Michel de Nostramdame, better known as Nostradamus, was either born on December 14 or 21, 1503 in Saint-Rémy de Provence, France. He is most famous for his book Les Prophéties, predictions in verse form. His formal education was interrupted by the plague and he drifted toward the occult after making his living as an herbalist and apothecary.
Nostradamus would put himself into a trance state to receive visions. He began to write an annual almanac, including quatrains of his visions in a mix of French, Latin, Greek, Italian and Provençal, which makes his writings particularly difficult to interpret with any reliability so that they are open to multiple constructions. Further, they were hand-copied, so no two editions are the same, and the differences can be substantial. After every major world event, a pundit produces a “prediction” by Nostradamus that kinda-sorta fits and the legend grows.
His writings caught the eye of Cathérine de Médici, wife of Henri II, who summoned him to Paris where he became the counselor to the royal heir. He died a reasonably wealthy man on July 2, 1566, when his gout turned to edema. He did, apparently accurately predict his death, telling a friend that he’d be dead the following day.
Today’s expression, faire le bon apôtre (faire luh bohn a-pot-ruh) mean “to do the good apostle,” in other words, to be a fake or a hypocrite, particularly in matters of faith. I don’t know if Nostradamus believed in his own work or if he just laughed all the way to the bank. I do know, however, that he’s enduringly popular and has a host of followers, even 500 years later. Not bad.