Deciphering the Voynich Manuscript

68rMy 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 voynich_dreams_vi_by_dantesangreal-d5c19ffwas 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. 68r_gallica_1b

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.

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11 thoughts on “Deciphering the Voynich Manuscript

  1. ... says:

    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:
    http://stephenbax.net/?p=803

  2. 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

  3. I should have added that the device seems to have been made in Mosul.

  4. 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).
    Cheers.

  5. 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.
    Nicholas.

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