Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Voynich Manuscript: the Blonde Saints

Harley MS 2332 is a small illustrated physician almanac from early 15th century England (visit here). While browsing through the images I noticed that all saints and kings from the creation of the world to the author's times are depicted with blonde hair, which is not probable to be true. Their hairdos and the symbols they are represented with reminded me of the people on fol. 85v (1) of the Voynich Manuscript, so below I will share some subjective speculations regarding these VMs images.

Let's start with the person on fol. 85v that is holding an object consisting of sphere,cylinder and cone.
Richard SantaColoma has some interesting thoughts about it (read here). My impression is that the object may represent perfume jar as often depicted in images of Maria Magdalena.

It is hard to say if the person in the VMs is male or female. The physician almanac Harley 2332 shows a male that is holding an object which is assigned in the calendar to Maria Magdalena, so just because the person is holding the jar doesn't mean it is meant to represent the saint. The jar is associated with Maria Magdalena because she was one of the myrrhbearers who witnessed the Resurrection. She is also believed by some to be the woman who poured bottle of perfume over Jesus thus anointing him. The person in the VMs has a blue spot on the forehead which may be just hair accessory. However, in combination with perfume bottle it may represent the person being anointed.

Going clockwise on fol. 85v we see a person holding an object consisting of rings. In case the person is a male the rings may represent the chain of Saint Leonard (as shown in Harley 2332) - he is patron of the prisoners and the women in labor. In case the person is female the image may represent Our Lady of the Rosary - based on the legend in which the Virgin Mary appears in front of Saint Dominic and gives him a rosary. The VMs person may be holding and giving away rosaries.

Richard SantaColoma found engraving with a garland girl (see here).

Going clockwise there is a person holding a 'banana'. For the record, I don't believe it is really a banana. I mention this because for a long time I was wondering why in the world the plant on fol. 13r which was id-d by Edith Sherwood as banana plant is shaped like fleur de lis. So associating the object on fol. 85v with banana helped me imagine how the 15th century person peeled a banana and saw in the shape sign from the Holy Mother, which gave me peace of mind about the banana plant id.

The banana-like object on fol. 85v maybe fleur de lis variation. The physician almanac Harley 2332 shows couple of kings holding similar objects. I found similar shape in the hand of Saint Margaret, but it is more exception than rule - she is usually depicted holding a cross (which according to the legend saved her from the dragon).

The last person - on top of the rosette - seems to have a dot in the base of his/her finger. Richard SantaColoma suggested it may be a ring (jewelry). Based on Harley 2332 the person may be Saint Francis with badly placed  stigmata. In case it is a woman with a ring - it may be Saint Cathrine with the ring being the symbol of her 'Mystical Marriage with Jesus'.

Back to the real world. It is impossible to identify the creatures on fol. 85v (1) without knowing the author's intent. The above is just speculation.


  1. Elitsa... I agree that the "banana" is probably supposed to be a fleur de lis. And great finds and comparisons on the rest. You could be correct, I think. Rich SantaColoma.

  2. I would wonder in the image that the person is actually reaching for the object...which could signify (maybe)a desire to attain 'something' otherwise it would be held in the hand? your post and I think about this too.

  3. One more thing....I found a some kind of manuscipt where it has this dance that has a count like one of the pages because it has something to do with a seasonal event.

  4. Hi Rich, thanks!

    Hi W Harley, I like your idea that the person may be reaching to the object. Thanks for stopping by!

    All the best! Ellie

  5. Dang if I can find my own reference (folio # ) for one of the bath-house sequences where the ladies (3 or 4 of them) are holding objects which identify their countries of origin: fleur d'lys was one; another was a pomegranate. I think it was the same folio in which I offered to you a thought that a lufa sponge was being held. That same sequence also showed a male figure, wearing what looked like an apron, in the upper right corner.
    In re "blonde saints": Could that container be containing anointing oil or other scented oils which were applied to one's body and then scraped away with a wooden blade? Or oil such as what Magdalene applied to Jesus' feet? Oh, the symbolism found in medieval art and manuscripts: fantastic!