Category Archives: The Second Script

Ven Mus Mel

I’ve already written about the text next to the “aching tummy” figure at the base of folio 66r in a couple of blogs but perhaps it’s time to post some of the background information that influenced my ideas about what it might say.

Ven Muß Mel

I should start by saying, I’m pretty sure there is a letter “m” in “mel” that has been overwritten with a couple of heavier strokes so that the changed letter almost resembles a “g”. Since the interpretation of “mel” and “gel” are very different, this blog will concentrate on the original word “mel” and leave “gel” for a separate blog.

Note that it was very common for a single “s” to be written as “ß” in the middle ages, if it was at the end of a word. It was not always intended as a ligature for double ess.

I’ve already described some possible interpretations for individual parts of this phrase. To recap, in Anglo-Saxon “ven/wen” refers to a swelling or tumor, which may or may not apply to how it is used here, but should be considered as a possibility because the mysterious letter above it resembles an Anglo-Saxon letter form.

In German, muß typically means must/should but can also be “mouse” in Nordic areas. The word “mel” sometimes means honey (more often spelled melle, but sometimes also mell or mel), a very common ingredient in medieval remedies. Mel can also mean flour, and it too is a common ingredient.

All these interpretations have been mentioned in my previous blogs, but I thought I would take a moment to fill in some of the background information that influenced my perception of the text.

This is just one possibility, but if we consider “muß mel” as belonging together, we get a phrase (or compound word) that can be traced back to the middle ages.

Müsmehl is ground grain that was distinguished from bread flower by its color and texture. It was known as musmel/müsmel in the middle ages, and corresponds to later spellings of müsmehl and Muasmähl (note that corn meal was sometimes substituted for the original grains after the conquest of the Americas). This ground grain was used for porridge and a granola-like mixture, similar to the grains in muesli/müsli (note the similarity in the words).

Historical Confirmation of Terminology

In the Hermann Miles Chronik notation for anno 1529, there is a list of prices for basic foodstuffs. It tells mentions a quarter of “korn” (grain) and a “fierlig” of müsmel at 18 d.

Schillings, florins, and ducats were common currencies at the time, but I’m not sure what the currency unit “d” represents. Fiertel is a quarter, but fierlig appears to be a larger quantity, given that a fierlig of müsmel was almost four times costlier than a pound of “flaisch” (meat). Note that the definition of a “pound” varied from region to region.

In Württembergische Geschichtsquellen, published in 1905 in Swabia, the distinction between “schön mel” and “müsmel” is noted. In English, schön mel generally refers to fine flour—flour for breads and pastries.

Thus, the term is documented in print at least by the 16th century and may have existed in oral history for some time prior.

Summary

I’ve already mentioned that the handwriting on 66r next to the prone figure appears to be the same hand that wrote the marginalia on 116v. What is particularly interesting about the term “musmel/ mus mel” is that it was not widespread. In this form, it was mainly used in an area that is geographically consistent with some of the idiosyncracies in the spelling/grammar of the marginalia on the last page. For example, in Schwabia and the Alsace, “p” was often substituted for “b” (which would support an interpretation of “pox” as goat) and “a” for “e”, and letters were frequently dropped from words—characteristics one sees in the Hermann Miles Chronik and that are expressed or hinted at on 116v.

Although I have spent several years trying to systematically track down the homeland of the marginalia writer, and have a great deal of paleographic data, I haven’t yet committed to a specific region. Gothic cursive was written everywhere from Scotland to Naples, and France to Bohemia in the 15th century, and the marginalia writer’s hand (which is a mixture of cursive and book forms) does not give away a specific location. However, the combination of the handwriting style and the spelling and grammar suggests that the marginalia author may have learned to write Latin letter forms in the Alsace or Swabia.

If the marginalia on 66r is intended to be “muß mel” in the sense of ground grains/flour, and if the scribe is the same person who penned 116v, then it strengthens the evidence for the Voynich manuscript having passed through the hands of someone familiar with linguistic conventions of a fairly specific region.

 

J.K. Petersen

© Copyright 2017 J.K. Petersen, All Rights Reserved

Mayhem, Macaroni-Style

It’s a challenge to read old manuscripts. Language has changed, writing styles were very different, a bewildering array of abbreviations occupies each sentence like a mine field, and there were no spelling checkers (or hard-and-fast rules about spelling) in the 15th century. To complicate matters, scribes often copied manuscripts in languages they didn’t fully understand.

The last page of the VMS reads like a cryptic alphabet soup, but are texts with blended languages that unusual?

Support for Billy Goat Liver?

My gut feeling, even before investigating it, was that blended languages were bound to occur in societies where a second language was an essential tool of commerce and scholarly correspondence. But a sixth sense and real data are two different things, so I kept my eyes open for an unambiguous example and found one, and inside was the most surprising Easter egg, something I never expected…

BSB CGM 8137 is a tract on fishing and has no obvious connection to the VMS, but the recipes use many of the same ingredients as folk medicine, so it reads very much like a medical manuscript. It mentions tormentilla, wine, beer and “pockleber” (goat liver)—that was the surprise! Finding goat liver is not particularly unusual, but finding goat liver in a manuscript that blends languages in such a quirky way made me sit up and take notice…

As far as I’m aware, no one has mentioned CGM 8137 “pockleber” in connection with the VMS, but it’s important because it demonstrates that this ingredient was used in ways other than cooking and might relate to the words written at the top of folio 116v. The spelling is different, but substituting “x” (Greek chi) for hard-h, ch, or ck was not unusual and “p” was often used where modern German uses “b”.

If poxleber and pockleber refer to the same thing, then this manuscript offers evidence to support the interpretation offered by Johannes Albus and anyone else who may have read the text as “goat liver”.

I was happy to find this example for two reasons:

•  it offers evidence that pockleber (both the word and the ingredient) was probably in use in the 15th century, and

•  the script is an excellent example of mixed language. CGM 8137 demonstrates that macaronic text was in practical use.

