the time of prophecy is upon us

The old year is dead, and the new is being born, so – in accordance with my usual custom – I shall now briefly rend asunder the forbidden veil of time, and prophesy with unnerving and legally actionable precision the events of the year to come! Behold, as the mantic frenzy seizes me, and the TRUTH IS REVEALED!

– A sudden and precipitous rise in the price of cod liver oil will be revealed as part of a plot by nefarious fishlike aliens from the Tau Ceti system, scheming to gain economic dominance over Earth.

– The stealthy and secretive sunset apes will emerge at last from their hidden shadowy forests to contest humanity’s claim on the daylight world.

– The sinister deity known as the Duchess of Roses will come to a détente with her archrival, the Moon Phoenix, granting her servants unprecedented freedom to operate openly even beneath the cold light of the moon.

– For the 936th year running, the riddle of the Toad Marshall of Aachen will remain unsolved. His question, which he asks of all who enter his domain: “What is it that the sun fears, waterfalls respect, the sky demands and cats eat?”

– Incensed by the prospect of Jupiter rising in Scorpio on their anniversary, of all days, the gas giant’s moon Ganymede will make a sudden and surprisingly well-coordinated bid for planet-hood, capturing several lesser moons and starting a species of intelligent, talkative moss on its surface.

– The Black Cabinet will open, and it will not be closed.

– Displeased with the recent decline in amount and quality of tribute they receive from Britain, the great whale dynasties will withdraw their spiritual protection from the royal family, with the exception of a splinter faction led by the bowhead whales, who remain loyal to the Sussexes.

– Despite the loss of a dozen of their number in a freak stamp-collecting accident, the forty-eight surviving Guild Snakes of the Most August Court of All Crafts will vote to introduce the new craft of grannysmithing to the mortal realm.

As always, you may go forth into the new year with the confidence that all these prophecies are completely true, forewarned and forearmed against the slings and wheelbarrows of outrageous rangoons. Happy (destiny permitting) New (or at least only lightly used) Year (plus or minus any intercalary months required to stave off astral calamity)!

Leo M.R. asks:

I’ve a couple of questions about Cassandra, the Trojan princess/seer:

1) Were the conditions of her curse known to other people? I assume not – otherwise it’d defeat the purpose of the whole ‘will never be believed’ thing – but you never know.

2) How *did* her prophesizing work, anyway? Was it involuntary like she’d get pseudo-possessed à la Professor Trelawney from Harry Potter (which I imagine contributed to her madwoman status)? Or did she actively divined like she had to read the movement of birds or something (in which case, couldn’t she have just… *not*?)?

So, part of Cassandra’s deal is that, although we think of her as a character from the Trojan War, which we associate with the Homeric epics, the major surviving texts where she actually does anything are all tragedies (in fact, Cassandra is such a minor character in the Iliad that I don’t think Homer ever mentions her gift/curse of prophecy – it might even have been a later addition to the myth, although of course I can’t prove that). And Greek tragedies are all about mortals rushing headlong into terrible fates that they could easily have avoided if only things had gone a little bit differently. I think we’ve gotta see Cassandra’s prophecies as the same class of Thing as, like, Oedipus’ prophecy about killing his father and marrying his mother: even when you know it’s coming, you’re powerless to stop it, because that’s just the kind of thing Fate does to mortals who know the future.

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