The turn of a new year is as good a time as any to revisit our plans and perhaps read a horoscope or two.  For some people these predictions are literal.  Others find it to be an amusement but nothing more.  This book asserts nothing about Nostradamus’s ability or even prognosticators in general.  Instead, Gerson focuses on the biography of the man and how his writings have been referenced throughout the past 500 years.

In the middle 1500s, a learned person such as Nostradame was several professions in one.  He was a physician, pharmacist, chemist, and amateur astronomer in addition to his work as an astrologer.

Natural astrology perceived human beings as microcosms, or miniature versions of the universe.  The celestial bodies governed various parts of the human body and mirrored character traits.  The sun, for instance, was equivalent to the head and stood for ambition.  Celestial bodies could exert a positive influence (Venus and the moon), or prove harmful (Mars and Saturn), or remain indifferent (Jupiter, Mercury, and the sun).  Astrologers thus drew up horoscopes, or birth-chart commentaries, to grasp customers’ strengths and weaknesses and identify the influences that presided over their destiny.  ~Pg. 23

Perhaps most interesting are the sections that deal with how people from different eras reinterpret the same quatrains, to exhibit wisdom on the figures of their time.  Gerson also does a fine job of giving a brief overview of the cultural aspects of these time, which give context to these seemingly bizarre beliefs.

This is quite the interesting addition to any history buff’s collection.

Many thanks to Madeleine at Picador for the review copy.

Paperback, 368 pages
Published November 26th 2013 by Picador
(first published October 30th 2012)
ISBN 1250037867 (ISBN13: 9781250037862)

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