Warning: Good Omens spoilers are ahead.
As you might have guessed by seeing a few episodes, or even just the poster for the Amazon series, Good Omens authors Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett relied heavily on well-known Biblical tales for their novel about the coming of the antichrist and the end of the world. Judeo-Christian religion provided them with plenty of fantastical creatures to fill their world. In contrast, some of the funniest bits of their book (and the new series that Gaiman adapted) come from a made-up text with some very realistic contents: “The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter.”
If the 6,000 years of time-hopping has made you a little dizzy, or you can't wait for the full set of episodes to slowly unravel the prophecies at its heart, here's a little primer on Agnes Nutter (Josie Lawrence) and her very important words. Beware if thee hath not yet read or seen Good Omens, as the endings shall be spoilt.
Where The Prophecies Started: Lancashire, England, 1656
This is when Witchfinder Major Thou-Shalt-Not-Commit-Adultery Pulcifer (Jack Whitehall) works up a mob for the last witch burning of the era. Unfortunately for all bystanders, Agnes really is a witch who could see the future, so she immediately exacts her revenge by lacing her skirts with gunpowder and nails. Fortunately for the world, she is able to write down all her prophecies, send them to a publisher, and acquire a bound copy to pass down to her daughter Virtue Device (Bryony Corrigan).
How The Nice & Accurate Prophecies Work
Agnes didn't really make this book for everyone's consumption — seeing the future, she already knew they wouldn't read it. The purpose is to ensure that her family members would survive and thrive so that they can pass on her words to the one descendant who needs to act on them to prevent the Apocalypse, Anathema Device (Adria Arjona). In the book, she notes the date a descendant needs to avoid falling roof tile (November 22, 1963) in the town of Hull, but neglects to mention JFK's assassination that same day.
To Be Clear: The Prophecies Are Not Clear, Until They Need to Be
"In December 1980, an Apple shall rise no man can eat. Invest thy money in Master Jobbes's machine and good fortune will tend thy days," Virtue reads on the day of her mother's death. It takes hundreds of years, but eventually, Anathema's grandmother figures it out, so the Devices are pretty set financially, freeing their time for more prophecy deciphering.
This means that even though generations have cataloged and pored over each of the thousands of prophecies, many of them remained cryptic until the very end. It's not just a question of that 17th century language — which this Twitter account pretty accurately mimics — but of strange events that no one would be able to picture until they happen.
There's Only One Copy Of The Book
We're going to bet that one of the prophecies warned the family to make some more copies of the book for safe keeping. Anathema shouldn't have been quite so worried about losing the only printed edition of the book — she did have all those index cards for reference, after all. Maybe the real problem would have been if it fell into the wrong hands. Lucky for her, a certain book-selling angel (Michael Sheen's Aziraphale) wasn't out for a fast buck by the time she misplaced it. In fact, it seems he is also fated to possess the book (with a cup of hot cocoa at his side) and figure out Adam's address in Tadfield, in order to send Witchfinder Private Newt Pulcifer (Whitehall again) to him.
Okay, But Do the Prophecies Actually Do Anything To Help?
Can predicting the future change it? Or are Agnes' descendants merely doing what was always going happen? We can't answer that. If Anathema hadn't come to Tadfield hoping to stop the Antichrist, she wouldn't have introduced Adam to the problems of man-made environmental catastrophes and nuclear war. In doing so, she plants the idea in Adam's head that this world is almost irreparably effed, and in need of a reboot. If she hadn't been there at all, maybe Adam would have been too busy teaching Dog new tricks and playing with his friends to set off World War III.
Still, the prophecies do play their part. When Anathema and Newt are baffled as to how they can avert nuclear disaster, she pulls out a card at random and reads: "He is not what he says he is." That directs them to have Newt not-so-accidentally shut down all the computers in the defense network.
Were Agnes and Anathema fixing a problem or merely cleaning up a disaster of her own making? If we knew the answer to that, we'd understand a lot more than this show does.
At least we know the book was able to save Aziraphale and Crowley (David Tennant) from extinction, prompting them to body swap to survive their respective sentences from Heaven and Hell.
What About The Other Nice and Accurate Prophecies?
After it's all (seemingly) over, Anathema receives a second book of prophecies, which had been kept safe by generations of lawyers. Anathema burns it without reading a word, extinguishing our hopes for a sequel. This is so confusing, because wouldn't Agnes have foreseen that she would do this and instead left the prophecies with someone who wasn't sick of being a professional descendant? Ah, maybe she did, and this was just a decoy box!