Thursday, June 30, 2016

IMPORTANT ARTICLE - From Polish Garlic to Gothic Girls? Understanding the Voynich Manuscript

By Anna Morris, Co-Editor, Freedom Fighters of America

    The Voynich Manuscript (VM) is said to be written in an unknown alphabet, and in an unknown language that computer algorithms cannot identify or break.[1]  Recently, while looking at greatly enlarged portions of the calligraphy I sought the exact meanings the medieval scribes meant to communicate. Were the letters Latin or Cyrillic, a combination, or something entirely unknown?

     By defining less than twelve Voynich characters I seem to have stumbled on a system that yields a primarily Polish/Slovenian language with a few Hungarian words. This makes a lot of sense since the VM was discovered in 1912 by Wilfrid Voynich, in a trunk in a monastery in northern Italy. Modern Slovenia, formerly Yugoslavia, shares a northern border with Italy. The VM carbon dates to about 1420 CE, at which time the area was made up of a number of different duchies that were parts of larger empires. The modern Slovenian language is said to have the characteristics I believe I find in my transliteration of Voynichese. [2]

     It appeared to me that what looked like one peculiar character was actually two letters which were \cz\. If so, what if another cz-looking character, with a gentle swirl over the top, could be an \sz\? By searching throughout the text to find, then transliterate primarily words heavy with \cz\ and \sz\, then entering the results in a search engine, I began to get actual words or parts of words in the Polish language. Many of my experimental words were five to six letters long, thus diminishing the possibility of mistaking short words in multiple languages that use common one or two letter combinations.
     Some researchers have thought the Voynich script could be based on Arabic or another Semitic writing system. [3] In passing I note that someone claims to have translated the whole work into Latin. A VM expert, in a brief email exchange, gently cautioned me that the Voynich seems very readable to many people, yet the solution remains elusive. I very much respect this researcher so I was severely depressed for a couple days and nights. Then the irresistible impulse took over, to keep entering Voynich words into the search engine, just to see what would happen. Real words appeared, letter for letter with no guessing or tweaking. Polish, Polish, Slovenian, Hungarian, Polish, Polish.

     I am not a mathematical genius who can instantly deduce, that if a certain number of results are correct, it is something like a one in quadrillion chance that the whole thing is reasonably right. All I know is my system, according to online translators, makes recognizable words which turn out to be appropriate for areas near northern Italy.  Sometimes, the words even seem to form phrases. I do not claim to have discovered a complete alphabet, nor to have translated any large portion of the text. I believe it will require many experts in many fields to completely translate the VM. First and foremost experts on medieval calligraphy, documents and Slavic languages are needed. 

      The unknown Voynichese script, I believe, is not exactly an alphabet. Part of the script seems to be alphabet and part seems to be symbols that combine letters, at least in one case for the purpose of forming a suffix. Some believe the VM is a code or a hoax but, based on what I have found, I do not agree.  It appears to me that the writing system is largely a mixture of the Latin alphabet such as we use to write English, with a little bit of Cyrillic which is based on the Greek alphabet and is used primarily by speakers of eastern Slavic languages. 

     The written characters in the VM are primarily Latin but there appears to be a Gothic artistic style in some cases. In addition, some of it resembles Italic calligraphy style used in Renaissance Italy. The Gothic and Italic writing systems are very similar to what we use today and are fairly easy to understand by the modern reader. Though there can be a few differences from what we are used to in the Latin alphabet, Gothic is, to me, primarily artistic. If one looks closely at the Voynich calligraphy, certain letters at times, seem to be in the Gothic style. On page one of the manuscript, which is actually a 209 page, leather bound book, what appear to be the second and third paragraphs begin with crudely artistic renderings in brownish ink, of what I would describe as the Gothic |V|. (In some Gothic alphabet styles it is also possible this could be |Y| or maybe |U|, but let us not complicate things.)

