I was working with some microfilm today on a collection of obscure 17th century English books when I came across a 1666 almanac published by Sir George Wharton, an English soldier and astrologer. Just for grins, I decided to peruse the book, as this was also the year of the Great Fire of London, not to mention that the year contained the Number of the Beast, 666.
"Ha!" I thought to myself. "Those crazy astrologers just make up stuff!"
Imagine my surprise when I came across the following creepy poem in the beginning of the Calendarium Carolinum: Or, A New Almanack. Especially strange is that many contemporaries claimed that the Great Fire was started by Catholics, a fiery precursor of the hysteria associated with the Popish Plot:
Now Sixtene Hundred Sixtie Six is come,Even weirder were the weather forecasts for the period of September 2 through 5, which called for clear skies and easterly gales, just like the weather that helped spread the fire through the tens of thousands of wooden buildings that burned in the conflagration.
When (as some say) shall be the Day of Doom:
Or else the Pope and Hierarchy destroy'd
Presbytery advanc'd and Over-joy'd.
Here's Seven years Purchase offer'd for their Land,
Who thinks that Dredaful Day, so nigh at hand:
And (if His Holyness suspect His Chaire)
I'le take it My selfe, though but for this One yeare.
Gulp. Sure, it was just a lucky guess (or was it?) but at 8:30 in the pre-coffee morning, the hairs on the back of my neck stood up.