Nostradamus – Fact or Fiction

One of his most renowned predictions of his time, which subsequently gained him huge popularity through the approval of the queen Catherine de Medici, was Century 1, quatrain 35 which translates into:

“The young lion shall overcome the old one,

On the field of war in a single duel:

In a golden cage he shall put out his eye,

Two blows from one then he shall die a cruel death.”(Chambers, 1832, p.13)

Many of his followers believed that this signified the death of King Henri II (McCann, 2008). King Henri II participated in a duel and challenged Count Montgomery. During the contest Montgomery’s wooden lance shattered and a splinter pierced the King’s brain passing through the Kings left eye through his golden visor. After ten days of intense pain the King died (McCann, 2008). Many felt that this was foretold in this quatrain. Count Montgomery was interpreted as being the “young lion” considering that he was several years younger than the King (Leoni, 2000). The symbol of lion was also present on their shields during the duel (Leoni, 2000). The golden cage was interpreted as being the golden helmet of the King. The “two blows from one” was interpreted as the initial impact against the King’s breastplate and the second being the blow from the splinter that penetrated that King’s brain (Leoni, 2000). “..he shall die a cruel death” was subsequently interpreted as the ten days of agony until his death (Leoni, 2000).

Through these interpretations this quatrain appears decidedly accurate but many have criticised these interpretations, some citing for example that a jousting arena could not be classified as a field of war (Shevick, 2010, September, 22). However, many followers have responded, that the duel did take place on the Champ De Mars, which translates as field of war (Shevick, 2010,September,22). Much debate continues to surround whether the splinter penetrated his eye whatsoever, with some sources stating that the splinter penetrated his throat. It could also be argued that a cruel death on a field of war at that time would not be unheard of. What was clear is that, while Nostradamus had many critics, his popularity was growing and now he had gained the approval from the queen, who not only gave him an apparent credibility to the aristocracy, but also gained him publicity with the great majority of the people (Shevick, 2010,September,22).

Another quatrain that cemented his popularity as a prophet was Century 1, quatrain 9 which translates into:

 “From the Orient will come the Punic heart

To vex Adria and the heirs of Romulus,

Accompanied by the Libyan fleet,

Malta trembling and the neighbouring isles empty.”(McClain, 2000, p.289)

Numerous followers of Nostradamus believed that this quatrain foretold the 1565 onslaught of Ottoman Turks who attacked the Christian Knights of Malta (McCann, 2008). Many interpreters felt that “the heir of Romulus” referred to the Pope and that “the libyan fleet” referred to the Turkish fleet (Shevick, 2010,September,22). Those who believed that he predicted the death of King Henri II were further reaffirmed in their belief by the quatrain relating to Malta, considering how accurate it appeared to be.

While many believed that he was capable of predicting the future, he continuously had numerous critics. Many felt that it was obvious that the Ottoman Turks would attack the Knights, due to the Knights of Malta being such an irritant to the Ottoman Empire (Shevick, 2010,September,22). What was surprising was that the Ottomans were to  fail, despite their huge numbers (Paoletti, 2007).The outcome was not outlined in the quatrain but had it been, many critics would have been silenced if it was included, as it would have established greater credibility.

A further popular quatrain that people believed foretold the coming of Adolf Hitler was century II quatrain 24, which seemed to predict the coming of Nostradamus’s second antichrist:

“Beasts wild with hunger will cross the rivers,

The greatest part of the battle will be against Hister,

He will cause great men to be dragged in a cage of iron,

When the son of Germany obeys no law.” (Khatri, 2008, p.31)

 “Beasts wild with hunger will cross the rivers”, is generally interpreted as Adolf Hitler and the German Army approaching France (Carroll, 2003). “Hister” is interpreted by many to directly represent Adolf Hitler (McCann, 2008). “He will cause great men to be dragged in a cage of iron”, is at times interpreted as being the transportation of Jews to the concentration camps on trains (McCann, 2008). Hitler himself used the various favourable interpretations of Nostradamus as propaganda which gave Nostradamus’s work further notoriety. While this prophecy appeared to be highly accurate it received a considerable amount of criticism.

Many non-believers criticised this quatrain, illustrating that “Hister” is the name of the Danube in Latin (Carroll, 2003). Followers argue that Nostradamus may have been referring to the fact that Adolf Hitler was born near the banks of the Danube (McCann, 2008). Critics also illustrated how many interpretations could be arrived at if re-translated from the original text. Translators illustrated that the line: “He will cause great men to be dragged in a cage of iron”, could also be translated into: “the great man will have someone dragged in an iron cage, a prison cell” or “someone will drag a great man in a prison cell” just as logically as it was in the quatrain above (Shevick, 2010, September,22). Furthermore, translators also argue that the line: “when the son of Germany obeys no law”, could also be translated into “the German child will overlook the Rhine” (Shevick, 2010, September,22). Hitler’s use of this quatrain as propaganda brought both considerable attention to his cause and also to the works of Nostradamus.

