As part of the lead-up to Centre for Inquiry Ottawa's Eschaton 2012 conference, Celebrating Reason at the End of the World, we are pleased to present Apocalypse When, a series covering some of the many eschatological visions and scenarios that have gained or maintained popularity over the centuries.
- Islamic: Taste the Doom of Fire
- Buddhist: The Dwarf Somalia
- Raëlian: Waiting Room Battle Royale
- Zoroastrian: Hot, Sticky Justice
- Death by Comet Flatus
- The Surf Shop at the End of the World
- Norse: Wolves and Snakes and Eyjafjallajökull, Oh My!
- Y2K: Your Mother Smelled of Subroutines
- Left Behind: Romania Will Rise Again
- Revelation: Thrust In Thy Sharp Sickle
- Nostradamus: Unspecified Event at Unknown Time with Voluptuous Edith
- Mayan: This Magic Skull Goes All the Way to…Zero
Apocalypse #11: Unspecified Event at Unknown Time with Voluptuous Edith
Of all the figures to get famous making predictions about the future, none stands taller than Michel de Nostredame, better known as Nostradamus. This French (no relationship to Claude "Raël" Vorilhon, probably) almanac writer, medical assistant, and amateur astronomer wrote 1,013 prophetic verses that have not ceased, in the 450+ years since his death, to inspire credulous granfalloons to align events to them after they've happened.
One would expect prophecies to be useful before things happen, but whatever. If one has read Nostradamus's incoherent ramblings, one knows that getting useful information out of them is kind of like squeezing apple juice out of oranges. It's just not in there, and one is liable to burn out one's eyes and start laughing at oneself if one tries.
Here's one chosen at random, since the 1,013 verses are presented in no particular order and were meant to be 1200 before some publisher errors cut out most of the last two sets:
- Amongst several transported to the isles,
- One to be born with two teeth in his mouth
- They will die of famine the trees stripped,
- For them a new King issues a new edict.
- (Century 2, Quatrain 7)
Which isles? There are thousands. Which king? It'd have to be one who still has decree power, which does narrow it down. Which edict? This king will, presumably, make more than one. More importantly, Nostradamus obeyed the One Rule of Pretending to Know the Future: don't tell people when.
So maybe the next Sheikh of Bahrain, facing a famine in one of the world's wealthiest archipelagos for some reason, will issue an edict that all non-synthetic pants are to be confiscated for food? Perhaps the Sultan of Brunei will drive his also fabulously wealthy people to starvation by replacing his agriculture ministry with a new body devoted to pinning even more medals on his uniform? Will the Tongans finally descend into theocracy and proceed to starve within a few years on their tropical, nigh-unfarmable paradise? Which is it, Michel? Which is it?
Except, of course, when he totally did put in a time reference:
- The year 1999, seventh month,
- From the sky will come a great King of Terror:
- To bring back to life the great King of the Mongols,
- Before and after Mars to reign by good luck.
- (Century 10, Quatrain 72)
This verse is the standard one trotted out to "prove" that Nostradamus was able to predict the future, since John. F. Kennedy, Jr. was on a plan that crashed in July 1999. Also, a space shuttle exploded in August 1999, which is close to September 1999, which might be what "seventh month" means if Nostradamus's guiding stars are using the old Roman calendar. Either way, Zombie Genghis Khan didn't rise from his grave and lead a renewed Golden Horde to kneeling before the Red Planet, which is apparently also a king now, so I'm not sure what all the fuss is about.
But what does this have to do with the end of the world?
Well, after learning of the significance of 21 December 2012 to the Maya, some enterprising conspiracy nuts decided to poke through the quatrains and found this:
- Sun twentieth of Taurus the earth will tremble very mightily,
- It will ruin the great theater filled:
- To darken and trouble air, sky and land,
- Then the infidel will call upon God and saints.
- (Century 9, Quatrain 83)
- For the pleasure of the voluptuous edict,
- One will mix poison in the faith:
- Venus will be in a course so virtuous
- As to becloud the whole quality of the Sun.
- (Century 5, Quatrain 72)
Apparently keeping in mind that the quatrains are in no particular order, these hooligans turned that mess of random phrases into an apocalypse of earthquakes ("earth will tremble") apparently slated for later in the same year that Venus transited ("as to becloud") the sun, a rare and amazing astronomical event that took place earlier this year. And then turned "later that same year" into 21 December 2012. Even though nothing whatsoever links the two quatrains and they are based ultimately on the ramblings of a 16th-century amateur astrologer and an equally spurious eschaton from a culture that fell from its prime around that time.
I, for one, am more interested in this Voluptuous Edith…oh. Edict. Allow me to compose myself. Apparently, in Nostradamus World, edicts can be voluptuous and are pleased by "mixing poison in the faith," whatever the heck that means, and also a few cheap shots at non-Christians counts as predicting the future. Maybe Michel got a little stoned on Revelation before he wrote those two.
Allow me to close with another random quatrain:
- "Meysnier, Manthi" and the third one that will come,
- Plague and new affront, to tourble the enclosure:
- The fury will bite in Aix and the places thereabout,
- Then those of Marseilles will want to double their evil.
- (Century 11, Quatrain 91)
Remind me to be in Marseilles when the world ends. A two-for-one special on extra-sinful Voluptuous Ediths is not something to be missed. Especially when the tourbling starts.