14 September 2010

Do You Believe in Prophecy?

Most people have heard of Prophecy. In a religious sense, it typically means that some event or some person was foretold to come about.

Why does this matter?

Obviously to atheists it is nothing more than coincidence. To those seeking spiritual guidance, Prophecy is generally looked upon as Proof.

Proof, as we all know, is very important. Proof is important in Law, in Science, and in everyday life. It validates what we believe.

I swear I didn't key my ex's car. The ATM receipt and camera proves that I was on the other side of town.

Proof is often sought after in Religion, but seldom found. Religion tends to rely upon Prophecy as its Proof; in absence of Proof, Religion relies upon Faith.

Christians view the ancient ramblings of a couple of Jewish people as proof that Jesus is the Messiah. In the book of Isaiah, there are several passages that Christians interpret as a sign of divine Prophecy, include those about the virgin birth, and those about the Messiah's being rejected by the people. They have Faith that these are true. Non-Christians read these passages and either believe them to be too vague to be proof of anything, or mistranslations.

Others believe that Nostradamus was capable of Prophesy, and view Hitler and September 11 as Proof of that ability. Most of the rest of us agree that anything attributed to Nostradamus is far too vague to be considered as Proof of anything.

What would you do if a Prophecy materialized? What if this Prophecy came to pass within the lifetime of both you and the prophet? What if it were accurate down to the month, and verified by several outside unbiased sources?

Would you believe it?

What if I told you that it has already happened?

Most people forget about the American War of 1812, which was essentially a continuation of the American Revolution, but involved a lot more Amerindians. In the South, the War of 1812 also involved the Creek Wars which extended into 1814.

In 1811, a comet appeared in the sky. The Shawnee warrior Tecumseh, whose name means "shooting star," claimed this to be an omen for the tribes to listen to him. Tecumseh and his brother, known as the Prophet, traveled amongst the tribes, encouraging them to give up the European influences and return to their roots, as this would please the Great Spirit.

While in Mississippi Territory (today this is both Alabama and Mississippi), the men grew irritated with the hesitancy of some to give up white ways. (Remember, by the late 1700s, many Amerindians possessed black slaves and attended church. This was their new way of life.) The indignant brothers left the doubting tribes with this statement:

You do not believe the Great Spirit has sent me. You shall believe it. I will leave directly, and go straight to Detroit. When I get there I will stamp my foot upon the ground and shake down every house in Tuckabatchee.
[Pickett, History of Alabama, 514 - 515; B. E. Powell, "Was Tecumseh's 'Arm of Fire' the Comet of 1811?" Georgia Journal of Science 39 (1981): 87.]

This was in October or November. What is now called the New Madrid Earthquake struck the Mississippi River Valley in December of the same year. It was larger than the 1906 earthquake that devastated San Fransisco. It was so powerful that the Mississippi River was said, by many sources, to run backwards for a time. The aftershocks continued for months.

From the "Letter of Eliza Bryan," Lorenzo Dow's Journal, Joshua Martin Pub., John B. Wolff, Print., 1849, p.344:

On the 16th of December, 1811, about two o'clock, A.M., we were visited
by a violent shock of an earthquake, accompanied by a very awful noise
resembling loud but distant thunder, but more hoarse and vibrating,
which was followed in a few minutes by the complete saturation of the
atmosphere, with sulphurious vapor, causing total darkness. The screams
of the affrighted inhabitants running to and fro, not knowing where to
go, or what to do - the cries of the fowls and beasts of every species
- the cracking of trees falling, and the roaring of the Mississippi -
the current of which was retrogade for a few minutes, owing as is
supposed, to an irruption in its bed -- formed a scene truly horrible.

You can imagine that this somewhat startled the tribes.

Not only did other sources document this massive earthquake, but there have been scientific studies in our own time that have verified it.

Unlike other "prophecies," there was no mistaking what happened, and all parties, both past and present, Indian and non-Indian, agree on the event.

Do you believe Tecumseh's Prophecy? Or do you think it was a random coincidence? And if it was just a coincidence that he was able to prophecy not only the time of the event, but the nature of the event itself, to what else do you attribute it?

Other Sources:

Jay Feldman, When the Mississippi Ran Backwards..., Simon & Schuster, 2005.
America, History and Life, Vol 33, Issues 1-2, American Bibliographical Center, 1996.
Benjamin W. Griffith, Jr., McIntosh and Weatherford, Creek Indian Leaders, University of Alabama Press, 1988. Page 76 specifically. [from my personal library]
George Stiggins (1788 - 1845), Creek Indian History: A Historical Narrative of the Genealogy, Traditions and Downfall of the Ispocoga or Creek Indian Tribe of Indians, University of Alabama Press, 1989. [from my personal library, written by my ggggggrandfather]

Photographs of buildings in Oklahoma. The final is of the pre-restoration Big Round Barn in Arcadia, OK.


  1. Since I've heard you talk about this story before, and because it reads like something my mother might forward me, I decided to pay a little more attention to it this time.

    The chances that this is real are pretty slim, for one Tecumseh was renowned as a prohpet for a politically oppressed people (the kind of group prone to exaggerating their leaders' powers); for another, this quake was so huge, and people are so unimaginative, that it's not a huge stretch to assume his followers linked the most important figurehead with the most important geological event.

    It happened with the last president and a rain storm.

    It's not that prophecy is impossible, it's just that, in the presence of more likely alternatives, it becomes more and more improbable.

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