Ursula Southeil (c. 1488 - 1561) (possibly Ursula Sonthiel), better known as Mother Shipton, was a English seer and prophetess who is said to have made dozens of unusually accurate predictions, including the Great Plague, the Spanish Armada, and the Great Fire of London.
The most famous example of Mother Shipton's prophecies apparently foretells many aspects common to modern civilization, and predicts the end of the world in 1881, however it is now known to be a 19th century forgery:
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.
It is now generally acknowledged that Mother Shipton was largely a myth, and that many of her prophecies were composed by others after her death, and after the events they 'predicted'. Her prophecies were apparently recorded in a series of diaries but the first published book of her work did not appear until 1641 and the most noted work, by Richard Head, came out in 1684. Head later admitted to inventing almost all Shipton's biographical details.
The details of her life as recorded by Head state that she was born in Knaresborough, Yorkshire, and was reputedly hideously ugly - supposedly because she was fathered by the Devil. She married Toby Shipton, a local carpenter, near York in 1512 and is said to have told fortunes and made predictions throughout her life.
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