Neith and The Fates

The Goddess Neith

The Goddess Neith in the tomb of Nefertiti.

The Goddess Neith in the tomb of Nefertiti.

Neith was the Egyptian goddess of war and hunting. Two arrows crossed over a shield were her symbols. She also wore and ankh on her waist. Because her name also means water she is considered a mother goddess and creatrix of the world. Part of Neith’s hieroglyph depicts a loom, so she was also considered the goddess of weaving during a later period in Egyptian history. Thus, her role as a water creator goddess morphed into that of a deity who wove all of the world and existence into being on her loom daily. Indeed she is sometimes depicted wearing a loom shuttle on her head. She is even said to have woven the bandages for the mummified dead.

We can trace her worship back as far as 7000 years ago. According to Dr. Wim van Binsbergen, "Neith never engaged in any kind of sexual union; that is, she was eternally a virgin. Yet, as the primordial Being, she was also generative. Thus, in Neith we have one of the earliest appearances of the archetype of the Virgin Mother, the Holy Parthenos, in her original, unadulterated form."

Neith is our first example of one of THE most powerful goddesses in her pantheon who is associated with the fiber arts. Being the weaver of the world is no small accomplishment!

The Fates

The Fates.

The Fates.

The Fates, also called The Moirae, are a trio of goddesses who have the fate of men (humans) in their hands. Clotho is the spinner. She spins the threads of life. Lachesis is the measurer. She chooses one’s lot in life and measures (determines) how long it will be. Finally, Atropos, is the goddess who cuts the thread of life at the moment of death. Her name means, “she who cannot be turned”.

The Fates pre-date the Greek Pantheon. Some scholars have said The Fates determine the paths of the gods as well. But other documents list them as the three daughters of Zeus and Themis.

They were often depicted as ugly, old women. Clotho holds her spindle, Lachesis had a scroll said to be her horoscope and a globe, and Atropos wields her scissors to cut the thread of life. The Romans called them The Parcae and named them Nona, Decuma and Morta respectively. Interestingly in modern Italian Nona (spelled Nonna) is the word for grandmother and Morta means death. So it’s possible these beliefs may have survived into Christian times after Rome’s fall.

The Norse equivalent of The Fates would be the Norns. This group of three goddesses also ruled the destiny of gods and men.

The origin of the word "norn" is though to mean "to twine" which would clearly link them to the twining of the thread of life. 

The Völuspá is a manuscript which contains the oldest known Norse poem, dated to around 1270 AD. One of the stanzas refers to The Norns

20. Thence come the maidens

mighty in wisdom,

Three from the dwelling

down 'neath the tree;

Urth is one named,

Verthandi the next,--

On the wood they scored,--

and Skuld the third.

Laws they made there,

and life allotted

To the sons of men,

and set their fates.

Next, we'll learn all about the Norse/Germanic goddesses linked to fiber. We'll get to dip into some great stuff about Frigg, The Valkyries, Holda and Perchta. 

What do you know about Neith and The Fates? Did you know about The Fates from the Greek or Roman pantheon? Finally, just for fun, what type of fiber do you think Neith is using to weave the world or Clotho is using to spin an individual's fate? Do you think it's animal, vegetal or mineral like gold or silver?