The Voynich Manuscript: Le Monde Des La Dames


Forgive my French. You will probably ask: What does the Voynich manuscript (VMS) has to do with Big Bureaucracy? Well, the code breakers at the Pentagon found it worthy their time and tax-payer money trying to decipher it. Contributing to this effort on my own time and dime is far less ridiculous. So lighten up and have fun with this journey in time!

The Voynich manuscript was written between 1404 and 1438 according to The Department of Physics at the University of Arizona. Besides that, a quick look at the previous research gives impression that the mysterious book works like a Rorschach inkblot. The work so far tells more about the researchers than about the book. That defined my approach to the subject: observing how my own biases will lead to a new Voynich theory.

Political maps describing the world order at the beginning of the 15th century proved really helpful in the quest. I was able to place the so called ‘zodiac’ signs from the Voynich manuscript on Earth and not in the sky. Let me introduce you to the medieval G-9.

Austria and Hungary grace the pages of the VMS with two ‘rosettes’ each.  The alpine munching on a mountain bush is no astrological creature. Bias toward Cyrillic as my native alphabet prompts me to see word similar to Австрия under the goat. The Hungarians call themselves Magyars, so, the ‘Mag’ note under the bull could be a reference to them. To this day the Hungarians preserve a herd the gray bull that fed their people in the steppes for centuries.

The author may have been well connected inside the Austrian and Hungarian courts; arguably the ‘most dressed’ comparing to the other rosettes. The ruler in Magyarország was one of the most controversial people in the history: Sigismund (later Holy Roman Emperor) may be one of the men featured on the Hungarian rosette. He married Barbara of Cilli (later Empress) in 1405. She was very politically and socially active (she even participated in plots against her husband) and her hobby was alchemy. The queen meddled in the creation of the Order of the Dragon. It probably crossed her mind to try to organize women too.


Barbara (or Barbora) is riding a horse and waving starry banner in Konrad Kyeser’s Bellifortis manuscript. At the beginning of the century the author was exiled in Bohemia by Sigismund. Voynich manuscript was in that area at some point in history, so looking into the creative circle behind Bellifortis may lead to some clues. In 1405 Kyeser dedicated Bellifortis to Rupreht III. The German King’s wife Elizabeth of Nuremberg may be the crowned lady on the ‘Libra’ rosette in the Voynich manuscript. The note hints about the State of the Order Teutonic. Elizabeth of Nuremberg carried the title Queen of the Romans between 1400 and 1410.

I would assign the two crayfish to Poland-Lithuania. The image of a bleeding lady wearing really dark crown on that rosette may be a tribute to Jadwiga of Poland (also known as Saint Hedwig – the woman who carried the official title of King of Poland), who died in 1399 from complications after giving birth.

The dinosaur-like creature is still curling tail on the coat of arms of Moscow.

The Genghis-Khan-like archer probably comes from some part of the Golden Horde. The costume and the bow can be compared to those of Manchu guard.

The gentlemen and the lady who are playing patty-cake in a book that otherwise contain hundreds of naked bodies, probably, come from some place that is really boring. My stereotypes send them to Norway (Noreg).

Perhaps the easiest to recognize is the English lion with Angл written underneath. Not so obvious is France posing as Virgo across the lion. I could almost hear Casanova screaming: Virgin? In Paris? However, more serious look reveals that the author, perhaps, had a romantic view of France and real hatred for England. The sorry look of the lion in the picture (with the tail down between the legs and a red spot on the behind) may be proof that not only love, but hate also lives forever.

The real puzzle is the couple of fish with the note Mars underneath. Who are the Marsians?  I have no clue, but the method of my ‘research’ is to come up with association anyway. I give this one to Rome (and surrounding city-states) because Mars was father of Romulus and Remus.

On the illustration is Mars as imagined in Bellifortis. Konrad Kyeser was a crusader, he fought at Nicopolis 1396. He had no problem celebrating Mars while fighting in the name of Jesus.

The fish on the Voynich rosette could be ichthys (common Christian symbol at the time). In this case: what do Jesus and Mars have in common? Well, Virgin Mary was not the first mother of God to get pregnant without any man contributing to the process. Mars’s mother Juno conceived him when goddess Flora rubbed her tummy with a magic flower. Centuries later, Juno is gracing the Great Seal of France. The image was inspiration for the Statue of Liberty. Ironically, even in modern America folks are still worshiping Jesus while also celebrating Juno.

