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Reading minims ‘i’, ‘u’, ‘n’, w, and ‘m’ in the Voynich Manuscript

In my previous blog, I focused on the general description of the minims and illustrated how they can be read as different Latin leters. I explained one reading of the word known among the VM researchers ad EVA daiin. In this post, I will explain the reading of other minims and compare them to Slovenian grammatical endings. The ending -w for verbal forms cannot be found in Slovenian dictionaries, because the words were spelled with the endings -v or -l and pronounced as U. The letter W was replaced in Slovenian language before the first Slovenian books were written in the mid-16th century. 

Minims in the Stična Codex, mid-15th century, Slovenian language and Latin letters

Most of the minims in the VM appear at the end of the words, which means they represent grammatical ending.

In Slovenian language, the ending for the infinitive verbs is -TI (TY) which in the Middle Ages could also be spelled as DY, since T and D were often mixed up by foreign writers (Slovenian DOL, English DALE became German Thal).  For a foreigner, looking for the etymology of the words, would also make sense to spell DY rather than TI, since many Slovenian verbs are formed from the noun by adding the word DAJ (which would be spelled in the VM as DY). There are still some remnants of such forms, such as POGLED DATI which in 2. person singular, imperative mood would be POGLED DAJ (pogledy in the VM) and eventually evolved into POGLEJ.  The infinite form evolved to POGLEDDATI.

Besides different grammatical endings for number, gender, case, and tense, different groups of verbs can also have different vowel before minim ending for the first person singular, such as -am, -im, -em. In a similar way, the -al ending in the verbs for first person masculine past or future tense verbs can have a variation of -al, -el, -il ending. In some Slovenian dictionaries, the grammatical endings are indicated, including the accent. The examples below are taken from the Pravopis slovenskega jezika (the dictionary of Slovenian orthography).

In the VM, the ending -am is most frequent, which means that the text is written predominantly in the first person singular. I have already pointed out in my previous post that EVA-daiin stands for Slovenian word DAM, which can also be the ending for many words derived from the verb DATI (to give). EVA-aiin is Slovenian ending -am, used for first person singular present tense, for which the endings -im, or -em can also be used.

Several VM researchers, particularly J. K. Petersen, pointed out the slight difference in the way minims are written in the VM, but they did not explain what those differences means.

The difference between the minims is clearly visible in the above words, which I read as SAM.

SAM is one of the most frequently used words in the VM, because of its various meanings. The word SAM means I AM (in various dialects, although the proper Slovenian is SEM). It is also used to form a past tense for the 1. person singular. Example: (SAM) DAL – ‘I gave’.  Note that the SAM is a helping verb, and the main verb DAL has the ending -AL. Like in the word DAM, the personal pronoun I is implyed in the ending and is usually not written, unless the pronoun is stressed.

Besides interpreting the word as SAM, it is also important to explore the possible reading of S as Z or Ž.

EVA-dain – Slovenian DAM

Based on the Stična codex, as well as on contemporary Latin cursive writing, I read the VM glyphs IV as IV, N or W. To understand the distinction, some explanation of Slovenian phonetics is required.

How can the EVA-in be read as IV, W or N? Such reading could definitelly be concluded from various medieval European manuscripts. I suppose the similarity of the shapes of the letter could be the main reason. Although in some medieval manuscripts, the rounded  connecting lines between the minims for N and M were used, in most cursive writing, the diagonal connecting lines were used, and when the upward stroke is light and thin, the letters are hard to differentiate from U which has a rounded connecting line at the bottom. Although U with a rounded connecting line was used in the German Latin letters (such as in the Freising Manuscript in the 10th century), at some point the V was used for Latin U, and two Vs for W, both for the sound U – V in Latin, W in Germanic (where V was often used for F sound and W occasionally for B).

The explanation of the endings -l as – u, v, w,  could be based on phonetics. The pronunciation of the letter L was the subject of one of the first debates on phonetics among Slovenian linguists.

In the Freising Manuscript, the pronunciation of the -l endings is clear; it was written with double -ll, which some considered German pronunciation, foreign to Slavic phonetics.

The -l at the end, and in front of semi-vowel was pronounced as -u, but Germans pronounced it as L.

In 1883, Slovenian linguist Škrabec proposed that Slovenians should spell the words the way they are pronounced.  He pointed out that Slovenians did not accept the Polish ‘ł’ which was pronounced as W.

By the time the first Slovenian dictionaries were written, the W was already replaced with U or V. In the VM, the -l, -v and -w endings are used interchangeable. Most likely, certain words were pronounced the German way with the hard L, and some words with the Slavic L (u) or ilj.

An example of extensive use of -m endings could be found on f35r. The endings in green and red squares are verbal endings, while the endings in blue are non-verbal endings. The ending -m can also be used for declination of some nouns. It can also be found in the words such as KAM (where), TAM (there) and others.

The high frequency of EVA-dan, dain, daiin would require an entire book to explain. Although there could be other meanings, the most such words are related to the verbe DATI – to give.

The grammatical form, the proper reading, and the meaning of the VM words can best be determined from the context.

Some Slovenian verbs were formed by adding the word DATI (to give) to the noun. This is how the word ČOR + DAM  (I give magic) gradually became ČORAM (I make magic spell, incantation). Because of the flexible word order, the individual words can be reversed (DAM ČOR – ‘I give incantation), but the reversal does not work where the words are combined into one word. Another such word would be VM word RCHY DAM (RČI DAM – words I give) which has been used until the 20th century in the Prekmurje dialect for ‘I give sermon’, ‘I preach’. It originates from the expression DATI REČI – ‘to give a word’. This word evolved to RECHDY – (used in the VM) to REČI in contemporary Slovenian.

According to P. Currier, the word DAM (EVA-daiin) appears 268 times in the first 25 pages, and the word AM additional 149 times. In the next 25 pages, the word AM appears 137 times, and the word DAM only 76 times. This led him to assume that the words must be the same and that D in the word DAM must be a silent letter. Based partly on this grammatical peculiarity, he concluded that the two languages are not the same.

The word DAM is most frequently used word in the VM. Besides the word DAM (I give), which indicated the first person writing, various derivates of this word are used in the VM.  The prefix PO-  is used for the complete action; combined with DAM means ‘hand’, such as ‘give in hands’, or PODAM  ‘give one selves up’, ‘I surrender’. Where PO is separated from DAM, it could be related to ‘home’ (po dam – (longing) of home).

KALDAIIL – indicates repeated past tense action of ‘sprout’.  Like the word DAM, the repeated giving is made by adding -il, or -jil ending. The meaning is similar to DAL (grammatical form for past or future tense). It is used with a helping verb (sem, si, je, bom, boš, bo, and bi for the conditional mood – English was, will, or would).

EVA – daiin – DAIM, DANW, DAIIW

Many VM researchers are wondering about the string of four minims in EVA-DAIIIN word. (There are more such strings of minims without the D letter.) Since the words are seldom used in the VM, some believe they must be a characteristic of a certain language. 

Is there an explanation for them in Slovenian language? According to Dr. Bax’s minim theory, the EVA-daiiin could be read as DAIIN, DAIIV, DANW, DAIM, DAWN, DAIIW. To transliterate them into Slovenian, we have to consider that the VM was written before the letter J came into use, and before Slovenians replaced  U with V, and W with V or U.

It would be reasonable to assume that the V was used for U, like in the Latin writing convention of the time.

A single minim as ‘I’

A single minim inside the word, stands for ‘i’, just like it is designated in the EVA-alphabet. In the VM, two minims are sometimes used for JI or IJ, since the letter Y is used only for the beginning or for the end of the words. They are frequently followed by R, L, IL.

In the example above, the words ending with -ilj (EVA-m) are mostly the strings of verbs related to the helping verb BUOS (dialectal phonetic spelling for BOŠ – you will be). The ending reflects the soft Slavic -ilj pronunciation of the letter ‘l’.  While the -il is most often found at the end, there are some rare exceptions in the VM (in light blue square). The word DAILO seems to be the dialectal phonetic spelling for DELO (work), and DAIILOL looks like DELOL (will be making).

Another example of different minim endings could be found in the table above. The word LEK is an old Slovenian word for healing remedy. Later, the ‘e’ replaced the semivowel. By adding the ending -am, the verbal form for the first person singular, present tense, is formed. LEKAW is alternative spelling of LEKAL (was healing), while LEKAN means a passive form (healed). LEKAIV seems to be the VM form of adjective – healing, since -iv (iw) ending is indicative for the adjectives. In this case, LEKAIV sounds strange, because Slovenian writers later adopted the word LEČILEN for ‘healing’.  The -ilj ending also sounds strange to contemporary Slovenians, who are more familiar with the word LEČIL.  

In general, minim endings account for almost half of all the endings in the VM. They are most often used for various verbal forms, as well as for adjectives and nouns.

Conclusion

The study of dialects and phonology is a  relatively young addition to Slovenian linguistics, however, it is gaining importance in the last decades. In the past, Slovenians who spoke in dialect, were frown upon as oldfashioned, as the linguists wanted to create a ‘pure’ litterary language. That never worked in practice. However, the generations of school children were forced to abandon their dialects. At the present time, the linguists are searching for the people who still speak in dialects, collecting the old no longer used words and studying phonology. There is very little research into Slovenian dialects and phonetics for the time period betweed the Freising Manuscript (10th century) and Stična Codex (mid-15th century), and between Stična Codex and the 1st known Slovenian books (mid-15th cenury), that is, before the Slovenian language was commited to written form.

Because of that, even the professional Slovenian linguists regard the VM as odd and unrecognizable at the first glance, because their mind set is focused on the two widely studied codices – (Freising manuscript and Stična Codex) and less on the phonetics of the peasant Slovenian language.  I am sure if they would focus on the unique Slovenian grammar, reflected in the VM, they would be better able to understand, that the spoken words the author of the VM heard and wrote down did not sound the same as the words Trubar used 100 years later.

When I tried to write a paragraph in the dialect spoken in my native village at the time of my youth, I could not do it with a simple alphabet. (Professional linguists do that better with a special alphabet that included marks for various accents and sounds.) I imagine this is what the author of the VM was up against. From a spoken language, he would also have difficulty knowing where one word ends and the another one starts. This is why some short words are often written together, and some longer words are separated by unnecessary space.

Because of the various reading of the strings of minims, the number of vowels and consonants changes drastically from the EVA transcription which is used for most computer analysis. Implementing changes makes VM more readable and more vowel-consonant balanced. Also, replacing the semivowels with vowels makes the VM language more syllabic.  The changes cannot be implemented with a replacement button on the computer, because each word has to be studied separately within the context. For this reason, knowing the language and grammar is very important. Although Slovenian is my native language, I am still having difficulty reading the minims in some VM words, particularly since the author was not that proficient in grammar, nor in spelling. Besides, I have no concrete example how the Slovenian language in the 15th cenury sounded, except for 3 pages of religious text.

