The year 1999, the 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 happily.
- Nostradamus, Century X, Quatrain 72
This summer, followers of the prophetic quatrains of Nostradamus are getting a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: to watch the possible fulfillment of a prophecy in action. The 444-year-old “King of Terror” quatrain, translated above, may be the most famous and controversial of Nostradamus’s verses, for two simple reasons: First, it is one of the few times that the sixteenth-century French seer explicitly mentioned a year, and secondly, it seems to suggest a foreboding world event in our near future.
Beyond that, however, there is very little agreement as to what the verse means. Nostradamus is notorious for obscuring his predictions in vague, cryptic language. Biased occult scholars battle one another with their versions of the “correct” interpretation, while skeptics argue that any of Nostradamus’s predictions could apply to many events in the past, present, and future. But the King of Terror quatrain offers a chance to set the record straight - to see if and how this startling prophecy will bear out in the real world.
Alarmists have interpreted this quatrain to mean the end of the real world is at hand - while other analysts point out that Nostradamus makes it clear elsewhere that it is not. The most conventional reading holds that the “great King of Terror” is Nostradamus’s vision of a third Antichrist - the first two being Napoleon and Hitler, both of whom Nostradamus is often credited with foreseeing. As for the destiny of the mysterious third Antichrist, experts point to the foreboding Century VIII, Quatrain 72: “The third Antichrist soon annihilates everything, 27 years of blood his war will last.”
But the Antichrist is only one interpretation out there. Others have suggested everything from a nuclear war to a comet or asteroid collision, the landing of a UFO mothership, or even the Second Coming of Christ. Or the word “Terror” could be a reference to terrorism. Still other scholars insist that the verse is harmless, and far too esoteric to be taken literally.
In fact, about the only predictable thing that’s happened so far is that the prophecy itself has already inspired cases of premillennial wackiness worldwide. To wit:
¥ Nostradamus fever is brimming in Japan, where a university survey revealed that one in five Japanese believe at least somewhat in Nostradamus’s predictions, according to Reuters. Sales of end-of-the-world books and bomb shelters are on the rise, spiked by a TV segment called “Noah’s Comedy Ark,” in which two Nostradamus-believing comics portray inhabitants of an underground survival shelter.
¥ In May, Paris designer Paco Rabanne, famous for his dresses of recycled paper, declared that his July 11 fashion show would be his last. Rabanne takes the King of Terror to mean the Russian space station Mir, which he believes will fall from orbit, detonate a plutonium bomb inside itself, and destroy Paris on August 11. (More on this date in a moment.) Rabanne’s theory gained an ounce of credence when Russia announced it would let Mir’s orbit decay this year.
¥ Vancouver conspiracy theorist Alfred Webre told Wireless Flash in June that the King of Terror might be NASA’s Cassini space probe, which is scheduled to fly over Earth on August 18. Webre believes that the Cassini mission is actually a plot by the Freemasons and the Bilderbergers to explode a nuclear bomb over Earth in order to create a New World Order.
Maze of Interpretation
But before rushing to simplistic conclusions about who or what the great King of Terror is, prophecy followers should closely examine the complexity of the entire quatrain. For starters, there’s the deceptively vague date: “The year 1999, the seventh month.”
The first half of this seems straightforward, and “the seventh month” conventionally means July. However, Nostradamus’s original French phrase “sept mois,” might also be an abbreviation for “September.” Several researchers also speculate that the astrologer was working on a different calendar, and may have been referring to various dates in modern-day August. In essence, the entire period of July, August, and September is widely considered to be the zone of significance for this prophecy.
That’s just the beginning of the confusion. The “King of the Mongols” passage in line 3 is often thought to refer to the thirteenth-century Asian emperor Gengis Khan, also known as the “King of Terror.” This suggests the emergence of an Antichrist or enemy from the Far East, as a direct result of the great King of Terror’s descent. (Right away, this interpretation would rule out an immediate end-of-the-world scenario.) Given the tense situation between China and the U.S. this spring, the idea of more conflict from there is admittedly not implausible.
