Prophets and Diviners

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Prophets and Diviners

Thousands of years before the contemporary era, wise men and women listened while murmuring springs and streams spoke to them of what was to be, and they looked through the brilliance of precious stones into the world of tomorrow. Trees spoke to these early mediators between the gods and humans, as did the wise serpent, the wolf, and the birds that flew overhead.

Many centuries later, Chaldean priests contemplated the night sky and conceived the idea of a supreme spirit from whom sprang a familiar host of lesser deities. In the aftermath of this modification of the traditional order of things, a caste of priests arose, vested with all knowledge of the occult. Subsequently these priests became adept in the practice of divination, finding signs in the organs and intestines of sacrificed animals and translating dancing shapes of flames and swirls of smoke into images of future events. When the gods spoke directly to individuals in the symbolic language of dreams, the priests were there to interpret. In these and other ways, the will of the cosmic rulers was revealed to their earthbound subjects.

The children of Israel, even though they spurned the hordes of good and evil spirits recognized throughout the ancient world, practiced divination in several forms. The book of Genesis records that Laban, the father of Rachel, who became the wife of Isaac, possessed Teraphiminstruments of divination whose oracles were held to be of the highest truth.

Although the practice of sorcery and divination was forbidden to the Hebrews, the high priests of Israel inquired of the Lord regarding the future by means of the high priests' jeweled Ephod and the Urim and Thummim. When the Lord failed to speak to him through the Ephod, Saul (11th century b.c.e.), first king of Israel, resorted to necromancy, or divination through the spirits of the dead. Saul entreated the fabled Witch of Endor to call up the spirit of the great prophet Samuel, only to hear his own death foretold. According to tradition, Solomon (10th century b.c.e.), wisest of all the Hebrew monarchs, foretold the future by consulting demons, which he summoned with his magic lamp and great seal.

The Sphinx, the guardian of Egyptian magic, served as an oracle for diviners of that land. According to Plutarch, such thinkers as Solon, Thales, Pythagoras (c. 580c. 500 b.c.e.), and Lycurgus traveled to Egypt to converse with priests who heard the voice of the Sphinx. Ancient magi solemnly testified that the statues of Egypt spoke, and when these oracles of hewn stone uttered their pronouncements, scribes wrote their words on rolls of papyrus while priests listened.

The Greeks saw in numbers the mystical keys to the Great Mind of the cosmos; and the fates of kingdoms, commerce, and human lives hung on the enigmatic utterances of the Delphic oracle. A Greek sect called the psychagogues conjured the spirits of the dead, who brought petitions for their survivors as well as prophetic messages. With so many deities to keep track of, it is no wonder that the Greeks were ever on the alert for omens, even in such simple phenomena as birds in flight and the sequence in which a fowl picked up kernels of grain. Socrates (c. 470399 b.c.e.) foretold the future with the aid of his own familiar spirit, which replied to yes-and-no questions with sneezes to the right or to the left.

The Roman emperors, while officially forbidding divination, rewarded Chaldean astrologers with drachmas when their readings were favorable and with death or exile when they found adverse omens in the stars. Even the early Christian Church, which persecuted magicians and soothsayers, found that the use of crosses, beads, and relics and bones of the saints were useful aids in bringing the faithful into a state of mind in which the voice of the Holy Spirit might be heard.

All human cultures throughout history have given great attention to their prophets and seers. Perhaps the quintessential prophet is Nostradamus (15031566), whose name has become synonymous with prophecy and who is better known to the general public than any of the Old Testament prophets. The French seer has inspired numerous books, countless articles, and a number of television specials. Although his visions of the future were written in poetic verse and read like gibberish to the skeptics, those who believe firmly in Nostradamus's gift of prophecy quote his predictions as if they were Holy Writ. The claim that Nostradamus had predicted the tragedy of the World Trade Center terrorist attack on September 11, 2001, was widely circulated on the Internet and on talk radio. The alleged prediction was soon exposed as a hoax, but not before thousands of books on Nostradamus were sold.

The twentieth century produced a number of prophets who gathered their believers and provoked their disbelievers, but none received the mass attention of Edgar Cayce (18771945), the famous "sleeping prophet" of Virginia Beach, and Jeane Dixon (19181997), Washington, D.C.'s "window on the world." Although there will always be seers who will produce an occasional startling prophecy that comes to pass and attract transient devotees until the next prophet comes along with an even more startling prediction, the trend at the onset of the twenty-first century appears to be individuals relying upon their own powers of prophecy and the insights gained from utilizing their own methods of divination.

