Olympus: The Artistry of Atropos

November 15, 2010

Freud argued that the death-figure of Atropos had been transformed in many contexts into a personification of love: Cordelia, Cinderella, Aphrodite in the Judgement of Paris. This represents unconscious wish-fulfilment, the insurance of the self against death. ~ Conrad H. Roth

4-H Sewing/Clothing project, Oregon


Image Credit: Linus & The Feel Good Factory


Identity: The Inevitable. The third Moerae or Fate

Description: White-robed, grey-haired goddess who holds the shears that sever the thread of life.

Symbols: Shears, scissors, or cutting implement

The Greek Myth

Atropos was the oldest and most powerful of the three Moerae. The story is as told previously under Lachesis: The Fate of Second Place

Upright Meanings

Inescapable predicaments that have to be faced, but which could result in a satisfactory outcome.

Reversed Meanings

Unavoidable circumstances that will prove difficult to handle and might not turn out as one would wish

Psychological Comment

Life has a habit of occasionally placing us in situations from which there are no easy ways out. As the old Chinese proverb says, ‘Destined enemies always meet in narrow passages’.

Although we may frequently dodge adversity by skilfully negotiating our way around it, or being sufficiently materially endowed to pay someone else to extricate us from it, a predicament will inevitably arise that we and we alone must handle.

Atropos situations have an air of fatality about them, as though one has reached the end of the path, lost all, and can go no further. And yet this may not necessarily be the case. Many a person has picked up the proverbial pieces and risen to even greater heights following an Atropos-like visitation. In fact, the very act of so doing increases the mental strength and stamina and provides the necessary impetus for the next step up the ladder of success. No problem is ever completely hopeless. Your mind, and your mind alone, can decide how you handle the ending of one phase of life and the commencement of another. It is all a question of positive thought.

Scissors & knife, Recoleta Cemetery

Scissors & knife, entrance gate, Recoleta Cemetery

Scissors can represent the profession of tailor or seamstress, but not in this case. The above image is found only on the front gate so the symbolism would be more general.

Another option might be a representation of The Fates, three sisters which several ancient cultures believed controlled all destiny. In the Greek version Clotho gathered material & spun the thread, Lachesis measured the thread, & Atropos cut the thread with her scissors… the end of a life. Standard depictions of Atropos show her scissors open, ready to cut the thread. The cemetery image has closed scissors paired with a knife. Big mystery. ~ Source Afterlife



  1. I like the 4-H crone and maiden illustration!

  2. “Destined enemies always meet in narrow passages.” – what wonderful imagery, oh my! Look at this (read over breakfast this morning): http://www.ssqq.com/archive/vinlin27d.htm

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