~ “What fate imposes, that men must needs abide; It boots not to resist both wind and tide” ~
— William Shakespeare
This has got to be one of the most oldest debates in history; right up there with, ‘What came first, the Chicken or the Egg?’ In fact, just typing ‘Fate v/s Free Will’ into Google, yields about 5,860,000 results.
This is also a subject every Tarot reader, from the seasoned professional to the newbie clinging onto the LWB (the Little White Booklet or LWB is the instruction booklet that comes with every deck), has had to discuss in some form or the other. In fact, anyone and everyone dealing with any form of divination – Tarot, Astrology, Numerology, Runes, Tasseomancy, Lithomancy, Palmistry, Pyromancy… even Extispicy (ritually slaughtering animals and reading their organs to divine the future. See the movie Stardust) – has been faced with this question.
There have been plenty of articles, books, and monumental tomes written about the subject that cite everything from Plato to Jung, and even Yoda. Some have been on the side of Fate and claim Free Will to be a mere illusion. Some have claimed Free Will to be the only ‘reality’ and Fate is just the concoction of lazy people. Some have taken the diplomatic route and claimed both Fate and Free Will go hand in hand; while others have debunked both altogether and embraced the theory of the Universe being a product of ‘organized chaos’ (WTF?)
In the midst of this debate is the sub-debate regarding the purpose of divination – to predict or not to predict. If Fate is the only reality, then what’s the point of getting a reading if one can’t do anything about it? If Free Will is the sole reality, then why bother with a reading when we can ‘change’ our futures just by ‘active suggestion’?
Furthermore, this debate has also lead to many readers to ‘justify’ to a client who is dissatisfied about a reading not coming entirely true – Client: You said I’d get a promotion, but I got fired! Reader: Really? Well, you did take plenty of liberties regarding absenteeism. Your choosing to do so was your own free will. Thus altering the result of the reading altogether. So it’s not my fault!
However, before we go any deeper into this debate. Let’s first try an understand the idea of both Fate and Free Will. After all, how can one argue either side of a debate without understanding what both positions truly mean? This way, at least we can make an informed decision and expand our scope of perception.
Now the term Fate is a tricky subject altogether, for with it has centuries worth of psychological imagery associated with burdens and restrictions. However, let’s try our best to clear our pre-conceived notions and open our minds to a new world of possibilities.
According to the New Oxford American Dictionary, Fate is defined as:
- 1 the development of events beyond a person’s control, regarded as determined by a supernatural power : fate decided his course for him | his injury is a cruel twist of fate.
- • the course of someone’s life, or the outcome of a particular situation for someone or something, seen as beyond their control : he suffered the same fate as his companion.
Okay, so this isn’t the most ‘reassuring’ definition so far, but hey, look what’s up ahead –
- 2 ( the Fates) Greek & Roman Mythology the three goddesses who preside over the birth and life of humans. Each person’s destiny was thought of as a thread spun, measured, and cut by the three Fates, Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos. Also called the Moirae and the Parcae .
Now I love the fact that The Moirae are mentioned within the dictionary itself. To think, a term as complex as ‘fate’ has a mythological figure (or three) to define it. Perhaps if we understand their myths and legends, we can have a better grasp of the concept of ‘fate’? Let’s take a looksie –
The Moirae are commonly thought to be the daughters of Zeus, the mighty ruler of the Olympian Gods, and Themis, the Titan goddess of Justice. However, the myths of the Moirae are even older than those of Kronos.
According to Hesiod, Aeschylus, and Orpheus, The Moirae are the daughters of NYX, the goddess of the night. According to Roman mythologies, they are the daughters of Gaia and Uranus, and were born before the mother-son couple created the universe. Plato claimed they were the daughters of Ananke (necessity or compulsion)and sang in unison of the things that were, are, and to be. Lycophron claims they are the lame daugthers of the ancient Sea (Halos) with triple thread.
Chorus: Who then is the helmsman of Ananke (Necessity)?
Prometheus: The three-shaped (trimorphoi) Moirae and mindful Erinyes (Furies)
Chorus: Can it be that Zeus has less power than they do?
Prometheus: Yes, in that even he cannot escape what is foretold.
Upon reading this, I couldn’t help but wonder – if the gods couldn’t really escape the twists of fate, what makes us ego-ruled human beings feel we can as well?
