The Tragic Final Prediction Nostradamus Allegedly Had For Himself

Nostradamus: History's most famous guy who gazed at a bowl of herbal water and wrote apocalyptic poetry about it. If you squint hard enough and do a little bit of abstract interpretation you could believe that he predicted many, many tragic and horrific historical events. Some of Nostradamus' most often-cited greatest prophetic hits include the Great Fire of London in 1666, the rise of Adolf Hitler to power, the atomic bombs being dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the 9/11 World Trade Center terrorist attacks, and more. And at the end of his, he might have seen his own death coming. 

Michel de Nostredame — aka Nostradamus — was born in St. Rémy, France in 1503 to a Jewish family. He went into medicine at the University of Montpellier and studied a bit of Kabbalah and esoteric mysticism on the side. Some unknown comment about a church statue in 1538 set him on the run from the Inquisition for six years in various countries before he circled back around to France and drew the attention of Queen Catherine de Medici. In her good grace Nostradamus served as court astrologer, had a cushy gig, and in his late life developed gout, arthritis, and dropsy. 

Come June 1566, Nostradamus drafted his will and passed along his wealth to his wife and children. As reports go, on July 1 he spoke his final prophecy to his secretary: "You will not find me alive at sunrise," per History. The following morning he was dead. 

He suffered from gout, arthritis, and dropsy

We don't have a lot of information about Nostradamus' self-apocalyptic end-of-life prognostication. But, it's not unreasonable to assume that even without prophetic powers he might have known that his time was short. He would have been 62 years old in June 1566, when he predicted his own death. He was not only in poor health, but terrible health. Dropsy was just the last in a series of conditions that he lived with as an adult. He experienced gout and arthritis for years, and to add dropsy to the mix, well ... it's not difficult to see how he might have known the end was coming.

Folks nowadays might be more familiar with arthritis than gout or dropsy, the last of which commonly goes by its modern name "edema." Arthritis — a catch-all term for a variety of conditions — is a swelling and stiffness of the joints caused by a breakdown of cartilage over time. It's very painful and can occur anywhere, like the hands, wrists, neck, shoulders, knees, etc. Gout is a specific type of arthritis characterized by sudden, painful flare-ups, particularly in the toes. 

Edema, meanwhile, is a swelling of the body, particularly the feet, ankles, and legs. It's caused by a build-up of fluids in or around tissue, and causes difficulty standing or walking. In the 17th century Nostradamus' therapeutic options for his conditions would have been limited. And the longer edema goes untreated, the more life-threatening it becomes.

Prognosis, not prophecy

It can be a bit sobering to imagine an elderly, alleged prophet suffering before death after having apparently foreseen the deaths of so many others. And make no mistake: Death was one of Nostradamus' most common topics, along with crowd favorites like blood (mentioned 127 times in his 1555 prophetic book, "Les Prophéties") and fire (mentioned 97 times). But after so many supposed visions of death, could Nostradamus actually have had some insight into his own impending end? 

As modern research indicates, such an ability might not be exclusive to Nostradamus. Elderly people approaching the end of life do seem to know when the moment of death is coming, especially if a person suffers from a terminal condition. Their breathing changes, they may have flashbacks, experience a strange sense of peace, refuse to eat, have unusually cool skin, and so forth. Such events might come at the end of a gradual downturn in health and activity that includes other physical changes like extreme fatigue, difficulty waking up, and trouble with continence. This could persist for hours, days, or more.

We don't have any information about whether or not Nostradamus passed through such phases before the end of his life. But, we know that edema can cause congestive heart failure, which comes with its own set of end-of-life symptoms like shortness of breath. At this point it's important to remember that Nostradamus was a medical doctor. His final "prophecy" might have been more like a prognosis.