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Is Nostradamus real?

Obviously Nostradamus the man is real. He lived in France in the 16th century and wrote prolifically for about 20 years. His prophecies have been in near continuous publication since then. So, we know Nostradamus is real. But is he for real?

Obviously, The First Face of Janus is a work of fiction. Nostradamus and his prophecies are used as a vehicle for an intriguing premise, that Nostradamus’ predictions continue to come to fruition through the aid of a secret society. I have been excoriated a time or two for essentially dabbling in witchcraft. Some of these detractors ask me, “You don’t really believe Nostradamus predicted the future, do you?” That’s a very interesting question.

When I ponder the question I can’t really come up with an answer. My initial reaction is to totally dismiss Nostradamus as nothing more than a roadside psychic, someone who managed to snooker the people of his time and still does to this day. However, some of his predictions seem to have come true.

It’s difficult to separate fact from legend, but during Nostradamus’ self-imposed exile to Italy he supposedly came upon some Franciscan monks and identified one among them as the future pope. One of the monks was a man named Felice Peretti. Peretti became Pope Sixtus V in 1585. Did the chance encounter really happen? Who knows?

The prediction that supposedly put Nostradamus on the map was this one.

Century One, Quatrain 35

The young lion will overcome the older one, in a field of combat in single fight: He will pierce his eyes in their golden cage; two wounds in one, then he dies a cruel death.

As the legend goes, Catherine de’ Medici, who was married to French King Henry II, was told by Nostradamus that this quatrain predicted her husband’s death. Three years later, King Henry was seriously injured in a jousting match when the lance of his opponent splintered and pierced his eye through his visor. The king suffered 10 cruel days before he died.

Skeptics say the quatrain in question was actually first printed in 1614, fifty-five years after the king died. It’s almost impossible to determine the truth.

And so go the predictions of Nostradamus. Believers believe. Skeptics don’t. There is no scientific way to analyze the prophecies of Nostradamus. Interpretations are subjective. That’s what makes the premise of The First Face of Janus work. The zealots believe with every fiber of their being. Their religious counterparts are just as zealous in their skepticism.

It could be that Nostradamus’ quatrains are an empty vessel into which people pour the truth. As one of the characters in The First Face of Janus points out, his predictions could be like clouds and we only imagine them as the shapes of whatever we want to see.

The interesting and undisputed truth is over 200 editions of his work have been printed since his death. There’s obviously something there that continues to intrigue human beings. There are entire institutions dedicated to studying his works. Pretty impressive for an obscure doctor from the South of France.

Are the prophecies of Nostradamus real? That’s the question that’s been asked for 500 years. And we continue to search for the answer.


Phil Valentine is an award-winning talk show host, screenwriter, and documentary producer. His radio show is syndicated with Westwood One.

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