Did Nostradamus predict the end of the world?
Did Nostradamus predict the End of the World in December 2012?
Vague, exaggerated claims about Nostradamus’s prophecies are nothing new. They are the meat and drink of the popular Nostradamus industry. All the while nobody has access to the original texts (unlike yourself, who can now see a selection of them on the CD accompanying Peter Lemesurier’s new book Nostradamus, Bibliomancer), or knows enough French to understand them if even they did, the speculators are fairly safe – particularly given that the French in question is sixteenth-century French, which is quite different from the modern variety, and that Nostradamus used even this in a cryptic way of his own that owed a great deal to the convoluted Latin syntax of the celebrated Roman poet Virgil.
This idiosyncrasy was more than enough to fool the seer’s own printers, who quite often could make no sense of his words and consequently muddied the water even further by making dozens of gratuitous printing errors. So it is no surprise if it also bamboozles most modern readers, too, and particularly English-speaking ones. The inevitable corollary, though, is that it is among the Anglo-Saxon nations that Nostradamus’s verse is most commonly misunderstood and consequently misrepresented.
There is an obvious antidote, though. It is carefully to examine the various claims against what the original French sources actually say. And doing so reveals that in his Prophecies Nostradamus mentions neither the End of the World nor the date 2012. This misconception is due almost entirely to the History Channel's misidentification of a painted collection of prophetic papal emblems from long before Nostradamus's time, known as the Vaticinia de Summis Pontificibus, as what it suggestively called ‘The Lost Book of Nostradamus’, and their assimilation of it to a widespread misunderstanding of the next significant date from the Mayan calendar. In fact, under the terms of Mayan cosmology, the end of the current world is not due (according to Schele and Freidel’s authoritative A Forest of Kings) until day
after the theoretical end of the previous world in 3114 BC (an ‘end of the world’ totally unknown either to history or to archaeology!) – which, with each column equal to twenty times its predecessor, lies some 41,341,050,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 years in the future, and certainly not in 2012.
True, thanks to some pretty dodgy mathematical speculation about the age of the world (Nostradamus himself gave five different dates for the Creation, two of them in the same document!), it was generally assumed at the time that the world would end in 2242. On the other hand, thanks to contemporary outbreaks of famine, plague, war and death (i.e. the traditional Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse) and the presence of John Calvin in Geneva(whom Catholics regarded as the Antichrist in person), Nostradamus and his contemporaries felt that the End must be catastrophically imminent.
But then that is what they always say – and it is also why the History Channel and others are so keen to date it to 2012. The End of the World is always supposed to lie just ahead of your own time, and alleged ‘evidence’ is constantly cooked up to support the idea.
So I dread to think what they are all going to say in January 2013.
Nostradamus, Bibliomancer: The Man, The Myth, The Truth is available at Amazon.com and all good booksellers.