Delving Deeper

Cotterell, Arthur, ed. Encyclopedia of World Mythology. London: Dempsey Parr Books, 1999.

Gaskell, G. A. Dictionary of All Scriptures & Myths. Avenel, N.J.: Gramercy Books, 1981.

Seligmann, Kurt. The History of Magic. New York: Pantheon Books, 1960.

Spence, Lewis. An Encyclopedia of Occultism. New Hyde Park, N.Y.: University Books, 1960.

Edgar Cayce (18771945)

According to many, Edgar Cayce was one of the greatest clairvoyants of all time. Before his death at the age of 67 in 1945, the "Seer of Virginia Beach" went under self-induced hypnosis twice per day and gave more than 30,000 trance readings9,000 of them medical diagnoses. In his lifetime, Cayce earned the gratitude of thousands of men, women, and children whose lives he had saved or improved through his diagnoses of illnesses that had escaped the examinations of highly trained medical personnel.

Always a controversial figure, Cayce was derided by cynics who asked how a man whose formal education had terminated with the ninth grade could become a greater healer than professional medical men with years of training behind them. His defenders were quick to point out that Edgar Cayce did not heal patients who sought his help, he merely diagnosed their ailmentsoften with a cooperating family physician standing at their side.

The skeptical German scholar Dr. Hugo Munsterberg investigated Cayce in 1910 with the announced intention of exposing him. Weeks later he left the seer to prepare an endorsement, rather than an expose, of Cayce's work. In 1929 Dr. William Moseley Brown, head of the psychology department at Washington and Lee University, declared, after an extensive investigation, that if ever there were such a thing as an authentic clairvoyant, that individual was Edgar Cayce. The authenticated cures attributed to Cayce's diagnoses number in the thousands.

Cayce's son, Hugh Lynn Cayce, once commented that his father had said that everyone was psychic, "but for many people manifestation of this ability can be very disturbing, upsetting, and in fact, it can even destroy the personality if it runs rampant in the person's life. This can be damaging if the individual does not use these abilities constructively. If he takes ego trips with it, or begins to fake it, the result can be destructive to the personality, particularly that of young children."

In 1931, the Association for Research and Enlightenment (ARE) was chartered in the state of Virginia as a nonprofit organization to conduct scientific and psychical research based on the Cayce readings. In 1947, two years after his death, the Edgar Cayce Foundation was established. The original ARE has become the membership arm of the Cayce programs. The foundation is the custodian of the original Cayce readings, and the memorabilia of the great contemporary seer's life and career. Both are headquartered in Virginia Beach, Virginia, and there are more than 1,500 ARE study groups around the world.

The ARE maintains an extensive library of information concerning the entire field of psychical research and metaphysics, as well as the Cayce materials. It also sponsors regular seminars, publishes a journal, and established Atlantic University as an environment in which various psychic attributes can be examined and developed. Since the establishment of the ARE, thousands of people from every corner of the nation, as well as from around the world, have journeyed to Virginia Beach to attend lectures and conferences and to investigate the information in the Cayce readings. Among these have been Jess Stern, author of Edgar CayceThe Sleeping Prophet (1967) and Thomas Sugrue, author of There Is a River (1942), both of which are important books about the life and work of Edgar Cayce.

Astonishing tales of clairvoyant feats such as the location of missing persons, objects, and criminals have filled many books by a number of authors. Equally intriguing are the "life readings" that the seer gave regarding the past incarnations of individuals. Others speak of the series of trances in which Cayce gave a detailed recreation of everyday life in ancient Atlantis, and spoke of the Great Crystal that powered their society. According to his clairvoyant insights, Cayce perceived a secret room in the Sphinx, a veritable Hall of Records that would reveal many remarkable facts about the evolution of humankind on Earth. He also put forward a number of prophecies about the future.

In the period 1958 to 1998, Cayce foresaw a number of dramatic geographic changes. He predicted a shifting of the poles, which would be caused by the eruption of volcanoes in the torrid zones. Open waters would appear north of Greenland, and new islands would rise in the Caribbean Sea. He also stated South America would be shaken by a violent earthquake. While these cataclysmic events have not yet occurred, many of Cayce's followers believe that there are definite signs that such geographic changes are in the process of manifesting.

