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(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

Legend has it that the ancient Sibyls could live for a thousand years. It seems more likely, however, that it was their utterings that were so long lived. Heraclitus, as quoted by Plutarch, said of them, “The Sibyl with raving mouth, uttering things without smiles, without graces and without myrrh, reaches over a thousand years because of the god.”

The Sibyls were the prophets of ancient Greece and Rome. They seem to have originated in Greek Asia Minor and worked through clairvoyance, clairaudience and clairsentience, usually going into trance. They were always connected to Apollo, the god of prophecy, who also originated in Asia Minor. Where the Pythia of Delphi were controlled and protected by the priesthood, the Sibyls were in effect freelancers. The best known Sibyls were at Delphi, Erythræ, Marpessus, Phrygia, Sardis, and Thessaly. The majority of the prophesies uttered by the Sibyls dealt with war, famine, plague, and other disasters.

In Virgil’s Ænid there is the story of the Sibyl of Cumæ who predicted the wars that would follow Æneas’s landing in Italy. Æneas had been told by the prophet Helenus to seek out the cave of the Sibyl of Cums as soon as he reached Italy. He was told that she was a woman of deep wisdom, who could foretell the future and advise him what to do. This she did and, in fact, traveled with him to guide him, eventually leading him to meet the spirit of his deceased father Anchises.


Buckland, Raymond: The Fortune-Telling Book: The Encyclopedia of Divination and Soothsaying. Detroit: Visible Ink Press, 2004
Kaster, Joseph: Putnam’s Concise Mythological Dictionary. New York: G.P. Putnam’s, 1963
Parke, H. W.: Sibyls and Sibylline Prophecy in Classical Antiquity. New York: Routledge, 1988
Phillips, E.D.: Man, Myth & Magic: Sibyls. London: BPC Publishing, 1970
Potter, D.: Sibyls in the Greek and Roman World. Rhode Island: Journal of Roman Archaeology 3, 1990
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References in classic literature ?
"Well, I can't help going to see Sibyl play," he cried, "even if it is only for a single act.
You, who know all the secrets of life, tell me how to charm Sibyl Vane to love me!
His sudden mad love for Sibyl Vane was a psychological phenomenon of no small interest.
It was to tell him that he was engaged to be married to Sibyl Vane.
This study uncovers representations of the sibyls (Christian symbols of mystical female prophets) in European art and literature during the early Renaissance in the 15th century.
Dempsey also looks at the paintings of the sibyls commissioned by Cardinal Giordano Orsini in the early fifteenth century.
The case study here is a set of Latin epigrams describing a cycle of twelve sibyls and some prophets painted c.
The final two chapters deal with the interpenetration of sacre rappresentazioni, ottava rima poetry and the engravings Baccio Baldini made in Florence some time in the early 1470s of images of twelve (two were added to the classical ten) sibyls that once famously decorated the palace of Cardinal Giordano Orsini in Rome (now lost).
With both eyes bandaged following an airplane crash during a wartime mission over Trieste, D'Annunzio wrote Notturno on several thousand thin strips of paper, a line or two on each, "the way the Sibyls used to write their brief auguries.
Just as ancient sibyls were not spinners (Weinberg, "Written" 719), so neither were they ordinarily writers.
Vestal virgins, sibyls, and matrons; women in Roman religion.
The comparison between a seated marble sibyl from the Pistoia pulpit by Giovanni Pisano and one of Michelangelo's seated sibyls on the Sistine Chapel ceiling is certainly thought-provoking.