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When a man doesn't succeed in a place, let him go . . . No. 136
Portrait of Michel de Nostredame (Nostradamus) by his son César de Nostredame

The French Michel de Nostradame is better known by the Latin name Nostradamus. He was not only a diviner, but a professional healer. The doctor and a seer won entry in the royal court. The queen favoured him. He studied astrological phenomenology - kabbalah teachings, mostly - and also wrote hundreds of prophesies in terse, cryptic verse.

Nostradamus was born on December 14, 1503 and died the first or second of July in 1566. He wrote in an archaic form of French - archaic even for his own time - and in obscure style to avoid being prosecuted. He also deliberatly confused the time sequence of the Prophecies so that their secrets would not be revealed to all, it is said.

Richard Smoley on Nostradamus

Smoley tells how to write a book on Nostradamus. "You don't have to know French; it fact it can be helpful not to know French too well." And then, after you have cobbled together a translation of some of his prophesies, you may

sit down and use them to prove that the world will come to an end in approximately ten years. . . . By then you will have long since made your money . . . you can repeat this exercise two or three times over the next couple of decades. This will even establish you as an authority on Nostradamus . . . Books like this . . . are so consistently popular that they must meet some need among the reading public. . . . I believe there is a middle ground to be found here." (Smoley 2006, 1,2)

Smoley goes on, hoping he has found that middle ground:

In this book I will provide a selection of Nostradamus's most compelling prophecies. I have focused on those that are of most relevance to the English-speaking reader today, although . . . Nostradamus was a sixteenth-century Frenchman. (Ibid. 5)

Lynne Kelly supplies some more information:

Living in Provence, France, from 1503 to 1566, Nostradamus made his living writing annual almanacs predicting the next year's fortunes. He was less well known, in his own day, for the prophecies for which he is so famous today. Written in quatrains, or four-lined verses, they were grouped into 'centuries' of 100 quatrains each. All are complete except Century VII, which has only 42 quatrains. Of the 942 prophecies a few are constantly quoted. The vast majority are ignored. (Kelly 2004, 143)

Here is one of the two best known quatrains of Nostradamus:

The blood of the just shall be wanted in London,
Burnt by thunders of twenty-three the sixes,
The foolish woman shall fall from a high place,
Of the same sect several shall be killed.
(Quatrain 51,Century II)
If nobody told you that Nostradamus by this foretold the Great Fire of London on 2 September 1666, would you see it? Kelly: "How 'twenty three the sixes' can be worked into 1666 is still a mystery. But it is done with confidence." The salient point is that people interpret freely and make claims. Kelly: "Given the vagueness, this quatrain can be interpreted as foretelling many other events." (Ibid. 144)

Kelly goes into many details we can learn from, asking. What about the pilots in oxygen masks and World War II? He saw that, didn't he? As there is no requirement on Nostradamus to be in chronological order, this one is from the first century of his quatrains.

At night they will think they have seen the sun,
When they see the half pig man:
Noise, screams, battles fought in the skies,
The brute beasts will be heard to speak. (Quatrain 64, Century I)

This has been interpreted and quoted often as referring to the battles of World War II when pilots wore oxygen masks, which Nostradamus, in his visions, would have seen as looking like pig faces. The battles were fought in the air, and the brute beasts, which were heard to speak, are interpreted as referring to the radios."

Then Kelly makes a "case" for the 'pig men' as "men who have had a transplant from a pig. . . . Surely that's a much more accurate interpretation?" (Ibid 146-47)

Stories of His Death

Some say that Nostradamus foretold his own death: When his assistant wished him goodnight on July 1, 1566, Nostradamus said,

"You will not find me alive at sunrise."

He was found dead on July 2, 1566.

De Notredame was buried standing upright in the Church of the Cordeliers of Salon. But much later he was dug up twice, once on purpose and once maliciously.

In 1700, his body was moved by the city to a more prominent crypt. When a necklace was found on his skeleton bearing the date '1700', his body was hurriedly buried again.

During the French Revolution, in 1791, some drunken soldiers broke into his tomb. The mayor quickly placated the mob by describing how Nostradamus had predicted the revolution, and they replaced the bones in the crypt.

He had perhaps made an advance comment on that one; in Century 9, Quatrain 7:

The man who opens the tomb when it is found
And who does not close it at once,
Evil will come to him
That no one will be able to prove.

The soldiers who desecrated his tomb for the final time were reputedly ambushed on their way back to base and killed to the last man.

Kelly: "It is a common claim that Nostradamus was exhumed by soldiers during the French Revolution with a medallion lying on his chest predicting his exhumation . . . It would be pretty impressive, except . . . there is no record of this event ever having occurred." (Kelly 2004, 148)

More than dubious Prophesies

Since the death of Nostradamus, only his Prophecies have remained popular. Over two hundred editions of them have appeared, and over 2,000 commentaries. Still, most of them do not say much of value unless they are interpreted to suit someone. Why is that so? Often others think that if they cannot make out of utterances, the utterances are nonsense. In the academic society, that has been the fate of most Nostradamus output. One of the reasons that his so-called prophesies are harshly treated, if not discarded, is that that the author made it hard for others to say, "Time will tell" to them. Solid references to time and place and persons (by their real names) tend to be lacking.

However, there are cases where the references seem clear-cut. So long as we are not told by someone what to make out of most verse, they may never say much.

Again, there are many interpreter's assertions on a weak foundation.

Another problem with Nostradamus verses is that many of them are corrupt, resulting in differing French versions. And,

Most of the quatrains deal with disasters, such as plagues, earthquakes, wars, floods, invasions, murders, droughts, and battles – all undated . . . A major, underlying theme is an impending invasion of Europe by Muslim forces . . . All of this is presented in the context of the supposedly imminent end of the world . . . Nostradamus enthusiasts have credited him with predicting numerous events in world history, from the Great Fire of London, and the rise of Napoleon and Adolf Hitler, to the 11 September attacks on the World Trade Center, but only ever in hindsight . . . There is no evidence in the academic literature to suggest that any Nostradamus quatrain has ever been interpreted as predicting a specific event before it occurred, other than in vague, general terms that could equally apply to any number of other events (WP, "Nostradamus").

In 1983, Nostradamus's private correspondence was published, and also the original editions of 1555 and 1557. Moreover, much original archival material that was dug up, revealed that much that was claimed about Nostradamus did not fit the documented facts of any known contemporary documentary evidence. Most of them had evidently been based on unsourced rumours, renders the Wikipedia in short (Ibid.) Thus, there is good reason to consider that many of Nostradamus prophesies are corrupted, or hardly original ones, and perhaps twisted to suit happenings after the happenings, and so on. There are many fallacy risks involved.

It is better to be circumspect than taken in. Kelly again:

Following the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks on America, Nostradamus books hit the best-selling lists. References to such events are only ever interpreted in retrospect. With elation one [quatrain] was sent spinning around the world . . .
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.
(Nostradamus, 1654)

. . . [N]o one even noticed the obvious clue that this was a hoax. The given date is nearly 100 years after Nostradamus died. He didn't write this quatrain. It was written by a student about ten years before the 2001 disaster, to show how easy it is to create Nostradamus quatrains. He proved his point. . . .

What are we left with? A man who wrote 942 vague pieces of four-lined prose." (Ibid 148-49)

Nostradamus, Michel de Notredame, Literature  

Kelly, Lynne. 2004. The Skeptic's Guide to the Paranormal. Crows Nest NSW: Allen and Unwin.

Smoley, Richard. 2006. The Essential Nostradamus: Literal Translation, Historical Commentary, and Biography. New York: Tarcher/Penguin.

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