Nostradamus— Urban fantasy at its best
March 28, 2012 in Urban Fantasy
Perhaps it’s the current preoccupation with young adult books, maybe it’s the end of the Mayan calendar hoopla, or we can chalk it up to all the hype surrounding planetary alignments, magnetic pole shifts and birds dropping out of the sky. No matter the cause, people can’t seem to ignore the rumors and misconceptions about 2012. Meanwhile, Pearls keep disappearing and it’s hard to keep people focused on the real question at hand—how to save the pearls.
Proponents of urban fantasy would have us believe that it all stems from the predictions of Nostradamus. Best known for his book Les Propheties (“The Prophecies”), written in 1555, Nostradamus was a French apothecary and reputed seer who moved out of medicine and into the occult after a trip to Italy. He wrote his first annual almanac in 1550 and gained notoriety amongst the rich and noble, who flocked to him for horoscopes and psychic advice. Unlike true astrologers, Nostradamus had clients supply him with their birth charts—it’s recorded that when he tried to calculate them himself, there were many errors. Sounds like these almanacs were more like their own brand of fantasy and adventure stories of that time.
Les Propheties was Nostradamus’ written project consisting of one thousand mainly French quatrains—these make up the mostly undated prophecies that made him famous. Undated prophecies sound like quite an anomaly to me, which is why I chalk them up to nothing more than urban fantasy and fiction. The publication of this book attracted a following that credits him with predicting many major world events—again, if they’re without dates, it would be like one of us predicting an earthquake in California. We know it may happen, but exactly when is difficult for us to divine. Les Propheties received a mixed reaction when it was published—some people thought Nostradamus was insane, a phony or a servant of evil, while many of the prominent and elite thought the book contained spiritually inspired prophecies.
Feeling threatened by religious fanatics, Nostradamus created a method of hiding his meaning through the use of “Virgilianized” syntax, word games and a mixture of other languages including Latin, Italian, Greek and Provençal. Since the quatrains were written in Middle French, this led to many problems in the translations, resulting in vagueries, metaphors and allusion. Some are so vague that you can conclude they make absolutely no sense, or that they provide justification for any event. Many academic sources maintain that the associations made between world events and his predictions are the result of these mistranslations or misinterpretations.
An example of a glaring inaccuracy is Nostradamus famously predicted prosperity for King Henry II of France just two years before his death in a jousting accident. He might as well have written a fantasy and adventure novel depicting a long life for the king.
Those who believe in the prophecy of 2012 usually fail to identify the quatrain where this prediction is made. In fact, his followers tend to look for matches to events in his quatrains after the events occur. They may as well focus on fantasy and adventure novels, as Nostradamus never directly mentions December 21, 2012.
If after researching Nostradamus, you still want to believe the hype about his prediction of an apocalyptic event in 2012, then you’ll need to ignore the fact that his quatrains extend well beyond 2012—as in all the way to 3790. Clearly, if all of those predictions are correct, then the world cannot possibly end this year.
My suggestion? Go back to reading young adult books in your free time and focus your attention on ways to save the pearls.