Nostradamus and his quatrains: From the legends to Assassin’s Creed
Hephaestus, November 8, 2014
Translated by: Stefania

In these last days before the release of Assassin’s Creed Unity, a series of information, coming from the official channels and not from miscellaneous leaks, made us think and theorize, generating the “last theory” before we got the game.

The main subject we are going to analyze concerns one of the most intriguing side quests of the whole game: the Nostradamus Enigmas. These side quests, which touch upon a very thorny topic in the Assassin’s Creed lore, in other words the predictions of future events (the “Calculations” often mentioned by TWCB), got a considerable importance after Ubisoft revealed the content concerning these missions. This content connects certain elements that seemed to have been forgotten by Ubisoft itself… and that, instead, seem to have made a comeback.

The theory we are going to analyze needs to start from another character, extremely famous, who will be used as an introduction to all the events, and who connects the events of Nostradamus with one of the most mysterious PoEs, a PoE divided in two “Books”...

We have already been cryptic enough. Let’s start with ATA’s last “Pre-Unity” theory.

The legend of Nicolas Flamel

Our theory must take into consideration no less than Nicolas Flamel, a man who, in AC, is connected with a couple of TWCB’s objects/technologies, but we are only interested in one of them.

Nicolas Flamel (1330 – 1418) was a French scribe, bookseller and, according to certain legends, alchemist.

The legend of Flamel the alchemist, which begun after his death, when rumours started about the fact that he succeeded at two of the main goals of alchemy, the creation of the Philosopher’s Stone and the immortality, is based firstly on one of his 17th-century works, Le livre des figures hiéroglyphiques ("Book of hieroglyphic figures"), published in Paris in 1612 and, as Exposition of the Hieroglyphical Figures, in London in 1624.

It is a collection of drawings, heavily influenced by the alchemic symbology, for a tympanum at the Cimetière des Innocents, in Paris. In the introduction Flamel's efforts during the search for the Philosopher's Stone are described. According to the introduction, during those years Flamel was trying to understand the contents of a mysterious 21-page book he had purchased after a dream in which an angel had visited him, showing him the book. Flamel, around 1378, travelled to Spain, according to some sources en route to Santiago de Compostela, for assistance with the translation of this book.

On the way back, it’s said that he met a sage who identified the book as being a copy of the ancient grimoire "The Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage". Over the next few years, Flamel and his wife Perenelle, thanks also to the study of Cabalistic texts and some texts in Hebrew, allegedly were able to decipher the content, obtaining the legendary Philosopher’s Stone, which turns base metals into gold, and the Elixir of Life. It’s said that they were able to produce silver first in 1382, and then gold.

The legend became very famous in the following years, and references to Flamel’s alchemic exploits can be found even in one of the journals by Isaac Newton (who was also interested in Alchemy and Hermetic practices) in which he mentioned "the Caduceus, the Dragons of Flammel".

In the Assassin’s Creed plot, after obtaining the Grimoire and going back to Paris, Flamel separated the two tomes of the book during his continuous search for the secret of the Philosopher’s Stone. The two volumes, “True Magic" and “Divine Science", later ended up in the hands of various owners over the centuries, until the late 1800s, when they were reunited for a short time.

The tomes were unadorned and both had a silvered cover with three symbols, and were made up of blank pages. However, looking at those pages mysteriously recreated in the mind of people the real content of the book…

The origins of the “Book of Abraham”

The book “The Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage”, in Assassin’s Creed is known as “Book of Abraham", from Abraham of Würzburg (or of Worms according to other interpretations), and included the knowledge acquired thanks to the teaching of the Egyptian mage Abramelin, his Master.

The Book is clearly an artifact of the First Civilization, or more likely, only the pages were artifacts of the TWCB era, since they mainly were the ones interacting with the brain of the subject, literally transferring formulas and knowledge inside the mind. These formulas transferred inside the brain “lasted” like a real memory, and could linger in the mind for a few moments or be almost permanent.

Historically, to start from the oldest sources about the Book, we must begin from the man who gave his name to the book, that is Abraham of Würzburg, a German Jew presumed to have lived between 1362 and 1458.