     What I call the Voynich Polish/Slovenian Alphabet is provided below. It is not in the ABC format we are used to, nor the ABVG beginning of Cyrillic. Organization is not one of my skills, but beyond that personal failing, I have no idea if the Voynich writing system is as clear as ABC because of the way VM letters are combined into single characters that include several letters. Therefore it makes sense to me, in presenting my Voynich alphabet, that we start with characters and letters that yield the most, and hopefully the most accurate, results. The characters descend from very useful and probably right, all the way to maybe and I really do not know. Others before me have formulated alphabets for the VM and those researchers have used (?) frequently for what they did not know.  Again, I believe the Voynich scribes and the learned people who recorded the information in ink on vellum, deliberately created a writing system that combined alphabets and styles. If the language in the VM should turn out to be a mixture of languages, perhaps we have a Renaissance, scientific Esperanto?

     At first I was just playing at making words. When this seemed to be successful I quickly got very serious with an overwhelming desire to know if the VM consists of actual sentences with rational ideas and meanings. There is no apparent punctuation in the Voynich text, so whether or not there may be full sentences is unknown. At this time I believe there are actual sentences containing nouns, pronouns, verbs, adverbs, conjunctions and so forth.  

     Z szor Postav is a short sequence from an herbal page in the VM. Using a translator on Bing, I find that Z= from, in Polish, szor= times, in Hungarian, Postav= characters in Czech. From times characters... Even the capital P in that position fits with the modern Polish alphabet. The next word in the phrase transliterates to jelsz. That is all there is when following my system to the letter. If there was an \o\ at the end of jelsz we would have jelszo, a Hungarian word for motto or password. Could the phrase be expanded to mean:... from times characters motto...? Could a person fluent in these languages grasp a better meaning?

     There is a space after jelsz, which makes or appear to be the next word, or should or be considered part of jelsz? Or does not seem to be anything in any Slavic language, but since I believe the Voynich script is an amalgamation of alphabets, I also believe I have found or equal to \o\ in some instances. For example olje = oil in Slovenian, as in garlic oil. On  a Voynich herbal page with pictures of plants and their roots, I believe the scribes meant to write olje but wrote orlje. This actually makes sense in that a Cyrillic \L\ works great most of the time in the VM, but the symbol that works as \r\ looks like a Latin cursive \l\, just like we would write it today. Was the medieval scribe more familiar with the Latin cursive, while unfamiliar with the VM mixture, thus he played it safe and wrote ollje?

     Medieval manuscripts are notorious for optional spelling and creative letters. Leonardo da Vinci who lived and wrote in Italy near the time of the supposed date for the VM, used a half cursive, half printed hand, and the lower case cursive \L\ he made is the same as out modern version. When we contemplate medieval handwriting, probably the meticulous quill and ink work of monks comes to mind, such as the illuminated bibles, psalters and prayer books, yet Leonardo and others in his time and area wrote in a cursive Italic that looks very modern. 

     The VM radio carbon dates to circa 1420 CE, thirty two years before Leonardo was born. Languages change drastically in 600 plus years so whatever is the Voynich language, it is likely to be vastly different from modern versions of the language or languages.  Think about the difficulties in reading Chaucer which is written in the English of the fourteenth century. Better yet, find a You Tube video of Chaucer's works being read aloud. Modern English speakers are hard put to recognize any words! Therefore the chance of using Google Translate to completely decipher Voynich Polish/Slovene from about Chaucer's time, is nil.

     I also have an idea that a lot of the words in the VM are roots of words, sometimes in need of suffixes. The whole thing has the feel of something written tersely and simply to impart information. Though I have attempted an online self education crash course in Polish and Slovenian I am stymied when it comes to optional and complex vowels or the many different applications of \S\ and \Z\ in Polish. I more or less understand the stroke found in the Polish alphabet, the \L\ with the slanted cross halfway up the stem that turns the \L\ to a \W\, but I do not know why it is so, nor can I find the origins of this mark. I nearly gave up when I read of issues in Slovenian with \r\, \L\ and \n\, which seem to be compounded when \rj\, \lj\ and \nj\ are needed in a word. For now my level of incompetence has been reached and surpassed!

     For all that, and perhaps because of my art background, I believe the Voynich script is readable and maybe even easily readable by someone familiar with the language(s). In addition to the likely mix of Cyrillic, Latin and Gothic alphabets, there seem to be creative digraphs, trigraphs and perhaps more. With the trigraphs, seeming three letter combinations in one character, I am still struggling, though one in particular yielded miraculous results from the beginning and pointed the way to think about the others.

