Sunday, August 13, 2017

Voynich Manuscript in Croatian

August 13, 2017

By Anna Morris, Co-Editor, FFOA News Network

   Everyone loves an old, unsolved mystery! This is especially true for lifelong insomniacs like me who have to while away hours before achieving unconsciousness, what normal people call sleep. I first heard about the Voynich Manuscript on Coast to Coast AM , a late night radio program. I lay awake imagining the drawings of "plumbing" and "naked bathing nymphs" described by the guest on the radio. When I finally got the internet I was finally able to see all the strange wonders of the 700 year text written by quill on vellum.

     About a year ago I greatly enlarged a few VM pages to see what the scribes actually meant to write. A first opinion was that the script is Latin--the same alphabet we write--with a little bit of Cyrillic. This first system I devised made a lot of words; when entered into a basic Google search these words were overwhelmingly Polish, frequently partial names of places and people.

     I am not a mathematical genius who can say, if you have enough of something concerning a problem, then mathematically you have to have the solution. I just figured I was getting too many Polish words to be completely wrong. For those of us who prefer words to numbers, "Where there is smoke, there is fire."

     Mathematic weakness aside, I entered the internet world in complete ignorance! It actually took a few months of Google-searching individual words and the real world purchase of a Polish dictionary before I found Google Translate. AHA! Polish to English at my fingertips!  The next problem was that the translator kept suggesting the words I entered were Croatian! (Language groups have certain patterns. That it looked like Polish and turned out to be Croatian is acceptable.) 

     Well, what kind of scripts or alphabets were scholars using in the area of Croatia, circa 1420 CE? The answer to that led to a plunge into Croatian Galgolitic and the cursive version of this system. One of my previous articles on the VM said, "The alphabet is a luxury." Indeed, any alphabet available today is standardized and understood and those facts mean more than we ever stop to think about.

     When the Voynich Manuscript was written there were many versions of the same alphabets and it is anyone's guess how individual writers decided how to use the available letters and characters. Almost all the letters, characters and ligatures in the VM can be found in other contemporaneous writings. I would absolutely disagree that the VM script is completely unknown as many claim.

     My step by step work is chronicled at on my thread "Voynich Mystery" so I will skip a bunch of the boring details here. Let the two graphics accompanying this article speak for themselves.

     I suppose most people looking at the VM pages containing multiple plants/herbs and their structures, expect to find names of plants. So far, I have mostly found descriptions of attributes of the plants. The graphics here are clips from Quire 19, page f102v1. The VM artists did a lot of strange things and looking for direction in the pictures is fairly useless, so when a translation absolutely defines something in a drawing, it most certainly helps validate any other translation work.

    The "bottom of the bird" translation was the first time I firmly believed I was accurately translating the VM. Anyone can see that the root structure on that Voynich plant is drawn like a bird's tail but since when did plant roots ever resemble the back end of a bird?  When VM scribes made phrases they seem in some cases to have run together several words without spaces. Using my system, the exact transliteration of this inscription is, "odnotijeptje". The translator worked it out as, "o dno ti je pt(i)je". The words can be separated in slightly different ways such as, "odno tije pt(i)je" which translates as, "about the bottom of the bird." In the end we have a drawing of a bird's tail and a comment about the bottom or underneath part of a bird.

     The other clip is less dramatic and I did not see the full impact until I found the two roots in "one twist", "jedno torsje." 

     For the record, I absolutely reject the idea the VM is a hoax or that it is gibberish with no meaning. The script and language were not always unknown. I believe the script was an attempt to simplify and standardize existing alphabets and systems of the time. In my opinion so-called Voynichese is a lot better than other systems available then. Why it never caught on and why there is no other exact example of the same script is still a mystery. As we translate the text hopefully there will be further clues to who wrote it and why. Due to the shapes of some of the letters I suggest connections to Split and Dubrovnik in Croatia.

     Many researchers suggest the VM was written by one person. I reject this idea since the writing varies greatly from page to page. Some scribes were more proficient than others. Some lapsed occasionally to use letters from other alphabets with which they have been more familiar. Occasionally a scribe even dotted an \i\ or \j\. All the little screw-ups are helpful.