In reality the Book is framed as an epistolary novel, in which Abraham reveals Abramelin's magical and Cabalistic knowledge to his son Lamech, and how he acquired them.

Abraham tells how he found Abramelin the Mage, who was living in the desert outside the Egyptian town of Arachi (or Araki), on the banks of Nile river. Abramelin is described as a “venerable aged man”, who discussed nothing but "the Fear of God”, “leading a well-regulated life”, and “the evils of the acquisition of riches and goods.”

While Abraham was staying with Abramelin, the latter extracted a promise from him that he would give up his "false dogmas" and live in the way and law of the Lord, and then he gave Abraham two ancient manuscript books to copy for himself, asking for ten gold florins, telling him to give those copies to the 72 poorest people of Arachi.

About fifteen days later, after he distributed the copies of the book to the poor persons of Arachi, Abramelin extracted another oath from Abraham to "serve and fear the Lord” before letting him leave, and then it’s said that he gave him the “Divine Science” and the “True Magic” books, which were “embedded” within the two original manuscripts, which he was to follow and give only to those whom he knew well, or those whom he considered worthy.

The Book, being a PoE, shows to the subject only what the subject wants to know and each translation of the book is only a work generated by the “subjective” vision that potentially changes from translator to translator, although it contains a priceless knowledge. Only the original tomes, in addition to coming from the TWCB era, are really important, since their true potential is still unexpressed.

The Book after Flamel

Going back to talking about the path the Book took, by then split in two parts, we know that around 1520, the Swiss physician and alchemist Philippus Aureolus Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim (often “inexplicably” abbreviated to Bombastus or also known as Paracelsus) held possession of the book True Magic, and kept it in his laboratory in Basel.

Poor Johan after the overexposure to the Book
One day, after reading the book, Paracelsus’ apprentice, Johan, went mad, starting to mumble phrases like "My mind is a small, small cup. Overfilled! Bursting! Cracked!”, and other phrases apparently without any meaning. Johan’s madness was caused by a too-prolonged exposure to the book all at once. In order to avoid this problem, Bombastus often read the Book with his hands at the sides of his eyes as blinders.

When his friend Giovanni Borgia, an Assassin with a small concentration of First Civilization’s DNA in his blood, in 1520 read the book’s pages and was able to understand the formulas and symbols inside, being enlightened by that knowledge, he wrote down the formula he had seen. Soon after, following the instructions and the notes he just wrote down, he and Bombastus discovered the formula to craft the Philosopher’s Stone.

In 1527, Giovanni returned to Bombastus to ask further questions, none of which Bombastus answered. Giovanni thought the Book held the answers he wanted, but Bombastus confessed that it was incomplete, and that he would need "the other half."

So Giovanni began to research at the University Library of Basel, together with one of Bombastus’ apprentices, Maria Amiel, who several years later became his wife. They discovered that the Book was one of a pair of tomes belonged to a French alchemist, the aforementioned Nicolas Flamel, and that it contained the knowledge and the teachings of Abraham of Würzburg. The Tomes were indeed “True Magic” and “Divine Science".

The two travelled to the Louvre to search for the second manuscript and discovered that the nephew of Perenelle Flamel, Jacques Henri, had inherited a grimoire. They searched the man’s house, and, in the end, after buying the grimoire for a small amount of money, they discovered that it had been "translated by human hands", and that only the original book would really have been useful.

The Grimoire, real translation of Divine Science, contained teachings similar to the ones of Pythagoras and of ancient Hermetic practices, leading Giovanni, years later, to connect everything with the Temple of Pythagoras, which had been explored around twenty years before by Ezio Auditore and Leonardo da Vinci in 1506.

The fact that the translation of one of the two Books had something to do with Hermetic and Pythagorean practices suggests that the original book itself contained this type of knowledge, so Book and Pythagoreans/Hermeticists were connected by the same kind of TWCB knowledge.

Inside the Temple of Pythagoras, when Ezio and Leonardo visited it in 1506, shortly before the Pythagorean Vault, we see a huge squared room, which, according to Leonardo’s word, had something to do with the concept of “Fire of Knowledge”, that had a big circular glyph in the middle, lines carved on the ground that lead to it and a riddle for the next room, which could be unlocked by activating four levers present in the level. These levers activated some mechanisms that lit some braziers placed high up that ignited the lines carved on ground, probably filled with a combustible material.

