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CHARANJE – HEALING INCANTATION

VOYNICH MANUSCRIPT – BOOK OF MAGICAL HEALING

The pictures of the VM indicate that at least some text is related to healing and healing plants. This is also how most of the VM researchers interpret it.

Among those who attempted to translate it, nobody proposed any word related to healing.

I have found many words related to healing in the VM, some spelled exactly the same as in the Slovenian dictionaries of 16th and 17th century.

There are several different words for healing in these dictionaries. Besides the Slovenicized German word ARZAT (Artzet, Lat. medicus, Ital. medico), the words LIKAR and VRAZH were used by ordinary native people.

In the VM, I found the word LIKAR, but not the words Artzet or VRAZH (VRAČ).

I also found Slovenian word CELITI (to make whole) in the VM, as well as the word RANA (wound).

To understand the medieval words for healing, I had to acquaint myself with the medieval art of healing.

Healing plants

The history of herbal medicine has its beginning in present day Iraq, between Euphratus and Tigris. About 5000 year old clay tablets were found with the written recipes for 250 healing remedies. Healing plants were collected and distributed by the priests. The priests were also the main healers in ancient India and Egypt.

Aroma therapy was practiced in Egypt as early as 3.500 BC. Aromatic medicine was later developed, which involved religion, mysticism and magic. The plants were also used for spices and perfumed oils.

After the collapse of the Egyptian Empire around 300 BC, Europe became the centre of medical science. Greeks practiced medicine since 1200 BC, starting with Asclepius, who combined the use of herbs and surgery.

After his death he was worshipped as God of healing in Greek mythology.

Hyppocrates was using baths, massages with esoteric oils, herbal medicine and various plants in his medical practice.

Another great Greek physician was Dioscorides (c. 40–90 AD) who described 600 plants and instruction how to use them.

His work De Materia Medica, was widely copied and translated. Several copies survived, including the famous Vienna Dioscurides, produced in Constantinople in 512/513 AD.

Before the medical writing reached Slovenian lands, the primitive people were already familiar with the healing power of certain plants. They believed plants possessed spirit that can bring about healing or harm. To placate these unseen spirits, they addressed them with ritual and words during the ritual of herbal remedy.

The ancient Slavic predecessors called such healing rituals ‘vračevanje’ or ‘čaranje’. The magic incantation was called vrok (urok), zagovor or čar (char, incantation).

Since the ‘vračes’ (shamans), using the healing plants in the Middle Ages were regarded heretics, only the monks were allowed to dispense healing plants.

Christian Blessings of Plants

Besides Palm Sunday’s blessing of the greenery, the blessing of flowers became part of the Christian tradition at least since 10th century on.

 For this purpose, special blessings were prescribed to make the healing properties of the plants more potent. The Roman church had prescribed prayers and rituals when and how to bless the plants, which were then distributed to people to take home and use for spiritual protection against all kinds of affliction, such as draught, fire, evil spirits, healing of people and animals.

According to Fr. Kotnik, who studied the liturgical blessings of plants, the name of the plant being blessed had to be mentioned two times. The ritual included 64th psalm and three longer prayers. The blessed plants were then taken home and stored for the protection against fire, lightning, illness and harmful magic spells. They were also used as incense for blessing, particularly for sick children and animals.

Some prayers were very particular and reflected the superstitious believes of the Church as well. Like the prayer that included the words, “avert evil spirits and spells, and any connection with the satanic works from person’s body, from any direction it might come, so that the blessed plants will not possess any evil power, but rather the powers of Jesus. St. Ubald and St. Antony of Padua, whome I implore over this plant, order devils to be shamed and cursed and be driven into the abis with all their pagan works, so that the holy angels could obide in these flowers.”

Churches continued with this practice up to the late Middle Ages when superstition became uncontrollable.

I will write more about white and black magic with plants in future posts, focused on individual VM plants.

After carefully studying the article of Fr. Kotnik, I concluded that the Blessing of the plants was not public at Carthusian monasteries, although they were cultivating healing plants in their gardens and practicing herbal healing in their infirmaries.

The Carthusian monastery at Žiče, Slovenia, is known for its extensive practice of herbal healing. Since the four Slovenian Carthusian monasteries were connected into the fraternity, and the proximity of Žiče to Jurklošter, Nicholas Kempf would have been familiar with the medical book in their library, the healing herbs in their gardens, and the procedure to turn them into medicine. He could also be familiar with ritualistic blessing of flowers and pagan rituals practiced at nearby Ptuj. Since the blessing of flowers was particularly practiced by minorities (the Third Order of Franciscans), it could be assumed that they were attempting to counteract the pagan Bogomil tradition with their blessings.

Black vs. White Magic

From the most ancient times,  people have been using plants for food and healing. Pagan practices persisted into the middle ages. If people were not able to heal themselves, they would seek help from the shamans, called VRAČI in Slovenian. The word VRAČ (male healer) comes from the verb ‘uročiti’ – heal with ‘magic words’, incantations, along with amulets, talismans or herbal remedies, administered in a particular ritual for different affliction. 

Another medieval Slovenian word for ‘vrač’ was ‘čarar’ or ‘čarovnik’ (charmer, a person performing magic incantations). This word, too, was related to pagan practices, so much so, that the ‘čarovniki’ and ‘čarovnice’ (male or female healers) were being persecuted. They were associated with the witchcraft. Veronika Deseniška, the second wife of Count Friderik of Celje, was accused of bewitching the Count to fall in love with her and was subsequently drowned on the order of her father-in-law, to protect the dignity of this powerful Slovenian dynasty.

Nicholas Kempf would have been aware of this, since she was buried at Jurkloster Carthusian monastery where he was a prior for over 30 years, and the monks refered to her as ‘Our Lady’. From this, it can be assumed that they did not believe in witchcraft, although they believed in inspiration that comes from powerful words as self-fulfilling prophesy.

In the Voynich Manuscript, the word CHAR has consistently positive connotation as magic words of poetry and religion.

In Slavic tradition, magic spells are called uroki or zagovori (spells in English). The word urok originates from the word UREKO (OREKO – speak about, or UREKO urȍk – make word into reality). Rek is an old Slovenian word for words, speech. REKO or REKEL was a medieval Slovenian/Croatian word for I SAID. The prefix U or O alludes to a desire to make word into reality. 

Govor is another Slavic word for speaking, speech. ‘Zagovor’ has the same meaning as urok. The English word ‘spell’ seems to mean the same thing: S(I) PELL in Slovenian means ‘you sang’.

Throughout the history, religious leaders of any religion were trying to prove the superiority of their religion. They would form the incantations to counteract the spells of the ‘pagans’ and ‘heretics’. In essence, the Catholic blessing and exorcism cruses worked on the same principle as pagan.

In the Middle Ages, the Roman Church insisted only its teaching and its magical rituals and words were right, and all those who practiced other “magic” were persecuted for witchcraft.

The science of psychology can now explain how the magic in religion, as well as in the so-called occult practices, works.

Magical language is emotive, like a language of poetry. It connects the language of reality with the language of abstract, symbolic meaning. It is often rhythmical and suitable for singing. 

In Irish, the prayers/incantations were called ‘lorica’ and were first mentioned by this name in the 8th century.

To understand this confusion, it is important to remember that in essence, the prayers are ‘magic incantations’, and that ‘magic spells’ predate Christianity.

Char – Magic Spell or Religious Incantation

The word CHAR, CHARM is almost universaly accepted for magical incantations and healing. In many cultures, it is also associated with black magic and witchcraft.

The widespread use of the word CHAR throughout Europe attests to the fact that this might be one of the oldest words used by men to obtain the power over invisible forces controlling their lives.

The use of the word Charm reflects the Europian origin of the VM, and particularly the European tradition of ‘charming’ as a way of healing. In Slovenian, the letter of the alphabet is called ČRKA (ČARKA), and the straight line is called ČRTA (ČARTA).

The VM word CHAR is easy to recognize, since it could be read by most transcriptional alphabets as CHAR or SHAR. In Slovenian, the word was spelled interchangably as CHAR or CHOR (SHAR or SHOR). I read both Eva CH and SH as either Š or Č. In Slovenian, the words can only have one meaning: ČAR (magic incantation) and ČAR related words.

In the VM, I found over 300 such words.

According to the Slovenian Etymological Dictionary, the word ‘čarati’ was used in the 16th century and earlier. In the OCS it was called čarъ (čarovnija). The man performing such magic was called čȃrnik ‛čarovnik’.

The magical incantations, amulets and talismans were widely used throughout Europe up to the 19th century. The medieval incantations were often regarded as nonsense phrases, presented as being part of the divine, Adamic, magical language.

Perhaps, for the ancients, the spells had a meaning, like Latin prayers had a meaning for those who understood Latin, but for the ordinary churchgoers, they might just as well be a bunch of nonsense words. Most likely, the meaning had been lost in transmission, particularly since it was believed that the spells had to be spoken in the original language.

The magic incantations were practiced by ancient Mesopotamians and Babylonians. The words were used also on the Balkans. The performance of magic almost always involves the use of words.

The use of the word ČAR in the VM is also suggestive of its connection to ‘heretical’ movements, stemming from the Bogomils and Cathars. After the Bogomilism on the Balkans was completely suppressed and Roman Catholicism impost on Slovenians and Croatians, the word ČAR (CHAR) seems to disappear from Slovenian vocabulary, only to be replaced with the word ZUPERNIJA (pagan magic) and blessings and mystery (for Catholic magic).  The word Zupernija (Cupernija) had extremely negative connotation as black magic. I found the words CHAR or CHOR only in two dictionaries.

Habdelich’s dictionary was written in the mid-16th century in Zagreb in Slovenian/Kajkavian dialect. It distinguishes two different spellings for the verb ‘charm’ – CHALARIM for deception, and  ČARAM for incantation, fascination. However, no nouns – CHAL or ČAR  are mentioned. 

In Slovenian-German-Latin dictionary, written by Slovenian priest and linguist Marko Pohlin in 1781, the word CHOR is interpreted as Latin ‘chorus’, and CHORAR  as ‘canonicus’ (prebendary).  

The Slovenian Etymological Dictionary is vague as to the origin of the word ZUPERNIK, focusing on the meaning rather than on the origin of the word. I believe the word originates from the word SUPER (zoper – against).

The word ZOPER, spelled SUPER (the letter S stands for Z, but in some writing, the distinction between the sounds S and Z is made using letter Z for the sound Z or C) was used since the 16th century Slovenian writing for the word ‘against’. The adjective ZUPER is explained by Slovenian medieval writer Svetokriški as ‘repulsive’, ‘antagonistic’  (vſaka lasha je G. Bogu ſuper (a lie is repulsive to God); vuzhi takorshen vuk kateri je ſuper S. Piſſmu – He teaches teaching which is against the Bible).

The meaning of this word can explain why the priests of the Old Church Slavonic, or the adherents of the Bogomil sect would be branded ZUPERNIKI.

The etymology of the word ZUPER supports my assumption that the author, using the word CHAR was at odds with the official Roman Church, and that adherents of this religious sect were branded as being ‘against the Church’, therefore ‘heretics’.

It is also possible that the suppressed Protestant ideas were transmitted underground through literature, so that Marko Pohlin was aware of the secret power of words and intentionally re-introduced the word ČAR (CHAR) to inspire the artist to cultivate a parallel religion by way of writing and poetry. It is also interesting that the word SUPERNIK disappeared from Slovenian vocabulary and a corrupted form CUPERNIK was only used as a derogatory word for charlatans. The word ČAROVNIK was used for ‘magician’, and the adjective ‘čarobno’ was often associated with poetry.

It has also been suggested by various VM researchers that the VM deals with alchemy and magic, but again, no word was proposed to confirm that.

The meaning of the word CHAR

In this post, I will focus on one single word of the VM that relates to both: magic and healing. The word is ČAR or ČOR (spelled in the medieval Slovenian writing, as well as in the VM,  as CHAR or CHOR.

