Monday, March 25, 2013

The Voynich Manuscript: European Baneberries

The plant on f95r of the Voynich Manuscript (Beinecke 408) looks a lot like Baneberry. The European  Baneberry (Actaea spicata) has dark berries. The fabulous white baneberries (Actaea Pachypoda and Actaea Rubra f. Alba) belong to North America and North-East Asia. So which one matches better the drawing in the VMs? The berries are not colored... well, the dots on the berries are painted in yellowish-brownish color. So the uncolored berries match better the European baneberries.
After all, Voynich manuscript researcher should be able to convince you that the white is black, if it fits his/her story line. 


  1. Ellie, both stems and berries are left unpainted.

    The white-berried American species would seem to be out of the running, given the date for the manuscript's parchment.

    Since the stems are not coloured either, there's nothing to indicate the American species.

    On the other hand, given that the botanical folios regularly omit colours in the black-purple range, and Asia was known to Europeans while the Americas were unknown, the balance of probability must lie with the Asian species.

    By the way, since as far as I know, you are not the first to make either identification the usual form is to acknowledge the first of whom you know. I can't advise about American identifications. I rather think I might have been the first to identify this with the Asian species - but that's only as far as I know.

    Your snide remark here would have more point if you named its object.

    Diane O'Donovan

  2. Hi Diane,

    The red baneberries have a form with white berries - Actaea Rubra f. Alba - and its stems are not red as the white baneberry - Actaea Pachypoda.

    I am glad you support the idea of black berry for this page.
    All the best! Ellie

  3. Hello Ellie,

    Shades of "Coconuts & Kings" and "Round n' Round"? Are baneberries maybe of medicinal use? Or are they just plain "baneful"? Shall I do a little research -- just to satisfy my own curiousity?
    I've discovered that the diluted juice of the mandrake fruits was used in shrines of Artemis/Diana as "women's medicine" (Boenicke 408/Vms folio 83v). I already have seven other folios partially translated..

    Lately, I've also been translating some of the Goliardic verses in the "Carmina Burana" : "Dum Diana vitrea", in particular, is not what one would call "reverent" verse. But the Latin verses have added to my deciphering/translating efforts.

    Gotta eat, soon, or I'll topple off my chair -- time for supper. Ciao!

  4. Ellie
    I had never heard of Actaea Rubra f.alba before, and wrongly supposed you meant the American.

    I've found 'White Christopher' now on a rare plants site. This one does grow closer to Europe as you say.

    Text reads:

    .. late summer ornamental, snow-white fruit above deeply cut and serrated leaves. The species is in deciduous forests of northeastern Asia (Novosibirsk to Kamchatka Region) and [also] native North America. The seeds come from purely white-flowering(? - weißfrüchtigen) plants, and may naturally produce some red fruits (too).

    Perhaps weißfrüchtigen is used where English would say a 'sport'. s


    1. Why deny the New World plants? Must a researcher develop a theory that explains the facts, or should it choose the facts explained by his theory? I joked : myself I choose the facts that fit my theory. And all that can not be explained, I leave for later.
      Good luck

    2. LOL. We are all guilty of that. Just being human :)