Long before his death in 1945, Cayce appeared to envision the racial strife that lay ahead. "He [the African American] is thy brother!" Cayce said while in trance. "Those who caused or brought servitude to him without thought or purpose have created that which must be met within their own principles, within their own selves.For He hath made of one blood the nations of the earth!Raise not democracy above the brotherhood of man, the fatherhood of God."

As early as 1938, Cayce foresaw difficulty for Russia as long as its people were denied freedom of speech and the right to worship. Then, in a provocative vision, he declared, "through Russia comes the hope of the worldnot in respect to that which is sometimes termed Communism or Bolshevismno! But freedom! That each man will live for his fellowman."

Hugh Lynn Cayce died on July 4, 1982, in Virginia Beach. Posthumously, a collection of his speeches concerning Edgar Cayce's teachings on Jesus and Christianity was published under the title The Jesus I Knew. Hugh Lynn's son Charles Thomas Cayce became the president of the ARE in 1976 after his father suffered a heart attack, and he still serves the organization in that position.

Delving Deeper

Boltan, Brett, ed. Edgar Cayce Speaks. New York: Avon Books, 1969.

Carroll, Robert Todd. "Edgar Cayce." InThe Skeptic's Dictionary. [Online]

Cayce, Hugh Lynn. Venture Inward. New York: Paperback Library, 1966.

Cerminara, Gina. Many Mansions. New York: William Morrow, 1950.

Stearn, Jess. Edgar CayceThe Sleeping Prophet. New York: Doubleday, 1967.

Sugrue, Thomas. There Is a River: The Story of Edgar Cayce. New York: H. Holt and Co., 1942.

Delphic Oracles

The famed Oracle of Delphi on the slopes of Mt. Parnassos in Greece made known the will of the gods to rulers, philosophers, generals, politicians, and anyone else of reasonably high status who was anxious to hear a favorable word from the gods. For centuries, the Temple of Apollo at Delphi in central Greece contained the most prestigious oracle in the Graeco-Roman world, a favorite of public officials and individuals alike. At various times throughout its long history, the oracle was said to relay prophetic messages and words of counsel from Python, the wise serpent son of the Mother-goddess Delphyne or from the Moon-goddess Artemis through their priestess daughters, the Pythonesses or Pythia. Then, according to myth, the god Apollo murdered Delphyne and claimed the shrine and the Pythia for himself, imprisoning the serpent seer in the recesses of a cave beneath the temple. The name of Delphi means "womb," and suggests the journey that the seekers of prophetic knowledge had to take as they entered the cave of the Pythoness and descended deeper into the mystical recesses of the oracle, deeper into the womb of Mother Earth.

The Pythia would await the seekers while seated upon a three-legged seat, or tripod, and it was from such a perch that she would issue her prophetic utterances. The many tripods scattered throughout the cave were, in essence, individual altars for her sister priestesses, the three legs symbolizing the connection between them and the triadic spirit of prophecy.

In the summer of 2001, Jelle de Boer of Wesleyan University in Connecticut and coworkers discovered a previously unknown geological fault that passes through the sanctuary of the Temple of Apollo. Such a crossing makes the bitumen-rich limestone found there much more permeable to gases and groundwater. The researchers went on to speculate that seismic activity on the faults could have heated such deposits, releasing light hydrocarbon gases, such as ethylene, a sweet-smelling gas that was once used in certain medical procedures as an anesthetic. Although fatal if inhaled in large quantities for too long a period of time, in small doses ethylene stimulates the central nervous system and produces a sensation of euphoria and a floating feeling conducive to an oracle's visions.

Delving Deeper

Cotterell, Arthur, ed. Encyclopedia of World Mythology. London: Dempsey Parr Books, 1999.

De Boer, J. Z., J. R. Hale, and J. Chanton. "New Evidence of the Geological Origins of the Ancient

Delphic Oracle." Geology 29 (2001): 707710.

Gaskell, G. A. Dictionary of All Scriptures & Myths. Avenel, N.J.: Gramercy Books, 1981.

Piccardi, L. "Active Faulting at Delphi, Greece: Seismotectonic Remarks and a Hypothesis for the Geologic Environment of a Myth." Geology 28 (2001): 65154.