Although the Slovenian word ČAR had somewhat negative connotation, due to the medieval practice of burning ČAROVNICE (the witches), I had a feeling the word CHAR in the VM was used in a positive sense, like a prayer or a blessing.

In the Etymology online, the word CHARM is described as a verb, first attested in written form around 1300, to mean ‘to recite or cast a magic spell’. It is further explained that the word originates from the Old French charmer, meaning ‘to enchant, to fill (someone) with desire (for something), to protect, cure, treat; to maltreat, harm.

As a noun, it means magic spell, incantation, song, lamentation, from Old French via Latin ‘canere’ to sing. It came to French language from Late Latin carminare, from Latin carmen ‘song, verse, enchantment, religious formula’.

 According to the Slovenian Etymological Dictionary, the word ‘čarati’ was used in the 16th century and earlier. In the OCS čarъ (čarovnija) meant ‘performing magic’, ‘casting magic spells. The man performing such magic was called čȃrnik ‛čarovnik’. In Avestan, čāra meant healing remedy, in Persian, cāra meant ‘a trick’. In the Proto-Slavic, čarъ meant magic spell, talisman, an object used to cast spell.

Incantations and prayers

On the Wikipedia, the word INCANTATION is explained as follows:

Incantation is a spell, a charm, an enchantment or a bewitchery, a magical formula intended to trigger a magical effect on a person or objects. The formula can be spoken, sung or chanted. An incantation can also be performed during ceremonial rituals or prayers. In the world of magic, incantations are said to be performed by wizardswitches, and fairies.

The Bogomils were particularly known for their use of magical spells, since the Bogomil religion was tolerant and allowed the pagan practices, as long as they did not negatively effect people’s morality.

Various magical spells were used in the Magical ceremonies. The Church replaced the word ‘magic’ with ‘mystery’, to distinguish it from the pagan magic.

ABRACADABRA was one of the most frequently used words in magic.  It is believed to be a nonsense word.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word ‘abracadabra’ is of unknown origin and was first used in the second century by Serenus Sammonicus. Among the proposed etymologies are a Hebrew phrase meaning ‘I will create as I speak’, or Aramaic ‘I create like the word’.

To this, I would add Slovenian words ‘abraka dabra’ which would be phonetic for ‘talking good about’. ‘Ab’ in this case is a prefix ‘OB’ or ‘O’, which due to akanje, is pronounced as ‘ab’. Slovenian word OREKA, OBREKA means ‘(he, she) talk about’, and the word ‘dabra’ (dobra) means ‘good’. The meaning is the same as in Hebrew and Aramic phrases.  In the Slovenian word OREKEL, I also see the word ORACLE, which is explained as ‘talk about’. The word ‘oracle’ comes from Latin oraculum, oraclum (divine announcement, oracle) and a place, where oracles are given. It originates from the word orare, meaning ‘to pray, to plead, to beseech’. In Latin, the word ORATOR meant skilled speaker. The PIE root *or-is said to mean ‘to pronounce a ritual formula’. An ancient Slavic (Macedonian) ritualistic dance in a circle was also called ORO, which is suggestive of praising God, and praying, with dancing.

The Slovenian word REČI is also frequently used in the VM, including for the English words speaking and preaching, and prophesy.

I suppose the Plutarch’s explanation of prophesy in his work Moralia triggered the interest in magical healing with words, based on positive thinking and predictions based on known human experiences. The Pythias had to be well educated young women, before they were chosen to pronounce oracles.

Serenus Sammonicus was a physician to the Roman emperor. He prescribed wearing the amulet containing the word ABRACADABRA written in a form of a triangle.

I suppose the amulet did not prevent malaria, but perhaps it eased the worry of the malaria sufferer by making him focused on the triangular set of words, which could induce a hypnotic effect, like a lighted candle the Catholic Church recommended to be held by a dying person.

The word abracadabra was first used by Gnostics, particularly by the sect of Basilides, in invoking help of beneficial spirits. The Gnosticism was brought to Europe from the east, particularly by Paulicians and Bogomils, who translated many gnostic books into Old Church Slavonic. It is possible that the Gnostics understood the meaning of the word abracadabra and the power of the positive thinking.

We can also find the association of the word “ČAR” (which in Slovenian can also be a verb for 2. per. sing. imper.) with the English word “teacher”. If we divide the word the way it is pronounced, we get two meaningful Slovenian words: ti + čar (you make magic). If the primitive people understood writing as magical transfer of spoken words, this origin makes a lot of sense (keep in mind that the present-day Slovenia and Austria were the homeland of ancient Celts).

As Jacob Grimm stated in his Teutonic Mythology, ‘A yet stronger power than that of herb or stone lies in the spoken word, and all nations use it both for blessing and cursing’.

CHAR words in the Voynich Manuscript

In the VM, there are over 300  ČAR related words, mostly ČOR. The author used Eva CH and SH interchangably. This is understandable, since Č and Š sound similar and the sound sometimes changes with the grammatical form. The different use of the vowel could be attributed to the dialectical pronunciation of the vowel, or to different grammatical form.

In general, the correct meaning can be determined by various grammatical forms of the root-word CHAR/ČOR, and by other words that would normally be found in the sentence related to magic spell and incantation. The CHAR (ČAR) words can be found on almost every page of the VM, probably because they have such a universal meaning and can be related to magical words, to plants with healing properties, to healing preparation produced by magical process, to the magic of stary skies, to strange, mystical drawings and to general text.

Note: Due to unclear writing of CH and SH, which can also be confused with OZ and BH, there could be other meanings, but as far as I was able to determine from the text, the ABOVE words are related to ‘charm’.

In the table below, I am offering some translitterations and translations of the various grammatical forms of the root word CHAR. They perfectly conform to Slovenian grammar of a phonetic speech.

As far as I am able to read VM, the word CHOR is used also for a poem, and for healing with words.

If the text next to the flower picture in the VM represent poems, it would be expected to find the word poem, however, the author used the word CHAR ‘incantation’, probably to associate it with religion, rather than to secular poetry (in Slovenian, there song and poem are both called ‘pesem’). It can also be assumed that the author was aware of the ‘magical power’ of poetry and its ability to transmit secret messages that would inspire a call to action. As a mystic, the author himself had experienced the power of the biblical writing in his own search for the universal Truth. He found a way to assure his work would escape the censorship of the Counter Reformation and inspire future Slovenian writers and poets.

Although Slovenian literature and poetry are not world renown, like English, German and Russian, their effect on universal world view cannot be underestimated. Slovenian writers and poets used the magic power of words to transmit the wisdom from the East and West, and particularly from the Bible, to lead Slovenian nation towards the independence. It was a long struggle, but eventually this was accomplished in 1991, when Slovenia achieved this goal.

There is a meaningful lesson to be learned from Slovenian literature, particularly for the contemporary Americans: the freedom of speech was always measured against universal Truth; the Slovenian writers and poets were painfully aware that both, good and bad words have consequence and can become reality, therefore they always focused on the power of positive thinking, on good words, worthy of imitating, rather than on bad words resulting in aggression, anger, and violence.

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Voynich One Letter Words

Many Voynich manuscript researchers are puzzled at the large number of letters that stand alone in the VM text. Koen Gheuhus pointed out that in English language, only ‘i’ and ‘a’ can stand alone as a word. In the VM, he noticed that certain glyphs (s, y, l, o, r) appear in isolation over a hundred times, and ‘d’ 44 times.

This, too, is a strong indication that the language is phonetic Slovenian. Slovenian language can logically explain all instances of a one-letter words.

Of the solo letters Koen Gheuhus listed, only O, Y and S were proper one-letter words, however, in the phonetic language, they could also stand for two letter words, where vowel was dropped. Therefore, the explanation is not that simple. One needs to know Slovenian language to make the distinction.

There are several words in Slovenian language that still consist of one letter, such as A, K, H, V, Z, S and O. Except for A, they are all prepositions that were often written together with the next word. As the Slovenian writers became more aware of the importance of grammar, these prepositions were separated with the apostrophy. Eventually, they were totally separated.

In the VM, the writing of these prepositions is inconsistent. The author used his discretion when to separate them, based on the way the combination sounded, or if there was a possibility that the word would othervise be missunderstood, such as the word where O is a pre-fix, not a preposition.   

From the above sample of the 16th century Slovenian writing some observations relating to the VM can be made. The above text is divided into syllables for easier learning.

Letters V and K as prepositions are written with apostrophy. Letter V as U (when part of the word) is written as a sillable. Also, the letter I the word INO (and) is written as a syllable.

Another reason why certain VM letters stand alone, is the phonetic speech, where semi-vowels [ə] had no special letter and was therefore not written. This is still the case in Slovenian dialectical speech, where Č Č could be understood as  ČE HOČE (if he wants), or D B S KUPU as DA BI SI KUPIL (that he would buy himself something).

 At the first glance, this looks like the abjad writing and is much easier to understand in spoken language, than in written form. To solve this problem, the first Slovenian writers inserted e for the semi-vowel. There are still some written Slovenian words where the inserted ‘e’ was not accepted, such as ‘vrt’ (garden), prt (tablecloth), trd (hard). As the grammatical form of such words changes, the vowel can be dropped or aded (pes – psa). In various Slovenian dialects, the vovels weaken into a semi-vowel (sit – sət, sita – sita,  kruh – krəh – kruha). While in most Indo-European languages only unstressed vowel can be a semi-vowel, in Slovenian, Bulgarian, Albanian languages, the semi-vowel can also be stressed.

Another reason for the free-standing letter could be the nature of Slovenian syllabic language which reflects in pronunciation as an inapproprate space. In the first Slovenian grammar books, developed by the Protestant writers, the syllabic nature of the language was stressed and used for innitial teaching of reading and writing Slovenian. 

Slovenian one-letter words

Slovenian language uses much more one-letter words than English. This was the case in the Middle Ages as it is today.

Slovenian two-letter words as a phonetic one-letter words

In the phonetic Slovenian, a vowel was often dropped in a two-letter words. Since the VM language is based on phonetic dialectical Slovenian, two-letter words are often written as one-letter words. Often two or three such words are combined into one. This furter explains the large frequency of some free-standing one-letter words in the VM. Because of the flexible word order, these one-letter words can be found at the beginning or at the end of the word, attached to the word or separated from it.

Examples:

A free-standing O is Slovenian preposition (English: about, at ). In the Middle Ages, O was also often used for the preposition V, meaing ‘in’, ‘for’, ‘as’, as well as for interjection.

In the VM text, O is a frequently used preposition, which is written together or separately with the next word. A lot of spaces after O are also due to the O being pronouced as a syllable.

Preposition S

In the medieval Slovenian writing, the letter S was also sometimes pronounced as Z, therefore, the letter Z was introduced later to be used only before the words starting with a vowel or with the letters b, d, g, j, l, m, n, r, v, z, ž.

A short prepositions were often attached to following words and eventually the apostrophy, and later a space, was used to separate such words.

In the VM, free-standing S is often used for the verbal form SI, which in dialectical speech is pronounced as S. As verbal form, S has flexible order in the sentence, before or after a verb. Example: SEM DAL or DAL SEM.

A freestanding S can also be a caused by erronously placed space. For a foreign writer, placing frequent spaces could be caused due a syllabic pronounciation of Slovenian word.

Letter K

A free-standing K is frequently used Slovenian preposition, meaning ‘to’, ‘towards’.  In Latin script, K and H were the same, so there was no distinction between the two. Eventually, the letter H was used in front of the words starting with K or G.

In the VM, free-standing K is most frequently used for relative pronouns KI or KO.

Freestanding Y

The Voynich glyph Y is most often transcribed as ‘i’. In Slovenian language, it also served for the sound J, until the letter ‘j’ replaced it. It was still quite frequently used in first Slovenian books. The letter Y is no longer part of Slovenian alphabet.