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MINIMS IN THE VOYNICH MANUSCRIPT

A minim is a short, vertical stroke for letters i, m, n, and u. They are connected to form different letters by a connecting stroke which was often so fine that it was hardly noticable. They were characteristic for the medieval Ghotic script which was very hard to read. To make it easier to read, the letters were inserted or dropped, and the dots were placed over ‘i’, and umlout over ‘u’, the leters j and v were also introduced.

Dr. Stephen Bax on Minims

Back in 2014, the late world renown linguist Dr. Stephen Bax pointed out that the minims are the greatest obstacles for properly analysing and interpreting the VM. He pointed out that one minim could stand for ‘i’ and ‘j’, two minims for ‘n’, ‘u’, and ‘v’, and three minims for ‘m’ and ‘w’.  He stated that when reading the Voynich manuscript “we need to be aware of possible multiple meanings for the same signs, and we need to accept that this was not unique in mediaeval practice.”

He pointed out how important it is to properly transcribe and translate the minims, as he wrote, unless you have the context and the word knowledge – which we don’t have with the Voynich script – it is a nightmare to tell if a letter is  ‘n’, ‘u’, ‘i i’, or in the case of three minims,  ‘i u’, u i’ , ‘m’ or even ‘w’ or ‘i v’.”

Most researchers referred to the VM minims as Eva ‘iin’ or ‘iiv’ (Currier). Bax pointed out that different combination of minims can generate 14 different sounds or letters, excluding V, as well as some Latin numerals.

Source: Dr. S. Bax

Dr. Bax also noticed the difference between the way the VM minims are connected: in some words, there is slight separation between the minims, and most of the time, the last minim ends with an upward flourish. He was wondering if the scribe did that with a specific purpose in mind. He believed the scribe intended to link some minims and separate others to indicate different sounds.

Most VM researchers even at the present time, would agree with Dr. Bax’s statement: “This analysis raises an important problem for Voynich studies, because so far we have treated all ii and iii clusters as only two ‘signs’, in our counting, in our statistics and in our thinking. Our transcriptions – and therefore all of our computer analyses, entropy, Zipf and all the rest – have been based on that assumption. If it is wrong, we need a major rethink, and a major recount.”

The untimely death of Dr. Bax prevented him from continuing his research in this area. All computer analysis of the VM text so far failed to produce any meaningful results, because they are all based on EVA alphabet which counts two minims as ‘in’, three minims as ‘iin’, and four minims as iiin. Perhaps, it would be time to re-interpret the minims and analyse the text based on new transcription.

I have updated EVA alphabet to take into account a new understanding of minims and replaced some letter designations that were most problematic for proper reading of VM text. I obtained very good results with my transcription alphabet.

As Dr. Bax pointed out, minims are characteristic for the Arabic script however they were often used in the medieval Gothic writing. Later, the minims were formed into the letters N, M, U, I and W.

Some Hystorical Appearance of Minims

The symbols with different number of lines have much older origin than the writing. They have been found on the artifacts from the 3rd millenium BC in present day Serbia. The signs with two and three minims have been used for sounds N and M in Proto-Sinaitic, Ancient Hebrew, Ancient Greek, Etruscan, Venetic and some other scripts.

The minims were used in Gothic script for M, N, U, I, V and W. The pictures below show different style of minims. Even in the Slovenian Carthusian manastery of Žiče (Slovenia), the minims were used in capital and cursive script.

The above tree samples of minims are quite different, but in all these scripts it is hard to read the letters comprised of mimims. The picture on the right already uses the letter ‘i’, but it still has the same ‘d’ as the VM. I would also like to point out to the slightly triangular loop in the letter L.

In the mid-15th century, the Carthusian monastery Žiče was one of the four monasteries that in 1415 formed the Fraternity of the Slovenian Carthusian monasteries. It had the second largest library in Europe at that time.

Minims in Stična Codex

In my previous posts, I have already explained that the language of the VM is medieval Slovenian. I pointed out to the similarity of some VM glyphs to the Stična Codex, written in Slovenian language and in Latin letters about the same time as the VM. The codex contains the formula for the general confession, which has been in use continuously with some modifications and was therefore easy to read and translate into modern Slovenian.

For the purpose of explaining the reading of minims, I will try to analise the Stična Codex. The first part was written by a Czech refugee around the year 1428, and the other two pages by his student in 1440. Since the Stična Codex was transcribed and translated by professional linguist, I cannot be accused of subjective reading.

This analysis will only include minims.

The text of the VM is less familiar to Slovenian speakers, because the author probably developed his alphabet independently from the Czech monk who wrote the Stična codex at the Cistercian monastery of Stična, Slovenia. Because the Stična codex uses German style of letters k, s, z, r, h, it is hard to get a word that could be spelled exactly the same as in the VM, however, when I substituted those letters with the Latin exquivalents of the VM glyphs, I got many exactly the same words, which indicates that the language is indeed Slovenian.

The Stična Codex already shows some solutions to the minim problems. The darker ink makes some connecting lines between minims more visible, so that in some places, it is quite possible to distinguish ‘u’ from ‘n’, but not always.

The words in the yellow square represent Slovenian word INU (and), which was used in the regions of Slovenia under German influence, while the letter ‘i’ (and) was used and a conjunction ‘and’ in the regions of OCS influence.  

The word I (and) was the remnant of the OCS language and was still used in Dolenjska region in the 16th century, however, since the author of the Stična Codex was a Czech Cistercian, he was influenced by the writing practice of Germanic priests and used the word INU. In the Stična Codex, it was also spelled as YNV, YNW or YNU, and even YNVO. In Slovenian, the word eventually evolved to IN, as Y was replaced with ‘i’, but in dialectal speech, it was often pronounced as JN or AN, which is similar to English, but with the dropped D. A similar explanation could be given to German UND: as Y was replaced with U, U was pronounced as U.

In the Stična Codex, the letters U, W and V are all pronounced as U, and since the grammatical rules were not established yet, they are used intercheangably throughout the text. ‘V’ comes from Latin writing convention which did not recognize W.  The German writers often used the letter W for V or B (In the Stična Codex, the word BUG (God) is written as WUG. The letter V in German writing practice was also often used for F (visch – fisch).

The letter W (marked with purple) was already abandoned and replaced with V or U in the Middle Ages, however it still appeared occasionally in the writing of the 16th century, particularly by German writers. It would take a scholar to recognize this confusion and try to improve the Slovenian alphabet so that it could be used by Slovenians living under Hungary, Austria or Italy.

Carthusian Nicholas Kempf was an educator and strong proponent of the use of vernacular language in liturgy. As a prior of Jurklošter and Pleterje (two of the carthusian monasteries who in 1415 formed the Fraternity of the Slovenian Carthusian monasteries, it would be feasible that he developed the Latin alphabet for Slovenian language.

In the first sample of the Stična Codex, the letters M and N have slightly rounded connecting line, while the second part the connecting line is pointy, and when pressed with a quail pen, it is usually lighter, sometimes almost invisible, like in the VM.

Some of those letters M or N appearing at the end of the words have  tails, turned downwards, however, this is not always the case. Exactly the same word, with the same Slovenian meaning, can have the letters N and M with a tail, or without it. Besides the fact that some have a flourish, there are only a few that seem perfectly written and can be correctly recognized by somebody who is not familiar with the Slovenian language. In some cases, there are four minims, that can be read as NU, UN, IM or MI. In the Stična codex they are easier to recognize, because the author put a dot over ‘i’. Also, in some Slovenian dialects, and particularly in Dalmatian Croatian, letter N was often used for M (san – sam – Dalmatian for I am, while in Slovenian, the same word meant ‘sleep’, ‘dream’). Because some regions in Slovenia used Glagolitza and Croatian liturgical books, the speech of the people in those reagions could have been influenced that dialect.

The  VM-v at the end of the words seems to be the mirror image of the Stična Codex-v, with a short slanted line with a flourish, sometimes almost rounded into O (equivalent of Stična Codex YNVO).

Frequency of letter  M

Compared to Stična Codex, M in the VM appears mostly at the end of the word. There can be several reasons for this: the M was so weakly pronounced that it was not noticed by a foreign writer; the choice of vocabulary the author used did not contain that letter; the words has an improper space after the letter M.

The frequency of the letter M at the end of the words definitelly reflects Slovenian grammar. The ending -am is still used as the verbal ending for the first person singular, present tense. This is indicated in some Slovenian dictionaries. The examples below are from the SSKJ (Slovar slovenskega knjižnega jezika).  You might also noticed the ending TI for the ending of the verbs in the infinite form. The German writers often spelled D for T. This can partly explain the high frequency of DY endings in the VM.

The letters ‘w’ (marked with purple) and ‘v’ (marked with orange) can also be found at the end of the words, just like in the VM.

The ‘-am’ ending is therefore one of the most frequents Slovenian endings, particularly in the text written in the first person. Since the text of the VM seems to contain poems, prayers or recipes (instructions), a lot of text would be expected to be written in the first person singular.

  Stična Codes – 1440

Stična Codex is written in the first person singular, which accounts for most -m endings. The manuscript is written in Latin, so I cannot analyze the minims in the same way as in the Stična Codex, but perhaps some Latin expert could figure out the meaning of the flourishes in this writing.

Unlike in the Stična Codex, where the flourishes are turned downwards, the final flourishes in this manuscript are turned upwards, although not all final minims end up with an upward flourish.

Minims in Tractatus Husite

Tractatus Husite was written in the Stična monastery (Slovenia) and partly by the same scribe that has written the Stična Codex, since this document was part of the Tractatus Husite.

J. K. Petersen rejects the idea that the upward turned flourish in the VM was used for embellishment. He claims that in the Middle Ages, in Latin, English, French, German, Italian, Czech, Spanish, and other languages, the back sweeping tail stood for whatever ending was appropriate for that language and could represent one or several missing letters. Petersen transliterates the EVA  – IIN as IIV, but I am proposing some additional readings, such as M, IN, IIW, MI, IM, IW, JIV, NV.

I agree with Petersen that a single minim at the end with a tail upwards could stand for the semivowel, which was later replaced with the vowel, and depending on the dialect, the vowel can be u, w, o, v or i (y).