These fire, once it reached the central glyph, lit 5 symbols on the ground, symbols that, unlike all the other ones we have seen in the DLC, weren’t of “human nature”, but TWCB symbols, which might originate from the knowledge that Pythagoras himself acquired when he received one of the Staves of Eden, which we call “The Caduceus”, from a man who went by the name of Hermes Trismegistus.

Take a look at the greatest (he was called “the thrice greatest Hermes” for a reason) member of TWCB ever created in AC!

That man probably wasn’t physically the real Hermes Trismegistus, who was a member of TWCB, but it’s been theorised for years that Hermes himself found a way to survive the passing of time, “installing himself” in the body of people, exactly as Consus did with Giovanni Borgia and perhaps with William Robert Woodman. [Hephaestus’ note: According to other old, valid theories, exactly due to the similar behaviour of Consus and Hermes, it’s possibile that they actually were the same member of TWCB, and potentially he may still be alive nowadays...]

Getting back to the Symbols of the Temple of Pythagoras, we can take a better look at them below, recreated in an image made ad hoc by our Simonsens (the symbols are reflected compared to the original ones… but for a reason.)

Who always keeps himself informed about the news of Assassin’s Creed Unity and has a very good photographic memory, probably now is jumping out of the seat, because one of these symbols, the first on the right, appeared in 2010 in Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood, and probably forgotten by the major part of fans, “re-emerged” some weeks ago in a screen of Assassin’s Creed Unity!

And if one of these 5 symbols appeared, then let’s wait for the other 4

The image shows one of the side missions connected to a figure who wasn’t alive at the time of Unity, but who, in some way, left his mark in the city, that is Nostradamus.

These missions, which remind the old fans, due to their style, of the Glyphs from Assassin’s Creed II, show glyphs scattered around the city that are connected with the legendary quatrains of Nostradamus. Arno will have to find these symbols, and, analysing the quatrains of Nostradamus, will have to solve the mystery behind these symbols.

Since Nostradamus had something to do with the TWCB symbols, and since they were connected to the Pythagorean-Hermetic tradition, we can almost affirm that Nostradamus in some way was in possession or had something to do with a PoE or something by TWCB connected to the Hermeticists… or, why not, the second part of the Book, Divine Science...

[Hephaestus’ note: remember that the only two PoEs appeared in Assassin’s Creed until now and connected with the Pythagoreans/Hermeticists are Hermes Trismegistus’ Caduceus passed on to Phythagoras, and the Book split into two Tomes. Should another PoE appear connected to them, we couldn’t help but be happy.]

The Legend of Nostradamus arrives in Assassin’s Creed

Nostradamus, namely Michel de Nostredame (1503 – 1566), was a French astrologist, writer and pharmacist.

He’s considered to be one of the most famous and important writers of prophecies in history. He’s best known for his book Centuries et prophéties (1555), which contains rhymed quatrains, grouped in sets of 100. It’s said that his prophecies contain the events for the 2242 years following the publication, occurred in 1555, so until 3797.

For the “Centuries et prophéties” Nostradamus was inspired, after 1522, surely by the study of works like the “De honesta disciplina” (“On the right discipline”) of 1504 written by Pietro Baldi del Riccio, a 16th-century Florentine poet and humanist, which, in turn, included extracts from “De daemonibus” (“Concerning demons”), by Michael Constantine Psellos, a 11th-century Byzantine historian and philosopher, and from the “De Mysteriis Aegyptiorum”, “Concerning The Egyptian Mysteries” by Iamblichus Chalcidensis, who lived in the 3rd century A.C..

It’s interesting to notice that, in turn, Michael Constantine Psellos based his knowledge on a series of volumes of the original Corpus Hermeticum, the main text of the Hermetic doctrine. The Corpus Hermeticum is divided in two parts:

  • "Poimandres" - owned by Michael Constantine Psellos in 1050 and hidden until 1453;
  • "Asclepius" - already circulating during the Middle Age in the version credited to Lucius Apuleius (author of "Metamorphoses"), which is a treatise about talismanic magic in which the practices of Egyptian priests to give statues life, by means of the interaction with supernatural forces,are explained..