By the time the first Slovenian book was printed, Slovenian language already had several major dialects (Carinthian, Carniolan, Slovenian, Istrian). The use of Y for the contemporary Slovenian conjunction IN was characteristic for the Pannonian/Illyrian Slovenian dialect, while other dialects used INO. The remnant of the ancient use of the letter ‘i’  for ‘and’ is still noticable in the dialects of Bela Krajina and Prekmurje, where I is still consistently used in dialectical speech. It also became incorporated into Croatian and Serbian literary language. In the writing of Slovenian author Štefan Kuzmič, written in 1771 in the Prekmurje dialect, the words I and INO are used intechangably.  Also, the vowel O is often used for the sound OE (VORE), which can explain why the pronunciation of Vovels can differ.

In the VM, the conjunction ‘i’ is most frequently used, sometimes followed and preceeded by space, sometimes the space is omitted. Since Voynich glyph is transcripbed as Y, including in Eva, the distinction has to be made when it stands for ‘i’ and when for ‘i’.

Sometimes the way the Latin Y is transcribed into Slovenian makes a difference. For example, the VM word YDY can either mean JEDI (meals) or IDI (go).

Letters D, Č (ch), Č/Š (sh) L, D, T and SV (Eva F and P) stand for the phonetic two-letter words, which in medieval Slovenian writing are often combined. Therefore, these free-standing letters can have the same meaning when written separately or when they are attached to the next word.

Letter L

VM language is based on the spoken medieval Slovenian, which means that in the two-letter words, a half-sound was often pronounced, but not written. This can explain all free-standing L word. The word LE is very common in Slovenian language. Its main meaning is ‘only’, but in the Middle Ages, it was also used as an article (le ta – this, le eno – only one), and an interjection (le pridi -do come, le povej – tell).

In the VM, L as LE is written separately or without a space.

Freestanding R

The main reason for the freestanding letter R is the property of the letter R. A semi-vowel is esentially pronounced next to every R if it is not preceeded or followed by a vowel. Example: RČI – REČI.  The letter R also has a soft and hard sound which a foreign writer might indicate with a space.

Letter D

Voynich letter D stands for Slovenian DA (that, so that). In the VM, it is writen as a solitary letter or attached at the front or at the end of the word. In the VM, most common cause is improper space.

A similar explanation can be made for all free standing CH and SH letters. They stand for phonetic ČE, ŠE, ŽE. 

Letter T

 The most common reason for a freestanding T in the VM is the semi-vowes that was not written down. In the spoken language, the vowel can be recognized, but in written language it is a lot hader. One needs to know the language to know which vowel needs to be added. Some clue could be obtained from reading the text in context.

The VM glyphs  Eva F and Eva P are used in the VM interchangably for the sounds that sound the same, but have different meanings. I read them as SV (CV, ZV). They require the semi-vowel, which was later replaced with e, i, o or a. The only Slovenian word that is close to SV is CVI (bloom). Since Slovenian language was close to Croatian, I believe the freestanding SV stands for SVE (all), which is still used in this form, however, in Slovenian language, the letters were reversed, so that the English ‘all’ is translated in Slovenian as VSE.

In the VM, there are also two strange glyphs that some VM researchers are regarding as V.  This is also how I read them. They are definitely decorative initials and the space after them is due to the large letter V.  The word VODAR conforms to the same grammatical form as BRODAR, or ZVEZDAR – a noun + ar (ending for male profession).

The word VIDAW is a verb, in a past or future tens, used with helping verb (sem, si, je or bom, boš, bo – was or will), and also for conditional mood with helping verb ‘bi’ (would).

Other individual letters

In his analysis of VM free-standing letters, Koen Gheuhus also mentions  the f49v, where free standing letters seem to represent innitials. They seem to be the first letters of each line, except for three strange glyphs that look like a mirror image of the letter C.

I have arranged them in four columns, living out those special glyphs and to my surprise, I was able to read the acrostich:

SV  ORY K S SVORY S SVORY D Y E KY. After adding a few vowels to change phonetic to proper language, I was able to obtain a meaningful phrase:

SVI ORI, KI SI SVORI(L), DA JE KAJ. (All prayers, you created, that is something; or All prayers you created, are meaningul.)

The free standing letters in f57v definitely represent the plan for the development of Slovenian alphabet, comprised mostly from the Latin letters with some glyphs purposely created for Slovenian sounds.

As Koen Gheuhus pointed out, there are also free standing letters in f66R. To me, the page looks like a grammar exercise.

Koen concluded that ‘there must be something special about these glyphs, making them particularly suited to stand by themselves’. He also pointed out that Eva E does not occur as a single glyph, except in f49v (if it is meant to be an actual glyph). He also finds it unusual that P (Eva q) stands alone only on page f76r.

Because the Slovenian language is so archaic and complicated, it is impossible to convince non-Slavic people of all its grammar peculiarities. As a matter of fact, very little research has been done by Slovenian linguists to show the development of the Slovenian language between 10th and 16th centuryes. The dialects have been regarded by the past linguists as a bad vestage from the past that needed to be rooted out of Slovenian written and spoken language.

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THE STARS

In the Voynich Manuscript, the image of stars can be found in the drawings of flowers, in Zodiac pages, in Cosmology and even in the plain text.

In the Cosmology page, the stars were used for embellishment purposes. As far as I could tell, they represent a spiritual aspect. They are always found in the circle or next to it, next to the church or church symbols in the middle circle, or in between the writing. They are often contrasted with dark blue colour. This suggests that the stars as a pattern represent heaven and things relating to it. The same idea can be applied to the stars being held in the hands of humans. There are only two animal figures shown with stars.

Stars also mark the paragraphs in the text on pages 103 R to 116 R in the Voynich Manuscripts. There are some plain text pages without any star symbols. The stars that are on the pages probably highlight some important ideas.

The use of asterisk in the plain text suggests the author’s familiarity with the classical Greek literature, where the asterisk symbol was first used. It also suggests that he had an “obsession” with the stars and heaven. The Illyrian belief that the soul of a dead person ascends to heaven and becomes a star, would have been familiar to him. The stars were also important symbols for the Carthusians who used seven stars in their emblem. The Counts of Celje also used stars in their coats of arms.

The stars were also used in the emblem of the Waldensian religion.

Nicholas Kempf can be directly related to these religious views. If he were indeed the author of the VM, he would have been aware of the important place of stars in the Greek and Illyrian culture. He would also have known their significance in the Carthusian symbol, and in the coats of arms of the Counts of Celje.

The stars can be seen in the individual flowers, where they stand out as something holy, either as blossoms, leaves or roots.

It is possible that the author has purposely chosen 4-pointed, 5-pointed and 8 pointed stars, as a matter of fact, two 8-pointed stars originate from the white 4-pointed star that looks like a cross (+) to which another cross in the shape of X was added. The centre of the star-flowers represents the seeds, the circle that was one of the oldest symbols for God. 

One of the star-flowers on f42v particularly stands out, because the top point looks like a cone (or a dark glasses with a pointy phrygian hat).

Asterisk

In the Slovenian medieval dictionary, I found the entry for “asterisk”. It was translated into Slovenian as “a little star is a symbol in the text”.

It is quite possible that the author of the VM was mixing up two or even three different writing conventions. This could be explained, if there were more authors, or if there was one single author, such as Nicholas Kempf, who was exposed to different Slovenian dialects. He would be motivated to adopt the Latin script so that the Slovenians in different political entities could use for their language.

The stars in several pages of text seem to be used as asterisks marking a paragraph. No pattern could be established to explain the different colour of stars, or the centre.

The asterisk was already used in the Balkans on artifacts as far back as the 5th century BC. Kempf would not have been aware of this fact.

In classical Greek, the asterisk became used as a typographical symbol. Aristarchus of Samothrace used it when proofreading Homeric poetry, to mark the duplicated lines. Origen also used this symbol to mark any missing Hebrew lines. In the Middle Ages, the asterisk was used to link particularly important text with comments in the margin.

Star Pattern Alluding to Spiritual Things

The small stars are also used to form a pattern, like the one in the centre of the circle, on alternate cracks of the stars etc. This suggests that the stars symbolize the spiritual realm.

Most VM researchers believe the labels next to the stars in the top middle picture represent the names of the stars. Dr. S. Bax looked for the names of the stars in different languages, but was only able to come up with four, and even he was not completely sure he had it right.

Contemplating on nature, the author of the VM must have been amazed how many things in nature are shaped as stars. The stars have a centre in one single point. The single point in a centre of the circle was one of the earliest symbols for God. A mystic would regard the writing as a gift of God. Writing starts with single letters. Putting them together generates communication.

The above stars could be understood as a progression of understanding of nature and God. The first picture looked like a star-shaped flower with the seeds in the middle, or a crossing of all directions. In the second 8-pointed star, a human face is suggestive of greatest self-awareness of men. The third and fourth stars are 6-pointed and are suggestive of human development of symbols (letters) and writing (words).

At the first glance, this picture looks like a light blue flower, but at a closer look, it is clear the inner circle is not surrounded by petals. It looks like a medieval symbol for spiritual divine/human boarder, often termed as a »cloud bend«. The author of the VM used it in the biographical pages as well. I would interpret this as the words being of divine origin and should be chosen carefully to honour god. This would be an interpretation of John’s words, »In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God«.

Nymphs Holding Stars

Almost all human figures in the zodiac section hold the star in their hands. It is not clear what that means. In the Slovenian/Illyrian tradition, there is a belief that people turn into stars after they die. ‘To see the stars’ was Slovenian expression alluding to concussion. This expression was probably introduced by the Bogomils from Bosnia who had somewhat different belief in heaven. Ewa Feldhusen pointed out the inscription on a Bogomil gravestone (steček) from 1094, found in Radmilje, which alludes to the mystical religious experience as ‘a travel to the stars’. It reads:

You, who read my stone, maybe you travel to the stars. And you went back because there is nothing there, and you are yourself again. A man can see what he has not seen, he can hear what he has not heard, he can taste what he has not tasted, he can be there, where he has not been, but he always can find himself or he can find nothing.

This statement describes the mystical experience in similar way as John of the Cross in the 16th century, or as Thomas Merton in the 20th century: the union with the divine means finding God or loosing oneself (in mental illness). Even C. G. Jung pointed out that the recovered schizophrenic often become religious.

Animals holding the stars

There are two animals in the Zodiac section, holding a star on a string. A lot has been written by the VM researchers about the fishes in the Pisces Zodiac sign, mostly whether they are of European or New World origin. The meaning of the stars was overlooked.

The lizard, or a dragon had occasionally replaced the Zodiac sign of Scorpio, as J. K. Petersen pointed out. 

The stars set these two Zodiac animals apart and allude to their religious significance.

I will focus on these two signs in one of my future blogs.

To conclude, the author of the VM must have been acquainted with ancient Greek books where asterisks (a star) was used to mark the scholarly text. He was also aware of the religious significance of stars. There were not that many scholars familiar with both eastern and western religion and mythology, and even less scholars who were familiar with the Bogomil religion (heresy?) Nicholas Kemps had the opportunity to be acquainted not just with popular spiritual movements among scholars, but also with Slavic spirituality.

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BAPTISMAL TUBS

Before the 6th century, the baptisteries were built as separate structures. Mostly adults were baptized. After the 9th century, the large baptisteries were no longer needed as the infant baptism became the rule for the Roman Catholics.

A Roman baptistery was excavated in Ljubljana. This attests to the early spread of Christianity in present day Slovenia. From the works of Victorinus Petaviansis of Roman Petovia (present-day Ptuj), it can be assumed that Nestorian Christianity was practiced alongside the Mithraism. Mithraic temples were discovered in Ptuj and in Bela Krajina (close to Pleterje).

We can imagine that the Slavonic Church of St. Methodius could not afford ornate baptisteries. According to the biography of St. Methodius, Methodius once baptized a man in a local creek. The focus of the Slavonic Church was more on religious literature then on fancy buildings and flashy church vestments. In medieval manuscripts, there are several pictures of Slavic princes being baptized in a large tub.

Although the containers in the Vojnich Manuscript show some similarity with the tubs and barrels used for medieval adult baptism, I do not believe this is the case. It is possible, though, that the tubs are serving as identification that the persons were baptized, perhaps in a Slavic ritual, in simple tubs. However, for some strange reason, at least one medieval artist depicted French king Clovis being baptized in a simple wooden tub (picture in top left corner), in a similar way the Slavic princes were baptized (pictures on the left).