Petersen pointed out that minims are most often preceded by the letter ‘a’. According to EVA and most other transcription alphabets, the letter ‘i’ is represented with one minim (s slanted line), except at the beginning and at the end of the word. It was also pointed out that the string of minims at the end of the words is most often proceeded by ‘a’ or by ‘da’, so much so that the VM researchers are referring to the EVA words DAIN and DAIIN.

The word DAM is one of the most frequently used Slovenian words, since it is used a lot in the ordinary conversation, as well as in the first-person writing.

DAM is the form of the verb DATI, 1. Person, sing. Present tense. As it is evident from the partial explanation in the Slovenian Etymology Dictionary, various prefixes and endings can be added to this word, however in the dictionary, only DATI would be listed.

dáti dám dov. lat.‛dare’ (10. stol.), dájati, dodáti, dodȃjati, dodȃtek, izdáti, izdȃjati, izdȃja, navdáti, navdȃjati, obdáti, obdȃjati, oddáti, oddȃjati, oddȃja, oddȃjnik, podáti, podȃjati, podȃja, predáti, predȃjati, predȃja, pridáti, pridȃjati, razdáti, razdȃjati, vdáti se (15. stol.), vdȃjati se, vdȃja, vdán, vdánost, zadáti, zavdáti, zavdȃjati idr  stcslovan. dati, sed. damь, hrv., srb. dȁti, sed. dȃm, dádēm, rus. dátь, sed. dám, češ. dát, sed. dám. Pslovan. *da̋ti, sed. *damь̏ ‛dati’ je dalje enako z lit. dúoti, sed. star. dúomi, danes dúodu, let. duôt ‛dati’, kar so vse tvorbe iz ide. korena *doh3- ‛dati’. (Copied from SSKJ)

The word dati was known in the Old Indian language as dádāti, Proto-Slavic as da̋ti, Greek dídōmi (dam), in Latin dare, in Old Church Slavonic. dati  (damь – 1. per., sing., present tense).

In the VM, the word DAM is used in various combination, one of the most revealing is the combination DAM DAR, which due to the flexible word order, can also be reversed (DAR DAM). Both of this combinations could be found in the VM.

The word DAM is not to be confussed with the Slovenian word DOM, which means ‘home’, however in some Slovenian dialects, the O in DOM is pronounced as A. This explains two exactly the same consecutive words in the VM: DAM DAM. The Slovenian speaking person would pronounce them differently (the first A has a long accent, the second one a short one). This is also recognizable as old Slovenian expression, litterally translated into English as HOME GIVE or GIVE HOME. The personal pronoun I is implied with the ending M. The proper meaningful English translation would be: I give (to take home).

The minims in VM f42r could easily be recognized as the 1st person writing because of the frequency of the ending -m, although the ending can also be for a noun. This text also reveals the frequency of the use of the word DAM.

Conclusion

Although Slovenian was my first language, and I am also familiar with Slovenian dialects, I still have difficulty correctly identifying the minims. Fortunately, in most cases, the misreading M for IW, and vice versa, represents only minor grammatical difference which I will explain in my next post.

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DARITEV – THE HOLY SACRIFICE

f 57  v

Because the picture contains individual VM glyph, not all of which were used in the VM text, I am assuming that this was one of the first pages. It seems out of place between the flower picture and a full text of writing. The pictures are very rough sketches. Various connecting lines are tried for the minim ‘I’ (on top, in the middle), but there is no combination of minims for ‘n’ or ‘m’, ‘u’ or ‘w’, as if it was taken for granted that combining minims forms these letters. The author used them in the words, though.

I suppose whoever combined the pages for the book was not aware of the fact that this picture represents the beginning of prophesy that evolved into the Christian liturgy. If author himself placed it in that order, he might have his own reasoning. According to Lisa Fagin Davis, it was written by scribe No. 1.

According to my first impression, this picture represents a Christian mass and four different aspects of it: communion, blessing, preaching, and healing. The Latin alphabet for Slovenian language was developed to enable Latin priest to say mass in vernacular, that is, in Slovenian language, and to teach lay brothers to read the bible and other books. Since I believe the service was perhaps more like Waldensian or Hussite, regarding communion as a symbolic, not actual transubstantiation, it would be reasonable to assume that there is no literature to describe it. I was not able to find any information on that on the internet, nor on the mass in Old Church Slavonic, nor on the Bogomil religious service.

The ritual might have been unique since Slovenians have a unique word for Communion bread – OBHAJILO.

The author would be motivated to learn the words associated with this religious ritual, because most religious groups, accused of being heretical, were calling for the use of vernacular language in liturgy.

Some Notes on Slovenian Medieval Grammar

Slovenian language is most archaic language and very difficult for a foreigner to understand. The language used in the mid-16th century, when the first Slovenian Protestant books were written, was even more complicated, because the Latin letters for Slovenian sounds were not consistently used. There were also other grammatical practices modern Slovenian readers are not familiar with.

The VM was written 100 years prior to any other larger text in Slovenian language and Latin letters, which means that the grammar was even more archaic and inconsistent.

It is evident that the author had a lot of difficulty writing down the word, because the vowels were not pronounced clearly. In the VM semivowels are not written down, so that the writing shows some likeness to abjad. Example: vьsь ‛ves, cel  – Since Latin had no equivalent for Slavonic ь, it was often dropped. This has been a common occurance in the earliest Slovenian writing so that the Protestant Slovenian writers of the 15th century, the authors of the first Slovenian books, insisted the vowel should be inserted. In most cases this has been done by 17th century, however due to various dialects, it has not been done consistently. This is the reason some words with the same meaning are spelled differently. There are also many words with different meaning that are spelled the same, because the accent is not shown. Only a few accent marks could be found in the VM text. 

Slovenian and Croatian linguists also pointed out that in Dolenjska dialect of Slovenian language, the vowels and consonants were often dropped in  speech, and consequently in a written form, like ‘ladati’, instead of ‘vladati’. I noticed this might be the case in the VM words, such as OKA – ROKA (hand, arm) and OZA – ROŽA.   

My insertion of the missing vowels is based on medieval Slovenian writing, and on dialectical pronunciation.

I also noticed that the author, being a foreigner, occasionally used te wrong word, such as the word ‘taste’ for ‘smell’.

Slovenian grammatical forms are often weird and inconsistent with the 16th century Slovenian writing. The author could have created a word he had not heard, using the wrong word for example, or add a foreign ending to Slovenian word, or Slovenian ending to a foreign word. In many cases, the Slovenian endings had changed later,  like SVETEC  to SVETNIK, or ŠKODAIV to ŠKODLJIV, DARAV – DARIL, DARAIV to DAREŽLJIV. These changes could be assumed from the way such words are used in different 16th century texts.

I had chosen f57v for detailed analysis since it contains visual images, VM letters and represent the central message of the entire book.

I am not claiming that the translation is 100 percent correct, since different division of the words can generate words with different meaning, and some words can have better meaning in some other language. For my translation, I used the words that I was able to find in the Slovenian and Croatian writing of the 16th century, adjusted to the grammatical form (and even a grammatical form the foreign author might have used).

Holy Offering – Holy Sacrifice

I am assuming the label in the top left corner of the outside circle is the title because it has a meaning that seem to be relevant to the central picture. I read the word as DAIROL.

According to EVA alphabet, as well as other transcription alphabets, this word could only be transcribed as DAIROL.  In the Slovenian language, this could only be translated into the word related to giving.  DA  IR is often used in the VM to mean GIVE GIFT. The form DAIROL would be the word that eventually evolved into DAROVAL (made offering) and DAROVANJE (offering). In Slovenian, the mass is called Holy Offering, which is equivalent of English Holy Sacrifice. The word DAROVANJE is part of the Catholic Mass, which in Slovenian is called SVETA DARITEV (Holy Giving, Holy Sacrifice).

The Central Picture

At the first glance, we notice the four concentrical circles around the central circle in the middle which is the focal point.

Looking at the picture, the eye focusses on the central circle with the dot. This has been one of the oldest written symbols that has been continuously used on the Balkans and had a mystical meaning.

According to the ancient interpretation, it represents God. The symbol was accepted by the Rosicrucians for their symbol for God.

In Slovenian, this symbol was called RIS (sounds like RES – Slovenian for ‘truth’). In Slovenian pagan tradition, this symbol was drawn at intersections for protection against the evil spirits.

I suppose we can interpret this as God’s infinity in the smallest dimension, and the progressive larger circles as the extension towards the infinity of the other extreme.

God is in the infinitely small things and in the infinite big things, but humans are limited in time and place. By way of their creativity, they show likeness to God – the ultimate Creator. In Jesus, human and divine tendencies are crossing and overlapping.

Religion was created to help men orient themselves in time and place. It consists of magic of words and rituals. It has developed from the primitive magic which eventually was rejected as the institutionalized religions introduced their magic. From the primitive religions, based on superstition and rituals, the more advanced religions were formed based on transmission of wisdom, and past experiences, by way of written words.

Image of the VM compared to the images from the 16. century paintings

This circle is surrounded by a square, the sides of which seem to be three half-circles, offering an allusion to the Trinity. From the middle of the circle, a line of writing is arranged in such a way that the words form a cross in a shape of X.  In between the cracks of this cross, there are four male figures (just the upper body) forming another cross.  Their outstretched hands are suggestive of talking. The one on the right looks like he is lifting-up the communion bread, the one on the left, looks like he is giving the blessing with his hand.

From this middle picture, it is evident that the man is holding a host in his hand. The poses of the other three men are also suggestive of talking, preaching, blessing.

The majority of Voynich researchers believe that this page represents the basics of the alphabet and language. I also agree with that. We need to remember that the medieval writers, especially the mystical writers, were focused on Jesus as the Word of God and rejected other images of Jesus. A lot of philosophical-theological debates and disagreements were also around the question how God’s Word became flesh.

Writing on + Cross

Top:  OTARDALY – OTARDALI – a verb from TRD (hard, strong), which is often used in Slovenian religious terminology for ‘strengthen’.

OTAR DALY – O(L)TAR DALI  (place on the altar) – a person with two outstretched hands (an allusion for preaching). Preaching the Word of God means strengthening one’s character. Also, the Holy Words (the Bible) is placed on the altar.

These two Slovenian words in a way compliment each other. In the medieval times, the critics of the Church were mostly preachers who sacrificed their own happiness for the sake of the Truth (God), following the example of Jesus who sacrificed his life. The prophets place themselves on the altar (as sacrificial lambs), and the Church often ‘place them on the altar’ as saints to strengthen the faith.

