The First Psychics: The Sibyls

There are many false myths about psychics and psychic phenomenon. For example: One would think that psychics don’t have a long history. It’s not uncommon for people to think that the whole field of psychics and psychic readings somehow began a few hundred years ago, at best. Another is that psychics have always been rejected by both Christians and, to a lesser extent, Judaism. What if I told you that psychics have a history that goes back 4,000 years? Or, that psychics (and the writings/predictions of psychics) were an important part of early Christian history? Or, that Jewish history contained it’s own revered psychics? You’d think this writer is as mad as a hatter out of Alice in Wonderland. But, would this writer be wrong?

Sibyl of Cumae

Sibyl of Cumae painted by Andrea del Castagno in the 1400s

It’s often the history they fail to teach that is the most illuminating. To address the history of psychics we need to bring back a very old, nearly forgotten word: Sibyl. The word Sibyl seems to be first mentioned by the ancient Greek writer Heraclitus in 500 BC as ‘Sibylla’ and can be translated as ‘prophetess’. Although the word ‘Sibyl’ is first uttered in 500 BC, the practice of being a Sibyl may well date back to 2,000 BC … or over 4,000 years ago.

Despite the passage of time, the meaning of the word ‘Sibyl’ has changed little. It means to be psychic, clairvoyant, a woman who makes predictions about the future. What is more, the word ‘Sibyl’ can be found in a numerous languages and is spelled much the same: Sibylle, Sybille (French), Sibylla, Sibylle, Sybille (German), Sibylla (Greek), Sibilla (Italian), Sibylla (Late Greek), Sibylla, Sybilla (Late Roman), Sybilla (Polish), Sibylla (Swedish) – Go HERE to learn more. So, who was Sibyl? A better question is, who were the Sibyls? They were the first psychics and they were revered through history for their predictions. It’s an important part of ancient history which is rarely taught (and a history some would rather bury).

Sibyls were a special class of women in the ancient world who gave prophecies while in a state that was often described as "frenzied" or "ecstatic". Most of those involved in psychic research believe that the ecstatic state described is similar to what has been described as what some mediums pass through prior to having a spirit guide speak through them, or the dancing, frenzied state seen in trance mediums who channel the Nats of Myanmar (Burma). It was believed that, when Sibyls entered into these altered states, the they became divinely inspired and were able to speak with authority for a deity.

The Sibylline tradition in the Western world was of great importance during ancient times. It has persisted through thousands of years of religious, cultural, and political change and, as you will see, has not been entirely forgotten even to this day.

The Sibyls of Ancient Greece and Rome
The early Greek world seems to have begun the recording of significant Sibyls. Over time the list of important Sibyls grew to a total of nine. A tenth Sibyl was added later by the Romans. The ten Sibyls came to represent all points of the civilized world. Some historians say there where actually twelve. In this article we’ll stay with the long established ten Sibyls:

Delphi Sibyl

Sibyl of Delphi painted by Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel in 1483

The Delphic Sibyl
The legendary Delphic Sibyl, who presided over the precinct of Apollo at Delphi on Mount Parnassus, was said to be the daughter of a goddess and the sister of Apollo. One famous story about the Delphic Sibyl says that after she died she became a wandering voice and continued to whisper prophecies into men’s ears. The elite of ancient Greece came to the first Sibyl for advice and guidance – stories abound in ancient Greek history of this Sibyl and the tradition she started. It is likely the Sibyl of Delphi was the first Oracle of Delphi, beginning a long tradition of psychic readers at Mount Parnassus.

The Erythraean Sibyl
The Erythraean Sibyl was believed by the ancient Greeks and Romans to have foretold the divine parentage of Alexander the Great. Some early Christians also believed that she had prophesied the Redemption of Christ.

The Cumaean Sibyl
The Cumaean Sibyl was the most famed among the Romans. As legend tells it, she guided Aeneas, an ancestor of the founders of Rome, through the underworld to visit his dead father. Aeneas was then shown by his father what his descendants would accomplish. These predictions would come to be fulfilled.

The Persian Sibyl
The Persian Sibyl (also known as the Hebrew Sibyl) is said to have correctly predicted the exploits of Alexander the Great. She is also credited with the writing of the Sibylline Oracles (discussed below).

The Libyan Sibyl
Legend says that the Libyan Sibyl met with Alexander the Great directly. She revealed to Alexander his divine parentage. The Libyan Sibyl herself was considered to be a daughter of Zeus.

The Cimmerian Sibyl
The Cimmerian Sibyl prophesied at an Apollonian Oracle in southern Italy. She lived near Lake Avernus, which, in Roman mythology, was an entrance to Hades. It is also said that the Cimmerian Sibyl’s son founded a shrine to the god Pan in Rome.

The Samian Sibyl
The Samian Sibyl resided at the oracle of Apollo near the Heraion of Samos, a temple to the goddess Hera on the Isle of Samos. Early Christians believed that she foretold how the birth of Christ would take place in a stable.