The tubs in the zodiac pages look like the low, pleasantly decorated baptismal tub, which could allude to the people placed in the calendar, were baptized (probably saints).

There are some medieval depictions of baptism in the baptismal font, the kind used for the infants. By then, the adult baptism was shunned, because it was performed by heretical Bogomils and other religious groups the Church considered heretical.

Could the author of the VM get the idea for his pictures in such medieval depiction of the baptism?

Each of the above picture from the VM could inspire imaginative observer to tell a different story. The labels besides some pictures can point us into the direction of what the author had in mind. The lack of Christian images is suggestive of the author being to some degree at odds with the official Church. The tubs and setting display a lot of variety which is suggestive of the many different interest of the author.

This, too, is suggestive of Nicholas Kempf being the author. Since there were many Hussite refugees in the Slovenian monasteries (the prior in Jurklošter before him was a Czech), Kempf would have been acquainted with the simplicity of the Slavic church. The Bogomils, Waldensians, and Hussite were all calling for Church simplicity and repudiated the wealth of the higher clergy. They were also promoting books, prophesy and preaching.

As already mentioned, the Spiritual baptism in its original meaning was the reference to a genuine mystical experience and the commemoration of it. In the Old Testament, the mystical religious experience is referred to as a “vision” or “hearing a Voice of God”. Some also call it a mystical death, because in such religious ecstasy, one loses the conscious self- awareness. According to Kempf, there are four ways to attain a genuine religious experience (the author of the Alchemical Wedding of Christian Rosenkranz also recognizes four ways!). Even contemporary psychologists agree that genuine mystical experience is a grace and cannot be produced by will alone. Sometimes, like in case of St. Paul, it happens in a life-death situation, sometimes, it happens after intense meditation and fasting. An inferior mystical experience can be achieved with various intoxicants, such as alcohol, marihuana, magic mushrooms.

Examining mystical traditions in other cultures is a natural response of intellectual who had genuine mystical experiences. This was particularly important in the Middle Ages when the political and religious situation produced a lot of genuine and false mystics.

In his writing, Kempf makes a distinction between a genuine mystic, who does not want the attention and veneration, as is often the case when somebody announces his or her visions. As a mystical writer, he examined other traditions, particularly the Greek tradition. As a philosopher challenging the Church on morality, he would have read the Plutarch’s Morelia. The Žiče (Seitz) Charterhouse had the second largest library in Europe, and Kempf would have had no problem borrowing a book there, since the four Slovenian monasteries were connected.

Kempf was not alone in being able to contemplate the symbolic meaning of the biblical writings, religious rituals, and secular literary writing. The writers of Grail romances before him had attempted to do the same.

The females in strange contraptions in the VM could be Kempf’s response to the illustration Eggman Le livre de Lancelot du Lac & other Arthurian Romances, Northern France ca. 1275-1300 Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, MS

This is the only image I was able to find that slightly resembles the figures in strange contraptions in the VM.

Obviously, a lot of metaphysical wisdom is necessary to interpret this picture.  Is it an egg or is it a host that the man is lifting up? Are those eggs he is sitting on? Or is it an abstract idea that the medieval philosophers were concerned about. Which came first: the egg or the hen? Religion or art?  The institutional clerics or the prophets?

Both, religion and art, are creating (hatching) spiritual human beings that distinguish themselves from the creatures of the animal world. They do that by uplifting the individuals of outstanding qualities. Both are concerned with giving people spiritual guidance and provide continuity of teaching and prophesy.

I would not have found this picture if I had not previously figured out that the images on VM page 77 were related to Delphic E. It was the image of the Delphic E that led me to read Plutarch’s book Morelia which enabled me to understand what the pedestal image in the VM means and how it relates to mystical experience (I will explain this in greater detail in a separate article).

The repeated depictions of nymphs elevated on the pedestal in the VM suggest that the author was preoccupied with the idea of prophesy and spiritual cleansing.

The above drawings in the VM beg for symbolic interpretation. The connection of physical and spiritual creation is indicated, as well as the mystical origin of these ideas. The mystical visions often combined ideas into a strange picture.

In his work Morelia, Plutarch explains the origin and ritual of the Delphic oracles. According to his story, a man had a mystical experience in a cave. After telling people about it, they came in droves there. Choas ensued as they had mass hallucinations. To solve this problem, the Delphians decided to choose a wise, well-educated young woman who would be a Pythia – a spokesperson for the oracle.

Plutarch is specially pointing out that genuine prophesy does not come from supernatural sources, but rather from knowing and understanding the past events, and applying them to the present and future.

In the Morelia, there is also a long explanation of the Delphic E.

Kempf, or any other mystic living in Slovenia, would have been able to recognize many Slavic words in the Plutarch’s story, from Pythia (meaning “the one asking questions”  (in Croatian, Pythia would be the noun of the verb PITATI – to ask).

Assuming that the VM was written in present day Slovenia (in Pleterje or Jurklošter), the author would have been exposed to Greek culture and Greek books. The Slovenian language could have offered him unique understanding of the ancient Greek names, such as Otisseus as a Migrant. ORACLE (Slovenian OREKEL – say about) sounds similar as the Slovenian word ‘OBREKEL’ – he said about.

Even in the Middle Ages, Slovenians liked to speak in parables and in symbolic poetic language. This was noted in one of the earliest dictionaries by Faučič, who pointed out many examples of sayings, proverbs and symbolic expressions.

St. John the Baptist was greatly venerated by Slovenians, particularly those who belonged under the Patriarchate of Aquileia. Besides St. Nicholas, most of the churches were dedicated to St. John the Baptist. The Carthusians often dedicated their churches to St. John the Baptist, or to the Virgin Mary. The Church in the Carthusian monastery at Gaming was called St. Mary on a Throne.

St. John the Baptist was a Jewish mystic who openly criticized King Herod. He was beheaded as a result. Since he baptized Jesus, he is also considered a Christian saint.

The early Christian writers had learned to use symbolic esoteric language for criticising the Romans. In this way, they not only saved their lives, but also preserved their work as well as the teachings of Jesus.

I suppose it would take a highly intellectual mystic and prophet to connect the picture of Eggman with Plutarch’s Morelia and his explanation of Prophesy, and to use that image in so many different ways. Nicholas Kempf would be acquainted with the modern philosophical trends and as a mystic, he would be capable of making such remote associations which are the hallmark of great art.

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BATHS AND SPIRITUAL CLEANSING

Many pages in the VM are devoted to public and private baths. The physical cleaning associated with such places could also be an allusion to the spiritual cleansing. The images of naked women, bathing in the tubs on pedestals, are a clear indication that a realistic interpretation of the pictures in some cases is impossible. The author of the VM seems to be preoccupied with the notion of spiritual purifications. Judging from his works, the same can be said for Nicholas Kempf.  There are many mystics and psychologists who claim that spiritual cleansing (introspection) is a prerequisite for genuine mystical experience.

The worship of water started spontaneously and became gradually incorporated in religious rituals. Water can be considered the most mysterious of the elements. It can be found as a vapor, a liquid, or a solid material. It comes from above (as rain) and from below (as spring water).

The word OLOLAL has no meaning in Slovenian, which means that it was borrowed, most likely from Dutch where it meant ‘mumble’, ‘mutter’ prayers and hymns. In the 14th century, it was applied to members of semi-monastic reforming sects active in Low Countries who devoted themselves to the care of the poor and sick. Lolleard (Lollards in English) were regarded heretics by the Roman Church.

The word TEDY frequently appears in the VM. Although it could be understood as Slovenian word TED(A)J (then), this is not always the case. From the context of the text, I had concluded that this word is related to Slovenian word OTETI, since occasionally the letter D was used for the sound T.  OTETI in Slovenian means ‘save’, ‘protect’. Assuming the author of the VM had borrowed it from another language, close to English, I discovered its origin might be Dutch ‘tijdig’ or Danish ‘tidig’ (timely) or Old English ‘tidlic’ (timely, seasonable). According to the Etymology online, the word ‘tedy’ meant in mid-13th century ‘in good condition healthy’. Some etymologists relate this word with ‘timely’ (zitig, or zeitig in German), which could also be related to Slovenian slang word ‘pocajtati’ (heal, feel better). It is possible that people understood wintertime as a time of ill health since poor died and cold contributed to their feeling.

The Slovenian word OTETI is explained in the Slovenian Etymological Dictionary as follows:

OTETI therefore means ‘take away’ and implies ‘take away what is bad, harmful, save from pain, illness, harm. In the Slovenian Etymology Dictionary, it is explained as Lat. ‘liberare’. It was first attested in the 10th century, which means that there might be some similarity with the English ‘tidy’, particularly since the dialectical pronunciation of ‘oteti’ could also be ‘otejti’ (T and D were often used interchangeably, due to the similarity of the sound). It also associates it with the Dutch ‘tijdik’, since it implies the restoration to a previous good condition.

Ritualistic Baths

Rituals performed at natural springs and rivers have been in practice for thousands of years, in many lands, and in many religions.

The Jews were very particular about their ritual baths. No less than 60 gallons of water was to be used, thus ensuring total bodily immersion. The water had to be “living” water, meaning that it was directly sourced from a river or spring, or from rainwater that flowed into the pool. A mikveh (the Jewish ritual bath) dating from 1170, was discovered in Cologne, German.

The bathing rituals were often associated with the summer solstice. This event had strong associations with mysticism and ritual cleansing in many cultures.   

It was believed that on the nights of June 23 and June 24, natural sources of water were blessed. These included springs, rivers, and fishponds. As people bathed in these waters, they recited incantations asking for health and happiness. The Catholic Church regarded this ritual as Cultura diaboli, and denounced it as a remnant from the past.

In his letter to Cardinal Giovanni Colonna, Petrarca described how he had witnessed this strange ritual in Koln: “The river shore was full of beautiful women, decorated with smelling flowers, washing in the river and reciting a prayer in some unknown language. It was explained as an ancient ritual which was practices to protect the women from all misfortunes in the following year.”

St. Augustine describes a similar ritual he had seen in Lybia, a thousand years earlier. He strongly denounced it.

The three images on f84r that could allude to the ancient ritual of bathing on St. John’s day and chanting the words related to ‘salvation’, ‘protection’. In Christian tradition, this pagan ritual was transformed into the sacrament of baptism, which purifies the sinful souls and enables them God’s protection.

Nicholas Kempf could have illustrated this ritual, assuming that he authored the VM. After all, Kempf was of German origin, and probably knew of the ritual in Koln. He was also quite familiar with works of St. Augustine. The women depicted bathing in pools appear to be wearing flower-garlands on their heads.

In the Roman times, the bathing ritual deviated from its religious roots. It degenerated into a hedonistic and immoral indulgence involving the participants – much to the dismay of St. Augustine!

Saints Clement, St. Jerome, and other early Curch fathers, condemned excessive attendance at the public baths. They particularly targeted mixed-gender bathhouses.

During the medieval times, many Islamic countries re-established Roman type baths. They were known as Turkish baths. It is believed that the use of baths regained popularity in Europe with the return of the Crusaders from the Middle east.

There were public baths already in the territory of present-day Slovenia extending back to Roman times. Most of the buildings were later destroyed. At least two Slovenian hot springs were mentioned in the 13th century.

The hot springs at Dolenjske Toplice are mentioned in 1228. Count Henry IV of Istria donated part of his estate to the Cistercian monastery of Stična.

