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reader comments: Nostradamus

18 Jan 2000 
To the esteemed professor of Sacramento City College, Mr. Robert Todd Carroll

Dear Sir!

I'm a Swedish surfer who's just visited the Nostradamus page of your "sceptical" website, but I can't say I was rather impressed. 

reply: You're not trying to butter me up, are you, so I won't try to squash you like a worm for disagreeing with me?

The sample quatrain (X,72) has "angelmois" [sic] (actually it's Angolmois] translated as "mongol" when it's obvious that what is meant in modern French is "angoumois" i.e. "from Angoulême" (look it up in a dictionary if you like!).

reply: That is what makes it so difficult to translate Nostradamus: you never know what version of French he is anticipating...until, of course a Swedish surfer comes along and sets you straight.

Consequently there's no "king of the mongols" who will rise from the dead. The concept of an undead Djingis Khan is also very unlike Nostradamus, whose 'visions' as rule carries a very ordinary type of content, so I simply don't understand where you got this hideous interpretation from.

reply: Actually, I haven't found any other versions, except for one that translated "le grand Roy d'Angolmois" as Ghengis Khan, which I thought was a bit liberal.

Do you really think it is good debunking to make a poor mock of this fellow? Also, I'm not sure about the date presented. In my Swedish translation of Nostradamus (ed. Åke Ohlmarks, Stockholm, 1961) which claims to be based on the Rigaud edition of 1566, July 1990 and not 1999 is referred to. Anyhow, what ever is the correct one, the obvious interpretation I think would be that someone bound for greatness is meant to be born this year, ("from heaven will come [a] terrible king") re-evoking the spirit of "the great king of Angoulême" ("résurrection" of course also has a figurative meaning).

reply: Thanks for straightening that out. Someone bound for greatness was born in either 1990 or 1999. I think most of us equate falling from the sky with being born, too.

Interestingly enough, there has actually existed a certain Louis Antoine de Bourbon, duke of Angoulême (1775-1844) who was the eldest son of Charles X and though childless, the true heir to the French throne (which was instead taken over by Louis Philippe). He was also great hero of the counter-revolution, at times referring to himself as "Louis XIX". Not in the least trying to prove Nostradamus to 'be right', I find it nevertheless lamentable, if not to say embarrassing, to see a homepage dedicated to enlightenment, revert to such a simplistic explanation as of something literally 'falling out of the sky'. It makes for a prejudicial understanding of Nostradamus and the learning of his milieu.

reply: Yes, it is true. I do tend to take things too literally, especially when I am learning a milieu. But do you really think it is less prejudicial to give free reign to the imagination to interpret words any way we wish? In any case, I think you missed your calling; you've stumbled upon Nostradamus' prediction of the invention of bourbon.

Finally on the question of "Mars", Nostradamus is known more or less to use planetary constellations solely as a shrouded way of telling the time. The story goes he might not even have believed in astrology.

reply: Excellent.

I'm not certain of the significance of 'the reign of Mars' in this particular quatrain, but surely it has nothing to do with either warfare, Armageddon or anything likewise.


reply: Truer words n'er were spoke by prophet nor profiteer.

04 Dec 1999 
One thing the Nostradamus cultists seem to have forgotten is that Nostradamus also made his "predictions" under the Julian calendar rather than the Gregorian calendar and that also would put a few massive holes into the veracity of the predictions as well.

Robert Hart

reply: You are correct. Nostradamus died in 1566 and the Gregorian calendar didn't come into use until 1582. Unfortunately, you cannot win this one, Robert. The cultists will claim that Nostradamus had so much foresight that he foresaw that a new calendar would be put to use, so he made his predictions accordingly.

06 Dec 1999 
Further to Mr. Robert Hart's comment of 4/12/99, and your subsequent reply, the Gregorian calendar only makes a change of two weeks. The famous prediction

"L'an mil neuf cens nonante neuf sept mois
 Du ciel viendra grand Roy deffraieur
 Resusciter le grand Roy d'Angolmois.
 Avant apres Mars regner par bon heur.

The year 1999 seven months 
From the sky will come the great King of Terror.
To resuscitate the great king of the Mongols.
 Before and after Mars reigns by good luck."

is thus still nonsense, since July, the seventh month, is still well passed by the reckonings of both calendars.

And while on this subject, "deffraieur" is not the same as "d'effraieur" meaning "of terror" but rather means "defrayer" as in a payer of debts. I have no idea why this is supposed to bring about the end of the world. The apostrophe is usually added by believers in Nosty.

Keep up the good work,
Daniel Ucko



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