Seligmann, Kurt. The History of Magic. New York: Pantheon Books, 1960.

Jeane Dixon (19181997)

According to a popular story concerning the remarkable abilities of the seeress Jeane Dixon, President Franklin D. Roosevelt (18821945) took the time one day in 1944 to clear his desk so that he might give undivided attention to her predictions concerning those terrible days during World War II (193945). After she had answered his questions about the efforts on the various military fronts, he asked her directly how much longer he would have to carry out the tasks that he had set before himself.

As if she had expected the question, she warned him as compassionately as she could that he would have very little time. The president was not satisfied. He wanted a more specific answer. She told him, then, that he would have no longer than the middle of the following year.

According to those who hold that Jeane Dixon was the most famous and accurate seer of political events in the twentieth century, she correctly predicted the results of every presidential election, foretold the deaths of U.N. Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold (19051961) and President John F. Kennedy (19171963), predicted that the Russians would win the race into space, and in general foresaw events on both personal and international scales too numerous to mention. A devout Roman Catholic who faithfully attended Mass each morning, Dixon was convinced that the gift of prophecy that she possessed was closely associated with the power of God, and she claimed to be cautious that she did not abuse this ability. In the 1960s, when she was hailed as "Washington's Window to the Future," she ran a profitable real estate concern in Washington, D.C., with her husband, James L. Dixon.

There seemed to be no standard procedure to this seer's prophetic insights. They came to her at various times, in various places, and in various emotional states. In the book The Call to Glory (1971), she envisioned herself as a prophet who issued predictions in order to fulfill the mission that God had given her. The book's acknowledgements named Rev. Stephen Hartdegen, a Roman Catholic priest, as her "personal religious consultant" for the book. Dixon appeared to believe firmly that it was her God-given mission to predict the change in the top leadership positions of Soviet Russia while in front of television cameras, or while under a beautician's hair drier, to warn the woman sitting next to her to avoid an approaching airline disaster.

In 1956, for an interview in Parade magazine, Dixon was asked to predict the results of the 1960 presidential election. She foretold that the election would be won by a Democrat, but that he would either be assassinated or die in office. In the 1960 presidential election many friends remembered her prediction. Even though Richard Nixon (19131994), the Republican candidate, would have more votes than Kennedy, the candidate on the Democrat's ticket, Kennedy would become president and, tragically, die while in office. Although the account of Dixon's famous Kennedy prediction was recalled in Ruth Montgomery's three million-copy bestseller A Gift of Prophecy: The Phenomenal Jeane Dixon (1966), many skeptics have pointed out that Montgomery neglected to include the seeress's 1960 prediction that John F. Kennedy would definitely fail to win the presidency.

In spite of those who were skeptical of the true accuracy of her predictions, Jeane Dixon's many supporters insisted that her prophetic powers extended beyond the political sphere. According to numerous accounts, with but the barest knowledge of the people involved, she was been able to predict murders, suicides, the results of horse races, fires, and accidents. Once she was able to foresee the number that would win a raffle and purchased the corresponding ticket for her husband. He won a car.

After the death of Josef Stalin (1879 1953), world interest focused on Russia's next prime minister. When Georgy Malenkov (19021988) was finally elevated to the position, Jeane Dixon was asked before a national television audience how long Malenkov would be prime minister of the Soviet Union. The question was asked by the former U.S. ambassador to the Soviet Union, Joseph Davies, and he was obviously dubious about Dixon's prophetic power.

Using a crystal ball to focus her attention, Jeane Dixon said that Malenkov would be premier for less than two years. Ambassador Davies disagreed with Dixon in a tone that approached open mockery. He was sure that no premier of the Soviet Union would ever be replaced. It seemed in the nature of Russian politics that the leader would either be assassinated or die a natural death before another man could take over.

But Dixon stood firm. While smoothly acknowledging the ambassador's superior knowledge of the Russian situation, she nonetheless predicted that Malenkov's replacement would be a portly military man with wavy hair, green eyes, and a goatee. Davies had been in Russia for many years and said that he knew of no such man. Ignoring his apparent skepticism, Dixon went on to predict that not only would the Russians win the race into space, they would also dictate the terms of world peace.