According to the Chronicle of the Counts of Celje, the prior Nicholas of Jurklošter (Slovenia) bought a house in Laško in 1450. It was also documented that the monks ran public baths in the open swimming pool at Laško. This prior could only have been Nicholas Kempf. Assuming he was the author of the VM, it would explain the numerous pictures of pools of water with females bathing, as well as pictures of man-made pools. They could be sketches for a public swimming pool the monastery was planning to build. They could also reflect on Kempf’s obsession with meditating. In any case, this work on public baths certainly prompts the consideration of many ideas about the meaning of baptism, and various rituals associated with baths. This date however does not fall within the narrow margin determined by carbon dating of the VM. The entire VM seems to reflect the situation in Slovenia between 1450 and 1460. During this period Nicholas Kempf moved from Gaming to become a prior at Jurklošter (near Laško). In 1460, he was a prior at Pleterje, and had just completed a book on mystical theology. The last Count of Celje was also assassinated during this time, in 1456. Turkish invasions exacerbated the situation. To attain Church support for the defence against the Turks, German princes ended their religious neutrality and pledged alliance to the pope in Rome.

If Kempf was the author of the VM, and the pictures of pools were actual sketches for outdoor baths in Laško, the parchment used must have been twenty years old. Would that be possible?

The four Carthusian monasteries in Slovenia were able to share books and supplies, having previously formed a fraternity. It is possible that the Carterhouse at Seitz (Žiče) had a large supply of parchment due to the fact that decades prior, it had served as the Motherhouse for Carthusians during the Avignon papacy. As such, it was responsible for securing parchment for all Carthusian monasteries in Europe. It would be reasonable to assume that the parchment came from Venice, since the Carthusian monasteries in Slovenia were under the religious authority of the Patriarchate of Aquileia.

Man-made Swimming Pools

The above illustrations are from the VM and show a pool of green water. The tube on the left side is suggestive of “living’ water”. The naked women with garlands on their heads seem to be rejoicing. Perhaps they are dancing in a row. There seems to be an allusion to some ancient ritual that could have been practiced in the natural pools of water in the ancient times, and even in the Middle Ages by Bogomil women.

Public baths became popular again in the Middle Ages. People used them not only for bathing, but for healing as well. The water from hot springs was regarded for its therapeutic benefits already back in Roman times. Medieval Europe saw an increase in the number of public baths being built. Slovenia is known for an abundance of hot springs. Many are run by the government and are renowned as places of healing.

The healing property of the Laško hot springs has been known since antiquity. It has been documented that the Carthusian monks ran public baths there, but no details are available, except that the baths were in the open space. This would support the theory that the sketches of pools in the VM could have been created by Nicholas Kempf. He had the access to the manuscripts with the pictures of the public baths. 

Baptism – an allusion to Bosnian Krstjani

Looking at the Voynich Manuscript bathing scenes, one gets the sense that the pictures also have deeper spiritual meaning.

Judging from the illustration contained in a 15th century manuscript, it is apparent that the issue of pagan baths was once again becoming the subject of intellectual debates. By that time, the public baths of the Roman times were destroyed, and baptismal fonts erected for the purpose of Christian baptism. Yet, the medieval Bogomils were still practicing pagan religious practices and adult baptism. I suppose the Bogomils, and intellectuals of the Middle Ages were re-examining the ancient religions to denounce the medieval heresies, or to criticize the Roman and/or the Orthodox Church.

Little is known of the religion of the early Medieval Paulicians (the Armenian forerunners of the Slavic Bogomils, French Cathars, Italian Patereni). However, the book The Key of Truth, offers the best description of Paulician baptism. The book was discovered in recent centuries. The Key of Truth was written in Armenia in the 13th century and is believed to be based on an even older source. The ritual is described as follows:

The catechumens were naked as they entered the water; they proceed to the middle of the pool on their knees. It was necessary to pour three handfuls of water over the head in the name of the Father, the Sone, and the Holy Spirit. It was believed that the Holy Spirit enters as the third handful is poured over the catechumen’s head.

Reading this passage reminded me of the picture in the VM. The line that leads to the container represents the “living water”. According to Jewish tradition, the water had to be moving water (the pipe, the creek). The candidate had to come to the middle of the pool, where the baptizer poured three handfuls of “living” water over his/her head.  A baptizer could also be a woman invested with the power to perform the ritual.

I interpret the blue pool as representing a ‘living water’ on earth. This is the spiritual environment that people entered after baptism; caring for each other as they became part of the Christian community.

I imagine the ancients discovered through experience, that the healthiest water comes from a running source. These included springs, rivers, or lakes with a source of continuous fresh water. On the other hand, stale water in pools or puddles could be unhealthy and potentially deadly.

This analogy works well for ‘spiritual water’. The spiritual environment in which people live can also get stale and unhealthy if it is not refreshed and renewed with new ideas.

Just like physical cleaning is necessary to retain health and prevent illnesses, spiritual cleaning is necessary to retain healthy habits and attitudes.

The above illustration from the VM undoubtedly represents a baptismal ritual. 

This picture in the VM indicates the baptism was not conducted in an ornate baptistery, like the one in Pisa. It does, however, reflect the baptism of Paulicians as described in the book The Key to Truth

Adult/infant Baptism Controversy

In the 4th century, baptisteries were being erected as separate structures, with full-immersion pools for adult baptism. These baptisteries were large because the group baptisms were performed about three times a year.

By the 6th century, the baptismal fonts were built on the porch of the church, and later in the church itself. After the 9th century, when infant baptism became the rule, the Christian baptisteries became obsolete.

Early baptisteries were found in Aquileia, Ljubljana (Roman Emona), Salona, in Crete, Ravenna, and Naples. The baptism scene in the VM does not represent ornate Roman or Lombardic baptisteries, but a simple ritual, such as the one practiced by the Paulicians and the medieval Bogomils.

The Bogomils were calling themselves KRSTJANI. They represented the Bosnian church that existed for four hundred years (until the mid-15th century) and was separated from Rome. The Baptist denominations claim to originate from the Bosnian Bogomils. We can assume that their name originates from the word KRST (baptism in Slovenian), since the Bosnian KRSTJANI were connected to the Bogomils that had been spread in Slavonia and Northern Italy, even in the parts of Carniola.

It can also be assumed that the Slovenian name KRISTJANI derives from CHRIST (Kristus in Slovenian, or KRIST in Croatian), however the 16th century Slovenian Protestant writers were referring to Christians as KRŠČENIKI (the baptized), not as KRISTJANI (Christians).

The Bogomils rejected the idea of the infant baptism. They believed the infants did not have original nor operative sin and did not need to be baptized. A candidate for baptism had to be a mature adult, capable of understanding, and recognizing a sin. Moreover, he had to have a desire for repentance.

Nicholas Kempf, in his role as a prior at Jurklošter and Pleterje, would have the opportunity to learn firsthand about the Paulicians, and their successors, the Bogomils. They were still active in Bosnia (and probably in some neighbouring regions, like Carniola and Slavonia), where Bosnian Krstjani represented an autonomous Church. Some members of the Counts of Celje, who were the bans (dukes) of Bosnia and Slavonia at the time, were probably Bogomils. Barbara of Celje was presented by Pope Pius II as a heretic, the designation the Church also used for the Bogomils. She was also supportive of the Hussites in Bohemia, the spiritual descendants of the Bogomils.

By the mid-15th century, the situation changed, as Bogomilism was forcefully suppressed with a crusade-like campaign.

Kempf was critical of the Roman church and proposed drastic reforms. It is clear from his writing that the meaning of the Baptism with Water, and Baptism with Spirit was revealed to him.

Jesus was baptised by John in the river Jordan. According to the Bible, the Holy Spirit in the shape of a dove descended upon Him, affirming he was God’s beloved Son. Jesus’ spiritual baptism came after he spent 40 days in the desert, having his faith tested. 

The ancient writers did not have the understanding, nor proper word for the mystical religious experience. Genuine mystical religious experiences are very rare. It would seem that Kempf had it, because he wrote a book about it. From his account we can also assume he understood it. His books are unknown in Slovenia. Perhaps this is due to the fact that his Christian principles compelled him to criticise the Church. We see a similar scenario with St. Jerome 1000 years earlier. Since mystical experience is also the hallmark of genuine prophets, Kempf most likely examined anceint views and rituals associated with prophesy.

TURNING WATER INTO WINE – PAGE 75 v

There are overlapping themes in the VM illustration on page 75V. The top of the picture looks like the sky, with a cloud band, which in the Middle Ages indicated a border between natural and supernatural things. The line is not straight: what seemed supernatural in the past, can be regarded as a natural phenomenon today.

In the middle, there seems to be a tube that leads above the clouds. This tube also seems to be dividing the cloud into two overlapping parts. The part on the right has a cross in the middle, while the one on the left has what looks like a staff.

In the ancient concept of God dwelling above the clouds, He was often equated with the Sun. 

This can be interpreted as all humanity being under a protective cloud. We assume that the writer was familiar with the writings of St. Paul. The light blue tube extending above the cloud is suggestive of some broader universal spirituality, above all known religions, and applicable to all people on earth.

Although many proponents of the contemporary idea of Cosmic Consciousness claim Jesus represents universal, cosmic consciousness, the medieval Church was not that inclusive. Neither are Christian churches today for that matter. The ‘spiritual tube’ leads to potential new discoveries of the ways all people can work together regardless of their religion.

It looks like there are large jugs in the background between the pool and the clouds. This could be an allusion to the Jesus’ first miracle at the Wedding in Cana, which was mentioned only once in the gospel of John. It is believed that the gospel of John was divinely inspired, so we can assume that this story is a reference to symbolic rather than literal wedding.

In the Western culture, there are still some Christian denominations that interpret the Biblical stories literally. Most other churches began to interpret scripture symbolically, and only after the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s.

It might surprise many Christians to learn that the medieval philosophers and theologians were aware of the symbolism of the biblical writing. Some Carthusian monks incorporated their ideas into songs that people would sing for fun. They also wanted these songs to be passed from generation to generation.

There was one Slovenian folksong that dealt with the Wedding in Cana. As a child I found it strange, because according to the song, the groom at the Wedding in Cana, where Jesus turned six jugs of water into wine – was Moses!

Even without theological training I was puzzled because Moses preceded Jesus for centuries.

I suppose the author of the song wanted to pose a challenge and inspire others to study the Bible and investigate the truth on their own.

How is this related to the VM picture?

In the picture, there are ten jugs, which probably correspond to Ten Commandments given to Moses by God. Christianity originally represented a reformed Judaism.

Jesus’ first miracle was turning six jugs of water into wine at the wedding in Cana. In the VM pictures, six jugs seem to be separated. In Christian tradition, the number six stood for the ‘six truths of God’, which represented the six tenets of God.

The Christians accepted the Ten Commandments from the Jewish religion, but they also devised some of their own assertions about God, such as: that there is one God; that God is rightful judge, rewarding good and punishing bad people; that God represents the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; that God became a man and redeemed people with his death; that the human soul is eternal, and that the Grace of God is necessary for salvation.

In Slovenian Catholic tradition, these tenets are recited as prayer to be firmly impressed in children’s minds. This represents the most simplified version of the theological debates and conclusions. The simplified version was also put into a song by an anonymous author so that the simpleminded Slovenian people could memorize it and often repeat it. There is no way of knowing when that Slovenian song was created and by whom, but it can be assumed that by some monk who put a clue about his wisdom that the biblical Wedding of Cana was related to Jesus and Moses.

We can reasonably assume that the first picture represents earthly life, and that both Moses and Jesus made enormous contribution to human wisdom. They prepared people for peaceful co-existence, in adherence to rules and conduct that benefit all.

Christian laws in the middle ages, like their Jewish counterparts, became increasingly corrupt and oppressive. Many innocent people, who dared to challenge the Church were often persecuted.

The medieval Bogomils, like Paulicians before them, were calling for the return to apostolic Christianity, as was practiced by the first apostles. They were against the selling of indulgences that enabled rich and powerful to buy absolution for their sins. They opposed the rich, and immoral higher clergy who attained their position through bribes, and family connections.

It was this ecclesiastical corruption that turned many worshippers away from the institutional church. They were inclined to join the Bogomils or other Christian sects, that seemed to be practicing what was being preached. The Bogomils believed that a genuine earthly happiness can be obtained by living a good and moral life. This involves caring for all human beings, especially the downtrodden.

