Written by Kristina
"Don't believe everything you're foretold."
When Angel told this to Lindsey in "To Shanshu in LA", it is quite possible that he didn't understand the full weight of what he was saying. As we have learned in both the Buffy/Angel-verse, prophecies are not "cut and dried." Many times, Buffy has averted apocalypses that have been prophesized, as has Angel. Prophecies serve as nothing more than early warning devices - they let the forces of good/evil know a big event is coming, and this allows them prepare for it. But no matter how much preparing they do, they can never be fully prepared for the consequences of their actions.
The credibility of prophecies has always been under question, but never more so than after the events of "Sleep Tight" this season. Wesley translated what he thought was a valid prophecy - "The Father will kill the Son." He believed this prophecy was about Angel and Connor. Although he tried hard to disprove it, and find anything that could discredit it, he couldn't. He took matters into his own hands, which led to the kidnapping of Connor by Justine, and the slitting of Wesley's throat. But these events were all set into motion by one person - or should I say demon - Sahjhan. He faked this prophecy out of self-preservation. Centuries ago, he discovered a prophecy that stated that the son of the vampire with a soul would kill him. In order to protect himself, he created a false prophecy about Connor and Angel to distract attention away from himself.
There are many different references in world mythology to people trying to avert prophecies. Some of these attempts are successful (as we have seen in "Buffy the Vampire Slayer") and some of these attempts aren't. For example, in Greek mythology, King Acrisius learned of a prophecy that stated he would be killed by his grandson, Perseus. To prevent this prophecy from occurring, he locked his daughter, Danae, away, but Zeus impregnated her. When Perseus was born, the King had the two of them cast out to sea, to die. They didn't die, and Perseus grew up to be an athlete. It just so happens that one day, he was participating in a discus event funeral games of the father of Tentamides of Larrisa, which Acrisius was (unknowingly) present at. He threw the discus, and it went wild, and flew into the crowd. It struck Acrisius, killing him, and brought the prophecy to pass.
As we have learned in "Buffy the Vampire Slayer", prophecies don't tell you everything. When Buffy heard about the prophecy that she was to face the Master and die, she "freaked out." Ultimately, she realized her sacred duty as a Slayer, and faced the Master. However, upon arrival in the Master's lair, the Master informed Buffy that she was the key to his escape. If she had never have come to fight him, she would have lived, and he would have remained trapped. Of course, the Master should have listened to his own words - Buffy did die, but the prophecy in the Pergamum Codex said nothing about Buffy staying dead. She was revived by Xander, and killed the Master before he could completely unleash the Hellmouth beast.
Prophecies are open to interpretation, and depending on the translator, they can take on different meanings. For example, when Wesley was trying to decode the Scroll of Aberjian, he at first believed that "shanshu" meant that Angel was going to die; however, with the aide of some etymology, he uncovered the meaning of "shanshu" as living. The scroll prophesizes that Angel will live until he dies. As well, a more recent example of the interpretation of prophecies occurs in "Offspring." Wesley and Gunn recovered pieces of the Nyazian scroll, which eventually ended up in the hands of Wolfram and Hart. The translator Lilah hired told her that there would only be death in the alley. She and the translator interpreted this as the death of Angel's son. Confident in this knowledge, Lilah was shaken to learn that Angel's son was brought into the world, by the death of Darla. Technically, there was no birth in the alleyway - when Darla dusted herself, she left her baby behind.
Of what we have seen on prophecies, it would appear that destiny, and fate, can be controlled by free will. Many people, including Angel, are skeptical when new prophecies are announced.
Angel: The end is not coming. Someone is always uncovering some ancient scroll, and they're always saying the same thing: that something terrible is coming. Do you know how many of these things I've seen in my very long life?
Angel: Three. But there's nothing to worry about.
Prophecies can be changed by the actions of certain characters, using their own free will. It is the choices made during critical times before a prophecy comes to pass that control whether or not it actually happens. In this light, prophecies are no more than tools to aid in the shaping of one's own destiny.
Fred: Can I say something about destiny? - Screw destiny! If this evil thing comes we'll fight it, and we'll keep fighting it until we whoop it. 'Cause destiny is just another word for inevitable and nothing's inevitable as long as you stand up, look it in the eye, and say 'your evitable!'
We will never be completely rid of prophecies in the Buffy/Angel-verse. Instead, we must learn to question what we are foretold, as the characters must also. Nothing is written in stone - well, except for death, and taxes.