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  • Jo-Anne Blanco

The Sibyls, Goddesses of Prophecy.

The Sibyl, or Sibyls, for there were several of them, were oracles of the ancient world: women believed to be inspired by the gods and thus venerated as goddesses themselves. Their name is derived from the Greek word “sibulla”, meaning prophetess. The Sibyls were not known by their own names, but rather by the holy sites where they were based. There were nine Sibyls of classic Greek antiquity. Perhaps the most renowned are the Sibyl of Delphi, who predated the Apollonian oracle Pythia at Delphi and passed her gift of foresight on to her successor; the Sibyl of Libya, who was consulted by Alexander the Great after he had conquered Egypt; and the Sibyl of Cumae, who offered to sell Tarquin, the last king of Rome, nine books of prophecy. As the Cumae story goes, King Tarquin refused the Sibyl’s offer twice because he found the price too high, and each time he did so, the Sibyl threw three of the books into the sacred fire and doubled the price of the remaining books. Tarquin finally relented and bought the last three books, which were kept in the Temple of Jupiter in Rome. Known as the Sibylline Books, they were consulted at various times of crisis during Rome’s long history.

Of the other six Greek sibyls, many tales are told. The Sibyl of Persia, believed to be related to Noah of the Ark and to be the author of the Sibylline Oracles, a series of prophecies, was described by the Greek traveller Pausanias as a “Hebrew Sibyl” and he stated that her real name was Sabbe. The Sibyl of Cimmerium in Italy was said to live underground near Lake Avernus; was visited by Aeneas, the founder of Rome; and her son, Evander, founded the first shrine to the god Pan, known as the Lupercal. The Sibyl of the Ionian city of Erythrae prophesied the Trojan War and the subsequent Fall of Troy. The Sibyl of Dardania, known as the Hellespontine Sibyl or the Trojan Sibyl, became renowned for her prophecy in the Sibylline Oracles of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. The Sibyl of Samos lived in a cave on the island of the same name and prophesied the birth of Jesus in a stable. The Sibyl of Phrygia, an ancient kingdom of Anatolia, was believed to be the famous Cassandra, Princess of Troy and Priestess of Apollo, cursed by the god who loved her and whose advances she rejected always to speak the truth and never to be believed.

To the original nine Sibyls, the Romans added one of their own: the Sibyl of the Etruscan town of Tibur. Her real name was said to be Albunea and she was worshipped as a goddess in her own right. As the Tenth Sibyl, she was renowned for having been visited by Caesar Augustus, who wished to ask of her whether he too should be worshipped as a god, and for her apocalyptic prophecy of “the Emperor of the Last Days”: a prophecy of a final Roman Emperor named Constans who would win the world for Christianity and cede the Empire to God the Father and Jesus Christ, but in so doing would bring about the reign of the Anti-Christ, who would only be vanquished by St Michael the Archangel on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem.

Appears in Fata Morgana Books I, II, III and IV

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