The prophecies of the sixteenth century author Nostradamus have become a ubiquitous part of the popular culture of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. As well as being the subject of hundreds of books (both fiction and non-fiction), Nostradamus' life has been depicted in several films (to date, inaccurately), and his life and prophecies continue to be a subject of media interest. In the internet age, there have also been several well-known hoaxes, where quatrains in the style of Nostradamus have been circulated by e-mail. The most well-known example concerns the attack on New York City's World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.
Supposed prophecies[edit | edit source]
Authentication The authenticity of a purported Nostradamus quatrain can be verified by comparing the identifying number (e.g.: C1, Q25 or 'I.25' means Century 1, Quatrain 25) against an authoritative version of Nostradamus' works, which will probably also contain the original old French. Facsimiles are available on the internet, eg at propheties.it.
Nostradamus enthusiasts have credited him with predicting numerous events in world history, including the French Revolution, the rise of Napoleon Bonaparte, the atomic bomb, the rise of Adolf Hitler and the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center. Indeed, they regularly make similar claims regarding each new world crisis as it comes along as there is a tendency to claim that "Nostradamus predicted whatever has just happened." These claims rely heavily on the role of interpretation; for example, for the supposed prediction of the rise of Hitler the reference is to Hister, the classical name for the Lower Danube.
One well-known supposed prophecy is that "a great and terrifying leader would come out of the sky" in 1999 and 7 months "to resuscitate the great King from Angoumois." But the phrase d'effraieur (of terror) in fact occurs nowhere in the original printing, which merely uses the word deffraieur (defraying, hosting), and Nostradamus sometimes uses the word ciel simply to mean 'region', rather than 'sky'. On the basis of Nostradamus's by-now well known technique of projecting past events into the future, Lemesurier suggests that X.72 therefore refers back to the restoration to health of the captive Francis I of France (who was Duke of Angoulême) following a surprise visit to his cell by his host, the then Holy Roman Emperor Charles V in 1525. No fewer than five of the planets were in the same signs on both occasions.
September 11, 2001[edit | edit source]
The September 11, 2001 attacks on New York City's World Trade Center led to immediate speculation as to whether Nostradamus had predicted the event. Almost as soon as the event had happened, the relevant Internet sites were deluged with inquiries. In response, Nostradamus enthusiasts started searching for a Nostradamus quatrain that could be said to have done so, coming up with interpretations of Quatrains I.87, VI.97 and X.72. However, the various ways in which the enthusiasts chose to interpret the text were not supported by experts on the subject
The nearest that the former could come up with was quatrain VI.97, which in the original 1557 edition ran:
- Cinq & quarante degrés ciel bruslera,
- Feu approucher de la grand cité neufve,
- Instant grand flamme esparse saultera,
- Quant on voudra des Normans faire preuve:
With instant evidently a version of the Latin instanter ('violently, vehemently'), a reasonable English translation (after Lemesurier) would thus appear to be:
- Five and forty degrees, the sky shall burn:
- To great ‘New City’ shall the fire draw nigh.
- With vehemence the flames shall spread and churn
- When with the Normans they conclusions try.
'Five and forty degrees' was said to be the latitude of New York City (which is incorrect; New York's latitude is 40°47'), or was interpreted as '40.5 degrees' (even though the decimal point had not yet come into use in the Europe of Nostradamus' day). 'New City', similarly, was claimed to be New York (even though Nostradamus refers in this way to various 'New Cities' whose names, unlike 'New York', literally mean 'New City', and especially Naples – from Greek Neapolis, 'new city'); and most of the attempts to fit in the 'Normans' of line 4 seemed contrived at best. While it is true that New York State, which has the same name as New York City, crosses 45° latitude, it cannot, of course, be described as a 'new city', and so doesn't fit line 2 of the verse. After the factual nature of these claims was widely denied, some suggested instead that the first line might refer to the actual angle at which one of the hijacked airliners hit the World Trade Center (which seemed unlikely, even if the rest had fit).Template:Fact
Lemesurier suggests that the verse is merely an undated projection into the future of the capture of Naples by the Normans in 1139 during a year marked by a notably violent eruption of nearby Mount Vesuvius that is recorded in the contemporary Annales Cassini. In this case, the first expression may simply be a version of
- Cinq[ante minutes] & quarante degrés
– which is indeed the latitude of Naples.
