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Nostradamus--sorted out?


Date: Sun Sep 16 2001 - 09:52:48 PDT

For starters, I consider myself to be very open-minded, with what I hope is a balanced mix of skepticism and intuitive trust of "gut feelings."

I've found some info on the website below that MAY offer a little clarification re: just what was actually written by Nostradamus and when. At this point I won't say that this stuff IS true or that it isn't. What I *do* know, however, is that on this list we need to try to maintain the ability to RESPECTFULLY disagree with each other, if differences arise. Tempers are short, nerves are taut--I understand that--been there, done that, DOING that.... But let's not take it out on each other, okay folks?

Taken from:

Claim: A 1654 Nostradamus prediction said World War III would begin with the fall of "two brothers," a reference to the destroyed World Trade Center towers.
Status: False.

Example: [Collected on the Internet, 2001]

    "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

Origins: The turmoil of recent events has us all scrambling, some to look for solace and meaning, others for the terrorists responsible, and yet others for signs that what happened could have been prevented or at least foreseen. The 11 September 2001 attack on America destroyed not only the two World Trade Center towers in New York City, a chunk of the Pentagon in Washington, and caused untold loss of life, it also shook America's sense of invulnerability. No longer do Americans presume safety in an unsafe world.

For some, that realization is an eye-opener, unsettling but necessary, in that a child's blissful unawareness has been replaced (at great cost) with an adult's more clear-eyed view of the world and its sometimes horrifying ways. For others, it spells the beginning of the end, in that they equated an illusion of safety with its reality and thus now feel their world is ending. It is the fears of that second group that are given voice in the Nostradamus prediction circulated on the Internet even before the dust had settled in New York.

The French physician and astrologer Nostradamus (1503-1566) penned numerous quatrains populated by obscure imagery that the credulous have ever after attempted to fit to the events of their times. These predictions can often ring somewhat true in that the images employed are so general they can be found in almost every event of import, but by the same token, the prophecies are never a dead-on fit because the wordings are far too general. Not that this stops anyone from believing in them; our society's need for mysticism runs far too deep to ever allow for that.

Those looking for the certainty of a Nostradamus prophecy come true have been known to sledge hammer the results to force a fit by inventing fanciful translations from the original French, bend over backwards to assert one named term is really another, and (as in this case) outright fabricate part or all of the prediction.

Nostradamus did not write the quatrain now being attributed to him. (One wonders how a guy who died in 1566 could have written an item identified as being penned in 1654 anyway.) It originated with a student at Brock University in Canada in the 1990s, appearing on a web page essay on Nostradamus. That particular quatrain was offered by the page's author, Neil Marshall, as a fabricated example to illustrate how easily an important-sounding prophecy can be crafted through the use of abstract imagery. He pointed out how the terms he used were so deliberately vague they could be interpreted to fit any number of cataclysmic events.

It appears someone mistook Marshall's illustrative example for an actual Nostradamus prophecy and, not content to let well enough alone, added "The third big war will begin when the big city is burning." A fabrication was thus further fabricated.

But that wasn't the end of it. More fakery was piled on in later versions that now included all of the text quoted in the Example section above but now concluded with:

      On the 11th day of the 9 month,
      two metal birds will crash into two tall statues
      in the new city,
      and the world will end soon after.

Similarly, another enhanced version incorporates the "Example" text quoted above into a more detailed prophecy:

      And Nostradamus predicted this (who knows how long ago):

      In the year of the new century and nine months,
      From the sky will come a great King of Terror.
      The sky will burn at forty-five degrees.
      Fire approaches the great new city

      In the city of york there will be a great collapse,
      2 twin brothers torn apart by chaos
      while the fortress falls; the great leader will succumb;
      third big war will begin when the big city is burning

This "prophecy" is bogus. The second quatrain is entirely made-up, and the first quatrain is composed of lines taken from two completely different prophecies of Nostradamus' linked together for effect (Lines referencing "Normans" and "Mongols" which have no plausible application to current events have been excised by whoever concatenated these two pieces.) The first two lines are from a verse which describes events that would supposedly have taken place in July of 1999 (not September of 2001) and has long since been associated with a wide variety of occurrences -- both real and fictional. (An excellent dissertation on this "prediction" can be found here.) The second two lines of the first quatrain are taken from what is often cited as a Nostradamus writing identified as Century 6, Quatrain 97:

      Cinq et quarante degrez ciel bruslera
      Feu approcher de la grand cité neuve
      Instant grand flamme esparse sautera
      Quand on voudra des Normans faire preuue.

An approximate English translation would be:

      Five and forty steps the sky will burn
      Fire approaching the large new city
      Instantly a great thin flame will leap
      When someone will want to test the Normans.

Even if this is a real prophecy of Nostradamus', it simply provides more evidence of how much shoehorning has to be performed to get one of these vague "predictions" to fit modern occurrences. It cites no date whatsoever. The line about a sky that "will burn at five and forty steps" (or "degrees") is interpreted to refer to New York City, the forty-five degrees being the Big Apple's latitude -- never mind that New York City is actually below the 41° latitude mark, and that several major North American cities (e.g., Boston, Milwaukee, Chicago, Minneapolis, Toronto, Montreal) are much closer to 45° latitude than Gotham. (You can bet that if events had occurred in a more southern city, such as Dallas, the Nostradamus buffs now would be claiming that the "five and forty degrees" was obviously meant to refer to air temperature, not latitude.)

As well, New York is one of North America's oldest cities and is only "new" in the sense that its name contains the word "new" (a criterion which describes many other of the world's large cities, such as New Delhi) and from the perspective of the 16th century, any North American city would qualify as "new"; the flames resulting from the terrorist attack in New York were anything but "thin" (or "scattered"); and nobody has a clue what "Normans" (what we would call "Vikings" or "French") have to do with hijacked airliners crashing into American cities. (Apparently Nostradamus could predict the exact date and location of a terrorist attack on New York City several hundred years in advance, but he couldn't see that America would be a mixture of many different ethnicities by then.)

All in all, the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 is a much better fit for this one. So is the explosion resulting from the collision of the ships Mont Blanc and Imo in 1917, which killed thousands of people and destroyed much of Halifax -- a city just a few degrees shy of 45° latitude. In fact, the devastating Peshtigo forest fire (which occurred on the same night as the Great Chicago Fire) claimed 1,200 lives and occurred right on the 45th parallel. To top it all off, this very same verse was widely cited several years ago as having predicted the discovery and approach of the spectacular Hale-Bopp comet in 1995, and then again several months later as having predicted the mysterious crash of TWA Flight 800 in July 1996. This prophecy is truly the Mr. Potato Head of predictions -- if the parts don't fit to your liking, just rearrange them and try again.

Just once, we'd like someone to tell us what one of Nostradamus' "prophecies" means in advance of the event it supposedly describes. If Nostradamus was such a great seer, then why is it that not one person in the world was able to decipher his warning in time to prevent the horrors of 11 September 2001? If I didn't have to explain what my "prophecies" meant until after the events they supposedly predicted had occurred, I'm sure I could manage a pretty impressive record for accuracy too.

Barbara "la cosa nostradamus" Mikkelson

Last updated: 11 September 2001

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