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Predicting the Future
Have you ever predicted the future? Many people say they can predict the future by reading the stars or by interpreting tarot cards, but do they really have this power?
No one in the history of prophecy has attracted as much attention as Nostradamus. He was an exceptional astrologer and astronomer, and he used both astrology and astronomy to predict the future. Nostradamus is sometimes called the ‘prophet of catastrophe’ because his predictions often involve war and death. Yet people continue referring to him and his prophecies almost five hundred years after he died.
Who was Nostradamus?
‘Nostradamus’ real name was Michel de Nostradame and he was born on 14 December 1503 in St Remy de Provence, southern France. As a child he was very intelligent, with a special talent for mathematics and astrology. He studied medicine at the University of Montpellier, and began to help victims of the plague using his new medical ideas. Unfortunately, his first wife and two small children later died of the plague.
Nostradamus travelled around France and Italy, and he continued to learn and practise medicine. He started to question common beliefs, and this caused problems for him on many occasions. Legends began to grow about his strange ability to predict the future. One of them said that, while he was in Italy, Nostradamus met a monk. He immediately went down on his knees, and called the monk ‘Your Holiness’. About 45 years later the monk became Pope Sixtus V.
Nostradamus realised that he had extraordinary powers of prophecy, and he started writing down his predictions in the form of four-line poems. He quickly became famous throughout France and Europe, and even Queen Catherine de Medici of France wanted to meet him. Nostradamus predicted the death of her husband, King Henry II, during a tournament. In 1559 his prediction came true!
Nostradamus died in Salon de Provence, southern France, in 1566. It is said that he even predicted his own death. After a long illness, on 1 July Nostradamus called the local priest to his house.
He said, ‘Dear Chavigny, you won’t see me alive again!’ The next morning he was dead.
A collection of his strange predictions was first published in 1555 under the name Centuries. The word ‘centuries’ refers to the fact that there are a hundred four-line poems, or ‘quatrains’, in each book. The quatrains predict events from the mid-1500s until the end of the world. People have studied and interpreted his predictions since the sixteenth century.
Nostradamus made his poems difficult to understand by using words from Latin, French, Provencal, Greek and Italian. This was because he did not want the Church to accuse him of being a magician or a heretic. He also deliberately confused the time sequence of his prophecies so that they were more cryptic.
But just how did Nostradamus predict the future? He worked with books of the occult, and studied the stars using his knowledge of astrology. He also used an ancient method of predicting the future called scrying, where people look into a bowl of water until they have an inspiration or see an image.
People who believe him say that he predicted the Great Fire of London, the destiny of Napoleon and the rise to power of Adolf Hitler. They also say that he predicted the assassination of some presidents of the United States and some of the disasters of modern times.
Let’s take a look at some of his famous prophecies.
Century 2, Quatrain 51
The blood of the just will be demanded of London
Burnt by fire in three times twenty plus six.
People think this prediction is about the Great Fire of London, a devastating event which destroyed much of the city. ‘Three times twenty plus six’ corresponds to 66, the last two numbers of the year 1666, when the Great Fire of London took place.
Century 1, Quatrain 60
An emperor will be born near Italy,
‘Who will cost the Empire a high price.
This is interpreted as a prophecy about the rise to power of the French Emperor, Napoleon. His parents were Italian, and he was born on the island of Corsica, which is near Italy. He certainly built up a huge French Empire, but at the end of his rule France lost most of the territory that he had conquered.
Let’s take a look at some of the predictions for the twentieth century.
Century 2, Quatrain 24
Beasts ferocious with hunger will cross the rivers.
The greater part of the battlefield will be against Hister.
Into a cage of iron the great one will be pulled,
When the child of Germany observes no law.
This quatrain is said to predict World War II and the rise to power of Adolf Hitler. The first line could refer to the battles of World War II. ‘Hister’ is the Latin name for the River Danube which runs through Linz, where Adolf Hitler lived as a child. The fourth line could refer to the terrible lessons that Hitler gave to the young people of Germany.
Century 1, Quatrain 81
Nine will be set apart from the human flocks,
Separated from judgement and counsel:
Their fate to be determined on departure.
Kappa, Theta, Lambda, dead, banished and scattered.
In 1986 the United States Space Shuttle ‘Challenger’ exploded just over a minute after it left the earth, killing the entire crew. The third line of the quatrain (‘their fate to be determined on departure’) seems to predict this event, although there were seven, and not nine, astronauts on board the Shuttle. The last line has the Greek letters kappa, lambda and theta, which in English are ‘k’, ‘I’ and ‘th’. If you change the order of these letters and add some vowel sounds (‘io’ and ‘o’) you get the second name of the man who designed ‘Challenger’. His name was Moreton Thiokol.
A Mystery Explained?
Some of the events Nostradamus predicted never happened, but a great many of his predictions could seem true. Sceptics, however, think that his predictions can be interpreted to fit almost any event.
What do you think? Does the future already exist? And if so, who can read it?
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