Bottom: OSVARAIR DLY – the words SVAR and OSVAR are very frequently used in the VM. They stand for the imperative singular verb SVARITI – to warn, to give warning, as well as ‘to scold’, ‘to criticize’.  While the verb “svariti” was often used in a peasant speech, the noun was uncommon. We can imagine that the author of the VM, coming from a different linguistic background, formed the noun from the verb by dropping the ending -ty/dy and replaced it with -air.  The word DLY could stand for D(E)L(A)J (make), if we consider that in phonetic speech, the semivowel was pronounced (but not written; the vowels were inserted later).

The root word here is SVAR (give warning). It sounds similar as STVAR (to make, to create).  The similarity of the expressions is also complimentary, meaning: a prophet (genuine artist) is giving the warning about what is wrong in society and at the same time, he is creating alternatives for improvement. He is warning and creating at the same time. ‘O’ is Slovenian prefix, indicating finished action.

The artists, who only criticize, are basically just healing their own anxiety. This idea was beautifully expressed by Slovenian writer Ivan Cankar, when he said that ‘heavenly Creator makes a casket and a cradle at the same time’.

A priest, or a preacher is imitating Christ by criticizing people’s bad habits and warning them about the consequences, while at the same time proposing a better way to create better life for the individuals and for the society (communion of people).

The Writing on the X Cross

Top left: ARKALDY – This word is pointing at the man with outstretched arms. Depending where we break the word, we can get two different words, which could be remotely associated.

ARKAL + DY – AREKAL DAJ – govori, prerokuj – (you) give a prophesy! This form seems associated with the word REČI (govoriti), which originates from the Latin/Italian spelled word REC for Slavic REČ.  In Slovenian language, two grammatical forms evolved from this root: REČI which means ‘to say’, ‘(you) say!’, or ‘words’, ‘things’.  The remnant of REC can be found in Slovenian words REKOČ (while saying), OBREKATI (gossip, saying about), PREREKATI (argue), NAREK (dictation). If we drop the letter B (as it was often the case with the prefix OB-) and replace K with C (as in Latin spelling), we get the word OREKATI. The grammatical form for the 3rd person (singular, masculine, past tense) would be spelled ORECAL. The linguistic trail could go as far back as Greek ORACLES, where “oracle” is a prophetic saying as well as a temple.

ARKA LDY – (B)ARKA LDI – boat + people – this could be the word used for the part of the church. In Slovenian language, the large part of a church is called “barka” (now: ladja) which was separated from the altar with a low decorative gate. This place in the church was reserved for ordinary people, while only the priest and his assistant were allowed near the altar.

ARK in the Bible was a ship, built by Noah, to save his family and animals from the flood. In the bible we read that the Noah’s ark landed on Mount Ararat in Armenia.  The search for the physical boat on Mount Ararat is still going on by those who take biblical writing literally. 

Ark of Covenant is a reference to the Hebrew chest of stone tablets with the Ten Commandments. It is much more likely that this ‘ark’ landed on Mount Ararat.

I would also like to explain the work ‘arka’. At the first glance, the word reminds me of Slovenian swear words ARKADIO, ARKAMADONA and AKRADUŠ. The Venetologists are explaining the word ARKA as a magic word of the ancient Veneti. Since DIO means God in Latin, it could be assumed that the word ARKA means swearing to God.  This meaning is clearly understood from the last swearword, where ARKA is combined with the Slovenian word DUŠ (soul). Unlike English, who swear on the Bible, Slovenians were known to swear on their soul.

The word arka originates from Greek god Arcas, the son of Zeus and Callisto. He was a hunter who became king of Arcadia.  He taught people weaving and baking bread. Callisto was associated with goddess Artemis. Arcadia in Greek mythology was the home of god Pan (depicted as half goat, half man).  In European Renaissance art, Arcadia was celebrated as an ideal land, like heaven. In Slovenian literature, Simon Gregorčič wrote a poem Veseli Pastir (Happy Shepherd) expressing the happy, worry-free life of a shepherd on the mountain, comparing him to more enlightened people in the valley who were faced with constant wars, and with worries and burdens of conscience as well, if they did not conform to the Church’s rules.

Since it is highly unlikely that the flood would carry a boat adrift to an elevation of  3,896 m (12,782 ft), it could be presumed that the biblical story was told in the figurative language, which means that “new wisdom”, such as the one in the Ark of Covenant, was brought with the peace-loving people who fled from the general degradation of the materialistic and immoral culture, which was creating slavery, wars, and moral degradation.

Considering all these alternative meanings, I am quite convinced the correct translation would be preach!, prophesize!

Top right: ORALARAR – assuming ORA means pray or preach (Latin: orator – speaker, preacher), oralarar could be a Slovenicized word for a prayerbook, pulpit, or some other word related to preaching. According to Texas University Language site, RAR was Illyrian word for heaven. In Slovenian, it evolved to RAJ. There is also a possibility that ORALAR is a combined word, comprised of Latin ORA + LAR. The word LAR is explained in 1592 dictionary as ‘house god’, ‘idol’.

Bottom left: OLKCHDAL – OLKČDAL – from the root LEK (healing remedy) – verb LEČITI – LEK DATI – healing give, heal. It is possible that the strange spelling could be a result of authors attempt to relate to the etymology of this word.

The spelling is somewhat strange since more familiar word would be OLEKAL or OLEČIL. However, a foreign writer could easily spell it as OLKCHDAL, since the grammar rules were not established yet and no marks for the pronunciation were used.  The possibility that this long word could also be a combination of short word further complicates the proper translation.

This VM expression, related to a man with outstretched arm, could be compared to a final Catholic blessing ‘Peace be with you’. The olive branch was an ancient symbol of peace and the expression ‘giving olive branch’ is still used in Christian terminology.

This label is located next the person with one outstretched hand, an allusion for blessing.  The original meaning of blessing was ‘to say good things about’, but eventually became to mean “making holy”, “bestowal of divine favour”, which in essence is healing.

We need to understand that the ancient writers were aware of the healing power of words, particularly prayers, which offer people hope and reinforce their believes and expectations. For this reason, various magical remedies were usually administered with magical words. The Christian sacrament of Communion replaced pagan magical healing remedies and incantations with specific words and substances that have transformative and healing power. Even the prayer before the communion is focused on the “healing of a soul” and “protection from anxiety”.

OL K CH DAL (OL K Č DAL – oil that if I would give) is the phrase obtained by different division of the above VM word. It could be related to the anointing with the Holy Oil. It might have origin in ancient common meaning related to olives.  The Olive branch was offered as a sign of peace and respect in the ancient civilizations. The olive branch is still a symbol of peace.

The olive oil was also recognized as a healing remedy in the ancient times.  Infused with various herbs, it became used in religions for anointing kings and prophets. The holy chrism was made of olive oil and up to 70 different plants. The olive oil also became the base for making various herbal remedies. In Slovenia, people still make their natural remedies at home by infusing healing herbs in olive oil. The symbolic meaning of the Olive branch in religion was beautifully described in the poem Oljki (To the Olive Tree) by Slovenian poet Simon Gregorčič.

DAL – is a form of the word DATI (give) which eventually evolved in a suffix -DAL for the words that could be associated with giving, such as POGLED-DAL – POGLEDAL – (he) looked.

Bottom right: OKALI – OKALITI means ‘splitting the seed and sprouting a plant’, making plant grow. KALINA in Prekmurje dialect means plant. Many Slovenian words also had symbolic meaning, so that the “preacher” could also be regarded as the one who magically enables the words to grow. Since the word is pointing to the host, this could be understood as invisible mystical initiation, like germination of the seed that is invisible and incomprehensible for a simple mind. The seed produces plants, and they produce the multitude of seeds.  This analogy is quite suitable for Communion, for which Slovenians have unique word OBHAJILO. 

According to the Slovenian Etymological Dictionary, the word OBHAJILO originates from the word ‘visiting’, ‘walking around’. The expression ‘Misel me obhaja’ is used as an example. The connection to communion is made via Latin ‘celebrare’ (visiting) and Slovenian ‘praznovati’ (often visiting).

I believe the word ‘hajati’, which I was not able to find in the Slovenian Etymological Dictionary, would make much better etymology for OBHAJILO. The word ‘hajati’ is not only an old Slovenian word, still in use, but also the word used in the Bible to express growth, expansion. In Slovenian, the word was used mostly for the ‘rising of bread’, ‘the expansion of bread dough’.

It is true that the word SHAJATI also means ‘getting together’, which could also be related to the early Christian community getting together and expanding.

The words KALITI (to germinate, to grow) and HAJATI were taken from the natural, agricultural world to be applied to abstract ideas.

Bottom left: OSVČOR OKEAR –OSVČOR seems to be related to something holy, such as a person who performs holy incantation, or distributes the communion bread or wine.  If the word was not followed by OKEAR, I would be tempted to say it means ‘a person doing blessing’, SVEČENIK or SVEČAR in Slovenian, but the word OKEAR sounds like ODKER, which in dialect means ‘uncover’. It was a customary in the religious ritual that the chalice was covered so that the ‘mystical transformation’ was hidden under the vail. In the Orthodox religion, such veil was called AIR, because it was made from very light material, most likely silk. The word OSVEČAR is related to SVETITI which means ‘to bless’, but also ‘to enlighten’. In Slovenian language, it evolved to POSVETITI, POSVEČATI.

Concentrical Circles

The central composition is encircled with perfectly rounded concentrical circles which form four bands of writing.

The first concentrical circle contains individual glyphs, mostly used as letters in the VM text. Among them are also some that were not used in the VM.  Some also form meaningful words.

The First Circle (from the inside)

It is not clear whether the author intended to write coherent text with separate letters, or individual letters and ligatures. Towards the end of the circular writing, there are some words that could be meaningfully translated into Slovenian language. Even the individual glyphs could be divided into Slovenian words.

I am having some difficulty with some glyphs, such as the one I identified as q, hv; it looks like VM glyph V, topped with Latin T. Slovenian language does not have letters Q and X; instead KV, HV and TV are used (to a foreigner, they would all sound like Q). In some 16th century writing, the letter Q was still occasionally used. The letter X was used in some medieval writing as H.

* This could be an experimental word, a shortcut for Creator. In Slovenian 16th century writing, I had seen a few of the letters that look like the first part of this glyph. They stood for CH (Č).

Assuming that the first letter is Č, we get the word ČDLO, if we put the ligature apart. By adding R on the left and AR on the right side, we get the word that reads RČDLOAR, which could be a word a foreigner might create for the ‘one who makes words’ – a writer, a preacher.

The first band of writing could be understood as an illustration how symbols became letter, and letters the words that were spreading outward, as illustrated with the concentrical circles. The second circle is already comprised of words. The glyphs are also suggestive of the author’s various attempts to combine simple letters.