     Eastern Slavonic speakers adopted the Cyrillic alphabet which has 36 characters compared to the 26 letters in our Latin alphabet. [4] Western Slavonic speakers adopted the Latin alphabet and apparently found it lacking to reproduce everything the Cyrillic alphabet covers. Wikipedia has this technical explanation, "...(alphabet letters) are augmented by ligatures and letters/sounds not represented in Greek...which are derived from the early/ier Glagolitic alphabet, a script similar to Hebrew, other Semitic scripts, Linear B and Sarmatian runes." That sounds complicated but I think it goes a long way in explaining, and giving us keys to, the unreadable VM.

     Further complications in reading the VM script have to do with tiny differences in the quill strokes of letters that seem to make completely different letters. An apparent \a\ for example, if left slightly open at the top, like a sloppy rendering of \a\, actually seems to make \u\. To my horror, however, I believe I have found a lot of creativity in both spelling and writing, such as my earlier example of olje/orlje. The VM is notorious for repetitive words which seem to be spelled the same over and over, so I had a false sense of confidence that the Voynich scribes maintained a higher degree of accuracy than that found in other medieval documents. In those days spelling was optional and the term creative writing might refer to the actual handwriting. The reader will note in my alphabet for example, that I am unclear about the \m\ in the VM and I am quite certain I have found it in the Gothic version as well as Latin and a concocted Cyrillic style. The latter observation is based upon one scribe correcting what looked like a straightforward Cyrillic \M\, to make a Voynich character that looks like an oM and which seems to function as a simple \M\ at the beginning of a word.

     If we could view the actual VM slight variations in letters may be very noticeable.  Read online, it is necessary to zoom in about 150% to catch all the tiny variations in the calligraphy. One VM researcher is reputed to have counted what he believed were angles in every \o\ in the text, thinking the tiny angles formed a code. In the end it seems these angles and corners were artifacts from the simple use of quill and ink on calf skin vellum. The kinds of variations I am seeing are how ordinarily closed letters like \o\, may be left open, or how parts of letters join to form letter combinations like the apparent trigraph -nek, meaning little in Polish.

    Concerning the VM vowels, fortunately the basic \a\ and \o\ are recognizable and they work fine most of the time in my system. Other Voynich vowels might look like \a\, \o\ or \c\ and their actual sounds or values, it appears, depend upon whether or not a loop is closed or open or even how the letter is slanted. The vowels in Slavic languages seem extremely complex and the meanings are frequently dependent upon diacritics like accent marks and little hooks pointing left or right at the bottom of some of them. The VM script has very few diacritics and perhaps the origins and uses of these marks from  the middle ages until today is a separate specialty. At any rate it is discouraging to note that in both Gothic and Italic calligraphy, the \e\ can look like a \c\. I have a good idea the \e\s in  Voynichese are found somewhere in the many \c\s. Those knowledgeable in the languages will know where an \e\ is needed rather than a \c\.

     Possibly the \c\ that may be an \e\ explains one of the variant spellings beside a VM colored drawing that clearly appears to be a carrot. The Polish word for carrot is marchew and one of the presumed carrot drawings in the VM comes very close to this spelling. Yet another carrot drawing has this extremely creative label: oMcccSaw, with the \S\ turned around backward, as are all Voynich \S\s. If oM = M imitating Cyrillic M, and the third \c\ = e, it is not a stretch to find marchew. If there is Italian influence in the VM, \ce\ in Italian = che, like the first part of cherry in English. If, however, oMcccSaw is the intended spelling, perhaps the VM is still unreadable! There also seems to be a character that resembles a Voynich backward \S\ except it is more like our question mark without a dot underneath. I believe this is a separate character and may be \ch\. These are good example of some of the difficulties.

     There are a few alphabet letters I have yet to identify, for example \b\, \f\, \d\. I have a good idea that some letters have multiple duties. Perhaps if they reasonably sound alike, they are interchangeable, such as \v\, \b\, \w\. 


