Why are Nostradamus’ prophecies still popular in the 21st century?

20 mins read

The Ukrainian War, the Queen’s death, Elon Musk’s Mars project… Why are Nostradamus’ prophecies still popular in the 21st century?

Nostradamus was an astrologer who lived in France in the mid-1500s. Four and a half centuries after his death, his predictions have been proven wrong time and again, but millions of people around the world still believe that Nostradamus’ prophecies hold clues to the future. But why do these texts, which can be taken in any direction, still attract so much attention in this age of science?

The Guardian, one of the best-selling newspapers in the UK, had a very interesting headline on July 5, 1999: “Nostradamus Was Wrong (If the World Ended Yesterday, Please Ignore This Headline)”

Those who were not aware of Nostradamus’ prophecies probably thought, “What nonsense is this?”, but those who knew that the date given by this 16th century French astrologer for the end of the world was July 4, 1999 understood the joke in the title.

Moreover, unlike his other prophecies, Nostradamus was very precise about the end of the world and gave a date that could be called a pinpoint:

On the seventh month of the year nineteen hundred and ninety-nine
From the heavens will come the King of Terror
It will be a revival of the great King of Angolmois.
Before and after, if we are lucky, Mars rules.

According to some of the translators who have spent years trying to make sense of Nostradamus’ texts, the king of terror must be the antichrist.

Others believed that the word “Angolmois” was an anagram of the 16th century French word for Mongols, “Mongolais”. They saw it as a sure sign that Europe would be invaded by people from the east. However, it was not clear whether these easterners were Russians, Chinese or descendants of Genghis Khan.

Prof. Alexander Tollmann, an expert on Nostradamus, found these statements so alarming that he retreated to his bunker in lower Austria and waited for days for disaster.


Of course, it did not happen as expected, but such road accidents have not weakened the belief in the accuracy of Nostradamus’ prophecies. In fact, those who believe that 2023 will be the year of catastrophe for Europe based on one prophecy have already begun preparations.

“Seven months after the Great War, people will die at the hands of the wicked / Rouen and Evreux will not fall before the King,” Nostradamus predicted. (Rouen and Evreux are two cities in France.)

Many interpreted these sentences as a guarantee that the Ukrainian War would turn into the Third World War. In fact, the astrology writer of The Daily Star newspaper, also published in the UK, recently gave the following advice to readers:

“Seven months into the war might at first glance seem like cause for celebration, but given the formidable nuclear arsenals of countries like the US and Russia, it’s worth being cautious.”

(Of course, by this calculation, Parisians should also seek refuge in Rouen until things calm down).

Why are Nostradamus' prophecies still popular in the 21st century?
This very old copy of Les Propheties is in Paris
Bibliotheque Nationale


In short, we have less and less reason to rely on Nostradamus’ predictions. To tell the truth, even when Nostradamus was alive, he was not considered a reliable source for predicting the future.

As far as is known, between 1547 and 1555 he dictated 942 quatrains to his secretary. These poetic quatrains contained interesting predictions about the future. However, Nostradamus was always eating nutmeg, which is known to cause hallucinations when consumed in excess, so he was probably not in his right mind.

In the years he was alive, he was constantly the target of relentless criticism and even “trolling”, to use today’s terminology. For example, Lord Hercules, who called himself “The Frenchman Against Monsteramus”, characterized Nostradamus as follows in his First Libel of 1558: “A brainless and mad idiot who shouts empty words and spreads his predictions and fantasies in the streets.”


Nostradamus’ value increased after his death. His quatrains, first published in 1555 under the title “Les Prophéties” (The Prophecies), have remained on bookstore shelves ever since.

According to enthusiasts, Nostradamus’ predictions in the book include many important historical events such as the execution of King Charles I of England, the Great Fire of London, the French Revolution, the rise and fall of Napoleon and Hitler, the assassinations of US President John F. Kennedy and Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, the September 11 attacks, the armed attacks in Paris in 2015, and even the abdication of the throne by the fledgling King Charles III of England.

