Mother Shipton was an English prophetess who lived in Yorkshire, from the late 15th to mid 16th century. She is possibly the single most famous post-classical soothsayer after Nostradamus, and has him beat in that rather than writing in enigmatic quatrains of Middle French, she wrote in open, rolling rhymed verse that reminds me a little bit of Dr. Seuss. The character Agnes Nutter in Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman's Good Omens is a parody of Mother Shipton.

Some selections from her work:

And now a word, in uncouth rhyme
Of what shall be in future time.

Then upside down the world shall be
And gold found at the root of tree
All England's sons that plough the land
Shall oft be seen with book in hand.

The poor shall now great wisdom know
Great houses stand in far-flung vale
All covered o'er with snow and hail.
A carriage without horse will go
Disaster fill the world with woe

In London, Primrose Hill shall be
In centre hold a Bishop's See
Around the world men's thoughts will fly
Quick as the twinkling of an eye.

And water shall great wonders do
How strange. And yet it shall come true.
Through towering hills proud men shall ride
No horse or ass move by his side.

Beneath the water, men shall walk
Shall ride, shall sleep, shall even talk.
And in the air men shall be seen
In white and black and even green.

A great man then, shall come and go
For prophecy declares it so.
In water, iron, then shall float
As easy as a wooden boat
Gold shall be seen in stream and stone
In land that is yet unknown.


For in those wondrous far off days
The women shall adopt a craze
To dress like men, and trousers wear
And to cut off their locks of hair.
They'll ride astride with brazen brow
As witches do on broomstick now.

And roaring monsters with man atop
Does seem to eat the verdant crop
And men shall fly as birds do now
And give away the horse and plough.

There'll be a sign for all to see
Be sure that it will certain be.
Then love shall die and marriage cease
And nations wane as babes decrease
And wives shall fondle cats and dogs
And men live much the same as hogs.

In nineteen hundred and twenty six
Build houses light of straw and sticks.
For then shall mighty wars be planned
And fire and sword shall sweep the land.

Many of the verses attributed to her were not in the original version of her prophecies, which were published a century after her death, but were added sometime in the 19th century. In this way, it's almost impossible to ascertain which are "true prophecies", since it's easy to talk in prophetic language of things that have already happened! In many ways, she's tailor-made for believability in a certain kind of progressive mind-set: persecuted as a witch (victim chic, with Neo-Pagan elements), a woman (feminist), and strongly antitechnological (Green Party support). Personally, I'm inclined to believe that the 19th century verses are the "true" ones: there was a good deal of Green-like thought in the Romantic period, which also hatched most of the ideas we now ascribe to witches. My opinion only...

There is more prophesy attributed to Mother Shipton, of which few of the lines have come true... yet... talking of armageddon, and how man will survive. Here are my interpretations.

A fiery dragon shall cross the sky,
six times before this earth shall die.
Mankind will tremble and frightened be,
for the sixth heralds in this prophecy.

A fiery dragon which crosses the sky would, to my mind, have to be a dramatic comet, since no other astrological event would return six times. However, that doesn't quite make sense in the light of the next verse:

For seven days and seven nights,
Man will watch this awesome sight.
The tides shall rise beyond their ken,
to bite away the shores, and then
the mountains will begin to roam
and earthquakes split the plain to shore.

For the tides to rise beyond their ken, one of two things must happen: a large tsunami occurs (due to asteroid strike?), or a large body passes incredibly close to the planet, possibly setting off the earthquakes and/or tectonic activity. But a comet wouldn't be big enough for this: so perhaps an enormous rock decends into Earth orbit?

And flooding waters rushing in
will flood the lands with such a din
that Mankind cowers in muddy fen
and snarls about his fellow men.

This verse seems to describe the flooding of low-lying areas by the tsunami, and the obvious reaction of men to it. It is intriging to note that mankind is allowed to cower in muddy men and snarl, obviously outliving those in the low-lying (coastal?) regions.

He bares his teeth and fights and kills,
and secretes food in secret hills
and ugly in his fear, he lies
to kill marauders, thieves and spies.

