Nostradamus enjoys almost mythical status around the world due to his renowned publication, “Les Propheties”, which first appeared in 1555 and has never been out of print. He supposedly predicted the Great London Fire, the French Revolution, the rise of Napoleon, the dropping of the atomic bomb, JFK’s assassination and the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. Though many consider his predictions to be poppycock he still has enormous street cred. In fact, according to The New York Times, “Nostradamus” was the top search-topic on Google during the week after the 9/11 attacks, edging out CNN, The World Trade Center, and Osama bin Laden. He is one well-respected prognosticator!

Michel Nostredame was born on December 14, 1503 in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, France. Because of virulent anti-Semitism, Michel’s grandfather had converted from Judaism to Catholicism and taken the name of Nostredame (“Our Lady”). Michel was a gifted student who displayed a remarkable talent for prophecy at a very young age. As a teenager Michel studied philosophy and delved into books on astrology and the occult at Avignon’s renowned papal library.
After Avignon, Nostredame went to medical school at the University of Montpelier but was expelled when it was learned that he had previously worked as an apothecary, a profession that was scorned by medical academics. Despite his lack of a degree, Nostredame gained fame by successfully treating victims of the plague. He was centuries ahead of his time by preaching the need to maintain cleanliness rather than relying on traditional methods such as bloodletting with leeches. In addition to treating patients, Nostredame published a well-received medical cookbook that provided detailed recipes for everything from plague remedies to love potions. 

In 1550, due to the growing popularity of almanacs, Nostredame published his first almanac and Latinized his name to “Nostradamus.” His publication was widely acclaimed and caused European nobles to seek his advice and horoscopes. The success of his almanac inspired him to write “The Prophecies”, 942 predictions written in four-line stanzas structure known as “quatrains.” 

According to Peter Lemesurier, a leading authority on the subject, Nostradamus was not a seer but simply a man who believed that history would repeat itself. Using a technique known as bibliomancy, Nostradamus selected events from older documents and used astrological calculations to project their repetition. The predictions became open to a wide range of interpretations because many of his quatrains mixed words from several different languages. Most predictions were either vaguely written by the author or poorly translated by linguists in later years.
From the depths of the West of Europe
A young child will be born of poor people
He who by his tongue will seduce a great troop
His fame will increase towards the realm of the East

Adolf Hitler embraced this quatrain and had propaganda leaflets containing fabricated Nostradamus quatrains dropped over France to demoralize the populace. Hitler also enjoyed another stanza, “The greater part of the battlefield will be against Hister”. Many Nostradamus fans claim that Hister is a misspelling of Hitler but it’s the Latin term for the Danube.

A more plausible prediction involves Louis Pasteur
The lost thing is discovered hidden for many centuries.
Pastor will be celebrated almost as a God-like figure.
This is when the moon completes her great cycle,
But by other rumors he shall be dishonored

Remember that Nostradamus was a believer in the association between cleanliness and disease, many centuries before Louis Pasteur (French for Pastor) gained eternal fame for his breakthroughs in vaccines and pasteurization. One hundred years after Pasteur’s breakthroughs, a 1995 book accused the scientist of incorporating a rival’s findings to make his anthrax vaccine functional. The accusation partly “dishonored” the great scientist.

Of course, it’s entirely possible that Nostradamus wasn’t talking about Pasteur but another pastor -perhaps Pope Francis, Martin Luther, or Jimmy Swaggart. And just as Babe Ruth struck out many more times than he homered, Nostradamus appears to have had many more misses than hits. Quite frankly, I’d choose the Sultan of Swat for my team any day.

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