Monday, July 30, 2018

The Voynich Manuscript (Part 3c) - The (Un)usual Suspects

A second illumination of Barbara von Celje via one
of the numerous copies of Bellifortispossibly portrayed here
as a younger woman in contrast to the image shown previously
(inset left below). Note the color of her hair.
(Also: I took the liberty of altering the length of the flag-pole for design-purposes.)
(Click on images to enlarge.)

"'His consort Barbara was a German Messalina, a woman of insatiable appetite for lust; at the same time so heinous that she did not believe in God and neither angel nor devil, neither heaven nor hell. How she scolded her maidservants when they fasted and prayed, that they were agonizing their bodies and worshipped a fictional god: she on the other hand admonishes, in the spirit of  Sardanapalus, that they should make use of all the pleasures of this life, because after this one, there is no other to hope for. This denier of God, searching for her heaven upon this foul earth and her paradise in groveling lust, even though she was already 60 years old…'

The notion about Barbara was taken from her contemporary, Aenea Silvio Piccolomini (1405-1464), the later Pope Pius II, chancellor of Frederick III of Habsburg (1415-1493), who later became the Holy Roman Emperor. Since the Habsburgs were always the enemies of the Cillis, a family that had been under their Lehensherrschaft and since then tried to climb the ladder of nobility, it is clear why Piccolomini tried with such hateful words to denigrate Barbara’s character. Only after her death did Piccolomini change his attitude, or neutralized it if anything. When describing her looks, Piccolomini talks about a woman of pale, almost snow white skin and of a beautiful physical constitution. Furthermore, Barbara knew several languages, had an unusually profound education, and displayed an interest for politics and diplomacy. Misogyny is therefore another explanation why such a versatile woman had a so bad reputation from the Middle Ages, which was carried on by history up until the recent years."

- Another excerpt from Sara Katanec's 2014 online dissertation: The Perquisite of a Medieval Wedding: Barbara of Cilli’s Acquisition of Wealth, Power, and Lands. Inset left is a reposted illumination of Barbara von Celje from BellifortisInset right is a modern interpretation of Barbara von Celje by Rudi ҆panzel, 1999.

"In Europe, following the 12th-century Renaissance produced by the translation of Islamic works on science and the Recovery of Aristotle, alchemists played a significant role in early modern science (particularly chemistry and medicine). Islamic and European alchemists developed a structure of basic laboratory techniques, theory, terminology, and experimental method, some of which are still in use today. However, they continued antiquity's belief in four elements and guarded their work in secrecy including cyphers and cryptic symbolism. Their work was guided by Hermetic principles related to magic, mythology, and religion."

- From the Wiki entry for Alchemy.

"The first confirmed owner was Georg Baresch (1585 -1662), an obscure alchemist from Prague. Baresch was apparently just as puzzled as modern scientists about this "Sphynx" that had been "taking up space uselessly in his library" for many years...

Upon Baresch's death, the manuscript passed to his friend Jan Marek Marci (1595–1667; also known as Johannes Marcus Marci), then rector of Charles University in Prague.

A letter written on August 19, 1665 or 1666 was found inside the cover and accompanied the manuscript when Johannes Marcus sent it to Kircher. It claims that the book once belonged to Emperor Rudolf II (1552–1612), who paid 600 gold ducats (about 2.07 kg of gold) for it. The letter was written in Latin and has been translated to English. The book was then given or lent to Jacobus Horcicky de Tepenecz (died 1622), the head of Rudolf's botanical gardens in Prague, probably as part of the debt that Rudolf II owed upon his death."

- Excerpt from the Wiki entry for Voynich Manuscript. Inset left is a portrait of Emperor Rudolph II.


From a contemporary monument to Barbara
von Celje and Sigismund in Hungary.
Via this Wiki page, she is considered "one of the ancestresses of modern European royal families, her blood flowing in the veins of all European dynasties." *

Can't touch that! But, why might Barbara von Celje be a contender for a role in the Voynich saga?

Well, first, let's cover some old ground. By way of review, Barbara lived in the early half of the 15th century (1392 -1451), the scientifically-determined Voynich time-frame. So, unless the carbon-dating of the MS was flawed, or the ink applied to the vellum much later, we have a match.

She was born a noblewoman; both well-educated and wealthy enough to afford the necessary materials, accoutrements (and leisure time) for creating a manuscript. Apparently, according to the experts, the quality of the materials used was less than the very best, but, depending upon the maturity and/or the intentions of the maker, quality might not have been necessary.

Then, there are all those stars in the Voynich illuminations - predominately in the various charts - as if stars were some type of obsession for the Voynich maker. As it was, stars were elements on the Celje coat of arms and the single star on a blue banner appeared as Barbara's personal symbol in the Bellifortis illuminations. Stars are also an alchemical symbol with several different meanings, and as we established in Part 3b, Barbara von Celje was an alchemist. Very likely she was also aware of other esoteric and occult disciplines which bloomed during the Renaissance, up to and including the tarot.

