T-O maps

There has been a  lot of interest recently in T-O maps on this site, so let me post some larger images here for people to discuss. I’ll number them for reference:

1. Marco Ponzi’s interesting comparison diagram:



2. An interesting illustration from Mu’aiyid al-Din al-Tughra’i. Masabih al-Hikma wa Mafatih al-Rahma (The Lanterns of Wisdom and the Keys of Mercy).


This shows a set of scales to weigh the elements – on the right we have Fire and Water written below the circle, and on the left we have Air and Earth. To be precise, the lower half of the first circle (left) has ‘alturab’ (earth) and ‘alhawa’ (air) together (written under the diagonal line), while the second one (right) has ‘almaa’ (water) and ‘alnar’ (fire) together (written under the diagonal line again), implying that the two pairs together weigh the same as each other.



3. The illustration prepared by Darren Worley to discuss f68vr:





  1. don of tallahassee

    Both of my last two additions to this blog, when accessed through the Recent Comments column, seem to connect rather haphazardly to an unrelated part of my fumblydiddles.com site rather than the entries I posted. This makes finding my blog entries tedious and seemingly unnecessarily difficult.

    I do not know why this has happened.

    For any likewise puzzled readers, all I can offer is my sympathy for any who were willing to wade through the list of topics to read my offerings.

    Correct links to my comments (at least to the correct blog portion headings containing the comments) are:




    In addition, I have compiled another file of 15 or so pre-1450 maps, T-O/Y-O maps and charts.

    If you would like a copy:

    [email protected]

    The file doesn’t show anything the other maps didn’t, to speak of. One map does date about 700 AD. Two others are from the Twelfth Century.

    Thank you.

    Don of Tallahassee

  2. I was wondering what the educated Englishmen and Frenchmen of the early Fifteenth Century knew about world geography. I raided Wikipedia and the internet for some summaries of the lands traveled by explorers, emissaries and travelers before 1450, some early world maps and other stuff. It is at:


    I was surprised at the overall accuracy of the maps and the number of distant lands known and written about.

    Knowledge of geography could have been much more advanced than what I had thought, for those interested enough to study what was available.

    The maps, when displayed East up, show how the T/O maps came to be drawn with the upright part of the T being the Mediterranean Sea and the cross-bar part of the T being the Black Sea to Red Sea axis at the East end of the Mediterranean. This places Europe in the lower left quadrant, Africa in the lower right quadrant and Asia in the space above the T bar.

    I include a few maps from just after the time of the VMS dating.

    Think of it as a short geography lesson from the period with no quizzes, tests or rote learning.

    Thank you.

    Don of Tallahassee

  3. Stephen Bax

    See this really interesting and detailed T O map from this website:


    It names Europa and Affrica, though I can’t see the name for Asia. It also shows Fire at the top and Air below it, then names the element of ‘erth’, and in the T it says ‘this is the element of water’

    • MarcoP

      Thank you Stephen, what a great map!
      Here is a tentative reading of a few more of the labels. It’s interesting to see the moon as a marker for the East.

      • Stephen Bax

        Thanks – that helps a lot! I’m glad your eyesight is so much better than mine!

        • Stephen Bax

          I have edited the image a little to make the text clearer. See here.


          • MarcoP

            Thank you Stephen! Do you have any idea about what “ajedi” (at the bottom of Africa, near the Pillars of Hercules) could be?
            I wonder if it could correlate with labels 13 and 14 in the lower-left Rosettes diagram (following the idea that the diagram could represent the Mediterranean). Anyway, I would be curious to know what that label is meant to be.

            • Stephen Bax

              I wondered if it might be meant for Agadir in Morocco, as it seems to be opposite Gades (Cadiz), and alongside the ‘Atlas’ (mountains) but that is fanciful.

              The map dates from the 15th century, whereas Wikipedia tells us that:
              “The name itself, Agadir el-arba, was attested to for the first time in 1510”.

              So if I am right and this is Agadir, it is the earliest known written mention of the city 🙂

              However, these words do not seem to have capital letters as do many of the other place names, so they might mean something else.

              By the way, you can zoom into the map very effectively at the BL site:

              • MarcoP

                Thank you! I agree: Agadir would be an excellent interpretation if it were not for the early dating of the map.
                Thank you also for the link to the zoomable images of the manuscript!

              • D.N. O'Donovan

                From a post originally written in October 2011, but edited and republished (without its original illustrations) on ‘voynichimagery.wordpress.com’ on February 13th of this year.

                This is in relation to the West roundel on folio 86v (the worldmap), commenting on the reason for the “X” shape marking the imposing building there.

                I traced the consistent use of that symbol, exactly in this form, finding the constant reference – whether Greek , Carthaginian or African – was to a place where valuable things were stored: usually grain in Africa, but precious metals elsewhere.

