The kids in my family have always been fascinated with the stories surrounding Mother Shipton and her reputed connection to our family. We’re all Shiptons, descended from Toby and Ursula Sontheil (Mother Shipton), and the legends surrounding our ancestor have alternately fascinated and scared the heck out of generations of Shipton children since the 1600s.
Oh, the stories we were told!
Particularly frightening was the one labeling her a witch who was burned at the stake. More than any other, I believe that story started my lifelong obsession with someday telling her story in a fictional manner, and bringing her to life as a character that encompassed so many of the characteristics from the fascinating Shipton women of my heritage. The Shipton Sisters: Irene, Hazel, Lillian, Dorothy and Nell and brothers Edwin, William and Shirley.
Of the stories that began the legend (and my own fascination) the most likely to be a truthful account comes from the following facts gathered by scholars who have extensively researched Mother Shipton’s historical origins.
A Witch, an Archbishop and a Fateful Encounter: The Mother Shipton Legacy Begins
Independent of fantastic stories about her childhood, many believe that Mother Shipton reached legendary status much later in life – through an infamous prophecy that spread far and wide.
The most compelling story of Mother Shipton begins with the story of an Archbishop, the very same man who was demoted from the lofty office of Cardinal in 1529 for failing to obtain the Pope’s dispensation to annul the marriage of Henry VIII to Catherine of Aragon.
According to a 1641 account, Mother Shipton was quite magnanimous in welcome, answering the knock at her door with “Come in, Master Besley and those honourable Lords with you.” Apparently “this they thought strange, that she should know them and never saw them.”
One could also reasonably surmise that dear Mother Shipton was warned by friends, as noblemen traveling with a magistrate in search of her home could hardly travel without notice, especially if their intent might be to drag her to the stake. It is said Mother Shipton was well-liked by those around her, so friends would no doubt warn her if they could. The wise and hospitable Mother Shipton was said to have “a great fire” going. She “bade them welcome, calling them all by their names”, and served the men cakes and ale, such that the men became “very merry”.
“Mother Shipton, if you knew what we come about, you would not make us so welcome”, Duke Henry Grey was said to remark. Her response, according to the 1641 pamphlet, was “the messenger should not be hang’d”.
One can see the wisdom and serenity of Mother Shipton in this response, having the common sense to know that these men were not at fault for whatever fate might befall her. She knew the men were no more than carriers of a message, and given they might fear her as a witch, it is significant that she made it clear she intended them no ill will.
The Duke then mentioned the rumor itself, that “the Cardinal shoulde never see Yorke”. To this, Mother Shipton unflinchingly replied, “I said he might see Yorke, but never come at it.”
Seemingly astonished that this warm and friendly woman would immediately confirm the dangerous prophecy in question, even expand upon it, the Duke warned Mother Shipton the demoted Cardinal would not hesitate to burn her at the stake if she continued such dangerous utterances.
To this dire warning, Mother Shipton was said to boldly respond “We shall see that”, tore the kerchief off her head and tossed it into the fire. It is at this point that the story ventures into legend, and we may never really know what actually happened that day. It is said the kerchief didn’t burn at all. Then she took “her staffe” and placed it in the fire, its wood completely untouched by the roaring flames.
Sisters of Prophecy, Ursula, is the first book to tell the stories of the Shipton descendants, and through the magic of time travel, include Mother Shipton in their lives. Together Gail and I have introduced Mother Shipton, and one of the Shipton sisters (Lillian) to our readers. It is our intention – over the next few years – to tell the stories of the other sisters. Sisters of Prophecy, Irene is planned for 2015. Ursula is our shortest book because we faced the challenge of including a lot of backstory while still keeping the reader interested in the present. So far our reviewers have told us that we succeeded admirably, and we hope you will agree.
The future books will take place in contemporary times, but in various locations and with both paranormal and mysterious elements to challenge our readers and entertain them with as intriguing a story as Gail and I can share with them.
Guest post by: Jude Pittman, descendant of Ursula Sontheil Shipton
Sisters of Prophecy – Ursula
Sisters of Prophecy
Jude Pittman and Gail Roughton
Genre: Paranormal, Time Travel
Publisher: Books We Love, Ltd.
