VIII 22 THE PROCESSION OF THE SANCH
1568 Lyon Benoist Rigaud
Gorsan, Narbonne, par le sel aduertir
Tucham, la grace Parpignam trahye,
La ville rouge n’y vouldra consentir.
Par haulte vol drap gris vie faillie.
Through the saltmarshes, Coursan and Narbonne to alert
Tucham, Grace is ill-delivered at Parpignam,
The Town Priest wilt not allow it there.
Flying from a high place, a grey-robed life rupted.
Line 1, Coursan is inNarbonneon the river Aude. ‘advertir’ is from the OF ‘avertir’, tip off or alert, turn to, know of, be aware.
Line 2, Tuchan or Tuissan is in the Aude department of Southern France. OF ‘trahye’ is a form of OF ‘trahir’, to deceive or abandon somebody including in the specific sense of ‘to give someone up to their fate as a prisoner’.
Line 3, ‘La ville rouge’ looks like ‘the red town’ but is probably ‘the town Red’ who was the local priest, perhaps a brother to the Sanch or perhaps trying to represent one of the periodical Church bans on this procession. (Elsewhere, Nostredame’s ‘rouge’ sometimes refers perhaps to those clergy who placed Rome before custom.)
Line 4, OF ‘drap gris’ is a coarse grey cloth. Today it would be black and called the orcaparutxe. Once we should allow the valid alternative spelling ‘orcaparutse’ we will find it in the letters of the place names quoted in the quatrain. ‘Sanch’ (blood) can also be found in the place names. The Procession of the Sanch is a living folklore of Perpignan. It’s an eerie ceremony, a slow-marching or even crawling masquerade with the silence broken by tambourines suitably veiled with dark cloth pieces (OF ‘drap’) and the occasional ring of an iron bell held by the leader who wears red and sets the funereal pace. The ceremony was introduced by a local Christian priest called Ferrier (his name is in the letters of Line 3) who felt strongly about redemption and the dignity of condemned prisoners being walked to the town gallows. Previously they and any supportive friends had been vilified and attacked en route by relatives of the victim. Henceforth, persuaded Ferrier, all participants in the march to the hanging, including the town executioner, must be robed and hooded the same as each other so as to confuse the belligerent mob who might otherwise lynch somebody. (Ironically, theUSA’s KKK dress-code is exactly the same but in white.) Nowadays the participants are penitents who carry weighty crucifixion artifacts on each Good Friday, making Jesus ‘la vie faillie’ on that solemn day of remembrance.
Nostradamus Quatrain VIII 22 is a description of a ‘Sanch hanging’ despite the objection of higher clergy (it was banned by the Church more than once) or else a lynching in its absence. The Procession of the Sanch was also practiced at Collioure, Arles-sur-Tech and various other places around the Pyrénées-Orientale region adjacent to the Camargue Rhone Delta which is a brackish wetland. Salt has been mined in ‘les salins’ there since Roman times. The ‘la Sanch’ brotherly group was founded by Vincent Ferrier at Perpignan in 1416. (Vincent is linked by the OF ‘vincer’ or ‘vaincre’ to Victor/Victeur and all these can be extracted from the last three lines, ‘Vincent Ferrier’ from the second couplet alone).
It’s been said that Nostredame the astrologer would presume that events in the past which had accompanied a particular horoscope would recur when the planets came to repeat that pattern in the sky. The Vincent Ferrier syle of execution march has long persisted – even after capital punishment itself had been abolished – but it is a calendrical lunar cycle that is happening here: the irregular Procession of the Sanch now takes place regularly on Easter Fridays.
Nigel Raymond Offord© 2011