The Second Circle

The second circle is comprised of complete words. In the table below, I have copied the VM words (the left column), followed by transliteration into medieval Latin letters (as they were written and as they sounded), the evolution of those words and translation into Slovenian language, and in the third column, I copied partial etymology from the Slovenian Etymology Dictionary. The words might not match exactly, because they change with the grammatical form. I added my remarks to explain this.

The third band of writing

The third circle is again comprised of individual letters, as if the author wanted to emphasize that the nation already had its writing system that was no longer in use and had to learn it again. At the same time, it reflects the author’s intention to collect the symbols (letters) that could be used for the unique Slovenian language (and invent some new one for this purpose). It seems he was experimenting with connecting them in the cursive writing and forming ligatures for certain sounds taken from the OCS Glagolitic alphabet.

The most peculiar among the letters are four glyphs that look like ligature and are spread evenly (in the first circle, there is only one sign, like these, but not equal).

I would not speculate what these glyphs represent. The first glyph looks like the Glagolitic Č, which is connected to VM letter D, but the last letter is unclear; it might be o or reversed VM glyph Y.

On the outside circle, there is one more band of writing with a similar theme, focused on spiritual things.

Conclusion

The Bogomils that left their mark in Slovenian liturgy were interpreting the biblical writing and religious rituals as symbolic. To explain this to the simple-minded Slovenian people, they used the analogies from nature.

Because these words are so closely related to the lives of ordinary, peasant people, they were suitable for analogies for the abstract, spiritual things. For the primitive people, words were the greatest gift of God, so much so that St. John started his episle with, ‘At the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God’. Many medieval theologians and philosophers meditated on these words, which were particularly meaningful for those who believed that the Son of God was the Divine Logos. Most of the genuine prophets and mystics came to this understanding. A mystical prophet has to suffer inner division (individual search for what is right and what is wrong), and die to his old self (experience spiritual transformation by abandoning wrong teaching or wrong understanding, and embrace a universal and eternal Truth. He had ‘sprouted’ out of the faith community, becomes critical of that same community, and proposes improvement, and eventually becomes ‘seeds’ for the new spiritual growth.

This analogy can explain the majority of the VM plant/floral imagery.

The signs representing letters are not just imaginary glyphs; most of them are letters from different alphabets (see my post of Voynich grammar). This is indicative of carefully laid down plan to devise a written form of a language.  If strange pictures in the biological pages give the impression the author was a mystic, this page is suggestive of the author being a scholar and educator. This, too, led me to believe that the author might be Nicholas Kempf, who spent years teaching at Vienna University before entering the monastery. As a prior, he served in two Carthusian houses in Slovenian speaking region. He was a strong proponent for the use of vernacular language in liturgy. As a prior, he had to learn Slovenian language to be able to teach lay brothers how to read and understand the Bible.  From Kempf’s writing, it is clear he understood the Biblical writing as symbolic esoteric writing, which means that the stories could not always be interpreted literally and that they needed to be studied carefully in order to arrive at the meaning. In Slovenian, KARATI (to scold, to criticize) and SVARITI (to warn, to give warning) seem to be synonymous, yet there is a fine distinction: KARATI pertains to accusations of one’s mistakes, bad habit, while SVARITI pertains to approaching danger or to harmful consequences of one’s actions.

It is clear the author of the VM, like Nicholas Kempf, understood the ideas behind the Christian sacrament of Communion, and the incarnation of Christ in his followers, particularly in genuine mystical prophets who speak on His behalf.  

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English Articles

THE LANGUAGE OF FLOWERS

In 2016, when I first discovered the internet site about the VM, I was impressed by the strange looking flowers and my first impression was that the text represents poems or short legends. Some looked familiar, like the twin-bells, hemp, pansy, but the pictures with strange roots definitelly do not belong in the plant world.

The VM researchers at the time worked on the assumption that the first word of the text is the name of the plant, and the rest of the text a description of the plant, including its healing property.

As soon as I recognized that the EVA transcription alphabet generated some simple words in Slovenian language, I examined a book Icones Plantarum Rariorum, edied by Nicolao Josepho Jacquin, printed in Vienna (Vindbonae, 1781) hoping I would find some likeness of the flowers and the Latin names for them. Neither in this book, nor in the book about the plants in Carniola did I find any clues as to the name of the plants.

I began concentrating on the possibility that the text contains the description of the plant, but I could not find consistent use of certain words that could indicate the description, such as roots, leaves, stem.

I abandoned searching for clues in the plant section, although I felt strongly that the flowers might in some way be related to the heavy use of floral imagery in Slovenian literature.

Flowers in European Medieval Literature

The floral symbolism was widely used in the medieval art, however the VM researchers were mostly focused on identifying the flowers and plants and only recently, the focused has also shifted on the religious mystical interpretation of some VM images.

Coming from the culture where floral images were widely used in poetry and prose, my first intuition was that the text next to the flower in the VM pictures represented poems. I was also aware that some medieval Carinthian and Bavarian poets, dedicating their poems to Lady, were using a symbol of red rose for their emblems.

I came to better understanding of floral symbolism, after I came across an interesting You Tube video in which the author suggested that the VM was written in ‘Gentle language of flowers’. He admitted he had no clue what he was talking about, except that he found the phrase ‘gentile language of flowers’ in the mid-18th century book of Gabriel Rosetti, and that the language seems to be connected to flowers. The following quotation was offered:

»In the Hundred Tales of the Gentle Language, written for those of noble heart and subtle intellect, in which language flowers are mixed with other words (preface of the author), we read as follows: »Prester John once sent the Emperor Frederic II. who was very fond of gentle language, a present of three very valuable stones; but that monarch had no how to make use of them. Prester John’s lapidary addressed Frederic one day as follows: Sire, this stone (the first) is worth your best city; this one (the second) is worth your finest province, and this last  is worth more than your whole empire.’  Thus saying, he took hold of the three stones; and the virtue of the last concealed him from the view of the emperor and the people. So the lapidary vanished from their sigh, and carried back the stones to Prester John, because Frederic II. did not know how to make a proper use of them.« (p169)

This legend was allegedly written by John of Florence in 1378, during the reign of Charles IV, Emperor of the Romans. The first half of his book contains novels, and the second part contains details of the wars between the Guelphs and Ghibellines and the dissensions between the Emperors and the Popes.

Since I have quite a bit of knowledge about European languages and history, some statements were quite familiar to me, so I decided to check out the Rossetti’s book. I was not able to find any information about the Hundred Tales of the Gentle Language, however the ‘language in which flowers are mixed with other words’ sounds like Slavic, therefore also Slovenian. To word CVET sounds like SVET, which also means ‘world, advice, warning, shine, light’.

In the VM, two tall glyphs are used interchangable in the above words and in different words derived from them, as well as for different grammatical forms.

Rossetti also suggested this language was used in sectarian writing aimed at hiding ideas that could be offensive to the Church. This is also pointing at Slavic language, since the Slavs were the originators of the Bogomilism and supplied the Slavic translation of the Books to Patereni and Cathars and other rebelious sects throughout Europe, where they were translated into their vernacular languages. Since Emperor Charles IV ordered the sons of the Prince Palatine to learn Slovenian, it could be assumed that there were intellectuals able to translate the material from the Old Church Slavonic to vernacular languages, particularly Ochitan.

The legend about Frederick II, referrs to the Hohenstaufen Holy Roman Emperor in the first half of the 13th century, who was also King of Italy and King of Jerusalem. He was the Son of Henry VI and Constance, heiress of the Norman kings of Sicily.

Dante was contemporary of Frederick II and was excited for Frederick II to ‘liberate’ Italy.

The statement that Emperor Frederic was fond of Gentle language suggests that he was fond of a particular Slavic language, spoken in Carinthia and Carnilola. If he was not that fond of the language, he was sure fond of the Slovenian lands in Carinthia. The Slovenian language was used in the installation of Carinthian dukes up to the mid-1440s.

The legendary Prester John, frequently encountered in the medieval writing and illustrations, is described as a native of Tartary, or Cathari, ‘a countryman of that Angelica, the daughter of the king of the Cathari’ who had a stone with which she could vanish’ when she puts it in her mouth. The Cathari are said to come from Greece to Italy and were first discovered in Milano in the 11th century. They were called Albigenses, Patarini, Paulicians, and Puritans.  Dante, Petrarch, Boccaccio, and hundred more were said to belong to this movent.

It is also explained that this miraculous stone is the Word of God, and the stone is Christ. It is also mentioned that the ancient word of God is preserved among some people of eastern Tartary. From this clue, we can assume that the ancient word for God was Bog (Slovenian and Slavic for God).

Rossetti explains how the mystical poets, inspired by the Bible, came to fuller understanding of the Biblical style of writing and can transform it by way of symbolic language in such a way that it seemed like they were praising the Church while they were criticizing it. 

Rossetti attributes this language to Tartarians, that is, to Cathars, Paterens, Albigensian, and other sectarians originating from these religious movements. Surprisingly, the Bogomils, who are the originators, are not mentioned. It is possible that Rossetti was unaware of that, or perhaps, he was associating Bogomils with Tartarians. The Tartary sounds like ‘tastari’ which in Slavic would be ‘the old ones’, ‘the ancients’. The Bogomils originate from the St. Methodius’ Moravian Church, later known as Old Church Slavonic, since it appeared in the same region of Macedonia (at the time under Bulgaria) where the expelled Methodius’ students had established the cultural and religious centre. They could be an off shoot of the Methodius’ church who later refused to accept Latin liturgy, and Latin priests.

Although the history is vague about the Bogomils in the former Yugoslavia, it is a documented fact that a branch of Bogomil Church existed for four hundred years in Bosnia, against which several crusades were directed. They were known as Bosnian krstjani and represented an independent Bosnian Church, separated from Rome. Many Cathar from France and Germany found refuge there.

The Bogomils were iconoclasts, and their bibles were decorated with geometrical patterns and flowers, rather than religious pictures. They regarded biblical stories as symbolic, rather than literal.

Being persecuted by both the Roman and Orthodox Churches, they were most critical of the Church’s materialistic tendencies and its feudal system that made lower cleargy exploited as serfs.

Some of their critical and gnostic ideas were promoted also by great humanistic minds of that time, particularly artists.

It is not clear which sect Dante belonged to, but his attitude towards the Slavs can be assumed from his affection towards Frederic II and Charles IV. According to some sources, the patriarch Pagano della Torre hosted the poet Dante Alighieri in Tolmin and showed him the near-by Zadlaz cave, where he found the inspiration for the Hell in his poem Divine Comedy. The cave was later renamed to Dante’s cave.

