The Voynich manuscript, carbon-dated from 1404 to 1438 CE, is largely known for use of an encryption system that no one has been able to decode, but it also has lots of drawings of interest. The vast majority of these drawings are of plants that no one has been able to identify to universal satisfaction. Some of the drawings depict naked women swimming in green water, and a few depict people dressed in medieval clothing. This is one of the latter on folio 71v:

Voynich manuscript drawing depicting reunion of medieval Cathars

The ram in the middle suggests an April meeting or reunion of people of the artisan class. No clerics or royalty can be distinguished, and it looks like a debate among peers sitting around in a circle. A more-or-less equal distribution of men and women is surprising for medieval times when women were severely subordinated. Only in a protestant religion called Catharism did women have equal rights with men, even to the level of administrating rites.

Voynich Manuscript drawing of a fortress alleged to be Montségur

In view of the plausible pointer to Catharism that we just saw, it seems reasonable to suspect that this fortress, depicted on a foldout following folio 86v, is Montségur, the last stronghold of the Cathars, destroyed by a French army in 1244 CE.

The Montségur Mountain

The Montségur fortress was built on top of a limestone mountain with steep slopes, and steep slopes (virtually vertical) are what we see depicted in the manuscript.

Medieval depiction of the bonfire at Montségur

This is an independent medieval depiction of the bonfire at Montségur using a handful to symbolize two hundred. In the top right, note the steep winding path going up to the fortress. Note the French soldiers to the left. Above all, note on top a coned tower with balcony and one window, but sight of lower windows might be cut off by the mountain. Compare this with the Voynich drawing displaying a coned tower with balcony and windows below. Very likely, the authors of the Voynich manuscript were Cathars.

The Cathars were a Christian sect and we find evidence of this on folio 79v.

Voynich Manuscript drawing of a Cathari holding a Christian cross

Note that she is holding a cross in her left hand.

Voynich Manscript drawing of a Perfecta performing the sacrament of Consolamentum

Catharism had a single sacrament called consolamentum. Essentially, this was a type of baptism administered by the lay clergy (male or female) without water, by placing the right hand on the recipient's forehead. That is what we see in this Voynich drawing on folio 80v.

A hundred and seventy years separate the fall of Montségur and the redaction of the Voynich manuscript so we must assume that the manuscript was written by descendants of Cathars who lived in the 13th century. A few Cathars were indeed reported to have escaped the siege of Montségur by making a daring descent down the steep slopes. A wide search was undertaken to find them but they were never found. Where did they go?

Voynich Manuscript drawing of a rainforest plant

This is one of the exotic plants depicted in the Voynich manuscript. Neither this plant on folio 2v nor any of more than one hundred other plants depicted in the manuscript have ever been unambiguously identified with any European plant, leading many scholars to conclude that the Voynich plants are pure fantasy.

Ivan Mikolji photograph of freshwater rainforest plant

This here is a modern photograph – licensed from Ivan Mikolji – of an underwater plant found in the Morichal district of Venezuela. It’s a blob without branches or leaves and has the same color and shape as the Voynich depiction. On the plant in the rear, we see a stem similar to the stem depicted in the manuscript.

The only major distinction is that the Voynich manuscript depicts a white flower growing on the upper right side of the plant.

Close-up view of the bud of a rainforest plant from Ivan Mikilji photograph

Now let's look at a closeup of the upper right side of the plant in the front. Notice that there's a little green bud that offers every potential of blossoming into a flower.

Voynich Manuscript drawing of Cathar women wading in a rainforest pond

The Voynich gives us many drawings depicting life and survival in the swamps. The gals on folio 75r are depicted walking through plant-infested water and that's why the it's colored green. Although the water is only a couple of feet deep, the gals cannot see through it. Note the gal holding a stick with a stretched-out arm; that is not a support stick but a measuring stick, to measure the depth of the water before advancing. She cannot see the bottom. Now look at the girl up front: she's relaxing, literally floating on her back. The plant growth is so dense that it gives buoyancy to the water, making it easy for her to float on her back.

Voynich Manuscript drawing of rainforest women washing themselves with rainwater

Swamp water was surely dirty. On folio 84r we see the gals lined up to wash off the silt with clean rainwater, colored blue.

Voynich Manuscript drawing of Cathar women imagining themselves to be mermaids

The Voynich manuscript also depicts the dangers of life in the swamps. On folio 79v there is a hybrid depiction of a spotted jaguar with crocodilian head, representing two of the most dangerous predators of the swamps. They depict themselves as a hybrid of woman and fish (mermaid) given that they spend half their life in the trees and half in the water below. The mermaid is looking up at her friends located high in the tree running up the entire left side of the page, matching contemporary photographs of the Morichal landscape: tall trees rising alongside swamp water.

Voynich Manuscript drawing of a vial for mixing herbs

Besides exploring and cataloging the plants, the gals spend their days collecting herbs to make medicines, grinding them together in vials like these seen on the left side of folio 88v.

Voynich Manuscript drawing of a South American tapir

This funny-looking animal depicted on folio 102v is a South American tapir, a large mammal never seen in Europe during medieval times.

It is depicted at the very end of the section on herbal medicine. We must therefore assume that the gals used the thick skin of this animal to make the vials used for mixing and crushing the herbs.


The Voynich MS accurately depicts the South American tapir (also known as the Brazilian tapir) from its elongated head across to its tiny tail. With tail extended outward, this tapir is apparently depicted in motion, running away from hunters. The skin of the tapir, a large animal related to the rhinoceros, is too thick for fine leather but is used to make items like saddles for horses and durable sandals for humans. It would also have been the ideal material to make vials for mixing and mashing the diverse herbs into medicinal concoctions and for storing them. Roughly forty of these vials are depicted alongside herbs in the Voynich manuscript. In other words, it is perfectly logical and rational that a depiction of the tapir would appear where it does in the manuscript: on the same page and immediately following the last depiction of a vial.

Meanwhile, proponents of redaction in northern Italy are claiming that the depicted animal is a frog. One must assume that they are thinking of an extinct species of Italian frog because it certainly resembles no frog that can be seen in Google images. Frog skin, of course, would also be useless for making the vials. How it is possible that scholars can delude themselves into thinking this animal is a frog is a matter that merits psychiatric investigation.

Continued here.

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