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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
References in classic literature ?
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).
Just as ancient sibyls were not spinners (Weinberg, "Written" 719), so neither were they ordinarily writers.
The Cumaean Sibyl thus was distinguished from other sibyls by virtue of the cultural faith that the Romans showed in her visions as these were recorded in written language.
Vestal virgins, sibyls, and matrons; women in Roman religion.
Even if, for example, the great prophets and sibyls of the Sistine ceiling do not correspond in detail to the writings of the prophetic Savonarola or his followers, we can nevertheless fruitfully ponder the prominence of Michelangelo's colossal seers in the Sistine ceiling in relation to Savonarola's prophetic voice.
Throughout Corinne, Mine de Stall describes the heroine in divine terms, the sibyls and prophets who give human voice to God.
In "The Medieval Sybil," Annick Waegeman places Hildegard of Bingen in the tradition of the classical sibyls, female mediums who escaped from the traditional subordination imposed on women through their ability to achieve contact with the divine.