Friday, 30 March 2012

Mother Shipton: England's Nostradamus

I often pass by Knaresborough in North Yorkshire, but seldom go through or to it. To many people the REAL HORROR in Knaresborough is the traffic, only a small town but it can take ¾ of an hour to get from one side to the other ! However ready for Aprils Ghoul’s Day I’ll keep to Knaresborough’s most famous legend Mother Shipton.
I’ve read a lot on the internet and in books and rewrote it in to this.

Mother Shiptons Cave. Pic from Google

Knaresborough was first mentioned in the Doomsday Book of 1086/7 as "the Manor of Chenaresburg"

However, the site has an even older claim to fame as described mainly by Gareth Evans
: In a small cave, an unmarried 16-year-old died in childbirth. It was a common event in those days, but the baby girl she produced would grow to be both feared and revered in her own time and remembered over the centuries as England's greatest prophetess Old Mother Shipton, the English Nostradamus.

There are many versions of how Mother Shipton -- Ursula Southeil -- was born and spent her childhood. It is generally accepted that she was born one night in the summer of 1488, to the young Agatha Southeil who was just 16 years old.
According to some this birth was accompanied by "strange and terrible noises." The woman who acted as midwife is said to have reported a great crack of thunder and a pungent smell of brimstone at the moment Ursula appeared into the world.
In most versions of the story, Agatha dies in childbirth, her body being found the next day beside the new-born Ursula, whom was described as grotesquely deformed. Her head was too large, with "goggling" eyes that glowed like embers; her cheeks were sunken; her teeth what ? teeth ! protruded like the tusks of a boar; and her limbs were twisted and ill-formed.

A local woman took in this poor child, but
at times she might have had wondered why. Most of the earliest tales of Ursula herself tell of the strange events that are said to have plagued the cottage as the child grew up. Like the furniture rearranging itself, plates be flung about and food vanish before the eyes of mealtime guests.
A quick, bright girl, Ursula was forced to endure merciless cruel taunts from the local children over her appearance. Ursula married. a carpenter by the name of Toby Shipton in 1512
Ursula had already a reputation as a soothsayer. This reputation extended beyond her local area -- people travelled to Knaresborough from some distance around to see her. When this sadly deformed creature made such a good marital "catch", the inevitable tale developed that she had used a love-potion to bewitch her hapless suitor.
In addition to her redoubtable powers of prophecy, Ursula Southeil, now the respectably married "Mother" Shipton, was clearly also a witch. The real reason that Toby married her is probably, rather like her father's identity, far less exotic. Possibly Toby saw the truth in the old adage about the shallow veneer of physical beauty.

She seems to have been particularly successful in solving the sort of disputes that were as common then as now and not many appeals for help from wronged folk went unresolved. This seems to have started early in her married life and continued until she died. Thieves would often return stolen goods, apologising to the wronged owners for their sin.
It is easy to see how she might have used an insider's knowledge of her neighbours -- and perhaps a measure of coercion -- to bring about these results and maybe even predict the future within the confines of her own town. For a clever woman, as she undoubtedly was, the signs are always there to see. However, some of her prophesies can’t be explained so readily, although her way of making them in riddles, just like her close contemporary Nostradamus did, does rather leave some of them open to a degree of "interpretation". Nevertheless, her words are said to have foretold much of the future history of England, including
Drake's defeat of the Spanish Armada
The execution of Mary, Queen of Scots
The succession of James VI of Scotland ( I of England) and union between the two countries
Over 105 years after her death,
Great Fire of London began and the ravages of the Great Plague,
It also said that she predicted the time of her own death to the very day and hour.
The Ruin of Cardinal Wolsey
Inevitably, in a time of enormous religious turbulence, when the accusation of heresy was tantamount to a death sentence and witchcraft feared by high and low born alike,
Mother Shipton gained enemies as well as followers. Probably the most famous of these was Cardinal Wolsey, Henry VIII's Chancellor and prime architect of the dissolution of the monasteries
She prophesied the Cardinal's downfall, just as she had the Mayor of York before him.
With the Pope holding firm, Wolsey, who was probably already fearful of his own future, can hardly have welcomed the gloomy prediction that, although he was Archbishop of York, he would never enter the city.
He retaliated by threatening that when he did come to York, he would have Mother Shipton publicly burned at the stake as a witch.
Sometime later, Wolsey arrived at Cawood, a village a few miles outside of York, his last stop before entering the city. He is said to have climbed the tower at Cawood Castle in an attempt to see his destination in the distance in defiance of the prophecy. He forgot, however, that Mother Shipton had not said that he would never see York, only that he should never reach it. Nor did he; he was arrested on a charge of treason by the Earl of Northumberland, took ill on the journey south, and died.
Mother Shipton is credited with predicting many aspects of everyday life that would have seemed outrageous and inconceivable in her time -- motor-cars and trains (4), iron ships (5), submarines (6), aircraft (7), and telegraphy (8), and possibly by extension, even the Internet. However, it is now widely accepted that many of these apparently prophetic writings were the work of a man by the name of Hindley, writing in 1871, which does somewhat change their apparently "visionary" nature. In addition, as crowds celebrated 1 January 2000 across the globe, her most portentous prediction of all -- the end of the world -- was shown to be wrong.
With a character as colourful as hers, and in days long before comprehensive written records, discerning fact from fiction is always challenging. Many other parts of Britain have tried to claim her as their own over the years, including Melrose, Winslow-cum-Shipton in Buckinghamshire, and Great Yarmouth. Some accounts suggest she died in 1651, but since this would have made her 163 years old, it is probably simply a juxtaposition of the more usually accepted date of 1561. The first written record of her life was in a pamphlet written in 1641, which associated her with York, or possibly Yorkshire.
Mother Shipton was said to have been buried in consecrated ground somewhere in the outskirts of York, possibly between the villages of Clifton and Shipton. A stone monument was supposed to have been erected on the site, bearing the inscription "Here ly's she who never ly'd, Whose skill often has been try'd, Her prophecies shall still survive, And ever keep her name alive." Sometime later, according to local folk lore, the stone was removed to a museum in York, from where it subsequently disappeared. Its whereabouts today are unknown.

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