I’ve long wondered if some of the not-quite German words on f116v that are mixed with readable German might be fractured Latin (mixed in with accepted Latin) and that some of the text on the second line might even be Spanish. Here is an excerpt from fishing recipe #12 to give an idea of how intimately languages could be blended. Note also that the interpretation of “pockleber” as a compund word is unambiguous, as “leber” is mentioned again, by itself, on the fourth line:

Item rec[ipe] mayen et prachmonet pro piscib[us] et cancris ain pockleber et assa bene, pus?post? assacionem sparge desuper pulverem de gaffer. Postea? recipe das kalbs netzlen oder schaff netzlen das da frisch ist, und schlags umb die leber. Postea liga super asserem parvulum ad capiendum pisces et cancros…

The first word, “Item”, was widely used in both German and Latin, and “recipe” is middle French for “medical prescription”. Then there’s an odd combination of month names, the first Latinesque (mayen), the other German (prachmonet) (note that once again, a “p” has been substituted for “b”). Brachmonat is June in German, and calendars illustrating the month’s labors often illustrate June as a farmer tilling his fields. The next four words are Latin, followed by two German words (ain pockleber), and three more in Latin instructing the reader to dry or roast well.

The month names really caught my eye. You would think the writer would choose one language or the other for related concepts in the same sequence, but apparently there was no impulse to organize the languages this way.

The other recipes are interlaced in the same way.

It’s significant that German and Latin are mixed not just line-by-line (as in macaronic verse) or phrase-by-phrase, but sometimes word-by-word.

That’s the important part. If “pox leber” turns out to be German and even if “pfer” at the end turns out to be a German word like “pferd” that doesn’t mean the words in between have to be German. If CLM 8137 is any example, the word “um?n” and some of the German-looking words on the last line could be Latin (or something else).

The Possibilities…

CGM 8137 was created about a century after the VMS, so it’s not an exemplar, but “goat liver” was no doubt a common phrase—goats were an integral part of medieval society—which means that other examples might be found, as additional manuscripts are scanned and read.

This isn’t proof that “pox leber” says goat liver, there may be other interpretations, but it is greatly intriguing, especially considering polyglot manuscripts have been found to exist.

 

J.K. Petersen

© Copyright 2017 J.K. Petersen, All Rights Reserved

Colorizing the Columns

Wormhole1The Voynich manuscript has quite a few holes and “worm trails” from some kind of infestation that appears to have especially affected the outer pages (possibly because the pesky critters preferred the mmmm, mmmm good-tasting binding over the inner pages). I like to think of the one on folio 1r (right) as the portal to the medieval dimension.

In middle ages terminology, “worms” was a catchall word for things that make you sick, much as we use the word “germs” today, except that medieval “worms’ had superstitious associations because “germs”, as we see them through microscopes, weren’t yet discovered.

WormHoles

A worm-riddled manuscript cover in the Chicago University library. Detail of photo courtesy of CU and Melina Avery.

“Worms” also referred to the little wiggly things that infested medieval folks, such as lice, ringworm, round worms, pin worms, and some really nasty worms I’d prefer not to list. And then there are worms that like to gnaw through books, such as silverfish and various kinds of beetles.

Worm trails can make it particularly difficult to interpret parts of a manuscript that have been eaten away, especially if the text is small and faint. Worm trails are very intricate shapes and can sometimes look like letter forms, which makes small surface nibbles hard to distinguish from real letters.

Making Sense of the Columns

On folio 1r, on the right-hand side, there are three columns of letters and a few shapes that somewhat resemble the “red weirdos” on the same page. The first column appears to be the alphabet in Latin characters. The second column doesn’t follow an alphabetic pattern and may have been someone’s attempt at decoding the manuscript with a substitution code. The third column is faint and doesn’t appear to have as many characters as the others.

Voyf1rColumns1I had considerable difficulty trying to determine which marks were worm marks, which were variations in the parchment, which were chemical abrasions, and which were letters or other glyphs, but I did my best to colorize the forms so they can be more easily seen.

This is a very subjective process based only on scans, since I have never seen the original document, but I thought it might be helpful or at least of interest. I used a different color for the two shapes that look more like “red weirdos” than the other letters (the upper one, at least, the one that resembles a Y shape and is next to the “c”, looks like it was filled with a brush rather than a pen).

I asked myself what would motivate a person to scrape or chemically remove the columns on the right? The two most likely explanations seemed to be 1) to hide the original code or 2) to remove an unsuccessful attempt at decipherment.

Voyf1rColumns2Since the column script doesn’t match the handwriting for the marginal notes or the zodiac labels, and has a different look and feel than the original VMS text, I’ve been assuming for now that it was written by someone else and may be a failed attempt at decipherment. The problem with this idea is that some of the shapes in the second column are not regular shapes in the VMS and the Y shape that resembles a red weirdo may have been part of the original document, considering there’s an oddly placed red weirdo above it. Is it possible there were shapes in the margin before the columnar text was added?

The age of the column text is difficult to determine. The ink appears to be old, but the style is not Gothic cursive, as are the marginal notes. Gothic cursive was especially prevalent in the 15th century, which suggests that the marginal notes might be as old as the VMS, or almost as old, but the columnar text is different—it could range from about the 16th century to perhaps the 20th century, depending on the region. If I were forced to guess, I’d probably guess late 16th or 17th century.

Voyf1rColumns3You might notice something interesting toward the bottom of the second column—the shape at the bottom is rounder and more elaborate. It’s difficult to tell if it was written at a different time or by a different hand (or whether the column writer switched to a different style of writing, which seems less likely). To the left of it, in the first column, are a pretty standard y and z and possibly an x above the y, but it’s very faded and hard to tell. Above the curly letter in the second column is a shape I can’t make out.

A Little Dessert

I have one more image that strikes me as interesting. It was difficult to adjust the colors because it’s very small.

Voyf1rTinyTextIf you turn your head to the left next to the top right weirdo, there are three lines of what look like erased text. Nothing is clear except perhaps the shapes at the end of the second line, which look a bit like a modern era capital-F followed by an a (or maybe a g), but it’s scrawly, so I really can’t tell. It doesn’t look like Arabic, Hebrew, or any other language I recognize. The problem with identifying scrawls is that there are some shapes, like n or r, that look like letters in many languages (Anglo-Saxon, Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Italian, German, French, and many others) even if they mean something different in another language.

The VMS has gone through many hands, so who knows who may have added notes. Why the note would be so tiny is a bit of a puzzlement. Maybe you can make it out.

J.K. Petersen

© Copyright 2016 J.K. Petersen, All Rights Reserved

Character Glyph or Plummeting Rock?

