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VMs: Notes on f116v.1-2

Dear members of the VMS list,

I am a newbie. My name is Gregor Damschen, I am a German classicist and professional philosopher. First of all I would like to say that I am deeply impressed by the work you have done on this exciting MS over the last decade. Even if someone find out some day that there is no meaning behind the VMS, your work will be a rich treasure and unique example of the manifold methods that rational beings have to test when they want to understand an (at first sight) completely unknown text. Second, I have to admit that I do not have a solution for the VMS as a whole (particularly because I fear the "Curse of the Voynich" discovered by Elmar in February this year).
As my first step in this list I would like to demystify lines 1 and 2 on folio 116v a little bit (on the "German" lines 0 and 3 maybe later). I challenge some assumptions partly hold by Newbold, Brumbaugh, and as far as I can see by many members of this list. I put forward the following instead:

1. Line f.116v.1 is in plain Latin, it does not contain so-called "null letters" ("con ola" and the letters in between "multas" and "portas").
2. Lines f.116v.1 and f.116v.2 can be read as a Latin distich.
3. There is a possible connection between the first words of line 1 and "oror.sheey" of line 3.

My considerations come in five parts: 1. Reading, 2. Words and Grammar, 3. Possible Translations and Interpretations, 4. Metrics, and 5. the (possible) Connection between line 1 and "oror.sheey".
Sorry for the length of the following, also for my English.

Best regards,
Gregor Damschen



After an intense look at lines 1 and 2 of f.116v (since 1998 I work on a Yale copyflo and microfilm, now on the MrSids), I read:

f.116v.1: + archicon ola dabas + multas + te + car cere + portas + # +

f.116v.2: six + marix + morix + vix + abta + ma+ria +

[# is probably a "M"; "marix morix" could be "mavix movix" or "marix movix"]

Many of you know Latin and Greek very well. However, for those who are not familiar with these languages allow a few notes on this reading.


1. archicon
"archicon" is nom. sing., acc. sing. or gen. plur. of ancient Greek "archikos" which means I. 1. "of/for rule", "royal", 2. "fit for rule", 3. "dominant", "souvereign"; II. "belonging to archai" [i.e. origins, first principles, elements, powers, GD]; III. "primal", "original" --- cf. Liddell-Scott-Jones, A Greek-English Lexicon, s.v. archikos, p. 253.

2. ola
2.1 Latin "ola" is voc., nom. sing. or abl. sing. and mean "jar", "pot", "cinerary urn" ("ola" for "olla", ae f. or for "aula", ae f.). Then "archicon ola" probably means "jar of that which belongs to the principles (origins, elements)" (= soul?, = pre-socratic Empedocles' jar of elements?).
2.2 "ola" could be an acc. or nom. plur. of ancient Greek (to) olon; ta ola [speak: "ta hóla"] means "all things", "the all", "the universe". Thus "archicon ola dabas" could mean "you gave the universe of that which belongs to the principles (origins, elements)".
2.3 If the reading "archicon" fails, three more alternatives come to light:
2.3.1 "con ola" = "cum ola", whereby "ola" is abl. sing. ("with the jar")
2.3.2 "conula", ae f.: the plant polion / polium (cf. Ps-Apuleius de herbis 57: Graeci quidam polion, alii etc. Latini conula; Martialis polium, neptunia). This is the plant Teucrium polium or polygermander. There are pictures available under: http://elib.cs.berkeley.edu/cgi/img_query?stat=BROWSE_IMG&query_src=photos_browseimgs_plant_sci&where-genre=Plant&where-taxon=Teucrium+polium
2.3.3 I never seriously checked it, but there is a Gaelic or Irish legend of a Fountain of Youth, the Well of Conula / Connla, on the net: http://www.theos-world.com/archives/show.php?NAME=tw200104&PATH=txt&DESC=April%202001%20Issue (Just a wild guess: "archiconola" = "chief Well of Connla"?).

