This is part 2 of how to create a prophecy or any other sort of archaic text for your story.
In my previous post, we talked about the basic elements of a prophecy (who? what? when? where? why? is there cake? is the cake a lie?). Now we can bring together those elements and start creating the actual text of the prophecy.
This is a completely optional step. Prophecies are often communicated orally and not committed to scripture. For the purposes of this post, we’re going to assume you want to create some nice, archaic text for your prophecy.
There are plenty of examples we can pull from to create the “template” for our prophecy. Pretty much any religious text is going to be rife with them. For this example, I’m going to use a prophecy from the Book of Isaiah from the Bible. I recommend the King James’ version, because I find the language in it the most poetic.
We’re going to create a prophecy that predicts the arrival of someone important. Isaiah 9 contains one of the more well known of the Bible’s passages, a prophecy of the coming of the Messiah.
For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
A few things to establish before we break this down:
1. Who is coming? Is it a savior, a prophet, a destroyer, an avatar of a god?
2. What is this prophesied one going to do?
3. Using the above information, is the prophesied one a blessing or a curse?
4. What will happen to the prophesied one? “The One” usually has opposition (however potent or futile it may be) and is often required to endure hardship or burden of some sort.
5. Imagine that the prophesied one has come, and has passed into legend. What titles or names would they be given in retrospect?
Now to put this information into the currently existing prophecy. I suggest getting out your thesaurus.
“For unto us a [insert a descriptor for your subject] is [born? revealed?], unto us a [another descriptor–put that thesaurus to work!] is [given? conferred? yielded up?]: and [you can put pretty much anything in here.. how The One will come, the weight of their responsibility, the hardship The One will endure, or the actions they will take]: and [his/her/their] name will be called: [put those titles and names in here–they don’t all have to agree with each other either. perhaps some will call her the Vessel of Life and others will call her The Destroyer… or whatever].”
Let’s stop here and take a look at what we’ve come up with.
For unto us a mystery is revealed, unto us a vessel is cast: and she will rise up as a briar among scarlet petals: and her name will be called: The Wretched, the Voiceless One, the Breath of Life and the Mistress of the Dead.
For unto us a voice is heard, unto us a call is given: and it will bear up the tears of the nameless fallen, giving voice to those unheard: and it will be named a sentinel, an omen, and a final warning.
The format is a fairly diverse one; the first example describes some mysterious Being who will not come with fanfare, but be seen as less than those around her, and will ultimately be described in conflicting terms. The second is more vague, possibly not a person at all, perhaps a meaningful event that will serve as a sign of the times.
The language we’ve couched our details in is still somewhat recognizable, so lets see how we can change that without altering the form of it.
For unto us a mystery is revealed
And in that day will a mystery be revealed
Unto us a vessel is cast
Amid clay and fire the vessel will be cast
And she will rise up as a briar among scarlet petals
This doesn’t need any altering, since the only original word is the “and”
And her name will be called:
So shall she be named
All together now, and with feeling:
And in that day will a mystery be revealed; amid clay and fire the vessel will be cast, and she will rise up as a briar among scarlet petals. So shall she be named The Wretched, the Voiceless One, the Breath of Life and the Mistress of the Dead.
I wouldn’t be ashamed to have that in my ancient codex.
The vast majority of your prophecy is going to come from your own head: the metaphors, the adjectives and descriptors. We’ve simply used an existing verse as a blueprint, which gave us the archaic structure and cadence of the original. The same technique can be applied to just about any other existing text.
Note: Again, no disrespect is intended toward the quoted passages.