Unable to really find an answer, I decided to investigate more about the Moirae using the best tool at my disposal – The Tarot.
Shuffling my newly gifted Deviant Moon Tarot Deck (an work of sheer brilliance by the amazing Patrick Valenza), I decided to do a three card reading regarding the Moirae – one card representing each sister.
——– Clotho ———- Lachesis ———- Atropos ——–
The results of the draw were definitely not what I was expecting:-
Clotho – Ace of Wands
Lachesis – 9 of Swords
Atropos – 10 of Swords
Let’s examine each of them one at a time…
Clotho – Ace of Wands:
As mentioned earlier, Clotho spun the thread of life from her distaff onto her spindle. She also made major decisions such as when a mortal or god was born, as well as, deciding which mortal or god were to be saved or put to death (as she ruled rebirth as well). In Rome, she is known as Nona (the Ninth) and is called upon the ninth month of pregnancy. By this, we can see why the Ace of Wands is a fitting card for Clotho, for it is one card that is synonymous with a new birth (Ace – New Beginnings; Wand – Fire, Life, Vitality, Divinity).
However, if one would notice, the infant within the card is covered in something that resembles a pea-pod, with it’s head tearing through, but still protected by a thin transparent layer that resembles a membrane. Furthermore, notice, the woman who is holding the baby; her head, though decorated by a green and fertile wreath, is covered with barren trees that are on the verge of dying. The fiery sparks perhaps symbolize the process of clearing the old to make way for the new. Those who’ve had experience on a farm, there’s an old farming practice of burning the fields after the crop has been harvested. The fire not only eradicated all the remaining husk and shoots of the crop, but also re-fertilizes the soil below, providing a ‘fresh fertile’ beginning for the new batch of crops.
However, the trees aren’t yet burned to the ground. Even the woman’s hair is in the form of lush green vines. Thus, a death hasn’t yet completely occurred, therefore the child is still unborn and is still within it’s cocoon.
Perhaps this symbolizes that no birth (or rebirth) is truly a clean-state.
On a mundane level, it may seem to be a fresh-start, as a baby is innocent and knows ‘nothing’ of the world around. However, we forget that we our karmic memories of our various past lives are deeply embedded within our souls. Those memories remain fresh within us at the time of birth, however we slowly begin to ‘forget’ them we begin to develop ‘conscious’ awareness of the world we’re reborn in. Nevertheless, those karmic patterns embedded within us still play a major role as karma is an eternal cycle.
Now, from what I’ve studied about Karma, there are 3 major categories under which Karma falls under –
Individual Karma – The Karma of the individual based solely on his past actions.
Familial Karma – The Karma of the entire family. This is one of the reasons we inherit our parents (and other family members) physical features, emotional, and psychological qualities. We inherit, as well as, contribute to our family’s karma as a whole. (More on this shall be discussed in detail when the time is right)
National Karma – The Karma of the Nation as a whole. The country/region we are born in plays a major role in influencing our karmic patterns. This can be further broken down into racial, social, economic, religion/spiritual, and political karma (More on this shall be discussed in detail when the time is right)
So the baby in the pod could represent the summation of our Individual Karma, while the woman holding the baby could represent our Familial Karma, and the ‘third hand’ holding the wand that’s lit with fire could represent our National Karma. Thus, setting the stage for our birth within this world.
A little interesting fact: Our root chakra begins to develop from the time we’re in our mother’s womb (the third trimester) thus an aspect of our fate is already decided before we are even born within this world. However, we need to keep in mind, this is only one of the numerous lifetimes we have lived, and we probably have numerous more after this lifetime.
I suppose the best way to sum up Clotho is through this dialogue between Oogway and Shifu from the movie Kung Fu Panda
Oogway: My friend, the panda will never fulfill his destiny, nor you yours until you let go of the illusion of control.
[Points at peach tree]
Oogway: Look at this tree, Shifu: I cannot make it blossom when it suits me nor make it bear fruit before its time.
Shifu: But there are things we *can* control: I can control when the fruit will fall, I can control where to plant the seed: that is no illusion, Master!
Oogway: Ah, yes. But no matter what you do, that seed will grow to be a peach tree. You may wish for an apple or an orange, but you will get a peach.
Lachesis – Nine of Swords
Lachesis is the measurer, deciding how much time for life was to be allowed for each mortal or god. She measured the thread of life with her rod. She was known to choose a persons destiny after a thread was measured and would appear with her sisters within three days of a baby’s birth to decide its fate.
