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 one window, but view of the lower part of the tower is apparently blocked by the mountain. Compare this with the Voynich drawing displaying a coned tower with balcony and windows below the balcony. 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 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.

According to Rainier Sacconi, a perfectus who abandoned Catharism and joined the Inquisition, the Cathars had a sacred text that was written in heaven and brought down to Earth by Christ. In the literature of the Cabalists, who lived in friendship with the Cathars in southern France, we find references to a "heavenly book" which could be the same text mentioned by Sacconi. There is also reason to believe that the text section at the end of the Voynich manuscript includes a transcription of this sacred text.

Neither crusader pursuit nor Inquisition interrogations led to the capture of the escapees or recovery of their 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.

Ivan Mikolji photograph

This here is a photograph taken underwater in the Morichal district of Venezuela. It's a plant 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, largely without branches or roots, similar to the stem depicted in the manuscript.

The only major distinction is that the Voynich manuscript depicts a white flower 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 (the same position) of the forward plant. Notice that there's a little green bud that offers every potential of blossoming into a flower.

Very recently, however, a handful of scholars informed me that this green, jelly-like blob could be a protozoa animal (and not a plant at all!) which would leave the bud in that photo as quite a mystery. Here's a photo of the Voynich plant, called Nymphoides aquatica:

Wikimedia: Photo of an American swamp plant

Let's now have a look at some of the swamp 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 vials for mixing herbs

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

Voynich Manuscript drawing of a South American tapir

This bizarre cutout at the end of the section on herbal medicine (folio 102v2) is in the form of a South American tapir (also known as the Brazilian tapir), a large mammal never seen in Europe during medieval times.

Wikimedia Commons provides us with a photograph:

Wikimedia Commons photograph of a South American tapir

The skin of this animal 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 as well as for storing them. The optical illusion of a tapir in the manuscript might not be accidental if there really was a drawing of a tapir there and someone cut it out, leaving only the shape of a tapir. There are no cutouts of this magnitude elsewhere in the manuscript.

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, or perhaps the Arapaima fish of the Amazon basin, than anything commonly seen in Europe.

Wikimedia: Photo of Alligator Gar

There are places in this world that are infested with alligator fish (and real alligators too), that had spotted jaguars during medieval times, that have tall trees and solid-green water like what we see in the Voynich manuscript, and that had a steamy-hot (even warmer than today) climate for much of the year allowing the luxury of full nudity.

Wikimedia: Photo of an American swamp

This is a New World photograph. Evidence in support of Made-in-the-Americas continues on the Q&A page.