March 1, 2024 | Miles Brucker

Prophetic Facts About Nostradamus

"I had determined to go as far as declaring in abstruse and puzzling utterances the future causes of the "common advent," even those truly cogent ones that I have foreseen. Yet lest whatever human changes may be to come should scandalise delicate ears, the whole thing is written in nebulous form, rather than as a clear prophecy of any kind."

Michel de Nostredame, known today by all as Nostradamus, is a man who has grown infamous for his predictions about the future, almost always written in four-line stanzas structure known as "quatrains." The truth, however, is that he was an educated physician and author who was well respected during his time for his healing work and the success of his written almanacs. Never having actually predicted the end of the world, much of his work as a seer has been perverted by commercial companies in order to make a buck, but that doesn’t mean that the reality of his life wasn't remarkable. Read for 25 facts about the man behind the myth.

1. Try Your Hand At it

Due to the success of his work and almost celebrity-like status, Nostradamus influenced many people to dip their toes into end of times prophecies. Among these was none other than Christopher Columbus himself, who wrote an unpublished collection of prophecies because he was inspired by Nostradamus' work.


2. Kicked Outta School

Nostradamus went to medical school but was never able to graduate, as he was expelled once it was discovered that he had previously worked as an apothecary, a profession which was banned from the University. His expulsion document is still kept in the records of the University of Montpellier today.

Nostradamus facts Wikimedia Commons

3. Living in Fear

Throughout a significant part of his life, Nostradamus was constantly afraid of facing punitive measures by the infamous Inquisition for heresy, because of his involvement in the prophecy game. Fortunately, neither prophecy nor astrology were considered to be heresy at the time, so he never actually faced persecution. But given what we know about the Inquisition's methods, you can't blame the guy for being a little nervous.

Spanish Inquisition factsWikipedia

4. Importance of Meditation

Though he didn’t actually go into a mystical trance to get in the zone for writing his quatrains, Nostradamus would incubate himself and enter into a meditative state in order to see the visions he claimed inspired his prophecies.

Nostradamus factsWikimedia Commons

5. Outbreak

Before his failed attempt to attend the University of Montpellier, Nostradamus attended the University of Avignon when he was only 15 years old. It didn't last, however, but he didn't leave because he was expelled. Rather, the school was forced to shut down due to the outbreak of the plague, and Nostradamus was left out to dry. On the bright side, this gave him the opportunity to travel the country, where he researched botany and herbal remedies.

Nostradamus factsWikimedia Commons


6. Converts

The name of Nostredame—meaning “Our Lady”—was adopted by his grandfather in the 15th century when he converted from Judaism to Catholicism.

Nostradamus factsWikipedia

7. Buying the Craponne

After losing his first wife, Nostradamus eventually married a rich widow with whom he had six children. This financial freedom allowed him the time to write, and even invest. In 1556 the couple invested in the building of the Canal de Craponne, which was so successful that it still exists today.

Nostradamus factsWikimedia Commons

8. Bound by Faith

Even though he moved towards the occult as a seer, Nostradamus remained a devout Roman Catholic and there is evidence that he was opposed to the Protestant Reformation.

Martin Luther factsGetty Images

9. Changing Names

With the trend of publishing almanacs growing popular, Nostradamus hopped on board the trend train and began writing them in 1550. It was at this point that he first Latinised his name of “Nostradame” to “Nostradamus.” We've heard of him today, so I guess the brand change worked.

Nostradamus factsWikipedia

10. Finding Success

The initial almanac he authored achieved tremendous success, and being one to capitalize on a profitable venture, he chose to compose at least one almanac annually until his passing, occasionally producing up to three in a single year. In total, these almanacs had 6,338 different prophecies. I guess he was going for the "even a broken clock is right twice a day" method.

Nostradamus factsNostradamus (1994), Orion Classics


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11. Celebrity Status

Following his success as an almanac writer, the nobility of Europe became aware of him and subsequently began writing to him for advice and horoscopes. This led him to the idea of a project where he would write 1,000 quatrains of undated prophecies. This project probably what he is best known for today.

Nostradamus factsWikipedia


12. Making it Up

In order to get around explaining himself and to muddy his meanings, Nostradamus decided to create words by combining different languages together and using his own style of syntax. The old "if no one understands it, it must be smart" strategy.

Nostradamus factsNostradamus (1994), Orion Classics

13. Plagiarizing the Past

Nostradamus plagiarized most of his sources. The idea of plagiarism didn’t have as much negative connotation in the 16th century, so many authors would frequently paraphrase classical works in their own. The reason why he's credited with many of these prophecies is that he was the first author to translate them into the French language.