The VMS description provided by the Yale University library says:

… nude females emerging from pipes or chimneys…

I call it ‘the Mario Bros’ bias. Emerging from pipes and chimneys? My own bias (being exposed to Eastern Orthodox iconography) is telling me that the noble ladies are being baptized. This would explain all the rivers and tubs. It also would explain why they are naked.

The Renaissance folks generally considered themselves to be people of faith. Their problem was with dogmatic church policies (not allowing freedom of speech and reasoning).

In short, these women (and few men), are being enlightened.

But who would care about women enlightening in the beginning of 15th century? In 1405 Christine de Pizan published The Book of the City of the Ladies. She had a dream… in which she was visited by Lady Reason…etc.  That brings us back to Paris, because for one unleashed feminist, the step between City of Ladies and World of Ladies is a small one.

How active were Christine and her friends at the time. Well, she dedicated la Cité des Dames to a noble woman, whose husband will later become one of the biggest supporters of Jeanne  d’Arc. The last known work of De Pizan is a poem eulogizing Joan of Arc. Women enlightenment, hate for England… sounds like a circle of friends whose culture can have something in common with the Voynich manuscript.

Many call Christine de Pizan a French writer, however, under the modern immigration policies she wouldn’t be granted French citizenship, so I call her Venetian, since she was born in Venice.  Her father was astrologist and alchemist, which in today’s language would be a ‘rocket scientist working for Big Pharma’. He moved to Paris when Christine was young.

It is widely believed that the Voynich Manuscript was part of the book collection of the English astrologer John Dee. He did travel a lot and reportedly read lectures on algebra at the University of Paris in late 1540s. It is possible for him to have acquired the book there.

The beginning of the 15th century France was a ‘happening’ place. Isabeau of Bavaria and John, Duke of Berry sponsored many manuscripts and art works, including Christine de Pisan’s. Among the fine illustrations created in this art circle is the ‘zodiac man’ where we see another lion not so proud of his tail. Jean be Berry owned serious vase collection that included the oldest known Chinese vase to reach Europe. Venice and Paris were the two centers to produce hard stone vases and other fancy pottery at the time. The ‘vases’ in the Voynich manuscript will be addressed in the next article that will deal with the cipher.

Among the illuminators working at the court of Jean, duc de Berry from the 1390s to the 1410s was Virgil Master. The Louvre and the British Museum own this artist’s finest works.  However, it is the Getty Museum in LA, California that displays a couple of charts by Virgil Master (here and here ) that may provide clues about the thinking behind all those circles in the Voynich manuscript.

The Virgil Master charts (dated about 1405) show alphabet being divided along the lines of the zodiac.  My Latin is only as good as Google translator, but I would guess that the Virgil Master charts are inspired by Arabic astrology. The little poem on the bottom of the first chart contains the key word ‘Racio’ meaning Reason. The symbolism in the charts may be connected to the spherical Earth scientific view. The Voynich MS was written just few years before Christopher Columbus was born. The European educated elite was already looking for a new way to get to China after the disastrous last Crusade that left the Ottomans able to set the noose around Constantinople.

The Voynich manuscript was probably put together by a group of people dreaming about creating a social network (medieval sorority, sisterhood)among noble educated women across the old world from England all the way to the Mongol lands.  Men were already community organizing themselves into knightly orders, so why not the women? It was the beginning of the new century and feeling of new hope must have been in the air.

In the next article I will try to address the cipher.

To be continued…

22 Responses to “The Voynich Manuscript: Le Monde Des La Dames”

  • Now tell us what you really think! Just kidding… sort of. This is very humorous and very insightful at the same time. I do suspect that there is much sarcasm in your observations, and would love to see the distilled, pure, version of your ideas… as it is hard to tell the cynical/humorous from the genuinely held theory.

    Only one point I would make: The University of Arizona did not determine when the Voynich was written, as you say, only when the vellum it was written on was manufactured (using radiocarbon dating). Rich.