3. dabas
2nd pers. sing. of "dare" ("you gave").

4. multas
4.1 acc. plur. fem. from "multus", a, um ("many" sc. portas -- note the nice hyperbaton!)
4.2 acc. plur. from "multa", ae f. ("penalties")
4.3 2nd pers. sing. from "multare" ("you punishes")

5. te
acc. or abl. sing. of "tu" ("you", "thee")

6. carcere
"carcere" is abl. sing. of "carcer", ris m. which is I. "jail", "prison", II. "cave", "the underworld (especially as a place for punishments)", "a cage for birds or beasts", "a trap for catching them", "the body regarded as imprisoning the spirit", III. "the barriers at the beginning of a race course, the starting point of the couse" --- cf. Oxford Latin Dictionary s.v. carcer, p. 276.

7. portas
7.1 acc. plur. of "porta", ae f. ("doors", "gates")
7.2 2nd pers. sing. of "portare" ("you carries (something)", "you transports (something)")

8. six
"six" = "sex" = 6

9. marix morix
This sounds like a wordplay, a counting-out rhyme, a spell, a prayer.
9.1 "marix" maybe is derived from "maria" / "Maria" ("seas" / "Mary"), or from "maritare" ("marry"). It may also be derived from "mas", ris m.: "male" (of human beings, other species or applied to uneven numbers). If applied to uneven numbers, then we should read "marix movix" (from "movere") -- "uneven number moving " (!). Perhaps it is "six (times) uneven number move"?
9.2 "morix" could be derived from "mori" ("to die")
9.3 It is remarkable that we get Latin words from "marix morix." when we assume "a" instead of "x": "maria moria via." where "moria" is "aquae sali conficiendo aptae receptabulum; résevoir d'eau propre à fabriquer le sel" --- cf. W.-H- Maigne d'Arnis, Lexicon manuale ad scriptores mediae et infimae latinitatis, s.v. moria, column 1480.

10. vix
adv. "hardly", "with difficulty", "not easily"

11. abta
"abta" = "apta"
nom. / abl. sing. fem. (sc. Mary, see below) or nom. / acc. plur. neutr. (sc. seas, see below) of "aptus", a, um: I. "bound", "made up by uniting", "composed", "fitted together"; II. "prepared", "ready", "adapted or adaptable"; III. "orderly", "efficient", "good", "useful", "apt".

12. maria
12.1 voc., nom. or abl. of the proper name "Mary" (note that in the nom. of Latin "Maria", ae f. all syllables are short --- cf. Georges, Ausfuehrliches lateinisch-deutsches Handwoerterbuch, 2nd vol., column 815).
12.2 nom. or acc. plur. of "mare", is n. ("seas")


You see, there is still a plethora of possible translations and interpretations.

Some will move into cryptological directions:
- archicon: elements, numbers, letters;
- carcer: something hidden, Porta-tables or Polybius-squares, fences and rows;
- multas portas: Porta-tables, different ways of encoding and decoding;
- six: a pointer to the square length (Polybius), a pointer to the changing of tables (Porta), to a ROT-6 cipher or to a fence with 6 rows;
- marix movix: uneven number moving;
- abta maria: "composed / ready / good / apt MARIA", a password, a Maria-code.

Some will move in theological and philosophical directions:
- archicon: elements, principles;
- archicon ola: "jar of that which belongs to the principles (origins, elements)" (= the soul, Empedocles mixing bowl of elements, or (if Greek): "the universe of that which belongs to the principles (origins, elements)";
- dabas, multas, portas: "you gave, you punishes, you carries";
- carcer: the body regarded as imprisoning the soul, the soul itself as a vessel of the thoughts and ideas ("archicon ola") bound in a human body ("carcer");
- multas te carcere: self-punishment in the underworld as a place for punishments;
- multas portas: many gates in the human body for the soul;
- morix: death, dying;
- maria: virgin Mary; or seas as picture for life.

