Monday, January 27, 2014

Glitter and Hubris

The latest trio from talented indie maker Shades of Phoenix is called Thread of Life, and was inspired by the Moirai, or as they're more commonly referred to these days, The Fates. The Moirai are a trio of women that according to Greek mythology created, shaped, and eventually ended the lives of all mortals. They're a really interesting facet of Greek mythology to look at from a modern perspective, because their role is largely based around an idea that's quite different from how we're taught to look at the world these days - the concept of hubris.

But before I get all academic, lets take a look at the lovely pretties.

First up is Clotho, a pretty pink glitter topper inspired by the youngest of the Moirai. Clotho's role was to spin the thread that would be woven into a mortal life, and she was the creator aspect of the trio. Suitably, this polish is quite light and simple with a selection of pink glitters in a clear base.

I've swatched it here over a pink Ulta 3 chrome polish called Lollypop Lilac, but I imagine this would go well over a variety of colours. I think I might have to go back and try it over red for Valentine's Day! Despite not being a huge fan of pink, I really like the colours in this. It's overall more of a rose gold sort of palette than the more fuschia pink that seems to be so popular these days, and I much prefer this more classic colour scheme. It is definitely a glitter topper though - unlike a lot of other polishes in the Shades of Phoenix range, this is more a sparkly accent than something to be worn on it's own. You will have to do some fishing for the big circle glitters, but that's the case with any polish using these glitters.

Next up is Lachesis, who's name literally translates as "allotter". Lachesis was responsible for shaping the thread that Clothos created into a mortal life, and determined who you would be, what you would be, and the overall shape of your fate. She was often portrayed as a matronly, motherly sort of figure, which I think says something interesting about how the Greek's viewed the role of the mother in shaping how a person turns out. The polish however, is far from matronly. It's an absolute riot of sparkle, with tiny holographic silver bar glitters forming a glittering background for a selection of silver and holographic glitters of various shapes and sizes.

I swatched it over a silver chrome from Furless Cosmetics called Filthy Rich and the end result was so ridiculously shiny I put up a little video on my Instagram to show off the amazing light show I got when I wiggled my fingers. Truly, still images do it no justice. Because I'm an enormous nerd, I was walking around wiggling my fingers muttering "pew pew!" under my breath because I felt like there was a laser light show on my nails.

Finally (and inevitably) we have Atrophos, the cutter of threads. Atrophos was most frequently portrayed as a crone, and was responsible for determining where the thread of a mortal life should end, as well as doing the cutting. She's sometimes referred to in modern interpretations as the Greek equivalent of Death, but that's actually not quite right. Death itself was personified as Thanatos, an entirely separate deity. Atrophos was the one who decided when you were going to die, how you were going to die, and made sure it happened the way she had planned. Her polish is a gloriously golden glitterbomb - suitably a little more restrained than Lachesis, but still very lovely. As well as large gold circle glitters, there are a variety of gold and holographic glitters in a clear base.

I've swatched Atrophos over a gold chrome from a new local indie brand Sea Siren Cosmetics, called Stunning Sunset, and I think these two polishes compliment each other beautifully. As with Clotho, you'll have to fish a little for the large dots, but I had no problem with any of the smaller glitters.

 At first glance, it might seem like such a happy, shiny, beautiful trio of polishes are an odd choice to associate with the Moirai. To a modern eye, their roles seem appallingly totalitarian, and the idea that your life is entirely laid out by external forces for you seems bizarre and depressing. Most modern depictions of the Moirai reflect this modern interpretation of their roles, and they're often cast these days as grotesque witches to be hated and feared.

But this actually isn't how they were generally perceived by Greek eyes. Atrophos, as the bringer of death, was obviously never particularly popular. But the role of the Fates in general was considered an integral part of keeping the universe running. I imagine people complained on a day to day basis about the lot they'd been given in life, particularly if they hadn't been given a super great one. But the idea that the universe could function without them was unimaginable. While the extent of their power does change depending on which source you're reading, in some accounts even the Gods themselves had to bow to the Moirai. They were the very definition of the final word, but they weren't originally portrayed as malicious - just three ladies doing an under appreciated but absolutely necessary job.

The Fates show up several times in Neil Gaiman's graphic novel series The Sandman, but this portrayal
from The Kindly Ones is my favourite. Art by Marc Hempel.

Greek mythology and literature took a very stern view of mortals who were arrogant enough to try and struggle against the future carefully laid out for them by the Fates. This concept of arrogance to the point of stupidity was referred to as hubris in Greek tragedies, and interestingly became an actual legal charge in ancient Athens. In the legal sense, hubris referred specifically to humiliating others for your own gratification, but in literature it largely referred to being so arrogant that you thought you knew better than not only everyone around you, but the Gods as well. Greek literature is just jam packed full of examples of characters who thought they were able to control their fate and were righteously smacked down because of this - Tantalus, Midas, Sisyphus, Niobe, Actaeon, Antigone, Cassiopeia, Ixion, Phineus, Salmoneus, and more. It's hard to say how much influence this repeated theme of struggling to change your fate being met with punishment effected Greek citizens on a day to day basis, but it's certainly very different from the modern "bootstraps" ideology - the idea that anyone can be anything they want if they just try hard enough, and that anyone in a bad place must be there because they didn't try hard enough. The idea of putting the responsibility for your lot in life squarely in the hands of mystical deities is really quite bizarre to a lot of modern audiences, and I find it colours the way a lot of Greek deities are portrayed.

Hubris is often translated these days into a positive quality, and thus figures who enforced the status quo in mythology are miscast as villains. One of the things I like best about this collection is that it shows the Moirai as they were originally intended to be - not witches to be feared and hated, but creator gods that should be thanked for allowing us to exist at all. The glittery, colourful palette suggests a feeling of gratitude and celebration, rather than one of resentment, and I think this is a delightfully accurate representation of the way the Moirai were originally.

The Thread of Life Trio can be purchased from Shades of Phoenix or Femme Fatale Cosmetics within Australia, and internationally from Mei Mei's Signatures and Color4 Nails


  1. Loved the swatches specially Clotho *-*

  2. Thank you for the wonderful read! Being Greek, I do not meet many people who understand these aspects of mythology.


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