When I saw the 9 of Swords appear in the position for Lachesis, my first reaction was, ‘Oy Vey!’ No wonder so many people cringe at the idea of a predetermined destiny or fate; it’s downright scary!
However, Lachesis is also known as the ‘Disposer of Lots’. She instructs the souls who are about to choose their next life, assigns them lots, and presents them all of the kinds, human and animal, from which they may choose their life.
Wait a minute… she presents us with a choice? Does that mean Free Will is a part of Fate?
Well, kinda. But let me explain further.
As we’ve seen in the case with Clotho, at the time of our birth, our Fate is set based on the summation of our Individual, Familial, and National Karma. Based on this, Lachesis offers us various ‘choices’ enabling us to live our lives and fulfill our destiny.
Imagine the journey of your life to be a gigantic labyrinth that your soul needs to cross from the starting point (birth) and reach the finish line (death and then rebirth) where it will receive numerous rewards. Clotho has given your soul all the strengths and abilities to overcome every obstacle, but also weaknesses and blind-spots that you need to work upon develop into your strengths during the course of your journey.
Lachesis appears at the starting line and offers you a choice between two paths. One leads to the East, the other leads to the West. Once you’ve made your choice, you travel down that path facing it’s unique obstacles and hinderances, as well as, receiving the rewards for overcoming them. You then reach another fork in the road, where Lachesis appears and offers you the choice of which path to take. You make your choice and move on until the next fork in the road; and this happens constantly until you reach the finish line, where based on your progress throughout the paths you’ve chosen you’re rewarded.
However, it is only when we reach the finish line, do we realize that all the roads of the labyrinth lead to the very same finish line. In fact, they even had quite a few ‘pit-stops’ in common.
“What’s the point of all those choices if they were going to lead to the same thing at the end of the day?”
Ah, well, that’s where the Nine of Swords comes in.
The advocates of Free Will go on and on about how important it is for us as individual to take charge of their life’s path and create their own universe through the process of ‘active suggestion’ and ‘the law of attraction’ etc, but yet, how many of us really do that?
I believe it was Freud who said, “Most people do not really want freedom, because freedom involves responsibility, and most people are frightened of responsibility.”
Choices aren’t that easy to make. When we choose something, we not only sacrifice the everything the other option(s) had to offer us, but we also take on the responsibility of what we have chosen. And to honor that responsibility, we need to honor our choice and see ourselves through it in order to make a ‘successful life decision’.
Allow me to illustrate this with an example –
Imagine a girl who is seventeen years old and a junior in High School. She is dating a senior, who is also the captain of the baseball team and is pressuring her to be sexually active with him. Here, Lachesis comes in the form of the choice, Do I make love to my boyfriend and be sexually active with him, or do I choose to practice abstinence?
The responsibility of going ahead and being sexually active with her boyfriend is in ensuring that she is ready physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually to take that step in the relationship, as well as, stress upon safe sex practices and receiving the right kind of advise to make her first time a wonderful experience.
The risk is if being sexually active with her boyfriend guarantees him being faithful to her? After all, we all know how senior high school jocks tend to be when it comes to getting laid (and isn’t there always a bitchy cheerleader who has eyes on your man?) Also, is she sure he’s STD free? Is he lying about his sexual history? Will he be good at it or will he be sloppy and ruin it for her?
If she choses to remain abstinent, she has the responsibility of standing firm on her beliefs and not succumbing to peer pressure of any sort. Obviously, she made the choice because in her heart of hearts, she knew something wasn’t right. And hence to prevent that from occurring, she must stick to it.
However, the risk with that is her boyfriend could possibly break up with her for being a prude and not respecting her wishes. Rumors may spread about her being an ‘Ice-Princess’ and thus ruining her reputation. And if she shies away now, will she ever be brave enough to go all the way later in her life? Is her shyness just a psychological issue, and delaying it would only make it worse?
Eventually, the girl in our example will lose her virginity at some point or the other. It all depends on whether she chooses to lose it at seventeen to her hunky jock boyfriend. Or if she would wait till she’s more older and mature and comfortable with the idea. Lachesis will always be waiting for her at each crossroad.
