Mother Shipton and her Prophecies

Mother Shipton Life and Prophecies

Mother Shipton was born in a cave in 1488 in the town of Knaresborough, Yorkshire, England. Now known as Mother Shipton’s Cave or Old Mother Shipton’s Cave. Her birth was said to be accompanied by unusual and supernatural events, contributing to the mystique surrounding her. Ursula grew up as a lonely child, focused on her inner world. She was a psychic clairvoyant but also very connected with nature, and the forest and studied herbs. Her real name was Ursula Southeil, she was a legendary English psychic and witch. She lived during the 15th century and is often associated with the Yorkshire region in England. Mother Shipton lived during the period of Henry VIII, the domination of the Spanish Armada, and the great “discoveries” of the New World.  People traveled long distances to see her.
Nowadays Mother Shipton would probably be less feared and more respected as a therapist, psychic clairvoyant, and healer.

Ursula grew up in the vicinity of Knaresborough, a peculiar child in both appearance and demeanor. Her nose was prominent and bent, her back curved, and her legs twisted, earning her comparisons to a witch. Subjected to ridicule and teasing from the locals, she eventually found solace in solitude, preferring her own company. Her days were largely spent around the cave of her birth, where she delved into studying the intricacies of the forest, its flowers, and herbs, concocting remedies and potions from her findings.

At the age of twenty-four, she encountered a young man named Tobias Shipton, a carpenter hailing from the city of York. Sadly, Tobias passed away a few years later, their union bearing no children. Despite this, Ursula retained his surname, adopting ‘Shipton.’ The title of ‘Mother’ was bestowed upon her in her later years, when she had aged into an elderly woman.

English Folklore

Mother Shipton is a well-known figure in English folklore and is famous for her prophetic writings and predictions. She married a builder and carpenter called Tony Shipton when 24. Some say she was a child of the devil others say she was a misunderstood psychic who inherited the gift of clairvoyance from her mother. She was warned many times that her activities might lead her to be burnt as a witch. According to legend, she once revealed some of her visions to people who tried to blackmail her. She reportedly told them what she saw would happen to them if they hurt her. Nobody ever decided to bring Mother Shipton to trial. Nowadays she could be compared to many a modern psychic or healer who helped people and was valued by them.

She is often depicted in illustrations and artwork created centuries after her time, so these depictions are more symbolic or fictional rather than accurate representations of her actual appearance. Mother Shipton is commonly shown as a haggard and witch-like figure with a hooked nose, a pointy hat, and other stereotypical witch features. In many portrayals, she is dressed in old, ragged, and tattered clothing, reinforcing the image of a haggard and unconventional figure.These depictions are more a product of artistic interpretation and imagination rather than historical accuracy. After all there were no photographs in those days and none of these people had ever met her or seen her.

Prophetic Writings

Mother Shipton is primarily remembered for her collection of prophetic writings, which are in the form of rhymed couplets. These verses are known as “The Prophesies of Mother Shipton.” Her predictions are said to cover a wide range of events, from natural disasters to political and social changes. She made a series of predictions that rivalled those of Nostradamus.

Mother Shiptons Cave

Much of what is known about Mother Shipton is based on folklore and later writings, so it’s challenging to separate fact from legend. According to the stories, she was born in a cave in Knaresborough, Yorkshire, and her appearance was said to be quite unconventional, contributing to her reputation as a witch.

Mother Shipton Prophecies

Mother Shipton’s prophetic verses are said to have predicted various events, including the Great Fire of London in 1666, the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588, and the rise of Queen Elizabeth I. However, these claims are often seen as post hoc interpretations of her writings. She is said to have predicted the telegraph, the automobile, submarines, iron clad boats, wars and political upheavals. Here are a few of her supposed prophecies, or Mother Shipton predictions which are open to interpretation.

“Carriages without horses shall go, And accidents fill the world with woe.” – This is often interpreted as a prediction of the invention and widespread use of automobiles.

