Look who I found a possible link to on my family tree...........Mother Shipton!!! I'm related to the Shipton family of Yorkshire, and I haven't been this excited about my geneology in a long time. I tried finding a comprehensive thread in the public forums, but did not find one with more than a link or two. So, here's what I've learned thus far...
Mother Shipton, also known as Ursula Southeil/Sontheil/Southill/Soothell was born in July of 1488 and died at Clifton in 1561. She was said to have been born as an illegitimate child in a cave in Knaresborough, Yorkshire near the River Nidd. The cave is now known as Mother Shipton's Cave. The cave is currently a huge tourist attraction as the is petrifying well near the cave. She has had many titles: prophetess, witch, soothsayer, necromancer, fortune-teller, and "possessed". She made many prophecies, many of which are reputed to have come true.
shipton cave.jpg 14.67KB 0 downloads
Her parentage is somewhat of a mystery. It is rumored that her father was a necromancer. Another rumor insists she has no father, but was born "of darkness." Yet another rumor states she was "begot by the Phantasm of Apollo, or some wanton Airial Damon" . Her mother is known under two possible names, Agatha or Emmatha, and was reputed to have been left an orphan as a teen. She was very poor, and troubled by a "common" disease referred to as "Sloth" (depression, perhaps). One rumor of Ursula's birth claims this....once Ursula's mother, Agatha/Emmatha, sat upon a shady bank of the Highway, a spirit came to her as a handsome lad and wooed her. Agatha/Emmatha did not suspect a devil as the lad was so handsome, and thus engaged him after telling him of her secrets and fears. This devil visited her everyday/commonly after this fornication, but never asked of her money or favor. It is said that Agatha/Emmatha commonly found odd pieces (Ninepieces, Quarters, or thirteen pence half-pennies) left by her dark lover, and it was on that money that she sustained through her life. (Strange and Wonderful History of Mother Shipton).
Continuing the rumor....When Agatha gave birth to Ursula, she is said to have had a belly as large as a woman bearing a dozen children. When she gave birth, booming thunder was said to have clapped through the sky. She gave birth to Ursula, respectively in July of 1488, and Ursula is said to have been a long, big boned, unhealthy looking baby. She had hellish, fiery eyes and a long, crooked nose. She was born with many pimples covering her body, which gave off the smell of brimstone and glowed so brightly with the vapours of Hell that her caretaker did not need a candle to dress her at night. Her afterbirth is said to have smelled of brimstone as well. This rumor states that besides the darkness of her birth, she was a happy but unusual baby, born grinning and laughing in a jeering manner (Strange and Wonderful History of Mother Shipton). This source seems quite biased towards a "Mother Shipton was evil!" point of view, for the record, and is also an incredibly old story. The one solid piece of info I can gain is Agatha/Emmatha was 15 or 16 when she had Ursula, and the father is largely unknown. Also, Ursula was regarded as an orphan, but it seems Agatha/Emmatha remained alive and well in a convent in Nottingham, after giving Ursula up to a foster mother.
Ursula is also reputed to have lived with her mother for two years (in a cave the whole time? I am unsure...) and at this age, she began showing incredibly psychic abilities and was remarked as an unusual child. I believe myth of her living in the cave for most of her childhood is unlikely, as are many elements of her story, and have been blown up by media and tourism.
The petrifying well, also known as the Dropping Well, was regarded as magic by the people of Yorkshire. Many folk stayed far away from it, believing touching the waters would turn one into stone (turns out, it's actually an incredibly healing natural spring). Everything dropped into the well would come out petrified, or looking like stone. This well is said to be one of a kind in England. The well is made of tufa and travertine, both of which are a variety of limestone. The well is said to always be overflowing with water, in every season and in all weather, and has a very high mineral content which sediments practically everything in its path, turning it "into stone" or petrifies it. The petrification process of this well takes about 3-5 months for soft, porous materials, and up to 18 months for most other items. Due to its high mineral content, the well has collapsed in on itself a few times - most notable of these collapses occurred in 1816 and 1821. To prevent collapse, the well is now scrubbed with wire brushes frequently. I believe Ursula's connection to this well is also largely fueled by tourism, being that the well was for so long regarded as taboo, and also playing into the idea of wishing wells and their connection to magic.