[Hephaestus’ note: "practices to give statues life, by means of the interaction with supernatural forces"... Who/what does this remind you of?]

“Why hello there!”

The Poimandres, on the other hand, was a collection of 14 manuscripts “dedicated” to Hermes Trismegistus, which Psellos gathered and collected around 1050 (the original Corpus dated back to the Ancient Egypt and it was believed that it existed even before Moses), but he removed from it any strict magical and alchemical reference, to avoid problems with the Church.

After four centuries, in 1453, the monk at the Medici court, Leonardo da Pistoia, found in Macedonia these texts. When he went back to the court in Florence, in 1460, he gave the Corpus to Cosimo de’ Medici, who asked Marsilio Ficino to translate it. Ficino himself, in the work he translated, said that Orpheus, Pythagoras and Plato were the greatest exponents of the ancient wisdom contained in the Corpus [Hephaestus’ note: perfectly in line with what we’ve seen in Assassin’s Creed]. To sum up, it’s believed that Ficino’s translation represented the rebirth of the Hermetic and Neoplatonic philosophy during the Renaissance.

Ending the excursus about the Corpus Hermeticum, it’s perfectly plausible that, exactly like in reality, Nostradamus had something to do with the Hermetic knowledge, also in the Assassin’s Creed universe. With the only difference that Hermeticism in Assassin’s Creed is strictly connected with TWCB and some PoEs…

Getting back to the prophecies, supporters of their reliability state that Nostradamus predicted an incredible number of historical events, among which the French Revolution (what a fortuitous coincidence…), the atomic bomb, Adolf Hitler’s rise to power, the attack of September 11, 2001. Nobody, however, ever proved to be able to extract from Nostradamus’ quatrains reliable data to predict the future. It’s believed, indeed, that all the prophecies of the quatrains are example of “retroactive clairvoyance”, in other words the quatrains are so deviously written that some reader, a posteriori, may connect them with a specific historical event happened after Nostradamus. In Assassin’s Creed, however, taking advantage of the concept of “Calculation”, that is the possibility of certain PoE of calculating, through probability, hypothetic futures, it's possible that some quatrains may be real visions of probable future events.

In Assassin’s Creed, to sum up, there’s nothing that directly has something to do with Nostradamus in the previous titles, but after these last assumptions, we can suppose that it has something to do with TWCB technologies connected with the Hermetic traditions, and we may also assume that after 1522, Nostradamus really held possession of the original Divine Science.

There’s another detail that may connect Nostradamus to the “Divine Science” book, but to get there we have to go on with the story of the Books, until the last documented event.

True Magic and Divine Science: From the Renaissance to the Modern Era

After the events of 1527 that saw Giovanni Borgia and his wife Maria Amiel (who had the book “True Magic” for a certain period of time) in search of the other book, we have an “empty” period of almost 60 years, till we see “re-emerging” traces of the Book “True Magic” probably in England, in 1582, in the hands of the very famous alchemists and mathematicians John Dee (1527-1608) and Edward Kelley (1555-1597).

Edward Kelley approached John Dee in 1582, initially under the name of Edward Talbot. Dee, who during those years probably was in possession of a Crystal Ball , already had tried to contact “the angels" with the help of a clairvoyant, but unsuccessfully. Kelley affirmed he was able to do that, and, after establishing a “spiritual contact", the two became immediately close. Dee and Kelley spent a great amount of time and energy in these “spiritual conferences". From 1582 to 1589 Kelley’s life was extremely connected to Dee’s.

According to a legend, one year after he started to work for Dee, around 1583, Kelley appeared with a “very ancient manuscript", known as “The book of Dunstan", an alchemic treatise credited to Saint Dunstan of Canterbury (909-988), which explained how to recreate, through formulas, the Red and White Powders, used for the Transmutation of Metals, along with two ivory caskets containing samples of these powders.

Kelley affirmed that, together with a certain John Husey (coming from Blockley, who in some sources is called, maybe mistakenly, John Blockley), he had “found” this book, led by a “spiritual creature", at Northwick Hill in the ruins of Glastonbury Abbey (Dunstan of Canterbury was the Abbot of Glastonbury). These sources, however, seem to be historically in contradiction with John Dee’s diaries, so at this point we can’t tell which of the two sources is reliable.

