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Purported to have predicted the ascent of both Napoleon and Hitler, the atomic apocalypse on Japan, the assassination of J.F.Kennedy, and the twin tower attacks of September 11th 2001, Nostradamus stands out as a giant amongst prophets. Whispers of coming calamity from the pages of his five hundred year old writings still create mass panic today and turns bull markets into cowering bear markets internationally. But before he was a seer, Nostradamus was first a doctor.

Nostradamus began his illustrious career as a pharmacist in France, later retraining as a physician while still in his twenties. His life was unassuming. He married, had two children, ran a town pharmacy, and tended the sick. But the bubonic plague ended his halcyon days when it came to call on his town. Also known as The Black Death, it was so named because of black spots and patches of gangrene that would appear during demise. It was an agonizing death that dragged on for days with infernal fever and painful groin and armpit abscesses that belched pus onto the afflicted person's skin. This killer that we know today to be a bacteria, Yersinia pestis, invaded Nostradamus' home ending the lives of his wife and children. And the old Nostradamus was buried with them. 

A new Nostradamus, obsessed with the occult, rose from the ashes of his life. Perhaps seeking a way to reconnect with his lost loves, he wandered across Europe, a sad spectacle, for over a decade. He devoted himself to the study of mystical arts, the Kabbalah, divination, and astrology during his quest before returning home to France.  

In 1555, Nostradamus put fountain pen to paper and emerged from obscurity. He titled his great work "The Prophecies", a collection of one thousand dire predictions of cataclysm, disaster, disease, and death formatted into four line rhyming quatrains like deadly poetry. When one of his verses seemed to predict the death of King Henry II of France prior to its occurrence, his fame ignited across Europe. 

Nostradamus described his method of peering into the future: “sitting alone at night in secret study, it is placed on the brass tripod. A slight flame comes out of the emptiness and makes successful that which should not be believed in vain. The wand in the hand is placed in the middle of the tripods legs. With water he sprinkles the hem of his garment and his foot. A voice, fear, he trembles in his robes. Divine splendor, the god sits nearby.” 

Modern skeptics believe Nostradamus to be more a profiteer than prophet. His books were best sellers of the day, and he even inveigled a stipend for life from Catherine de Medici  (wife of Henry II) to pursue his personal interests (what today is crudely known as f*ck you money). One of the leading criticisms of his work is that they are only predictive after an event and are likely back fitted interpretations. No one has been able to use any quatrain from Nostradamus to predict an event accurately, only postdict with hindsight. His writings are nebulous, obfuscated with anagrams, and read like riddles. Much as we can see faces in random clouds, we may be reading more into Nostradamus than is really there.  

But from the other corner, consider this quatrain that portends of the September 11th twin tower attacks (according to supporters): “a fire from the centre of the earth will shake the towers of the new city; as a result, two great rocks fight a long war.” Proponents claim “fire from the centre of the earth” is a reference to the petroleum pumped from the earth into the jets which ignited when they crashed into the International Trade Centre towers; “new city” being an obvious referral to New York City, and “two great rocks” representing Islam and Christianity. Uncanny, or chicanery? You decide.

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