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 Španzel, 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)...

From the Zurich copy of Aurora consurgens.
could this possibly be the real Barbara and Elizabeth?

Above is an illumination from a copy of the Aurora currently housed in Zurich. Note that the two ladies have the identical hair color (strawberry blonde): the older woman (in a blue gown) has constructed a hexagon and/or the coordinate points for a 6-fold star (inset right) on her table with (what looks like) portions of coal. To this she is adding portions of a contrasting, golden material. Meanwhile, a younger woman wearing a green gown stands by with either a raven or a royal eagle perched on her arm. It feeds from something in her hand. At the same time, she is balancing a large, golden scale with the other. Now, while the scales do have a practical alchemical use in reality, their presence here might exhibit an underlying dual-symbolism... or even a triple-symbolism, implying an alchemical act, the sign of Libra, and the idea of justice.

Could this illumination be an image of Barbara and her daughter, Elizabeth? If so, then it might be the only authentic image of them in existence... and/or in the public domain. Also, if the scales allude to the astrological sign of Libra with nothing alluding to a second sign, is it possible that, like her daughter, mama was also a Libra? In which case, the little Libra Empress may have symbolized Barbara. Or, then again, might we possibly find another empress on the missing pages for Capricorn or Aquarius?

A detail of a statue of Elizabeth housed in Austria.
It was supposedly sculpted in the 16th century
might it still be a likeness? Compare this with
the Aurora consurgens illumination above.
In either case, in this illumination we're given a view of a mother/daughter relationship, with the mother in the role of teacher, mentor and/or model. As it was, there was a period during Barbara's estrangement from Sigismund when, it seems, both she and Elizabeth were exiled and in confinement (in both Oradea, Romania and Slovakia) for a period of a year (1418-1419). And, this may have been the window of time contemporary with the AC illumination. Elizabeth was married shortly thereafter (1422) to a man who was (or would become) her mother's enemy and she and her mother would become estranged until two years after Albrecht's death. Elizabeth herself would pass 12 years later (allegedly from poison).

Interestingly, Adam McLean has this to say about the Aurora consurgens - yet, another mysterious alchemical manuscript, author unknown: "The Aurora consurgens would appear to be a composite work, in which an original late 14th century text (Part I) had an alchemical section (Part II) with the series of emblems added around 1420."

In other words, the illumination and/or emblem in question may have been executed at precisely the time Elizabeth and Barbara were in exile.


There is, however, one more character on the zodiac pages whose identity we might question, and this is the mysterious man with the beard (inset left). He seems to be a member of the royal court on the Pisces zodiac page (above) and he is the only man with a beard in the entire MS.

As it turns out, Sigismund was born on the 15th of February, which would make him an Aquarius; that is, if the date was reckoned by the Gregorian calender. But, the Gregorian reform with its new calendar didn't actually come into effect until 1582. Up till that time the Julian year was used... which was as much as a week behind the Gregorian. As it is, astrologers determine a person's sun-sign by degree, not the day. In other words, astrologers would've known that Sigismund was, in fact, a Pisces (February 19th – March 20th).

So, is the man with the beard Sigismund? If so, as opposed to sitting on a throne in full regalia - as he is in the image inset right - the Voynich bearded man looks as if he's wearing a night-cap and sitting in his bath. Is this a sort of "barb" on Barbara's part? Lest we forget she and Sigismund were estranged for some time; basically, they accused each other of adultery. And, apparently, both parties were guilty.

Incidentally, the illumination of Sigismund (with three crowns) is from a MS mentioned in the previous post - a second record in which Empress Barbara does not visibly appear - Chronica Hungarorum by Thuróczi János, 1488. Apparently, Sigismund wore a long beard later in life, but a shorter one as a younger man. Below is another image of Sigismund from Bellifortis manuscript. Apparently, his personal symbols were the sun and the lion, traditional symbols for the astrological sign of Leo (July 23rd – August 22nd). Interestingly, the central image on the Voynich zodiacal page for Leo is a female lion... which is unusual (and, very possibly, another "barb" from Barbara)!

