Apr 17, 2012

Prophets and Prophecies - Part Seven

Perhaps the most famous prophecies of all time are the prophecies of Nostradamus.

Michel de Nostredame was born at midday on 14 December 1503 in the town of St. Remy-en-Crau. His grandfather, Jean de Saint-Remy, was physician and astrologer to the exiled court of King Rene of Anjou.

He was first educated at home by his grandfather, but later attended school in Avignon, and from there went on to study medicine at the University of Montpellier. After qualifying as a physician, he set out through southern France, wandering as far west as Bordeaux and as far east as Savoy, treating patients as he went and earning a reputation as a plague doctor.

He returned to Montpellier in 1529 to receive his doctorate, but by 1533 he was on his travels again, and by 1536 he had settled in Agen – about 60 miles southeast of Bordeaux – where he married, sired two children and established a medical practice. Two years later he was summoned before the Inquisition in Toulouse; on his return he found his wife dead of the plague, and both children died soon after. By 1545 he had returned to Marseille, and in 1547 he married a wealthy widow and moved to Salon, not very far from his birthplace, where he lived for the rest of his life.

From this time on he devoted himself to writing: at first, pharmacological treatises, and a handbook on jams, jellies and conserves. Soon, however, he turned his attention to the occult arts that his grandfather had practised, and began to publish a series of almanacs with predictions for the coming year.

The work that was to establish a reputation that has survived to the present day was Les Propheties de Me. Michel Nostradamus, in 353 verse quatrains. It aroused great interest, and the following year Nostradamus was summoned to the French court by the queen, Catherine de Medicis, who was deeply interested in the occult. He remained in Paris for about a month, during which time he cast horoscopes for the royal children and for many others; but, learning that the Paris magistrates were anxious to question him about his sources of information, he returned to Salon. There he continued the writing of his verse prophecies.

His quatrains were divided into sets or ‘Centuries’ of 100 verses, and in 1557 a further 387, numbers IV-54 to VII-40, were inserted in a new edition of the Propheties. In the following year, the final three Centuries, making 940 quatrains in all, were published as a separate volume. The missing 60 quatrains were published in 1568, two years after his death.

Every Nostradamus quatrain represents an individual prophecy. They are not presented in any obvious chronological order and each must be interpreted individually. In archaic French, full of misprints, oddly punctuated and filled with obscure anagrammatic references, this is very difficult. Every successive generation discovers something that appears to be significant, and surprising coincidences have been recorded.

On of the most dramatic occurred soon after the 1558 publication. In a dedication to the French king, Henry II, Nostradamus had written (VI-70):

Head of the world shall be the great Chyren-
Plus ultra after – loved, feared, respected:
His fame and renown shall rise above the heavens,
And with sole title victor well content.

‘Chyren’ is an anagram for ‘Henry C’, and Ne plus ultra was the personal motto of the Emperor Charles V.

Unfortunately for Henry, he took part the following year (against the advice of a horoscope drawn up for him by Luca Gaurico) in a joust at the wedding of his sister. The lance of Montgomery, the captain of the Scottish Guard, broke on the king’s golden helmet, and a piece penetrated Henry’s eye and brain. He died ten days later.

Very soon, another Nostradamus quatrain (I-35) was being quoted:

The young lion shall overcome the old,
On field of war in single combat,
In a cage of gold his eyes shall be pierced,
Two knells for one, then die a cruel death.

This apparently accurate prediction assured Nostradamus’s reputation.

Not much is known about his later life, although the Queen is reputed to have kept in touch with him. In 1565 the new young king, Charles IX, stopped in Salon and insisted on meeting Nostradamus; Catherine, who was with the king, requested more prophecies, and the king presented him with a pension and the title of medecin et conseiller ordinaire du roi (doctor and ordinary adviser of the king).

Nostradamus did not live long to enjoy his pension, dying of dropsy on 1 July 1566. He was rumoured to have been buried upright so that the citizens of Salon could not defile his grave with their feet, but this has been disproved by excavation.

Since that time countless editions of the prophecies have been published, and each generation has found quatrains which appear to predict current events. Quatrains have been identified as predicting the outbreak of World War II and the rise of Hitler, the atom bomb, the purges of Stalin in Russia, the assassination of John F. Kennedy, and much more. However, a detailed study of the verses of Nostradamus reveals that he wrote mostly about the France that he knew, occasionally about England and Scotland, the Mediterranean countries and central Europe.

Generation after generation of Nostradamus enthusiasts have supposed that the quatrains, not matter how obscure their contents, must be regarded as genuinely prophetic. It is conceivable, however, that he composed them with tongue in cheek, and that he was well aware that there is an enduring market for prophecies – particularly for veiled ones.

If you’d like to explore the Prophecies of Nostradamus more fully, you can find the full text HERE

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