Nostradamus: Prophet of Doom
Directed by Roger Christian (1995)
This is a fascinating documentary about French astrologer, physician and clairvoyant Michel de Nostredame, commonly known as Nostradamus.
He was born in Provence in 1503, when the region was not yet part of France. Originally Jewish, his father’s family converted to Catholicism and changed their name to Nostredame to avoid persecution from the Spanish Inquisition. His grandfather trained Michel in astrology, the Kabbalah, Latin, Greek and Hebrew.
According to filmmakers, he entered medical school at the University of Montpelier at age 19 and Latinized his name to Nostradamus following graduation. Other sources reveal he was expelled from university after a year when he was discovered to be a practicing apothecary.*
After leaving medical school, he worked alongside other physicians treating patients afflicted with bubonic plague. He differed from other practitioners in his refusal to bleed patients and his emphasis on hygiene. He had an extremely impressive cure rate (at a time when nearly 100% of plague patients died) using lozenges he concocted from rose petals and rose hips.***
In 1538, after being notified the Inquisition wished to question him, he went on a long tour of Europe, Greece, Turkey and Europe, studying the divination tools ancient civilizations used to foretell the future. When he returned to Provence, he published an extremely popular farmer’s almanac with astrological predictions for the coming year.
In 1555, he became astrologer to to Catherine of Medicis and counselor and physician-in-ordinary to her son King Charles IX of France.
Most of his prophecies derived from self-induced trances based on techniques he had learned through his travels. He recorded his predictions in thousands of “quatrains” he composed using Greek, Latin and anagrams to conceal what he was doing from the Inquisition.****
He published his long term predictions in The Prophecies Nostradamus, in three editions dated 1555, 1563 and 1568. His best known prophecies concern the rise of “Antichrists” (believed to refer to Napoleon and Hitler) who would commit crimes against humanity, his prediction of the French revolution, the US War of Independence, the recent wars against Iraq (Mesopotamia), the invention of the submarine and the Space Shuttle disaster.
He’s also credited with the observation (25 years before Copernicus) that the Sun revolves around the Earth.
*The Kabbalah is an ancient school of Jewish mysticism.
**During the Middle Ages and Renaissance, an apothecary was a medical professional who formulated and dispensed healing herbs and potions to physicians, surgeons, and patients. Considered a “manual trade,” practitioners were prohibited from attending university.
***Modern healers speculated his patients benefited from the high concentrations of Vitamin C found in rose hips.
****At the time, clairvoyance was regarded as heresy punishable by death.
The film can be viewed free on Kanopy.