Premier Malenkov was replaced by Nikolai Bulganin (18951975). Malenkov was not killed, and the new premier was exactly as Dixon had described him: ". . . a portly military man with wavy hair, green eyes, and a goatee," a comparatively unknown figure to the West. In 1957 Russia launched the first successful artificial Earth satellite, but Dixon was incorrect when she predicted that the Soviets would beat the United States to the moon. And, of course, far from dictating the terms of world peace, the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.

Dixon's popularity enabled her to write a column on astrology that was nationally syndicated and to write a series of books, including My Life and Prophecies (1968), Yesterday, Today and Forever (1976), Jeane Dixon's Astrological Cookbook (1976), and A Gift of Prayer (1995). In 1962, she told Ronald Reagan (1911 ) one day he would be president, and for a number of years, she served as the Reagans' astrological advisor.

Dixon's list of annual predictions inspired many recordkeepers doubtful of her gift of prophecy to maintain a tally of her hits and misses. Skeptic Robert Todd Carroll declared most of her predictions to have been "equivocal, vague, or mere possibility claims." John Allen Paulos, a mathematician at Temple University, coined the term "the Jeane Dixon effect" to describe the manner in which the media and a believing public would loudly proclaim a few accurate predictions and overlook the much larger number of incorrect forecasts.

When Jeane Dixon died from cardiopulmonary arrest on January 25, 1997, she remained a remarkable prophet in the eyes of her admirers, a spiritually devout woman who fulfilled her mission from God by sharing with the public her gifts of prophecy.

Delving Deeper

Bringle, Mary. Jeane Dixon: Prophet or Fraud? New York: Tower Books, 1970.

Carroll, Robert Todd. "Jeane Dixon and the Jeane Dixon Effect." InThe Skeptic's Dictionary, [Online] 20 May 2002.

Delfano, M. M. The Living Prophets. New York: Dell Books, 1972.

Montgomery, Ruth. A Gift of Prophecy: The Phenomenal Jeane Dixon. New York: Bantam Books, 1966.

"Psychic Jeane Dixon Dies'Astrologer to Stars' Had Legions of Believers." CNN Interactive, January 26, 1997. [Online] 20 May 2002.

Irene Hughes (c. 1926 )

In 1966 with her vision of the exact dates for a great Chicago blizzard, Irene Hughes soon became known widely as the "Chicago Seeress." She has foretold deaths, assassinations, marriages, divorces, winning teams in sports, major weather disasters, and the outcome of elections. Notarized statements, personal letters of affirmation, and newspaper records, have validated her predictions. She has predicted the following: In 1966, the Middle Eastern War of June 1967; in January 1967 President Lyndon B. Johnson (19081973) would not seek another term, which he announced in April of that year; in November 1967,the assassination of Robert Kennedy (19251968), which occurred in June 1968; in 1969, a "tragedy for Senator Kennedy, in or around water" prior to Edward "Ted" Kennedy's (1932 ) crisis at Chappaquidick when the automobile that he was driving went into the water, drowning one of his campaign workers. In 1987 she published her prediction of a plummeting stock market and told a group of millionaires that the market would drop "400 points" on the following Monday. On "Black Monday," the market dropped 500 points. Two weeks before Princess Diana's (19611997) death in 1997, Hughes told her radio audience that the princess was in a death cycle and that her death would occur soon.

An area in which she has devoted particular attention has been that of offering psychic assistance to criminal investigators. In all cases, the police solicited Hughes's help.

Hughes's experience with the law and her own research into all phases of psychic phenomena has given her time to give thought to the matter of psychics and possible legal conflicts. "It should be stressed that the information a psychic gives to police officers should be for their use alone to check out and turn into factual evidence," she said. "No psychic information should ever be used in court without the police having first checked it out and proved it to be accurate."

Delving Deeper

Hughes, Irene. ESPecially, Irene: A Guide to Psychic Awareness. Blavelt, N.Y.: Rudolf Steiner Publications, 1972.

Irene Hughes. [Online] 29 May 2002.

Steiger, Brad. Know the Future Today. New York: Paperback Library, 1970.

Olof Jonsson (19181998)

In February 1971 all the media was abuzz with rumors that one of the astronauts on the Apollo 14 mission was conducting a Moon-to-Earth ESP experiment with a psychic-sensitive somewhere on Earth. On February 26, Life magazine was revealed that Chicago-based Olof Jonsson was the psychic who had been chosen to participate with astronaut Edgar Mitchell in the experiment. Jonsson was considered the most tested, tried, laboratory-evaluated psychic-sensitive in the United States and Scandinavia.

