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A very intriguing character, he was born on 14 December, 1503 in Provence of Jewish parents. Aptly christened The man who Saw Tomorrow because of his amazing prophetic insight, Nostradamus remained and still remains an enigma whose power of clairvoyance far over-shadowed his contributions to his chosen profession, medicine. As a teenager, he caused a stir with his outspoken beliefs, one of which was that the earth was round and that it moved around the sun – a dangerously extreme view for his age. In 1522, he went to the university of Montpelier to study medicine and graduated after just three years. He seemed unafraid to try new and different approaches in fighting the plague. Thus he created his own methods of treatment and new, unorthodox medicine and applied them with great success. Unfortunately his family fell victim to the ravages of the plague. To compound matters for him, he was accused of heresy and ordered to appear before the Inquisitors at Toulouse.

nostradamus In 1550, Nostradamus published his first almanac, which contained predictions for the coming year. This proved very successful, and so Nostradamus made it an annual event. Just a few years later, he had the idea of writing the Centuries that would make up the prophecies. He turned the top room of his house in Salon into a study, working at night with his books on the occult. The predictions dealt with events from his time to the end of the world, which was put at the year 3797. Nostradamus’ Century has no connotation of time – it is merely that the quatrains (four-lined verse) were grouped in hundreds. By 1555, about a year after starting, Nostradamus had completed the first part of his task, which was to write ten centuries, e.g., one thousand quatrains. In fact Century seven was not finished, and there is evidence that he wrote some quatrains for eleventh and twelfth centuries. The quatrains are written in a peculiar fashion and are deliberately obscure. This was to avoid him being labeled as a magician. He used a very mixed vocabulary comprising French, Latin and Provencal with some Greek and Italian.

The Prophecies became very popular at the royal court, one of the few places where they could be read, since it was necessary to have money and an education to purchase and read such a volume. Royalty also became intrigued and Catherine de’ Medici sent for him and Nostradamus also had a brief audience with Henri III.

The completed book was not actually published until 1568, two years after the death of Nostradamus. He was buried in one of the walls of a church at Salon although his remains were unearthed during the French Revolution. He was, however, interred again in the other Salon church, the Church of St. Laurent. His grave and portrait can be seen there still.

The Prophecies of Nostradamus have generated a great deal of interest since their first publication, and there is much confusion about the early editions. There were numerous fake versions, an undertaking rendered more likely by the absence of a date on some of the oldest volumes.

It is not surprising that the Prophecies have been used for propaganda purposes over the centuries. Strong links have been drawn with the French Revolution and the exploits of Napoleon, but word of Nostradamus was not limited to France. He became known all over Europe within twenty to thirty years. In more recent times, Adolf Hitler became interested in the quatrains and actually dropped printed selections on France in an attempt to influence the behaviour of the people. The Allies retaliated, and all this occurred as recently as 1943.

Inevitably, some regard Nostradamus as a fraud, others as a prophet. He thought that he had some powers, but of course these were not infallible. It may be prophecy or mere guesswork aided by generally vague predictions and a willing interpreter. However, many feel that although much can be written off as coincidental or as being applicable to numerous diverse events, there are some quatrains that do seem inescapable – the details are just too accurate. Or are they?

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