I had to resort to Nostradamus for Dummies by Scarlet Ross to learn the meaning of Nostradamus' predictions. Nostradamus was not only writing in a dreamlike state, he also had to be careful around both royalty and the church if he wanted to keep his head firmly attached to his neck. The church considered the esoteric arts witchcraft. To be really safe, most of Nostradamus' predictions weren't published until his death at the age of sixty in 1566.
I can picture him in the 1550's, climbing up to his attic on the third story of his second wife's house in southern France. He's wearing his long scholar's robe and the three-sided hat, the sign of a physician. There's sadness etched into his face from the death of his wife and two children. And one can probably sense anger, too. Although he had developed a lozenge made of a powder pulverized with three to four hundred roses plucked before dawn that helped people survive the plague, no one wanted a doctor who couldn't save his own wife and kids.
Marrying a rich widow has given him solace and time for his real interests such as alchemy, the Kabala, astrology, Egyptian mysticism, and numerology. From a bowl of water resting in a brass stool (a tripod), he anoints his robe and his feet. He sits down at his desk, a quill in hand poised over an empty page. Then he gazes into the surface of the water, watching the play of candlelight upon it. He focuses hard. His breathing slows. Just as his body is separated from everyone around him, his thoughts begin to separate from his mind. He is not only a man aware of himself gazing at the surface of the water, but is also able to see himself doing it as if from a distance.
Patiently, he waits for a vision of the future to appear in the water's reflective surface. When it does, he dips the nib of his quill into his inkpot and writes the prophecy down in the form of a quatrain, a four-line poem.
The young lion will overcome the old one
On the field of battle in single combat:
He will put out his eyes in a cage of gold:
Two fleets one then to die a cruel death. (CI-35)
Voila, it's the prediction of King Henry ll's death. King Henry ll had a lion emblazoned on his shields and banners. In 1555, when this prophecy was published, it caused such a ruckus that the king's wife, Catherine de Medici, ordered Nostradamus to come to court to explain himself. Kill the Messenger was what royalty did for a bad prediction. But Nostradamus talked his way around it and all was forgotten.
Then in 1559, during a jousting tournament, Henry's opponent was the head of the Scottish guard who also had a lion on his shield and was younger than the king. When the opponent tried to knock Henry off his horse, his lance missed the king's chest. It splintered and went through Henry's helmet which is the "cage of gold" and also his throat. A fleet is a wound. Nostradamus was right. The king lay in agony for ten days from his two wounds, a cruel death as Nostradamus had written.
People at court suggested that Nostradamus must have planned the king's death. But Nostradamus managed to get off the hook again.
Check out this eye-popping divination for Napoleon's attack on Milan in 1796:
The speech delivered before the attack,
Milan taken by the eagle through deceptive ambushes;
Ancient wall driven in by canons,
Through fire and blood few given quarter. (C III - 37)
That's exactly what happened. Napoleon and his bedraggled, hungry troops had been fighting the Italians for months with barely any help from France. Then Napoleon delivered that brilliant speech referred to in the first line, convincing his men that if they rallied and took Milan, they'd be able to sack not only Milan but all the countries around it. The soldiers rose up and fought, looting valuables, including art treasures, not only filling their stomachs, but their pockets, too.
No one at the time could have imagined that World War I wouldn't be "the war to end all wars," but Nostradamus foresaw both world wars.
The scourges passed the world shrinks,
For a long time peace and unpopulated lands:
One will travel safely by air, land, sea, and wave,
Then the wars stirred up anew. (C I - 63)
They will think they have seen the sun at night
When they see the pig half-man:
Noise, battle, fighting in the sky perceived,
And one will hear brute beasts talking. (C I - 64)
"The world shrinks" refers to one country annexing another after WWI. Nostradamus foresaw plane travel and "the wars stirred up anew." In quatrain two, he visualizes the searchlights and explosions that made the night sky into day. The pig half-man refers to the leather snout-nosed masks that fighter pilots wore. And from the line about the noise, it's plain that Nostradamus not only saw visions of the future, but heard them, too.
If a prediction turned up for this election, it might sound something like this:
The old war horse holds back,
While knight and damsel soundly joust:
Two will to the Senate return,
The winner limp to the White House.