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Voynich -- Opening The Doors #4

     I imagine that there has already been a considerable amount of discussion concerning Alchemy in the Voynich manuscript. In fact, Alchemy seems to have a major role in the VMS. A key to recognizing the connection to Alchemy can be found at the bottom of folio f79v where we see a group of animals including a naked nymph with a fish body and tail, a salmander, maybe a white dog, a white horse (donkey?), and what looks like the carcass of a ram arched above the horse's head. I have seen this carcass before. Could this be the well known Golden Fleece from the wonderful epic adventures of Jason and the Argonauts that had magical powers to heal? Yes, I think so. What look like strings or threads connected to stars (or flowers?) in the VMS are possibly a reference to the Ariadne's thread.

Hermeticism And The Golden Fleece

Theseus And The Thread of Ariadne

The creature at f25v has been labeled a dragon, there are serpents at f49r, birds at 86v, and what looks like a toad at 102r2(?). Animals have a key role in Alchemy and Hermetic Gnosis and there are explanations for those found in the VMS.
     It seems to me that the experimental trays with the elaborate tubing come under the category of the philosophy of nature and the mysterious realm of the alchemist. There is nothing really mysterious about seeing this in the VMS. Alchemy was the precursor to modern day chemistry. Alchemists believed in the seed that could grow metals just as a plant seed grows plants. They were looking for the elixir, the Philosopher's Stone, thought to be found in all life.
     The properties of pollination and sexual reproduction in plants had not yet been clearly defined, but it certainly makes sense that a botanist might study the properties of seeds and how they geminate and absorb nutrients from the earth that are essential for their growth. And just how do plants figure out that shoots must grow upwards and roots grow downwards without fail? The forces of nature that cause the shoots of plants to grow upward lead to a discussion of the 'spirit' contained within all life, including the plant growth process. But where is the heart, the organ that pumps the water, saps, and nutrients throughout the plant. What are forces of Nature that seem to oppose the forces of gravity? Understand that early botanists and other 'scientists' did not yet use the term science. Instead they spoke of the philosophy of nature. Humanists were uncomfortable accepting the philosophical and religious teachings of their time without practical, hands on experience and examination as verification of these teachings. They sought physical proof to help verify the concepts of the spirit and the life cycle, from the dark depths of the ground all the way up to the sunlight in the sky.


      My impression is that the naked ladies in the experimental baths and tubing are most likely the seeds of plants. The crowns and hand held wands, the position of the arms and legs, and their hair sytles would all be important labels for the alchemist. A name that might be applied to all these nymphs of the underworld may be Mother Nature to the alchemist. I am not certain about what they hold in their hands, but one of the objects that looks like a bobbin (spool/spindle), seems vaguely familiar from a botanical point of view. See the wand in the left hand of the crowned naked queen at the top left corner of f80v? This object reminds me of the pistil of a flower with its ovary, ovules, style, and stigma. Maybe, maybe not. It is probably a bobbin symbol known to alchemists. I'll have to study these wands a bit more before drawing any real conclusions. Perhaps someone else has already identified them? The study of alchemy can be as complicated as the study of chemistry is today; however, at least an introductory level of alchemy should be understood to fully appreciate the aspects of alchemy that pertain to the VMS. For a modern day scientist, alchemy can actually be quite interesting.



     Note also the structure of the tubing directly above the nymph being consumed by a fish in f79v. There seems to be a similarity to the 12 tube groups seen in the central set of nine circular diagrams following f85 that look somewhat like plant cross sections. I believe the VMS botanist was interested in vascular plant physiology and the cycle of flow of nutrients and liquids within plants. Notice that there are portals at the base of the experimental tray on f78v. These may have been used to provide heat or a flame to a solution in the tray. I wonder if the tray at f78v connects to the tubes at the left side of 81r? Maybe. After a lot more is known about the contents of the VMS, it might be possible to repeat these experiments.

Chains, Orbs, and two-headed eagles also appear in alchemy. There is a set of three folios (f85?) just prior to f86 and following the set of nine diagrams. The left hand diagram in the set of three folios shows a circular diagram with what looks like four plumes or fountains curving off at the edge of the diagram. There are four figures in the center section of the diagram around the sun that is in the center of the diagram. One of the four figures is holding what looks like an orb and the other is holding the links of a chain. These are most like references to alchemy. A third figure may be holding a bird. On the first page of the VMS there are two large characters that look like they may also be a reference to alchemy. The first looks like the double-headed eagle and the second looks like the Regulus symbol referenced in D'Imperio's "The Voynich Manuscript -- An Elegent Enigma" (p.120) with smoke rising in the middle.

Chains, Orb, Two-headed Eagle

Large Index on Alchemy

Dana Scott

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