In March 1952, Jonsson's psychic detective work led to a murderer responsible for the deaths of 13 victims. In each instance, the man attempted to destroy evidence by torching the home of his victim. The murderer turned out to be the police officer assigned to work closely with Jonsson on the investigation. When the officer realized the investigation was directed toward him, he committed suicide.

Jonsson came to the United States in 1953 to be investigated by the well-known parapsychologist Dr. J. B. Rhine. For the next 14 years Jonsson submitted to testing at various ESP testing laboratories. He would sit guessing Zener cardsthe classic testing deck consisting of the symbols cross, square, wavy line, circle, and starby the hundreds or the thousands.

In 1978, Olof Jonsson joined a crew of 11 treasure hunters, including President Ferdinand Marcos (19171989) of the Philippines, to locate the gold that had been plundered by Japanese officers during World War II and hidden on the islands. Jonsson was instrumental in locating several mineshafts containing more than $2 billion in gold. Jonsson and a number of the other treasure hunters recalled later how the mine shafts were filled with the sorrowful spirits of the men and women the Japanese military had enslaved to do the digging.

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Jonsson joined numerous treasure hunters who sought the watery graves of ships that had gone down with cargo on board. Although he continued to be successful in these quests, Jonsson received little income from these enterprises.

Delving Deeper

Psi-Stjarna. [Online] 23 November 2002.

Margaret Harrell's website. [Online] http://www.

Seagrave, Sterling. The Marcos Dynasty. New York: Harper & Row, 1988.

Steiger, Brad. The Psychic Feats of Olof Jonsson. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1971.

Nostradamus (15031566)

On December 14, 1503, Michel de Nostredame began a life that was destined to be filled with political intrigues, Renaissance rationalism, and mysticism. Born in Saint-Remy in Provence, France, Nostradamus came from a long line of Jewish ancestors who had first come to Europe during the Dispersion. Sometime before his birth, Nostradamus's parents had publicly converted to Roman Catholicism because of a papal edict decreeing disfavor to all those who were not of the Christian faith. However, during their son's formative years, the religious practice of the family had become a curious blend of Catholic and Jewish customs. In addition, there was a strong current of mysticism in the family. Young Michel's grandfather was considered one of the most influential astrologists on the entire continent.

When he was old enough, Nostradamus was sent off to study liberal arts at Avignon. His great interest was in studying astrology, and this prompted his practical-minded father to reconsider the choice of vocation he had made for his son. The next time Nostradamus was sent to school it was to Paris, and there he studied to become a man of medicine. After almost four years of intensive study, Nostradamus passed his examinations and was allowed to establish a practice. His plans to continue study for the doctorate were disrupted when the plague struck Southern France.

Nostradamus is said to have been successful in his treatment of the Black Death, even though some of his fellow doctors complained that his methods were unorthodox. Later he returned to the University of Paris and there earned his doctorate. He accepted a position at the university and also married.

His unorthodox interests and unquenchable desire to travel made him unhappy in the university setting, but his deep affection for his family enabled him to achieve some satisfaction. After his wife had borne him two children, another outbreak of the plague swept his family away. Grief stricken, Nostradamus abandoned his practice and set about wandering across Europe. It was during this period that he first began to cultivate his prophetic powers.

As he wandered, he made predictions which would later make him famous. While traveling in Italy, Nostradamus saw a young Franciscan monk coming toward him. He was an ex-swineherd named Felice Peretti from Ancona. As the young monk passed, the prophet bent one knee to the ground devoutly, in an attitude of deep respect. Afterwards, Nostradamus's traveling companions questioned him about his strange behavior. His reply was that he must submit himself and bend a knee before His Holiness. In 1585, Cardinal Peretti became Pope Sixtus V (15201590).

Everywhere the seer went he was in great demand. Once, visiting a noble family in France, he spotted two pigs running together side by side. Nostradamus told his host that that evening they would eat the black one, and the wolf would eat the white one.

The host decided on a plot to foil the prophet. He ordered the cook to slaughter the white pig and serve it for supper. The cook did as he was ordered. But while he had his back to the spitted carcass, a wolf cub that the family had been attempting to domesticate stole up to it and began making a meal of the freshly killed animal. Eventually the cook chased the cub away, but he knew that he could not put an apple in a mutilated pig's mouth and drop it on the master's table. So the cook had the other pig, the black one, butchered and prepared for the master's table that evening.