Emperor Sigismund from an edition of Bellifortis.


Above is another curious diagram from the VMS, featuring what seems to be four monarchs - or figures representative of four monarchies - lying along cardinal points. Understandably, they would represent royal families relevant and/or meaningful to the maker of the VMS.

If we regard their positions as being north, south, east and west, the man in the western portion of the diagram appears to be waving a fleur-de-lis (inset left), which we might assume represents France or the French monarchy. But, oddly enough, coins minted in 14th century Romania - specifically the region of Moldavia - also carried that symbol. Also, although we tend to assume today that the upper direction is North, in medieval times the uppermost direction was considered to be East.

So, now that we're thoroughly confused, let's just stick with left, right, upper and lower.

The figure to the right holds up what appears to be a royal orb or globe, specifically a globus cruciger (inset right), which is generally accompanied by a royal scepter in portrayals of Kings, Queens, Empresses and Emperors. Although it's hard to tell by the drawing if the orb has a cross on top or, instead, a cone-like shape, well, unless the object is a hand grenade - which weren't invented yet - chances are, its an orb. 

The uppermost figure appears to be staring at some small thing on the tip of his finger... (?)

The lower (inverted) figure - a woman - is the most curious of all. Could that be a large chain she's holding up with one hand? The other hand appears to be resting upon a lever, although It's impossible to say. But, if that chain-like shape truly represents a chain, it might be a reference to Barbara von Celje's literal imprisonment at the hands of her son-in-law, Albrecht... or, as mentioned previously, it might refer to the earlier period of confinement during her estrangement from Sigismund.

If you don't think it is a chain, ignore this section.


Regarding the unusual script used in the VMS, Barbara knew several languages - including German and Latin - giving her somewhat of an advantage in creating a written code of her own. Likewise, she might have also known of and been inspired by Hildegarde von Bingen (see the first post in the series), a nun and a mystic who composed her own alphabet. Most importantly, as a child-bride groomed for an imperial crown, she'd have a number of reasons to choose to write in code.

As it stands, a number of alchemical symbols appear to comprise the Voynich script... and possibly all of its ciphers are alchemical symbols. While I'm only going to present a few examples, the bulk of them can be ferreted out from the lists of symbols found here. As I mentioned previously in the series, there are a number of groups of ciphers used repetitively, such as the group indicated by blue squares in the VMS sampled text inset left. Compare these three symbols with the three symbols indicated by the (heavier) blue squares in the lefthand portion of the Arabic alchemical diagram below.

From an 18th-century copy of the 13th Century
Book of the Seven Climes, created by Abū al-Qāsim al-‘Irāqī.

Alchemical symbols.
Note the last symbol - in the group of six symbols - which looks like the numeral 4. This is the common symbol for the planet Jupiter. In the VMS text sample shown (inset right), It lies at the beginning of the (blue-boxed) sequence followed by a circle and a strange symbol which looks like the number 11 with a looping crossbar at the top. The latter I've not found anywhere but in the illumination above, and it's passing strange that those identical symbols are shown together in the diagram, while appearing (side by side) thirteen times in the small portion of the Voynich text sampled at the beginning of this section.

Incidentally, the illumination is from an 18th century copy of a 13th century Arabic manuscript (allegedly) sourced from a 4th century Egyptian alchemical text. Sound convoluted? Yes, but keep in mind: the West was introduced to alchemy from Middle-Eastern sources around the time of the first crusades. Alchemy originated in ancient Egypt and the Far East, and familiarity with Arabic/Islamic texts was crucial for the medieval alchemist. As it happens, the illumination is supposedly not all it should be and it's alchemical content - specifically in the bottom half of the image (not shown) - is possibly bogus. See this article.

Regarding the text sample below (from Aurora consurgens) it appears as if one device used in this MS is very similar to one of the Voynich ciphers. Highlighted in aqua, it's very much like the "awareness ribbon" symbol currently popular. It may very well be a typical medieval MS device, but it is also an alchemical symbol... as is the "cc" symbol (highlighted in red) which (variously) symbolizes "cucurbita" (a species of gourd) or "cornu cerui" (a species of orchid) and was also a symbol in Hildegard von Bingen's cryptic script.

