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Useful Notes: Nostradamus
How predictable...

Nostradamus was a 16th century French physician who was well respected in his days, but has become more famous in the centuries after as a soothsayer. All due to a little book called The Prophecies (1555), in which he made predictions for future historical events. Believers and so-called experts believe that this man could really see into the future and predicted many factual historical events. Skeptics point at the fact that Nostradamus wrote all his work in very cryptical quatrains that are open to all kinds of interpretations. Thus one can easily shoehorn in any historical event one wants.

In popular culture
  • He has been subject of several books and documentaries, including the most famous one: The Man Who Saw Tomorrow (1981), narrated and presented by Orson Welles, who would later distance himself from the project.
  • Farewell to Nostradamus: An anime adaptation in the Lupin III series.
  • First Wave: About a man who uses Nostradamus' Prophecies to predict the future from an alien conspiracy to conquer Earth. It claims Nostradamus was an alien refugee.
  • Douglas Coupland wrote a book called Hey Nostradamus (2003).
  • He appears as a character in Reign.
  • In Demoni a mask is found in Nostradamus' tomb with a prophecy about "the coming of demons".
  • Dutch comedian Hans Teeuwen has a song called Nostradamus and his trousers green and right (he looked alright).
  • The 2001 solo album by Dutch hiphop artist Def P Het Ware Aardverhaal is a concept album about the origin, history and future of Earth, mixed in with Nostradamus' prophecies and ancient manuscripts about Ancient Astronauts' stuff.
  • The 2008 Judas Priest album is named Nostradamus. It's a concept album about the future.

Nostradamus provides examples of

  • Accentuate the Negative: Wars, fires, floods, earthquakes, drought, famine, epidemics, assassinations,... most of his quatrains are about these topics.
  • The Antichrist: Nostradamus predicted three antichrists to arrive in the future. Two of them have been identified as Napoleon Bonaparte and Adolf Hitler. The third one is still open for speculation, though candidates have been suggested.
  • Bad Future: Most of his future predictions are sensational and horrible events.
  • Creator Provincialism: Not as much Nostradamus himself, but definitely a lot of his believers who have a tendency to make most of his prophecies predict events in their own country, even if they had no international impact. For instance, the 1981 documentary The Man Who Saw Tomorrow claimed Nostradamus predicted the 1969 incident where Ted Kennedy had a fatal car accident where his secretary drowned in a river. Despite being a huge media story at the time it's hardly of any major historical importance.
  • Dreaming of Things to Come: Nostradamus' claim to fame.
  • Failed Future Forecast: The Man Who Saw Tomorrow, a 1981 Speculative Documentary about Nostradamus, has become an amusing example of this trope. Apparently, we're in the late stages of World War III right now, New York City is a radioactive crater, Ted Kennedy was the Democratic presidential candidate a while back, and Loma Prieta's Quake of '89 happened in '88. This Is the Part Where we explain that Nostradamus typically made his predictions so vague as to be interpretable six ways from Sunday in a successful bid to stay off the Church Police's radar.
  • Lost in Translation: Seeing that most people don't know much about medieval French it's easy to see why so many of his prophecies have conflicting translations.
  • One Name Only: His actual name was Michel de Nostre, but he is better known under the latinized version of his name: Nostradamus.
  • Print Long-Runners: His Prophecies are still read to this day.
  • Prophecies Rhyme All the Time: Nostradamus wrote in quatrains and put everything to rhyme. That's why falsifications of his prophecies try to imitate the same narrative style, usually forgetting that he wrote in medieval French.
  • Rule of Four: Wrote everything in quatrains.
  • Sharpshooter Fallacy: There have been documentary programs on Nostradamus' prophecies where the proponents of Nostradamus' prescience do things like add and subtract numbers or alter letters in order to interpret things he wrote as referencing WWII. People have also pointed out that it's strange how Nostradamus' prophecies only seem to be understood to apply to something after the event has happened, which is also indicative of how this trope ties into Confirmation Bias. Nostradamus was a genius who was able to predict the future, yet no one predicted WWII from his writings. After WWII, people went back over his works and went to great lengths to prove to themselves that Nostradamus had predicted it. In reality, the passages could be interpreted or twisted to be applicable to anything one desired.
  • Speculative Fiction: To his dectractors this is basically what his work boils down to.

"In the future somebody will write a TV Tropes page about me." - Nostradamus.
Richard NixonHistorical-Domain CharacterOda Nobunaga
John MiltonAuthorsMarc-Uwe Kling

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