  • bdid1dr:

    I thank Rich for validating my refrain about radiocarbon dating being applicable only to the manufacture of the vellum, not when it was written upon. Orthodox, eh? I dance the dances (Balkan/Greek/Macedonian/Serbian) but can’t read a word of any language but my own (American English).

    A little sarcastic humor only adds “seasoning” to your dialogue. Thank you! Please continue to contribute to the discussion!

  • Thank you, Rich!

    I agree on your correction about the velum testing. I date the VMS as scribed between 1400 and 1410 – the period in which Elizabeth of Nuremberg held the title of Roman Queen as portrait on the Teutonic Order rosette (Тевтонский орден.

    This period in European history is characterized by a lot of diplomatic activity in attempt to solve the Great Schism. We find many politically active women during this time (the politics were always a matter of life and death for the queens and their children).

    So my theory is that the VMS represents a social network of noble (and royal) women.

    This would explain why languages like English,Latin, Ukrainian (Slavic) and even forms of Chinese were recognized by different researcher. They all can be right. :) This is the beauty of my theory – it is all inclusive :)

    I am torn between German-centric and French-centric origin of the manuscript.

    Glad you had fun with my work. I only spend a couple of months staring at the Voynich. I do not pretend to be an expert. However, a little bit of fresh input may shake the things up. My background is in psychology – so cognitive biases interest me in general.

    You will have fun with the next article – on the cypher, but I will need few more days to put that together. Ellie

  • bdid1dr, I am glad you can join the sirtaki!

    There may be English in the Voynich, according to my theory. The liberals like to think they are above hate, although that lion picture speaks about the opposite.

  • Well I look forward to your ideas. It is very refreshing to see new work. Can I link your blog on mine? Rich.

  • Jody:

    going right way, keep up the good work. BUT, might be little different.

  • Thank you, Jody. The royal families at the time were already connected through marriages. Voynich may represent a wish to strengthen the relationships – family reunion of sort – to resolve the Great Schism.

    Rich, thank you! Sure, you can link. I enjoyed reading your blog! I fixed few holes in the net thanks to your work.

  • The style of the charts by the ‘Virgil’ master are intriguing, and I agree that they show a similar style; I’d expect their material might have come from North Africa, and ultimately from around Mosul. Certainly Islamic, but not necessarily of Muslim origins. Emile Savage-Smith noted a device found in North Africa, but made in the style of Mosul, which has dots in the inner section, just like the Virgil Master’s. It is 200 years earlier though (from memory).

  • Thank you Diane, I did try to overlap images of the Virgil master charts with Voynich Folio 67г. I have no idea of the actual radius of the circles, but proportionally they fit perfectly one over another. Chart similar to Voynich Folio 67v is showing through the velum of the second Virgil Master rosette. I find it to be interesting coincidence.

    Many stars carry their Arabic names even today. The Virgil Master star names match the one listed in the same time period by Geoffrey Chaucer in his Treatise on the Astrolabe, year 1391.

    Thank you for linking to your website. I look forward reading about your vision of the VMS.

  • Ellie
    Apropos of Savage-Smith’s work, I’ve just checked online and both her original and her 2003 update are listed as available, but there appears to be a problem downloading them. If you are interested you might write to the web-site itself for a direct copy.
    http://www.labirintoermetico.com/

    However, tracing back a bit.. this site is worth looking at too, especially I think, the figure illustrated under note [6]
    http://www.geomance.com/rabolion/notes.htm

    But like numerous elements in the manuscript, these diagrams again refer to a period much earlier than when the Vms itself was made.

  • bdid1dr:

    I’m trailing behind the pack, as usual. Kolo Festival dancing (I started in 1970). My favorite dance in those days was “Kacerak”. Actually, I find it hard to “rank” the dances because “Kolo Festivals” can sometimes reflect the strain on international politics. But we do the best to “dance around” the subject! Mostly I now dance/teach the Greek/Macedonian dances at various festivals around the San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz, and Sacramento. I can still dance “Pentozali”!

    %* (whoo!)

  • bdid1dr:

    As I said before: I’M STILL trailing behind the pack. Yes, I’ve visited (and commented at my usual length): under the tents and tarot and Council of Constance and Petrovil/Pope Alexander V…….

    Diane, Rich: Please don’t allow me to monopolize Ellie’s wonderful blog pages! Check ‘em all out. Can you also give us any hope/news of that other blog’s return?

