My original intent was to write a lengthy article on the astronomical / astrological findings used in the ongoing project of decoding the 600 year old Voynich manuscript by Professor Baxter at the University of Bedfordshire.
That now seems somewhat redundant since Professor Baxter gives us two lectures of a little less than two hours and has posted the full 500 page article of his findings on his homepage. I’m therefore opting for an introduction and an opportunity to congratulate Baxter for his achievement. I would also encourage traditional astrologers and students of cultural astronomy to take an active interest in this project
Baxter is a linguist who has gone a long way towards cracking the code of this artifact which has remained largely unintelligible until recently . There has been extensive inter-disciplinary sharing of information on this project
In keeping with the focus of this site, the astrological elements that helped to decipher this manuscript are paramount. Baxter tell us that ““The manuscript has a lot of illustrations of stars and plants. I was able to identify some of these, with their names, by looking at mediaeval herbal manuscripts in Arabic and other languages, and I then made a start on a decoding, with some exciting results.”
He recognized Taurus, close to a picture of what could very well be the Pleiades, Pictures of known herbs were also useful. Baxter refers to seven ladies in water, but I’m inclined to think they represent the Pleiades themselves. However, this can be little more than an educated guess without seeing the context of the image to other images and text.
In the second video, Baxter discusses the Lunar Mansions, among other things as a calendar and seasonal indicator, This is in turn reveals the four elements and the humours.
He questions why Taurus would be where it is on the circle without mentioning the chart is an Octotopos, as is the image @ 11:08 in the first video. The Octotopos was a Hellenistic form using only eight houses. It is said that four mundane elements were divided by the four celestial points.
This would be supported by the fact that four of the houses are filled with stars. The other places four show lines connected to stars, each of the four houses contains a different number, from one to four as far as I can determine.
I make no claims to being an expert on that system. In the Octotopos, however, Taurus appears to be rising, depending on how it is viewed. Baxter ultimately refers back to the Lunar Mansions which divide the circle into 28 sections and puts weight on the position of Taurus indicated by the Mansion.
Again, we have more cultural context and linguistic information as the work of deciphering this fascinating artifact unfolds Please refer to the previous article regarding Al Biruni and the Lunar Mansions for a deeper understanding. There are also pages on this site which discuss the Mansions directly.
Hello Peter, your comment is very interesting! I never heard of octotopos before, could you please suggest where I could find more information on the subject?
Also, I had not noticed the 1,2,3,4 sequence you mention. Another excellent point!
I think that professor Bax would be interested if you posted your notes on his site:
Patrice Guinard’s article might be a good place to start regarding the Octotopos It’s at http://cura.free.fr/11domi2e.html I thought I had passed this all on to Professor Bax. I will contact him soon.
This looks very like a geomantic-astronomical notation which was used in Tunisia in the thirteenth century. I expect the Byzantines learned it from the North Africans, because the geomantic system appears to have originated there. Its use as an astronomical notation is curious. Anyway, Emilie Savage-Smith wrote an important monograph on a thirteenth century divinatory device where the two are found together. So the system really isn’t “Greek” so far as we know.
Thak you and I must look into that. It is still possible that the origin (or a stage of it) was Greek. Islamic scholars referred to the Greeks a great deal, The Octopos also has humoural and therefore medical value. Thank you for your thoughtful comments
I should have added that the device seems to have been made in Mosul.
One does have to be a little careful with Muslim Islamic sources, since many follow the example of the Prophet in speaking of all Christians as ‘Greeks’. I am glad you responded to my comment; in the meantime I’ve recalled a comment made by Anna Comnena about a visitor to the court. In the end she had him expelled, apparently thinking his practices contrary to Christianity, but she refers to him as “the Egyptian” and as an astrologer, and remarks on the fact that he did his calculations, sometimes “without even an astrolabe” but by a certain facility with numbers, which he calculated by strewing pebbles on the ground. It would be easy to suppose that this was geomancy – plenty of references to the sand-table at that time. But there is also evidence that pebble-‘throwing’ was a well-developed method of calculation, and the Islamic world appears to have learned *that* from southern India, when the calendars and so forth had to be re-written to suit the new, Islamic, era which no longer permitted the intercalations which made the older agricultural calendars workable.
Oh – I should add that Savage-Smith later revisits the question of that device, so you might consider both her papers (or book and paper).
