Did Nostradamus Predict the 9/11 Attacks?
NOSTRADAMUS, the most famous astrologer who ever lived, was born in France in 1503 and published his barely scrutable collection of prophecies, The Centuries, in 1555. Each four-line verse (or “quatrain”) purported to foretell world events far into the future, and ever since Nostradamus’ time devotees have claimed his work accurately predicted wars, natural disasters and the rise and fall of empires.
Yet it’s plain to see that Nostradamus couched his “prophetic” verses in language so obscure that the words can be, and have been, interpreted to mean almost anything. What’s more, the interpreting is always done after the fact, with the benefit of hindsight, and with the concerted aim of proving the relevance of a given passage to an actual event.
If the aftermaths of past world catastrophes are any indication, we can expect to see a bumper crop of arcane tracts in the coming weeks and months purporting to show beyond a doubt that Nostradamus foresaw the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks of September 11, 2001. In fact, thanks to the efforts of anonymous Internet pranksters, the he-told-you-sos have already begun. “Spooky” quatrains allegedly foretelling the events of 9/11 with incredible specificity were circulating online within hours of the first jetliner crash in New York City — completely bogus quatrains, as it turned out. It wasn’t a question of whether or not they accurately predicted anything; Nostradamus simply didn’t write them.
New York, the ‘City of God’???
The first quatrain to hit email inboxes on 9/11 contained the prediction that a “great thunder” would be heard in the “City of God”:
“In the City of God there will be a great thunder,
Two brothers torn apart by Chaos,
while the fortress endures, the great leader will succumb”,
The third big war will begin when the big city is burning”
- Nostradamus 1654
Let the interpreting begin! Assuming “the City of God” is New York City, then the “two brothers torn apart by Chaos” must be the fallen towers of the Word Trade Center. The “fortress” is clearly the Pentagon, the “great leader” succumbing to Chaos must be the United States of America, and “the third big war” can only mean World War III.
Or maybe not. Let’s go back and apply a little intellectual honesty. What earthly (or unearthly) justification could Nostradamus have had for describing New York City (which did not yet even exist) as “the City of God?” Why did the Great Seer feel compelled to refer to the future World Trade Center towers as “two brothers” instead of using a more apt word like “buildings” or “monuments” (or even, egad, “towers”)? Granted, the word “fortress” isn’t an unreasonable descriptor for the Pentagon, but by what stretch of the imagination would it have been accurate to stipulate that “the great leader” (and is that really the phrase M. Nostradamus would have used to describe the future U.S.A.?) would “succumb” to the destruction of two buildings?
Anyway, quibbling over individual words is futile, given that Nostradamus didn’t even write this passage. Michel de Nostredame died in 1566, nearly a hundred years before the date given in the email (1654). The quatrain is nowhere to be found in his entire published oeuvre. In a word, it’s a hoax.
More precisely, its attribution to Nostradamus is a hoax. The passage was lifted from a Web page (long since deleted from the server that originally hosted it) containing an essay written by college student Neil Marshall in 1996 entitled “Nostradamus: A Critical Analysis.” In the essay itself, Marshall admits inventing the quatrain for the purpose of demonstrating — quite ironically, in light of the way it was subsequently misused — how a Nostradamus-like verse can be so cryptically couched as to lend itself to whatever interpretation one wishes to make.
Interestingly, a variant of this faux prophecy turned up in the soc.culture.palestine newsgroup only one day after 9/11 under the heading “They followed his prediction.” It went like this:
In the City of God there will be a great thunder, Two brothers torn apart by Chaos, while the fortress endures, the great leader will succumb’
‘The third big war will begin when the big city is burning’
- Nostradamus 1654
…on the 11 day of the 9 month that… two metal birds would crash into two tall statues… in the new city… and the world will end soon after”
“From the book of Nostradamus”
Here again, even though the text boasts all the pomp and musty vagueness one finds in Nostradamus’ actual writings, it does not exist, in whole or in part, anywhere in The Centuries. This, too, is an Internet hoax, a cheeky elaboration on Neil Marshall’s invented quatrain.
‘Two steel birds’
Our third example is “spookier” yet:
Subject: Re: Nostradamus
Century 6, Quatrain 97
Two steel birds will fall from the sky on the Metropolis. The sky will burn at forty-five degrees latitude. Fire approaches the great new city (New York City lies between 40-45 degrees)
Immediately a huge, scattered flame leaps up. Within months, rivers will flow with blood. The undead will roam earth for little time.
This passage, it turns out, is not entirely fake. Rather, it is what you might call an “imaginative revision” of an actual verse from The Centuries. The authentic passage on which it is based is usually translated from the French as follows:
The sky will burn at forty-five degrees latitude,
Fire approaches the great new city
Immediately a huge, scattered flame leaps up
When they want to have verification from the Normans.
As you can see, Nostradamus made no mention of “two steel birds” in the original passage, nor did he predict that “the undead will roam the earth.” As to the geographical location of New York City, it is found at exactly 40 degrees, 42 minutes, 51 seconds north latitude. So, while it isn’t false to say that it lies “between 40-45 degrees,” it is imprecise, not to mention an obvious, disingenous ploy to make what Nostradamus actually wrote (“The sky will burn at forty-five degrees latitude”) seem germaine to the events of September 11, 2001.
Nostradamus predicts World War III
Specimen #4, also circulating via email, is merely an elaboration of the above:
Nostradamus’ prediction on WW3:
“In the year of the new century and nine months,
From the sky will come a great King of Terror…
The sky will burn at forty-five degrees.
Fire approaches the great new city…”
“In the city of york there will be a great collapse,
2 twin brothers torn apart by chaos
while the fortress falls the great leader will succumb
third big war will begin when the big city is burning”
He said this will be bigger than the previous two. 2001 is the first year of the new century and this is the 9th month. New York is located at the 41st degree Latitude.
Once again, a very few words actually written by Nostradamus — individual lines drawn from two disparate quatrains, in fact — have been taken out of context, rearranged, and supplemented with made-up lines by person(s) unknown to make them seem pertinent to the event. The result, as before, is pure bunk. Not even Nostradamus would want to take credit for this “prediction.”
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