Date of Publication: September 29, 2014
Number of pages: 164
Word Count: 50,0000
Cover Artist: Michelle Lee
What’s a girl to do? Katherine Shipton has a painting that talks, an ancestor who won’t stay in her own century, and a former boyfriend with a serious ax to grind against her new fiancé. She already has a full plate, but when said ancestor sends her tripping back and forth between the 15th and 21st century without benefit of psychedelic drugs, the poor girl begins to doubt her own sanity.
Then her best friend, a high fashion model with more than her own share of psychic energy, and her troubleshooting aunt show up on her doorstep in response to a psychic SOS Katherine swears she didn’t send. Life couldn’t get more complicated.
At least, that’s what she thinks until her oilman fiancé disappears in the Gulf of Mexico and a DEA agent knocks on her door.
Mother Shipton waved her hand toward the television screen. It flickered and came to life.
On the screen guards in medieval garb rode behind a horse drawn cart. Inside a woman bound in chains kept her head down and her eyes averted from the crowds lining the streets of Knaresborough. Lady Ursula. Older now, with signs of strain marking her face, but it was definitely her ladyship. Lady Ursula of the tower dream.
The sounds of laughing, jeering voices followed the cart and the girls knew, just as Lady Ursula herself did, that many of the faces in the crowd belonged to those her ladyship considered friends.
The peasants, electrified by the spectacle of nobility paraded through the streets like a common prisoner, worked themselves into a frenzy, calling out as she passed:
“Witch, witch, witch! Burn the bloody witch!”
“Oh. My. God.” Katherine’s face turned white. “Bloody Mary’s witch hunts. That’s why she was in the tower. Not just any tower. The Tower of London.”
“How do you know that?” Sylvia asked.
“I had a thing for English history as a teenager.”
“Okay, so you were a nerd. I get it. What about this Bloody Mary?”
“King Henry’s heir was Edward. A very sickly, short-lived king, never married. He was succeeded by his sister, Henry’s daughter. Mary. She was a fanatical Catholic. Known to history as Bloody Mary. Because she burned pretty much anybody she didn’t like the looks of—Protestants, supposed witches, accused traitors. Whoever displeased her fancy.”
“And she didn’t like Lady Ursula, I’m assuming’.”
“Obviously not. Okay, Grandmother.” Katherine turned to face Mother Shipton, who had just smothered a large yawn.
“You want us to stop this, don’t you?”
“Welllll—mayhap I do and mayhap I don’t. Mayhap this is what will happen if Lady Ursula picks the wrong path when she gets to the crossroad. And will never happen if she picks the right one.”
“So where the hell is that damn crossroad? And how will we know it when we get there?”
“Ye’ll know it. The power will tell you. The power was born in you, girl! Born in both of you. Because the Sisters of Prophecy aren’t always connected by blood. They’re connected by power, shared and used wisely.”
Jude Pittman emigrated from Canada to the United States with her mom and brother when she was 14. Her time there included 12 years in Texas where the genus for her first murder mystery, “Shadows Are Deadly” now part of Jude’s “Murder on My Mind” trilogy first took root. In 1992 Jude returned to British Columbia where she met her husband John. The couple moved to Calgary, Alberta where they continue to live. Descended from the Shipton line, Jude has always been fascinated with the historical and legendary stories about her late and often maligned ancestor, Mother Shipton and her gifts of prophecy. The Sisters of Prophecy series is a fictional account of those Shipton sons and daughters who inherited Mother Shipton’s gifts.
Gail Roughton is a native of small town Georgia whose Deep South heritage features prominently in much of her work. She’s worked in a law office for close to forty years, during which time she’s raised three children and quite a few attorneys. She’s kept herself more or less sane by writing novels and tossing the completed manuscripts into her closet. A cross-genre writer, she’s produced works ranging from humor to romance to thriller to horror, sometimes in the same book. She’s never quite sure herself what to expect when she sits down at the keyboard. Now multi-published by Books We Love, Ltd., her credits include the War-N-Wit, Inc. series, The Color of Seven, Vanished, and Country Justice. Currently, she’s working on Black Turkey Walk, the second in the Country Justice series, as well as the Sisters of Prophecy series, co-written with Jude Pittman.
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