Meanwhile, Nostradamus’s closing reference to a happily reigning Mars, the god of war, is usually taken to mean that war will precede and/or follow the King of Terror event.
One of the most thorough (and harrowing) interpretations of the quatrain comes from psychic and radio host Sean David Morton. In a nutshell, Morton believes that the prophecy may tell of a nuclear confrontation between Pakistan and India around July 23, which will galvanize an alliance between China (representing the “King of the Mongols”) and the Islam world (the “King of the Mogols” - perhaps a bit of Nostradamus wordplay). Among Morton’s evidence: The father of the Pakistani nuclear movement is named Akbar Khan; and, Morton says, Khan has been pictured in every Indian newspaper under the heading, “King of Terror.”
On August 11, the world will witness this millennium’s last total eclipse of the sun. Remarkably, the sun’s shadow will pass right through the heart of France - which would make it an eclipse of particular significance to Nostradamus. Authors Alan Vaughan and Stefan Paulus have pointed to Century III, Quatrain 34, as a clue to understanding the King of Terror:
When the eclipse of the Sun will be,
At noon day the monster will be seen,
Everyone will differ on the interpretation,
High price unguarded: none will have prepared.
It’s debatable whether this passage relates to the King of Terror, but if it does, it suggests that the “King” may be literally visible in the sky on August 11. On the other hand, Nostradamus scholar Stephen Skinner maintains that the August eclipse may merely be a symbolic precursor to the Antichrist’s “arrival.”
And there is no shortage of prophetically significant dates for the remainder of August. For starters, August 13, 1999, is gaining attention on the New Age scene as the so-called Aztec “Day of Destiny,” a “profound turning point in human history,” writes John Mini in his book Day of Destiny. (On a more mundane level, the day is also a Friday the Thirteenth.) And astrologers note that August 18 is the date of a rare cross-shaped alignment of planets known as a Grand Cross. Some Internet pundits have noted a correlation between the signs and symbols of the Grand Cross and the imagery in the Book of Revelation.
From the Sky
In his book Nostradamus 1999, Stefan Paulus argues that the King of Terror will be an unknown comet, which may approach the Earth from the inner solar system and become visible from Earth during the August 11 eclipse - by which time it would be too late. While this Deep Impact-style hypothesis is a fashionable one, it’s not necessarily the most compelling, mainly because it is extremely unlikely.
Besides, the comet theory begs comparison to a possible threat from space that we already know about: The Cassini probe, which will slingshot around Earth en route from Venus to Saturn on August 18 - the same day as the Grand Cross.
We bounced the Cassini/ King of Terror coincidence around the FATE office as long ago as October 1997, when the probe’s launch sparked protests from environmentalists due to the 72 pounds of plutonium on board. Critics warned of this worst-case scenario: When Cassini swings around Earth at an altitude of only 500 miles, an unlikely trajectory error could result in the release of a disastrous amount of radiation into the atmosphere. A number of people have made the Cassini/Nostradamus connection since then, including conspiracy theorist Webre.
On the other hand, if Cassini is the great King of Terror, that doesn’t guarantee a disaster. The very approach of the plutonium-powered craft is likely to inspire dire protests this month, which may inspire a widespread case of the same condition that Nostradamus described: terror. As with any of the King of Terror candidates, it stands to reason that the incident might merely be terrifying, not harmful.
Clearly, anyone clinging to a single interpretation will likely be disappointed - or supremely relieved, depending on his or her point of view. Barring a completely unambiguous fulfillment of the prophecy, we can expect interpreters to battle for years in retrospect over what the not-so-great “King” might have been.
After all, the only Nostradamus prediction that has been fulfilled so far this year is a brief comment in Century III, Quatrain 34, shown above. As the third line of the quatrain notes, “Everyone will differ on the interpretation.”