     Earlier this year the Beinecke Library which houses the actual Voynich Manuscript, released a facsimile of the text in book form. In July of this year, The Guardian had an interesting article about Stephen Skinner's forward to this facsimile edition. [1]

     Skinner, according to this article, "draws evidence for his theory of the author's identity from a range of illustrations in the manuscript." The scholar's theory, explained in The Guardian, is that the VM drawings of naked ladies in communal baths, accompanied by other drawings of plumbing, depict Jewish use of purification bathing in mikvahs and concern about clean water for those ritual pools. 

     The article says Skinner has identified a Jewish physician based in northern Italy as the writer of the VM. In my opinion this is one of the few new interesting findings on the subjects though I cringe just a bit when John Dee, "the Tudor mystic" gets drawn into the plot.[1]

     The Guardian article also notes that though Catholic Europe was under the Inquisition, Jewish doctors were in demand for their superior knowledge. To this I would add that though officially Roman Catholic, Poland had a dispensation from the pope that spared its population. Many religions, including Judaism and Islam, continued to flourish in this area that was free of persecution. The area around Croatia also had both eastern and western versions of Christianity. 

     Also mentioned in the same article is the swallowtail battlements illustrated in the VM and found to this day in castles in Northern Italy. I have found these same architectural features in pictures of Croatian castles. I do not see any reason to reject a Croatian origin for the VM in favor of northern Italy though the text was ultimately found in a monastery in the latter.

     There is a bit of enthusiasm online for the idea that the VM could be Jewish in origin. It is not overtly Christian in nature though on one page naked ladies shed mermaid tails and ascend through the plumbing until the topmost lady clutches a cross in what looks like clouds. (Mermaid is an old euphemism for prostitute.)

     Considering the ritual mikhva, Jews distinguish between living water and non-living water. Jesus of Nazareth spoke of living water. Living water as I understand it is water that flows, that moves, as opposed to water left to stagnate. The VM portrays two kinds of water, green and blue. The green is found in the "baths" and the blue seems to flow from above. This was one of the few things in the illustrations that made possible sense to me from the beginning.

     Coincidentally, concerning VM Jewishness, I recently viewed a video on religious history which used a picture of an ancient shekle for a cover page. The inscription on the shekle instantly looked like Voynichese to me so I searched for the alphabet that was used. I found Paleo-Hebrew and Aramaic, the first discontinued around the first century CE and the latter still in existence. One unusual Aramaic letter in particular is the shape of a  VM letter. It is a two part system for writing the letter yudh  (Y) in Aramaic which I have identified as Z in the VM. 

     Several Hebrew letters resemble the "big" letters in the VM. They are he, het, tet, tav, roughly H, I, th and T. Though VM letters resemble these Hebrew letters, the Hebrew values make absolutely nothing in the VM. Indeed one of the "big" letters I use as L is sometimes written in the VM using a Croatian Glagolitic version of L. Nevertheless the VM script was based on something, why not Hebrew?

     There are many issues with the long portions of text in the VM. For one thing there is no punctuation. (Amazingly I have seen some modern Croatian with no punctuation.) Croatian then and now did not need to put every single letter in every word. One who is fluent would know where to add needed letters for true meaning. Since I am nowhere near fluent I must stick with literal transliterations and complex explanations of my work. (The two clips produced here are excellent since the only addition suggested by the translator is one \i\ in pt(i)je. ) The vocabulary is limited and the same small words are used over and over from page to page. Some of it works out as instructions. One passage spoke of grinding "green" (leaves?), mixing with vinegar and drinking. Maybe the whole thing is a cookbook of sorts. 

     What is the Voynich Manuscript? My general idea is that it may be a fertility text, the physical mixed with astrology. I think too that some of it is moralistic, about good and bad behavior, perhaps related to reproduction. I believe the two introductory pages, at the very beginning of the work, speak of learning. 

     A complete translation will eventually reveal 700 year old knowledge that, like fine wine, has been exquisitely mellowed by age. 




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