Although it has been 467 years since he first met his readers, Nostradamus’ prophecies are still bestsellers.

The last example of this happened in England last month. Mario Reading wrote “Nostradamus: The Complete Prophecies for the Future” by Mario Reading suddenly topped the Sunday Times newspaper’s best-read list.

The reason for this was the news that a quatrain by Nostradamus pointed to the death of Queen Elizabeth II. While the book sold only 5 copies in the week before the Queen’s death, sales reached 8,000 in the week of September 11-17.

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In his book, first published in 2006, Reading underlines a point overlooked by other Nostradamus scholars. According to Reading, the sequence numbers of the stanzas correspond to the dates when the events mentioned in the text will take place.

The quatrain numbered 10/22, which caused a sensation in England, contains the following statements:

Because they did not approve of his divorce
A man who is seen as worthless in the future
People will forcibly displace the King of the islands
He will be replaced by a Man who was never expected to be king.

According to Reading, this stanza, which the British public should be familiar with, has far-reaching implications. Foremost among them is that “Queen Elizabeth will die around 2022 at the age of 96”.

According to Reading, who died in 2017, the stanza suggests that King Charles will “tire of the constant attacks on him and his second wife” and give up the throne because “a certain part of the British population resents him for his divorce from Diana, Princess of Wales”.

Reading also says that by “the man who is not expected to be king” he means Prince Harry. In other words, according to this interpretation, Harry, not William, will take the throne after Charles.


Michel de Nostradame was born in Saint-Remy-de-Provence in 1503. He was Catholic, but there were Jews in his family. Turning this feature into an advantage, Nostradamus said that he inherited the natural prophetic instinct from his ancestors.

He worked as a traveling pharmacist in his youth. It was a time when people were struggling with the plague and the need for medicine was great.

Historian Dan Jones compares Nostradamus’ time to today, saying, “There were great social divisions and disasters then too. At the same time, the printing press had just been invented, making it extremely easy to spread both valuable ideas and crazy nonsense. The printing press was the social media of those days.”

Nostradamus began to use this new medium to spread his ideas. From 1550 onwards, he began publishing yearbooks containing prophecies. He started writing Les Propheties in 1554. He aimed to summarize the future history of the world in 1000 quatrains. These 1000 quatrains were divided into 10 centuries.

In this engraving, Nostradamus uses his magic mirror to tell Catherine de' Medici his predictions about the King
In this engraving, Nostradamus uses his magic mirror to tell Catherine de’ Medici his predictions about the King


Nostradamus, who became famous over time, became close friends with Catherine de’ Medici, the queen of France at the time.

After the death of the Queen’s husband Henry II, Nostradamus claimed to have predicted this sad event in the following quatrain:

The young lion will prevail over the old
In a single battle on the battlefield
He will pass through a golden cage and gouge out your eyes
The two wounds will become one and he will die a cruel death.

It was interpreted that these verses of Nostradamus pointed to a tournament in 1559. In this tournament, the spear of Gabriel, Earl of Montgomery, passed through the protective part of the front of the helmet that did not fit Henry II’s head properly and pierced the King’s eye, throat and temple. Henry II died 11 days later.

On the other hand, the authenticity of this prophecy was highly doubtful even at the time, as this stanza was not among the texts published before the King’s death.

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In this engraving, the King and Queen receive information from Nostradamus about the future of their 7 children.


Even more likely than Nostradamus predicting the death of King Henry II is the fact that later readers of his writings made the attribution. Steven Connor, professor of English at Cambridge University, explained this phenomenon to The Guardian:

“The purpose of prophecy is not to give you advance warning of share price fluctuations, but to confirm that an event was predictable. Predictions are only effective retrospectively. This is a kind of anticipatory hindsight. In other words, by the time you learn through prophecy what you could have known in advance, it is already too late.”