- Ennosigée feu du centre de terre
- Fera trembler au tour de cité neufve:
- Deux grands rochiers long temps feront la guerre
- Puis Arethusa rougira nouveau fleuve.
or, in a possible English translation
- Lemesurier, Peter, Nostradamus: The Illustrated Prophecies, 2003, ISBN 1-903816-48-3
- For further information and for analysis of this and subsequent indications, see here.
- Gruber, Dr Elmar, Nostradamus: sein Leben, sein Werk und die wahre Bedeutung seiner Prophezeiungen, 2003, p. 419
- Lemesurier, The Unknown Nostradamus, 2003, ISBN 1-903816-32-7
- Lemesurier, Peter, The Unknown Nostradamus, 2003, pp. 145-6
- But compare Clébert, Jean-Paul, Prophéties de Nostradamus, 2003
- Earth-shaking fires from the world’s centre roar:
- Around ‘New City’ is the earth a-quiver.
- Two nobles long shall wage a fruitless war,
- The nymph of springs pour forth a new, red river.
Here, once again, the cité neufve was claimed to be New York; au tour de had to refer to the Twin Towers (even though, in French, the word tour in the masculine – as it is here – has absolutely nothing to do with towers, but is part of a phrase meaning "around"); the Deux grands rochiers had to be the Twin Towers themselves; and Arethusa was said to be an anagram of 'the USA'. Once again, however, rather more sober investigation by Brind'Amour had already revealed (bearing in mind that, in French, faire la guerre aux rochers, or 'to make war on the rocks', simply means 'to struggle fruitlessly') that the reference was probably to Naples and its nearby volcano. Subsequent investigation by Lemesurier and his colleague Gary Somai  suggested that it applied particularly to the Annales Cassini's report of its lava eruption of 1036, at a time when the Lombards of Capua and the Byzantine dukes of Naples were constantly at war over the city prior to the decisive intervention of the Normans. For 968, similarly, Leo Marsicanus had reported in the same annals that ‘Mount Vesuvius exploded into flames and sent out huge quantities of sticky, sulfurous matter that formed a river rushing down to the sea’. Thus, given that Arethusa was the classical nymph of springs and rivers, with a well-known 'spring of Arethusa' still visible today in the Sicilian port of Syracuse, the case for a '9/11' interpretation was evidently unfounded.
Despite the facts pointed out in the previous section, some persist in asserting that, because quatrain X.72 states, "The year 1999 and seventh month, from the sky will come the great king of terror" (which, in the original printings, it doesn't) this is a reference to the hijacked airliner attacks against the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, allegedly on orders from terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden.Template:Fact
Others maintain that, in X.72, Nostradamus is disguising '9111' (that is, the U.S.-styled date of 9-11-1) by inverting those digits to '1999' (even though the verse actually spells out the date in words, and doesn't use digits at all) and that his "seventh month" is either a reference to September under the Julian Calendar and the astrological calendar (which starts in March), or simply to the fact that September literally means "seventh month".Template:Fact
The Julian Calendar was indeed the calendar system used during Nostradamus' lifetime. In his Almanachs, Nostradamus published at least eleven Julian calendars of his own – but all of them in fact started on January 1, and in all of them the seventh month was consequently July, just as it always had been. Lemesurier consequently suggests that X.72 does not predict the so-called 9/11 attacks at all, but refers back to the allegedly 'miraculous' restoration to health of the captive Francis I of France in August 1525 by his then Roy deffraieur ('host-king') Charles V, and then projects it forwards into the future as a prophecy.
As for the various interpretations of the line usually rendered as "To resuscitate the great king of the Mongols", the verse in fact contains no such line (the word mongolois which, since Leoni  has often been proposed as an anagram for Angolmois, didn't and doesn't exist in French), but merely refers to the well-known French region of Angoumois, of whose capital (Angoulême) Francis I was duke: he was thus, as the verse states, Le grand Roy d'Angolmois ('the great King from Angoumois') of Nostradamus's own day.
In these and other ways, Nostradamus's statement in his open letter to his son Cesar that his quatrains were "written in a nebulous rather than plainly prophetic form" is widely taken by enthusiasts as carte blanche for suggesting that they can mean almost anything that they want them to say.