What is clear from the interpretations illustrated above is that various individuals find a variety of meanings from his quatrains. The difficulty lies with the interpretation of his work and also in the obscure way in which he wrote. His work posed great difficulty for interpreters to translate, as his quatrains were written in a poetic form and furthermore he was vague in relation to specific details. Many of his followers argue that this obscurity by means of writing in anagrams was a way for him to protect himself from an inquisition (Shevick, 2010, September,22). Others criticised, that he was unable to be specific as he was unable to predict the future. Vast differences began to also appear between translation editions even to the present day, which subsequently changes the meaning or supposed meaning of the original text. The first interpreter of his work was Doctor Chavigny who worked with Nostradamus leading up until his death (McCann, 2008). Many feel that he had a vested interest, especially financially. He made considerable alterations, and mistranslated to a meaning closer to what he may have believed (Shevick, 2010, September,22). The issue may have been that for Doctor Chavigny, his master became a form of god, what he said was true and what was inaccurate may have been corrected.

What is clear is that almost all of the quatrains are negative, be the theme fire, death, war, etc. Nostradamus lived in turbulent times, with the plague, the bloody civil war; religious divide with both sides claiming the other to be the antichrist, and the ever present risk of foreign invasion was at the forefront, of people’s minds (Shevick, 2010, September,22). The quatrains appear to be more of a type of commentary of the times in which he lived, rather than attempting to predict events into the future. Through this work Nostradamus may have been attempting to have some kind of influence on the society in which he lived, similar to the influence he had treating sufferers of the plague (McClaine, 2000). He clearly had a consummate understanding of history and he understood the survival value to the people of the time, in paying attention to the negative. Throughout the years, many of his followers claimed that he predicted many events from the Fire of London to the present day terrorist attacks on the twin towers in New York City. While many of these interpretations seem to be highly accurate, not one of his prophesies have been used to avert an historical event.  Many psychological processes such as confirmation bias can also help to understand the methods with which his followers found and continue to find patterns in a somewhat random collection of data. However there is one statement that is undeniably true, which was in his epistle to King Henry II on 27th June, 1558:

            “as time elapses after my death, my writings will have more weight than during my lifetime” (Leoni, 2000, p.329)

References

Carroll, R. (2003).The Skeptic’s Dictionary. New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons.

Chambers, R. (1832). The Book of Days. Edinburgh, Scotland: W. & R. Chambers ltd.

Khatri, V. (2008). Dreams and Premonitions. India: Pustak Mahal.

Leoni, E.(2000). Nostradamus and his Prophecies. New York, USA: Dover Publications Inc.

McCann, L. (2008). Nostradamus: The Man Who Saw Through Time. Charleston, South Carolina: Forgotten Books.

McClaine,L. (2000). Across Centuries: Nostradamus: Apocalypse, Destiny, and the Great Millenniium.USA: Universal Publishers.

Paoletti, C. (2007). A Military History of Italy. New York, U.S.A: Praeger Publishers Inc.

Shevick, J (Producer). (2010,September,22). Nostradamus decoded [Television broadcast]. Los Angeles: Discovery Channel.

Wilson, D. & Wilson, C. (1999). The Mammoth Book of Nostradamus and Other Prophets. New York, USA: Running Press Book Publishers.

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Clarity in the Confusion

Scepticism, Halloween and the Frankenstorm

Through the eyes of a sceptic Halloween is a bizarre ritualistic occurrence, the one time of year when people get to shed their masks for hideous costumes. This stain on the calendar provides a superior form of nostalgia to all the other rituals pertained to annually, mainly due to the opportunity to engage in escapism. A behaviour that would lead some clinical psychologists to observe that “In its core, escapism means that most people, due to unsatisfying circumstances, again and again cause to ‘leave’ the reality in which they live in a cognitive and emotional way” (Vorderer, 2001). So in many ways Halloween has left its roots of ghost stories and children tales to become a kind of abstract mental holiday or even an artistic experience akin to a cinematic excursion. However, the horrid events of this week will have tested the staunchest of sceptics…

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Tea Party Movement Gets Attacked by Irish President

This will be kept short. So so proud that this man is the President of Ireland. I don’t buy into, and actually hate the paddy whackery that is often sold and endorsed as Irish pride (not the bread). This is what it truly means to be Irish.

This is a collection of the best bits.