                One paragraph from that post:

                The principal building:the ‘repository’
                In Shilha (a Berber dialect of North Africa), the word used for a “fortified granary” is agadir, derived from the Punico-Phoenician “gades”. In Tamazight agadir simply means “wall”. So while usage varied, the root significance apparently remained constant. Like the “X” symbol in north and west Africa, this term signifies the protection of walls used to secure the safety of the city’s ‘seed’. As a place-name in North Africa, Agadir is not uncommon, and several cities are also known as Gades,including one that was founded by the Carthaginians on an island off the southern coast of the Iberian peninsula. With time it has become joined to the mainland, evolving into modern Cadiz.


  4. Maryam

    yes, those are great ideas, but that guy who wrote the manuscript is so smart, he have the full ability to make us think differently. I am agree about the explanation above but I believe that he was trying to give us away for something, and this pic shows compass, not earth, fire, etc..

    Here he shows N, S, E, and W.. and as we see between E , W, he color the points which mean he is trying to lead us somewhere.

  5. Darren Worley

    I came across this “T-O”-type map recently. It derives from an unusual, unexpected (and perhaps unwelcome) source.

    It appears in the “Liber incantationum, exorcismorum et fascinationum variarum – BSB Clm 849” a German medieval grimoire held in the collection of the Bavarian State Library in Munich.

    Its a huge (317 page) manual dating from the 15th-century (i.e. contemporary with the VM). The first half is in Latin and the second half is written in German.

    In English, the title of the book is the Munich Manual of Demonic Magic.

    What I find gratifying about finding this image, is that it would never appear in a book of medieval maps, and I’m sure most (or all) academics writing about medieval cartography would ignore or omit it. I think this illustrates one advantage that non-professionals can bring to VM studies, in that they can explore and investigate areas that professionals might find unwelcome. In this case, I think, it demonstrates that a study of medieval grimoires will be of help in understanding VM iconography.

    I’ve attached a thumbnail image. Here is a link to the page in question – this manual also contains several other images that I think have resemblances to VM images.

    I can read the text “Occidens” at the 6 o’clock position. This must be a reference to the Western World (from Latin: occidens “sunset, West”).

    Can anyone help with rest the text in the image?

    • Darren Worley

      I found that the book [“Liber incantationum, exorcismorum et fascinationum variarum – BSB Clm 849″] has been the subject of an academic study – which has been published in a book called “Forbidden Rites: A Necromancer’s Manual of the Fifteenth Century” by Richard Kieckhefer, a Professor of Religion and History.

      It contains a scan of this page thats in much better resolution (see page 355). The purpose of this illustration is to accompany an incantation for the purpose of obtaining a boat!

      Quote :
      Fol.21v, no.8: Band with names of eight spirits, horizontal band across, vertical band across upper semicircle, all surmounted by cresent with two small circle, place of master and companions marked at bottom of cresent, east marked toward bottom.

      And from page p.216

      Figure on fol.21: A single circular band in which are inscribed names Fyron, Dyspil, Onoroy, Sysabel, Cotroy, Tyroy, Rimel and Orooth. A horizonal band bisects the circle, and a vertical band bisects the upper portion of the circle. A closed cresent shape (presumably representing a ship) appears in the upper two-thirds of the circle, with two dots beneath it at the prow and the stern. Within this crescent shape, below the horizontal band, is the instription “Hic magister cum suis sociss”. The position Occidens is marked just inside the circular band, at the bottom.

      It appears to be a plan – rather than a T-O map, with the direction indicating some alignment.

  6. Stephen,
    I must congratulate you; you have managed to create the sort of forum which has been much missed of recent years. I don’t think there has been so much energy in discussion of the manuscript since the death of the first mailing list – quite a few years ago now.

    • Stephen Bax

      Thanks Diane, but the credit should really go to the dynamic people who contribute and add so much, especially Marco, Derek, Darren and yourself, but to many others besides. We still get over 500 people visiting every day. I’ve been a bit silent recently, owing to a bit of travelling, but it is gratifying to see so much high quality interaction, I agree.

  7. MarcoP

    This manuscript is an interesting collection of T and O maps and other similar diagrams – HM 83 COSMOGRAPHY; ASTROLOGICAL MEDICINE Lübeck (?), 1486-88


    • darren worley

      Marco – that a very nice find. The title of the collection mentions “astrological medicine” but there doesn’t seem to be anything obvious amongst the images suggesting any medical theme. Do you know what folios are being referred to?

      The reason I ask, is that if my proposal that the subject of the VM bathing section is “medical astrology” is correct, then it would seem that the VM is following an existing tradition (i.e. T-O maps and “medical astrology” texts somehow go together), as possibly suggested by the title given.

      Lastly, what is also noticeable is that there are many biblical references amongst the folios – this seems to fit well with my recent interpretation of f57v, and the idea that the f68v3 is based on ideas also found in Genesis.

      • MarcoP

        Hello Darren,
        I am glad you like the manuscript!
        I think many of the diagrams are intriguing. For instance, f6 with a T and O map labeled with ancient kingdoms: Rome, Carthage, Babylon.

        According to the online description, the following folios are about medical matters. The description apparently includes the first and last lines of each section. In parenthesis I translated the sentences I could understand.