John Husey, mentioned only once in Project Legacy, in the memory called “Greed”, as "Master Husey", and identified as the person thanks to whom Kelley got the Book, seems to be a “very particular” person, and Dee himself, who seems to have met him in the past, told Kelley: "Your associate, Master Husey, the one who gave you the book... I dealt with him before, long ago. He cannot be trusted."

We don’t know Husey’s real alliance, but it’s possible that when he gave (or better “made discover") the Book to Kelley, he actually had another purpose...

With the powder (the secret of which was hidden in the book of Saint Dunstan) Kelley believed he could prepare a “red tincture" which would allow him to transmute base metals into gold. It’s said he demonstrated its power a few times over the years.

Considering certain particulars like the presence of Husey and the Red Tincture, it’s almost obvious to say that the Book of Saint Dunstan is nothing but one of the two Tomes of the Book of Abraham. It’s not exactly specified which of the two books. One might assume it’s “True Magic”, but there is no certainty. In fact, although little is known about the two Tomes, Kelley’s Book may also be “Divine Science”.

The success and the failure of Kelley
with Red tincture, from the memories
"Pride" and "Failure" of PL
In 1583, after spending years in England, at the court of Queen Elizabeth I, Dee and Kelley, while travelling through Central Europe, met Prince Albert Lasky, a Polish nobleman interested in alchemy. The two alchemists sought the patronage of Emperor Rudolf II in Prague and King Stefan I of Poland in Kraków. Apparently they failed to impress either monarch, so they continued living a nomadic life in Central Europe. However they kept holding their spiritual conferences, even if Kelley was apparently more interested in alchemy than in clairvoyance.

In 1586 Kelley and Dee found the patronage of a wealthy Bohemian count, Vilem Rožmberk, settled in the town of Trebon and continued their research.

In 1587, Edward Kelley and John Dee held possession of the Book for around 4 years. Kelley was able to transmute metals into gold thanks to the Red Tincture but Dee slowly started to notice the devastating negative effects that the Book had on the mind, especially on Kelley’s.

John Dee steals the book to try
and save Edward Kelley by madness
Noticing that Kelley had become obsessed with the Book, Dee attempted to convince him to give it up. As a result, the two once-close friends, started to gradually exacerbate their relationship, until in 1588 Dee stole the Book and left, not because of greed, but to save his friends from madness. When he left with the Book he met Kelley’s wife and then his adoptive daughter, a very young Elizabeth Jane Weston, who had with "Uncle John" (Dee) a beautiful relationship. The alchemist, sad because of how things had turned, before leaving told the young Elizabeth: "I am doing this for your father. The secrets it holds are not meant for him."

The following events, starting from Kelley’s first, and then continuous, disastrous transmutations without the help of the book and ending with his suicide and Dee’s revelation to his “nephew” Elizabeth Jane Weston, are part of Chapter 3 of Divine Science, dedicated to the latter. These events, although very interesting, are not useful for the narration we are following, so they’ll be omitted. However they are available in our Database, just follow the link above.

From 1588 both this Book and the other Tome disappeared, this time for a way longer period, until they “re-emerged” for the last documented time in the plot of Assassin’s Creed, between 1891 and 1901, in London, in the hands of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.

To narrate these events, we have to start from the memory of Project Legacy called “Sapere Aude”, part of the group of memories known as “Vincit Omnia Veritas”, (Truth conquers all), in which Frater V.O.V., also known as William Robert Woodman, tells (actually he’s not the narrator, but the situation is very complicated) how the Book, split in two Tomes, remained separated since the era of Bombastus and Giovanni Borgia, until they were mysteriously reunited in his era.

The one who is speaking is probably Consus, who, as previously mentioned, is able to survive “installing himself” in the body of a person, if the latter satisfies certain “prerequisites”.

[Hephaestus’ note: one might assume that Consus survived inside Giovanni Borgia up to William Woodman because probably Woodman is one of the descendants of Borgia, in this way he passed from a generation to another because he installed himself, from firstborn to firstborn, in the bloodline of Giovanni Borgia, keeping all the memories of the people who “had him as a guest”. And considering that Consus is talking directly to us, it seems that he’s technically “alive and kicking” nowadays.]

