Michel de Nostredame (aka Nostradamus) was a 16th-century French "seer." We don't have many seers these days.
Nostradamus studied astrology and various "occult" sciences and used those to predict the future.
He's best known for The Prophecies, a collection of French quatrains published in 1555. So are these prophecies worthy predictions of the future or merely vague observations retrofitted to match past events?
Here is a list of some of the most famous:
No. 01 - The End of the World
Remember when the world was going to end in 1994?
What about 1998?
The doomsayers always warn that Nostradamus said the world was going to end and he NEVER GOT ANYTHING WRONG.
These days, 2012's the trendiest day for end-of-world prophecies. Specifically, it's Dec. 21, 2012.
Believe it if you want. One thing is clear: Nostradamus himself wrote that his prophecies only went as far forward as the year 3797. Does that mean the world will end late in the 38th century? Only time will tell.
No. 02 - Sept. 11, 2001
Earthshaking fire from the center of the Earth
Will cause tremors around the New City.
Two great rocks will war for a long time,
Then Arethusa will redden a new river.
Well, two great rocks could be two towers, right? But would you say those towers were warring?
If you read this verse before Sept. 11, you might assume it referred to an earthquake or volcanic eruption. Earthshaking fire, tremors, rocks warring (in other words, continental plates colliding), but who really knows.
Back when Nostradamus wrote those lines, skyscrapers like the Twin Towers, jumbo jets like the ones that hit them and cities like modern-day New York were probably unthinkable and unimaginable, so if he foresaw these events, would he have even known what he was seeing?
No. 03 - . World War II/Hitler
The two greatest ones of Asia and of Africa,
From the Rhine and Lower Danube they will be said to have come,
Cries, tears at Malta and the Ligurian side.
From the depths of the West of Europe,
A young child will be born of poor people,
He who by his tongue will seduce a great troop;
His fame will increase towards the realm of the East.
These two verses may in fact describe World War II and Hitler ... or not.
Was the most notable bit about Hitler his impoverished upbringing? What about the genocidal, megalomaniacal tendencies? Don't those deserve something? Much of the talk of Nostradamus' prophecy of Hitler may come from his use, in the original text, of the Latin word "Hister" to describe the Danube. Trust us, he was talking about a river, not a dictator: no self-respecting prophet would make such an egregious spelling error.
No. 04 - Atomic Bomb
Near the gates and within two cities
There will be scourges the like of which was never seen,
Famine within plague, people put out by steel,
Crying to the great immortal God for relief.
OK, this one is hard to dispute.
Let's face it. It's an accurate description of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. "Scourges the like of which was never seen," people "crying to the great immortal God."
With that said, this verse is accurate because it cheats a bit on the specifics. Critics charge that it's so vague that it could also be used to describe a whole host of wartime atrocities during any of many wars that took place between Nostradamus' time in the 16th century and today ... or even the future.
No. 05 - Louis Pasteur
The lost thing is discovered, hidden for many centuries.
Pasteur will be celebrated almost as a God-like figure.
This is when the moon completes her great cycle,
But by other rumors he shall be dishonored.
Like many surnames, Louis Pasteur's probably once indicated a profession.
Pasteur, in French, could also mean pastor, so some argue that this bit of Nostradamian prose could just be about any old priest. Others call it a shout-out to the man who studied microbial decay, brought you spoilage-resistant milk and found a vaccine for rabies.
No one doubts he deserved the props. You be the judge.
No. 06 - JFK & RFK Assassinations
The great man will be struck down in the day by a thunderbolt,
An evil deed foretold by the bearer of a petition.
According to the prediction, another falls at night time.
Conflict at Reims, London and a pestilence in Tuscany.
Thunderbolts and gunshots: not terribly dissimilar. And the great man was struck down in the day, as John F. Kennedy was. The other falling at nighttime would be Bobby Kennedy (five years later).
Now, it can work if you want it to, but do you really think a Secret Service agent reading that passage in November 1963 would have cause to be concerned?
And what of Reims, London and Tuscany?
No. 07 - Katrina
The cities of Tours, Orleans, Blois, Angers, Reims and Nantes
Are troubled by sudden change.
Tents will be pitched by (people) of foreign tongues;
Rivers, darts at Rennes, shaking of land and sea.
Did he really mean NEW Orleans? Hmm...The shaking of land and sea might describe the hurricane (well, the shaking of the sea would). Could the people with foreign tongues be aid workers from other parts of the world, or other parts of the country?
But what are Tours, Blois, Angers, Reims and Nantes doing there?
Pre-Katrina, this prophecy was originally thought to refer to France. Maybe it still should.
No. 08 - Princess Diana's Death
The penultimate of the surname of Prophet
Will take Diana for his day and rest:
He will wander because of a frantic head,
And delivering a great people from subjection.
OK, pay careful attention here: The father of Princess Diana's boyfriend, Dodi Al-Fayed, was named Mohamed ("the Prophet" - it wasn't his surname, but never mind that).
Did Diana's death deliver "a great people from subjection"? Maybe not, but we can all agree that the British are a great people, right? The fact alone that Diana's name is in the text speaks a lot to Nostradamus followers -- specific names are, in general, a rarity in Nostradamus' works.
No. 09 - London Fire
The blood of the just will commit a fault at London,
Burnt through lighting of twenty threes the six:
The ancient lady will fall from her high place,
Several of the same sect will be killed.
Look, just because you've never heard of the Great London Fire of 1666 doesn't mean it wasn't a really big deal.
It pretty much obliterated all of medieval London ("the ancient lady") within the old Roman walls. Only six deaths were recorded (hence "the six" in the second line), though commoners' deaths may not have been recorded at the time.
The fire, which started in a baker's shop, burned for three days straight. If only someone had passed along a copy of Nostadamus' book, maybe Londoners might have known it was coming.
No. 10 - French Revolution
"From the enslaved populace, songs,
Chants and demands
While princes and lords are held captive in prisons.
These will in the future by headless idiots
Be received as divine prayers"
You remember the French Revolution, right?
The peasants ("the enslaved populace") rising to power, the aristocracy taken down and beheaded… (the "headless idiots," now "princes and lords … held captive in prisons"). In another verse, the "great wall" falling is said to mean the storming of the Bastille.
It's a bit of a stretch, right? It's possible that Nostradamus saw the coming of a peasant uprising through completely non-astrological or occult means, but through his own eyes as he saw the contrast between aristocrat and commoner in 16th-century France.