Rosetti also mentions that Dante allegorically regarded himself three white flowers, and not just three, but three times three. This might also be an explanation of Dante’s idea being multiplied exponentially.

Such exponential growth of ideas seems to be expressed in the VM picture. There is an interesting legend that could explain this picture, but I cannot get ahead of myself, and I will live this for some future post.

The image of this picture made a strange impression on me: it could have been the illustration of one of the Slovenian legends circulating in the vicinity of Pleterje Charterhouse and deals with the magical power of the fern seeds on St. John’s the Baptist day (follow my blog for the rest of the legend!).

When Dante referred to nature as ‘God’s garden’, he talks of spiritual Garden – “… that beautiful garden Blossoming beneath the rays of Christ”. For Dante, the rose was the centre of his religion and faith, the symbol taken from the Songs of Solomon. He used symbolism of flowers for their symbolic colors, for their emblematical significance, and for their association with the saints or with pagan mythology.

The Songs of Solomon were widely read in the Middle Ages, as the poets and mystics tried to understand the nature of divine inspiration. Since the ancient writers lived close to nature, they had taken the words from the nature and applied them to spiritual things.

The divine inspiration does not come out of nothing; it comes from the subconscious memory where all the ideas from one’s past experiences, the books, history, oral stories, are stored. The artistic inspiration – in many religions called God – applies them to the time and place and rearranges them into a new artistic vision or works of art.

For this reason, the genuine prophet often compares himself to a flower, that was planted by others (by way of family values, books he read, religious and social conditioning, arts, and science he was exposed…). These ideas grow in him as he matures, and blossom into poetry or whatever form of art he pursues, and eventually his work become a seed for other artists.

There is no doubt that the flowers in the VM have strong symbolic meaning and that the author was influenced by great poets before him, and in turn, influenced great poets after him.

Nicholas Kempf would have the access to classical works of art, since the Žiče Charterhouse, one of the four Slovenian Carthusian monasteries that formed the brotherhood had the second largest library at the time. It is also known that he was meditating of the Songs of Solomon, since he wrote a commentary on them. His poems are symbolic to a degree that it is often hard to tell when ROŽA is a flower or a poem, or when LECHILO is medicine or his consoling words. But he does not describe the illustrations to decode their language. For one thing, the artist normally doesn’t do that, because they want to keep the secret veiled to make it understood only to like-minded people who will continue using the symbolism for similar situations. For Example: for the prophet Daniel, the Babylon was the beast, for Christians, the beast of Revelation was Rome. Only those who knew the Old Testament would understand that.

Knowing what happen to the works of other artists who openly criticized the Church and State, the author probably wanted to preserve his work by hiding his most radical ideas into pictures, while the text is rather simple, aimed at people for whom the alphabet was just developed so that they could learn to read and write in their own national language (Glagolitic priests were using Croatian OCS language).

Flowers in Slovenian Literature

Although the Slavic language was recognized as the fourth Sacred language, its use in literature did not start before the Protestantism, and even then, only for religious songs. While the Slavic Bogomilism raised the importance of vernacular language, and for this purpose the schools where people could learn to read and write, were established, the movement itself and its schools were suppressed. Historians are vague about what happened to the ancient Slovenian families in Carinthia and Carniola, where peasant population was mostly Slovenian, and the ruling nobility was mostly German.

The monks, who were the first teachers of literacy, were mostly foreign, and although there were some poets among them, they did not write in Slovenian. If there were any poets and other nobles of Slovenian descent, they would be regarded German because to get their message across, they had to write in German.

Even the powerful Slovenian dynasty of the Count’s of Celje spoke German. The reason for the Germanization of the upper classes were the intermarriages among the ruling dynasties.

Except for a few pages of the Freising Manuscript (10th century), and Stična Codex (15th century) there is no written record of Slovenian language before 1550. Protestantism raised national awareness for Slovenians. By then, the Slovenian speaking territory has been greatly reduced. Like the Slavic Church of St. Methodius in the 9th century, Protestants felt their religion could help preserve Slovenian language and national identity. The first books in Slovenian were written and printed, however before long, they were collected and burned by the Counter-Reformation, except for the Slovenian translation of the Bible which had been used by the Catholics. Some copies were hidden in the Vatican archives.

Some poems and legends were preserved in oral form and written down in the 19th and 20th century. They seem to be written in the two layers where on the surface, the poems are religious or make-believe legends, but they reveal some secret historical, theological, or philosophical truth that only certain people who were familiar with classical literature were able to understand.

The geographical separation of Slovenians among the Kingdoms of Austria, Hungary, Croatia, and Italy caused the formation of strong dialects that could account for the Slovenian language of the VM being so different from the old Slovenian manuscript of the 10th century, and the Protestant writing in the 16th century. Although Trubar comes from the Carniolian region, he was influenced by German language, since he studied at Tubingen.

Source: Wikipedia

At the time the VM was written, Slovenian religious and secular rulers were shifting their alliance between the popes in Rome and popes in Avignon. During that time, Žiče Charterhouse served as the Motherhouse of Carthusians.

The Voynich Manuscript is written in the language as it was spoken in Slovenia in the 15th century. I suppose the peasant language did not change drastically, but the written language has undergone several standardizations in effort to develop the written language that all Slovenians, regardless in which kingdom they lived, could understand. I suppose this was the intention of the Carthusians of the 15th century, particularly the author(s) of the Voynich Manuscript.

Although it seems the VM was written by a monk, it lacks the recognizable Catholic and Christian language. Most of the religious terminology is original Slavic.

Connection to Alchemy

The VM is very spiritual, yet more universal. The imagery is taken from the nature. The images taken from the Bible are transformed back to the natural images. The author is lamenting over the past, but he is more peaceful, more hopeful, and joyful. There are no scenes of violence in the VM illustrations, and no images of God’s punishment.  This indicated that the author, although focused on spiritual purity, was not fearful of God, but rather grateful for God’s generosity in providing healing plants and healing words to help people on their earthly journey. He feels he is part of this divine provision, by being alchemist and a poet.

From his writing and illustrations, it is obvious the author had higher illumination, or mystical experience, which revealed to him higher knowledge (gnosis) and the power of words that could transform the world, if the plan is kept secret and gradually revealed according to people’s preparedness. Like most mystics, he felt compelled to keep the SECRET, while at the same time transcend it by way of metaphoric language for which he mostly used FLOWERS. Slovenian language was perfectly suited for this because of the similarity of the words SVET (world), SVET (holy), SVETL (bright, illuminated) and CVET (flower blossom), CVETJE (flowers) and (R)OZE (flowers).

The Rosicrucian movement that came out of hiding in Europe in the early 17th century has inspired many artists to resort to the secret esoteric language, particularly in the Catholic countries where any criticism of the Church or any new ideas were supressed.

The history of the Rosicrucians is vailed in mystery. According to their manifesto, the information about the founder had been hidden for 120 years to protect the brotherhood of four fraters who were engaged in alchemy, pledged to remain celibate, heal people, and share their wisdom and knowledge free of charge for the betterment of humanity. The legend about their founder states he was a Cathari orphan from Rhineland, saved by Carthusian monks. After acquiring the Arabic wisdom, he remained the leader of the Rosicrucian brotherhood until he died at the age over 100 years. According to the legend, each Rosicrucian had to find a replacement for himself.

The work that seems like a description of a mystical experience, contains a date 1454 twice, and a signature Fr. C. R. The book was published in Strasburg anonymously, but Andreas Valentinus later claimed the authorship.

The word Rosenkreuz is German and means ‘flowery cross’.  The Rosicrucian movement in the 17th century adopted cross with red rose as its symbol.

Rosicrucian Ideas in Slovenian Literature

The science and alchemy made great advances as Emperor Rudolph (1552-1612) was great supporter of arts. Unfortunately, the English mystics John Dee and Edward Kelly brought their superstition and occult practices to Prague. Calling on the spirits of dead people was foreign to the Slavs; they were afraid if they did appear in their altered states of mind.  Slovenian poet Aškerc explained that the spiritual manifestations are produced by guilty conscience. 

I suppose at some point in the 18th century, Slovenian artist discovered the uniqueness of the Slovenian language and culture, and began building a carefully-laid plan to liberate Slovenians from the foreign powers and re-established their own state which had been lost, when Carinthia, the cradle of Slovenian culture, has become Austrian German State, while Pannonian Slovenians had lost their independence under the Hungarian rulers, and a large part of Slovenians was living under Italy rulers.

The short-lived French occupation and creation of the Illyrian Provinces, with Ljubljana as their capitol, had triggered the national awareness and a way to use genuine Christianity to achieve their liberation.

Valentin Vodnik (1758-1819) was first to recognize the unique position of Slovenia between the Greek Latin and Germanic world.  France Prešeren (1800 – 1849) was for Slovenians what Dante was for Italians. His references to the Bogomils and Cathars are more than obvious, yet Slovenian literary critics never made that connection. He refers to Slovenia as a ‘twin country of Jerusalem’ and compares the suffering of Slovenians and the loss of their independence to that of ancient Jews. He is proposing a similar solution that the medieval Bogomils were proposing: to embrace religion that teaches that a true God is God of Love, not the God of Revange and Punishment which was very skillfully used by the medieval Church for controlling people. Like Jewish Nobel Prize winner Elie Wiesel in the 20th century, Prešeren regarded his prophetic writing as divine calling, as self-chosen priesthood and witnessing for the God who loves all people on earth. He is pointing at the Old Church Slavonic/Bogomil religion by the names of the heroes Staroslav (Old Slav) and Bogomila (Favoured by God, Bogomil woman).
Although there was no known Rosicrucian or Freemason movement is Slovenia, nor other secret Societies, Slovenians who studied at Vienna or Prague, could easily have been acquainted with them, but they recognized how they were corrupted from the original humanistic alchemist’s ideas. 
The influences of Bogomils, Patareni, Cathars, Rosicrucians can be clearly noticed in the works of Gregorčič, Prešeren, Trdina and others. Simon Gregorčič, influenced by Prešeren and Petrarch, made clear references to Rosicrucian by claiming in one of his poems that his Catholic critics had stolen his God made of flowers (flowers being a code-word for poetry). He also used many words that can be found in the VM, such as LEK, LEČILNE TRAVE, ZOR.

