THE VOYNICH MANUSCRIPT: A MADE-IN-THE-AMERICAS THEORY


The Voynich manuscript, carbon-dated from 1404 to 1438 CE but itself possibly a copy of earlier writings, is largely known for use of an encryption system that no one has been able to decode. 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 of them 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 a reunion of people of the artisan class. No clerics or royalty can be distinguished. The roughly 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 pointer to Catharism that we just saw, it seems reasonable to suspect that this fortress (folio 86v3) 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 portrayed in the manuscript.

Medieval depiction of the bonfire at Montségur

This illustration of the bonfire at Montségur comes from an independent medieval manuscript. A handful of victims are used to symbolize the more than two hundred Cathars who were burned alive. At 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 window. We can also view the Voynich castle in a larger context:

Voynich manuscript drawing of Montségur with surrounding fields

Note that a door of the castle opens up into a field in which we count slightly more than two hundred stars and glyphs in total, that is, roughly the number of Cathars who were burned in the field below Montségur. At the bottom of this drawing we may be seeing a depiction of the flames of the bonfire.

The Cathars considered themselves as Christians and we find evidence of this on folio 79v.

Voynich Manuscript drawing of a Cathar holding a Christian cross

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

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

Voynich Manuscript drawing of a Perfecta performing the sacrament of Consolamentum

It was reported that, just a couple of days prior to the surrender of Montségur to the crusaders, a few Cathars made a daring escape down the steep slopes, taking with them a "great treasure." Since the Cathars placed no value on material things like gold and jewels, many believe that their great treasure was a sacred text.

Per the writer Graham Hancock, Rainier Sacconi, a perfectus who abandoned Catharism and joined the Inquisition, claimed that the Cathars had a sacred text that was written in heaven and brought down to Earth by Christ. Hancock also notes that the Cathars treasured a book called the Visions of Isaiah, which sounds like prophecy.

In the literature of the Cabalists, who lived in friendship with the Cathars in southern France, we again find references to a "heavenly book" (written in heaven by the archangel Metatron?), possibly the book they called the Revelations of Elijah (brought down to earth by Elijah?), which also sounds like prophecy. The Visions of Isaiah and the Revelations of Elijah could be the same book, with each sect viewing it according to their traditions. The Voynich Manuscript, however, is quite mundane and shows no signs of having been written in heaven, such as the emission of light from the spiritual world. But it could certainly contain a transcription of the text of an alleged heavenly book.

Neither crusader pursuit nor Inquisition interrogations led to the capture of the escapees or recovery of the treasure. Where did these Cathars 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.

Let's now compare the Voynich drawing with a photograph of a plant called Nymphoides aquatica:

Wikimedia: Photo of an American swamp plant

There's a direct match on stem, leaf shape, and white flower. This is not a European plant. It's a New World plant, growing in the ponds and swamps of the southeastern portion of the current-day United States.

Are you able to identify other Voynich plants as New World plants?

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 have no wish to speculate in this area. I am, however, confident that the water lily seen in photograph represents what is depicted in the manuscript.

Botanists have claimed that the Voynich manuscript (folio 93r) depicts the common sunflower, Helianthus Annuus L. Sunflowers are native to the Americas and were unknown in Europe until Columbus brought them back.

Voynich Manuscript drawing of a sunflower

Beyond the brown core and the shape of the leaves, there is also a match on the mop-like roots. Chances are good that the Voynich author saw a real sunflower.

Let me cite a few lines that I found on the Purdue University website:

"This Chapter is based on three published works: (1) a paper by Hugh O Neall (1944) that identifies two New World plants (sunflower and chili peppers) in the Voynich manuscript; (2) a paper of Tucker and Talbert (2013) which identified 39 plants in the Voynich as indigenous to the New World; (3) a paper by Tucker and Janick (2016) which extended the list to 59 species."

Many of those plants are tropical or subtropical, so let's now have a look at some of the warm-water scenes.

Voynich Manuscript drawing of Cathar women wading in a rainforest pond

The Voynich gives us many drawings portraying life and survival in the swamps. The girls on folio 75r are seen walking through water infested with plant life and that's why it's colored green. Although the water is only a couple of feet deep, the girls cannot see through it. Note the girl 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 girls lined up to wash off the dirt with rainwater, which they colored blue.

Voynich Manuscript drawing of Cathar women imagining themselves to be mermaids

The Voynich manuscript also portrays the dangers of life in the swamps. On folio 79v we see a hybrid of a spotted jaguar with alligator head, representing two of the most dangerous predators of the swamps. The girls portray 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.

Voynich Manuscript drawing of fish

These fish from folio 70r, with elongated snout and scaly skin behind the head, look more like the American alligator gar than anything commonly seen in Europe.

Wikimedia: Photo of Alligator Gar

The alligator gar is not the only New World animal to wear protective armor. On folio 80v, we find another one:

Voynich MS drawing of an armadillo

It's an armadillo. According to Wikipedia, when threatened by a predator, armadillos would run into a thorny patch (are those protrusions underneath supposed to be thorns?) using its armor for protection, which could explain why its head is tucked safely down and under (mouth to the left, ears to the right) as it runs into the thorny patch.

Compare the Voynich drawing with this public domain depiction of an armadillo:

Public domain drawing of an armadillo

It might be a different species of armadillo (there were quite a few species including some without bands) but it is close enough to leave little doubt that this is the same animal.

The armadillos lived in South and Central America, and in North America from Texas to Florida. In other words, it lived in or near the swamps and joins the alligators, the spotted jaguar, the alligator gar, and the water lily as pointing to the green-water swamps on the north side of the Gulf of Mexico, depicted here:

Wikimedia: Photo of an American swamp

Evidence in support of Made-in-the-Americas continues on the Q&A page.