From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
In Greek mythology, the white-robed Moirae or Moerae, often called the The Fates) were the personifications of destiny (Roman equivalent: Parcae, euphemistically the "sparing ones", or Fata. They controlled the metaphorical thread of life of every mortal and immortal from birth to death (and beyond). Even the gods feared the Moirae. Zeus also was subject to their power, as the Pythian priestess at Delphi once admitted.
The Moirae were usually described as cold, remorseless and unfeeling, and depicted as old crones or hags. The independent spinster has inspired fear rather than matrimony. "This sinister connotation we inherit from the spinning goddess," write Ruck and Staples. Some mythologies depict them instead as the traditional maiden, mother, and crone.
Despite their forbidding reputation, Moirae could be worshipped as goddesses. Brides in Athens offered them locks of hair and women swore by them. They may have originated as birth-goddesses and only later acquired their reputation as the agents of destiny.
They likewise have forbidding appearances (beards), and appear to determine the fates of all individuals.