This is a detail of part of the text on the last page of the Voynich manuscript. It appears to be a mixture of an unknown language or charm language, Middle German, and Latin, with a strange shape at the end of the last line:

F116vGasMichIs that an “o” following the word “mich”? I don’t think so, for the following reasons:

  • It’s not in line with the rest of the text.
  • It’s not shaped like any of the other “o” shapes—it’s irregular, like a rock, not like a letter and the stroke order is different.
  • It’s not only shaped differently from the “o” shapes, it’s bigger.
  • It’s drawn with four dots above it and a fifth to the left of the lowest. In contemporary iconography, it looks like it’s falling. I like to call it the plummeting rock and whether it’s falling or not, I consider it a drawing (like the drawings on the far left), not a part of the text.
  • It’s textually out of character with all the other words, which resemble Latin and old German, even if they’re hard to interpret, and an “o” would be linguistically out of step with what immediately precedes it.
  • Five dots is not an accent or diacritical mark in any language that I know. Two is usually the maximum; three is rare.
  • I don’t think the dots are pointing to anything. There are many snaky lines throughout the VMS pointing to things. Dots were sometimes used in Malaysian documents to point to important paragraphs, but dots are rare as pointers in most other documents—lines, arrows and manicules are more common. When scribes fixed mistakes, the corrections were rarely written underneath or so far away, usually they were written above or after the error.

So if it’s not an “o”, what is it?

As mentioned in a previous post, it looks more like the drawings on the left than a letter of the alphabet to me. I’ve been calling it a plummeting rock for lack of a better term, but that was simply a “working title”… I wasn’t expecting to find information to confirm or deny the identity of this little graphic because it’s small and appears unrelated to the other objects on the page.

Then I came across something of interest in alchemical documents. In medieval alchemy, the substances mercury, sulphur and salt were considered important and much has been written about Mercury, in particular, since it shares its name with the legendary Mercury of the gods.

Mercury was also widely used in medical remedies and was still used to treat syphilis in the 19th century (with questionable results). Mercurialis, a medicinal plant, also shares the name.

So what could Mercury have to do with this curiosity on folio 116v? I didn’t know this until recently, but Mercury is sometimes depicted as falling from the sky:

MercuryFallingSky StoneMercuryMaier1617

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Distillation1512

Illustration from a book on the art of distillery by Hieronymous Brunschwig (1512).

Note that physical mercury and “celestial” mercury are not always considered the same thing and the word “mercury” was sometimes loosely given a variety of meanings.

Celestial mercury is sometimes called aqua vitae (which can also refer to aqueous ethanol) and is sometimes depicted with falling drops or falling chunks (as in the images above).

Aqua vitae, in turn, is associated with alchemical and apothecarial activities. Distillation was a common procedure for creating alcoholic beverages, but it was also used for alchemical concoctions and medicinal tinctures (in fact there may be visual references to distillation elsewhere in the VMS).

Summary

Is there a connection between falling mercury and the falling rock? I don’t know. There’s too little information to decide and there are no overt indications that the VMS is an alchemical document but it could possibly be a medical document.

I’m not even sure the text on this page will ever give up its secrets. If it’s a healing charm, as seems possible, then some of the words might be “magical” words (words not meant to be understood but which are intended to hold or transmit power by their shapes or sounds) and cannot be interpreted by anyone other than the person who created them.

If the VMS is ever translated (including the last page which may be in another hand), and contains a reference to Mercury, then perhaps a plummeting rock isn’t so far-fetched after all. In the meantime I think of it as a curiosity, something to keep us guessing.

J.K. Petersen

© Copyright 2016 J.K. Petersen, All Rights Reserved

The Last Page But Not the Last Word

Folio 116v Revisited

In 2013, I posted a couple of times about Folio 116v, which is sometimes referred to as the last page of the Voynich Manuscript. I also suggested, as I worked through my journey of personal discovery, that it might be a healing charm. I knew nothing about healing charms before trying to puzzle out the VMS, but I was following a hunch that it might be associated with magic when I saw the strange word oladabas. I later discovered, in 2013 and again in 2015, that abracula was a charm word (a very old and and venerated one) used to cure fevers, and posted some examples of 15th century charms, which follow a format surprisingly similar to the VMS text.

Considering how little is written (and drawn) on Folio 116v compared to most other pages, it’s surprising it has generated so many questions. One of the persistent challenges is the interpretation of the characters, some of which are faded and some of which are unconventional. I can read Gothic Cursive better now than I could in 2013, but that doesn’t help when a word is a blobby mess like the one in the middle of the first row of the main body of text (marked with an arrow):

Vm116CeveBig

Deconstructing the Blob

I didn’t pay any attention to what others proposed as the reading for this word because I was so focused on other aspects of the page that I never followed it up, but the subject was raised on the Voynich forum today and I thought it was time to post my impression of what the letters might represent.

In 2013, I thought the word-group in question might be a messy rendition of toe because “o” and “e” are sometimes combined in old manuscripts as œ. After looking at it for a while longer, I realized the explanation might be something completely different.

Vm116Ceve2Let’s say, for example, that this was originally written as a bench character (EVA-ch). The bench char isn’t only a Voynichese char. As I’ve mentioned before, it’s also a common Latin ligature that can represent a wide variety of combinations of “t” “c” “e” and “r” characters, since they are similar to one another in Gothic cursive. In fact, in some manuscripts, it’s hard to distinguish “c” from “e” or “t” from “c” without context.

So, if it’s a bench character, maybe it’s a bench char with a cap or maybe the “cap” is part of the corrected shape or something not used anywhere else. I’m not sure. The cap is smaller and lower than usual, so it might be part of the corrected shape, but we don’t know if the script on the last page is written by the Voynich scribe or someone else who is somewhat able to mimic VMS text but doesn’t do it exactly the same. In the example above, I’ve lightened the shapes that appear to have been added after the initial shape was drawn. I left in the “cap” or “elbow”, but it’s probably best to picture it in your head both with and without the cap-shape since its connection with the other shapes is unclear.

All right. So let’s say for the moment that the scribe drew a bench character. What happened then? Why did he turn it into an unreadable mess? Perhaps the scribe was trying to correct an error. Maybe it’s Voynichese and he didn’t want to give things away. Maybe it’s a common Latin ligature and he decided it looked too much like Voynichese and could be misinterpreted later. Maybe it’s simply a mistake.

Vm116Ceve3Here’s what I think the scribe may have tried to do to correct it… I’ve added colors to the letters so they’re easier to see because I think the answer may lie right in front of us.

In this illustration, the “c” or “t” is purple, the added “e” or “c” is green, and the added “v” or “r” is bluish. Note how the bench char is still in the background, making it hard to clearly see the letters in front even when they’re highlighted with color? So… if it’s a mistake, adding the letters didn’t fix the problem.

