Alright everyone, it’s time for a quick refresher on Greek mythology, a literary precedent akin to the Christian Bible in its scope of influence. The great authors of (relatively) recent times, including our lovely friend William Shakespeare, used Greek mythology for genre, plot, and character types, so it is important to keep those Greeks in the back of your mind.
Remember the Fates? Collectively called the Moirai, the Fates are the three sisters that determine your fate—self-explanatory. Clotho spins the thread of life, Lachesis measures the thread out, and Atropos inevitably cuts the thread and ends the life. They’re often described as ugly, old, and disfigured, which sounds kinda like…
You know the picture: hags with warts, hideous hair, hunched backs, and so on, as well as being endowed with a sense of the supernatural, if not the future. Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” has a set of witches that are *coincidentally* very similar to the Fates. His witches are also a trio of old, ugly, bearded women, who tell prophecies about the fate of different characters in the play.
Our title character, Macbeth, is a general driven by ambition to become the king of Scotland, mostly because he hears a prophecy from these witches that he will become a thane (a member of the Scottish nobility) and that he will become king.
Of course, this gets to Macbeth’s head as soon as King Duncan names him a thane, proving part of the prophecy true, but then he goes on to murder Duncan in his sleep to assume the throne.
Because prophecies are so great (this is heavy sarcasm), Macbeth goes back to the witches, and they tell Macbeth to beware of Macduff, and that he can’t be harmed by any man born by woman or until the forest moves.
Macbeth takes these prophecies very seriously and it leads to his downfall.
Do you know what happens to Macbeth?
He gets killed by Duncan’s son, Malcolm, after his wife commits suicide and he murders his friends.
Because he believes the witches 100%, Macbeth tries to fulfill their prophecy.
He lets their words get to his head.
He takes the prophecy as his destiny. Of course, it does come true, but not in the way that he wants it to. Their words ignite not only his ambition, but also his ruthlessness, paranoia, and death wish.
Although the witches tell the truth, Macbeth’s belief in their prophecies is what alters his destiny.
By his conviction in the prophecy, Macbeth guaranteed his own death and loss of power.
(If you’re interested in similarly depressing tales, check out Oedipus; you won’t be disappointed.)
The lesson of a tragedy like Macbeth or the Greeks is to teach us that we do not control the fates.
We do not control the prophecies and the way that events play out, but we do control our own actions.
Macbeth chose to kill Duncan because he believed the prophecy he would become king. If this hadn’t been a tragedy and Macbeth had dutifully served as a thane, maybe he would have assumed the throne when Duncan died of natural causes (still fulfilling the prophecy), without becoming a murderous, power-hungry man doomed to die.
So what does this have to do with us today? There aren’t really any crazy ladies that weave magical fabrics and share an eyeball (gross, right?) that we have to be scared of.
Believe it or not, we hear prophecies every day. They might not sound like the ones that a witch conjures out of her cauldron, but the words of others are just like prophecies.
Because they have no power over you until you CHOOSE to make them true. Until you succumb to their negativity, or until you follow their advice, their words are just air.
BUT if you DO act on what they tell you about yourself or your future, chances are you are going to end up fulfilling their “prophecy” about you.
When someone tells you your story is never going to get published or your business idea is definitely going to fail, don’t pay them any mind. Hear what they have to say. Acknowledge that their words don’t HAVE to come true unless you listen to them and act on them.
YOU have the power over whether or not their predictions become reality or not.
It can sometimes be good to listen to others whether they are giving you a negative or positive prophecy, and getting advice from those with more experience than you is DEFINITELY a good idea, but if you let it get to your head you’ll probably end up bringing yourself down.
Fate, destiny, other people’s prophecies, etc. may be out of your hands, but your own choices are yours. Don’t commit yourself to one predestined prophecy; instead follow through with the fate that you want to fulfill.
If a witch says, “Something wicked this way comes,” be wary, but do not feel doomed!
And let me know if you find any real witches, I’d be interested in meeting one.