Some witches curse and cackle. Some are the sassy, sexy sort. And some might be the real thing.
Ursula Southeil, born in the reign of Henry the Eighth, didn’t have a beautiful bone in her body. Even as a baby, no one wanted to nurse her. Odd things happened around her.
Once she and the wooden cradle she slept in vanished. Her family found her hours later, back where she should have been. Doesn’t sound too bad does it? If you add in that the cradle floated three feet above the ground, and it gets spooky. Sometimes plates flew off shelves and smashed when she was in the house. She can’t have been a comfortable companion, even as a child.
No one wanted a wife so ugly their eyes hurt from looking at her. Perhaps tales of Ursula’s ugliness grew in the telling since she married Thomas Shipton a carpenter from York. After that, people called her Old Mother Shipton. She told fortunes and sold charms. Some say her hooked nose and long chin make her the basis of Mr. Punch in traditional seaside shows. Others suggest she was the model for a pantomime dame.
Old Mother Shipton supposedly predicted the mobile phone, the airplane, and the Crimean War. Just for good measure, she foretold the end of the world —but like Nostradamus, her verses are obscure.
One prophesy fascinates me. She claimed that Cardinal Wolsey—the staunch Roman Catholic of Henry’s court—would see York but never visit it. He travelled there in November 1530 and stopped overnight in a small town not far from the city. There he climbed the highest tower and looked across at York. The next day, Henry’s soldiers arrested him and carted him back off to London. He died on the way back. The tower still stands today. And Wolsey was arrest there. So was the prophecy fact or fiction? You decide.
Prophecies can be slippery things. My Work in Progress features a prophecy that shaped an evil god's centuries of exitence. I'm still a few weeks off submitting to my publisher, though.