Speaking of which, one can't help but notice a resemblance between the Voynich star-nymphs and various versions of The Star card, the 17th card in the major arcana of the tarot (see Part 3a - The Star).

That Barbara may have seen a version of this card would not have been impossible. While the earliest decks (inset right) were first recorded mid-century, hand-painted and affordable by few, a royal personage - like Barbara - may have had an earlier access to them, possibly having the opportunity to view the initial drawings in the tarot's development or, at the very least, having familiarity with the Mantegna Tarocchi series. Obviously, she could also afford to purchase a deck, and, even if she hadn't, she doubtlessly knew someone who possessed one.


Then, as we saw in Part 3b - The Empress, a caricature of an empress is found on the VMS zodiac page for Libra wearing an imperial crown (above). Barbara's daughter, Elizabeth (7 October 1409 -19 December 1442), whom she assumed would become empress, was born under the zodiacal sign of Libra. Barbara herself (inset left) was a Holy Roman Empress for a period of four years. Unfortunately, we do not know the date of her birth.

Once again, Barbara was a practicing alchemist, and, although it is said she "turned" to alchemy after the death of her husband, Emperor Sigismund, it's more than likely she was introduced to the subject earlier in her life. In any case, she knew the alchemists of her day and was (allegedly) a patron of the author of Aurora consurgens. And, there's a very good chance that she was, because the author may have paid tribute to she (and her daughter, Elizabeth) in this illumination from Aurora consurgens (below the jump)...

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Follow the water... to MARS!

Photo of the Martian surface via NASA/JPL.

"Radar evidence of subglacial liquid water on Mars

The presence of liquid water at the base of the martian polar caps has long been suspected but not observed. We surveyed the Planum Australe region using the MARSIS (Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionosphere Sounding) instrument, a low-frequency radar on the Mars Express spacecraft. Radar profiles collected between May 2012 and December 2015 contain evidence of liquid water trapped below the ice of the South Polar Layered Deposits. Anomalously bright subsurface reflections are evident within a well-defined, 20-kilometer-wide zone centered at 193°E, 81°S, which is surrounded by much less reflective areas. Quantitative analysis of the radar signals shows that this bright feature has high relative dielectric permittivity (>15), matching that of water-bearing materials. We interpret this feature as a stable body of liquid water on Mars."

- From a paper published in the journal, Science, today by a team of Italian scientists from the National Institute of Astrophysics in Bologna (website).

"Our mantra back then was 'follow the water.' That was the one phrase that captured everything," Hubbard said. "So this discovery, if it stands, is just thrilling because it's the culmination of that philosophy."
...To find the water, Italian researchers analyzed radar signals collected over three years by the European Space Agency's Mars Express spacecraft. Their results suggest that a 12-mile-wide (20 kilometers) reservoir lies below ice about a mile (1.5 kilometers) thick in an area close to the planet's south pole.
They spent at least two years examining the data to make sure they'd detected water, not ice or another substance.
'I really have no other explanation,' said astrophysicist Roberto Orosei of Italy's National Institute of Astrophysics in Bologna and lead author of the study."

- Excerpt from the AP article: Water Is Buried Beneath Martian Landscape, Study Says.


Scientific evidence for a lake beneath a polar ice cap on Mars? Is it just another tease?

Well, no... I don't think so.  But, as per usual, "some scientists are skeptical."  


Ah well, you can't please everybody... but, the Martians among us say: Hooray! It's about time!

More news articles:


And, just for the record, an excerpt from a 2010 post about a dream...

"In my dream, Mac and I were technicians in what seemed to be an underground bio-lab. As neither of us, in reality, are or were "biologists", this might seems strange, but in the dream it seemed perfectly normal.

That this bio-lab happened to be on Mars was, in the dream, also elementary.

What piqued my interest in the dream was that this underground bio-lab on Mars also was situated in an underground body of water. One literally had to swim under the surface - in a peculiar way; a sort of inverse sensation to that in a levitation dream, if you've ever experienced one - to gain entrance. On the other hand, there seemed to exist a terrestrial entrance to the lab as well but it was off-limits as it seems there was some threat posed by either antagonistic humans or, possibly, an indigenous population. The lab itself, however, seemed to be an international endeavor with a variety of races and nationalities involved."

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

The Voynich Manuscript (Part 3b) - The Empress & the Alchemist

Three classic versions of The Empress tarot card, the third trump of the Major Arcana.
From left to right: 1. The Empress from the Visconti Bergamo deck, 1452.
2. L'imp√©ratrice from the Tarot de Marseilles, 1890 reproduction of Arnoult's 1748 edition. 3. The Empress from the Rider-Waite deck, 1910.