        3. f. 19: Canon primus de fleubotomia, Notandum primo volens eligere dies aptos pro fleubotomia primo eligat signa ignea que sunt aries et sagittarius…Sed ubi excipiuntur zaphene id est vene pedum ibi luna est in piscibus.4. f. 19r-v: 

        (First canon about bloodletting. If you want to choose the best days for bloodletting, first choose fire signs which are Aries and Sagittarius… But when you cut the saphena, i.e. the vein of the feet, then the moon is in Pisces)

        Canon 29 de farmacia id est medicina, Ypocrates ait Cecus medicus est qui astronomiam nescit nam si dabit medicinam…luna in aquario bona in confortate trifera cum aliis confortatis valet.

        (Canon 29 about pharmaceutics i.e. medicine. Hippocrates says that the physician who is ignorant of astronomy is blind. Indeed, if he gives a medicine… The moon in Aquarius is good …?…)

        9. ff. 22v-25v: De divisione corporis humani secundum planetas in natura eorumdem propria et cum egritudinibus sibi propriis, De corpore quidem humano Saturnus aurem dexterum splenem…De loco epatis et suo significatore et eiusdem virtutibus…De calore et substantia urine…de ymbribus…de ventis…Res perdita…de diebus creticis…[with a large square table to chart one’s horoscope]…et tristicie nunc aspicit ascendens est quod locorum gaudii saturni, Saturnus enim gaudet in lamentacione planctu et tribulatione.

        (About the division of the human body according to the planets, with their own nature and the illnesses belonging to them. … About the position of liver, its meaning and its virtues… About the temperature [or color?] of urine… About the rains… About the winds…. )

      • re Darren’s post of February 3, 2015 – 11:03 pm

        not sure how closely related this is to the sort of thing you’re researching, Darren, but I thought I might mention a paper by Anke Timmermann, if you can get access to a Journal called Early Science and Medicine. It’s a bit late, but may give an idea of how physicians developed from the older simpler idea of the zodiac in relation to the human body as microcosm.

        Anke Timmermann, ‘Doctor’s Order: an early modern doctor’s alchemical notebooks’, Early Science and Medicine, Vol. 13, No. 6, Observation and Experiment in Seventeenth-Century Anatomy (2008) Brill. pp.25-53.

        • and again re Darren’s post of Feb. 3rd

          – once more, a bit late, but see BL Egerton 2572 where the Zodiac man is on one side with volvelle, apothecary, physician etc. on the facing.

          The MS is the Guildbook of the Barber-Surgeons of York and is dated to the second half of the 16th century. Yes, a hundred and fifty years too late. But on the bright side, the near-complete arc, golden in the Guide, is like the green one in a picture which Marco showed from Henry of Villena’s manuscript. ( thought the ‘map’ looked like a re-worked version of a planisphere, but one ‘plate’ from a volvelle would do.

        • Darren Worley

          Thanks Diane, do these papers discuss Eastern medicine? I really think the VM is of an Eastern origin, although it may be a medieval European copy of a much older text.

          You mentioned that your sources may be a little late – I think it quite likely that the ideas conveyed in the VM may date from well much earlier than the 15th century, perhaps by more than a thousand years.

          For example, the 15th century Bavarian Zodiacal Man manuscript contained the same zodiacal signs to body-part mappings described in the 1st century CE (i.e 1300 years earlier.) So these kind of ideas can be long lived.

          Furthermore, in the bathing-section I think the nymphs/angels represent stars and body parts. Medieval sources seem to only use stars in the mapping to body-parts. This association using angels seems to be a uniquely early Judeo-Christian/Gnostic idea. It may be significant that the Gnostic text (Apocryphon of John) that I used as evidence quoted an earlier text of Zoroastrian origin. Marco has frequently identified similarities with Zoroastrian mythology and cosmology in the VM.

          However, I think it is worth noting the influence that the teachings of Zoroaster had on both Greek philosophy and the development of Judaism, as a result of Jewish Babylonian Captivity. What may appear to be a direct Zoroastrian influence may actually be indirect via Greek and Jewish (and Judeo-Christian) sources that have been earlier influenced by Zoroastrian philosophy.

          I recall, in an old post, that you’d mentioned a colleague who on seeing the VM had described it a Kabbalistic. (Apologies, if I’m mistaken.)

          I agree with this opinion. The VM does have a vague Jewish/Kabbalah look and feel to it.

          I read this short blurb on the back of a book by Erwin Goodenough, “Jewish Symbols in the Graeco-Roman Period”. I feel its significant for understanding the Judeo-Christian influence in the VM.

          Quote: “[…] Revealing that the Jewish religion of this period was much more varied and complex than the extant Talmudic literature would lead us to believe, Goodenough presented evidence for the existence of a Hellenistic-Jewish mythic mythology far closer to the Qabbalah than to rabbinical Judaism”.
          I am aware that there was a Renaissance movement lead by Pico della Mirandola; who was synthesising the philosophies of Platonism, Neoplatonism, Aristotelianism, Hermeticism and Kabbalah. This would probably convey a similar idea, but I think the similarities of the VM script with old Hebrew/Syriac/Phonecian alphabets, make me think it is of an earlier origin.
          PS. I think these posts should have been in the Bathing section, rather than on T-O maps.