I always strive to be cautious and make it clear when I really don’t know. Islamic scholars either name their sources / influences or we are able to identify the origin. Muslims, including the Prophet refer to any non Muslims as Pagans or non-believers, particularly in those Suras written after the Meccan period. The Qur’an is full of Greek science and medicine, some of it erroneous, but the sources are never given in that case. The astrologer usually referred to as the Egyptian is Rhetorius. However, I’m not sure which court you’re referring to and therefore have no time frame to consider. Clelia Romano wrote an article on a form of Arabian Divination that might be of interest to you @ https://internationsocietyofclassicalastrologers.wordpress.com/2013/07/08/arabic-astrology-and-the-art-of-divination/
Thanks, I’ll look up Romano’s paper.
To a question about the key to the Voynich manuscript.
Today, I have to add on this matter following.
The Voynich manuscript is not written with letters and characters denoting letters of the alphabet one of the ancient languages. Moreover, in the text there are 2 levels of encryption. I picked up the key, which in the first section I could read the following words: hemp, wearing hemp; food, food (sheet 20 at the numbering on the Internet); to clean (gut), knowledge, perhaps the desire, to drink, sweet beverage (nectar), maturation (maturity), to consider, to believe (sheet 107); to drink; six; flourishing; increasing; intense; peas; sweet drink, nectar, etc. Is just the short words, 2-3 sign. To translate words with more than 2-3 characters requires knowledge of this ancient language. The fact that some signs correspond to two letters. Thus, for example, a word consisting of three characters can fit up to six letters of which three. In the end, you need six characters to define the semantic word of three letters. Of course, without knowledge of this language make it very difficult even with a dictionary.
If you are interested, I am ready to send more detailed information, including scans of pages showing the translated words.
Hello Николай Аничкин, this is fascinating. Yes, please send more detailed information. Scans showing the translated words would be very much welcome. PJC
I apologize. Just now saw Your comment. Where to send material? I’m on Facebook. Inform Your mail. With respect, Nikolai.
There is a key to cipher the Voynich manuscript.
The key to the cipher manuscript placed in the manuscript. It is placed throughout the text. Part of the key hints is placed on the sheet 14. With her help was able to translate a few dozen words that are completely relevant to the theme sections.
The Voynich manuscript is not written with letters. It is written in signs. Characters replace the letters of the alphabet one of the ancient language. Moreover, in the text there are 2 levels of encryption. I figured out the key by which the first section could read the following words: hemp, wearing hemp; food, food (sheet 20 at the numbering on the Internet); to clean (gut), knowledge, perhaps the desire, to drink, sweet beverage (nectar), maturation (maturity), to consider, to believe (sheet 107); to drink; six; flourishing; increasing; intense; peas; sweet drink, nectar, etc. Is just the short words, 2-3 sign. To translate words with more than 2-3 characters requires knowledge of this ancient language. The fact that some symbols represent two letters. In the end, the word consisting of three characters can fit up to six letters. Three letters are superfluous. In the end, you need six characters to define the semantic word of three letters. Of course, without knowledge of this language make it very difficult even with a dictionary.
And most important. In the manuscript there is information about “the Holy Grail”.
Few approaches to interpreting the Voynich manuscript use the methods of modern scholarship. I should have to describe the methodology of most as more appropriate to the efforts of sixth-formers to invent some novel theory for a period in history with which they have only superficial acquaintence.
There are one or two exceptions – scholars for whom the object rather than some theory about it remain the focus of study.
Among those very few are Emma May Smith whose blog (‘Agnostic Voynich’) is publicly available and who has proven immune to efforts (habitual among the ambitious) to deter readers by asserting a blog’s author to be morally or academically questionable.
There are other scholars of similar integrity but one finds their work so determinedly ignored (save where plagiarised and mis-attributed) that the public conversation has scarcely moved from notions floated half a century ago.
That all and any depictions of zodiac constellations must relate to ‘astrology’ and specifically the pictures in the Voynich calendar’s centres was already current by the early decades of the 20thC Yet if anyone had been in a position to place them in the context of medieval EUrope’s astrological works it was Lynn Thorndike, and he simply dismissed any suggestion of that sort. He thought it a worthless manuscript – and said so in print.
Luckily, people were not so censored in their opinions about the manuscript, or about other opinions of the manuscript, as they are today when a sort of ‘old European boys’ network decides who may, and may not be offended with ipugnity. Lucky Thorndike. :)
Let me clarify to prevent mis-reading of the following:
Among those very few are Emma May Smith whose blog (‘Agnostic Voynich’) is publicly available and who has happily proven – and rightly so – immune to the sort of efforts habitual among the ambitious, by which we see independence met by false assertions about a scholar’s character and/or qualifications. I salute her, knowing full well the depths to which the more ambitious and more ignorant have gone in the past.