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.
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).
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 wizards, witches, 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.
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.