Recently I heard Deborah Houlding discuss a horary by Nostradamus, and I wondered about his birth chart. Unfortunately, we do not have a reliable birth chart for the great physician and seer. According to Patrice Guinard, “the archives of Saint-Rémy are silent, and the two main biographers of Nostre Dame, Edgar Leroy (1941) and Eugène Lhez (1968), apparently found nothing about Michel. Likewise, we do not know of any family “Bible”, “Book of Reason” or register of his father Jaume, a trader who became a notary in 1501.”
Nonetheless, there do exist two references to possible birth dates for Nostradamus. The source most often cited is Jean-Aimé de Chavigny (1524?-1604), an astrologer and alchemist who was also a disciple and perhaps secretary of the great seer. According to Chavigny, Nostradamus was born around noon on Thursday 14 December 1503 (julian?) in St. Rémy de Provence, France (43n47, 004e50), but Patrice Guinard of the CURA Foundation has called this data into question. Here is the excerpt from Chavigny’s 1594 text Iani Gallici facies prior (published in January 1594, a full 28 years after the death of Nostradamus; note that France adopted the Gregorian calendar when Pope Gregory XIII introduced it in October of 1582 and used the Julian calendar prior to that date) in which he gives the birth data:
On page 4 of his book (1594), Chavigny tells us that Nostradramus died on the second of July 1566 (julian?) a little before sunrise. (Astro.com says the death occurred at 3 AM, about one and a half hours before the 4:32 AM sunrise, but I cannot find a source for the 3 AM time of death.) In addition, I do not know for sure whether Chavigny is quoting dates in the Julian calendar for Nostradamus’ birth and death (which occurred before the Gregorian calendar was introduced in 1582), or whether he has converted the original Julian dates to Gregorian in his text, which was published in 1594, twelve years after the Gregorian calendar was introduced. However, AstroDataBank (which uses the wrong coordinates for Nostradamus’ place of birth) claims that his birth data is in the Julian calendar: “14 December 1503 Jul.Cal. (24 Dec 1503 greg.) at 12:00.” If so, then Chavigny appears to be referring to dates in the life of Nostradamus in the Julian calendar.
As Patrice Guinard points out, Chavigny’s account of the seer’s birth does not accord with an epitaph of Nostradamus in the church of the Friars Minor in Salon, attested to by several 17th and 18th century travelers and historians and by his own son César in 1614, which states that Nostradamus lived for 62 years, 6 months and 10 days.
If we assume that 6 months refers to half a year, which is 182.62 days, then the 6 months and 10 days is equivalent to 192.62 days. Counting back 192.62 days from 2 July 1566 (julian) gives us a 62nd birthday of 21 December 1565 (julian). If the epitaph is correct, then Nostradamus was born on Thursday 21 December 1503 (julian), a week later than the date reported in Chavigny’s text. (I am assuming here that the hours just before sunrise are counted as part of July 2nd rather than July 1st, but I don’t know at what time of day the civil date changed in 16th century France. If it were July 1st, then the birthday in 1565 would have occurred on 20 December, which would also have been the date of his solar return in that year.
Regaridng the epitaph, Guinard quotes historian Honoré Bouche who wrote that it was “engraved on a marble table about eight feet long, tied against the wall in the Church of the Friars Minor in Salon” (1664, vol 2, p.650). Here is an image of the text of the engraving, stating that Nostradamus lived for 62 years, 6 months and 10 days, and that he died at Salon in 1566:
Apparently during the revolutionary period in France, the epitaph was desecrated. According to Guinard, it was reconstructed in 1813 based on the writings of Chavigny rather than historical records describing the original, which resulted in a change of the original “10 days” on the engraving to “17 days” to match the birth date in Chavigny’s text. The wikipedia entry on Nostradamus cites references which maintain that Chavigny was known to have posthumously edited passages of the seer to better fit events, which casts doubt on the reliability of Chavigny’s own writings.
Furthermore, Guinard tells us that in 1614 César, the son of Nostradamus, “indique les 10 jours de l’inscription initiale (p.804), et note que son père “Michel de Nostredame nasquit à la ville de Sainct Remy presques sur les abbois de l’an” (César ‘refers to the 10 days on the original engraving and notes that his father, Michel de Nostredame, was born in the town of St. Remy almost on the cusp of the year’ — my translation). The fact that César places his father’s birthday at almost (presques) the ‘abbois‘ (cusp, bark, outer covering, end, boundary, final limit, death throes) of the year is consistent with a date in very late December rather than December 14 (julian) which is mid-December. If Nostradamus had been born a week later, his birth date would have been 21 December (julian) or 31 December (gregorian), which is the final day (‘abbois‘) of the Gregorian year. On the other hand, 14 December (julian) would change to 24 December (greg.), which is only a week from the end of the year.
Thus, we have at least two possible dates for the birth of Nostradamus: 14 December and 21 December of 1503 (julian), perhaps close to 12 Noon as reported by Chavigny (1594), who was known to modify facts to suit his aims. Guinard, who has apparently done much scholarly research, concludes that the 21 December (julian) date is more likely to be accurate, on the basis of a well-documented epitaph which states that Nostradamus had a life span of 62 years, 6 months and 10 days, and apparently attested to by his wife and his son.
Here are the two potential birth charts for Nostradamus, cast for his birthplace at midday (Sun on the MC), using his Julian date of birth. The December 14 chart is based on the writings of Chavigny and the December 21 chart is based on historical records describing the epitaph at the time of his death.
The charts are quite similar. The main differences are the Moon (which moved from Scorpio on Dec 14 to Aquarius on Dec 21), and Mercury (which moved Rx from Capricorn on Dec 14 to Sagittarius on Dec 21). The cusps are almost identical. Aries rising is consistent with his life as a prominent physician and healer whose enlightened and pioneering medical procedures saved many people during the plague. Jupiter is angular, rules the 9th, squares the ASC and opposes the Sun in both charts, consistent with his strong interest in divination and mysticism. Sun ruling the 6th and conjunct the MC may reflect his lifelong interest in medicine and healing. The Mars/Saturn conjunction in Cancer in the 4th is consistent with the death of his wife and children from the plague. The Dec 21 chart has a very prominent Neptune in the 10th, which could be an indicator of his fame for his prophetic abilities.
A time of birth close to midday (Sun on the MC) seems reasonable because in both charts, by primary direction, such a birth time would bring the primary directed Sun opposite the Asc, and primary directed 8th-ruler Mars opposite the 8th Placidus cusp, around the year 1566 when he died.