          • Darren, It was a renowned expert in western Christian medieval art, Erwin Panofsky, who said immediately on being shown the manuscript by Anne Nill that it looked early, Jewish and from “Spain or somewhere southern”. That was in the early 1930s. After the second world war, he was well.. not exactly subject to an inquisition, but sent a “questionnaire” by Colonel Friedman, who tended towards a particular paranoia current at that time, where Jewish refugees were suspected of some type of subversion or another… can’t recall exactly but it was the McCarthy era and the infection spread to England. So when you compare Panofsky’s incredible terse responses with his normal scholarly and highly informative analyses, it seems pretty clear that he was feeling disinclined to assist a member of the military intelligence service, or anything like it.

            As you probably know (or if you don’t it’s all in a side bar to my blog), I have said all along that most of the imagery is based in the Hellenistic period, with the calendar roundels suggesting a period even before Alexander. But the material isn’t homogenous; it has discernable chronological layers, and quite distinct sections, so I think it is more important to discern their common purpose than to try classifying them by a largely chimerical “nationalism”. After all, the written text we have could, just possibly, be one created in the early fifteenth century.. or indeed at any time before that. Translation isn’t a new idea.

            As far as I know, most of medieval Europe only correlated body parts to the 12 figures of the Roman zodiac. Others may know better. I don’t see any trace of that sort of thing in the MS. Others may know better.
            As for the book of the Barber surgeons – I’m interested in the lineage of the imagery, and this is an evident connection albeit much later.
            About the written text in that manuscript – don’t know if it contains recipes. I wasn’t looking at the written text, only the pictorial. Sorry. Perhaps someone else will be able to take the time to assist on that point?

            • Darren Worley

              Thanks Diane – I was aware about the Hellenistic roundels, but I wasn’t aware this design originated before Alexander (pre 350 BCE)

              One notable aspect (of many…) that’s puzzled me about the VM, was Derek’s identification that some symbols had similarities to Phoenician, but this link was dismissed as being “too early”.

              Derek appears not to be the first to identify early alphabetical symbols in the VM. For example – this website identifies Nabatean symbols.


              So your comments that parts of the VM contents may date from 2nd-3rd centuries BCE seems to have been independantly corroborated by others. I’ll bear this mind.

              • Derek Vogt

                The problem with thinking of the Voynich alphabet as derived from the Phoenician one goes beyond the time problem. To conclude that an alphabet is derived from another one, we need to go a few steps beyond just noticing that some of the letters in one resemble some of the letters in the other in some way:

                1. The resemblances should span a whole alphabet, or close to it, not just a handful of letters.

                2. The kinds of transformations that would be necessary to get from one alphabet to the other should be consistent or form patterns & groups. For example, if some are flipped backward or upside-down or rotated clockwise compared to their counterparts, then many/all of those that can be should be. If sharp corners in one correspond with loops in the other in a few cases, they should do so in many/all cases. If lines in certain positions seem to be elongated in a few cases, they should be elongated in many/all cases. If some letters with little hooks at the ends of their strokes seem to lose them in some cases, then many/all such little hooks at the ends of strokes should disappear. In other words, the number of separate “rules” for how to transform a letter to get from its form in one alphabet to its form in the other alphabet should be as few as possible.

                3. Most importantly, when the sound values are known, the letters that are supposed to be related to each other should usually represent the same sound or something pretty close; resemblances between two alphabets’ letters for different and unrelated sounds, like between our [g] and Arabic و (w), are meaningless coincidences.

                When I first started comparing the Voynich alphabet to every other Eurasian alphabet I could find, the Phoenician one’s general style seemed to be suitable overall: not too many straight lines & sharp angles like cuneiform or too many loops like Glagolitic, no un-Voynichy connections from one letter into the next like Arabic or Devanagari, not too boxy like Hebrew. But when I looked into it in more detail, it just didn’t work out. There was no scheme that would connect them letter-for-letter, just a vaguely similar general style and the resulting predictable few resemblances between individual letters by coincidence. Phoenician failed the above 3 tests, as well as being a couple of millennia out of place. And so does Nabataean.

                • Darren Worley

                  I agree that the Phoenician script is early, but the Nabataean script isn’t nearly as ancient. It was in use from 2nd century BCE up until the 4th-century CE. A cursive form of Nabataean then developed in to Arabic.

                  Syriac is derived from Phoenician, and Nabataean is an offshoot from Syraic, and given your extensive reports of the similarities of Voynichese with Syraic these other reported similarities are not that surprising.

                  The source I referred to earlier that discusses the similarity between 5 or 6 Nabataean characters and glyphs in Voynichese. As there are only 22 characters in Voynichese this seems to suggest about 25% of characters have some similarities. This seems rather a lot to be co-incidence. (I accept that I’m not considering sound mappings here.)