This brings us to the labels on what looks like jugs of water. I was expecting the Ten Commandments, but as far as I can read, they pertain more to individual meditations that are intended to lead one to spiritual transformation. This makes sense because it was Jesus’ intention to inspire people to freely live good moral lives and love all people. People who put Jesus’ teaching in practice, inspire other people to follow their example of goodness. Living a just and moral life is beneficial to both the individual and the entire society.

I believe the picture represents earthly life which is both physical and spiritual. Our distant ancestors managed to find joy even in the most difficult times.

The Magic of the Cana Miracle

I found an interesting interpretation of the Wedding in Cana on the internet, that supports my view. The author of the articles claims that turning the water into wine has to do with the “Christ intoxication”, which I understand as just another expression for a mystical religious experience.

The author of the internet article pointed out the mystery of grape juice, which by natural fermentation becomes wine that has intoxicating effect and could induce ecstasy. Because of this property, wine was used as a ritualistic drink in many ancient religions.

Wine was used by shy and depressed people to uplift their spirits and to lessen inhibitions. Those with overactive minds used wine to forget things that were causing them anxiety. Since the artists were often afflicted with both these conditions – depression and anxiety – they often resort to the healing power of wine.

Standing up for the truth, in the face of corrupt leaders, is one of the most difficult decisions an individual can make. It is in human nature for people to unquestionably follow their secular and religious leaders. Going against the prevailing public view can lead to great mental anguish.

Following Jesus’ example gives individuals freedom to stand for the Truth and Justice.  Searching for the Truth can be a painful experience involving suffering and overcoming temptation.

The Word of God has a similar intoxicating effect as wine: it gives people self-confidence and courage, and ultimately gives people wisdom to know right from wrong.

Intoxication may lead to an altered state of mind, but not necessarily to the Truth. The ancient Roman saying ‘In vino veritas’, means that a person intoxicated with wine, can express his uninhibited, and uncensored thoughts. But his thoughts might not contain the Truth! Genuine mystical religious experience causes similar altered state. There is a major difference: it offers instruction for the betterment of the individual, and of the world. Slovenians have interesting distinction for the two kinds of intoxication: blaznost (craziness) and blaženost (divine intoxication).

Jesus also performed other miracles. He healed the blind, deaf, mute, and lame. One can imagine there were a lot of people with psychosomatic symptoms in Jesus’ time when the Jews wanted to free themselves from one occupier, only to be occupied by another that threated them even worse. A promise of change, of peace and justice could precipitate miraculous healing.

The images of naked females in the VM are often referred to as nymphs. In Greek mythology, nymphs were depicted as young women, helpers of different deities, and appearing in particular environents. In folk tradition, the belief in nymphs has been preserved, at least in fairy tales. They could be understood in a similar way as angels in Jewish or Christian religion, or the Spirits of God.

How does this interpretation play out with my VM transliteration?

A wedding is a joyful event that unites two opposites. As an analogy, it can be applied to the unity of two different things, such as two different cultures, two different concepts, two different understandings of God, etc. It could lead to growth (of a new family unit), or to an expansion of the family. On the VM picture, we can see the nymphs from both directions walking in procession towards the centre. In the New Testament, Jesus is the Mediator between God and mankind. Following His humanity leads people closer to God.

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English Articles

SOME VISUAL IMAGERY IN THE VOYNICH MANUSCRIPT

Without knowing the language, the Voynich Manuscript researchers are focusing on the images for clues where this mysterious book was created. Some images in the Cosmology page seem promising because they are marked with labels.

One such image seems to be the lighthouse by the sea. Is it a lighthouse? The building on the right side is suggestive of the meditterranian style (flat roof). I translitterate these words as: OSVAIR OZVAL SVČI – WARN (WILL) CALL CANDLE (light), (with) LIGHT  (it) GIVES WARNING

The inhabitants of Lower Carniola (present day Dolenjska), where I believe the VM was created, did not know what a lighthouse was. The author used three descriptive words: giving warning with the light. In contemporary Slovenian, the lighthouse is called SVETILNIK.

Giving warning with light was not limited to the sea travel alone. In the medieval Balkans, fires were lighted on hilltops to give warning of oncoming Turkish attacks.

I believe the author intended to use this image as an analogy for the bottom image. A lighthouse represents an early warning for seafarers in the darkness of the night. In the Middle Ages, the Carthusian monasteries were like lighthouses in the spiritual darkness, protecting true Christianity. (Slovenian language enabled both interpretations, due to the meaning of the word SVETI – (he, it, she) shines, enlightens, makes holy.

J. K. Petersen reasons that the structure in the middle of the top part of this picture could not be a lighthouse, because the lighthouses had round or octagonal tops. He is speculating that the image on both sides represent a steep escarpment, or perhaps terraces. The building in the top righthand corner of Cosmology (at the bottom of this picture) is subject of intense research. Most researchers assume the picture represents a castle.

However, there are several reasons why this does not look like a castle. It is true that the castles had their own chapel, but the steeple on this picture looks like a church steeple. This suggests that the church compound is surrounded by a wall. On the sketch, there seem to be two watch towers outside the walled area. They look square. The medieval European castle had the watch towers usually build-into the castle itself. They were erected much higher than the outside walls.

Petersen explains this structure as a castle, or a city surrounded by a wall with a Ghibelline merlons (the swallowtail in the front), and more common square merlons on the back walls. He is pointing at another picture in the Cocharelli codex where one side of the walled place had swallowtail, and another side the rectangular merlons.  He pointed out that these illustrations might not be literal and might have something to do with Philip IV of France, who was ‘against the papacy and open to allegiances with the Holy Roman Empire’. The illustrations in the Cocharelli codex are related to persecution of Templars.  Also, the political dispute is mentioned between the Guelfs and the Ghibellines. Petersen also pointed out that the merlons in the VM picture could be symbolic rather than literal, and that it is hard to find evidence of the swallow tail merlons outside of northern Italy/Lombardy/Bohemia before the late 15th century. The Cocharelli drawings are from the 14th century. He is wondering if the merlons in the VM rosettes folio are literal or symbolic. He is particularly puzzled that both drawings have two types of the merlons on the same building, and wonders if the pictures in two different codices share a common source of inspiration. Is it a reference to a specific event, or if there was a such a place like this? His ideas that the swallowtail pattern of merlons might be an important clue to determine the origin of the manuscript, were shared by some other researchers as well. They wondered if it was related to the dispute between the Ghibellines and the Guelphs.

Is it a church or a castle?

I had examined several theories proposing that the above picture represents this or that castle in Italy. But in my view, the picture shows most likeness to the Carthusian Charterhouse at Jurklošter (called Gairah in the medieval sources). This is the place where Nicholas Kempf, who I believe is the author of the VM, spent over twenty years as a prior.

Petersen interpreted the steeple as a saddleback with two separate points at the top. This architectural style, too, could be found in the vicinity of Jurklošter. The Castle of the Counts of Cilii (Celje) is still standing above the town. There are still a lot of original features, particularly the impressive walls surrounding the castle.

The Counts of Cilii (Celje) were the leading European dynasty in the 15th century. They were the original Slovenian dynasty related to most European royal families, and their main residence was at their castle in Celje. They were great supporters of Carthusian monasteries.

The tower of the castle is square, with rectangular merlons, saddleback roof and two points at the top of the steeple. A similar design can be seen on top of the steeple in the VM church, and on the watch tower in that same circle. It is possible that the image of a rooster (on the comparative pictures) was placed on top of the steeple after the church was rebuilt later and the Protestantism was embraced by the Carthusians.

Unlike the medieval castles that stood on top of the hills, the compound on this picture was in the valley, between the two mountains.

The assumption that the top of the walls is decorated with the swallow-tale design, could as well allude to the destroyed individual cells of the monks, or destroyed wall. It could also represent the sketch for re-building the destroyed walls.

The paintings I am using for comparison were made in 17th century, and clearly indicate two watch towers and a pointy church steeple with what looks like a forked top. The image on the top could also be a stylized bird. The original tip of the steeple might be the same as on the Celje castle, and the stylized bird added at the time of Protestantism, that had spread all over Slovenia.

The Protestant churches in Europe were using the symbol of a rooster atop their steeples to distinguish them from the Catholic Churches.

It is not known how the monastery at Jurklošter looked like when Nicholas Kempf arrived there. According to the historical sources, it was burned down by the Turks shortly before his arrival in 1450s. Protecting it by a wall and watch towers was great necessity. The Turkish incursions were to continue for another century. The place was burned and rebuild several times, as indicated by the paintings created at different times. One thing remained consistent: the location of the monastery was between the two mountains, which for a monk would be highly simbolic.

While most of the medieval castles were built on top of the hills, the Carthusian monasteries were usually located in the valleys.

Present-day Slovenia was right in the centre of the warring factions during the Guelph/Ghillbeline conflict. Even the swallowtail merlons can be found on some medieval Slovenian buildings, such as the Praetorian Palace in Koper. It was built in the 15th century and is still standing as an important landmark of Koper.

The ancient Greek name of Koper was Aegida (Goat Town), the Romans renamed it to Capris and Slavs to Koper. In 568, the Roman citizens of nearby Tergeste (modern Trieste) fled to Koper due to the invasion by the Lombards.

Since 932, Koper was actively trading with Venice. In the war between Venice and the Holy Roman Empire, Koper sided with the Germans. As a reward, the Emperor Conrad II granted it full rights as a town in 1035. After 1232, Koper belonged to the Patriarchate of Aquileia, and in 1280 it joined the Republic of Venice. Koper became the capital of Venetian Istria and was renamed Caput Histriae (Head of Istria), which is reflected in the Italian name Capodistria.

Petersen explained the picture below as a circular wall. This presents a problem for me, because if the building in the middle is a church, or a castle, the walled area would not be narrowed in the middle. I see another pair of buildings as an analogy of protection: the watchtower offers protection from enemies, and the Church as a religious institution offers protection from fear and anxiety. Its objective is to instill proper values, thus eliminating poverty, brutality and wars.

The transition between the two circles is comprised of two white fields, narrowed in the middle where a church with three steeples is located. The upper part looks like an O, while the bottom is shaped like an inverted V. It reminds me of the Glagolitic letter S (slovo).

In the Glagolitic alphabet, the name of the letter is ‘slovo’, probably because a ‘word’ or ‘a letter of alphabet’ are called slovo. It is possible that the author of the VM made a subtle allusion to the monastery as a place where words are used to help people ascend towards God.  A triangle is a symbol of ascent, and the circle O is an ancient symbol for God. This monastery was well-known religious and cultural centre.

The three steeples could be an allusion to the Holy Trinity. This too, could be related to Kempf. The monastery where Kempf wrote his Mystical Theology was dedicated to the Holy Trinity. However, the church does not look like the chapel of Pleterje.

The Benedictine Maria Laach Abbey was mentioned as possibly being the building that was depicted in the VM. The Abbey was founded in 1093 by the first Count Palatine of the Rhine, Henry II of Laach of the House of Luxembourg. This, too, offers an association to the relationship of the Counts of Celje with Luxembourgs by way of Emperor Sigismund.

Kempf would have been familiar with this monastery. It used to be a cultural-religious centre related to Salian German king Henry. St. Bernard is said to have had his mystical visions there. The monastery was located near Kempf’s birthplace. If he did not hear about it in his childhood, he could have been familiar with it at the time of the Basel Counsel. The monastery was allied with the Basel Counsel.

The image of watch tower 

OSVOOR DALY – OSVARILO DALI – warning (they will) give

The watch tower in Slovenian is now called RAZGLEDNI STOLP (observation tower). The author of the VM described it by its function: OSVOOR DALY – warning (they will) give.

The label opposite it, above the church, reads OTCHDY OTOLDY – which in Slovenian means CLEANSE CONSOLE (SAVE, PROTECT).

Now that I have established the possibility that the pictures represent both literal and symbolic meaning at the same time, I will try to explain another segment of the VM Cosmology that precedes the image of the church in the top right corner. The picture represents the passage from the first top circle to the middle top circle.