Hoaxes[edit | edit source]
'Mabus' as Antichrist[edit | edit source]
Some, though none of the reputable sources listed in the main article, have interpreted the writings as predicting a series of three antichrists, commonly believed to include Napoleon Bonaparte and Adolf Hitler as the first two.Template:Fact However, the name "Mabus" as a synonym for or embodiment of the third antichrist is not suggested by any of the Prophecies.
In fact the verse in question (II.62) merely states that a character of a similar-sounding name (according to Lemesurier [op. cit.], a reference to the Flemish painter Jan Mabuse, contemporary with Nostradamus) will die. Otherwise, the reference says nothing about what "Mabus" will do or what he will be like.
More recently attempts have been made to link the name "Mabus" anagrammatically with "Obama", as previously with "Saddam" and "Osama" This tendency to attempt to adapt quatrains to fit current events can be traced all the way back to Nostradamus' own time. 
Village idiot hoax[edit | edit source]
- Come the millennium, month 12
- In the home of greatest power
- The village idiot will come forth
- To be acclaimed the leader.
As with other hoaxes, only the purported English translation was given. It is likely that this verse was written as a joke.
World Trade Center prophecy hoax[edit | edit source]
Shortly after the September 11 attacks on New York's World Trade Center, the following spoof text was circulated on the Internet, along with many more elaborate variants (one of them signed 'Nostradamus 1654' – when he would have been 150 years old):
- In the City of God there will be a great thunder,
- Two brothers torn apart by Chaos,
- while the fortress endures,
- the great leader will succumb,
- The third big war will begin when the big city is burning
As it turns out, the first four lines were indeed written before the attacks, but by a Canadian graduate student named Neil Marshall as part of a research paper in 1997. The research paper included this poem as an illustrative example of how the validity of prophecies is often exaggerated. For example, the phrases "City of God" (New York has never held the title of "City of Angels"), "great thunder" (this could apply to many disasters), "Two brothers" (many things come in pairs), and "the great leader will succumb" are so ambiguous as to be meaningless. The fifth line was added by an anonymous Internet user, completely ignoring the fact that Nostradamus wrote his Propheties in rhymed four-line decasyllables called quatrains. Nostradamus also never referred to a "third big war".
Political and military manipulation[edit | edit source]
During World War II, leaflets with false Nostradamus quatrains predicting the defeat of France were launched by German planes over European skies. It seems that this operation was mastered by Nazi political secretary Rudolf Hess and that even Adolf Hitler believed in Nostradamus' quatrains. Certainly his propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels did, under the influence of his wife Magda. Subsequently the Allies responded in kind, both with air-dropped leaflets and via the American film Nostradamus Says So.
After Rudolf Hess left Nazi Germany in a mysterious solitary flight to Scotland, probably seeking a peace agreement with the United Kingdom, Hitler issued the Aktion Hess, a mandatory prosecution of any divinator or future-teller in all Nazi-occupied countries.
Entertainment[edit | edit source]
Film[edit | edit source]
Nostradamus is the subject of many films and videos, including:
- Template:Imdb title (Catastrophe 1999: Prophecies of Nostradamus); (1974 film by Toshio Masuda)
- Template:Imdb title Nostradamus: The Man Who Saw Tomorrow (1981)
- Template:Imdb title (2000)
- Template:Imdb title (1994) Depicts Nostradamus's rise in influence, because of success in treating plague and his predictions, culminating in his appointment as court physician to Charles IX of France.
- Template:Imdb title Japanese film depicting angels fighting against disgraceful events and evildoers in the prophecies.
- Appears in the 2008 Polish film Before Twilight
In the light of the facts revealed by the main article's listed sources, none of the above can be regarded as factual or reliable. The 1999 film End of Days is loosely based on "from the sky will come a great King of Terror" concept. Both the movie and Nostradamus' prediction have a similar plot where the Devil has risen in the millennium's final hour and the birth of the anti-Christ has begun.
Television[edit | edit source]
The television series Alias prominently features the character Milo Rambaldi, a fictional Nostradamus-like prophet. In the science fiction series First Wave, the protagonists use a previously unknown book of quatrains of Nostradamus to fight back against an alien invasion. Nostradamus was also a regular character on This Morning With Richard Not Judy, played by Emma Kennedy. Each week, Nostradamus would make three predictions for the coming week, and would be rewarded with a new barbecue if he got two out of the three correct. He never managed this feat, although he did find a blossoming love affair with presenter Richard Herring. Seattle sketch comedy troupe Train of Thought mocked Nostradamus in their hit show Train of Thought > Laid Off.