                  On this evidence alone, I would guess that perhaps a small isolated pre-Islamic Arab/Nabataean tribe developed a proto-Arabic language (mixed with Greek?) which was used into the medieval period. Examples would be geographically isolated communities like those in Bahrain, Failaka Island or Socotra. Other groups that were isolated by virtue of their religious faith, as opposed to geographic isolation, include like the Sabian Mandaeans, Yezidis or Manichaeans.

                  Although its possible that Voynichese was a “living language” when it was written in the 15th century, it seems just as likely that it could be a medieval copy of a much older manuscript(s).

                  There are well reported discoveries of ancient manuscripts in the past 100 years (eg. Nag Hammadi, Dead Sea Scrolls) but there have been other less well known older discoveries eg. Cairo Geniza, Turfan manuscripts and the Shapira manuscript (that might have been a forgery, but might not have.) Going back further there are examples of 9th-century Dead Sea Scrolls, and there have been other similar cases going back even earlier.

                  Even if the VM is not a copy of an ancient manuscript, there are many examples of ancient texts being re-copied, many hundreds of years after their initial writing, especially, when they become part of religious scripture.

                  Another example I read about recently, concerns Jewish esoteric writings found at Qumran dating from the start of the current era – it seems these ideas were still in circulation amongst Jewish mystics in the medieval period.

                  Quote : The kinds of astrological designation found present in the Brontologion are also present in the Brontologion are also present in Ibn Gaibrol’s work of medieval Jewish myaticism, The Crown of the Kingdom.

                  [Ref: “The Dead Sea Scrolls Uncovered” by Robert Eisenman and Michael Wise, from the chapter on “Divination, Magic and Miscellaneous”]

                  It would appear that Jewish mystical ideas documented in one the manuscripts found at Qumran [the Selendromium/Brontologion (4Q318)] were also to be found in the writings of the 12th-century Jewish Andulucian philospher ibn Gabirol. I think that its significant that Jewish texts from the turn of the current era, are found to be recirculating in Europe in the early medieval period.

                  In essence, it seems safer not to rule out any evidence, but to see where it leads.

                  Something else that I recently learnt seems relevant to this last point, the quotes below are taken from “God Fearers & Worshippers: A Solution to the Ancient Problem of the Identity of the of the Sabians” by ALBERTO FRATINI & CARLO PRATO.

                  Quote 1: […] the Arabian manual of Magic Gayat al-Hakim. The first one is a general definition of the “Sabians”, where it is said that they are nothing else but “the Nabataean servants of Chaldaeans

                  This passage is interpreted as refering to an army, or military service, i.e the “Sabians” were the Chaldaean army (from from present day Jordan.)

                  Quote 2: Abu Yusef, the head-judge of the Caliph Harun al-Rashid, states that the people of Harran are Nabataeans and refugees from Greece (Kitab al-khara, 5th ed. Cairo 1396 H., p.43).

                  Quote 3: According to Al-Mas’udi, Kitab al-tanbih wa al-ishraf, […] the term “Nabataeans” refers to the Syriac-speaking people (cf. SPENCER-TRIMINGHAM, Christianity among the Arabs, p.146 f. and notes, for other references and details)

                  So there seems to be a Nabataean link with the Sabians that I’ve written much about in the past.

              • Yes, to say that Phoenician letters are “too early” is more an instinctive response than an objective historical position. Phoenician co-existed with Persian, Egyptian and classical Greek – indeed with Latin.

          • Darren
            re your post of February 18, 2015 – 10:38 pm
            By sheer happenstance, a post by Ellie Velinska offering a tentative id for one of the botanical folios sent me off at a tangent which – rather to my surprise – opened up a line which may be useful to the linguists and cryptography people. The theme is “theriac” and I’ve now put up a series of posts in sequence, with one more to come.

  8. Marnix Hoekstra

    It says κατὰ μέσα τοῦ κόσμου. The full phrase is ‘αἱ κατὰ μέσα τοῦ κόσμου ἱδρυμέναι’ which means something like ‘the areas which are spread across the middle of the world’. (I added the missing accents.) It obviously refers to the Mediterranean.

    • Marnix Hoekstra

      … in reply to Darren Worley, January 19. My comment ended up in the wrong place.

  9. Johannes Klein

    In the middle i think means just map of the world. The references in the continents are perhaps on famous unbelievers.

  10. MarcoP

    On the basis of Orun’s suggestion, I searched for possible matches for EVA:opashefchdy / opashcfhedy reading “abuxophtn” / “abuxfotn”? and possibly meaning “water of life”. I have been unable to find a satisfying match. Possibly the best candidates are “ab-i-shafa” and “abi jawidan”. I think that both expressions are Persian.

    The concept of “water of life” appears frequently in Zoroastrianism, also in relation with the juice of the sacred plant Haoma.