     In the beginning I copied and processed random, fairly simple words with \cz\ and \sz\ characters from throughout the text. The VM is thought to have several main sections, the largest part being an herbal with drawings of plants, their strictures, flowers and roots. In addition there are segments on astrology/astronomy, geography perhaps, nude women perhaps expressing folklore of some kind, and a supposed recipe section. It is thought the recipe section it is thought, may detail medicinal treatments. I selected my first words at random from all sections.

    Many of the Polish words and partial words that turned up were either forenames, surnames or place names in modern usage, usually with suffixes added. For example, writing the Voynich word first, followed by the modern ending or suffix, we have the following surnames: GORCZ|ok, GORJE|anu, CZO|vek KACZ(e)N|ski. CZARJE is a word I found in the VM as well as a modern name in its entirety.  An interesting place name is CZORSZ|tyn, a Polish town noted for a nearby castle. [5]
      Names, especially names based on Slavic languages, can go back perhaps as far as prehistoric times.  Just as we have Native American place names in North America, surely Poland has place names that go back to the Wendis and other early European tribes. Occasionally I was able to tease out meanings for some of the names. Many times I could not. For many fore- and surnames, the meanings are lost or unknown in modern times. While it is hard to find definitions of the names of small towns and hamlets, I suspect people living there have a good idea what the name of their home towns mean. In the above mentioned Czorszryn, the source named above says the German name for this place is Schorstin.

     Several of the random words, if my transliteration is correct, are regular words like gostje meaning guests in Slovenian and czesta meaning frequent in Polish. The small connecting words also seemed to mix Slovenian and Polish. What looks like 8a in my system transliterates to sta, which means "they're" in Slovenian, according to the Bing translator. There is Z which means with in Polish, according to the same translator. Stan means "the state of", according to both the online translator and my new Polish dictionary. [6] (I caught an online translator messing up by giving different answers for the same word so I ordered two new dictionaries for accuracy.)

     It is said Slovenian contains some Italian words so I note in passing that sta can mean "it is" in Italian. Whatever the exact meaning in the VM, these little words are most encouraging because they give the appearance of sentences or more complex thoughts than I would expect in a hoax or cipher.

    When these successes looked like more than accidental good luck, I got serious. When deciphering an otherwise unreadable medieval manuscript, it is wise to look at words that connect with artwork, if any is available. Fortunately the VM is as decorative as any modern, picture filled coffee table book. Having done wildlife and botanical art, the drawings of the various Voynich plants impress me as coming from a Hogwarts textbook used by Professor Sprout's herbology class. If sections of these plant drawings are enlarged 150% and seen on a high definition computer screen, they take on an otherworldly, 3D aspect which has ethereal beauty. Paints and inks were made by hand in the middle ages, therefore I can forgive the colors, knowing the artists had to grind semiprecious stones to powder, then add gum Arabic to make paint which may have been applied by using a quill or reed. Even so,viewed without enlargement, I find the pictures nightmarish.


     A number of people online are trying to decipher the VM. One such attempt involved an enlarged cut from a page in the VM herbal section, of a root structure with chopped off stems ascending. The cut and paste internet artist identified the drawing of the root as "garlic" and attempted to translate three words beneath the drawing into Latin. (Unfortunately the section of the VM where this is found is one of the few pages that are too faded in color for me to read in the online copy of the VM.  Also unfortunately, the cut and paste I found online had disappeared two days after I found it. Thankfully I believe I have progressed past the one word for garlic.)

    The longest word under the root structure drawing appeared to read: CZOS_. CZO was plain, the \s\ was a backward \s\. The ending character was quite pretty, resembling a fancy cursive, capital G in the Latin alphabet. CZOSNEK is the Polish word for garlic and it is a very old word that came from proto Slavic. [7] If the capital G like character meant  -nek then the completed word would be czosnek. Applying that character to other words as -nek  led to sosanek under a Voynich drawing that strongly resembles a pine tree. The Polish word for pine is sosna, again from proto Slavic. The only definition I can find for -nek in Google Translate, autodetect is that it means "-ing" in Hungarian. I have no idea if the Voynich character means -nek, if it sounds like that or if it has a specific meaning. Somewhere in the proto Slavic I got the idea -nek meant "little" but I cannot find that st the moment.