Nostradamus appeared semi-regularly on the Warner Bros. animated series Histeria! as an eccentric red-bearded man in stereotypical wizard garb. His speech tends to be oddly accented and filled with malaprops, and he repeats the phrase "Shut up!" inordinately. His voice is provided by Paul Rugg.
On Mr. Show with Bob and David, an episode contains a sketch Nostradamus (played by Bob Odenkirk) called "Nostradamus and his companion." In it, Nostradamus is a homosexual who falls in love with a fashion designer, played by David Cross. Nostradamus is left behind by his constant chum, who goes on to achieve fame and fortune in the fashion industry. The sketch ends with a school being named after them: "Nostradamus and His Constant Chum Elementary School." 9
In the Halloween special of Invader ZIM, when told of a prophecy, Dib asked if it was from Nostradamus, but the monster only read it off the bathroom wall.
On Chappelle's Show, the sketch comedy show hosted by Dave Chappelle, there is a character called Negrodamus (played by comedian Paul Mooney), an African-American version of Nostradamus who makes various predictions in response to questions.
In the Nickelodeon cartoon CatDog, the title character(s) find a prediction in a book by the fictitious prophet "Nostradummy" (an obvious reference) that appears to predict that the end of the world would be the next day.
In the Hong Kong ATV series My Date with a Vampire(series 1), Nostradamus (also referred to as the "French Guy") was held to have made the prophecy of the end of world in 1999, with a third of the world's population turned into monsters, while the rest perish. The antagonist, vampire Yamamoto, sought to make this come true and rule the world, but the protagonists were able to stop this from occurring. This alleged prophecy had only been referred to a couple of times.
A two-hour documentary on Nostradamus first aired by the History Channel on 28 October 2007 suggests that a book of paintings in the National Library at Rome is The Lost Book of Nostradamus, even though this suggestion is not supported by any of the reputable sources listed in the main article.
In the anime/manga seris Sgt. Frog (Keroro Gunso), Angol Mois is one of main supporting characters. "She was sent to planet Earth to arrive in July 1999 for Earth's destruction, as predicted by Nostradamus, under orders from her father. She states that during her first appearance she told Nostradamus to deliver a message to the humans warning them of her arrival." However, she was stopped by Keroro and Fuyuki and is currently staying at the Hinata house along with most of the Keroro Platoon.
In an episode of The Sopranos, Bobby Baccalieri gets Nostradamus mixed up with Quasimodo, saying that Quasimodo predicted 9/11 and the end of the world. He contends to Tony Soprano that because Quasimodo lived at Notre Dame, it was an easy mistake to make.
Music[edit | edit source]
Kenny Rogers states that "we watched as time proved Nostrodamus wrong" in his song "The Last 10 years (Superman)" on his CD Water and Bridges
British singer/songwriter Al Stewart's album Past, Present and Future was a concept album including a song about every decade of the twentieth century. As Al wrote the album in 1973, events from the latter years of the century were covered by the song "Nostradamus", in which some of the prophecies are quoted. One of the prophecies appears to refer to the future fall of the Berlin Wall; an event which might have been considered predictable, even if the date was not.
The 1976 album Loving Awareness by the band of the same name includes, in the song "Close the Gate", the lyrics "Nostradamus didn't mean to frighten us,/Just enlighten us was all he meant to do".
In 1981, Thin Lizzy Released the album Renegade, and in the song Angel Of Death the lyrics mention Nostadamus
Composer Robert Steadman has twice used Nostradamus' prophecies in pieces of music: in 1987, quatrains by Nostradamus were juxtaposed with the Latin Requiem Mass text and poems on environmental issues. And in 1999, he set what was thought by some to be Nostradamus's prediction of the end of the world for soprano and chamber ensemble in The Final Prophecy.
The 1993 album The Window of Life by Pendragon includes a song entitled "Nostradamus (Stargazing)".
Marilyn Manson said that his Antichrist Superstar cd, which came out in 1996, was an answer to the Nostrandamus prophecy in which he said that "The 3rd. Antichrist was going to come to the earth in the year 1996".