    This is the fourth case in which the prefix EVA:op- is possibly related to water (“ab” is “water” in Persian).
    * EVA:opoey on the f86v T and O globe
    * EVA:opcholdg on the f68v3 T and O globe
    * EVA:opor on the Bathing Queen on f80r

    But of course none of these cases is perfectly clear. In particular, the T and O globes could well be labeled with cardinal directions corresponding to the continents, as proposed by Darren.

    • Darren Worley

      Good work, Marco – the concept of “water of life”, or “living water” also features heavily in Mandaean religious writings. (The Sabian Mandaeans are a Baptizing Gnostic sect, as you’ll know from my other posts.)

      The Sabian Mandaeans were likely influenced by Zoroastrian teachings as a result of living in areas where the Zoroastrian faith was followed by the ruling elite. Furthermore, there are many similarities between Parsi and Mandaean rituals.

      The term Sabian was only used by Islamic commentators and appears to have been used to refer to the Mandaeans.

      Here are some links to an interesting encyclopedia entry on the Sabians. I haven’t posted these links before, and now seems like a good time to do so.

      Part 1: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/503769908293017194/
      Part 2: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/503769908293017205/
      Part 3: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/503769908293017214/

      • orun rubacı

        in middle east and turk mytology its name is Ab-ı Hayat. other names are : Âb-ı Hızır, Âb-ı Zindegânî, Âb-ı Bekâ, Aynü’l-Hayât, Nehrü’l-Hayât

        the water is mostly related wirh Hızır (arabic: al-Khiḍr). he knows using the water so he lives forever. in a story in islam moses and muhammed go to “Mecma’ül-Bahreyn “. there is a place where 2 seas merge.

        • orun rubacı
        • MarcoP

          Orun, thank you for the reference to this Islamic story. I found a few details here. At p.256 the merging of the two seas is read as a reference to the Black Sea and the Mediterranean merging at Istanbul. I wonder if the story could also apply to the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea.

          I have added Stolfi’s numbers to the labels on the South-West Rosettes (f86v) circular diagram.

          I have a few more tentative identifications based on the following maps:
          Al-Idrisi / Edrisi: Tabula Rogeriana (1154) transcribed by Konrad Miller
          Martin Behaim: 1492 globe (this is a very readable XX Century redraw).
          Ortelius: World Map (I think this is a XVII Century engraving)
          Ortelius: map of the Indian Sea based on Arrian (I think this is a XVII Century engraving)

          In the attached image, I compare the Voynich illustration with Behaim’s globe. The globe has the annoying feature of a very “red” Red Sea: I hope this does not make things too hard to follow. EVA transcriptions are mainly based on Stolfi’s, but I made a few corrections.

          1. EVA:ofdoram
          Aptaru?. Behaim marks the region corresponding to this gulf “Abissinia capta” (coptic Abyssinia). The Arabic form is “dar al-Qubt” (the home of the Copts). A paragraph about the Christians of Africa is written in red on the area of the gulf.

          2. EVA:otedam

          3. EVA:lokedshr
          /lokedshs Shakot?r/s. Al-Idrisi placed a large Sokotra island between Africa and Arabia. Behaim names the island “Scoria”. Actually, the island of Socotra (Arabic:Suqutra) is much smaller.

          4. EVA:otodar
          Alatur / Aladur. Ortelius names the Maldives ”Maldivar”. According to Wikipedia, a possible etymology for the name of these islands is from the Sanskrit Mala Dvipa (“garland islands”). This interpretation implies that the initial “m” has been dropped.

          5. EVA:ytedaiin

          6. EVA:okedy

          7. EVA:loltedy

          8. EVA:opchdam

          9. EVA:ofchdar
          Apitur. The area corresponds to the Gulf of Oman. “Ab” is Persian for Water.

          10. EVA:opchdy
          Abidn. A Persian name of the Red Sea: “abi ahmar”. The area corresponds to the Gulf of Aden.

          11. EVA:oda
          Atu. I could not find anything like “Atu” / “Adu” on acient maps. The idea of the “Kingdom of Ad” does not seem very defensible. I would like to find a better explanation.

          12. EVA:okar.amal
          Akur U?ush Since EVA:okar akur seems to be “the Moon” (on the basis of f68r1 / r2), I assume that this label refers to the Mountains of the Moon (“Lune Montes” on Behaim’s globe).

          13. EVA:otchdy-{ring}chdain
          Alytn Ytu?. I think the second word (outside the circle) could refer to the Indus river.

          14. EVA:otady-{ring}otegy
          Alutn Alo?n

          15. EVA:otedy.oparam Alotn Aburu?. The first word seems to be common to 13, 14 and possibly 2. For Aburu Ortensius’ map based on Arrian names ”Baraces” the mouth of the Indus river. Al-Idrisi has a possibly corresponding town named “Barug”. Behaim calls the region “Bagala”.

          • orun rubacı

            have a look my translation
            12)ak_r _ _oi_
            15)a_otn a_-r_-

            if this is a map i think this shows us place of the aqua vita i think. so im thinking work on the red sea.
            what are these five tihngs? İslands or lakes? http://www.jasondavies.com/voynich/#Ros2/0.294/0.848/4.44

            • MarcoP

              Hello Orun,
              in my opinion these five (?) things are islands. I think the leftmost one #3 could be Socotra.

