Mother Shipton

Mother Shipton (1488–?) was a15th-century English witch and seer who supposedly prophesied scientific inventions, new technology, wars and politics through several centuries, all written in crude rhymes. The books of her “prophecies” are likely the invention of later writers, among them Richard Head, who published a book of her predictions in 1667; an anonymous writer who published the Strange and Wonderful History of Mother Shipton in 1668; and a man named Hindley, who apparently authored Shipton predictions in 1871.

More myth and fabulous tales surround mother Shipton than fact. Reputedly, she was born Ursula Southeil near Dropping Well in Knaresborough, Yorkshire, in 1488, though the dates 1448 and 1486 also are given in various texts. Her mother, who possessed the powers of Healing, clairvoyance, storm raising and hexing (see hex), died in childbirth with “strange and terrible noises.” Ursula, who inherited her mother’s powers, was raised by a local townswoman. mysterious things happened around Ursula: furniture moved about on its own, and food disappeared from dinner plates. Once, the townswoman left Ursula alone in her cottage. When she returned with several neighbors, they were attacked by strange forces. A woman was hung by her toes from a staff floating in the air, and men were yoked to the same staff. Other women found themselves dancing in circles; if they tried to stop, an Imp in the shape of a monkey pinched them to keep them going.

Ursula fit the classic stereotype of Hag. Head described her as follows:

. . . with very great goggling, but sharp and fiery eyes; her nose of incredible and unproportionable length, having in it many crooks and turnings, adorned with many strange pimples of divers colors, as red and blue mixed, which, like vapors of brimstone, gave such a lustre to the affrighted spectators in the dead time of the night, that one of them confessed that her nurse needed no other light to assist her in the performance of her duty.

In art, she is depicted as wearing a tall, conical, brimmed black hat.

Despite this incredibly ugly appearance, Ursula married Tobias Shipton at age 24. Her husband then disappeared from all records, and Ursula became known as Mother Shipton. She did not like prying neighbors and once took revenge on a group of them by bewitching them at a breakfast party (see spells). The guests suddenly broke into hysterical laughter and ran out of the house, pursued by goblins. For this mischief, Mother Shipton was summoned to court, but she threatened to do worse if she were prosecuted. She then said, “Updraxi, call Stygician Helleuei,” and soared off on a winged dragon.

The verses attributed to her vary. One of the bestknown is:

Carriages without horses shall go
Around the world thoughts shall fly
In the twinkling of an eye
Iron in the water shall float
As easy as a wooden boat
Gold shall be found, and found
In a land that’s not now known
A house of glass shall come to pass
In England, but alas!

Her predictions included automobiles, telephone and telegraph, iron-clad boats, the California gold rush and the Crystal Palace in London. Mother Shipton also is credited with predicting the Civil War in England, the Great Fire of London (1666), the discovery of tobacco and potatoes in the New World, World War II and the women’s liberation movement.

Her memorial, Mother Shipton’s Cave, is in Knaresborough.

Further Reading:

  • Briggs, Katherine. British Folktales. New York: Dorset Press, 1977.
  • Folklore, Myths and Legends of Britain. London: reader’s Digest Assoc. Ltd., 1977.
  • Valiente, Doreen. An ABC of Witchcraft Past and Present. 1973. reprint, Custer, Wash.: Phoenix Publishing, 1986.

Source:

The Encyclopedia of Witches, Witchcraft and Wicca – written by Rosemary Ellen Guiley – Copyright © 1989, 1999, 2008 by Visionary Living, Inc.

You may be also interested in :

Traditional Witchcraft : A Cornish Book of Ways - Gemma Gary
The Witch’s Eight Paths of Power: A Complete Course in Magick and Witchcraft – Lady Sable Aradia
The Wiccan Mysteries: Ancient Origins & Teachings - Raven Grimassi
A Practical Guide to Witchcraft and Magick Spells - Cassandra Eason
By Land, Sky  Sea Three Realms of Shamanic Witchcraft - Gede Parma
HausMagick: Transform Your Home with Witchcraft - Erica Feldmann
The Hammer of Witches: A Complete Translation of the Malleus Maleficarum - Christopher S. Mackay
The Temple of High Witchcraft: Ceremonies, Spheres and The Witches' Qabalah - Christopher Penczak
Aradia or the Gospel of the Witches - Charles G. Leland
Witchcraft and Demonology in South-West England, 1640–1789 - Jonathan Barry
Satanism and Witchcraft -  Jules Michelet
Witchery: Embrace the Witch Within -  Juliet Diaz
Out of the Broom Closet: 50 True Stories of Witches Who Found and Embraced the Craft  - Arin Murphy-Hiscock
Letters on Demonology and Witchcraft – Sir Walter Scott
The Hedge Druid's Craft: An Introduction to Walking Between the Worlds of Wicca, Witchcraft and Druidry - Joanna van der Hoeven
Buckland's Book of Saxon Witchcraft - Raymond Buckland
Wiccapedia: A Modern-Day White Witch’s Guide  - Shawn Robbins, Leanna Greenaway
Witchcraft, Oracles and Magic among the Azande (Abridged Edition) - E. E. Evans-Pritchard, Eva Gillies
Witchcraft: The Old Religion - Leo Louis Martello
Veneficium Magic, Witchcraft and the Poison Path - Daniel A. Schulke
Power of the Witch: The Earth, the Moon, and the Magical Path to Enlightenment – Laurie Cabot, Tom Cowan
The Witches’ Book of the Dead – Christian Day
Witchcraft and Demonology in Hungary and Transylvania - Gábor Klaniczay (Ed.), Éva Pócs (Ed.)
An ABC of Witchcraft Past and Present - Doreen Valiente
Mastering Witchcraft: A Practical Guide for Witches, Warlocks, and Covens –  Paul Huson
Familiar Spirits: A Practical Guide for Witches & Magicians – Donald Tyson
Witch Unleashed. Untamed. Unapologetic. - Lisa Lister
Charge of the Goddess: The Mother of Modern Witchcraft - Doreen Valiente
The Visions of Isobel Gowdie: Magic, Witchcraft and Dark Shamanism in Seventeenth-Century Scotland - Emma Wilby
The Wonders of the Invisible World - Cotton Mather