Rapper Nas refers to himself as Nastradamus and released an album titled "Nastradamus" in 1999.
On June 17, 2008, the popular British heavy metal band Judas Priest released a concept album based on the life of Nostradamus. Simply named Nostradamus, the album itself focuses on Nostradamus' actual life and his prophecies.
The singer Kevin Max mentioned Nostradamus in the song Fade to Red (Antigalaxy).
The French Canadian band Okoumé have a song written about Nostradamus.
Dutch stand up comedian Hans Teeuwen made a song around Nostradamus, mostly describing him in his tight green pants (Video).
Modest Mouse vocalist Isaac Brock seems to take a stab at Nostradamus in a song called "Education" from the band's fifth studio album, We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank. The verse is as follows: "Good old Nostradamas / he knew the whole damn time / there would always be an east from west / and someone in there fighting".
Nostradamus is mentioned in the chorus of Casey and Finnegan, a song written by Andrew Huang and released on his website, Songs to Wear Pants To. "Casey and Finnegan, I think we should begin again / As the eve of man begins to fall. / And then there's Nostradamus, in his silk pajamas / Listening to the stars tell him all.
Austrian composer Otto Schwartz composed a piece entitled "Nostradamus." This piece attempts to convey through music events in Nostradamus' life, as well as notable predictions.
In the bonus track of Dane Cook's "Harmful if Swallowed" he speaks of how a person would wake up and think he is late, then look at his clock to find out that he is in fact late. He would yell "I HATE it when I'm like Nostradamus and I predict that I'm late!"
Comics[edit | edit source]
In an Italian Mickey Mouse story (Topolino E La Piramide Impossible), Mickey and Goofy travel back in time and by accident a young boy followed them back to the present. The boy had to go back to his own time and his memory of the future was erased, but before that he grabbed pieces of books. The boy of course became Nostradamus and the ripped pages from books explained his visions of the future. The story was made by Massimo Marconi and Massimo De Vita.
A Phantom story from 1983 by Ulf Granberg and Jaime Vallvé featured an appearance by Nostradamus.
In Mad Magazine's section entitled the "strip club" a comic strip entitled Middle School Nostradamus appears every so often. Nostradamus is depicted as a preteen in wizard garb who makes predictions of impending despair for the people he is around at inopportune times.
Games[edit | edit source]
Face released an arcade game Nostradamus. Though the game itself had nothing to do with Nostradamus, the game's title screen showed a resemblance to his son's portrait of him, however he is facing the other direction and looks older.
In Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow, the prophecy of 1999 was used as the resurrection of Dracula and added that all born of the day of Dracula's demise are "Dark Candidates" meaning that they have the potential to become the next Dark Lord. This prophecy is referenced again in Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin; the Belmonts cannot wield the Vampire Killer whip until 1999, when Dracula is revived.
In Jet Set Radio Future, the game concludes with the name of the Radio changing to have "Future" in the title, but "Not the future like Nostradamus talked about, a new kind of future."
In Nostradamus: The Last Prophecy, Nostradamus appears as a adviser to his daughter during the game.
In Ninja Gaiden (arcade) the hero is a nameless ninja on a quest to defeat an evil cult led by a fictional descendant of Nostradamus.
[edit | edit source]
Notes[edit | edit source]
- Brind'Amour, Pierre: Nostradamus. Les premières Centuries ou Prophéties, 1996, p. 170
- Cite error: Invalid
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- See here.
- Lemesurier, Peter: Nostradamus: The Illustrated Prophecies, O Books, 2003
- Lemesurer, Peter: The Unknown Nostradamus, O Books, 2003, p.144
- See Brind'Amour, Pierre, Nostradamus astrophile, University of Ottawa Presses, 1993; Lemesurier, Peter, The Unknown Nostradamus, O Books, 2003.
- Election hoax, downloaded March 23, 2006
- False Prophecy
- See Wilson, I., Nostradamus: The Evidence (Orion, 2002) p.274.
- Lemesurier, Peter: The Nostradamus Encyclopedia, 1997, pp. 146-147
- Wulff, Wilhelm Theodor Zodiac and swastika; how astrology guided Hitler's Germany, Pub. Coward, McCann & Geoghegan. New York 1973, (ISBN 0-698-10547-8)