THE VOYNICH MANUSCRIPT: FIRST BOOK OF THE AMERICAS – Q & A


You said the tapir was used to make the vials for mixing the herbs. What animal was used to make the parchment on which the Voynich manuscript was written?

Similarly to how the tapir was depicted at the end of the section on herbal medicine, the animal used for parchment can be found on the last page of the manuscript (folio 116v). This is it:

Voynich Manuscript drawing of a marsh deer allegedly used for parchment

It's a marsh deer, distinguishable by virtue of the black coloring of the lower legs. They inhabited Venezuela during medieval times and today they are still extant further south.

The Cathars were vegetarians, which makes me reluctant to suggest that they hunted the deer for food. However, finding themselves unable to farm land in the swamps, they may have made an exception to the rule. Of course, if they ate venison, it would become easy to explain how they managed to accumulate enough hides to produce more than a hundred sheets of parchment.

Another possibility would be that they sold their herbal medicines and painted vials to the indigenous peoples in exchange for hides, but on folio 76v it looks like the gals were not shy about skinning animals themselves:

Voynich Manuscript drawing of the hide of a spotted jaguar

I'm guessing, but I think she is holding the hide of a spotted jaguar, and her right is raised as an expression of triumph over the predator animal.

The process of making parchment was complex, so at least one of the Cathars who made the transatlantic crossing had to have had the needed skills.

Medieval techniques called for elements like lime and chalk, often hard to find in the Amazon region, but apparently available on the Caribbean cost of Venezuela (not far from the Morichal swamps), site of large sea-shell deposits.

Note that very few, if any, of the glyphs frequently seen in the writing are of original design. Some of them can be found on charts of numerals from the medieval Near East, and others are merely symbols that were employed in medieval alchemy, which was essentially chemistry. Possibly, the alchemy symbol for "to prepare" (scattered throughout the Voynich text), rather than a blank space, marked the beginning of a new word, but here their use of alchemy symbols can be seen as supporting the notion that they knew how to extract lime from sea shells.

You say they depicted the marsh deer to indicate that this was the animal used for parchment. Do they also depict the manuscript's authors?

Yes, of course. This is the proud author here:

Alleged female author of the Voynich Manuscript

She is depicted directly below the deer and is the last thing we see in the Voynich manuscript (folio 116v).

Why are all the women naked?

That's a silly question. In the rainforest we still see people running around naked today. With high heat, high humidity and frequent rainfall, clothing can be more of an annoyance than a necessity.

Indeed, the fact that these gals are naked is another reason for believing that the Voynich manuscript was compiled in a rainforest and not in Europe. As far as I know, there were no nudist camps in medieval Europe.

But at night, the temperature in the tropics can drop considerably and it can feel even colder due to all the dampness.

Voynich Manuscript drawing of a rainforest female wrapped in a blanket while sleeping in her tree hut

On folio 82r we see one of the gals wrapped in a blanket, peacefully asleep in her tree hut under the stars.

With such strong evidence for the tropics, why do scholars think the Voynich manuscript was written in northern Italy which is hardly tropical?

Let's have another look at the Montségur depiction on the folio 86v foldout:

Voynich Manuscript depiction of a fortress suspected to be Montségur

Note those frontal defenses known as M-shaped merlons. Such merlons have been found on castles in northern Italy. I checked them out myself: only two of them predate the fall of Montségur in 1244, but at one point or another those castles were destroyed and rebuilt or construction was expanded later on. In brief, so far, I have found no proof that any Italian M-shaped merlon predates the fall of Montségur.

The Cathars lived in both southern France and northern Italy. Catharism in France came to an abrupt end in the 13th century but continued to live on in northern Italy until the early 14th century. I suspect that the Italian Cathars introduced the M-shaped merlons into Italy in remembrance of those who died at Montségur.

