If a stranger came to you and told you vaguely worded poetry that the world would end tomorrow, you’d probably have walked away and gone on with your life, right? After all, who listens to the ramblings of a stranger, particularly one who has worked as an apothecary (the modern equivalent of a druggist – maybe it was sniffing all those chemicals he was formulating that addled his brain?), and who moved from dabbling in medicine to swimming in the occult?
Apparently many people do listen, because the description given was that of Nostradamus. Many people don’t flee from the prophecies of Nostradamus nor ignore them. In fact, Nostradamus is so famous globally, with such fame being associated with credibility, that the question of why keeps reverberating in time and space.
True to what was fashionable and acceptable at the time (post Middle Ages), when erudition was displayed by a poetic command of language, Nostradamus wrote his prophecies in the form of 942 quatrains or poems with only four lines. Only one of those quatrains is unrhymed.
The quatrains, organized into Centuries, although mostly in French, were also a hodgepodge of Italian, Greek, and Latin. It has been said by Nostradamus’ defenders that the use of metaphors, misspellings (e.g., “Hister” in lieu of “Hitler”), and symbolisms were meant to intentionally obscure what Nostradamus was prophesying about, as he did not want to be tried as a magician.
The Historical Psychic
Born on December 1503, the childhood of Nostradamus was unremarkable. It was during his student years that strife showed its ugly head in the form of the plague, which affected his studies when the university he was attending closed, to avoid contagion.
In the succeeding eight years, he extensively traveled, seeking to concoct medicine from herbs and became an apothecary. He then attended the University of Montpellier hoping to attain a doctorate in medicine, but was expelled for having been an apothecary, and for slandering doctors.
He got married in 1531, but his wife and two children died three years after due to the plague. In 1547, he remarried, this time to an affluent widow. They had six children.
So far, so good. All seem pretty ordinary.
But then, things began to get strange. Nostradamus had written an almanac and its success motivated him to keep writing more. The almanacs contained astronomical data and prophesies. Eventually, his fame spread and those in power sought him out for astrological readings and prophecies, and then more prophecies.
Although he often made mistakes about his calculations, his growing popularity may have inspired him to come out with his most famous output of all, the book Les Propheties (The Prophecies) which contained his quatrains.
While the average public cast aspersions on Nostradamus, the elite favored and supported him. From a very logical standpoint, this was most likely because in such unstable times, those in power needed to be convinced that they (or their descendants, at least) would stay in power.
Who else could give them that assurance other than a polyglot prophet who spoke of fascinating, mysterious things?
Over time, Nostradamus’ predictions became linked to numerous events that took place after he had long passed away in 1566. As to why, well, it’s because they are so vague! Anyone who wanted to scare up the public for whatever reason could simply whip up (or even invent) a Nostradamus quatrain and pronounce doom and gloom based on his convoluted texts.
And so it has been down the ages. Whether he intended to or not, Nostradamus became the ultimate psychic of the ages.