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The Life and Legend of Mother Shipton

Mother Shipton and the Prophecies of Mother Shipton

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Mother Shipton's Prophecies

Mother Shipton's Prophecies

Print Collector / Hulton Archives / Getty Images

Mother Shipton was a Yorkshire witch whose prophecies predicted the fates of several rulers within and just after her lifetime, and who even managed to predict the future after her death amazingly accurately -- including the invention of iron ships, and then the destruction of London, and even the end of the world.

But in all probability, Mother Shipton is a legend, popular first in Yorkshire, England. The prophecies themselves evolved in each re-publication of her story, in different decades and centuries.

In 1862, in Victorian Britain, bookseller Charles Hindley published a prophecy and credited it to a "Mother Shipton," and claimed that it came from a 1684 publication by Richard Head, The Life and Death of Mother Shipton.

The 1684 publication by Richard Head contained many other prophecies, supposedly from a Mother Shipton, but not the one quoted by Hindley in 1862. A 1686 publication about Mother Shipton credited to Edwin Pearson is thought to have been written by Head, as well.

In a 1641 pamphlet on Mother Shipton's prophecies, which is the first known reference to Mother Shipton, she is said to have predicted deaths of famous people accurately, including Cardinal Wolsey.

Another story of Mother Shipton was published in 1645, a comedy about Mother Shipton appeared in 1660, another version of Shipton's life and prophecies was published in 1740 by John Tyrrel, and another was published in 1797.

The 1797 publication attributes a birth date of 1488 and a baptismal name of Ursula Southiel (Sowthiel or Southhill) to Mother Shipton. The 1684 publication by Richard Head gives her mother's name as Agatha and identifies the Devil as her father.

In the 1862 version by Charles Hindley, Mother Shipton predicts the end of the world in 1881. In 1881 there was some panic in Britain as the prophecy had become accepted as true even though in 1873, Charles Hindley confessed that he had made up this prophecy.

1740 Prophecy

In 1740, Mother Shipton, a legendary Yorkshire witch and prophet, was credited with this prophecy of the end of London.

Time shall happen A Ship shall sail upon the River Thames, till it reach the City of London, the Master shall weep, and cry out, Ah! What a flourishing City was this when I left it! Unequalled throughout the World! But now scarce a House is left to entertain us with a Flagon.

In John Tyrrel, Past, Present and To Come: or, Mother Shipton's Yorkshire Prophecy, 1740.

Prophecy of 1862 or 1684

In 1862, in a book about Mother Shipton by Charles Hindley, Mother Shipton, a legendary Yorkshire witch and prophet, predicted the end of the world in 1881. In 1881 there was some panic in Britain as the prophecy had become accepted as true even though in 1873, Charles Hindley confessed that he had made up this prophecy.

Carriages without horses shall go,
And accidents fill the world with woe.
Around the world thoughts shall fly
In the twinkling of an eye.
The world upside down shall be
And gold be found at the root of a tree.
Through hills man shall ride,
And no horse be at his side.
Under water men shall walk,
Shall ride, shall sleep, shall talk.
In the air men shall be seen,
In white, in black, in green;
Iron in the water shall float,
As easily as a wooden boat.
Gold shall be found and shown
In a land that's now not known.
Fire and water shall wonders do,
England shall at last admit a foe.
The world to an end shall come,
In eighteen hundred and eighty one.

In Charles Hindley, 1862, claimed to be from Richard Head, 1684, The Life and Death of Mother Shipton.

Sources

Learn more about the development of the Mother Shipton legend and the impact of one of her prophecies that was believed by some people in Britain from these sites around the Net.

Mother Shipton: The Yorkshire Sibyl Investigated.
The Result of a Critical Examination of the Extant Literature Relating to the Yorkshire Sibyl.

by William H. Harrison, 1881
An early investigation into the truth of the claims about Mother Shipton, documenting the development of the legend.

Mother Shipton: Magic and the Occult of Britain
An essay on the legend of Mother Shipton's life and the prophecies attributed to her. Includes a classic picture of Mother Shipton, depicted as an ugly woman with long, crooked nose -- a traditional image of a witch.

Mother Shipton's Cave
Information on the Mother's Shipton Cave, a site in England where one can visit the supposed cave in which Shipton lived, and the petrifying well near her home. Includes a playground for children, a picnic area, and a walk to the cave and well. Admission prices are posted on the site.

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