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Dissertation Title:

Wyrd Webs and Woven Words: Archetypal Expressions of Fate in Classical, Celtic, and Norse Mythology


Emily Ruch

Date, Time & Place:

April 1, 2021 at 12:00 pm


Different cultures have different conceptions of fate but share parallel metaphors for this phenomenon in the personified forms of goddesses (and mythic women) and the non-personified forms of cloth and thread. This study proposes that such common fate-metaphors are archetypal.

The archetypal expressions of fate examined in this dissertation include crafters, wielders, and agents of fate—the Weaver, the Foreteller, and the Summoner—as well as material channels of fate, the Thread and the Cloth.

The archetypal Weaver is the maker of opportunity. She spins, plies, or weaves fate and sometimes does other textile-related work that closely involves fate—like the Morrigan washing the garments of those doomed to die in battle. The Weaver archetype has two aspects: one weaves harmony, and the other weaves discord.

The archetypal Foreteller speaks fate before it comes to pass. She stitches an interwoven image (the foretold phenomenon) into the fabric of life by providing the “vocal woof” to the warp threads of fate.

The archetypal Summoner draws someone toward her allotted fate, at times pulling on the thread of fate itself. Summoners regularly take the shape of personal gods, guides (psychopomps), or spirit doubles, but they are not always on such intimate terms with those they summon. The perilous Sirens, for example, summon anyone who chances to hear them. Summoners often appear in myth as shape-shifters.

The archetypal Thread essentially connects and represents the most potently fundamental and transformative experiences known to the human condition: birth, death, life, and love. The goddesses of fate craft each fate-thread, usually near the time of birth or conception.

The archetypal Cloth symbolizes a complex, creative, and harmonious interweaving of many strands into a single, unified whole—an important metaphor for the fate of individuals, families, and society. Throughout history women have been the primary (often the only) makers of cloth—which is associated with fortune of every kind—thus the Cloth archetype and the fateful power of the Feminine are inextricably bound.

  • Program/Track/Year: Mythological Studies, E, 2012
  • Chair: Dr. Dennis Slattery
  • Reader: Dr. Safron Rossi
  • External Reader: Dr. Emily Clark
  • Keywords: Comparative Mythology, Archetypal Psychology, Feminist Literary Criticism, Irish Mythology, Táin Bó Cúailnge, Fedelm, Freyja, Seiðr, Darraðarljóð, Wool-work