“Around the world men’s thoughts will fly, quick as the twinkling of an eye.” – Some consider this a forecast of the rapid transmission of information and communication technologies.

“Yet greater sign there be to see; As man nears much closer to the skies; A great wave shall cover the lands, and water so high it touches the skies.” – This has been linked to predictions of tsunamis or rising sea levels due to climate change.

She supposedly foresaw “ships” flying in the sky like birds, which some people interpret as a prediction of airplanes or other aerial vehicles.

“Before Ouse Bridge and Trinity Church meet, what is built in the day shall fall in the night, till the highest stone in the church be the lowest stone of the bridge.” – Shortly after Mother Shipton foretold this prophecy, a tremendous storm besieged York. In the chaos of the tempest, Trinity Church’s steeple crumbled, and a segment of the Ouse Bridge succumbed to the river’s force, swept away. Subsequently, during the reconstruction of the bridge, fragments from the church’s fallen steeple became the bedrock for the new bridge section. In a curious turn, what once stood tall in daylight and fell in the dark.  Trinity Church and the Ouse Bridge saw the highest stone of the church steeple now serving as the foundational cornerstone of the bridge, the lowest stone in its structure.


Mother Shipton’s psychic clairvoyant prophesies were popularized in the 17th century when a collection of her predictions was published. Many editions of her works followed, and she became a figure of interest and curiosity all over the World.

Historical Context

It’s important to note that many of Mother Shipton’s predictions are considered to be vague and open to interpretation. As with many historical prophets and seers, the accuracy of her predictions is a matter of debate, and some believe that they were embellished or fabricated after her time.


Mother Shipton has left a lasting legacy in English folklore and is remembered as a powerful and mysterious figure. Her image and stories are still used in various cultural references, and her supposed prophecies continue to be a topic of interest and discussion.

While the accuracy of Mother Shipton’s predictions is highly questionable, she remains an enduring part of English folklore and has captured the imagination of many over the centuries. Many experts believe she never existed. It’s important to note that the authenticity of these prophecies is highly questionable, as many were likely created or altered after her death to fit the events of the time.

Charles Hindley published a supposed collection of her prophecies. He claimed he read about them at the British Museum. Many of the predictions he related had already happened, but some were telling us about future events. This includes the most famous prediction of all – The world to an end shall come, in eighteen hundred and eighty one. This was not published until 1862. More than a decade later, its true author, Charles Hindley, admitted in print that he had created the manuscript.

Richard Head

It is believed that many facts of Mother Shipton’s life were created by Richard Head. He was an editor of her prophecies, but his publication suffered due to the lack of biographical detail on the woman. Many decades after her death, nobody remembered this information, so he is said to have created it. Head was sure that the prophecies were really written by Mother Shipton.

Mother Shipton died in 1561 or 1567. She was buried in unconsecrated ground, perhaps near Clifton. For the next 80 years, her prophecies were unpublished, hidden, and her name was a source of fear. Later, she was remembered as a person who knew more than others, and people appreciated her visions and believed that they were all true.

The cave Ursula was born in was a place for occult meetings for centuries. Old Mother Shiptons cave is a legendary site for people fascinated with paganism, Wicca, etc. From a scientific point of view, the petrifying wall near Mother Shipton’s Cave is an interesting place.

Since at least 1630, people have visited the curious site believing that witchcraft was at work at the well. Teddy bears, hats, socks, and many other items have been placed in the water and “magically” turned to “stone” within three to five months. The bizarre process is now known to be due to evaporation and an unusually high mineral content in the water.

Many pubs and other public places were named after her too. With its original look, a moth Callistege mi , was named after her because the wings look like they have the profile of an ugly hag’s head on them.  In 2017, the citizens of Knaresborough, Yorkshire, erected a statue of their famous resident, psychic clairvoyant and healer Mother Shipton.

For more about Mother Shipton and visiting her birthplace go to mother shipton.