What was he trying to write? Was it tev/ter/tar or tcv or ccv or cev or cer—all of which might have been written with the first two letters as a ligature in Latin? I think maybe it’s “cer” or “cev” (ligature ce plus v) and he never finished correcting it because it wasn’t working, so instead of taking the time to scrape away a mistake—he wrote it again correctly as the next word, spaced out better and not blobby, to create “ceve” or “cere”.

Vm116Ceve4

Plausible?

I don’t know. It’s just an idea, I can think of other interpretations, as well, but I think it’s worth mentioning in case it sparks some fresh thoughts about how to read it.

J.K. Petersen

© Copyright 2016 J.K. Petersen, All Rights Reserved

Curiosity Shop or Little Shop of Horrors?          30 Jan. 2016

A Treasure Trove on a Single Page

LesserChrsI wasn’t sure what to title this blog because it’s not clear what is going on at the bottom of Folio 66r. Is this a murder mystery? Is that a dead body?

Audrey the ailing plant begs for blood in Little Shop of Horrors, courtesy of Warner Brothers, 1986.

Audrey the ailing plant begs for blood in Little Shop of Horrors, courtesy of Warner Brothers, 1986.

In fact, Folio 66r is unusual in many ways. Not only is there a mystery pic at the bottom, with some altered text beside it, but the upper left is full of character glyphs that differ from the majority of the text in both shape and position.

Since there are enough head-scratchers on this page to fill several blogs (perhaps several papers), I’ll start with the image and marginal text at the bottom. It might be a mistake to describe it out of context with the text at the top but, since we haven’t deciphered the big block of text, maybe it’s okay to start with the picture.

What is Going On Here?

F66rFigureThumb

It’s possible the Voynich Manuscript is a medical text, with a particular emphasis on women’s health. It is full of plants (plants were medicine in the Middle Ages), nude ladies bathing, women’s cycles, and stylized drawings of internal body parts.

On Folio 66r, there is a figure in the lower left, presumably female, with a distorted stomach and an oddly curved back. The back might be some excess poundage or maybe some swelling. It may also be an example of weak drawing skills.

The bottom of the stomach is sticking out in an oddly irregular way, compared to the round bellies in other parts of the manuscript. Nearby are three objects: a spotty irregular mass that resembles a sponge but could be almost anything, a rounder spotted object (a lid? a rock? a rounded tuber?), and what might be a container of some kind (it has lines on it like a woven basket, but it’s very hard to tell—it could be a bucket, a cup, or a chamber pot).

Dead or Alive?

F66rFace.jpg

Is this prostrate figure a corpse? Or a figure looking toward us, with eyes open? Is it the face of distress or someone lying on a board waiting to be examined? Is she pinching her stomach? With so few details, it’s difficult to tell.

The face of the woman is faded, as though the quill were running out of ink, but it looks like the eyes might be open, and her right arm seems to be pinching and pulling the stomach, so maybe it isn’t a dead body after all—it might be someone in distress. Assuming for the moment that the prostate figure is alive (and female), what could be causing a problem?

  • Stomach ache?
  • Dysentery? (King Henry V is said to have died of dysentery in 1422)
  • Injury?
  • Appendicitis?
  • Menstrual cramps?
  • Childbirth pains?
  • Post-partem distress?

I hate to suggest abortion, because it’s always a touchy subject, but we have to consider this possibility. In medieval times, many girls, from peasants to royalty, were sold off as wives in their mid-teens and sometimes endured fourteen or more pregnancies when they scarcely had food to feed two or three mouths and, if their husbands were soldiers, the breadwinner was frequently away from home burning and pillaging, leaving the women to cope with the household and children alone.

15thcTortureThey were turbulent times. People were hung, dragged behind horses, burned at the stake, castrated, and drawn and quartered in the public square, where even the smallest child could sit and watch. Explicit examples of these procedures were recorded by 15th century artists such as Giovanni Boccaccio (right).

Given this attitude toward life and death, abortion was a very common occurrence and abortifacient plants are mentioned in many herbal manuscripts, sometimes euphemistically as, “a plant that encourages courses” (“courses” meaning menstrual bleeding).

Maybe the other objects can shed some light on what’s happening to the recumbent figure.

F66rBucketPerhaps the explanation is simple—the naked damsel might have a tummy ache. The irregular mass could be an unfortunate consequence of diarrhea, or it might be the afterbirth following pregnancy and childbirth. Maybe it’s a tumor or cyst (surgery has been around since Egyptian times and even Caesarian sections were performed in centuries past).

Note that images of children are conspicuously absent in the VMS. If you consider it’s full of cavorting naked women and women in various stages of pregnancy, it’s surprising there are no offspring. It does show a few girls on the cusp of puberty in the zodiac wheels, but they are included to show the beginning of the maturation process and very young children are not shown.

Men are not completely absent from the VMS. There are illustrations of men both clothed and naked, and details of body parts engaged in ejaculatory activity, as in the left margin of Folio 77v. If the drawing on 66r is a reference to childbirth, it would not be out of place.

What’s the Yellow Stuff in the Bucket?

BucketBellyIf you look closely, you’ll note that the inside of the bucket (assuming it’s some kind of container) is a pale golden color. Maybe it was painted this way to make it look three dimensional and there’s nothing in the bucket, but there’s a splotch on the woman’s stomach that seems to match, so perhaps there’s a connection between the two.

It’s difficult to tell from a digital scan if the spot on the stomach is a natural discoloration in the page (it matches the ragged yellow edge of the parchment on the right) or is intended to refer to the contents of the bucket, but let’s assume it was painted there.

Urine chart illustrating different possible colors, Wellcome Library, London. Epiphaniae medicorum, Pinder, Ulrich, 1506

Urine chart illustrating different possible colors, Wellcome Library, London. Epiphaniae medicorum, Pinder, Ulrich, 1506

Could the substance be a salve to relieve distress, or a reference to something going on inside the belly? Is the yellowish color urine?

Diagnosis with urine specimens was a hot topic in medieval circles. Many herbal compendiums include wheels showing beakers filled with liquid in a range of colors. When urine was reddish, dark brown, or even purple, it was assumed some disease or internal malfunction might be present, but the substance in the VMS bucket is the color of healthy urine so it seems unlikely it relates to someone lying down, pulling on her belly.

F66rMelMaybe it’s not urine; maybe it’s something used to treat disease or injury. Medieval pharmaceutical recipes often recommended mixing oil, wine, or honey with herbs for making ointments for external use, or potions for internal use. Assuming white wine rather than red, all of these might be a pale yellowish color. So how do we know? There might be a clue. If you look at the text above the container (which has been altered, but which may have originally read “mel”), then you have the word for honey that was commonly used in herbal manuscripts.