In any case, please note that the Voynich drawing also displays a cone-shaped tower, which copies the tower design of the Carcassonne fortress in France (another place where the Cathars lived) and those medieval cones can still be seen today:

The fortress of Carcassonne, France

As you can see, tower cones are the product of French, not Italian, architecture. Scholars tend to consider the evidence that supports their theories and ignore all contradictory evidence. Moreover, unlike Montségur, most of the Italian castles have survived to this day intact, and none of them look like what we see depicted in the Voynich manuscript.

Have you identified any of the Voynich plants other than the green blob that you showed us?

I have found several candidates, but many plant species have similar looking leaves, similar looking red berries or whatever, and not being a botanist I do not want to stick my neck out with claims in this regard. I am, however, confident about the green blob as it has no branches or leaves that can confuse the issue.

It has been pointed out that the Voynich manuscript depicts sunflowers (see folio 33v) which are native to the Americas and were unknown in Europe until Columbus brought them back.

Voynich Manuscript drawing of a sunflower

A noted university professor has commented that it is impossible for this to be a sunflower because the manuscript has been dated to pre-Columbian times. His remarks are symptomatic of the massive ignorance that afflicts contemporary society. If he had probed a little deeper, he would have learned that there were people who had a dire need to flee Europe because they were being hunted down by a large army that wanted to burn them alive, and he would have discovered that medieval boats were quite capable of crossing the Atlantic.

Besides the sunflower, there are reports that several drawings have been associated with plants found in Central America but I do not know if they also checked out Venezuela.

In any case, I believe that most of the plants depicted in the manuscript are now extinct and hence will never be identified. In a rainforest environment, plant species can appear and disappear every year. It's a miracle that our underwater blob managed to survive across all those centuries. The fact that this plant lived protected by the surrounding water probably accounts for its long-term survival.

The Voynich manuscript is dated to the early 15th century and then appears in Europe in the 17th century. How did it get from A to B?

First of all, let's note that there appears to be no historical record of the Voynich manuscript, or of any similar manuscript, anywhere in Europe during the 15th and 16th centuries. It would not be unreasonable to suspect that, during those centuries, the manuscript resided elsewhere.

I do not know the answer to your question, but parchment manuscripts are durable and it seems plausible that a Spanish profiteer of the 16th century could have encountered the manuscript and brought it back to Europe for personal gain or other motive. Transactions of this type may not be recorded in the history books.

Curiously, the Incas claim to have been in possession of a book. Wikipedia cites the historian Pedro Sarmiento (1572) on the creator-god Viracocha: "a man of medium height, white and dressed in a white robe like an alb secured round the waist, and that he carried a staff and a book in his hands."

It seems a bit incredulous that the pre-Columbian Incas, a people who did not know how to read or write, could have imagined a "book" (or even a white man for that matter) in their mythology. Perhaps that line was meant to pertain to the epoch of Viracocha Inca, the king who ruled from 1410 to 1438 CE, dates that correspond quite well with the radiocarbon range given for the Voynich manuscript: 1404 to 1438 CE.

Why did the Cathars decide to go to Venezuela and not somewhere else?

I don't think they planned to go anywhere special. I think they headed south, reaching east of Africa where they got picked up by the north equatorial current, and this current carried them to Venezuela.

It is unknown where and how they got the boat. The Cathars had some friends among the Knights Templar (who operated a fleet from the west coast of France) and also among the cabalists in Girona, located roughly two hundred kilometers southeast of Montségur.

They may have planned to die at sea, in peace, praying, and then woke up one day to see land.

What ever happened to the Cathars in Venezuela? Why didn't the Spanish find them when they arrived there?

Wikipedia states the following about the Cathars:

"… reproduction was viewed by them as a moral evil to be avoided—as it continued the chain of reincarnation and suffering in the material world. It was claimed by their opponents that, given this loathing for procreation, they generally resorted to sodomy."