    Ellie, if it bothers you for me to be referring to other blogs besides yours, please be sure to let me know.

    bd

  • bdid1dr:

    Ellie,

    Tom Spande has been paralleling some of your comments re the astrology of the VM — as well as paralleling the “bathing beauties” folios. Pomegranates in the bath-house. He’s thinking “shampoo” (?) I’m thinking finishing touches to women’s preparations for a very important wedding. What the newlywed wife does with the pomegranate, is to place it at the doorway to her new home — and step on it and crush the pulp and seeds. (Apparently this is done to hopefully have a fertile marriage.) Bride and groom — and the rest of the wedding party then proceed to party-party!

    Check out the rest of my story on Nick’s new V pages. I’ll drop in on you now and then, just to keep in touch. I enjoy your posts very much!

    bd

  • Antonio:

    just a detail on the “manchu guard” thing… the illustration is actually showing a crossbowman, the bow is actually a crossbow… the clothing also is very similar to what we see in many traditional “medieval festivals” in the various towns around europe….
    For example you can see a detail of the hat here http://www.maremmaguide.com/image-files/balestro_del_girifalco_400.jpg.

  • I agree – the crossbow is likely and the hat from the picture is very much like the one in the VMS. What about the oriental writing under the archer?
    There is another possibility about the crossbow – it could be that the artist was attempting to show the archer holding the horse ribbons and using the bow at the same time – the Horde archers were very skilled in riding and shooting arrows at the same time. There is no horse of course, but that wouldn’t be the most bizarre thing in the VMS :)

  • Antonio:

    well, actually the words under the signs are the only ones understandable and very likely added later by someone that was trying to decipher the manuscript (The handwriting and ink is different, like the numbers on the pages for example and the 1 2 3 4 5 written beside some characters on one of the infamous “lists”)
    They correspond with the name of the months the sign refers to. Some of the most clear are march for the pisces and october for the libra… saggitarius would correspond to december which also is discernible but being written on the figure its confused, id love to have a better defined picture of that detail… Some traditional calendars (like the ones made for farmers that depict activities and lunar phases useful for pruning, planting etc) still depict the months using zodiac signs (its usually overlooked the fact that the zodiac sign catches 10 days from the previous month). Scorpio is another clear one in november and this sign was often shown as draco, we know that in the middle ages the drawing of a dragon was a real work of imagination that sometimes made them look like tortoises or snakes and anything else that fits in between a proper scorpion and a real lizard :)
    If you look up the mosaics of the Otranto cathedral you can see things very similar to those depictions, also with the names of the months and corresponding main rural activity

  • Antonio:

    PS: independently from the manuscript its almost more interesting to see how different minds put things together in different ways. Beauty of mysteries…:)

  • Antonio:

    and ps ps… last one i promise, in the vms the months and the signs are shifted (i.e. usually in many places you see libra representing september rather than october) but i have seen that happening in some calendars still printed now for farmers and it can also be seen in the Otranto mosaics, this maybe because of the fact that they depict also the “labor of the month” which in southern regions is anticipated of one month… im not sure and havent found yet a good explanation of why some calendars show that same switch regarding the zodiac and others dont.
    Though, it is somewhat irrelevant if we consider those words as added later on by some other person which could have taken as example one of these “switched calendars”

  • Thanks, for the information Antonio. I understand now that the signs mean the months. The symbol with the little doodle on top, as understand, is considered to be E. I thought it is the Hebrew Shin (from which Cyrilic Ш – sh – was later derived). Since my mind is biased toward Cyrillic – what they see as Aberil I saw as Авшriя (something close to Austria) – a little word game play :)

  • Antonio:

    well, its not necessarily wrong, after all the whole thing seems a big word puzzle… there are words and letters that are similar to Cyrillic, Wilfrid Voynich was polish, some notes might be his, or the Jesuits or whoever else tried the translation through the years, the different ink tells you what has been added later, and those notes might be correct or might be not.. who knows… the various abbreviated signs make things even worse… Maybe its something where the solution is so simple that noone can see it.
    But, unless out there someone has an encyclopedic knowledge of languages and dialects, i think the only way is considering every point of view and narrow down from there…

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