Which brings us to the text. Can the text help us understand the puzzling image?

Did the Right Hand Know What the Left Hand Was Doing?

VoyGothic116There are a few places in the Voynich Manuscript where we see marginal text in a Gothic cursive hand, separate from the main text. Normally Voynichese and marginal text are not combined, but there are some instances where it happens, as on Folios 116v (right) and 17r. This only deepens the VMS mystery. Do different hands represent different people? Or did the VMS scribe write the marginal notes as well?

On 66r, the two forms of script are not intermingled, but there are definitely two different scripts—Voynichese above the drawing, and Gothic cursive (or something close to it) above the bucket. We don’t know which was added first, but the drawing was possibly there before the Voynichese was added, as the tail of the glyph next to the head looks like it has been shortened so the tail doesn’t clobber the head.

F66rTextPic

VenMusMelLooking at the text on the left, I can’t interpret the lonely letter at the top because it’s halfway between an “r” and a “v” as they were written at the time, or perhaps it’s the Greek ypsilon.

The text by the bucket is similar to the Germanic hand on Folios 17r and 116v.

TaxSanHoneyAs with the other marginal texts in the VMS, this one is difficult to read, but ignoring the over-writing, it looks like “ven muß mel” in Germanic or a mixture of Germanic and Latin.

It’s tempting to interpret this as “when one should use honey” or “in this situation one must use honey”. This assumes the first letter in the bottom word was an “m” before it was obscured.

HoneyBeesSL4016In modern German, honey is “honig” but in the 15th century, throughout Lombardy, France, Italy, and Greece, variations on “mel” included meile, melle, meli, etc., and were used to notate honey in herbal documents, plus most scribes knew Latin, in which honey is “mel”. Honey is frequently mentioned in herbal compendiums in combination with Artemisia, Viola, garlic, and horehound. Examples of honey recipes can be seen in Ms. Egerton 747 and many others.

What about that first word of “ven muß mel”? Could it be something besides an old Germanic reference to “when”? Is it possible it relates to the old Anglo-Saxon word for swelling which is “wen” or “wenn”? Then the phrase might mean, “honey should be used for a swelling” (note that in German, a “w” is pronounced as a “v” in English).

 

Honey as Traditional Medicine

Honey was used as traditional medicine at least as early as Egyptian times. In the Ebers Papyrus of c.1550 BCE, which was found between the legs of a mummy, are passages about women’s health, with honey mentioned as a base for salves for treating wounds and other disorders.

KahunPapyrDetailAn even earlier document, called the Kahun Gynecological Papyrus, dating from c.1800 BCE, is specifically devoted to women’s health.

Here are some examples of medical recipes from the Ebers and Kahun papyri related to complaints of the belly, or conception and childbirth:

  • A paste of honey and yellow ochre was suggested for intestinal or urological complaints.
  • “For the evacuation of the belly: Cow’s milk 1; grains 1; honey 1; mash, sift, cook; take in four portions.”
  • “To prevent conception, smear a paste of dates, acacia, and honey to wool and apply as a pessary.”
  • Another recipe for contraception was a paste of crocodile dung, honey, and sour milk (hopefully the document also includes a treatment for crocodile and leech bites).
  • “hin of honey, sprinkle over her womb, this to be done on natron bed”

Herbal traditions in ancient Rome included honey as a barrier method to contraception. Mixed with sodium carbonate to create a paste, it was used to cover the cervix.

Medieval Use of Honey

In the Wellcome library there’s an interesting 11th century folio that was preserved in a book from the 9th century, in which medical recipes have been added in more than one hand, apparently by monks. Here is a translation of a section that mentions honey as a treatment for “wenns” (which can mean either tumors or swellings):

WellcomeLeachTo make yourself an ointment for tumours [wenns], one shall take pure honey, such as is used to lighten porridge, boil it to almost the thickness of porridge; take radish, elder, wild thyme, cinquefoil, pound them as well as you can; and when it is almost done mix in a good measure of garlic and put to it as much pepper as you think.
A salve against tumours, water cucumber, a handful of spearmint, dittany, woodwax, mulberry; boil in malt-ale; squeeze through a linen cloth, boil in honey-droppings; take then clean spring barley, grind (it) in a handmill; then take madder, dry it in (an oven); grind a handful of red-cabbage seed in a peppermill; boil all together, not too hard. Use it three times a week, as is most convenient.
This salve is good for tumours and for the bleeding of piles. But it should be stirred up, lest it should be spoiled.

Summary

HoneyMatMedica

Preparing honey in an Arabic version of De Materia Medica from c.621 AD

The use of honey for belly complaints or gynecological purposes has been passed down for thousands of years and was not new to medieval physicians and midwives. Oils and wines were also used for tonics and salves, but it’s harder to reconcile those with the word “mel” appearing above the bucket.

We don’t know if the label in another hand accurately represents the drawing (or possibly a translation of the text above the drawing). Maybe the person who wrote the marginal notes was guessing, just as we are, but if it’s the same writer who added notations to f77r and f116v, it’s possible he had some knowledge of what was in the VMS.

Until we can decode the rest of the text, the purpose and contents of the bucket will remain a mystery and the status of the woman uncertain, but it’s reasonable to think it might be honey, and that’s a more pleasant note to end on than some of the other possibilities.

J.K. Petersen

 

© Copyright 2016 J.K. Petersen, All Rights Reserved

Marginal Notes and Miniscule Text         26 Jan 2016

There’s Something About Mariolli Folio F17r

VMf17rIf you look at Folio F17r, it’s laid out like many of the other plant pages. There’s a colored plant, a block of text that flows around the plant, and a marginal note at the top. If it weren’t for the marginal note, the page would probably not attract much attention.

By itself, the marginal note isn’t especially unusual. Notes are found elsewhere, in the same apparent handwriting, but… there’s something about the text that is different and some incongruities in the marginal note worth exploring, as well.

Normally I would describe the text first, and then talk about the marginal note, but I’m doing it it the other way around because there’s more than one mystery on this page and one may help illuminate the other.

Mallior Allor?

When I’m investigating marginal notes, I try not to look at other people’s interpretations until I’m fairly sure of what it looks like to me and what I think it might mean. Then I begin to wonder if others have come to the same conclusion and I start scouting around. In this case, my idea differed from most (perhaps all) of the others, at least in part.

