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Useful Notes / Nostradamus

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Michel de Nostredame (December 14 or 21, 1503 – July 2, 1566), a.k.a. Nostradamus, was a 16th-century French physician who was well respected in his day,note  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 to the fact that Nostradamus wrote all his work in very cryptical quatrains that are open to all kinds of interpretations, even before accounting for the vagaries of translating them from French into other languages. Thus one can easily shoehorn in any historical event one wants.

Media about Nostradamus:

  • 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 (its predictions of events for the 1990s were quickly disproven).
  • Farewell to Nostradamus: An anime adaptation in the Lupin III series.
  • Prophecies of Nostradamus, a Toho science fiction film in which a Japanese family that has long used the prophecies of Nostradamus to predict global events is put into situations of global ecological catastrophe brought about by human abuse of the environment and global irradiation. Notably, it was censored for many years thanks to depictions of hideously mutated humans in a post-civilization environment, not least by survivors of the atomic bombings and their families who saw it as perpetuating prejudice against people afflicted by radiation through its depiction of them as mindless monsters.
  • 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 Demons 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.
  • In Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow, Nostradamus supposedly prophesied that not only would Dracula return in 1999, but a successor would arrive at the castle in 2035. The protagonist comments on this. It should be noted that this universe's Nostradamus would have made this prophecy before it was even well known that Dracula would resurrect after a century, as Christopher Belmont's first quest took place ten years after Nostradamus passed away.
  • The man himself shows up in Grimms Notes Repage as a playable character.
  • The 2008 Judas Priest album is named Nostradamus. It's a concept album about the future.
  • Macabre's album "Gloom" had an instrumental song named after him.
  • Don Rosa made a story where Scrooge McDuck visits Nostradamus's tomb (reimagined as a Pig Man in the Disney comic world of anthropomorphic animals) to steal the amulet that gave him his powers of foresight so he can use it to predict the stock market. However, the artifact was cursed and drew disasters to whoever possessed it, so Scrooge would be constantly dodging crashing planes and bee swarms because he could still foresee them.
  • The Irish rock band Thin Lizzy's song "Angel of Death" mentions him.
  • Record of Ragnarok lists him as one of the fighters representing humanity in the tournament against the gods.
  • Gérard Depardieu portrays him in the 2022 Made-for-TV Movie Diane de Poitiers.
  • In Part 2 of Chainsaw Man, Yoshida discusses sudden public interest in an exert from The Prophecies quoted as "In the seventh month of 1999, a great king of terror will descend." The series is set in 1998 at that point, but written decades later. Public Safety tested this by having dozens of people ask the Future Devil when they would die. It said three quarters of them would indeed die in July 1999, while the rest would die the week Yoshida is talking. Because fear in this universe empowers and creates devils, a common interpretation of Nostradamus' writing could be a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy, no matter how baseless both were.

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 Napoléon 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 so 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 (except perhaps preventing a second Kennedy presidency).
  • 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 Inquisition'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.
  • Mainstream Obscurity: Many people have heard of Nostradamus and know he predicted future events, but the amount of people who've actually tried to read his "Prophecies" (even in translation) is much, much lower. Anyone who ever did quickly comes to the conclusion that none of it is as clear, accurate and specific as his reputation pretends it to be.
  • One Name Only: His actual name was Michel de Nostredame, but he is better known under the latinized version of his name: Nostradamus. Latin was the offical language of the Christian Church at this time, as well as being used by 'educated' people, and is the same reason why Mikolaj Kopernik is mostly known as Copernicus.
  • Pop-Cultural Osmosis: During his lifetime he was best known as a physician with his prophecies more or less something he did in his spare time. Nowadays he is better known as a soothsayer.
  • 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.
  • 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.

"In the future somebody will write a TV Tropes page about me." —Nostradamus.