The image from the VM is explained by Petersen as being various structures: walls with observation towers, at the bottom: a spiral pathway on a steep hill to the rectangular tower on top, with saddleback roof. Petersen is not that sure about the ‘structure’ on the opposite site (on top, or on the right on the inverted picture above). He is speculating it might be a mound, a hole, or a cave entrance.

The transition (the bridge, or the pathway) from one circle to the next has an interesting shape. Within this area, there seem to be two pyramid-like shapes with unfinished tops. Within these two strange images, I see two important medieval symbols: a lighted candle (symbolising religion and enlightenment) and the ‘Princes Stone’ (a symbol of democracy). The picture on the right side looks like a two-tier candlestick with a burning candle. The light is a symbol of wisdom. Jesus referred to himself in the following way: “I am the Light”.  A lighted candle was a symbol of the Waldensians who were prominent in Tyrol. They were persecuted as heretics. They had great influence on the 15th century Bohemia.

The Prince’s Stone is an inverted base of an ancient Ionic column. It was used as a throne on which the Slovenian (Carantanian, and later Carinthian) princes were installed in a colourful ancient ritual and in the Slovenian language. The princes were originally elected from among the people in a democratic way. Even after the Frankish and German kings appointed their princes and dukes, the Slovenian people had the right to accept or reject them, and to speak to them in Slovenian language. The ritual was practiced up to 15th century. It was mentioned by Pope Pius II (Kempf’s contemporary) in 1509 as the only true democratic system. In the written sources, the description of Duke Meinhard II of Gorizia-Tyrol in 1286 is meticulously described. The last duke installed according to this ancient custom was Ernest the Iron in 1414, the father of Emperor Frederick.

Slovenians regarded the Prince’s Stone as their national symbol of democracy. However, the actual stone has remained in the Austrian part of Carinthia where Slovenian minority still lives.

I also see some colour symbolism in the picture, such as the blue colour symbolizing spiritual wisdom. It would be highly unlikely that the medieval tower would be coloured blue, and even more unlikely that a hill would be as narrow as a tower.

I believe the author of the VM was influenced by the Waldensian religion, a proto-Protestant religion which started out as an ascetic movement within the Western Christianity, known in the late 12th century as the ‘Poor Men of Lyon’, the followers of Waldo who commissioned the translation of the Bible into the vernacular language and preached apostolic poverty. Waldo and his followers were excommunicated as heretic. In 1211, more than 80 Waldensians were burned as heretics at Strasbourg. They were also persecuted in other countries and the movement was nearly destroyed.  Valdensians had a lot in common with Paulicians from the 7th century, and Slavic Bogomil religion.

wikipedia.org/wiki/Waldensians

Waldensians were also related to the Hussite movement in the 15th century Bohemia and to Bosnian Bogomils, which survived in Bosnia until the mid-15th century. Crusades were launched against all three movements in the 15th century.

It is not clear how these movements were related to Basel Council which had the objective to implement Church reforms and bring about peace between the Church and the Hussites.

Assuming that Nicholas Kempf was the author of the VM, he would have been familiar with Caranthanians and their democratic election of their dukes, as well as with the Old Church Slavonic religion, and Glagolitic writing, practiced up to the 15th century in some parts of Slovenia. He would have known about the persecution of Waldensians, Hussites and Bogomils. He defended some of their ideas, particularly the liturgy in vernacular languages, and changes in the Church Laws.

The two images of the unfinished pyramids could be an allusion of the earthly ascent of human enlightenment (knowledge and wisdom) that could serve for the progress of humanity. Kempf was in favour of more enlightenment and more democracy.

Slovenian language was widely used in Carintia in the medieval times, which could be attributed to the Bohemian/Bogomil influences (promoting schools and liturgy in the vernacular (Slavic) language, although in Latin (not in Glagolitic) writing. It was Charles the Great who imported the  Glagolitic monks from the island of Krk (now in Croatia) and made the proclamation that all princes in the Holy Roman Empire had to learn Slavic languages, besides German and Latin. He also comissioned the Rheims Bible, written in large part in Cyrilic and Glagolitic script.

Protestantism had spread among the Slovenians in present day Austrian Carinthia, however the priests were catering mostly to the German speaking Protestants. The lay teaches should be credited for the wide-spread litteracy of Carinthian Slovenians, so that when the first protestant books were published after 1550 (written in Latin script and in the dialect of present day Dolenjska region), most books were sold in Carinthia. When the Catholic Church has forbidden the possession of the Protestant books, the Slovenians were secretly copying them.

Enlightenment is spreading

I had hard time guessing what the top left corner of the VM Cosmology page could mean. When I saw similar concentrical circles in the work of Hildegard of Bingen, I began to think of it as a symbol of ancient oracles and of expansion.

It has been mentioned that some illustrations in the VM might have been influenced by Hildegard of Bingen. Compared to Hildegard’s picture, there are no rings of angels in the VM picture. In fact, I could not find a single image of an Angel in the VM.  I could not get a description of the picture from the circular writing in the VM, nor can I interpret it from the circles of angels in the Hildegard’s picture.

The art usually lets us guess, so there could be many different answers. One thing seems to be obvious: the circles endless multitude expanding in a circular way. It could be an allusion to the ancient oracles, or to ancient cities, such a s Bagdad. It can also represent generations of people from the past; some more spiritually enlightened in the middle (blue and white colour), spreading their wisdom outward. In the Middle Ages, there were still some circular churches.

There are two images connecting this circle to the one next to it: the lighted candle and a symbol of democracy (as explained above), and an image that looks like five tubes connecting it to the central circle.

Is it a chimney or is it a scroll?

I had seen a suggestion on the internet that these might be chimneys. What factory in those days would have five high chimneys?! The only similar image I was able to find were two ancient scrolls. This is in total agreement with my initial reading of the label OROROL (ORO = pray (in Latin) and ROL (roll of paper in Old French). It would be reasonable that the author would borrow foreign words for something that did not exist in Slovenia at the time. The rolls, too, contain some blue colour, suggesting a spiritual content.

The five scrolls could be an allusion to the five books of the Old Testament. Pointing towards a central circle where similar images are spread all around the outer circle, is suggestive of the books being translated into different languages, and new books added to the universal wisdom.

The image of the Cross made of five circles is much older. It could have been an ancient symbol or talisman.

I do not believe this is just a random decoration. Some VM researchers compare it to the depiction of the Four Winds by Hildegard of Bingen. It is different though, because on Hildegard’s picture, there are four wolves’ heads, while in the VM, there are four blue circles surrounding the large circle. This could be an allusion to spreading the Spiritual message in four directions (north, south, east, west) of the world. At least, this can be assumed from the VM f82r, which is one of the weirdest pictures in the VM. The explanation of this image would be a topic of another post. For now, I would like to point out the label which I transliterate as OROL DAIR. OROL could be translated as ‘prayed’ (sing., masc., past or future tense), but can also refer to scrolls, or to prayer, and DAIR could be translated as ‘giver’ (dair – from the verb: dajati – to repeatedly give).

In the the Greek mythology, the important people were turned into stars, or the constellations of the stars, after their death and in such way they were remembered in the legends. In this VM image, we see a woman in green, perhaps dead, and a blue star above. A line from this star leads to the image of the five circles in the middle of the page and from there to the strange cross on the left side, and a naked woman next to it.

Hildegard explains her vision as winds blowing into four direction. Is it possible that Hildegard did not understand her own vision and explained it incorrectly? By their very nature, the visions are open to interpretation. They are generated from the collective consciousness, or from personal subconscious material. It is possible that she had confussed the words Wends (alternatively spelled as Winds, like Windish Mach – Slavic March in the medieval times) with winds (English word for the moving air). The Winds were the ones to spread Bogomilism and other heresies originating from this Slavic religion. It is also interesting that she placed the image of four winds near the Zodiac images of Ram,Taurus and Gemini.

It is possible that the author of the VM and Hildegard of Bingen had a different view of the Winds/Wends and their religious movement. We know she was more compassionate Christian, more tolerant, yet she was too eager to convert the pagan Slavs and to this end, she supported crusades, while the author of the VM seem to understand their call for the return of the apostolic christianity.

This, too, is suggestive of Nicholas Kempf being the author of the Voynich Manuscript. He was familiar with political and religious situation in Rhineland, as well as with the works of Hildegard of Bingen (since they both came from that region), but unlike Hildegard, he did not write about angels, nor did he condone the crusades.

Conclusion:

As any art, the illustrations in the VM are open for interpretation. I have chosen these interpretations because they reflect the situation in the 15th century Europe.

The VM contains hardly any Christian imagery, yet it reflects Christian spirituality in many ways. The image of the candle and the Princes’ Stone were important religious and political statements, relevant to that time, particularly for Slovenians, who also inhabited Tyrol and Carinthia, because of the strong Germanization.   The image of walled church complex between the two mountains fits the location of the Charterhouse Jurklošter, where Nicholas Kempf served as a prior.

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English Articles

DOES VOYNICH MANUSCRIPT REPRESENT THEMATIC UNITY?

Rene Zandbergen, one of the best experts on Voynich Manuscript, believes that the sections of the Voynich manuscript, although seemingly different, are thematically connected by a common philosophy. He believes the interdisciplinary collaboration of different experts will help solve this mystery.

My life experiences enable me to study Voynich Manuscript from interdisciplinary perspective.

Without even understanding the text, one can feel from the pictures alone, that the sections of the VM are thematically connected. They are based on art, which is the natural language of the universe.

Picture 1: The root looks like the medieval coats of Arms of the Duchy of Carniola (medieval Slovenia), however the eagle is much older symbol, widely used in Illyria, later adopted by Bohemia and the Holy Roman Empire. It can also be an allusion to Aquileia (Aquila – eagle). The four large leaves could be an allusion to four Gospels. The circular shape of the flower could be understood as a rosicrucian image of ouroboro, probably in response to ouroboro being a symbol of the Order of the Dragon, founded by Emperor Sigismund.

Picture 2: The author of the VM introduces the Slovenian alphabet, adopted from Latin for the use of Slovenians who were no longer allowed to use Old Church Slavonic and Glagolitza in liturgy. The central image seem to be an allusion to different parts of the Christian mass – warning, blessing, preaching, lifting up the Communion Bread.

Picture 3: An image taken from the pharmacological part of the VM looks like a chalice, topped with monstranca. The circle on top seems to be decorated with letters, which might be an allusion to the relics, usually placed in the monstranca for the faithful Christians to kiss in the Catholic religious ritual. The author of the VM did not believe in the power of the relics, but rather in the power of the words.

Picture 4: The picture in the top right corner looks like the walled religious compound I identify as the Carthusian charterhouse of Jurklošter (in present day Slovenia), located in the valley between two mountains. The Carthusians were known for their writing about genuine mystical religious experiences that could offer mystics a temporary union with the Divine.

Picture 5:  The picture represents a strange shaped plant that can easily be recognized as chalice. Koen Gheuens believes it represents the Holy Grail. I see in it another symbol for the Holy Communion: identification of a suffering artists, particularly mystical poet, teacher, preacher … with Jesus. In the 15th century, the chalice was a symbol of Hussite movement in Bohemia.

The pharmacological pages contain picures of strange containers, as well as various roots, and leaves. They could be associated with healing, divination or with the production of Holy Chrism or healing remedies. These activities are by nature related to genuine prophesy related to religion and healing.

Picture 1: The plant gives an allusion to the Hermetic symbol of caduceus.

Picture 2: The page from the pharmacological pages depicts various roots and leaves, and various fancy containers. They could be understood as religious vessels, or fancy perfume bottles.

Picture 3-4: The barrels of various shapes and colours found in the pharmacological pages could be used for storage of seeds and roots, or for production of holy oil, for which up to 70 different plants are used, for making perfume or famous medieval medicine theriac which is produced in a similar way.

Picture 5: The container looks like chalice with a lid.

Picture 6: A depiction of one of the numerous nymphs in a strange contraption seems to represent an allusion to an ancient Greek prophetess.