This is what the note looks like after I adjusted it in Photoshop to try to make it clearer:

F17rDetailI confess I didn’t look at other analyses for very long, but this is what I discovered about other researchers’ interpretations…

  • Some consider the note unreadable.
  • Some say it’s in cipher text.
  • Some have suggested it is connected to Mattioli or Matthiolaus.
  • René Zandbergen, in 1999, suggested mallior adlor lucz(m) her vnllomnis olio**
  • Some say it’s Latin

I quickly stopped looking at other theories. I can’t see anything that evokes Mattioli or Matthiolaus in this text. I don’t think it’s cypher text, at least not the first part. Zandbergen’s suggestion makes more sense than any of the others, but I have some ideas that differ somewhat.

The Handwriting Style

First, some background. The margin note is in the same style of script used on the last page and some of the other marginal notes. This style of script emerged in the late 1300s and was just about gone by the late 1500s due to the invention of printing presses. Just as Carolingian had its day, this form of Germanic text, which was particularly prevalent in southeast Germany in the early 1400s, declined and died. During its height, it was mainly used for Latin and German religious texts and chronicles, although a slight variant was also used in certain monasteries in England and another variant in northeastern France.

15thGermWritSample2I mentioned in a previous article that part of the reason this form of script became popular was because there was a businessman in southern Germany running a manuscript studio (see example right) who earned extra cash by teaching handwriting to children (and probably anyone else who was willing to pay). This style of script was also shared in ecclesiastical settings in the St. Gall area.

NaplesScriptI tried to trace the earliest example of this style of writing and I’m not sure I have the earliest, but there is a possibility it originated in Naples or that someone from Germany visited Naples and brought it back in the 14th century, or may have learned the script in Germany, then traveled to Naples before writing the manuscript. Naples was a Lombardic kingdom until the 8th century but it’s probably Charles III or Ladislavs I who was King of Naples at the time this document was created.

15thGermWritSampleThe example to the right originated in the early 15th century, about a decade before the one from the German workshop. It’s a heavier hand (a wider quill) than the spindly writing of the VMS margin-writer, but it’s the same style of writing and differs quite noticeably from most mid- and southern Italian writing of the time.

So, it appears that the margin notes are Germanic. Combine this with the sprinkling of Germanic words and it’s hard not to posit a Germanic influence on the handwriting style.

Most Lombardic scribes at the time wrote in both Latin and German and the marginal-notes writer is no exception. The last page includes both Latinesque and some almost-discernible Germanic words. The smaller marginal notes on other pages are a mixture of German and Latin with Latin scribal abbreviations and I’m somewhat sure that the marginal notes on this page are the same.

Don’t Keep us in Suspense… What Does it Say?

I’m fairly sure the note at the top is polyglot, just as I’m somewhat sure the text on the last page is polyglot. That’s not to say it was polyglot at the time. German was infused with Frankish words, Norman languages included a mixture of German, French, and old Norse, old Flemish existed somewhere between Latin, French, and Dutch, and most educated people knew Latin. Germanic script typically used a subset of Latin scribal abbreviations.

To start, I don’t think that first loopy letter is an “o” as has been suggested by many people. I think it’s an “e” mainly because many scribes wrote the letter “e” this way with hardly any tick mark to distinguish it from a “c”. Note how it slants more than an “o” and it doesn’t close all the way. The last letter of the first word is “r” as is the last letter of the next word. The “r” shapes are standard Germanic script of the time.

Here is my current guess at what it says. The “a” is messy, the second “e” or “o” is up for debate, but the other letters are discernible:

mallier aller lucorem hov vi[ ]lameno ??   o?   no/uo ?? olono?? (I cannot make out the end of it where it fades.)

Notice I expanded the Latin lucorum. The line above the cz means letters are left out—this was a common way to abbreviate a word. It can also be abbreviated with a -rum symbol that looks a bit like an embellished “4”. See my previous article about Latin abbreviations.

MallierAllerSo… what is mallier?

It would mean nothing to most people, even to many Europeans, but to a Norman, it could be understood as “to paint” in a mixture of Scandinavian with French pronunciation (even if it’s not French grammatical structure). Most languages use some form of the word “paint” (to mean coloring in something) but in German, it can be malen and in Norse, it’s “male” (it’s well to remember that Normandy derives from “Nor maend” (Men of the North, Norse men). Mallier could be a “verbized” form of “to paint”.

The next word aller or allor would be understood by most northern German or Scandinavians of the time as “all [of the]”. In Latin lucorem hov would refer to these things as green. I’m not absolutely sure it’s “hov” as the last letter is badly obscured but it might be.

Is it reasonable to believe that the marginal text could be instructions? I think it’s possible, given that there are annotations elsewhere in the same style of writing that could be interpreted that way and are added in a manner consistent with other herbal manuscripts. Consider that the “g” in the leaf of Plant 1v, the “por” (purple?) on the petals of the viola, and the “rot” on the stem of  Plant 4r might be painting instructions, as well.

I am guessing that the statement could be an instruction as in, “paint all these green” except that the word after hov is probably part of the statement as in, “paint all these ___[leaves? plants? a shade of green?]___ green “. Unfortunately, I cannot make out the next word but it has a peculiarity that needs to be mentioned in the context of the whole page.

Is That a Slip of the Pen or Something Else?

The first two letters of the fading word look like vi but the next doesn’t appear to match any known Latin/Germanic character. Maybe it was a slip of the pen and was meant to be something like rt, but it keeps teasing me into thinking it’s a mini-gallows character. What follows after these shapes is difficult to discern, maybe -lamino or something like that but I haven’t succeeded in making it out.

MiniGallows1But getting back to that possible gallows character. I rejected the idea several times, because gallows characters are tall. It’s hard to hang someone from the height of a footstool so it makes no sense to interpret it as a gallows character, does it?

Remember I mentioned at the beginning of this article that there’s something odd about this page? Well guess what.. when I tired of staring at the faded letters, my eye drifted down the page and landed on, I couldn’t believe it, a tiny gallows character. Right there on the same page, on line seven! How improbable is that?

F17vMiniGallowsArrowIt’s very small, able to shelter under the arm of a full-sized gallows character and yet, despite its diminutive size, even has a tiny tick mark on the bottom foot that is characteristic of this symbol.

It’s hard to describe how surprised I was. As implausible as it seemed, at first, maybe there is a gallows character buried in the marginal note, just as there are VMS characters mixed in with Latin and German on the last page.