This plethora of possible translations and interpretations is a remarkable feature of the two lines. I think it is possible that the writer intended to write a text which allows more than one meaning. But how then we can decide which interpretation is right, if any?


In such situations classicists often look to the metre of a text. Maybe also in our situation we can go a step further when we consider metrics. Latin speakers do like words bound by metre, and since it was earlier remarked that lines 1 and 2 of VMS 116v could be a spell or a prayer, metrically bound verses seem highly probably. Is there any grammatical interpretation which allows perfect Latin verses? I do think so.
The most famous ancient metres are the hexameter and the elegiac distich (a hexameter plus a pentameter), and line 1 makes a perfect hexameter with a penthemimeres and a hephthemimeres:

f.116v.1: + árchicon óla dabás + multás + te + cárcere + pórtas +

In Latin there are two different types of long syllables: syllables long by nature (like "te", or "ol" in "ola"), and syllables long by position (like "port" in "portas" where the short vowel is lengthened by the two consonants "rt", whereas "porta" by nature has two short syllables, or "vix" which is short by nature but long by position because of "x".) In line 1 we have the following metric structure (L=long, S=short, N=by nature, P=by position):

ar(SN)chi(SN)con(SN) [if "archicon" is acc. or. nom. sing.] ol(LN)a(SN) [if "ola" is voc. or nom. sing.] da(SN)bas(LP) + mult(LP)as(LNP) + te(LN) + carc(LP)er(SN)e(SN) + port(LP)as(LN) +

Now let us look at line 2. It is a perfect pentameter if we assume that "ma" in "marix" and "mo" in "morix" are long syllables and "abta (= apta) maria" is abl. sing.:

f.116v.2: síx + maríx + moríx +// víx + abtá + ma+riá +

So, lines f116v.1 and 2 together are a perfect Latin distich:

f.116v.1: + árchicon óla dabás / + multás / + te + cárcere + pórtas +

f.116v.2: síx + maríx + moríx +// víx + abtá + ma+riá +

I think that this is a real step towards a better understanding of these lines, but I know that this reading can only be a first step (although a step not done before). From a grammatical and metrical standpoint we can say that "archicon" must be a nom. or an acc. and "ola" a voc. or a nom. But "multas" and "portas" keep their ambiguity, and "marix morix" are still somewhat alien elements.


The reading "archicon" maybe has another exciting clue: When we look down at line 3 we see Voynichese "oror.sheey". For me the first letter is more an "a", and the second "e" is different from the first, so I read somewhat like "aror chicon", whereby I interpret "c9" (EVA: "ey") as Latin abbreviation "con". Exactly under "archicon" from line 1 then stands "orchicon" from line 3. Pure chance? I think it is probable that f116v.1 is a try to "translate" a line in the VMS -- a "translation" by someone skilled in Latin who expected all these theological-philosophical or cryptological things. But which line he or she tried to translate?

Look at the first picture on the left side of f.116v. There is some strange thing, a vessel, a jar, a potifer? (from line f.116v.0?), a syringe (as someone guessed some time ago), a libra? I do not know what it is (by the way the three letters on its left bottom look like German "lab" - rennet?), but it looks like a thing on page 76v. Left to line 76v.19 we see a woman who holds such a thing. In line 19 we can read in EVA: or.ar.sheey.otar... EVA "t" looks like a "L" or double "L", so someone could read: "ar chicon ola...". (Filling the gaps in line 19 with the letters from line 20 direct under the gaps and assuming that the "translator" guessed a Latin text --- perhaps he reads "cc" as "a", examples for this gives Cappelli ---, one can probably read further ".dabas multas te carcere portas...") If this is no dead end at all, the next stept would be to ask from which line the "translator" has "six marix morix...".


Institut fuer Philosophie
Martin-Luther-Universitaet Halle-Wittenberg
Schleiermacherstr. 1
06114 Halle

E-mail: gregor.damschen@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

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