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Nostradamus, about to take a sick rip from his famous fortune-telling bong.
Putting the psycho in
Icon psychic.svg
Men who stare at goats
By the powers of tinfoil
A stupid, French fuck; Nostradamus
Who liked saying; "Doom is upon us!"
Wrote an "end of the world" bit
In rhyming, French bullshit.
Penn Jillette, Penn & Teller: Bullshit![1]

Michel de Nostredame (1503—1566), usually latinised as Nostradamus was a sixteenth-century French astrologer, scholar, and physician who is best remembered for making predictions about world events.

As with all visionaries, his success rate has been perfect in hindsight. This is mostly because he wrote his predictions in a mixture of his native French, Greek, Italian, Latin, and Provençal and kept them so vague (such as by writing them almost exclusively in metaphorical poetic language, ostensibly to keep the Spanish Inquisition off his back) that they can be shoehorned to fit nearly any set of events.

It isn't really clear whether he himself genuinely believed he had precognitive powers, or if he was just a knowing charlatan like modern day psychics. In any case, even his most ardent believers show curiously little interest in explaining just how he was allegedly able see the future in the first place, instead focusing nearly all their efforts on attempting to demonstrate the veracity of the predictions themselves. Occasionally someone might attempt to shoehorn him into whatever woo, pseudoscience, or new age mumbo-jumbo they already believe in, but that's really it.

His book is titled Centuries, and purports to predict the future all the way up to the year 4,000 (he also wrote the lesser-known Prognostications, but those predictions were specifically for the year after the book was released, so it's hardly ever brought up anymore).

The end of the world[edit]

Some predictions by Nostradamus suggested that the world would end in 1999.[2] Then, some Nostradamus supporters suggested it would be in 2012. And they wanted you to pay for the news...which itself is a pretty good indication that they didn't expect the end of the world, or why would money be important to them?

Available as a Book Download ($14.95) or Softcover ($19.95)!

Perhaps they hoped people wouldn't remember 1999.[3] Nostradamus's believers will probably revise the date yet again—you don't need precognition to predict that.

Up until 1991 (when the USSR broke up) Nostradamus's books supposedly "predicted" a war between the United States and Soviet Union. None of them predicted the breakup of the Soviet Union. Cecil Adams, himself no slouch as a seer, put it best: "Nostradamus did for bullshit what Stonehenge did for rocks."

Modern websites such as Nostradamus Predictions[4] actively discuss current world events, predictions, the end of the world, war and antichrist predictions.

To be fair — he did, however, predict document a very good recipe for jam.[5][6]

Forging bull[edit]

See the main article on this topic: Historical forgery

Much of Nostradamus' fame is based on predictions which he never really made. At least four forgeries bearing his name are known, with various publishers claiming to have found "new" material.

The original printer was unwilling to start in the middle of a "Century" (i.e., a book of 100 verses) because the work was published in three installments, the last fifty-eight quatrains of which — the seventh "Century" — do not exist in any extant edition, making it even easier to claim that "new" material has been found.

In some cases, parts from different actual quatrains were mixed together, forming brand new bullshit predictions.

Nostradamus Says So![edit]

A combination of both the above methods were used in World War II, where forged Nostradamus prediction leaflets were dropped on France by the Nazis.

The Allies responded with their own forged Nostradamus predictions, some of which later made their way into the 1953 film, Nostradamus Says So!.[7]

Try this at home[edit]

See the main article on this topic: Barnum effect

For example, see if you can make this Nostradamus quatrain correspond to something (anything, really):

The river that tries the new Celtic heir
Will be in great discord with the Empire:
The young Prince through the ecclesiastical people
Will remove the sceptre of the crown of concord.

No? How about this one?

In the sacred temples scandals will be perpetrated,
They will be reckoned as honors and commendations:
Of one of whom they engrave medals of silver and of gold,
The end will be in very strange torments.

Still nothing? Well, don't worry — we thankfully have experts on hand to decode the meaning of Nostradamus' writings for you. Turns out, Saddam is in Canada! Or something.

But even then he'd still be useless[edit]

The question of whether or not he could actually see the future is ultimately irrelevant. For even if he really could, a prediction deliberately written so vaguely that it can only be correctly interpreted after the fact is hardly any use as a pre-diction at all, now is it?

Stopped clock[edit]

He was the first to describe benzoic acidWikipedia.

See also[edit]


  1. Penn & Teller: Bullshit!, episode S01E04, End of the World
  2. "King of Terror: 1999". Morgana's Observatory. 2006.
  3. "The Nostradamus Code: World War III, 2009-2012." 2009.
  4. "Nostradamus Predictions" 2014.
  5. Nostradamus' Recipe For Cherry Jelly
  6. QI — What Did Nostradamus Get Right?
  7. Nostradamus Says So! (Prophecies of Nostradamus)