Nostradamus factsNostradamus (1994), Orion Classics

14. At Random

It's now suggested that in order to produce some of his prophecies, Nostradamus would take a history book, close his eyes and simply flip to a random page, lifting whatever struck him as a cue to something interesting. This technique is known as "bibliomancy" and is used in books that are believed to hold a truth in them. I'm guessing that in a magic school with wizards such as necromancers, geomancers and pyromancers, bibliomancers were the nerds.

Nostradamus factsNostradamus (1994), Orion Classics

15. Out of Occult

In a shocking about-face, Nostradamus claimed that he burned his entire library of occult books in 1555. However, just because he said so doesn't make it so, and historians debate today whether or not the books were actually destroyed. 

Philip IV, The Iron King factsShutterstock

16. To The Stars

Nostradamus’s technique for allegedly predicting future events was to project past historical events into the future through the use of astrology. Even in his time this was highly disputed and other famous astrologers of his day disagreed with this idea of “comparative horoscopy.” And if people in the 16th century are saying you're a quack, you've got to be pretty out there.

Nostradamus factsWikimedia Commons

17. Limited Locations

Despite the fact the people continue to claim that Nostradamus accurately predicted events all over the world, even he would admit that couldn't possibly be the case; he once explicitly wrote to King Henri II that all of his prophetic writings were to be restricted to Europe, North Africa, and a small part of Asia Minor.

Henry II of France factsWikimedia Commons


18. Propaganda from the Third Reich

Adolf H., along with Joseph Goebbels and Rudolf Hess, believed in some of Nostradamus’s quatrains and during WWII they had propaganda leaflets with fabricated Nostradamus quatrains dropped throughout France. These leaflets “predicted” France’s defeat. In response, the Allied powers decided to combat this propaganda drop with one of their own and dropped copies of the American film Nostradamus Says So.

Plots Of History FactsWikipedia

19. Keep it Clean

A young Nostradamus was able to properly treat people suffering from the plague by simply maintaining cleanliness. It's hard to believe, but he was one of the first and only physicians of his time to preach about maintaining clean surroundings as opposed to focusing on methods like bloodletting with leeches. He also ensured the correct disposal of lifeless bodies, something which was not generally handled with care during that period. Honestly, this alone is arguably more impressive than his predictions!

Nostradamus factsWikipedia

20. Recipes of Life

Given his work as a healer, it should come as no surprise that Nostradamus once published a medical cookbook. In the book, he provided detailed recipes for everything from plague remedies to hair-dye. He also included different jams, like his “love jam” made out of the blood of a sparrow, eyelets from octopus tentacles, and mandrake apples used in order aid the “love-act,” and a toothpaste made out of cuttlefish bones and the shells of sea-snails. I'll stick to Mastering the Art of French Cooking, thank you very much.

Nostradamus factsNostradamus (1994), Orion Classics

21. Against the Label

Aware of what he was doing, Nostradamus made sure to never say he was actually a prophet, insisting in several letters to people around him throughout his life that he was not “foolish enough to claim to be a prophet.” Good call there Nos.

Nostradamus factsNostradamus (1994), Orion Classics

22. His Rosebud

Not confining himself to prophecies, Nostradamus also served as a healer while the black plague spread throughout Europe. His work as an apothecary, while getting him booted from University, was actually his first claim to fame. However, he wasn't entirely about "sanitary conditions" and "appropriate body disposal". He was also reputed for concocting a “rose pill,” crafted from rose petals, intended to shield individuals from the plague. (Spoiler alert, it was unsuccessful.)

The Black Death FactsWikimedia Commons

23. Family Loss

Not much is known about Nostradamus' first wife, but it's established that the couple had two children. Tragically, during the time when plague was ravaging Europe, she, along with their children, succumbed to the same, rendering Nostradamus alone.

Nostradamus factsNostradamus (1994), Orion Classics


24. Internet Hoax

Maybe it was the perfect confluence of the internet, television, and media news cycle that allowed it to spread like wildfire, but the claim that Nostradamus predicted the attack on the World Trade Center on September 11th, 2001 is completely fabricated.

Iconic World Trade Center featured as landmark of the Twin Towers from New Jersey and Hudson RiverBenny Marty, Shutterstock

25. Turn to the Court

When he was summoned to King Henry II’s court by his wife, the powerful Catherine de Medici, he originally thought that he heading to the gallows for his occult prophecies. However, to his surprise, things ended up going well for him, and after some years he was even named as a Counselor to the Queen and also the Physician-in-Ordinary to her son, King Charles IX, when he was young.

Catherine De Medici factsReign (2013–2017), CBS Television Studios

Sources:  1, 2, 3, 4

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