Monday, October 17, 2005

Nostradamus: Michel de Nostradame

Michel de Nostredame was born on December 14th, 1503 in St.-Remy-de-Provence, France; the first son of a large and educated Jewish family. During this era, Jews were persecuted and often practiced their beliefs in shadows. No one is quite sure why, but in 1462, Michel's grand father converted to Christianity, perhaps for the daughter of a prominent politician. He also changed his given name Guy Gassonet taking on a more Christian name from the then popular bishop Pierre, and a new surname de Nostredame meaning "of Our Lady".

The new Pierre de Nostredame passed on this legacy of education and prominence to his children. Jaume de Nostredame, Michel's father, carried on this family tradition becoming a prosperous grain merchant who taught himself to be a well practiced lawyer. With this kind of family "gumption" it's no wonder that Michel too would become an over achiever.

His early education began as his maternal great-grandfather, Jean, tutored the young Michel in mathematics. Jean was a former Town Treasurer, who had embarked on the respected career of physician during the Italian High Renaissance. He was more than qualified to teach Latin, Greek, astronomy and astrology to Michel. Not to mention his experience with chemistry, herbalism and medicine in general.

What isn't widely know is that Michel also took up a great interest of antiques, especially from countless visits to the ancient Roman city of Glanum which was not far from his home. There are some who might speculate that Michel added to his educational knowledge through the ancient Roman books he was fond of browsing through. Could he have read and studied from the old master Paracelsus? The medical knowledge and insights of Paracelsus seem very familiar to Michel's own later exploits. What ever the source, Michel was so adapt with his understanding of medicine and herbology that he could easily qualify as an apothecary.

By the time he was 16, Michel was ready to enter the university in Avignon. His beginning studies were in classical grammar, rhetoric and logic along with basic sciences. But these were interrupted by the plague of 1520 and Michel took his place as physician among many other educated healers of the day. But Michel became known, even in this early time, as a miracle worker. It wasn't until after he spent many years of traveling around Europe that Michel actually enrolled into medical school at the famous Montpelier medical facility in October 1529.

His medical education was not without trouble however. His vast experience during the plague and through his travels boosted Michel's knowledge, in many cases, above those of the scholars doing the teaching. Michel was often at odds with his instructors over the causes or affects of illness in patients. There is no record that Michel achieved his doctorate degree at Montpelier. But by 1533 he had set himself up as a doctor in the town of Agen.

It was in Agen that Michel took his first wife, had two sons and settled into a respectable family life. But it was not to last for long. His beautiful young wife and their two children would die within the first 5 years of marriage. Reportedly due to a plague of some kind, although there is no clear documentation to this fact. It is believed however, that this experience of loss is what pushed the young physician down the path of becoming the worlds most renowned Plague Doctor. At least of his time.

Michel moved back to Provence by 1544 and began intensive studies under the outstanding physicians of the day. Louis Serres was one of these doctors, whom Michel called "another Hippocrates". It is Serres that Michel credits much of his own knowledge and success to. Serres and Michel were becoming well known as the only physicians who could cure the plague.

In 1546, Michel was summoned to Aixen-Provence to take control of another outbreak of the plague. No sooner was the town under control, than he received another summons, to Salon. It was here in Salon that Michel met his second wife. But before he had a chance to settle down with his new love interest, another summons for help came to his door. This time, he was off to the city of Lyon.

His life and medical career continues similarly until 1550, where he finally returns to Salon, his new wife and their recently refurbished home. It is here, with his new recognition and status, that Michel begins what he calls his true work, and his long planned series of annual Almanacs. This is the first time Michel begins to pen his work as "Nostradamus".

His yearly Almanacs included weather forecasts, planting and social calendars, sprinkled with predictions of political and military events. The success of his predictions in these mini-books earned Nostradamus the reputation of being a prophet. They were very popular and brought his family a good deal of wealth and prosperity.

Being a great healer and giving man through out his life, Nostradamus would share his vast fortune with his new home town. The problem with Salon was that it received to little rain for crops, plants and people alike. So Michel teamed up with a local architect and hydraulic engineer Adam de Craponne, to solve the problem. Michel put a great deal of his own money into the project to bring water from the Dehorns River through a series of networks and canals. Even after his death, his widow provided more funding to the project which was successfully completed, although it was way after the death of Michel Nostredame.

On May 17th 1791, the casket of Nostradamus was unearthed and opened by three grave robbers. It was said that whoever should drink wine from the skull of the great prophet would inherit his gift of future sight. But whoever should disturb his grave would die. The men should have been stunned and concerned when they opened the casket, 200 years after it was laid to rest, and found a plaque lying on the inhabitants chest inscribed with "May 1791". Undaunted in their desire to "be like Mike", one of the men removed the skull poured wine into the empty shell and drank from it. Within moments a stray bullet from a nearby skirmish of the French Revolution found it's way into the grave yard and killed the man. Once again, a Nostradamus prophecy came true.

As a young child, Michel wrote later in his life, he could see fragments of events that had not yet occurred. Within a few days or months, the fragments would play out for real and Michel would know the outcome of the event before it was concluded. He considered this a great gift bestowed upon him by the Divine God. For what reason, he wasn't sure; but he would grow to understand the meanings and purposes of his gift later in his life.

One of his earliest visions reportedly involved a chance meeting with a Franciscan fryer in Italy. Michel watched the fryer enter a small courtyard and approach a well for a drink. Michel walked up to the religious man and fell to his knees, kissing the hem of the fryers robe. When asked why he was paying such homage to a fryer, Nostradamus replied, "I must honor his holiness the pope". After the death of Nostradamus, the young fryer from the courtyard, Felice Peretti, was elected the Holy Pope of Rome taking on the name Sixtus the V.

Michel didn't receive great fame and recognition until he settled in Salon and began writing his annual almanacs. His accuracy became well known and respected, even amongst the circles of higher and royal society. He even took on clients and provided them with personal readings, as indicated by hundreds of correspondence found in his office after his death.

Michel then set out to create his books of prophecy. The first books were published in 1566, as The Prophecies of Nostradamus. They were not written in chronological order, or categorized by event. Rather they were written in a four line rhyming verse, called quatrains, in groups of 100 called centuries. He wrote most of the quatrains in his native French tongue, but he included Latin and Greek to protect himself from the superstitious and witch hunters of the day.



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