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Great prophets and seers have come and gone throughout history. In Greek and Roman eras, prophesies were made by oracles who went into trances or ecstasies. These conditions were brought on my various means like inhaling pungent types of smoke or drinking herbal potions or the blood of sacrificed animals. Gypsies and fortune tellers used a method called “scrying.” They stared into mirrors or crystal balls to look into the future.

One of the greatest prophets of all time, Nostradamus, used this same method. But instead of using a crystal ball or mirror, his way of scrying consisted of setting a bowl of water on a brass tripod, dipping a wand into the water, and anointing himself with a few droplets. Once he finished the ritual, he stared into the water and waited until he began having visions. During his lifetime, Nostradamus recorded hundreds of “quatrains” about future events, some of which scholars and historians are still trying to decipher and understand.

Nostradamus was born Michel de Nostredame in France in the year 1503. He was the eldest of five brothers of a well-educated Jewish family and as a child had already experienced numerous visions. The Inquisition forced his family to convert to the Catholic religion.

Young Michel was educated at home and became an adept linguist. He also excelled in mathematics, medicine, astronomy, and astrology, which he learned from his grandfather. Further studies took him to the University of Avignon, and later he went on to complete medical school at the University of Montpelier.

His patients immediately realized that Nostradamus had a gift for healing. His treatments may have been unorthodox, but they seemed to work. He made his own herbal remedies and absolutely refused to bleed patients, much to the derision of his fellow physicians. Word spread of his success, particularly in treating plague patients. Nostradamus soon found he had more work than he could handle. His activities were also closely monitored by the Inquisition.

By 1534, Nostradamus had married, fathered two children, and settled in the Agen region of France. A few years later, his entire family died from the plague. Shattered because of his inability to save his wife and children, he wandered across Europe for the next six years. This was the time his visions began to occur and recur.

Nostradamus eventually returned home to France, settling in Salon en Craux de Provence. Here he met Anne Ponsart Gemelle, a widow who bore him six children. In 1550 he decided to record his prophetic visions. Because of the continuing threat of the Inquisition, Nostradamus wrote his prophesies in a series of rhymed “quatrains,” using a mixture of Greek, French, Latin, and the local Provencal dialect. To further obscure his words, he included anagrams and grouped his quatrains in series of hundreds, or non-chronological “centuries.”

In 1555, “Les Propheties de M. Michel Nostradamus” was published to immediate success and soon gained Nostradamus the attention of Catherine de Medici. Her favor and that of many other French aristocrats, solidified Nostradamus' reputation as a gifted prophet. Another edition of his
“Propheties” was released in 1558, and by 1564 he was appointed King Charles the IX's royal physician.

Nostradamus enjoyed success and fame until his health began to fail in 1566. Even in prophesying his own death he was eerily correct. After a priest said to him, “until tomorrow,” Nostradamus is said to have replied, “You will not find me alive at sunrise.”

Nostradamus wrote prophesies for ten "centuries,” but for reasons none have been able to discern, he didn’t complete the seventh. He was in the process of writing the eleventh and twelfth when he died. Scholars have long pondered exactly what his quatrains mean. Some verses seem very clear while others can be interpreted to mean many things.

Some of the historical events Nostradamus predicted were the war with Napoleon, the American Revolution, the Civil War, the rise and the fall of Hitler, events in the British monarchy such as the abdication of Edward VIII, and the assassinations of Lincoln and John and Robert Kennedy. He also predicted three reigns of terror by persons he named “antichrists.” Scholars agree that the first two were Napoleon and Hitler. Whom the third antichrist might be is still in doubt. Was it Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini or perhaps some other recent Middle Eastern leader like Libya’s Muammar Al-Qadhafi or Iraq’s Saddam Hussein?

What Nostradamus did prophesy was that a great war would come sometime during the last five years of the 20th century, presaged by famine, drought, and a series of other natural disasters. This war would last close to 30 years, after which there will be one thousand years of peace, or a new golden age. Nostradamus quatrains did not go beyond 3797. According to a letter written to one of his sons, the seer claimed that that was the year the world would end.

Michel de Nostradamus made and recorded over one thousand predictions during his lifetime. Of those, over half have come true. His published collections of quatrains have become more popular than ever, as people look for answers and direction.