Monday, October 3, 2011

How Did Nostradamus Gain Fame?

My recent comments on Nostradamus seem to have struck a chord.  A lot of people seem to feel that he was a great seer who could see the future and were upset I don’t feel the same way.  Unfortunately, they don’t know that belief in his great forecasting skills is modern.  In reality, he was largely forgotten until World War II.  His reputation was largely secured with forged and faked predictions.

Nostradamus’ revival was a direct result of German leader Adolf Hitler who was fond of psychics and astrology, a topic well covered in his various biographies.  The swastika – the crooked X – and other elements of National Socialists’ teaching all began in occult teachings in the late 1800s and early 1900s and served as the source of many of Hitler’s ideas.  

He was particularly drawn to Nostradamus because of two particular predictions: 

Century 3, Quatrain 35(1)
Out of the deepest part of the west of Europe,
From poor people a young child shall be born
Who with his tongue shall seduce many people.
His fame will increase in the Eastern Kingdom.

Century 4, Quatrain 68(3)
In the year that is to come soon, and not far from Venus,
The two greatest ones of Asia and Africa
Shall be said to come from the Rhine and Hister [Hitler]
Crying and tears shall be at Malta on the Italian Shore.

Seeing his name convinced Hitler of his coming greatness.  It didn’t matter that the Hister refers to the old name of the Danube River and is not a version of the Fuehrer’s name.

To counter Hitler, England poured through the forgotten verses of Nostradamus.  The French seer had written 942 quatrains (four-line poems) in a variety of languages, including French, Latin, Greek and Italian.  He also tossed in anagrams, symbols and metaphors just too make sure everything was properly obscure.  I should add that he was inspired by inhaling nutmeg.

During World War II, English published a variety of Nostradamus predictions that seemed to contradict any idea of Hitler’s pre-eminence.  They also manufactured a few quatrains, as did the Germans.

Nostradamus’ reputation was safe.  “Everyone “knew” Nostradamus was a great seer.  In truth, as magician James Randi pointed out in his carefully researched book on Nostradamus, even the seer’s best known predictions were inaccurate.  In fact, all of them were.

The best way to judge Nostradamus is look at his predictions for 1999 or 2000:

Century 1, Quatrain 16
When a fish pond that was a meadow shall be mowed.
Sagittarius being in the ascendant.
Plague, Famine, Death by the military hand
The Century approaches renewal.

Century 10, Quatrain 72  
In the year 1999 and seven months,
From the skies shall come an alarmingly powerful king,
To raise again the great King of the Jacquerie,
Before and after, Mars shall reign at will.

I missed all that. 

It would be great if someone could see the future.  How much easier life would be, or would it?  In fact, the future is not set in concrete, but is amorphous.  If we know something bad will happen, we can change our actions to counter it.  That way the future actually changes.  

As a result, Nostradamus really never could be right.

Maybe that’s why he wrote in such a convoluted manner.  People then could read anything they want into the twisted lines.

Which is exactly what they do while proclaiming Nostradamus’ genius.

Bill Lazarus is the author of The Unauthorized Biography of Nostradamus.  He regularly writes about religion and religious history.  He also speaks at various religious organizations throughout Florida.  You can reach him at  His books are available on, Kindle, bookstores and via various publishers. 

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