Being a writer and a poet, I instantly recognized the symbolic meaning of flowers in the VM, because flowers were often used in Slovenian poetry. Slomšek wrote about the powerful aroma of violets which grow in hiding (as a symbol of advanced Slovenian spirituality), unnoticed by the powerful neighbours. Gregorčič wrote a poem about olive tree and its symbolic meaning of peace. Župančič wrote a collection of poems, titled Zimzelen pod snegom (The Evergreen Under the Snow), alluding to the importance of Slovenian literature, which had a late start, but has a power to withstand the worldly temptation of money and glory, and remain faithful to the role the genuine prophets of all times, places and religions has played in effort to guide humanity towards common ethical and moral norms.  In his novel Bela krizantema (White Chrysanthemum), Ivan Cankar wrote about the importance of Slovenian culture, art, and literature. 

Irma Ozbalt, recognized Slovenian Canadian author, published a book titled MATERINA DUŠICA (Mother’s Soul – the name of the plant – origano) about the spiritual imagery of some of Slovenia healing plants. At the time of Cold War in America and Canada, Canadian Slovenian painter Andy Stritof used the flower imagery to illustrate how world was divided. In Picasso’s style, he painted a flower that looks like the “universal mother” with two large breasts, like two spheres that at the same time look like a nuclear bombs.

Andy Stritof: Metamorphosis, 1960

These are just a few examples of the use of flowers in Slovenian poetic imagery, not to mention the use of flowers in the traditional Slovenian songs.

I didn’t think much of my own poems, inspired by various flowers. In a short poem about primarosas, I speak about the childhood joy of playing music with the tiny yellow primarosa trumpets. In Slovenian, the plant was called trobentice (little trumpets). In my poem, I pointed out that although the blossoms looked the same, each had a different sound, alluding to common objective and purpose of art. In my poem Snowdrops, I explorfed the magic of this early spring flower, making its way through a sheet of snow or ice towards the sunlight, just like genuine artist can overcome his or her obstacles in his search for the Truth.

My poem Sunflower was even more metaphysical. I mentioned its large flowerhead and its characteristic property of daily turning its head towards sun, and the fact that it can provide the shade to other flowers growing underneath. The interpretation came to me much later, when I realized that many great artists, particularly painters, were meditating on Sunflower.

In one of my poems, I refer to Slovenian literature and poetry as buquet of flowers, before I learned that in the 19th century the almanach of Slovenian literature was called CVETNIK.

CVETNIK was also a folk-legend Janez Trdina had heard in the Gorjanci region of Slovenia, along with many other legends he collected and published in his book Bajke in povesti o Gorjancih (Legends and Stories About Gorjanci Mountains).

The Legend Cvetnik

On the Gorjanci mountain, there was a beautiful garden hidden in a deep forest, encircled with big boulders. Whoever found himself in this garden is so taken in by its beauty and by the fragrance of flowers, that he forgets to eat and drink, to sleep and to return; despite a prolonged awakening and lack of food, he feels no pain. Blessed is he who by luck or coincidence gets a blossom of these beautiful flowers, for he no longer feels any anger and sadness, and he could not be defeated by any enemy, neither could he be killed by any bullet. (Excerpt from the legend)

This is highly suggestive of Christian mysticism and Gnosticism, something the Rosicrucians were advocating, such as peaceful invisible esoteric work for the spiritual conversion through religious art and through the eternal Word.

According to the legend, Vlah Ilija (Elijah the Vlach) retired to Gorjanci Mountain to live as a hermit in a place that was overgrown by thorny bushes and weeds. The shack he had built, was just big enough for him and his goat. His only provisions were goat’s milk, plants, and roots, and fresh spring water. He was content with his solitary life. Three times a year, he was visited by his son who brought him a bottle of vine from Vivodina.

Elijah’s goat is undoubtedly the reference to prince Kozel (Kozel means male goat in English) who is credited to promote Slavic Christianity by receiving St. Methodius, when he was persecuted by the German bishops for using Slavic language in liturgy.

The legend is suggesting that because of the refuge the Pannonian Slovenians were given to Slavic missionaries God rewarded them with secret wisdom (in a legend, the over-grown shack turned into a chapel and weeds into beautiful garden).

This legend was being passed down without any attempt to interpret it. However, it served as an esoteric vehicle used by many Slovenian artists who used flowers to hide the secret message in their creative writing. Prešeren’s Sonetni venec (The Wreath of Sonets) is full of biblical imagery and comparison of Slovenians to Jews. Slovenian poetic imagination was filled with the magic Slovenian language contains, like the magical words buh and buk (the book and God), or the words svet and cvet (holy and flower).

With his legend Cvetnik, Trdina transmitted some gnostic ideas which would not be otherwise acceptable for publishing in the Catholic controlled society. He lost his teaching job because of his progressive ideas.

Trdina collected his legends in the valley at the foothills of the Gorjanci Mountains, where the Carthusian monastery Pleterje was located. It is the only Carthusian monastery still active in Slovenia.

It is obvious that the garden is not a physical place, but a region with high mystical spirituality. Slovenians are a nation of poets and writers; their independence was accomplished in 1991 with pen, not with guns, as they say.

Trdina’s legend Cvetnik could have been originally composed by some anonyms Carthusian monk from the nearby Pleterje Carthusian monastery, where Nicholas Kempf was prior in 1460 and where he most likely wrote his book on Mystical theology. It is possible that he withdrew to the top of the mountain and lived there as a hermit during his spiritual torments. The Pleterje Carthusians were taking care of the Church of St. Gertrude, known in Slovenian as Sveta Jera. The church of St. Jera was first mentioned in 1447 when Frideric II. of Celje and His son Ulric II awarded the stewardship of the Church to the Carthusian monastery of Pleterje.

Whatever the case, a new church dedicated to St. Nicholas was built on top of Gorjanci mountain before before the 1526, when it was first mentioned. It is possible that the Church was built to preserve the memory of Nicholas Kempf who became the forgotten ‘saint’, because he dared to criticize the Church of his time.

Thinking about these three churches reminds me of Fr. C.R. in the Alchemical Wedding who was going on the mountain where three churches on the top were standing.

I was not able to determine when the church of St. Ilija (Eliyah) was built next to St. Gertrude. It is believed that the church was built by the Bosnian refugees who had to converted to the Serbian Orthodox religion in Serbian occupied Bosnia. St. Ilija is a patron saint of Bosnia and is specially worshipped by the Eastern Orthodox Churches.

Although Trdina stated that he heard the legend from the people at the foothills of Gorjanci mountain, the legend has a mark of Trdina’s great creative mind, and his understanding of art and history. By the time Trdina visited those places and heard the legend, the memory of Nicholas Kempf was probably forgotten. Because of the Protestant ideas embraced by the Carthusians, they were expelled by the Counter-Reformation and their monasteries were taken over by the Jesuits. The only explanation how Trdina could have gotten this legend would be that the Old Believers kept it in circulation as a Catholic tale.

From Trdina’s story we can assume that he was familiar with the Rosicrucian Brotherhood whose ideas by then were not acceptable to him.

Slovenian writers and prophets had a literary plan and they faithfully followed it in their effort to spiritually enlighten Slovenian people, rather then seeking fame and glory by writing in foreign language.

Slovenian literature was a unique flower from the Garden that many powerful nations, such as Germans, Italians, Hungarians, occupied, but they were not able to suppress Slovenian language and the aspiration of Slovenian people to re-gain their freedom.

Flowers in Slovenian Folk Culture

Our distant pre-christian Slovenian ancestors had great regard for flowers. They used them for healing and also in various religious rituals. Not even Christianity was able to extinguish some pagan customs. In his book Praznično leto Slovencev, Nik Kuret explained that many pagan custums were incorporated into religious rituals and practiced in Slovenia up to the 20th century. Some of the  plants were incorporated into a Palm Sunday bunch, consisting of hazelnut branches, ivy, branches of pussy willow. In Corpus Christi processions, the young girls dressed in white were tossing rose pettals. This religious holiday is called Telovo and might be associated with the ancient Venetic godess Telo (telo in Slovenian means »body«). On summer solstice, special flowers, called »kresnice« were placed in fields to ward of hail. The name of the flowers is associated with Slavic god of fire »Kresnik«. There were many other plants that were used in spells in variuous rituals.

Our distant Slovenian ancestors believed both summer and winter solstice had magical power. The summer solstice represented the longest day of the year, which meant the most sunlight. In the abstract spiritual analogy, it represents the highest sence of awareness, a peack creative experience, or the union with the devine (in the language of mystics).

The use of plants for medicinal uses has also been widely practiced in Slovenia.  They were regarded as gifts of God. In the monasteries that began to be established in the region of today’s Slovenia since the beginning of the 2nd millennium AD, the monks practiced herbal healing. They also copied the classical Greek books on healing plants. In Olimlje, Slovenia, the third oldest apothecary was founded by the Paulician monks.

Carthusian Parallel Religion

Carthusians are known for their artistic works. Besides copying books, they were also writing theological and philosophical works, and particularly poetry. Out of humility, they did not sign their work, and if they did, they used pseudonyms.

From some of the medieval poetry that has been preserved in Slovenian language, it can be assumed that they were composed by monks who had different understanding of the biblical writing than the Church was explaining. Such as the poem about Jesus’ birth and Mary’s virginity.  The analogy of sunlight going through glass is used to explain the birth of Jesus. As a spiritual being, Jesus is like a light, and as such, He can incarnate in any human body, or in many human bodies at the same time. Jesus is pure Love, born out of Love.

Besides spiritual work, the Carthusians also engaged in practical matters. They are known for their vineyards, orchards, animal husbandry. They cultivated fields and ran hospitals and public baths and distributed herbal medicine. At the time of my youth, they still shared their grafts for fruit trees, and wisdom with the nearby peasants, and they still distributed herbal remedies free of charge.  The Carthusians of Pleterje were not involved in politics, but they were not shy away to stand up for the Truth when it counted most.

Judging by the words I can read in the VM, and by the illustrations, I believe the author was focusing on the Love of God, rather than on the fear of God, which was characteristic for the Protestant writers, not to mention the Catholics. Perhaps, the author had experienced the fear of God during his mystical experience and realized that the fear of God was manipulative tool of those who wanted to have power over people. It also reflects the influence of the Pauline theology, since St. Paul, more than other biblical writers, placed great emphasis on Love and forgiveness.  

Blessings of Flowers

Besides Palm Sunday’s blessing of the greenery, the blessing of the 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 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 than taken home and stored for the protection against fire, lightning, in the barn to protect farm animals, and for protection against illness and harmful magic spells. They were also used as incense for blessing, particularly for sick children and animals.

In the monastery in Metz, a special blessing form was used in the 15th century for rue (useseful for exorcising the devil), mandrake and other plants. In this way, the litterate people were teaching the peasants in the 14th and 15th century about plants.

Some monasteries were blessing the healing plants every month, since they were not ready to be picked all at the same time.

