THE VOYNICH MANUSCRIPT: FIRST BOOK OF THE AMERICAS
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By Morten St. George
The Voynich manuscript is not a mystery of the type that we would normally attempt to solve but it turns out that one of our Rosicrucians, the magician John Dee, was accused of fabricating this book in order to sell it to the Holy Roman Emperor in Prague. As it turns out, recent dating of the manuscript by radiocarbon (to around A.D. 1420, some 150 years before the time of Dee) frees Dee from the accusation of fraud but, as we shall see, he may very well have had the manuscript in his possession at one point.
The Voynich manuscript, now proven to be nearly 600 years old, is known for drawings of many plants that no one can identify and for drawings of naked women, lots of naked women. This manuscript uses an alphabet that no one has ever seen before, is written in an unknown language and employs a code that no one can decipher (and some of the best cryptographers of the 20th century have tried). It is clearly one of the great riddles of the Middle Ages.
Drawings of nude women, however, were not unique to the Voynich in medieval art. We see them here in this painting of Cathars being expelled from the French city of Carcassonne in the year 1209. This occurred toward the beginning of what is known as the Albigensian Crusade to stamp out Catharism. The Cathars were a Christian sect that had disagreements with the dominant Catholic Church of Rome, hence Pope Innocent III created the Crusade to rectify the situation. Curiously, the hair style seen on the Cathars in this medieval painting resembles the hair style worn by some of the women depicted in the Voynich manuscript.
This is a modern photograph of the fortress of Carcassonne. It's the same place that existed in the 13th century. One of those towers is known as "The Tower of Torture." Today, there's a museum there, the Museum of Torture, where you can see the original equipment used by the Catholics to torture the Cathars prior to burning them at the stake. Yes, the Cathars expelled from Carcassonne at the beginning of the Crusade were perhaps the lucky ones. Later, the Cathars were subjected to one outright massacre after another. In the nearby town of Béziers, the Crusade commander was proud to send a victorious report to the Pope, here cited from Wikipedia: "Today your Holiness, twenty thousand heretics were put to the sword, regardless of rank, age, or sex." Perhaps not surprisingly, the Cathars referred to the Catholic Church as the "Church of Satan."
In 1244, the last stronghold of the Cathari, a fortress at Montségur in southwestern France, fell to the Crusaders. The fortress was defended by 100 soldiers and held between 205 and 220 Perfecti (the lay clergy of the Cathari) who refused to fight because they believed it was wrong to kill. The 100 held out against a Crusader army of up to 10,000 strong for nine months before succumbing. The fortress was then dismantled stone by stone (current ruins on the site are of a later date) and the Perfecti were burned alive in a giant bonfire.
Though more than two hundred Perfecti were burned in that fire, for artistic feasibility only a few are depicted in this illustration from a medieval manuscript. Note the sword-carrying Crusaders on the left. In the upper right, note the winding path going up to the fortress. Also take note of the coned tower of Montségur and its balcony for defenders. As depicted in the illustration, the burning did in fact occur in a field at the bottom of the mountain.
This drawing comes from the Voynich manuscript. Note the vertical slopes on the left and the right indicating that this fortress stands on top of a steep mountain. Note the coned tower and the zig-zag line indicating a balcony for defenders. Note the windows (the other drawing shows only the top-level window but view of it is cut off by the mountain). Note the protrusions to the right and left of the tower: the two drawings are likely viewing the fortress from opposite sides of the mountain. Overall, chances are excellent that the Voynich manuscript depicts the fortress of Montségur, from where we can surmise that the manuscript was written by Cathars.
Catharism was a heresy that rejected the sacraments and rituals of Catholicism. They had only one sacrament, called consolamentum, which was a simple ceremony, like a baptism without water, but performed on adults rather than infants. In sharp contrast to the subservient role of women in Catholicism, women played a major role in Catharism, and Wikipedia notes that women were "Perfecti, who were able to administer the sacrament of the consolamentum." The website cathar.info explains in detail how this sacrament was administered, stating "Then followed the act of consoling. The Perfect took the Gospel and placed it on the postulant's head. Other Perfects present placed their right hands on the postulant's head." That is exactly what we see in this Voynich drawing: a Perfecta placing her right hand on the head of the recipient of this sacrament.
CATHARS: THE GREAT ANOMALY
The Albigensian Crusade against the Cathars was very successful. The number of people killed by the Crusaders has been estimated to be as high as one million and then an Inquisition was established to finish off any survivors. By the year 1330, Catharism had been totally eradicated across Europe.
The Voynich manuscript, however, has been dated by radiocarbon analysis to between 1404 and 1438. Consequently, it would seem impossible for the Cathars to have written the Voynich because at that time the Cathars no longer existed, at least not anywhere in Europe.
CATHARS: THE GREAT ESCAPE
It seems that not all of the Perfecti of Montségur died in 1244. Wikipedia reports that "In the days prior to the fall of the fortress, several Cathars allegedly slipped through the besiegers' lines carrying away a mysterious 'treasure' with them. While the nature and fate of this treasure has never been identified, there has been much speculation as to what it might have consisted of -- from the treasury of the Cathar Church to esoteric books or even the actual Holy Grail."
