Seers, Sorceresses and Spooky Women


Happy Halloween! Here are a few historical women with ties to the supernatural…

Pamela Coleman Smith – Occult Illustrator


Nicknamed ‘Pixie’, Pamela Coleman Smith was a successful artist, illustrator and occultist.

Born in England to American parents, Smith spent her early years living between London, New York and Kingston Jamaica where her father worked.

The High Priestess

The High Priestess

She studied fine art at the renowned Pratt Institute in New York before beginning her career as a book illustrator.

In the early 1900s, Smith befriended Dracula author Bram Stoker, whose final book The Lair of the White Worm she would later illustrate. She also illustrated a number of books of Jamaican folklore and contributed work to the Suffrage Atelier.

Smith joined occultist society the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn in 1901, which later became the Independent and Rectified Rite of the Golden Dawn. The society studied the paranormal and practiced ritual magic. There she met poet Arthur Edward Waite, who commissioned her to illustrate a deck of tarot cards.

Innovative, beautiful and full of mystical symbolism, the Waite-Smith tarot deck became the most widely used deck in the world.

Mother Shipton – Yorkshire Prophetess


Ursula Southeil, also known as Mother Shipton, is one of England’s most famous soothsayers. She lived in Yorkshire in the 16th Century and claimed to have been born in a cave which is now a popular tourist attraction.

Mother Shipton's cave

Mother Shipton’s cave

Though she lived a simple life in a small village near York, Mother Shipton’s predictions were published and became famous throughout the country, even being mentioned by diarist Samuel Pepys.

Mother Shipton was supposedly hideously ugly, an archetypal crone with a crooked nose and wart-covered face. She is said to have predicted motor cars, royal marriages, iron ships and several wars and natural disasters.

Unfortunately, much of Mother Shipton’s life has been heavily embellished and her predictions faked over the years. Wise women or ‘cunning’ women were common in rural England at the time, so there may very well have been an Ursula Southeil who told fortunes from her cottage. Still, those predictions have been largely lost to history.

The majority of prophecies known today which are attributed to Mother Shipton are considered Victorian fakes, written hundreds of years after she really lived. These prophecies, usually written in rhyming couplets, are a testament to the publics fascination in the paranormal.

Some of the (probably fake) prophecies:

A Carriage without a horse shall go;
Disaster fill the world with woe…
In water iron then shall float,
As easy as a wooden boat.

Marie Laveau – Voodoo Queen


Marie Laveau was a hugely popular Voodoo practitioner in 19th Century New Orleans.

She was born a free woman, and both of her parents were biracial, one of whom was Creole. It is not known where she learnt Voodoo, which was being practiced widely in New Orleans at the time. Laveau had a daughter named after her who was also a Voodoo practitioner.

The Mausoleum of Marie Laveau

The Mausoleum of Marie Laveau

Marie Laveau II performed Voodoo rituals on St John’s Eve to crowds of up to twelve thousand spectators. Her mother supposedly kept a pet snake called Zombi (after an African god), performed spells and read fortunes for the people who visited her. She became known as the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans.

Laveau’s powers seemed to extend beyond the grave – after she died, the belief persisted that her grave could grant wishes if you drew an ‘X’ on the tomb, turned three times and left an offering.

Laveau’s ancestors still practice Voodoo today.

Baba Vanga – The Blind Seer


Baba Vanga was a Bulgarian clairvoyant and healer believed to have incredible supernatural powers.

Born prematurely and named Vangelia, an extraordinary story describes her being picked up by a tornado and thrown into a nearby field as a small child, which caused her blindness. There is no evidence to substantiate this tale, though Vanga was certainly blinded at some point.

It is not known when she began giving predictions, but her popularity increased during World War II, when many families hoped she would provide answers about their sons and husbands fighting overseas. She was so well known that in 1942 she was visited by the Bulgarian tzar, Boris III.

Vanga claimed that she could feel the presence of invisible creatures who passed on her prophecies, though she could not communicate with them. She was said to have predicted the breakup of the Soviet Union, Stalin’s death, the September 11 attacks and the Chernobyl disaster.

She also prescribed herbal remedies for healing and rejected mainstream medicine.

Vanga died of breast cancer in 1996, having supposedly predicted the date herself. According to her wishes, her house is now a museum. It is believed that approximately 80% of Baba Vanga’s predictions came true.


Pamela Coleman Smith on Wikipedia

The Smith-Waite Tarot deck

The Hemetic Order of the Golden Dawn

Mother Shipton on Wikipedia

Mysterious Britain – Mother Shipton

Mother Shipton Investigatedveau on Wikipedia

Marie Laveau on Wikipedia

Louisiana Voodoo

Marie Laveau Obituary

Baba Vanga on Wikipedia

Rupite Journal; For a Revered Mystic, a Shrine Now of Her OwnStephen Kinzer

Image credits:

Pamela Colman Smith circa 1912” by Unknown photographer

Licensed under Public Domain via Commons

RWS Tarot 02 High Priestess” by Pamela Coleman Smith – a 1909 card scanned by Holly Voley for the public domain, and retrieved from (see note on that page regarding source of images). Via Wikipedia

Mother Shipton” by Unknown

Licensed under Public Domain via Commons

MotherShipton’sCave” by chris 論 – Own work.

Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Commons

MarieLaveau (Frank Schneider)” by Frank Schneider, based on a (now lost?) painting by George Catlin. – Louisiana State Museum, New Orleans.

Licensed under Public Domain via Commons

MarieLaveauMausoleum” by Flipper9 at English Wikipedia – Author: Patrick S Carroll Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons.

Licensed under Public Domain via Commons

Vanga” by originally bg:User:Пакко – bg:Image:Vanga.jpg.

Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons