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18 June 2014
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Legacies - North Yorkshire

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Myths and Legends
Mother Shipton
Mother Shipton as a witch

© Copyright Mother Shipton's Cave
The changing face of Mother Shipton

The legend of Mother Shipton reaches far beyond her native North Yorkshire; locations across the country have their own Mother Shipton folktale. Although this mythical figure has been subject to falsified evidence and tall stories, Mother Shipton is believed to have been an actual person, Ursula Sondyall, who lived in Knaresborough and York in the late 15th and early 16th Centuries.

Her prophecies were recounted, published and analysed across the country, prophesies whose accuracy startled her contemporaries. People believe she predicted the Spanish Armada, the Great Fire of London and even the Plague that wiped out 68,000 Londoners. In 1665, when the plague struck, Samuel Pepys wrote, “See - Mother Shipton's word is out". During the 17th Century, at the height of England’s witch-fever, Mother Shipton became one of England’s most famous witches. Drawings of Mother Shipton helped identify witches as monstrous, hideous creatures. The manipulation of her image into the witch stereotype provided society with an outlet for the witch paranoia spreading across England. More...

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Look back into the past using the Legacies' archives. Find nearly 200 tales from around the country in our collection.

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Scottish history: The witch hunt
Mother Shipton's Cave
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