a doubt you are going to die. There's nothing vague about this, no mystery…so now, nix the TV (what a waste of your valuable time), get off the couch and be remarkable!

Your challenge each morning is to visualize the day spent living to its fullest capacity…for who knows how long your thread may be?

Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old Time is still a-flying;
And this same flower that smiles today,
To-morrow will be dying.
The glorious lamp of heaven, the Sun,
The higher he's a-getting;
The sooner will his race be run,
And nearer he's to setting. 
From "To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time" by Robert Herrick (1591-1674)

Questions for the Goddess?


This article was originally published on July 27, 2007.