Summary

CheshCatInvisThere’s more to say about this page, but I’ll do that in another article. For now, I’m throwing out an alternate suggestion for the marginal text that differs from what I’ve seen so far in the hopes of furthering the discussion about what it might mean.

I wish I could see the Cheshire-cat text through a microscope—like everything else Voynichese, it’s a terrible tease.

J.K. Petersen

© Copyright 2016 J.K. Petersen, All Rights Reserved

 

 

Voynich Folio 116v – A Charming Discovery

The Strange Formulas in the Voynich Manuscript Partially Revealed

I recently experienced the thrill of discovery—information to confirm a hunch, and new information that might pull back the Voynich curtain just a crack.

I discussed the last page of the Voynich in previous blog entries from 2013, where I speculated that it might be a charm. All I had to go on at the time was a hunch, based on its formulaic nature.

VMFinalPage

I have since discovered examples of charms that reveal something about the content and format of a charm that strengthens the identification of the VM last page.

German Charms and Healing Prayers

MoravskaCodeBreakdownMy introduction to charms happened by accident prior to posting the example on the left in 2013. I discovered this charm on the fly leaf of Der Neusohler Cato. I didn’t know it was a charm at the time, it just felt that way to me… and it really caught my attention due to its similarities to  oladabad and other cryptic text written on the last page of the Voynich manuscript (it might help to refer to that page before reading this one).

AbraculaCharmc1p391After discovering the Cato fragment, I searched the Web extensively for other variations of the word abracula or abgracula and found none. Two months later I tried again without success. And then I basically forgot about it.

A couple of years later, in 2015, I discovered the shield-shaped charm shown to the right and noticed immediately that the Cato charm uses the same “abgracula” or “abracula” or “abraculauß” (variations are common) as the shield charm.

The shield charm was revealing because there was information included around the edges of the shield, in a mixture of old Germanic and Latin, that were not included in the Cato fragment and… the blend of languages is similar to the Voynich manuscript. This shield charm, and a couple of others that I’ll illustrate below, gave me an exciting clue as to the nature of the text at the top and bottom of Folio 116v.

Abgracula/Abraculauß/Aburacula/Abraculuß

From looking at examples, I discovered that abracula, possibly derived from Abraxas, is a very specific charm word for the reduction of fever, one that was used in Germany in the 15th and 16th centuries (I don’t yet know if it was passed down through oral or written history prior to the 1400s but will continue to watch for examples).

I also discovered there’s a formula for presenting the charms.

To clarify this, I’m including two manuscript clips from the same document from the Heidelberg region dating to the second quarter of the 16th century.

AbraculaF16v

Note the same basic charm word (or “chant”) Abraculuß and the way it is broken down with cross symbols between each of the letter groups. Thus, it gradually becomes Abracan (quite similar to Abracadabra), Abracu, and finally Abra followed by several crosses and additional text in German. This may be a short form of the full charm.

A few pages earlier was a more extensive description of the same concept:

AbraculaF12r

There is German text on the first line to introduce the purpose of the charm, then the charm word Aburacula successively broken down (with crosses in between, possibly to indicate signing the cross) and then some more explanatory information in German about how to apply the charm.

Note that both these reductionist charms are for fever (loosely spelled “fieber” and “fiber”).

The lengthier example instructs the user to write down the words and then, it’s difficult to make out all of it, but if “hencken” is old German or Yiddish for hängen, then it says to hang it around one’s neck for nine? days, along with some further instructions.

Why is this significant?

Look at the format.. first there is a description of what the charm is for, then the charm itself, then instructions for anything else that needs to be done with the charm (such as writing it down and wearing it for certain number of days).

Now look at the final page of the Voynich manuscript. At the top is something that looks like pox leben or pox leber. Pox isn’t really German (pocken is more usual), but this is old German which sometimes has influences from other languages and perhaps “pox” refers to small pox or chicken pox and leben or leber could mean “life” or “liver” as I mentioned in my previous post from 2013. If so, then it may indicate, in some way, what this charm is for treatment of the pox or the liver, for example.

So, if this is a charm in the traditional German style, the text at the top describes the malady for which the charm is useful, then the charm follows and then there are further instructions on how to apply it.

Charm Varieties

Does this mean the VM text is a charm? It’s possible, not all charms were reductionist charms, some used words or abbreviations, names of saints or bits of prayer. Here’s an example of a non-reductionist charm that is closer to the Latin-like format of the VM text:

Fever16rNote the words at the end of the second line + Nox pax mox + (nox is night and pax is peace). They are reminiscent of the VM six + inarix + morix + vix +.(six and vix have meaning in Latin, the other two I don’t know).

Here’s one for fever that is entirely charm words within the crosses (basically nonsense syllables):

Abrach11rAglamandis was also used as a charm word (or chant) in the same document.

Discovering these charms helped me understand the Cato fragment better. There is some torn-away text underneath the Abgracula charm that says that the charm is for fever and should be worn for thirteen days. I didn’t know this text related to the Abgracula text until I knew more about charms.

Even with all these tantalizing clues, I don’t know for certain if the text on the VM last page is a charm, but more and more it appears that it might be. It’s also possible that something else is encoded in the general form of a charm, a subtext hidden within the larger context.

What I can say is that the format and content of the text follows that of medical charms from the same approximate time period and region as Sagittarius with legs (in the zodiac section)—thus adding some circumstantial evidence that might help unravel the as-yet-unknown early provenance of the Voynich manuscript.

 

J.K. Petersen

 

© Copyright 2016 J.K. Petersen, All Rights Reserved

Der Neusohler Cato Charm – New Clues             8 Nov. 2015

The Charm of the Voynich, cont’d

In a previous post, I commented on the charm-like text written on the final page of the Voynich manuscript and since that time had a surprise… In October 2015, I discovered a page in a mid-15th century codex that resembles and expands on the information written on a fragment at the beginning of Der Neusohler Cato that I discussed in relation to the VM text.

MoravskaCodeBreakdown    In the Cato, the fragment on the left illustrates an abracadabra-style word (abgracula) broken down until it resembles a symbol that I imagine could be included on an amulet or hilt of a sword or dagger. I don’t know if that was its function, it could be an incantation for “reducing” the severity of an illness, like a prayer (with the crosses perhaps signifying the signing of the cross while speaking the incantation) or something else. This was only a hunch, when I first saw it, since the Cato fragment contained few clues to its function.

Since then, I discovered another version of the same charmlike text, contained within a shape that resembles a shield, with writing in the shield margins.

