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).
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.