That evening at dinner, the noble Frenchman explained to his guest how he had arranged to fool him by ordering the cook to prepare the white pig and not the black one. As respectfully as possible, Nostradamus disagreed. The cook was summoned to settle the matter, and the entire story was brought to light, showing the exact fulfillment of Nostradamus's prediction.

Later in his life, the great prophet was summoned to give a reading for Catherine de Medici (15191589), the queen mother and controller of France. She was concerned for her children, and no prophet in his right mind would have told her what was to happen to them even if he could have envisioned it. Catherine's children were all destined to die young as the result of political intrigues.

Perhaps because of the nature of the inspiration Nostradamus received, but more likely because of public response, the prophet began to hide his predictions in obscure poetic language. It would have been sheer folly to tell the ruthless Catherine de Medici that all her children were destined for miserable deaths. His only recourse was to disguise the ugly truth in poetry and preserve his own skin.

In his astrological studies, which he turned to late in his career, Nostradamus, who believed he was guided in his prophecies by the angel Anael, also resorted to poetic quatrains, four-line verses, arranged in groups of 100 (Centuries). According to many Nostradamus scholars and enthusiasts, a large number of prophecies contained in these quatrains were fulfilled. Those who believe in his prophetic powers insist that Nostradamus foresaw airplanes, rockets, submarines, and many great historic events. Other more skeptical researchers believe the prophecies to be nonsensical gibberish.

In a famous quatrain that many feel refers to Adolf Hitler (18891945), Nostradamus writes that a son of Germany named "Hister" will obey no laws. Skeptic James Randi's translation, however, points out that "Hister" refers to a geographical region, rather than a person.

Some believe that Nostradamus foresaw the downfall of Communism in a quatrain that says "the law of More" (a widely read treatise on communal living in Nostradamus's time) will be seen to decline because of "another much more attractive doctrine." But the seer missed his target on another interesting prophecy that had to do with a masculine woman, who, at the time of the double eclipse in July and August 1999, would rise to power in Russia.

According to some interpreters, Nostradamus foresaw the decline of the papacy in the year 2000. While some may argue that such a decline has begun, others will counter that in many ways the papacy has a greater world influence in the twenty-first century that it has enjoyed for quite some time. Another quatrain tells of the next-to-last pope declaring Monday as his day of rest and wandering far because of a frantic need to deliver his people from economic pressures.

A last great battle, in which the "barbarian empire" shall be defeated, is determined by some interpreters of Nostradamus as being predicted for the year 2332. In this last battle of Armageddon, a young German leader will force the warring nations to lay down their arms and observe a lasting world peace. Nostradamus and a host of other prophets have designated Palestine as the site for this last desperate warfare.

Perhaps the controversial prophet's most unusual prediction was fulfilled in June 1566. That month, although Nostradamus had not suffered an unhealthy day in his life, he died after a short illness. Nostradamus had previously informed his physician that he would die on June 25, and he upheld his reputation as a seer by doing so.

Delving Deeper

Cheetham, Erika. The Final Prophecies of Nostradamus. New York: Berkley Publishing Group, 1990.

Crockett, Arthur. Nostradamus: Unpublished Prophecies the Untold Story. New Brunswick, N.J.: Inner Light, 1983.

Hogue, John. Nostradamus: The Complete Prophecies. Element Books, 1997.

Randi, James. The Mask of Nostradamus: The Prophecies of the World's Most Famous Seer. Buffalo, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 1993.

Seligmann, Kurt. The History of Magic. New York: Pantheon Books, 1948.

Mother Shipton

Often called the world's most famous prophetess, Mother Shipton was born in a cave beside the River Nidd in North Yorkshire, England in 1488. Previously known as Ursula Sontheil, she would display supernatural powers by the age two that earned her the nickname of Child of the Devil.

Although little is known about the rest of her youth, stories circulated about an incident that occurred early in her childhood. Upon returning to her house after doing an errand, her foster mother found the door wide open and Ursula missing. Reporting dreadful wailing and strange noises coming from the house, the neighbors told a story of an invisible force that wouldn't let them enter the kitchen. Together, they all returned to the house to discover the girl sitting in the kitchen. Completely naked, Ursula was sitting on the iron bar in the chimney from which the cooking hooks were suspended, pleased that she had wreaked havoc. From that time on, gossip spread and rumors abounded about her growing uncanny abilities.