The Hellespontine Sibyl
The Hellespontine Sibyl, sometimes called the Trojan Sibyl, presided over the oracle of Apollo at Dardania. She was also important to early Christians because of the belief that she predicted the events of the Crucifixion of Christ.

The Phrygian Sibyl
The Phrygian Sibyl was sometimes identified by the Greeks as Cassandra, the daughter of the Trojan king Priam. She later became an important figure in Christianity because her prophecies supported Christian ideas of the end times.

The Tiburtine Sibyl
The Tiburtine Sibyl was added to the original nine Greek Sibyls by the Romans. Many of her prophecies came to be favored by early Christians, who believed that she foretold the coming of Christ and the reign of Emperor Constantine.

The Sibylline Books
The Sibylline Books were a collection of Sibylline prophecies. Written in the poetic style of Greek hexameter, these books were of utmost importance in Roman society. Sadly, only a fragment of the writings survive today.

Legend says that the books were purchased from the Cumaean Sibyl by Tarquin the Proud, the last king of Rome. The Cumaean Sibyl told the king the books were, "the destiny of the world", as such, would prove invaluable. The Sibyl offered Tarquin nine books at a very steep price, and so Tarquin refused. She burned three and offered him the rest for the same price, which he again refused. The Sibyl burned three more and offered him the remaining books, again at the original price, and Tarquin finally accepted her offer.

The Sibylline Books did prove invaluable. The books were placed in a secure temple and were controlled by the Roman Senate. The books were watched over by a number of officials, generally ex-consuls or ex-praetors, who were appointed for life. These officials were tasked with consulting the Sibylline Books in times of crisis, and with interpreting them in a way that could help Rome avoid calamities such as earthquakes, plagues, and comets.

The Sibylline Oracles
Not to be confused with the Sibylline Books, the Sibylline Oracles were compiled in Jewish and early Christian communities. The Sibylline Oracles, which are sometimes also called the Sibylline Poems, were also written in Greek Hexameter, and also purported to be the utterances of Sibyls. They were likely composed between the 2nd and 6th centuries AD, while copies of the Sibylline Books may have still been around.

The prophecies of the Sibylline Oracles were mainly concerned with the judgment that God was to carry out again the people of Babylon, Egypt, Rome, Troy, Libya, and others for their various sins against God and against God’s people. The predictions in the Sibylline Oracles concerning the judgment of the world and the coming of the Messiah are very reminiscent of the Apocalypse of John, as well as other apocalyptic literature that was circulating in Jewish and Christian communities at that time.

Sibyls and Psychics
By the Middle Ages the word "Sibyl" had generally become synonymous with "prophetess." Female Sibyls were often depicted next to male prophets from the Bible in the art of the Late Gothic and Renaissance periods. Over the next several centuries many people began using "Sibyl" as a synonym for "psychic." To demonstrate how respected Sibyls were in the early Christian community, Michelangelo included 5 Sibyls in his painting of the Sistine Chapel located within the Vatican. It would be the Spiritualists of the late 19th century who would begin bringing back the word ‘Sibyl’ to indicate a psychic of unique skills. Even previous to Spiritualist usage of the word, Marie Anne Lenormand, the famous tarot reader of France, was often referred to as a ‘Sibyl’ due to uncanny predictive abilities using cartomancy, palm reading and astrology.

Although ancient historians spoke of the Sibyls as historical fact, modern historians categorized the Sibyls as ‘myths’ and ‘legends’. Working under the premise that psychics are not ‘real’, the conclusion was there were no real Sibyls, and stories of them were likely works of fiction. This continued despite the fact archeology evidence going back to the 1600s in Italy indicated that temples related to Sibyls had existed. It wasn’t until 1932 that the cave known as the Antro della Sibilla was discovered. It was discovered by following information in historical records about the Cumaean Sibyl and the cave from which she gave ‘psychic readings’. Up until that point, both the Cumaean Sibyl and her secret cave had been considered more mythological than factual.

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Little, if anything, is known about the practices and training of the ancient Sibyls. What we do know from historical records is that there are some remarkable similarities to today’s modern psychics (from having trace states to mostly being woman who seem particularly close to nature and consider their ‘gifts’ as being of a spiritual origin). So, if you thought psychics are a ‘modern’ invention; or that psychics have not played an important role in history; or that Christianity and other religions have always been hostile to psychic phenomena, you may want to think again.

If you would like to talk with a psychic about what the future may hold for you in love, career or anything else, contact Psychic Crystal a call at 1-866-407-7164 (toll free US and Canada). Crystal works with her spirit guides to provide clients with answers and guidance in all issues. You might also enjoy Spirit Guides Chat where you can chat online and receive readings, live.


The Ten Sybils
Delphi Oracle Sibyl
Jewish Encyclopedia – Sibyl
Book Three of the Sibylline Oracles
Prophecy – Greece And Rome