Ancient Usage of the Cloth Metaphor

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The three Fates of ancient Greek myth, also called the Moirai, controlled the destiny of every person (Atsma, "Moirai" n. pag). They were granddaughters of Kronos and daughters of Zeus, as described in Hesiod's Theogeny from the 8th or 7th century BCE (Atsma, “Moirai” n. pag). Each Fate had a specific role: 

“Klotho, whose name means ‘Spinner,’ spinned the thread of life. Lakhesis, whose name means ‘Apportioner of Lots’—being derived from a word meaning to receive by lot—, measured the thread of life. Atropos (or Aisa), whose name means ‘She who cannot be turned,’ cut the thread of life” (Atsma, “Moirai” n. pag).


Kairos is another concept of Greek antiquity worth exploring in terms of its relevance to weaving metaphors. Phillip Sipiora explains the work of Eric Charles White in Kaironomia, noting in Rhetoric and Kairos that although kairos has had various meanings (the first relating to archery), writing:

“the second meaning of kairos traces to the art of weaving. There it is the ‘critical time’ when the weaver must draw the yarn through a gap that momentarily opens in the warp of the cloth being woven. Putting the two meanings together, one might understand kairos to refer to a passing instant when an opening appears which must be driven through with force if success is to be achieved (1987, 13). Significant here is the conflation of spatial and temporal metaphors” (Sipiora 17-18).

Ariadne’s Thread

A third notable image of thread in Greek antiquity was the thread Ariadne used to navigate through and back out of the labyrinth, as written by Ovid, Plutarch, and others, according to Atsma (“Minotauros” n. pag). This would be worth exploring further in terms of: 

  • how laying thread means drawing lines, creating spaces that can be conceptualized,
  • how labyrinths present unknown reaches,
  • and how Ariadne takes or subverts destiny as symbolized by the thread, to lead the way out as a needle leads thread, noting the polysemy of “lead” meaning rope or guide.

Penelope Weaving and Unweaving

A fourth image of weaving appears in Homer's Odyssey, with Penelope weaving and unweaving the funeral shroud for Odysseus' father so that the suitors who mean to take advantage of her will leave her in peace (96). Penelope extends time by unraveling the thread.

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