     Voynich words are fairly short compared to modern Polish. Finding a list of proto Slavic words found in Polish was extremely helpful.  These words felt like the Voynich language, if that makes sense. It is not for me to speculate further but I hope there is someone reading this who understands proto Slavic and its history. I want to believe the VM goes way back before 1420 CE, yet some things within it cause me to believe that date is probably correct. How close were Polish and Slovenian to proto Slavic at that time?

    After czosnek for garlic and what looks like sosanek, possibly for pine, most of the other plant labels did not work out to anything recognisable. Google autodetect suggested various Slavic languages but came up with no translations. 

     There is one exception which is the carrot, marchew in Polish. One drawing very much looks like a cartoonish carrot just like Bugs Bunny chomps. The other drawing could easily be a carrot sprout. If both drawings depict the carrot plant, and are labelled marchew, they may illustrate some difficulties in deciphering Voynichese.   On the likely carrot sprout, the \m\ beginning marchew is very Gothic in nature and resembles two \c\s facing each other. The \ch\ may or may not be represented by an \S\. I suspect it is a special character for \ch\, like our question mark without the dot beneath. 

     The mature carrot drawing has what looks like a very creative spelling of oMccochawv. The first \c\ may be a vowel of some sort. It is connected to the \M\ with a short stroke which seems to denote a vowel in Voynichese. I suppose it could be an \r\, Mrcochawv. I leave it to the reader to speculate. Remember, spelling and handwriting rules were optional in the middle ages.

     Indeed, the VM writing style reminds me of a social media joke from several years ago. Spllng dunt mattr cos pple cn stll unerstd t. Spelling doesn't matter because people can still understand it. Or consider how people text each other with extreme abbreviations. Personal ignorance of the languages that I believe underlie the VM script defines my achieved level of incompetence in the matter. I sincerely hope someone who knows Polish, Slovenian or Hungarian, will some day, be able to fairly easily read the Voynich text.


     Voynichese seemed to yield to me in the beginning because I write Cyrillic. The VM script is more Latin than Cyrillic but I feel certain some of it is Cyrillyc. The character that seems to work for \L\ is primarily Cyrillic in the way it is written. [8]There is another interesting character that seems to work as \go\. It looks like 4o with a bar connecting the two parts. On the other hand It reminds me of the Cyrillic character for \ju\ which, when printed, resembles I-O. When written in cursive, the upper case version slightly resembles the Voynich 4o. If there was a Gothic-style version of the \ju\ it might resemble the VM 4o. I have used the VM 4o as both \go\ and \ju\. Though words are made I do not feel certain that either is exactly correct.

     The Gothic alphabet is almost exactly like our modern Latin alphabet. For the most part it seems to be "Gothic" because of the shaping of the letters, however there is one major exception. The Gothic \n\ does not resemble our \n\, but it does look like the forerunner of what works as \n\ in Voynich. 

     Polish has a special mark which looks like a lower case \L\ with a diagonal slash about halfway up the stem. [9] (There is also a \t\ that looks similar.) Today this is called a stroke and roughly it changes \L\ to \w\. There is a Voynich character that may work like the stroke but I am unable, at this time, to prove it one way or another. 

     I have found two very important characters that unlock a significant amount of the VM. A character that looks like 8 seems to be \st\. (Beware any 8 with a tail on the bottom, more or less like \&\. I am not sure what that is. Tiny calligraphy strokes and changes can make that much difference, even though a Voynich scribe may have creatively spelled marchew as oMccochawv. Heaven help us if \c\ = \r\ ! ) Another often used character looks like a simple lower case \g\. This works good as the Slovenian \je\ though I think it can be used in other ways that approximate the \je\. (See my alphabet accompanying this article.)

     It seems to me that Voynichese is more about how letters and characters are used than it is about alphabets with definite values per letter. At the very end of my "alphabet" are two elaborate characters I suspect are trigraphs, three letters interlocked. The first literally appears to be cKz with a bar running through the lower legs of the K, connecting the tops of the \c\ and \z\. Even considering the possibility of optional vowels, the only sense I can make of it is Kacz, with an \a\ implied. These trigraphs are found throughout the VM and I do not think I have correctly interpreted them. The point for anyone interested is, these seemingly single characters likely contain c(K, L, P, T...)z. Sometimes something like a vowel is inserted awkwardly so perhaps the conglomeration looks like ciKz or caKz. What if we use the Latin alphabet, write cKz and draw a bar from the \c\ to the \z\, through the K? We would have something very similar to the Voynich trigraph. I have a sneaking suspicion someone knowledgeable of the language(s) will know where to stick in a vowel or other needed letter. 