In addition to being mischievous, Ursula made rhymes or prose of events or circumstances that would often come true. She suffered from a physical deformity that made her a victim of merciless teasing, and she soon developed what seemed a power to reap revenge on those who did so. For the most part, Ursula was an oddity, and said to even be feared by many.

Accused of using witchcraft in order to make a man fall for her, she married Toby Shipton, a carpenter, in 1512. Ursula Shipton continued to tell fortunes and predict events. Her fame spread throughout Europe, for her predictions in riddle that forecast such events as the Fire of London in 1666, the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588, and future technology. Born fifteen years before Nostradamus, it is reputed that she predicted the end of the world and even predicted her own end, with her death in 1561.

Although the first known edition of Mother Shipton's prophesies appeared in print in 1641, (The Propheceyes of Mother ShiptonFortellingthe Death of Cardinall Wolsey, the Lord of Percy, and others, As Also What Should Happen in Insuing Times ), by an anonymous author, eighty years after her death, it was also published in London by Richard Lowndes. It was a 1684 edition by Richard Head and edited by Charles Hindley, which included her earliest biographical data. Both Hindley and Head, in later years, said the whole thing was a hoax and they made up and invented most of the details of her life.

There is controversy as to whether or not Shipton ever really existed outside of legend. Some say thirteen of her prophecies were accurate and fulfilled; while others say she may have been a real person, but her prophecies were all part of the legend and were written after the events had already come true.

Delving Deeper

Shipton, Mother. Mother Shipton's Fortune Teller; Or, Future Fate Foretold by the Planets. New York: Padell Book Co.: 1944.

Harrison, W. H. Holmes. Mother Shipton Investigated. The Result of a Critical Examination of the Extant Literature Relating to the Yorkshire Sybil. London: Holmes Publishing Group LLC: 2001.

Windsor, Diana. Mother Shipton's Prophecy Book: The Story of Her Life and Most Famous Prophecies. London: Wolverson Publishing: 1988.

Weed, Joseph J. Complete Guide to Oracle and Prophecy Methods. New York: Parker Publishing. 1975.

Glass, Justine. They Foresaw the Future. The Story of Fulfilled Prophecy. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons. 1969.

Dixon, Jeane (1918-1997)

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Dixon, Jeane (1918-1997)

American sensitive and prophesier. Dixon's rise to prominence began when she predicted the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963. She also predicted the Communist takeover of China, the partition of India, the deaths of Carole Lombard, Dag Hammarskjöld, and Mahatma Ghandhi, and the suicide of Marilyn Monroe.

Dixon was born January 5, 1918, to Frank and Emma Pickert in Medford, Wisconsin; she moved with her family to California at an early age. A gypsy told the eight-year-old Dixon that she had a sensitivity to events around her and presented her with a crystal ball, in which she saw visionary pictures. Dixon's family moved again and she attended high school in Los Angeles, later training to become a singer and actress. At age 21, she married James L. Dixon, who was then in partner-ship with the film producer Hal Roach in an automobile agency. During World War II, Dixon entertained servicemen with her predictions through the Home Hospitality Committee, which was organized by Washington socialites.

Being a devout Roman Catholic, Dixon believed that she had a God-given gift that must be used for the good of human-kind. She was also the founder of the charity known as Children to Children Inc.

Her astrological forecasts were syndicated by the Chicago Tribune-New York News Syndicate, Inc. Her books include Jeane Dixon, My Life and Prophecies: Her Own Story as Told to Rene Noorbergen (1969), Reincarnation and Prayers to Live By (1970), Jeane Dixon's Astrological Cookbook (1976), Horoscopes for Dogs (1979), and The Riddle of Powderworks Road (1980). Newspaper reporter Ruth Montgomery published Dixon's biography, A Gift of Prophecy, in 1965. It sold nearly three million copies in hardback and became a number one best-seller in paperback.

Some critics belittled Dixon for her inaccuracy in predicting events. Most prophesiers, however, have a certain failure rate, often based on the faulty interpretation of symbols, visions, and psychic reactions; Dixon freely admited to these errors. It is said that extrasensory perception is too unpredictable for prophecy to be an exact science.

Dixon died on January 26, 1997 in Washington D.C.

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