The Myth of Prophecy: Michel de Nostredame and the Perpetual End of Civilization

The Myth of Prophecy: Michel de Nostredame and the Perpetual End of Civilization

[photo credit: David Martínez]

Since finishing Richard Sieburth’s translation of Nostradamus’ ‘Prophecies’, I’ve been thinking about why these arcane verses have endured for centuries to tantalize the imagination of innumerable readers. It seems to me that the secret to his ongoing relevance as a soothsayer has less to do with Nostradamus actually having seen the future or written prophecies and more to do with the fact that he successfully generated the myth that his quatrains were prophetic. The real legacy of the ‘Prophecies’ then is the way in which they have inspired generations of Western interpreters, be they European or American, to comb over their every word, looking for signs of the downfall and collapse of their own civilization. As the member of a Jewish family forced to convert to Catholicism, it seems fitting that Nostradamus would become Christian civilization’s most prominent prophet of doom.

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