Nostradamus: Prophet of Doom


Nostradamus: Prophet of Doom

Directed by Roger Christian (1995)

Film Review

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.

Hidden History: When Muslims Ruled in Europe

When the Moors Rules in Europe

Bettany Hughes (2011)

Film Review

When the Moors Ruled in Europe corrects many common misconceptions about Muslim rule in Spain between 711 and 1492 AD. Historical and archeological evidence contradicts the prevailing belief that this 700 year rule represented a violent military occupation. At the time Muslim Berbers from North Africa invaded Spain, the Christian/Visigoth cities were collapsing into chaotic anarchy – all the evidence suggests the inhabitants welcomed the Berbers for the security they provided.

Owing to its favorable climate, Spain quickly became the primary agricultural hub for a Muslim Empire that extended from North Africa to the Chinese border. After introducing irrigation, Muslim rulers also introduced citrus, avocado and other exotic crops which quickly spread across Europe. Owing to a faith committed to learning, the Moors also introduced universal literacy (in contrast to the rest of Europe where only clerical elites were taught to read). They also introduced advanced architecture, modern medicine, astronomy, Arabic numerals*, algebra, geometry and classical Greek philosophers which the Catholic church had banned in the rest of Europe.

During the 12th century, scholars from all over Europe flocked to the great libraries at Toledo to translate (into Latin) classical Greek and Arabic texts. These scholars would introduce a new approach to knowledge, based on rational inquiry, that would inspire the founding of prestigious universities at Oxford, Paris and elsewhere.

Christian Armies Retake Spain and Launch the Spanish Inquisition

Inspired by the Crusades to the Holy Lands, during the 12th century, Christian armies from northern Spain began slowly retaking Moorish cities from their Muslim rules. By 1250, only Grenada at the southern tip of Spain remained under Muslim rule.

In 1469, Isabella, Queen of Castille, married her second cousin Ferdinand, who was king of Aragon. In 1492, a siege which had begun 100 years earlier was successful and they seized Grenada to unify Spain.

Soon afterwards they launched the Spanish Inquisition to arrest, torture and kill Muslims, Jews and Christian heretics suspected of not practicing the “true” Catholic faith. Initially Muslims (who were mainly ethnic Spaniards) were offered the option of conversion. However in 1609, 300,000 were forcibly removed Most resettled in North Africa.

The Inquisition also burned more than a million Muslim texts.

*Arabic numerals also made multiplication and division possible – both are virtually impossible with Roman numerals. It was also via Spain that numerous Arab terms for scientific concepts were introduced into English and other European languages (eg al-cohol, al-gebra, al-gorithm, al-chemy).