Where did the Cathars go with their treasure?
The plant drawings in the Voynich manuscript provide the answer. The Voynich has drawings of more than one hundred exotic plants, highly detailed drawings from flower to root, and representing plants that no one in Europe had ever seen before. Realistically, there is only one place on Earth that can produce such an extraordinary diversity of plant life, and that's the tropical rainforests of South America, which we shall call Amazonia. The Cathars went to Amazonia.
At first sight, one might suspect that perhaps the quacks were right, maybe these really are plants from another planet. Almost nothing about this "thing" looks Earth-like.
However, it did not take long to track down this "extraterrestrial."
Lo and behold, we find those green plants in a photograph taken in Amazonia. The stem -- which rests along the riverbed but is stretched out in the Voynich -- cannot be seen behind the front plant but we see it clearly on the back one. A better resolution of this photograph can be pulled up here. One apparent discrepancy would be the white flower we see arising out of a green base to the upper right in the Voynich drawing.
But take a closer look at the front plant in the photograph. In the upper right, same place as the Voynich flower, you will notice a tiny green bud attached to main plant via filaments. Rest assured: chances are high that this tiny green bud will blossom into the white flower we see depicted in the Voynich.
Wikipedia makes a surprising statement: "None of the plants depicted are unambiguously identifiable." Has anyone ever bothered to look at online databases of rainforest plants? The floral eccentricities and fluvial root systems of many of the depicted plants are clearly tropical in nature. These plants grow, or grew, in greater Amazonia.
The main reason there was no major migration from Europe to the Americas during the Middle Ages was because of religious inhibitions, not because medieval ships were incapable of making the journey. (During the same epoch the Polynesians, with the most primitive of boats, managed to populate islands across vast stretches of the Pacific.) But the Cathars had no such inhibitions. Their choices were a) stay in Europe and be burned alive, or b) take their chances on the open seas. Not surprisingly, they chose the latter.
The Voynich has many drawings of naked women bathing in water that is "inexplicably" colored green. But it is not unusual to find green ponds in tropical areas where swamp grass grows horizontally in the water. Look at the girls in this drawing: although the water is only a couple of feet deep, the girls cannot see through it. Note the girl holding a stick; because her arm is stretched out, 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. No doubt about it, these girls are wading in a rainforest pond.
The Cathars, however, did not drink the pond water (it was doubtless unhealthy to do so) or wash themselves with it. For that purpose, as Voynich drawings reveal, they built an elaborate network of conduits, funnels, and containers up in the trees to collect rainwater, which they then used for drinking and washing. In the Voynich, drinkable rainwater, in contrast to the green water of the rainforest ponds, is depicted in blue color. Here is one of several drawings where we see the girls washing themselves with the rainwater. Ponds of green water, or blue rainwater flowing down the trees, are depicted on nearly every page of the rainforest section of the Voynich. As good Christians (note the cross in the upper right-hand corner), they thank the Lord for the rain; the Cathars are said to have rejected the Old Testament but fully accepted the New Testament.
Here is the bottom half of the drawing running down the left side of the Voynich page. As you can see, the Cathars not only lived in the trees, they lived high up in the trees. Note the spotted jaguar with crocodilian head representing the two most dangerous predators of the rainforest. Further over to the right (not shown), another predator has entered the green water and a bloodied prey lies dead, floating on the surface of the water, while on the edge of the pond a screeching lamb symbolizes their fear. Snakes (depicted elsewhere in the manuscript) may have also frightened them. Of course, by living high up in trees, especially trees rising up from the inundated floor of the rainforest, they protect themselves from some of the predators. And we cannot fail to notice that these girls think of themselves as "mermaids," almost certainly because they spend half their time wading in the water at the base of the trees and half their time up in the trees; thus, half fish, half human.
The slime of the rainforest ponds sticks to the skin, and here we see the girls lined up to wash it off with clean water from a barrel. As always, rainwater (collected on downflow from the trees on the left side of the drawing) is depicted in blue color, to distinguish it from the green water of the rainforest. Also note more examples of the classic Perfecti hairdo in this drawing.
In the Voynich, the Cathari women of the rainforest are always depicted completely naked with only one exception. When we see them at night, peacefully asleep in their tree hut, under the stars, they are no longer naked. All of sudden, we see them all wrapped up in a blanket. That makes sense. People tend to think of rainforests as a place that is steamy hot around the clock. Not true. Temperatures in the rainforest can drop sharply at night, at times reaching 10 degrees C (50 degrees F) and can feel even colder due to the rainfall. Consequently, the nocturnal blankets are no surprise.
The plant photograph shown above was taken in the Morichal rainforest of Venezuela (northwest Amazonia), a place where we see water at the base of tall trees, similar to what we see depicted in the Voynich. Hence, the medieval Cathars, instead of proceeding up the Amazon River from its basin in Brazil, may have landed on the northern coast of Venezuela, from where they headed inland to the rainforest. Other plants depicted in the Voynich are likely to be freshwater plants from the same region.
The animal that you see depicted at the bottom of this Voynich page is an Amazonian tapir. Do not allow the world's scholars to con you into believing that this animal lived in Europe. It did not.