However, it is known that Nostradamus’ prophecy of at least his own death was accurate. It should be noted that Nostradamus, who said he would die the day before he died in 1566, was almost bedridden at the time due to arthritis, body edema and arteriosclerosis. In other words, it is possible to interpret Nostradamus’ words about his death as a declaration of the obvious rather than a profound prophecy.

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Nostradamus’ house was turned into a museum and a street in his city was named after him


One of the most beautiful aspects of Nostradamus’ prophecies is that they provide the reader with the opportunity to interpret the texts as they wish.

Everett F. Blieler, author of “Prophecies and Enigmas of Nostradamus” published under the pseudonym Liberte E. LeVert, said that this ambiguity in the texts can be seen as charlatanism or as a flash of genius.

Speaking to The Guardian, Blieler said:

“The use of obfuscation and the avoidance of directness play an important role here. He was often absurd in his astrological dating, hence the repetition of conjunctions. He used obscure Latin words to create the possibility of double meanings. He did not use prepositions, objects, reflexive verbs and conjunctions, he left verbs as infinitives and did not conjugate person and tense, and he constructed texts that could be read in a variety of ways.”

Historian Dan Jones stated that these tactics used by Nostradamus were not unusual:

“Nostradamus combined the advantages of ambiguity with the fervor of revelation. This is not very unusual. Many seers since then, from Merlin to Geoffrey of Monmouth, have done the same. This ambiguity paves the way for what we today call ‘confirmation bias’. In times of despair, soothsayers find an audience ready to believe their ravings. This is the intersection of pessimism and credulity.”

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The Lost Tarot of Nostradamus” app published in the UK a few years ago


This last detail is crucial to understand why there is still so much interest in Nostradamus in our times. As Jones puts it, social media did not exist in the time of those prophets, but what they produced was very similar to what is popular on social media today. In addition, it is worth noting that Nostradamus’ prophecies have recently spread rapidly on social media.

In the words of the famous writer T.S. Eliot, humanity cannot bear too much reality. We want to find patterns, narratives and meaning in situations where life is inevitably chaotic, where disasters are piling up and the future is unpredictable.

“In times of great change or social anxiety, we look for explanations. We want the past and the future to form a meaningful narrative.” This is exactly what seers like Nostradamus do. They point out what we, ordinary people, have overlooked and put it into a meaningful flow.

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On the other hand, it is not possible to say that Nostradamus’ texts give the reader peace of mind. Moreover, there is constant talk of impending disasters, but the causes are never addressed. Steven Connor summarized this situation as “For Nostradamus, the price of knowing what is coming is that history loses its direction and coherence”. But the fast-growing Nostradamus industry is unaffected.

The quatrains are read over and over again, commenting on impending disasters. For example, “The price of wheat will be so high that man will eat man” is said to refer to the negative impact of the Ukrainian War on the grain trade. Of course, with this logic, cannibalism may become widespread, but that does not seem plausible.

Another current disaster allegedly predicted by Nostradamus is the climate crisis. The following verses are cited as evidence for this:

There will be no rainbows for forty years
To be seen every day for forty years
The dry land will get drier and drier, and when it does, there will be massive floods.

Of course, there is also the quatrain 5/23, which has been very popular lately:

Two rivals will meet
When most of the others are conjoined with Mars.
African leader will fear and tremble
The bilateral alliance will be divided by the fleet.

In his 2006 book, Reading interpreted these lines as “two powers coming together to fight global war”.

However, Reading’s son Laurie, who continues his father’s profession, has a different interpretation of Nostradamus’ words. According to Laurie Reading, with the phrase “African leader” Nostradamus was referring to South African-born tech billionaire Elon Musk and his plans to colonize Mars.

When the phrase “the light of Mars will go out”, which is part of another quatrain, is added to the quatrain in question, it is concluded that Musk will have to shelve his plans to move from Earth to Mars and will experience the end of the world here with us.

Let’s see where Musk’s Mars plans will be on 5/23, in May 2023…

Excerpted from the article “War in Ukraine, death of the Queen, Elon Musk … why are Nostradamus’s ‘predictions’ still winning converts?” published in The Guardian.



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