Michel de Nostredame was born in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, France in 1503. They were a middle-class family. His father was an attorney. Michel went to the University of Avignon when he was 15. There, he picked up the nickname “little astronomer.” The plague reemerged during this time and the university was closed and he was sent home.
He was interested in the stars and planets but also taught himself about plants and medicine and was able to work as an apothecary. He wanted to become a doctor but was kicked out of medical school when they found out he had been an apothecary. That version of “healing” was banned by the university, as was alchemy.
He had been focused on understanding and helping to cure the plague. It was still a major medical issue in his time, though the main epidemic had been during the 14th century. Some of Michel’s ideas about healing were more modern. For example, he believed that good hygiene was critical, and he was against the practice of bloodletting.
He was married and had children, but his wife and children died, probably of the plague. His second marriage was to a rich widow, and they had six children.
There are gaps in his life story, but he left medicine and turned more to the occult. In 1550, he wrote his first almanac which was filled with the annual predictions we still have in almanacs. It had weather predictions and annual predictions about celestial occurrences, some astrology, and also the kinds of prophecies he is best known for today. It was published under the name Nostradamus, a new Latinized version of his last name. The book was a big success, and he published a new book each year. Each volume had 100 verse predictions.
Astrology was generally considered to be a legitimate source of information. There were members of the royal court who were fans of Nostradamus’ Other astrologers of the time considered him a not very good astrologer but he had an audience.
He made more than 6,300 predictions, including predictions about the world well into the future, until the year 3797.
The prophecies of Nostradamus. came up back in 2012 when there was some end-of-world craziness around the Maya and people tried to figure out what Nostradamus might have said about 2012. Some people put forward some incredible (in its true meaning of “difficult or impossible to believe”) interpretations. Still, people continue to read his predictions today.
Some of the more famous ones include crediting him with seeing the Great Fire of London, the rise of Adolph Hitler, both world wars, the creation of the United Nations, the assassination of JFK, the atomic bomb, the Apollo moon landings, the McCarthy trials, the death of Princess Diana, and the tragedy of 9/11.
His predictions have only seemed accurate in retrospect. I have yet to hear of someone accurately predicting the future in advance based on Nostradamus’ writings. It hasn’t helped Nostradamus’s reputation that people have also created hoaxes using what they say are predictions he made.
I would say two tips if you are making prophecies are to be vague and make a lot of them.
His book Les Prophéties, a collection of 942 poetic quatrains allegedly predicting future events was first published in 1555.
One example of interpreting his writing came after World War II. MGM made a short film called “Nostradamus Says So,” which gave a little background on Nostradamus and suggested that he had predicted the Allied victory during the war.
Here is one verse they quoted saying that it is about the Statue of Liberty as a symbol of America:
“The chosen protector of the great country
For endless years will hold the famed torch
It will serve to guide this great people
And in its name they will struggle and triumph.”
Would you interpret this more accurate translation as being about WWII?
“The newly elected patron of the great vessel
Will see the clear flame shine for a long time
Which will serve as a lamp to this great territory
At which time the armies under his name
Will join with those happily of Bourbon
From east to west resting his memory.”
Nostradamus has stayed alive in our time. A part of us wishes that we could see into the future and know what was to come, even if the evidence points to that being impossible. Similar predictions are made using the Bible. There are regular predictions about the end of the world from Nostradamus, the Bible, and many others.
He had become rich and famous. Nostradamus suffered from gout throughout his fifties and then suffered from edema. He made out his will and on the evening of July 1, 1566, he is alleged to have made a final prediction, telling his secretary “You will not find me alive at sunrise.” Not a shocking prediction, given the circumstances, but the next morning he was found dead.