     Look carefully at the c-big letter-z arrangements in the VM. I am quite certain it is not always \c\ and \z\ at either end of the bar crossing the large letter. Sometimes it surely looks like a vowel or t or e, perhaps. What is the significance of the connecting bar? I am really stumped on that one.

     Voynichese has a lot of interconnected letters with \cz\ being the simplest and most notable. If one approaches the script with the idea of finding connected letters rather than alphabetic letters, it all begins to make sense. Taking one of the simplest, if I am correct that what looks like 8 = st, it is easy to see the Voynich backward \S\ and a feature of the capital \T\ combined to make the character. There is plenty of room for others to improve on my system.

     It has been said there is NO punctuation in the VM. This certainly seems to be so, yet the way some letters are finished at the ends of words, MAY designate the end of a sentence or phrase. For example, what I take to be \w\ sometimes looks like a regular, lower case, cursive \w\. Sometimes words end with what looks like \w\ but the last mark on \w\ becomes a tail looping up and over the word, kind of like how a cat arches her tail when she is rubbing against something. I suspect the tail that arches back over the word may signify the end of a sentence or phrase.

     At other times letters like \w\ end with a large, open character resembling an \O\ which I think is a Gothic \V\, \U\ or \Y\.  This large, open character has a short, arched tail at the top, which does not swirl over the top of the word and I do not think it is any form of punctuation.

     Some letters are very large like capital letters as we know them. They appear in anywhere in the words. Note in passing that the  \P\ in the Polish alphabet of today is always written in the capital form. [9] I have some other thoughts on the overly large letters but more research is needed. Also at the very beginning of pages there are very large, ornamental letters called gallows letters. I refer the reader to Professor Bax' information on gallows letters at .

     In my alphabet accompanying this article, letters and characters are listed in order from those of which I am most sure to those that are still being learned. Without extensive knowledge of Slavic languages and alphabets I doubt I could work out a complete alphabet anytime soon. I do believe I have found enough to launch others with the knowledge to progress to a complete translation of the VM.


     This is my transliteration on the top half of the writing on VM page 5, folio 2r, the knapweed (Centauria diffusa) page. In do believe various characters have multiple but similar sounding values. What looks like a lower case \g\, I think can be \je\, \ja\, \j\ and possibly \a\. This makes sense in that over the various Slavic languages those differences can be found. I will represent the \g\ character as \je\ and leave it to knowledgeable readers to determine corrections. Ditto for the other characters. This transliteration is as literal as I can make it. If I do not yet know the character I will use (?). The \cz\s have some odd diacritics. If they appear other than what I have determined to be \cz\ or \sz\ I will note (cz+?). Any reader with enough interest can look at the page online to find his or her own answer.

                            Ljestaw   je   jePczor  staw  cKcza(?)  jePcza(?)v  (Lacz?)orzje  ston  czonje  czlan  Z  (cz+?)on  (Kacz?)je  (Kco?)  jukawv (Kacz?)ije  je  
                            czon  czje  jestje czawv  (ce+?)  austje  czkost  stje  (P+?)je  stars  cz  ola(?)v  st  oko  czon  a(?)  szost  a(?)v  czor  stav

                            jekczauv  st(?)v  Za(?)v  (&=?)  a(?)v st  stlor   son  jeKorstje stczor stczje (K+?)je  szon  (Lacz?)je  stauvje stauv

     If this is reasonably correct, what do we have? I am certain we have something useful, but what? Is it proto Slavic or a shorthand way to share scientific ideas of the time? This is only a small part from the herbal section. More curious yet are the pages of astronomy, astrology, geography and, oh yes, ladies without any clothing!