Let’s say, she does finally have sex. However, due to her individual and familial karma, she gets pregnant. If she did it with her high school boyfriend, she would be pregnant at seventeen, and would be faced with the choice to keep the baby and forego her college education to raise the child. If she lost it in college, again decision to keep the baby or forego completing college or giving the child up for adoption or go in for an abortion. And then there’s the decision to tell the father of her child, and choose whether to marry him for the ‘right reasons’ or not.
See how complicated it becomes? No wonder the card that appeared in this position is 9 of Swords, because sometimes making choices in our lives can be a total mind-fuck.
Again, this was just an example, but I just wanted to illustrate how the choices in our lives come with their personal share of responsibilities and potential risks. However, at the end of the day, we need to be brave enough to handle such responsibilities.
However, if we sit back and decide to blindly go with the flow of fate. We live a caged life filled with fear and apprehension. We never get to really experience life. We just witness it and become victimized by our fears that manifest as the big bad world outside.
Yet, at the same time, overanalyzing situations and choices can also be a major bane, as the constant stream of nervous tension and excess worrying about making the right decision can lead to incredible amounts of stress, leading to breakdowns.
So even though from this, Free Will does seem like an ‘illusion’, it is important for us to use it actively within our lives in order to move on and progress further along our path in order to fulfil our destiny.
To quote Carl Gustav Jung, “Free Will is the ability to do gladly that which I must do.”
Ponder about that for sometime, and then we’ll move onto the third card…
Atropos – 10 of Swords
Atropos was the oldest of the Three Fates, and was known as the “inflexible” or “inevitable.” She chose the mechanism of death and ended the life of each mortal (and god) by cutting the thread spun by Clotho with her shears.
Why grandma, what a dramatic card you have!
All the better to kill you with my dear!
LOL… Okay, sorry, I couldn’t help myself. But that’s Atropos. There’s really no stopping her. Once she’s determined when, where, how, why, she’s gonna cut your thread, you can bet all your karmic brownie points she’s gonna cut it.
No matter where you are. No matter how far you run. No matter how cleverly you hide. And no matter how much you bribe your way through. There’s no stopping Atropos from cutting your thread. Once it’s your time to go, it’s your time to go. And you’ll die exactly the way she intends you to die.
Does that make her cruel or heartless? No, it doesn’t! And here’s why.
As explained before, this lifetime of ours is just one of the many along our overall karmic path. We entered this life with certain karmic boons and burdens with a special soul mission to carry out throughout our existence. The minute that is done, it’s time to say goodbye. Atropos doesn’t believe in dilly-dallying.
However, our karmic mission doesn’t always have to be some kind of Academy Award winning ‘based-on-a-true-story’ type mission.
It can be anything from raising your children to become wonderful members of society, or even working till retirement and take you and your wife out on an all expense paid trip to Mauii. It could even be dying young of drug abuse or a rare uncurable disease to serve as an example and cause for the world.
Either way, whatever it is. Atropos is gonna cut that thread when she has to.
However, this is another illusion, for life is truly eternal. Your soul will live on, and shall carry forth it’s collective karma and your soul with find (or should I say, choose) a new body to enter.
For you see, the Moirae may seem like three separate entities, but they are truly one. Like various triple goddesses representing different phases of the moon, they represent various aspects of Fate. But all in all, they are the same.
And hence, let’s combine the 3 individual cards we have pulled and discover what Fate is in it’s unified form
Ace of Wands
+ 9 of Swords
+10 of Swords =
1 + 9 + 10 = 20
= Judgment ——
I couldn’t help but laugh out loud when I saw this. After all, isn’t this like totally the ‘cliche’ image/card one would think would represent our indomitable unchangeable fate? After all, Judgment is ruled by Pluto, ruler of the underworld, owning the 8th house of Sex, Death, Karma, and among other things, Fate.
However, there’s more to Fate than meets the eye…
20 = 2 + 0 = 2 = The High Priestess
How does the High Priestess fit into all this? Well, for that, you’ll have to check out part two of our exploration of Fate v/s Free Will.
However, here’s a little hint for what’s in store for you. The root of the word Fate is Fatum in Latin. Fatum is also the root word for “Fairy”. Fairy Godmothers?
Love and Blessings
PS: I apologize for my absence and my inability to post regularly. However, I’m now back in the blogging-groove, and will post regularly. I can’t wait to see where this leads to. Please do let me know what you think. I’d love to hear your thoughts.