In sixteenth-century France, a doctor of Jewish origin named Michel de Nostredame would achieve remarkable fame and become a regular in European courts. His gifts of healing, not negligible, were not those that earned him wide recognition.
In these times, medicine was far from being a clearly bounded science, as today, and many other knowledge were confused in the margins of the established. Thus, among the ancestors of Nostradamus doctors and astrologers were combined and our protagonist learned these practices, along with the manufacture of drugs or cosmetics.
The predictions or divinations inspired by the stars were not, in these times, considered heresies. After all, God himself arranged the stars for his reading. Michel took advantage of this, even going so far as to serve Catherine de Médicis and Henry II of France. Over time, the legend surpassed the physician and to this day his prophecies have been meticulously scrutinized by his followers.
To a certain extent, Nostradamus is a child of his time. In the XV and XVI centuries, there would be a series of factors that would favor their promotion.
On the one hand the plague ravaged Europe, turning tomorrow into greater uncertainty. To the dead were added the bad harvests and the continuous religious wars, any help to know the future was valued. In fact, the tragedy of the plague would hit Nostradamus with force, losing his first wife and children and having to interrupt his training in Avignon.
On the other hand, at a cultural and intellectual level, the Renaissance still rode between two epochs. In the courts and cities, artists and researchers multiplied, less dependent on religious power than in the Middle Ages.
Among this uncontrolled scientific development, uncontrolled, unscientific development also grew, dotted with still common superstitions. In many cases science and superstition carried the signature of the same author.
“An emperor will be born near Italy,
that the empire will cost dearly,
they will say with what people they are allied,
that will seem less prince than butcher.”
-Centuria I, quatrain 60, Nostradamus. Supposedly referring to Napoleon-
The star race of Nostradamus
After concluding his medical studies in Montpellier, Nostradamus continued his training in an errant way. The plague would certainly mark his biography, working tirelessly against this evil, even before obtaining his degree. Surely, he did it inspired by his personal tragedy.
His trips allowed him to know a great variety of ointments and methods of prevention, making him an expert requested in all the French cities where new outbreaks arose.
It is at this moment, surely encouraged by his respectability, when he begins to publish his almanacs. The almanacs were calendars that collected all kinds of forecasts for the year inspired by the stars.
Apart from the war or the plague, in a society so dependent on agricultural life, the forecasts for the harvests were much in demand. Coming to include climatic predictions, these almanacs precede our meteorological science, with the exception of not having any type of scientific rigor.
To these writings we must add those referred to cosmetics and botany. From therapeutic oils and perfumes to love filters. With such versatility, he was the desired doctor in any court.
The prophetic work of Nostradamus
Of all his works, the most read and studied will undoubtedly be the Centuries. Written in quatrains grouped in hundreds, they would come to be prophecies inspired by the stars.
Although they never contain the date of the prophecy, the limit year of all of them is 3797. We still have speculations for several centuries. The date is not valadí, after all of them would come the Apocalypse, the predictions beyond escaped their power.
It has not been lacking, neither in his time nor in our days, who interpreted these quatrains. The theme is rich and varied, from natural disasters to wars, from remarkable births to scientific discoveries.
“From the depths of the West of Europe,
from poor people a child will be born,
that with his speech he will seduce the masses,
his fame in the kingdom of the East will grow.”
-Centuria III, quatrain 35, Nostradamus. Allegedly referred to Hitler-
In his personal correspondence he collects a small detail, so as not to throw “pearls to the pigs” he wrote his Centuries by means of “hidden and enigmatic phrases”.
We do not know if the author’s will was to deceive his readers, in the same way that we can not know if many of his followers were willing to fall into a suggestive deception. In any case, the quatrains are so ambiguous and generic that they could fit into many or no historical events.