     Knowing this article has a mixed audience, readers familiar with the VM and those hearing about it for the first time, I had thought to use a salacious lead reminding the reader that the VM has multiple pages of drawings of naked women. Why I did not I will explain in closing. (Any reader unfamiliar with the subject can simply enter Voynich Manuscript in any search engine and the whole glorious text will appear on pages of images.)

     That said, a whole section of the Voynich has completely nude women, sometimes called nymphs, goddesses or pregnant ladies. They appear to descend from the clouds, riding torrents of blue water, to end up soaking, frolicking or perhaps dancing, in algae green water found in structures presumed to be arched baths of some sort. On some pages women ascend from the green baths, up a blue torrent and back to the clouds. There is little if any Christian symbolism in the VM, yet one page shows a woman who has ascended the blue sprite into the clouds, then reaches upward to grasp what appears to be a cross. Intermixed with the women, up and down and across whole pages, is what looks like interesting but disjointed plumbing pipes and joints.

     Some of the bathing beauties seem to lose or acquire mermaid tails in the lower, earthly realms. If the VM has a strongly Polish origin, it is of interest that the Mermaid of Warsaw is a national emblem yet no one is sure of its origin. [10]  Kievan Rus mythology also has some interesting ideas about women who live under water.[11] The mermaid as a symbol for a prostitute has Slavic or Germanic origins. [12] 

     Many believe the women are pregnant because of their large bellies and wide bums and thighs. I think they merely depict well fed women at a time when the so-called Rubenesque figure denoted health and plenty, and specifically that women with that figure were free from wasting scourges like TB. I reject the idea that these women are pregnant because not all pregnant women develop large thighs and bums. Small, skinny, pregnant women may have large abdomens while the rest of their bodies remain thin. At any rate the Voynich artists made sure to pencil on female breasts. The breasts are all small compared to the large bellies, but there is no doubt they are breasts and that the nudity in most cases is full and frontal.

     In the astrology/astronomy section of the VM more of these nymphs are depicted, in decorative barrels that hide all below their wastes. Some seem to grasp stars, or hold onto stars via ribbons and streamers. 

     Some want the VM to be an ancient Egyptian or Aztec text but the women appear to be plump and Caucasian, possibly with long, blonde hair braided and fastened to the tops of their heads. At least that is what I see. Some of the women may wear hats or headdresses, but certainly nothing like the veils and gabled head coverings many women are depicted as wearing in the middle ages.

     Tantalizingly, some of the groups of women seem to have labels made up of short words. Frankly, I am sure I am not alone in most wanting to decipher this part of the VM since NO OTHER medieval manuscript in existence is known to have ANYTHING like the Voynich ladies. 


     In the beginning so many words transliterated to Polish that I believed the VM must surely represent a lost Polish dialect. When I found the proto Slavic page on Wiki I wondered if the VM was a lot older than 1420 CE. Radio carbon dating is frequently questioned and criticized. Then the overall structure seemed to indicate Slovenian with a strong Polish basis and a little bit of Hungarian. The Slovenian language is said to have these characteristics.

     The general nature of the VM impresses me as pagan. Poland under the golden age of the Jagiellonian dynasty which began in 1385, though Christian, was not under the thumbs of the popes in Rome. [13] Many faiths including Jewish and Muslim were tolerated within Poland and intellectual freedom was not restricted. [14] This in itself is a fascinating study. Could the VM contain pre-Christian Slavic folklore from the pagan perspective? One is hard put to find any Christian symbolism in the VM. I have found two crosses butam not sure if these depict anything Christian.

     If, on the other hand, the VM was created in or near northern Italy or Slovenia, was free thinking allowed in those areas? If thought was controlled by church or state, does that account for the unreadable script thought by many to be a code?

     I do not see why the Voynich writing or language should be in a code when there are pages of clearly nude women. Surely those women cavorting in baths would have brought persecution against the artists in a number of other western, Christian countries of the time?

     I think the VM is a text that combined writing styles well known in that time and area. Since I have no understanding of the languages beyond various online translators and whatever else I can learn about the structures of Polish/Slovene and proto Slavic, I have no idea if the language underlying the script is also mixed. I have an idea it is. In a subsequent article I will further explore the calligraphy and some labels on drawings that seem to be in a language other than Polish/Slovenian.