A text sample from Aurora consurgens. The symbol highlighted in the
aqua-colored boxes is also a Voynich cipher (see small sample inset right above).
Regardless of its use in this MS, it is an alchemical symbol
- often shown inverted - for (variously) alkali or the planet Jupiter.


The Rácz Thermal Bath in Budapest, Hungary.

Barbara was a Queen of Hungary. She owned fiefdoms there. Lest we forget, Budapest, the capital of Hungary,  eventually became the "City of Baths" due to the prevalence of hot springs in its vicinity. Apparently, there are approximately 80 geo-thermal springs in Budapest and its thermal water cave-system is the largest in the world!

I discussed the Turkish bath in comparison to the Voynich baths in Part II of the series, especially in regards to the Voynich map, which seems to be related. I also documented various examples of baths. One I did not mention, however, is one which is said to be the oldest Turkish bath (or Ottoman bath) in Budapest: the Rácz Thermal Bath. It's assumed to have existed since the latter half of the 1500s and is presently listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

There's an understanding amongst some of the locals, however, that "the original bath was built during the reign of King Sigismund in the 15th century."

Now this is kind of big. While the article doesn't offer any further information except to add "now historians are sure that it was constructed by the Turks in the 16th century," there's still room for us to speculate. After all, why are "historians" so "sure"? And, why it is that some think it was built during Sigismund's reign to begin with? What sort of evidence might've spawned the legend? Was there merely a rumor in the 15th century that the King and Queen planned to create a spa? Is the Voynich "map" evidence of this? Or, might there exist actual proof of an existent spa buried underground which has yet to be discovered?

There might well be. Recent archaeological excavations in Serbia and Albania revealed two previously unknown Turkish baths (or hammams); one in each country. In Vojvodina, Serbia the bath discovered (inset right) was probably dated from the 1500s, but the Albanian bath (below) is estimated to have been created a hundred years earlier. Here's an excerpt from the article:

"The greatest discovery this year was a Turkish bath – hammam, with central heating system. Buildings of this type became common in the Ottoman Empire in the fifteenth century. 'Our object seems to be a hundred years older – believes Prof. Dyczek. – We know very few early hammams. This makes our discovery even more interesting, because it allows us to see how the old Roman idea of hypocaust, which is a system of heating the floors and walls of buildings with hot air, was adapted by the Turks.'

... The hot air from the furnace fires entered a small vaulted atrium, where the convection and temperature equalization took place. Then it would flow through four channels under the floor. At the floor was also probably a heated platform and hot water tank, the researchers speculate. The water was taken from cisterns, also discovered by Polish archaeologists, and then poured into the tank, from where it flowed through ceramic water supply system placed in the hypocaust system. There it was heated and returned to the utility part of the bath."

A 14th century Ottoman hamman excavated in Albania.


Lastly, although the VMS is often believed to have originated from Italy, the bottom line is: the first confirmed owner was an obscure alchemist from 16th century Prague. The second and third owners were also from Prague. Barbara was Queen of Bohemia and was buried in Prague. As it was, Prague was a hotbed of alchemy, most especially in the days of Emperor Rudolf II (1552-1612). Rudolf II was known as the "Mad Alchemist" and very devoted to the arts - inset right is his portrait (in vegetables) by Giuseppe Arcimboldo (1590–1) an image he apparently loved - and sciences, math and various esoteric disciplines. Via the article “The Mirror of Alchemy,” we have the following story regarding a fairly new alchemical museum in Prague: Speculum Alchemiae:

"In 2002, when Prague suffered severe flooding, a sinkhole opened and people discovered that the house at Hastalska 1 on the outskirts of the Old Town had another secret: a vast network of tunnels and secret chambers that ran beneath the streets of the city — some as far as Prague Castle, where lived the ruler who commissioned their construction, Rudolf II. Built during the 16th century, many of the tunnels were blocked by hundreds of years of debris and collapse, but the area directly under the old house was relatively salvageable. Ten years after they were discovered, the catacombs that once served as the secret workshops of some of Rudolf II’s most valued alchemists opened to the public in the form of the Speculum Alchemiae."