This aversion to procreation is symbolically depicted on folio 80r of the manuscript:

Voynich Manuscript depiction of Cathar aversion to procreation

It is easy to see what this youth (no beard) wants, but notice that the gal is literally running away from him.

Other than this youth, no men are depicted in the manuscript. Possibly they went off exploring or hunting and never returned, leaving the gals to fend for themselves. Another possibility would be that the depicted gals are extremely old (one can imagine that their herbal concoctions helped to extend their lifespans beyond the normal!)and the men had already passed away.

The notion that those women are old (other than the gal we just saw who perhaps became the virgin author of the manuscript) is reinforced by depictions of the sacrament of consolamentum, which was intended to be administered as close to death as possible (it was doable only once in a lifetime) so that the recipient would remain cleansed upon passing into the afterlife.

Above all, notice that no infants or young children are depicted in the Voynich manuscript.

Hence, there is no need to speculate on extinction from disease, headhunters, or mass suicide. It looks like they perished from natural causes: the lack of offspring. Although there are reports that some indigenous people of northwestern Amazonia have been found with blonde hair and European DNA, there seems to be no way to prove if this results from events that occurred before or after 1492.

Evidently, their small settlement in Venezuela survived for less than two hundred years, from the middle of the 13th century to the first half of the 15th century. Sections of the manuscript not related to plants, such as the star maps, may be a copy of earlier writings perhaps initially redacted in Europe. Similarly, even the plant pages could be a copy of research undertaken decades earlier. The general lack of error corrections (cross-outs and insertions) in the Voynich text is more suggestive of a copying effort versus first redaction.

If there really was a young male among the last of the Cathars, one can only wonder if he became the white man who brought a book to the Incas. There is abstruse evidence that the Voynich manuscript found its way from Cuzco to the city of London in 1584.

Can your theory that the Voynich manuscript was written in Venezuela and not in Europe be proven?

I do not like calling it a "theory" because that word is often used to refer to ideas based on flimsy evidence.

The Voynich manuscript has 112 folios that depict plants that have never been identified with any plant seen in Europe; there are 20 folios depicting every aspect of life and survival in swamps that are nowhere to be found in Europe; there are 34 folios related to herbs (roots and leaves) none of which, as far a I know, have been identified with herbs used in Europe; and there are depictions of animals like the tapir and the marsh deer that are nowhere to be found in Europe.

Unlike other claims of a pre-Columbian discovery of America, by the Romans or Chinese or whoever, this one is supported by good evidence: the Voynich manuscript is, in and of itself, very strong evidence of a European settlement in the Americas during the late Middle Ages.

Anyway, as I was saying, they used the marsh deer to make the parchment. In medieval Europe, people used calves (cows), sheep and goats to make parchment.

It is my understanding that a dermatology expert with a magnification device should be able to determine, without damaging the manuscript in any way, if the parchment is made from deer or from one the European animals. For sure, that would settle the issue.

Besides establishing the Voynich manuscript as the First Book of the Americas, dermatological inspection can be worthwhile for another reason: determination of where and by whom the manuscript was written is an important first step for deciphering its encrypted text. For example, if known that the manuscript was compiled by descendants of Cathars who escaped the siege of Montségur (located near the Pyrenees), it becomes easy to spot the use of accent marks and abbreviation markings that were employed in the Homilies d'Organyà, a work written in the Old Catalan language.

But none of this is to say that an examination of the parchment will be immediately forthcoming. Cooperation from the current proprietors of the manuscript – Yale University – is somewhat doubtful given that it took years of pressure just to convince them to allow radiocarbon testing of the manuscript.

But we can remain hopeful: with an intriguing story behind the First Book of the Americas, a film producer could decide to apply pressure on Yale, along with financing for the dermatology expert!

Or perhaps UNESCO can be convinced to declare the Voynich manuscript a World Heritage Document, which is what it deserves to be.





Share: Copy and paste the URL



http://mortenstgeorge.net/the-voynich-manuscript-q-and-a.html