              • Diane

                As so often, I can hardly disagree with you, since the same views are ones I’ve publicly espoused for years.

                However, in this case I have to insist that the irregular shapes are not islands but an approximation of the shorelines.

                As far as I can tell, so far, the ‘flower’ in the centre is convention for marking the heart of the map-maker’s world, and remarkably often it is Babylon-of-Persia. Soqotra is not impossible, but I think it less likely than, say, Siraf or one of the centres that flourished round about the 8th-10thC AD.

          • Diane

            Marco, Darren et.al.
            As some of you probably know I’ve been referring to Harran and its Sabians, as well as to Yemen and Sabaeans, for years now and intended to return to the topic soon. However, I must insist that the whole idea of the Sabeans/Sabians of Harran turning into Mandaeans is little more than an hypothesis, and imo one with as much (or as little) to recommend it as the idea that Roger Bacon wrote the Voynich manuscript.

            I think it quite possible that some Nabataeans became Mandaeans; but given what we know of the Sabeans of Harran I find it highly unlikely that they would. In any case, as Sabeans they continued to practice their own religion in Harran until the eleventh century AD. Quite late enough for first composition of most imagery in MS Beinecke 408.


            • orun rubacı

              Quran : The Cow (Bakara)- 62 you can see sabians here http://www.kuran.gen.tr/?x=s_main&y=s_middle&kid=14&sid=2

              how harran people become sabii? they were pagan, the caliph or someone like that (im not sure) went harran. he angered the people cause of paganizm. he said “you must belong to a true religion or i will kill all of you”
              harran people choose sabii religion according to Bakara 62. they didnt choose islam because their rival city urfa (erlier times the capital of the Edessa county) is muslim.

      • Darren Worley

        Marco – I’ve been thinking about your mention of “living water”, or the “water of life”.

        Knowing the origins of the Sabian Mandaeans, I suspected that the Jewish Bible (Old Testament) might also contain similar references.

        And it does, infact, it appears 4 times in the Old Testament, and an equal number of times in the the New Testament too (which are references to prophesies in Isaiah in the OT).

        It is discussed here: http://www.icr.org/article/7285/

        In the Old Testament living water has cleansing or miraculous properties, whereas in the NT is refers to life itself.

        I found this curious website that explores the idea of “living water” amongst various cultures.


        Your idea about Ishtar gets a mention in the Greek/Latin section:

        Quote: In a Babylonian myth Ishtar, the embodiment of the reproductive energies of nature, descends every year to the subterranean world to rescue her dead lover, Tammuz. Allatu, the stern queen of these regions, reluctantly allows Ishtar to be sprinkled with the Water of Life, after which she returns with Tammuz to the upper world. During Ishtar’s absence the plants and animals of the earth have stopped reproducing, and upon her return nature once again begins to reproduce.

        Maybe this connection with “reproduction” explains the male genitals that I identified on f77v?

        The ideas of movement from the upper/lower worlds also has parallels with f57v – which possibly depicts the transition from Hell/Underworld, through several levels, to the Gate of Heaven. It is curious that the Story of Jacob (which f57v seems to be referencing) has parallels with older Babylonian myths.

        It seems there are further parallels between Babylonian/Sumerian myths and the Old Testament stories (another example being the Gilgamesh Flood myth and the Story of Noah in Genesis).

      • Darren, Have you had time to read Tamara Green’s work on the Harranians? They are the group who described themselves as ‘Sabians’ in the early days of Islam; I don’t know who first suggested any identity between them and the Mandaeans – I rather think it was an idea of one of the nineteenth or early twentieth century European writers, but there’s nothing in the older material that I’ve seen to suggest it. Some may have converted later, of course.

        • Darren Worley

          Diane – I guess you’re referring to “The City of the Moon God: Religious Traditions of Harran” by Tamara Green. Yes, I have read it (or parts of it anyway).

          Its OK, it didn’t inspire me with ideas though. The most “useful” books I’ve found are those by E.S.Drower (there’s quite a few titles) and Gnosis by Kurt Rudolph, that gives a good overview of the subject.

          Modern Day Mandaeans refer to themselves as Sabian Mandaeans. The term Sabians is the term used only by medieval Muslim commentators. I think the Sabians of Harran are the more urbanized Mandaeans, whereas, the other groups tribes in Persia and Mesopotamia were more rural. There are also reports of Sabians in Greece and Alexandria, who presumably belongs to other tribal groups. The Sabians of Harran were possibly the last remnants of a once larger and widespread communities of heretical Hellenized Jews.

          • Hmnn. Interesting. If the Harranians who claimed to be Sabians were Jews, they are the first polytheistic Jews of which I’ve ever heard. But I’ll say no more on this/ AS you’ll see from my posts (2010-2013) I find much in the Voynich astronomical diagrams to suggest connection with the region of or around Harran, but I haven’t seen any evidence for similar influence in the botanical, or the ‘pharma-‘ or the other sections of the MS.