Rudolf was also devoted to various forms of erotic entertainment and there's an understanding that he may have been bisexual. There are also those who accused him of heresy (an extremely popular accusation in those days). But, more to the point, a letter found within the VMS claimed he had purchased the manuscript for "600 ducats." Although experts seem to doubt this document, there was one very good reason why Rudolph may have desired the VMS. Because, if Barbara had, at any point, some hand in its creation, it'd have been a part of his family's history. Elizabeth of Luxembourg was his father's great-great-grandmother and her mother, of course, was Barbara von Celje. Obviously, the apple did not fall far from the tree. Incidentally, some of the famous names associated with Rudoph's court are: alchemists Michael Maier, John Dee, and Edward Kelley, scientists Tycho Brahe and Johannes Kepler, and that notorious seer Nostradamus. For more information about Rudolph, try here. Inset left: the Imperial double-headed eagle.


As I said, the apple doesn't fall far from the (family) tree, and Barbara, too, had her vicious detractors. Regarding her alleged lesbianism, well, for those who doubted a female could be the author of the VMS due to all those nude nymphs running and/or floating around - the question being: why would a woman be so obsessed with naked members of her own gender? - well, there's your answer. She may have liked them best... and (allegedly) the younger the better.

On the other hand, the main man who circulated the lesbian story - the randy Pope Pius II, Aeneas Silvio Piccolomini (inset right), who fathered at least two illegitimate children and was known for writing erotica - may have been a suitor (or  would-be seducer) whose advances Barbara once spurned. He was also a minion of the Habsburgs... so, obviously, one shouldn't take all that flows from his poisonous pen as "gospel." **

As for Barbara's alleged heresy, once again, for those who wondered why there were no obvious religious symbols within the VMS, I'm guessing the mystery is solved. However, keep in mind that heresy was a burning offense... and, yet, Barbara was buried in a cathedral... a resting place I don't imagine was generally offered to the "devil's own." Moreover, once again, creepy Piccolomini seems to have been behind the slander. After all, heresy was the sort of easy, effective, go-to accusation that was all the rage during the Middle Ages.


* Regarding Barbara's genealogy, we have (found here): "Barbara of Celje is a direct matrilineal ancestor of Nicholas II of Russia. Provided the genealogy is correct, this implies that she and all her matrilineal relatives were members of mitochondrial haplogroup Haplogroup T. This includes her many female-line descendants among European nobility..."

"Haplogroup T is a human mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) haplogroup. Haplogroup T is believed to have originated in Mesopotamia approximately 10,000 years before present, and to have moved northwards. It is found with particularly high concentrations around the eastern Baltic Sea."

** I don't know that Piccolomini actually wrote erotica in the strictest sense... certainly, his A Tale of Two Lovers was a bore. But, oddly enough, this is how it begins:

"The city of Siena, your native town and mine, did great honour to the Emperor Sigismund on his arrival, as is now well known; and a palace was made ready for him by the church of Saint Martha, on the road that leads to the narrow gate of sandstone. As Sigismund came hither, after the ceremonies, he met four married ladies, for birth and beauty, age and ornament, almost equal. All thought them goddesses rather than mortal women, and had they been only three, they might have seemed those whom Paris, we are told, saw in a dream. Now Sigismund, though advanced in years, was quick to passion; he took great pleasure in the company of women, and loved feminine caresses. Indeed he liked nothing better than the presence of great ladies..."


Loose Ends

Emblem from Aurora consurgens. Note the seeds flowing
from the boy's hand. Note also the royal baby
stewing in the cauldron!