"Then again, via the Wiki entry for salamander folklore we learn that the Bretons of France so feared the salamander that to even utter the amphibian's name aloud was potentially lethal; especially if a local salamander was in ear-shot!  Oddly enough, however, the French King, Francis I (1494-1547), had as his symbol the salamander, and emblems carved with salamanders (inset, right) can be found in a number of places in his chateau at Fontainbleu... That a king might choose a salamander for an emblem is a curious thing, especially when his countrymen so loathed the creatures. Well, that is, unless King Francis had some knowledge of alchemy. For, it was around the time of Francis's reign that a Swiss-German alchemist by the name of Paracelsus ordained the salamander as the honorary elemental of fire, although it wouldn't be till the next century that Michael Maier regarded it as the metaphorical embodiment of the Philosopher's Stone."

- Quoting myself from the Trans-D Digital Art postEye of Newt.

"This is a zodiac illustration from a medical almanac, 1486. Ideas of astrology in medieval Europe were a long way from today's star sign horoscopes. Although some medieval astrologers were thought to be magicians, many were highly respected scholars. Astrologers believed that the movements of the stars influenced numerous things on Earth, from the weather and the growth of crops to the personalities of new born babies and the inner workings of the human body. Ancient studies of astrology were translated from Arabic to Latin in the 12th and 13th centuries and soon became a part of everyday medical practice in Europe. Doctors combined Galenic medicine (inherited from the Greek physiologist Galen - AD 129-216) with careful studies of the stars. By the end of the 1500s, physicians across Europe were required by law to calculate the position of the moon before carrying out complicated medical procedures, such as surgery or bleeding."

- Text and illumination (inset right) from this British Library page. The illumination is an example of the "zodiac man," illustrating the body parts the various zodiac signs ruled. Note the eight-legged, amphibious-looking Scorpion near the genital area.

"The first horoscopes written for Jadwiga's and Jogaila's child predicted a son in mid-September 1398. However, a girl was delivered on 22 June 1399 at Wawel Castle. Reports of the time stated that the child was born prematurely. According to the horoscope, however, she was actually born a bit late. More than a bit surely - a due date of 18 June would rule out the suspicion of pregnancy as early as mid-September."

- From the Wiki entry for Queen Jadwiga of Poland. I've used this quote to demonstrate how seriously astrology was considered throughout Europe at the time... especially for the royal houses who could well afford to keep court astrologers. Inset left is an example of medieval astrological chart.


Seriously, cats and kitties, when I first began this investigation, I neither intended to - nor expected to - come to any major conclusions regarding the mysterious maker(s) of the Voynich MS. Which is not to say that I've actually solved anything in the interim, but, as it turns out, I did ferret out another enigmatic personality to add to the Voynich mix... which will (no doubt) go against the grain of previous speculations, but, well, maybe it's time to shake up things a bit.

Now, obviously I'm not an expert in the medieval manuscript field, and virtually a neophyte when it comes to the Voynich MS, but, I love discovering new possibilities, and, when I do, well, in the spirit of Mac Tonnies, my impulse is to just throw the idea "out there." So, allow me to present (yet) another Voynich proposition to play around with... and you can blame it on the salamander.

As it happened (and as I mentioned in my last Voynich post), I had cause to research salamanders in 2016, at which time I discovered that, not only was the salamander an alchemical symbol, it was also the symbol of a certain French king: Francis I (12 September 1494 - 31 March 1547). Above inset right is one of Francis's wooden emblems of a salamander emerging from flames. Inset left is Francis I (as St. John the Baptist) from a painting by Jean Clouet). (Also, see: Francis the Salamander KIng.)

Anyway, for one crazy minute I wondered if the Voynich salamander was a reference to Francis I, but, as one can see by his birthdate, apart from the fact that he wasn't born with his sun in Scorpio (he was a Libra, as was his wife Claude), he was also born too late in the century to fit our time frame. So, that was one idea that wouldn't fly.*

Yet, In the end, I still had the feeling that some (if not all) of the figures wandering around on the zodiac pages represented actual people contemporary with the time and, possibly, born under the zodiac sign in which their caricatures are found. While this interpretation isn't without its flaws, there's seemingly no other recognizable purpose for the pages... nothing remotely "medical" nor particularly astrological beyond the central zodiac symbol. Moreover, a few of the zodiac pages (above: a page for Aries) seem to depict members of nobility - or even a royal house - in lieu of the marching nymphs.

Inset left is an another (actual) medieval astrological chart found here. Below is another 15th century "zodiac man."

In any case, if the drawings are caricatures of actual personalities and the (estimated) early 15th century time-frame is correct, identifying them - although seemingly an impossible task - might reveal (at the very least) the country of the manuscript's origin... and offer some clues regarding the author's true identity.

Ultimately (and essentially), it might only be necessary to identify a single one of them. My choice? The little Empress figure in the zodiac "chart" for Libra...