The prescribed prayer a priest used for blessing the plant, mentiones the name of the plant and the desired affects, such as “to 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, ordering the devils to be shamed and cursed and go into the abis with all their pagan works, so that the holy angels could obide in these flowers.”

For an intellectual priest who believed neither in devils nor in angels (as is evident from the pictures in the VM), and from the works of Nicholas Kempf, it was probably problematic to utter those words.

Yet, the Churches continued with this practice until they were no longer able to control superstition.

Not all Slovenian traditions involving plants were taken over by Christianity. Some pagan rituals kept being practiced just to keep the tradition going, without even understanding the origin, like belief in the magical power of the seeds of the fern on St. John the Baptist Day.

Conclusion

The language of the VM might very well be written in the language of flowers. The manuscript contains strange looking flowers that speak in their own secret language, while at the same time keep us guessing which flower they actually represent. There are no flowers with roots like lions, or with blossoms like chalice, as Koen Gheuhus had pointed out in his blog. He recognized the spiritual significance, but the pictures speak different to him than to me, because we come from different cultures. Being nurtured by the Catholic religion and Slovenian Christian art enables me to understand the secret language of Flowers.

I believe this secret language lingered in Slovenian folk culture until Slovenian literary artists made a conscious decission to write in Slovenian language with a secret plan in mind.

I firmly believe the author of the VM was Nicholas Kempf, a son of a gardener from Strasbourg, a Carthusian monk who wrote his most famous book Mystical Theology at the Pleterhe Charterhouse. He wrote over 30 books, but only a few have survived, and even those are copies, not originals. Others were lost or destroyed. The Voynich Manuscript might be one of his lost books.

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English Articles

WORDS FOR HEALING, PART II

LEK – LEČITI – LEČILO

Although many VM researchers claim the Manuscript is a medical book, no words related to medicine and healing have been proposesed. I have found many words related to healing in the VM that are spelled exactly the same as  in the Slovenian vocabularies of the 16th and 17th century. In the German, Latin, Slovenian, Italian dictinary from 1559, the medical doctor is called ARZAT, and Slovenian words LIKAR and VRAZH are also listed.

There were several different words for healing in the early Slovenian dictionaries. Besides the Slovenicized German word ARZAT (Artzet, Lat. medicus, Ital. medico), the words LIKAR and VRAZH were used by ordinary native people. Not all variations of the word LIKAR are listed in the dictionary, such as the word LEK (healing remedy). LIKARIA is listed as the medicine (more like a science of healing). The word LIKARIA went out of practice, but the farmacy is still called LEKARNA in Slovenian.

The difference in spelling LIK and LEK is due to the dialectal pronunciation.

Vrazh was the word Slovenians used for a ‘shaman’, a folk-healer, who usually used healing herbs and charms, known in Slovenian language under different names, most often as ZAGOVOR ali UROK.

The Protestant writers who wrote first Slovenian books in the second half of the 16th century, used Slovenicized German word ARZAT (for doctor), ARZNOUATI ( ‘to heal’), ARZNIOZHI or CEILIOZH for ‘healing’ (adj.)

The word CELITI pertains to making whole again. A person who healed the wounds (RANO, RANE) was called RANOCELNIK.

Eventually, Slovenians adopted the word ZDRAVITI, which comes from the OCS and was already used in the 16th century.

The Slovenian word for healing can be spotted in the VM, mainly because the letters that comprise it, were transliterated into Latin in most proposed transcription alphabet as L, E and K.

The word LEK is spelled two different ways in the VM. Because of the strange handwriting (particularly the space after the initial L, a dropped vowel, or the lack of space when L stands for LE (only), the words need to be read in a context.

The above table is showing the various words derived from the root LEK. Although the word lek is no longer used in Slovenian language, the same prefixes – O and PO – had been adopted in the word ZDRAVITI. The words in f75v clearly indicate that the word OLKCHY means heal, because the second word OTOLY means save, protect. Besides different prefixes, the words also have different endings, which indicate the cases, gender, conjugations, number.

The above collection of LEK words also indicates the variety of different spelling, resulting from different writing conventions.

The prefixes O and PO indicate accomplished action. The endings in the above words are consistent with Slovenian grammar.

According to Slovenian Etymological Dictionary, the word LEK (healing remedy, medication), was spelled either as LEK or LIK (in 16th century). It is used in most Slavic languages: lijek (Croatian), lek (Serbian), lek (Russian), lek (Czech). Its origin goes to the Old Church Slavonic lěkъ  (medicine) and further back to the Proto-Slavic lěkъ. Some regard it as a Germanic loan word, from Gothic lekeis (physician), lekkinon (to heal), and to Celtic Liaig (physician).  French lecher, Italian Leccare are said to be Germanic loan words.

The Slovenian word LIK is pronounced as the English word LICK, which in English means ‘to beat’, ‘to surpass’, ‘to overcome’ or to wet something with a tongue. This etymology shows strong semantic association with Slovenian words LIK.  The word LIKOF (celebration after an important farm work) relates to ‘overcoming’, ‘surpassing’, and the word LIZATI relates to ‘licking with a tongue’. This association requires some explanation: the word LIC (lick spelled in Italian) would be pronounced LIZ in Slovenian, and the verb LIZATI means ‘to lick’.  (The letter C was used for sounds C and Z until 18th century.) The confusion was caused because of the similarity of the shape of the letters C and Z. In a peasant dialectal language, the word IZLIZATI is still used to indicate overcoming illness. The expression is based on comparison with ‘dog licking his wounds’.

From this, we can conclude that the word was used for healing in Europe for an exceedingly long time, not only by Slavs, but in other regions where, according to official history, Slavic language was not used.

The words LKUJ and LČUJ pertain to the repetitive action of healing. Note that the ending in this case has changed to UJ – which is the ending for a certain grammatical form. A similar pattern could be found in the word REK (reki, nareki, reči, reče, rečem, obrekam, prerekam, naročujem, prerokujem).

Before the Protestant Slovenian books were printed, the semi-vowel was often pronounced instead of vowel, particularly after L and R. 

To recognize the words associated with LEK, all these grammatical observations had to be considered.  The words also must be read in context since other transliterations and translations of the same words are possible.

In the 19th century, Slovenian poet Simon Gregorčič used the word ‘LEČILNE TRAVE’ – healing grasses), and Prešeren used the word ‘LEČILO’ (for healing remedy). The place where the medications are sold, is still called LAKARNA.

In the medieval times, the pharmacology was called LIKARIJA.

The two grammatical forms are related to two forms of the verb for healing: LEKATI or LEČITI. I suppose these two different words evolved from different spelling convention. The Italians would spell it as LECATI or LECITI since C in Italian was pronounced as Č or K. The word LEK would be spelled in Italian as LEC, the verb from this noun would be made by adding the ending -TI. This combination softens the K into Č and would sound like LEČTI. 

The author of the VM from the German writing convention would spell the word LEK as LEK, and form a verb LEKTI, which sounds like LEČTI (LECHTY), pronounced with a semi-vowel after K. When forming the adjective, he would add the ending -IV or JIV (like he would hear similar adjectives being pronounced, such as SHODAIW – (škodljiv – harmful). The word LEK-IW would be too hard to pronounce, and an A was added – to make the word LEKAIW.

While the root LEK is found in many VM words as part of the word, there is no noun LEK or LIK, indicating that the noun LEKAILO (the word of neutral gender) was created from the verb, using the word KADITI (bless with insence) as an example (KADITI, v. – KADILO, n.).

I suppose the word KADITI is also related to healing and protection. The word KADITI has two meaning: blessing with incense, and healing with a smoke of a blessed healing herb. In the medieval times, certain plants were blessed to be used for healing children by letting them inhale the smoke.

The words LEK, LEČITI was incorporated into Croatian and Serbian language, and the remnant of this old Slovenian word remains to this day in Slovenian word LEKARNA (pharmacy).

CELITI – MAKE WHOLE, HEAL

The word CELITI was used for healing the wounds, as well as healing the ‘broken’ spirit.

The word CELITI (Latin: sanare) was used in the 16th century (and probably before) to mean ‘make whole’ – Slavic  *cě̑lъ. The noun derived from this root was RANOCELNIK – one who heals wounds, that is, makes skin whole again. Some associate this word with the Gothic hailjan (to heal), and Old German heilen (becoming healed) and English heal.

Since the word CELINA was the Etruscan word for pristine, untouched earth, and CELA for small enclosure, I am tempted to believe that this word might be best etymology for the Slovenian word CELITI. The word CELITI is used with prefixes O, PO and S/Z.

The words CEL LKUY in this word order clearly indicate that the author used both expressions for healing to be better understood. (The spelling of CEL and CHL are hard to differentiate, because VM  ‘e’ and ‘c’ look so similar.)

Another medieval translation of Latin ‘medicus’ is VRAČ with derivates: VRAČAR, VRAČARICA, VRAŠTVO, VRAČEVATI. It originates from the Old Church Slavonic vračь, used in various Slavic languages, Srbian – vrač, Kajkavian Croatian – vračiti (to heal), Russian – vrač (healer). It replaced the word čarovnik, a man who removes illness and evil spirits with magic spells. The word is derived from the proto-Slavic *vьra̋ti- make incantation, which in Russian became vrátь – to lie, in Serbian, Croatian and Slovenian the spelling VARATI was adopted for the verb ‘to lie’.

This shows how the words transported into another language can acquire totally different meaning.

In my opinion, a better explanation would be V-REČI, which is also reflected in the alternative Slovenian word ZAGOVOR (govor-speech). The word VREČI (UREČI, UROK) could definitely be related to the concept of Jesus being the ‘Word become real thing’ (Word become flesh), since in Slovenian, the word REČ means ‘a word’ and ‘a thing’.

The words derived from REČ (RECH) are too numerous to be included in this post.

Another word frequently used in the VM is TOL and its derivates, such as OTETI (save, protect) and TOLAŽITI (console). The words OLEKCHY OTOLY in this order again indicate that the author used both words.  The word OTEDI (OTEDY) is particularly interesting, because it seems to be related to the English word TIDY, which in the 13th century English meant ‘in good condition’, ‘healthy’, ‘timely’, equivalent of German ‘zeitig’, Dutch tijdig, Old English ‘tidlic’ (temporal). This could be compared to another Slovenian word for healing – POCAJTATI, which was borrowed from German.

Because the words of healing represent the bulk of the VM vocabulary, I intend to analyze the most frequent words for the sake of the English readers, as well as for the Slovenian readers who are no longer familiar with the old Slovenian words spoken in various dialects.

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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.