According to legend, one of the most famous mystical women of England was born in a cave in Knaresborough, Yorkshire. The place of her birth, now known as Mother Shipton’s Cave, continues to be a famous site linked to stories of witches and prophecy.
A Lonely, Special Child
Mother Shipton was born as Ursula Southeil in 1488. Her mother was Agatha Southeil, who was only 15 years old when she gave birth to Ursula. Ursula was reputedly born very ugly and grotesquely deformed. Her head was too big, her cheeks were sunken, her limbs were twisted and her eyes supposedly glowed like embers. She also reportedly had a full set of teeth when she was born.
Legends say that upon her birth terrible noises like thunder were heard from the cave. According to the people who lived around it, that was proof that Ursula was a daughter of the Devil. For the first two years of Ursula’s life her mother raised her in that cave. But then Agatha went to a nunnery and Ursula was allegedly taken in by a local family.
An image said to be a portrait of Mother Shipton. (Wellcome Trust) Some people supposedly heard terrible noises upon the birth of Ursula, which they saw as proof of her being a daughter of the devil.