Nostradamus’ followers credit the 16th-century French physician with predicting the assassination of John F Kennedy and the rise of Adolf Hitler to power. Many conspiracy theorists have now claimed Nostradamus even warned the world of the coronavirus pandemic in 1555.
Michele de Nostredame, or Nostradamus, was a French apothecary and writer whose life has been mostly shrouded in mystery. In 1555 he published a tome of predictions and prophecies, Les Propheties, penned in the form of four-lined poems or quatrains.
The quatrains are incredibly vague and there is no credible evidence to support their supposed accuracy. Nostradamus’ followers, however, often spin the passages into into-full blown prophecies with wild interpretations and loose connections to historical events.
Did Nostradamus predict the coronavirus and COVID-19 pandemic?
Conspiracy theorists have taken to social media in past weeks to draw links between Nostradamus and the ongoing pandemic. One person said on Twitter: “Nostradamus predicted 2020 #coronavirus”
Another Twitter user said: “I think Nostradamus or was it the Mayan calendar predicted all this #coronavirus”
A third person said: “If you never read or even heard of the Book of Nostradamus, you should look into it, he’s predicted so many things… including the coronavirus.”
The claims are often misleading or based on hoaxes and manufactured prophecies.
But there are a few instances in which Nostradamus did write of plague and death in the future.
In Century 2, Quatrain 53, he wrote:
“The great plague of the maritime city
Will not cease until there be avenged the death
Of the just blood, condemned for a price without crime,
Of the great lady outraged by pretence.”
The coronavirus appeared in China’s Wuhan City last November and has spread across the globe since. Wuhan in Hubei Province is a landlocked city so it is doubtful the quatrain can be linked to the outbreak.
There have also been many plagues before the coronavirus, such as the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918. The Spanish Flu was a much deadlier threat, killing up to an estimated 50 million people.
If Nostradamus truly warned the world of a pandemic, why would it be coronavirus? According to Brian Dunning, a popular sceptic and host of the Skeptoid podcast, no one has ever used a Nostradamus quatrain to explain real-world events.
He argued it takes a great deal of hindsight and biased interpretation to fill out the gaps. He said on his podcast: “Michel de Nostredame was truly one of the brilliant lights of his day, but to subscribe to false stories and urban legends is to disrespect who the man actually was.
“Appreciate his contributions to medicine and Renaissance literature, and don’t trivialize his good works in favour of a pretended history of paranormal magical powers.”