Any who have seen The Last Train or Reign of Fire will know what Mother Shipton is referring to in this verse. The world's greatest predator is man himself; and without the stabilising influence of technology and society, destroyed by the tsunami, he falls back into barbarism.

Man flees in terror from the flood,
and kills and rapes and lies in blood,
and spilling blood by mankinds hands
will stain and bitter many lands.

This verse says little on its own, but coupled with later verses, it seems that karma returns for those who kill and rape with their lands bittered by blood.

And when the dragon's tail is gone
Man forgets, and smiles, and carries on
to apply himself -- too late, too late
for mankind has earned deserved fate

It has often been commented that our relatively short lifespan of three score years and ten has often led to the mistakes of the past being forgotten, when there is nothing to remind them.

His masked smiles - his false grandeur
will serve the gods their anger stir.
And they will send the Dragon back
to light the sky - his tail shall crack
upon the earth and rend the earth
and man shall flee, King, lord and serf.

'Hubris', defiance of the gods, wanton violence and overbearing pride, is a terrible thing, believed the Greeks. And it was quickly followed by 'ate', or divine retribution. It's difficult to tell how the Dragon could be sent back, assuming it either crashed into the earth or at least left, to some extent. If tidal forces from a massive body were causing the earlier verses, then perhaps it was perturbed into another orbit... meaning that it comes back, this time hitting the Earth full on...
But how did mankind earn the wrath of the gods? Perhaps mankind was deemed to have 'played gods' too much...

But slowly they are routed out
to seek diminishing water spout
and men will die of thirst before
the oceans rise to mount the shore
And lands will crack and rend anew
You think it strange? It will come true.

Obviously, after a great flood there is a great drought; if the oceans have left, then perhaps it was a sea landing, ejecting the water into the atmosphere - or even further outwards.

And in some far off distant land
some men - oh, such a tiny band -
will have to leave their solid mount
and span the earth, those few to count.
Who survives this <unreadable> and then
begin the human race again.

What distant land could be unaffected by the droughts and floods, with a solid mountain? Only time will tell. Perhaps the buddist monasteries of Tibet?

But not on land already there -
but on ocean beds, dry and bare
Not every soul on Earth shall die
as the Dragon's tail goes sweeping by

It seems that the water does not return to the oceans.

Not every land on earth shall sink
but those will wallow in stench and stink
of rotting bodies of beast and man
of vegetation crisped on land

Those trapped in the areas where man once roamed live in a place worse than hell. It is interesting to note the word crisped; dragons are usually considered to have fiery breath...

But the land that rises from the sea
will be dry and clean and soft and free
of mankind's dirt and therefore be
the source of man's new dynasty

Those who are pure of the taint will found civilisation once more. Can anyone else spot links with Atlantis?

And those that live will ever fear
The dragon's tail for many year
But time erases memory.
You think it strange. But it will be.

It is interesting to note that the dragon's tail is mentioned each time in these verses. Not the dragon, but it's tail. Living in fear perhaps means living a virtuous and hubris-free life?

And before the race is built anew
a silver serpent comes to view
and spew out men of like unknown
to mingle with the Earth now grown
cold from it's heat and these men can
enlighten the minds of future man

This seems, to my mind, to be a clear reference to intelligent, friendly aliens arriving in a silver serpent spaceship... I get the impression of them being almost elf-like...

To intermingle and show them how
to live and love and thus endow
the children with the second sight,
a natural thing so that they might
grow graceful, humble and when they do
the golden age will start anew.

Obviously, these aliens are inter-fertile. The second sight is probably an unbinding of latent psychic powers, coupled with a feeling of life and love. Perhaps these aliens truely do bring enlightenment?

The dragon's tail is but a sign
for mankind's fall and mankind's decline.
And before this prophecy is done
I shall be burned at the stakes at one.
My body singed and my soul set free.
You think I utter blasphemy.
You're wrong. These things have come to me.
This prophecy shall come to be.
However, she was apparently never burnt.

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