While skeptics are quick to point out that Nostradamus's quatrains (the four-line verses in which he wrote his prophecies) are so cryptic that they can be interpreted in any number of ways, scholars who have meticulously studied his work conclude that Nostradamus has been uncanny in his predictions of some of the most dramatic events of the 20th and previous centuries.
But what of the 21st century? What, if anything, does Nostradamus have to say about the events of this new century, this new millennium? Many fear that his prophecies point to the event that most of the world has been dreading since the end of World War II and the introduction of nuclear weapons: World War III... doomsday... Armageddon. Some say it's right around the corner, and with the events of Sept. 11 still haunting our psyche and the continuing tensions in the Middle East, a new war with global involvement isn't hard to imagine.
The Start of WW III
Several years ago, author David S. Montaigne predicted the next world war would start in 2002 in his unambiguously tilted book, Nostradamus: World War III 2002. Although Nostradamus never specifically names the year in which World War III would begin, Montaigne cites this quatrain:
From brick to marble, the walls will be converted,
Seven and fifty peaceful years:
Joy to mankind, the aqueduct renewed,
Health, abundant fruits, joy and honey-making times.
- Quatrain 10:89
Although it can be debated that the 57 years previous to 2002 were peaceful and a joy to mankind, Montaigne interpreted this quatrain as meaning "progress for fifty-seven years between World War II and World War III." And since the Second World War ended in 1945, 57 years brought us to 2002.
Who would start the war and how? Montaigne pointed the finger at Osama bin Laden who, he says, would continue to stir up anti-American feelings within Islamic nations and will mastermind his attacks on the West from Istanbul, Turkey (Byzantium):
Of beyond the Black Sea and of the great Tartary,
A king comes who will see Gaul,
Piercing across Alania and Armenia,
And within Byzantium hw will leave his bloody rod.
Was Montaigne wrong? Some would argue that the September 11 attacks and our subsequest "War on Terrorism" could represent the opening battles in a conflict that could eventually escalate to World War III.
From there, things get worse, of course. Montaigne suggests that Muslim armies will see their first big victory over Spain. Soon after, Rome will be destroyed with nuclear weapons, forcing the Pope to relocate:
For seven days the great star will burn,
The cloud shall make two suns to appear:
The big mastiff will howl all night
When the great pontiff changes country.
Montaigne interprets Nostradamus to say that even Israel will be defeated in this war led by bin Laden and later Saddam Hussein, both of whom, he says, are the Antichrist. The war goes in favor of the Eastern forces (Muslims, China and Poland) for awhile until the Western allies are joined by Russia and are finally victorious around the year 2012:
When those of the arctic pole are united together,
In the East great dread and fear:
Newly elected, supporting the great trembling,
Rhodes, Byzantium with Barbarian blood stained.
So it all works out in the end, but if these interpretations of Nostradamus are to be believed, it's going to be after a lot of death and suffering, much of it caused by the use of nuclear weapons by both sides in the fight. And Montaigne isn't alone in his reading of Nostradamus (and this article has provided only a very brief outline of his thesis). A website called "Prophecies of Nostradamus and Beyond," apparently authored by someone named Santanu Acharya, paints essentially the same picture. Even John Hogue, author of Nostradamus: The Complete Prophecies and considered by many to be one of the world's leading authorities on Nostradamus, agrees that the prophet's writings indicate that next world war will probably begin sometime within the next decade.
Not everyone takes Nostradamus seriously either, of course. James Randi, for instance, doesn't think Nostradamus's predictions are worth the crystal ball he saw them in. In his book The Mask of Nostradamus, magician and pseudoscience debunker Randi contends that Nostradamus was not a prophet at all, but rather a clever writer who used purposefully ambiguous and cryptic language so that his quatrains could be interpreted to be referring to events once they had taken place. And more often than not, Nostradamus's "prophecies" are sought out after a tragic event to see if any of his quatrains fit. The events of Sept. 11 are a prime example. No one before Sept. 11 held up a Nostradamus prophecy that warned of the attacks on The World Trade Center and the Pentagon, yet after the fact a few quatrains were said to accurately describe the tragedy. (Some hoaxers even completely fabricated a quatrain or two in the style of Nostradamus.)
However, those who say Nostradamus has predicted World War III, possibly in the near future, are giving us the word ahead of time. If he's wrong, time will tell and we'll be grateful. But if he's right, will enough of civilization be around to celebrate his most dramatic and powerful prophecy of all? What do you think?