The cave is now a huge tourist attraction and has been since 1630, and is regarded as a sacred ground.
Mother Shipton was said to have been very ugly, and is often portrayed as an old hag with warts on her face. It is said that the common image of a witch (warty, cloaked hag with a hooked nose) is pulled from her image.
early shipton.jpg 98.13KB 0 downloads
Mother Shipton is said to have made many prophecies/predictions, most notable of those being a prediction about the Cardinal of Wolsey (who quickly became an enemy of Mother Shipton). She predicted that the Cardinal would never reach York, despite being York's archbishop. She was officially approached regarding this prediction, and was said to be very warm and inviting as she let the officials into the house, offering them food and a place by the fire, and knowing who they were and why they had sought her out. They mistakenly assumed her prediction revolved around the Cardinal never "seeing" York, but she corrected them - that he would never "reach" York. Sure enough, the Cardinal left London and headed for York. When he was only miles away, he was beckoned back to London, on counts of high treason. I do not know how the trial went, but do know that the Cardinal soon fell ill and died - and never did reach York. Mother Shipton's prediction had come true, and this cemented her reputation as a prophetess (and many worse things, like a demon woman).
She is said to have also predicted other major events, such as the downfall of the hegemony of the Church, the death of Queen Mary of Scots, peace in Ireland during its warring times, and her own death. Her predictions also outline the rise of technology of the "future" (our time, roughly) and described things such as automobiles, the internet/telephones/wireless communication/television, skyscrapers, aircraft, metal ships, the creation of Israel by the British and U.N., at least one World War and other wards, woman dressing "as men" (pants, short hair, etc.), machines taking over farmer's jobs worldwide, acceptance of divorce and abortion, the discovery of many of her prophecies after her own death, printed text and printers, plagues (the word in the prophecy is "ague", which left "many people dead"), and the Great Fire of London. Some of these prophecies were claimed to have been created by Charles Hindley and others, for the sake of publishing an interesting story. I personally am not 100% of which prophecies are hers, versus those which were made then had her name tacked onto them. Also, it is said that Ursula never wrote down the prophecies herself, and thus it unknown the authenticity of most of them.
She made many prophecies which was have anchorage in the modern world, and are presumed to be possible prophecies for the future, the events of which are still to come. Some prophecies did not prove to be true, namely those surrounding a local bridge. The prophecy seems to state that when the world is ending, this bridge would collapse. Well...it's done that twice. The bridge is now called "The World's End".
It is unknown where Ursula Southeil is buried, but it is suspected to be in or near Knaresborough, very possibly in non-consecrated ground on the outskirts of town (given that churches probably would not permit her burial in cemeteries, given her reputation...)
She married Toby Shipton, a carpenter of Skipton, in 1512. It is much harder to find information on Toby Shipton. Frankly, if anyone has info...I'd love to see it. I'm curious to see the man that married "ugly, demon woman" Mother Shipton! It is rumored that she used a love powder or similar spell on him...oh la la! Some sources say she had no children, as her womb was "barren, dark, and hostile." Other sources say she did, but finding definitive names is still on my "to-do" list.
She has a moth named after her, Callistege mi, as it has what looks to be two hag faces on its wings. It is native to her region.
1200px-Callistege.mi.2040.jpg 348.91KB 0 downloads
EDIT: Okay, the attachments are being weird, so I put the pics I could in the text, and one is still attached but hidden to me....so, here ya go!
Dictionary of National Biography, Volume 52 - editted by Sir Leslie Stephen The strange and wonderful history and prophesies of Mother Shipton
Edited by Ravenshaw, 22 April 2014 - 03:17 AM.