     Was there a group of learned people who knew and spoke different languages and wrote different alphabets, who devised a new way to share knowledge between east and west? Were these knowledgeable people located in the courts of the Medici or some center of learning in the western Slavic empires? Since there is no other example of Voynichese in existence, those who devised, wrote and understood it, must have been a reasonably small group. Who were they? Where were they headquartered?

     I fully agree with those who identify more than one scribe writing the VM. [3] Perhaps one of the scribes wrote in a simpler, more straightforward manner than the others. Maybe he was the one who invented Voynichese. I particularly enjoy the work of the scribe who wrote on page 5, the Centaurea plant, an unwelcome and invasive species in the U.S. that we call knapweed, a plant with which I am personally familiar.  The Voynich scribe who wrote that page used the writing system in a simple, straightforward way, like he was fluent and comfortable with what he was doing. 

     Other scribes on other pages threw in letters or characters uncommon for even the VM. Some of those other scribes made mistakes which they corrected and their corrections are instructive. One fellow clearly wrote a Greek or Cyrillic lower case \f\ but corrected it to complete the Voynich 4o character that I suspect is similar to the Cyrillic ju. Another scribe seemed to begin a Cyrillic cursive \M\ but corrected the beginning of the letter to look like oM. In one odd place in the VM a scribe incorporated an elaborate character that is identical with the Cyrillic ksi or ks. Perhaps he forgot that cz, linked with a bar over the top, could cover a multitude of uses in Voynichese?

     Perhaps I am a fool in thinking I have some answers to help decipher the until now unreadable VM. Mathematically I believe I cannot be completely wrong and am probably reasonably correct. Lack of knowledge of the language(s) underlying the unusual writing system is certainly an impediment. I have no desire to guess for the sake of a "complete" translation. I have provided a sample of how my writing system works. Hopefully others will help me improve it.

     It has taken days to correct erroneous information from online translators. Sometimes I think, if one asks too many questions, they just spew. On a bad day, ANY letter combination has a meaning. I am not alone with these difficulties. Hopefully I caught all the mistakes.

     Some believe the deciphered VM will reveal lost ancient secrets of life changing importance. I believe it will reveal Slavic folklore from the time of the Jagiellonian dynasty, from a time when Lithuania was the last pagan empire in Europe. I have an idea the pages of naked ladies in baths may have something to do with sexuality in a moral and reproductive sense, which is to say scientific for the time and not pornographic in nature. Some of the labels on one of these pages seem to start with Zar which could be Polish for daughter of. Possibly also these ladies have to do with crop fertility if I have correctly transliterated owies, oats in Polish. 

     The ladies cannot help but stimulate basic humorous impulses. A ribald observation seemed perfect to begin this article, yet so much of my online translations have yielded the Polish language that I suspect the VM could add an important part of Polish history. 

      Beyond Poland's golden times there have been times of extreme darkness and tragedy when more powerful nations overran and partitioned the land. We remember the too recent times when Poland was locked behind the Iron Curtain due to the political divisions that followed the Nazi defeat in WWII. 

     Perhaps the Nazis made the worst assault on Poland when, "The Polish language was forbidden. Only the German language was allowed." [15]

                  "Heinrich Himmler echoed Hitler's decree:

                               "All Poles will disappear from the world... It is essential that the great
                                German people should consider it as its major task to destroy all Poles" [15]

     The Polish language is part of Polish nationalism. The possibility that the VM could be a repository of 600 year old Polish language, thought and knowledge suddenly seemed very serious. So I will save the lighthearted approach for the subsequent article exploring VM art and calligraphy. 

     Next time we can explore what appears comical in the VM. For now I sincerely hope and pray the VM is historically important to the history of Poland and the Polish language.


[1] ; Complete manuscript available here, courtesy of the Beinecke Library, Yale.

[2]  en, , for a general overview

[3] ~~This is my favourite VM site. Stephen Bax, Professor of Applied Linguistics, University of Bedfordshire, UK has done extraordinary work on the VM. 

[4] , for a general overview
     Also extremely valuable in understanding Voynichese, the GOTHIC language and writing system=> 

[6] Oxford Essential Polish Dictionary, 2010 edition



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