Comparisons between the Cato Fragment and the Fugger Text

There are some differences. The ink is much darker in the Cato fragment and the handwriting more spidery and awkward. The writing style is a fairly common one for the 15th century in this region, so while it is similar,  it’s probably not in the same hand, especially considering the different rendering of the letter r and the way it joins to the following letter.

As for the content, the Cato fragment begins with abgracula and the Fugger codex with magnum nomen dominum (“In the name of the Father”) followed by abraculauß on the second line. Also, the Cato fragment breaks down to an amulet-style symbol while the Fugger text retains the letter shapes to the end. Despite differences, the resemblance is clear, with the crosses and progression of sounds broken down in the same general way.

AbraculaCharmc1p391

The text around the margins of the shield appear to be a mixture of old Germanic and Latin and unfortunately, some of it is smeared. On the right, it appears to say, “The writing pertains to p???tate…” (“The writing is for p???tate…”). Could the unclear word be “prostate” (as in a prostrate person, someone lying down due to illness or impending death? Or does it perhaps say praetare, plaetare or photare or something along those lines (maybe someone who knows Latin can make it out). I’m wondering if it’s a variation of praeterea. I refer to the text before the “photare/photate” as Germanic because it’s not strictly German, but is readable as northern old German. On the opposite side of the shield is text about praying Our Father (pater noster).

It doesn’t seem like a traditional last rights incantation which is why I wonder if it’s perhaps a sick-bed incantation/prayer.

Connections to the Voynich Manuscript

How this ties into the Voynich manuscript is that the last page struck me as having an incantation-like quality (long before I knew anything about medieval charms) and the above example lends some weight to that possibility. Also note that the VM charm appears to be a mixture of Latin-like sounds and Germanic words and the handwriting in this abraculauß text is from the same writing tradition as the last page and some of the marginal notes in Beinecke 408—a handwriting style* that is primarily concentrated in northeast Switzerland and southwest Germany at about the same time as Sagittarius with legs and a crossbow was popular, but which also found its way (with a handful of modifications) to a monastery in mideast England, probably through one or more traveling monks.

There was a commercial workshop in central Europe in the 1400s producing religious texts and chronicles for those who could afford them and the head of the studio was also a writing tutor, so it’s not surprising that there are quite a few manuscripts from this area with very similar handwriting.

*(When commercial block prints and the printing press came along, this specific style of writing died out and medieval scribes had to find a new line of work.)

 

J.K. Petersen

 

© Copyright 2015 J.K. Petersen, All Rights Reserved

The Charm of the Voynich Last Page                             30 Dec 2013

The Strange Formulas in the Voynich

The Last Page of the Voynich was introduced in a previous blog entry and is notable not only for its enigmatic content, but also for the way it differs from the rest of the document—in writing style, content, the balance of the text on the page, the size of the parchment, and the quality of the parchment, which has holes and seams.

VMFinalPage

The style of most of the writing is significantly different from Voynichese, less round and careful, and  perplexingly combined with a couple of words in Voynich script. The relationship between the text and the drawings is not clear, if there is one. The crosses between the “words” is unique to this page.

It’s remarkable that a page with so little content can generate so many questions.

Medieval Charms and Healing Prayers

I alluded briefly to the fact that syllables like oladabad/oladabas and the crosses between the words are reminiscent of medieval charms characteristic of northern Europe. Even the “+” shapes at the beginning of several words (if it is, indeed, an “+”) are common to many charms and combination charms/prayers.

I also mentioned having found a coded word on the fly leaf of Der Neusohler Cato that really caught my attention due to its similarities to the last-page text of the Voynich Manuscript.

MoravskaCodeBreakdownI guessed that the coded word at the beginning of Der Neusohler Cato might be a charm/symbol and that it might have a similar function to the text on the last page of the Voynich almost two years before I found time to read about medieval charms. My hunch was based on its sound and character.

When I finally looked for more information on charms, late in 2012, I discovered a few examples in Leechcraft (Pollington, 2000) with crosses and apparent nonsense words (or words whose meaning has been lost) and a few months later a more specific discussion in Middeleeuwse witte en zwarte magie in het Nederlands taalgebied (Braekman, 1997) which describes charms/healing prayers that contain a mixture of Latin and sometimes incomprehensible “charm” words. You can look up the document online—here are two examples:

     In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti. Amen.

    + Ire + arex + xre + rauex + filiax + arafax + N

In particular, note these ending patterns:

   + Ire + arex + xre + rauex + filiax + arafax + N

They’re not identical to the Voynich, but they have a similar character.

IXplus

And a second example from Braekman:

    + aladabra + ladabra + adabra + dabra + abra + ra + a + abraca + [the person’s name]

The breakdown of the word abgracula on the fly leaf of Der Neusohler Cato to a single symbol made me wonder if the final “coded” symbol was intended to be engraved on a pendant, amulet, or weapon. That might be, but apparently there’s another reason I didn’t anticipate that is mentioned by Braekman. He points out that charm-words are often broken down from larger to smaller units to represent the breakdown of the malady as it subsides. He uses the well-known “magic” word abracadabra (ha brakha dabra) along with another word, ararita, as examples. The crosses are associated with healing and apparently things are helped along by signing a cross in between chanting the magical words.

Many healing charms from the late Middle Ages and Renaissance have a Christian character but it has been my feeling from the beginning that the Voynich Manuscript is not specifically a Christian document despite the occasional cross held in the hands of female characters. The ring and Christian-style cross were common symbols across cultures in those days and may simply be a literary device. Many of the VM drawings have pagan characteristics and the entire enigmatic puzzle-like character of the document points to cultures that keep their secrets close the chest or encode it in some way. The Zarathustrians, Gnostics, and Jewish Kabbalarians come to mind.

Whether the Voynich was encoded because it contained taboo subjects related to sexuality (particularly women’s sexuality) or because it was hard-won knowledge intended to be passed down only to someone “deserving” (perhaps an heir) is not clear. Either way, the secret is still mostly a secret after half a millennium and is providing more food for thought than the Voynich author could ever have imagined.

 

J.K. Petersen

 

© Copyright 2013 J.K. Petersen, All Rights Reserved

Feb. 20, 2017 Addendum: I stumbled across a Hebrew blessings phrase, “Ha-Brachah-dabarata” once again, from another source, some time after writing this blog and when I said it out loud (again), it still rings true as the possible origin of A-braca-dabra. Also, some of my research indicates that the charm word Abracula may be derived from the name Abraham (pronounced with a hard-h that sometimes gets transcribed as a hard-c).