The memory, available in our Database, says:

“Let us go back a few months—a few months BEFORE my funeral. But first, remember Giovanni? Remember the book he sought with Maria in Paris?

Remember the other book? The one Giovanni stole from Bombastus' laboratory; the one in which the formula to turn base metal into gold materialized before his very eyes.

Well, as you know, Giovanni had only one part of the now rather famous "Book of Abraham." Unfortunately for him, he never found the original "Divine Science" part.

This is where it gets interesting. Many years later, toward the end of the nineteenth century, these ancient tomes resurfaced.

I won't bore you with a detailed history of these books. They changed hands so many times you'd only get confused, if not bored to death.

Besides, who would want to know? Well, actually, I'm sure THEY would. But, as you may have guessed, I don't work for them.

Back to our story. Somehow, the complete, original volumes containing Abraham's knowledge found their way into the hands of my good friend, Samuel Liddell Mathers.”

From this extract we come to know that the Book is in London, in the headquarters of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, in the hands of the aforementioned “Evoker of Spirits” Samuel Liddel MacGregor Mathers (1854 –1918). (Remember that Mathers was married with Moina Mathers, an Assassin, and both of them had Eagle Vision.)

Mathers wants to translate the two Tomes and sell them, both to let everyone know about them and obviously to gain money.

But the third member of the “Triumvirate” of the Hermetic Order, William Wynn Westcott, known as the “Praemonstrator”, thwarted the plan because he absolutely wanted to keep for them, and them alone, the secrets that the book contained. Westcott, at a certain point, tells Mathers:

“You cannot do this, Samuel!" [...] “Then why are you planning to publish it?" [...] “Yes, I know about your little scheme."

Here Woodman says that he, like Giovanni Borgia a while ago, had understood too that the Book’s translations were invaluable, but useless compared with the original Tomes.

These events will led to the death of that triumvirate, and to the death of the Order itself. Mathers’ secret plan, however, continued, and he was able to carry it out…

And here comes one of the things that personally I love the most in AC, that is when the game plot merges, with almost surgical precision, with real history. Indeed Samuel Mathers’ translation of the Book of Abraham is not only a narrative expedient, perfectly connected with the concept of “copy of the Book” that we previously have seen many times, because HE REALLY DID IT.

In fact Samuel Mathers, in 1900, really published his translation of “The Sacred Magic of Abramelin The Mage”, namely the Book of Abraham in Assassin’s Creed.

The two volumes of the Book remained in the hands of Mathers for the entire duration of the translation, but, at a certain point, the two tomes mysteriously disappeared.

The only image in Assassin’s Creed with the two volumes together is the one in the memory “Sapere Aude”. It also show a very interesting particular on the cover…

The “Book of Abraham”, finally reunited

The three Symbols that you can see on the Book, respectively a half moon, a circle and a cross, are nothing but the Symbol of Mercury (or Hermes), which it’s not by chance that is based on the stylised version of the Caduceus of Hermes Trismegistus, which, in turn, in Assassin’s Creed is one of the Staves of Eden.

[Hephaestus’ note: A very interesting detail is that the Caduceus has always been a symbol of equilibrium, and it’s even more interesting to notice that, in the same way, Hermes/Consus didn’t (doesn't) side either with Jupiter and Minerva or with Juno and Aita, but followed his own path, remaining neutral.]

But, going back to Nostradamus and Unity, where have we seen the Symbol of Mercury in Unity?

This symbol was connected with one of the secret accesses of Notre Dame, but we don’t know where actually these symbols come from and who put them there… and if Nostradamus was behind everything. Considering his connections with the Hermeticism, it wouldn’t be something completely unexpected after this theory.

It’s also possible that, in the end, in these Enigmas we’ll find references to other members of TWCB already mentioned in the Saga, in addition to Hermes/Mercurio/Consus [Jupiter, Minerva, Juno, Venus, Durga, Diana (maybe the third member of TWCB in AC The Fall), Aita, Eris (confirmed to be a member of TWCB in the Encyclopedia)].

In any case, we’ll soon have the answer and the confirmation/denial of our theory.

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