The above is an old audio piece from an interview the now president had on Newstalk Radio with Tea Party favourite Michael Graham. Full interview available here: http://www.newstalk.ie

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First Day at School: Catholic Priests at the Ready

Ham sandwiches were securely lodged within lunchbox’s this morning as children rushed back to school following the summer break. For many children it was their first encounter with the education system. While the majority of Irish children will be returning/entering a State faith-based education system, a small minority (approx 14,000) will be entering a multi-denominational education system, namely Educate Together.

Multi-denominational education in Ireland has steadily grown over the past number of years, which highlights the growing need of parents to enrol their children within a progressive education system. Furthermore, as highlighted by Paul Rowe, chief executive of Educate Together, the first day of school is a child’s; “first interaction with the State so it is important that it is a positive experience for them”.

Currently Educate Together Schools account for approximately 2% of primary schools in Ireland. A wide array of faith groups are represented in Educate Together schools, with the schools open to all possible social, cultural or religious backgrounds. Varying world religions are taught, with additional after school classes available to cater for those who wish to prepare for the revelant sacrament. Within these schools, children address their teachers by their first name. This is a strong statement to the child as it enriches both communicative and diplomatic skills, but more importantly it creates an environment of mutual respect.

While I am not a father, a child’s enrolment within this education system would appear to me to be the best way possible for a parent to assist their child with invaluable life skills to openly decipher their existence.

This progressive free-thinking approach to education is in stark contrast to a bygone era of Roman Catholic primary school education which is thankfully slowly being diluted. In April, the Forum on Patronage and Pluralism was launched, which recommended that approx 50 Catholic primary schools transfer to non-denominational patronage. While this is a significant step regarding the modernisation of education within Ireland, it unfortunately falls significantly short of transferring all possible control from church to state. The Catholic Church being required to pay taxes including the controversial household charge would be a step in the correct direction.

The sheer volume of concerns regarding denominational faith-based schools is quite frankly beyond quantification. Issues can range from the official requirement of a baptismal certificate for enrolment, to teachers displaying religious symbols in order to impress the interviewer (who happens to belong to a religious order). Potential teachers are often required to falsely declare that their religious beliefs are in line with the given schools denomination, in order to attain employment.

While these are mere symptoms of a void between where the church resides on modernisation, and where the government needs to take control, the reality is many children will suffer exclusion today. Exclusion due to being enrolled within a denominational, faith-based education system that is well past it’s sell by date.

The Irish Catholic Church Strikes Again

While I felt that Ireland as a whole had begun to progress, Cardinal Sean Brady recently issued a statement declaring that any attempt made by the government of Ireland to legislate for abortion due to a judgement made by the European Court of Human Rights would be; “vigorously and comprehensively opposed by many”.

While this would be quite understandable given the diversity of society, I wasn’t quite ready for the Cardinal’s perceived self importance regarding the issue. His reference to lobbying and canvassing politicians was quite frankly beyond belief. Given the findings of various reports and the contribution of Cardinal Sean Brady to the anguish of many abused Irish children, one would assume that an individual such as this would not be immune to shame and would therefore either resign, or be “relocated” like so many before him.

                                           Cardinal Sean Brady, the Primate of All Ireland.

“The debate about these issues is about to intensify in our country over coming months. It is important that we all have the courage to make our voices heard. It is important that we do justice to the logic and human reason behind the values we hold,” Cardinal Brady announced. So what moral teachings should one take from Catholic teachings regarding this subject matter? Certainly, respect towards women within religious scripture is quite frankly frightening, and alarming.

The Old Testament wasn’t exactly a ‘pillar’ of moral direction, and while most moderates don’t take much of it seriously, many fundamentalists especially within the United States of America, still do. This is quite alarming especially considering the political power and influence many of these ‘Jonah and the Whale’ believers have. The New Testament doesn’t offer much either, unless one possessed an aptitude for ‘Nostradamusing’ metaphors. My personal favourite story for moral compass aligning can be found in the Old Testament, where Abraham’s nephew Lot hospitably welcomed two angels who were sent to Sodom to warn Lot and his family to flee. While not allowing the locals of Sodom to ‘sodomise’ them, thankfully I hear you proclaim; he said;

“I pray you, brethren, do not so wickedly. Behold now, I have two daughters which have not known man; let me, I pray you, bring them out unto you, and do ye to them as is good in your eyes: only unto these men do nothing; for therefore came they under the shadow of my roof” (Genesis 19:7-8).

While the division between the state and an organisation such as the Catholic Church in Ireland has begun to broaden, major changes are still required. While Cardinal Sean Brady wishes to “inform people of the ills of abortion” I will finish my first blog post with an interesting quote from Ecclesiastes;

“But better off are those who have never been born, who have never seen the injustice that goes on in the world” (Ecclesiastes 4:3).

(Video of Sean Brady recently posted on a different post, go to Blog homepage for video)

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