Several pages in the VM depict compositions containing naked nymphs standing in various tubs and bathing scenes. Some can be understood as a joyful bathing, while others are related to the statements about water in the Bible. The picture above clearly alludes to the adult baptism as described in the Armenian book The Way to Truth.

Flowers and poems

The first half of the Voynich Manuscript contains a single plant on a page, with some text, believed by most VM commentators to be the description of the plant, while the first word in a text is considered a name of the plant.

With my transcriptional alphabet, I can read many VM words, but I cannot confirm their assumptions. Regardless of the language, there would have to be certain words needed for a description of the plant on each page, but I was not able to find any such pattern. I also noticed that the first word in a text was frequently repeated elsewhere in the text, and on different pages. I believe there is only one instance where the first word indicates the name of the plant.

In my view, the floral section represents author’s personal meditations – poems. He compares his poems to flowers: they grow as ‘god’s gift’, just like the gift of poetry can be considered the gift of God. They grow out of seeds, like poems are inspired by the ideas of others. The germination of plants is a perfect analogy for poetry: it involves a magical process that takes place underground (in case of poetry: in one’s subconscious mind). The seeds can be stored for a long time, so can ideas remain dormant for many years and under certain condition, they sprout. Some plants can propagate by way of seeds, and some by way of roots. The same analogy can be applied to art.

I had a feeling that author in some cases meant ‘a poem’ when he used the word ‘roža’ (flower). Slovenian poets in the 18th century often referred to their poems as ‘rože’ (flowers) or ‘cvetice’ (flowers). They even used the word CVETJE (collective noun for flowers) for the title of the literary almanach. I noticed, they were also re-discovering the Rosicrucian movement. The floral imagery has been popular in Slovenian folk songs, in religious traditions, and in classical literature.

In my opinion, the author of the VM purposely used the images from the nature, known for their particular properties, as analogies for the spiritual things discussed in the biblical writing, knowing that the Bible has been written in the symbolic language of nature. The discovery that the biblical writing needs to be understood symbolically was introduced in the 12th century by one of the most influential Hebrew biblical scholars, Moses Maimonides. His ideas were taken up by German mystic Meister Eckhard, who was accused of heresy by Pope John XXII.

Meister Eckhard lived hundred years before Nicholas Kempf, however it is likely that Kempf was equated with his works, because Nicholas of Strasburg, a Dominican mystic of Alsace was the inquisitor in the process against Meister Eckhard.

Transmission of abstract ideas became problematic because the original meaning would often get lost in translation.

Plants represent growth in the upward direction, towards the sun. The image of plants was used in the most ancient times for a symbol of the Tree of Life, as well as for the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.

The ability of abstract thinking had set humans on a path of separation from the natural way of life. Discovering the secrets of Nature (God/gods) enabled them to manipulate nature, protect themselves from destructive natural forces and utilize the positive forces in nature. It also enabled them to reflect on their own history and leave a record of their failures and successes, so that others could learn from their experiences.

Circles

Another large section of the Voynich Manuscript contains circular pictures, mostly concentrical circles. A circle is the oldest symbol for god. In primitive religions, many deities were associated with the Sun, a universal symbol of lite, life, justice, predictability, and cosmic duality. Light became a symbol for wisdom. Even Jesus is recorded saying, ‘I am the Light.’

In the VM circles, various images are depicted, from a simple small circle to a sun, a moon, a blossom, a zodiac animal. Many circles are comprised of concentrical circles, with rings of circular writing. Some are divided into four sections.

At the first glance, they are suggestive of spreading, expanding. This symbol, too, comes from natural observation: a sound from the centre of a circle can be heard all around, first strong and than gradually weaker. With growing knowledge, the ancient people were spreading in all directions, imitating the circular patterns found in nature. Their temples and towns were designed in a circular shape.

The circle became a symbol of completion, but also of eternity. While one human life begins with birth and ends with death, the life of a nation represents countless circles of completed individual lives. And the individual nations are connected and form the universal human family.

This interconnectedness on a spiritual level seems to be symbolically depicted in the so-called Cosmographia page in the Voynich Manuscript, comprised of nine individual circles, connected to each other and to the circle in the middle.

What could possibly connect the ideas expressed in these circles?

Picture 1: In the most distant past, the knowledge was limited, like a moon compared to the sun. People had natural inclination to get together and celebrate. First temples were built in a circular shape. The speakers are unknown (hidden in the picture among the multitude!).

Picture 2, 3, 4: The higher awareness led to intellectual and spiritual illumination as people began discovering the secrets of nature on earth and the secrets of stars in the sky.

Picture 5, 6: In the Middle Ages the ancient symbols of Zodiac acquired new meaning.

Picture 7: In the Dark Ages, as the medieval times are often called, the feudal system corrupted the Church and secular leaders. The search for genuine apostolic Christianity inspired many different religious movements among peasants and among intellectuals.

Picture 8: The author of the VM envisioned the ultimate spiritual enlightenment when kings (man on the left with a lily, simbol of royalty) and the priests (man on the right, holding a chalice) would practice genuine Christianity, taught by Jesus, and prophet-priests (top centre) who will no longer be limited in their speech, and when their God-inspired art will be free of chains.

Theological and Social Meaning of Medieval Art

It has been proposed that the VM circular pictures have been inspired by the works of Raymond Llull and Hildegard of Bingen.

The concentrical circles were the highlight of Llull’s medieval art.  He wrote extensively about reasoning by way of art. His work Ars magna, published in 1305, was inspired by the Arabic astrologers’ use of a device called zairja.  His art was intended to convert Muslims to Christianity through logical reasoning. He invented so-called Lullian Circle, a concentrically arranged circles with writing that could be arranged in various combination by rotating the circles. In the circles, he listed various attributes of God that are common to all monotheistic religions, words like goodness, greatness, eternity, power, wisdom, will, virtue, truth, and glory.

Llull also used an image of a tree in a symbolic way. It’s large roots balance the tree trunk and the tree top, suggesting that with  growing knowledge in the present we can have better knowledge of the past. This will prepare humanity for the growth of knowledge and wisdom in the future.

Llull was critical of the Crusades. He believed that the Muslims should be converted through prayer and reasoning, and not through military force. Most of his work was condemned by the popes at the time.

Llullian Tree – Llullian circles (from the Manuscript of Nicholas of Cusa) – painting by Hildegard of Bingen

Raymond Llull had a lot of followers who used his reasoning to defend Christianity in the medieval Europe. Nicholas Kempf was a great admirer of the work of Nicholas of Cusa, so we can reasonably assume that he was familiar with the Llullian art. As a native of Rhineland, he was also familiar with the work of Hildegard of Bingen. He utilized some of her artistic ideas (circles and plants), but he did not agree with her support for the Crusades. As much as I can tell from the book of Dennis Martin, Kempf believed human souls, not angels, are the messengers of God. In Slovenian, the human soul is of feminine gender.

After learning about Llull, I became more confident that the words in the VM circles were in fact related to religion. I also began to look for a deeper meaning of the weird looking plants in the VM and in the animals in the Zodiac pages.  (More on this will be written in my future posts.)

I believe the author of the VM was highly intellectual man who used simple natural objects too for his art. That fits the profile of Nicholas Kempf.

The medieval art has existential, humanistic, theological and social meaning. It is impossible to explain one single drawing in the VM without connecting it to another drawing on another page. To reiterate: many ideas and allusions are overlapping.

Flowers and trees were an important part of medieval visual symbolism. They represent a cycle of life, a connection from the past to the present and influence on the future.

Flowers

Picture 1, 2 – canabis, fern – known for their ‘magical’ property

Picture 3 – viola, a flower with a symbolic name (stepmother)

Picture 4 – twin bells, a simbol for division

Picture 5 –  two large flowerheads and one partly hidden, a symbol for a divided Church (Orthodox – Roman, Roman- Avignon) and the alternative (like medieval Hussite Slavic church, and other sects that had to go into hiding);

Picture 6 – two overlayed crosses, coloured blue, a symbol for genuine mystic sufering for the sake of God; four red leaves, shaped like a sun – a symbol for four Gospels (the author mistakenly alludes to Slovenian word LISTI (which is the word for folios and the NT Epistles)

Picture 7 – An allusion to the Old testament (Ten Commandments) and New Testament (Chalice designed from wheat ears and three blue berries alluding to grapes/wine – a symbol for the Holy Comunion)

Picture 8 – a plant identified by some as money tree, growing out of two lions. Koen Gheuens believes the picture is related to menorah. He supports his theory with the quotation of the Old Testament pertaining to the instruction how the menorah should be made. I will offer my view in some future post, but for now, I would just like to point out that the lions represent roots, a common national symbol.

The death and re-birth cycles are mystical processes, which have often been misunderstood. Just as one flower has a multitude of seeds (potential new flowers), so too can ideas of one man inspire many others to work for the same cause. This is different than the concept of reincarnation, when a soul of an imperfect man is said to undergo series of re-incarnations until it achieves perfection. The most perfect Christian incarnation is achieved through mystical religious experience. Medieval monks, particularly Carthusians, were willing to subject themselves to all kinds of hardships to achieve this. They regarded the unity with the divine as the highest spiritual value.

Whether copying or translating an ancient manuscript, or picking the healing plants, a Carthusian monk’s mind was always focused on God. He was following the teaching of St. Paul, who urged Christians to pray constantly.

Prayer, for a medieval Carthusians, was much more than just repeating the words. It was thinking about God: how he works in nature and how He is guiding human history through his chosen individuals who took on the burden of living according to God’s teaching, and speaking on God’s behalf, especially when those who claim to be His representatives on Earth had not practiced what they were preaching.

Koen Gheuens is one of the serious VM bloggers who interprets VM pictures as religious metaphors. There are several images in the VM that he recognizes as symbolic, such as the chalice, Jesus’ wounds, Christogram, the menorah. He also believes that the ancient symbols were overlayed with a new meaning.

The chalice had a special meaning to the Hussite movement of the mid-15th century, so much so that the followers were called KALIŠNIKI (chalice people). That would clearly link the VM to Bohemia which had special connection to Carniola and Styria (in present day Slovenia), and to the Habsburg dynasty, particularly Rudolf IV who founded the Duchy of Carniola, and to Rudolf II, who became the King of Slovenians (since most Slovenians at the time lived under Austrian rule).

In the biographical section of the Voynich Manuscript, the scenes of bathing females and weird pictures of nymphs in different contraptions are depicted. The symbolism in these scenes is also overlapping, which also can be a reference to a continuous use of water in religious ceremonies. Ritualistic swimming was known even before the onset of Christianity and those pagan rituals had been practiced throughout the Middle Ages and beyond. The ancient Greek writer Plutarch in his description of Delphic oracle mentions Phythia (the prophetess) sitting on the tripod over the running water.

All these ideas can be used to explain the water scenes in the Voynich Manuscript. It has been documented that the Carthusians from Jurklošter were running a public outdoor bath at Laško (a town within the walking distance from the monastery), after prior Nicolas Kempf bought a property there.

The ideas I had outlined above support my theory that the author of the Voynich Manuscript was most likely Nicholas Kempf, a Carthusian monk, theologian, scholar, philosopher, poet and mystic. His work reflects his interest in the Old Testament’s Songs of Solomon, where floral imagery is extensively used. It also reflects Slovenian folk songs and Slovenian literature where floral imagery is most common. This means that the author was inspired by symbolic floral imagery in poetry, and he in turn inspired others to use flowers for esoteric communication.

In the Slovenian language, the word CVET (blossom) sounding like SVET (the world), and SVET (holy, enlightened) was used in concrete, as well as in poetic sense.

While the name of the VM plant, its colour, shape, usefulness, and healing property might have been the inspiration for the text, the overall message is primarily spiritual. The reason for this could be that the healing power of the plants was as magical as the healing power of the words, and the combination of the two was considered even more powerful. The words transcribed in Eva as CHAR and SHAR are among the most frequently used words in the Voynich Manuscript. In most European languages, these words mean ‘charm’, ‘incantation’ and are related to poetry and its magic.