"Toward the end of Sigismund’s reign she conspired against her son-in-law Albert II of Germany (a Habsburg by birth, married to her only child, Elisabeth of Luxembourg), supposedly so that in the event of Sigismund’s death, the future Polish king Casimir IV would inherit his titles instead of Albert, as well as take her as his wife – the latter might have been a made-up exaggeration, more likely she merely made plans for her granddaughters: one would indeed marry Casimir (which did eventually happen when Elisabeth of Austria married him), while the other would marry his brother Vladislaus III, who was king before him. But the plot was revealed, to the great ire of Barbara’s husband, who banished her to the castle in Znojmo. After Sigismund’s death the same year in 1437, when she lost all the titles that came along with the marriage, she left for Poland and only returned to Bohemia in 1441, two years after her arch-rival Albert died. She spent the last 10 years of her life in Mělník, protected by her loyal Bohemian nobles, notably George of Poděbrady, supporting the political advances of her daughter Elisabeth of Luxembourg and, after the latter’s death, her grandson Ladislaus V the Posthumous."

- Excerpt from this Barbara von Celje page. Inset left is a statue of George of Poděbrady, a Hussite and, shortly after Barbara's death, a King of Bohemia.


So, finally, we've come to the end of the Voynich series, and, although I'd love to say I've solved the puzzle and found the "perp", well, no, not exactly. I have found two excellent suspects, however! Unfortunately, we don't know nearly enough about Barbara von Celje nor Elizabeth von Luxemburg to draw any conclusions.

Moreover, there's the mysterious presence of the Aurora consurgen's anonymous maker to conjure with... specifically the maker of Part II, the alchemical section with the amazingly strange emblems. Did he or she have a hand in the VMS? You will note, for instance, that the male nymph casting (his) "seed" in the Voynich image inset left has a certain similarity to the Aurora consurgen's emblem above. And we'll find this symbol again on the mysterious Voynich page-spread below... which introduces two more potential suspects (!).

Possibly, the strangest Voynich page of all (right-hand side).

It's kind of sketchy where the page (above) actually belongs in the manuscript, but my feeling is that it's kind of like a little cameo appearance by two individuals (and two more suspects) - a male and a female - who also orchestrated some portion of the VMS. My guess is - judging by the presence of those birthday cake/plant part/mountains - that it's the "bathing section" of the manuscript. While I have my suspicions, I'm going to refrain from adding any more observations to an already-too-long post. Suffice to say, these two individuals might be sister and brother, lovers, or conspiring friends. Details of this page are below.

(Inset right is the first emblem from Aurora consurgens.)

On the right-hand side of the bottom half of the page we have what looks
like a young man peering from behind a... well, whatever it is...
casting his "seed" (?) into the air. To the left we
have a weird bird under a tree on, yet, another promontory. 

On the left-hand side of the top half of the page (inverted for easier viewing)
we have the same odd bird cascading downwards (if viewed correctly),
while, to the right, we have what looks like a young woman
peering from the top of another promontory.

I'll let you draw your own conclusions. But, before I go, I want to show you an enlargement of the number on this page... a "typo" which, I believe, is a message in itself (inset left). I'm assuming it's supposed be #109... but, is it? I've yet to find a #110... and page #108 seems unrelated.

In any case, when its first owner, Georg Baresch, called the Voynich manuscript his "sphynx," he was right on the money. But, that's the whole problem with a sphinx: it's impossibly daunting, dangerous... and, yet, oh, so charming.

As it so happens, in Wiki's sphinx entry, medieval alchemist Michael Maier is quoted:

"Michael Maier, in his book the Atalanta Fugiens (1617)[18] writes the following remark about the Sphinx's riddle, in which he states that its solution is the Philosopher's Stone:

'Sphinx is indeed reported to have had many Riddles, but this offered to Oedipus was the chief, "What is that which in the morning goeth upon four feet; upon two feet in the afternoon; and in the Evening upon three?" What was answered by Oedipus is not known. But they who interpret concerning the Ages of Man are deceived. For a Quadrangle of Four Elements are of all things first to be considered, from thence we come to the Hemisphere having two lines, a Right and a Curve, that is, to the White Luna; from thence to the Triangle which consists of Body, Soul and Spirit, or Sol, Luna and Mercury. Hence Rhasis in his Epistles, "The Stone," says he, "is a Triangle in its essence, a Quadrangle in its quality.' "

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