Michel de Nostre-Dame, known as Nostradamus, painted by his son Cesar.

In 1556, a Salon-de-Provence doctor, Michel de Nostre-Dame, known as Nostradamus, who has just published a very strange book entitled Centuries et Propheties de Nostradamus, is received by Monsieur de Florinville in his castle at Fains, in Lorraine.  Mr de Florinville is a headstrong man who does not believe in either clairvoyants or prophets.  In inviting the Salon doctor to his home, he has a hidden motive.  He wants to play a trick on him.

He begins by asking Nostradamus if he would be able to predict the future of people of a different race to their own.  Nostradamus replies in the affirmative.  Mr de Florinville clarifies his question by saying that he means animals…  Nostradamus tells him that he had already understood that.  Mr de Florinville clarifies further by asking if this would include the lowliest of animals.  Nostradamus again acquiesces.  Mr de Florinville begins to laugh and starts to tell him that the animals in question are… and Nostradamus finishes his sentence by “two suckling pigs”.

Mr de Florinville stops laughing and asks the prophet how he knows.  Nostradamus does not reply and merely asks to be taken to the animals…

Mr de Florinville, accompanied by a few friends, leads his guest to the pigsty where there are two suckling pigs, one pink and white, the other pink with black spots.  He asks Nostradamus to tell him the animals’ destinies.  Nostradamus does not hesitate.  He points to the white piglet and predicts that it will be eaten by a wolf.  The black one will be eaten by Mr de Florinville, himself.

Mr de Florinville leads Nostradamus back to his apartments, telling him that they will see if this prophecy comes true.  After which, to prevent it from coming true, he tells his cook to kill the white piglet and immediately prepare it to be eaten that evening.

Delighted with the prank that he is playing on Nostradamus, Mr de Florinville invites his guest to dinner.  The meal is succulent.  When the plates are empty, Mr de Florinville turns to Nostradamus and asks him if he knows what he has just eaten.  The Salon doctor replies that it was suckling pig…  Mr de Florinville is very pleased with himself.  He says:

“Yes, Sir!  And precisely the one that – according to you – was supposed to be eaten by a wolf!…  See how easy it is to make prophecies lie…  Fortunately, in our enlightened century, these charlatan stupidities can only abuse children, old women or uneducated people.  My friends, let us drink to Reason!…”

Everyone applauds and they drink.  Nostradamus, who has listened to Mr de Florinville’s speech without displaying any signs of impatience or the least irritation, turns to his host and asks him if he could see the black piglet.  And all of the table companions go to the pigsty, where a surprise awaits them:  there is no black piglet…

Mr de Florinville calls his cook and asks him where the black piglet is.  The cook lowers his head and explains that, having killed the white piglet to prepare it for dinner, he was greasing a dish when a young, partly-tame wolf cub, to which the servants sometimes gave a piece of meat, entered the kitchen, jumped onto the table and ate the animal…  So, he killed the black piglet and that was the one that they had eaten that evening.

Notradamus simply remarked:

“There are many more marvels under the stars than are believed…”

***

Nostradamus was born in 1503, at Saint-Remy-de-Provence, into a Jewish family which had converted to Catholicism, and was called, in reality, Michel de Nostre-Dame.  After serious medical studies at the Faculty of Montpellier where he had, by the way, Rabelais as a fellow student, he travelled around France, Germany and Italy, before settling, as a doctor, in Salon-de-Provence.

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He treated his patients exclusively with plants that he gathered himself, on nights of full moon, in the mountains of Provence.

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In Salon, he had had an observatory made which permitted him to study the stars and to do astrological themes.  But his gift of clairvoyancy was known for a long time before he wrote the Centuries.  He helped people find lost animals, he discovered water sources and predicted very exactly the future of the inhabitants of Salon…  From that to the destiny of the world, was only a step, which he took around 1550 and published, in 1556, his famous prophecies which immediately had an immense success.

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Nostradamus announced Louis XVI's arrest at Varennes, two hundred and thirty-five years before it happened.

This success is surprising because the prophecies are written in a complicated fashion and, except for a few, are not understood until after they have happened.  For example, in the XVIth Century, what could be meant by two quatrains concerning an event situated at Varennes, involving a certain “Cap”, and a return to the Thuille (the Tuileries) caused by someone called “Saulce”?…  Nothing!  But, in 1791, it is at Varennes that Louis XVI, known as Capet, is arrested by the grocer Sauce, who has him brought back to the Tuileries.

In the XVIth Century, Nostradamus announced the fourteen years of Napoleon's reign.

Another example:  three quatrains are consecrated to an “emperor who will be born near Italy, who will be found to be less prince than butcher”…  Nostradamus gives a precision:  “From simple soldier will come to an empire, from short tunic will come to long”;  and he adds:  “The shaven head, for fourteen years, will hold the tyranny”…  Who could have guessed that this is the story, resumed in fulgurant fashion, of the ascension of Napoleon, known as “Little Baldy”, and his fourteen years of rule?

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As for the story of the white and the black piglets, Mr de Florinville recounts it in his Memoires.  He concludes “that one cannot make a prophecy lie, as it is impossible to modify a being’s destiny, even if it is a suckling pig”

To be continued.

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