Posted by dougW (184.108.40.206) on September 15, 2001 at 11:00:10:
In Reply to: M'shrooms posted by Christine on September 15, 2001 at 01:23:46:
from canadian press:
Nostradamus prophecy hoaxes on Net foster fear after U.S. disasters
Thursday, September 13, 2001
TORONTO (CP) - Almost five centuries after his death, the prophecies of Nostradamus have once again added an edge of superstitious fear to already terrifying tragedy.
Several e-mail messages circulated around the world Thursday claiming that the 16th century "prophet" had predicted the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington and that they would begin the Third World War. Even proponents of Nostradamus were quick to dismiss the electronic messages as a hoax, pointing out that the passages referred to were either jumbled together phrases from throughout the mystic's voluminous writings or completely fabricated.
"It is hard to understand why some people are using such a tragic event to spread more fear using the name of Nostradamus but unfortunately that is the case," read a notice posted at The Nostradamus Repository (www.nostradamus-repository.org), a site dedicated to his prophecies.
Under heavy traffic, the site was forced to close Thursday - and some bookstores said translations of Nostradamus were selling rapidly.
One e-mail missive circulated Thursday turned up as far away as Australia and Japan reading: "Here is an interesting quote from Nostradamus (1654): 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, two twin brothers torn apart by chaos/while the fortress falls the great leader will succumb/the third big war will begin when the big city is burning."
The first clue that the e-mail is a hoax - even assuming there was any validity to his "predictions" at all - is the fact that Nostradamus died in 1566, nearly a century before the message cites him as authoring the text.
"I think it's sad that people will use this opportunity to circulate these worthless and fraudulent writings of Nostradamus," said Benjamin Radford, managing editor of the U.S.-based Skeptical Enquirer, a magazine for the scientific examination of claims of the paranormal such as prophecy.
"This sort of thing happens after just about every big tragedy - psychics come out of the woodwork and claim that they predicted these things. This happened after Diana (Princess of Wales) was killed and after the Oklahoma City Bombing."
Tragedies tend to excite people and some vent that excitement - and fill an urge to participate - by circulating rumours, Radford said from his office in Buffalo, N.Y.
"In some way this is very similar to an urban legend - it's hard to tell if people are circulating these things actually believing them. The thing that I find disconcerting is when otherwise knowledgeable, reasonable people forward these things."
Nostradamus was born Michel de Nostredame - Nostradamus is a Latin translation of the name - in 1503 and became a French physician and astrologer, publishing his Centuries, a now-famous collection of prophecies, in 1555. In 1560, King Charles IX of France appointed Nostradamus as his court physician.
The rambling quatrains of the prophecies claim to predict international events from the time of their writing until the supposed end of the world in the year 3797.
Modern interpreters have seized on hundreds of passages from his writings to suggest the 16th-century writer predicted events such as the rise of Napoleon, the Second World War and the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
"He was clever enough to couch his quatrains in such vague terms that basically they're like Rorschach tests, they're just word ink blots and people read whatever they want into them," Radford said.
"I think a lot of people are on information overload in the wake of this. They're seeing the images and when there is this much information swirling around it's hard for people to differentiate between what is plausible and what isn't.
"There's a certain surrealism - not that it excuses it - but that helps lend some credibility to these Internet rumours, these quasi-urban legends."
Other now-famous e-mail hoaxes erroneously quoting him as a source include one that claimed this passage as referring to the election of George W. Bush: "In 1555, Nostradamus wrote: Come the millennium, month 12/In the home of greatest power/The village idiot will come forth/To be acclaimed the leader."
The actual passage, from the 16th-century French, is translated by Nostradamus scholar Erika Cheetham as:
"To a leader will be born an idiot heir/Weak both in knowledge and in warfare/The head of France is feared by his sister/Battlefields divided, conceded to the military."
Long before e-mail, Nostradamus' prophecies were used to instil fear: Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels created bogus Nostradamus predictions of a German victory to be dropped over England. The British in return cobbled together their own phoney Nostradamus quatrains to drop over Europe predicting an Allied victory.
"There's a desire among many people to believe that history is in some way set and the future is predetermined," Radford said.
"I think that in some ways the notion of prophecy comforts some people because it implies a set future where things will turn out O.K."
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