            Rather than relying on secondary opinions, I did what I could to compare primary sources and archaeological evidence. There appears, for example, a strongly Pythagorean and Egyptian tradition in Harran, with its emphasis on objective science and calculation. I’ve seen nothing to suggest a similar character for the Mandaeans of Iraq. In some cases, the Islamic sources use ‘Sabian’ the way western Christian writers use the word ‘Chaldaean’ – pretty loosely and often meaning no more than that the people knew something about the stars.

            • Darren Worley

              Diane – I can recall from my school-days the story of the Golden Calf from the OT. Isn’t this an example of a (Jewish) lapse into polytheism?

              The Greeks dominated Mediterranean/Near East culture for hundred of years and Hellenistic pagan-polytheism did influence the indigenous religions in the area.


              In the context of VM imagery, I don’t think its possible to identify Pythagorean tradition, rather than say, a Platonist, Neoplatonist or Stoic influence. The group-all term Hellenistic is better.
              You also mention an Egyptian tradition – however Egyptian influence extended outside Egypt, furthermore, there were large communities of Jews, notably in Alexandria, and it not well-known that there were two Jewish temples in Egypt (in Elephantine and Leontopolis) as well as the better known one in Jerusalem.

              My point is that citing a Pythagorean-Egyptian influence is not that distant from citing a Hellenistic Jewish influence, there is a large degree of overlap, rather than division.

              If I were to imagine a Venn diagram, then there would be a large intersection between the two.

              • Distinguishing Sabian from Sabaean in secondary sources isn’t always easy, either.

            • Darren Worley

              Diane – Further to our earlier discussion on Sabian monothesism, I came across this passage which seemed relevant to the idea of monothesism in Near East Culture.

              It seemed to sum-up my thoughts on Sabian beliefs – although its not describing the Sabians per-se.

              Its taken from a Late-Babylonian cuneiform tablet, and its describing various qualities of Marduk, their God.

              Urash is Marduk of planting
              Lugalidda is Marduk of the abyss
              Ninurta is Marduk of the pickaxe
              Nergal is Marduk of battle
              Zababa is Marduk of warfare
              Enlil is Marduk of lordship and consultations
              Nabu is Marduk of accounting
              Sin is Marduk who lights up the night
              Shamash is Marduk of Justice
              Adad is Marduk of Rain
              Tishpak is Marduk of troops

              Some (maybe all) of these “qualities” equated to a celestial body, in this case:

              Ninurta is Saturn
              Nergal is Mars
              Nabu is Mercury
              Sin is the Moon
              Shamash is the Sun

              So what might have seemed like celestial worship, to an external observer, was actually the worship of a quality of Marduk, their God.

              Cuneiform texts 24 50, BM 47406 obv.
              The Origins of Biblical Monotheism: Israel’s Polytheistic Background and the Ugaritic texts, by Mark S. Smith
              The Religion of the Nabataeans: A Conspectus By John F. Healey

              However, I first came across it in a book called “The Ark Before Noah” by Irvin Finkel (its about the Babylonian origins of the Jewish story of Noah).

              • D.N. O'Donovan

                I don’t wish to try arguing you from the conclusions you’ve drawn, and what happened in other centres at other times is still an open question, but I think there’s little doubt that the group in Harran which produced the description ‘Sabian’ in the early years of Islam, and who were widely known to have used it as a way to maintain their older beliefs, were pagans and not monotheists at all. I’m a little surprised at some of the things in Pingree’s paper, but because he IS Pingree, I take much of what he says on trust. The general belief though is that the Greeks learned a lot of their astronomy from those Greco-Egyptian Harranians. But as I say, argument is hardly productive here, where people are less interested in abstruse arguments about history than working on the written part of the manuscript’s text.. so I desist. 🙂

    • MarcoP

      I further examined the lower left section of f86r (“Rosettes”). I noticed that the lines made up of consecutive semicircles are similar to coast lines on some ancient manuscript maps. In some cases, on those maps it is not easy to tell what is land and what is sea. The idea seems to be that the convexity of the circles is towards the land and the concavity towards the sea (the curves represent bays). So I applied the same criterion to the circular drawing in f86v “South-West”. Examining other ancient maps, I noticed that the area bears some similarity to illustrations of the Arabian Sea dating to the same period.
      As always, everything is tentative and possibly far fetched. Anyway, I propose here a few identifications for some of the labels:

      EVA:okar.amal Akur U?ush – The Mountains of the Moon (in East Africa). Arabic: “jabl al kumr”. EVA:okar (Akur A(l)ku(m)r) for the Moon also links to the inscriptions in f68r1 (EVA:okardy) and f68r2 (EVA:okar). In the XV Century Martellus Map, the mountains are labeled in Latin “Montes Lun(a)e”.

      EVA:opchdy Abidn – The Gulf of Aden (I take “abi” as meaning “sea” / “gulf”). In general, EVA:op- seems to be related with Water.

      EVA:oda Adu – The Kingdom of Ad in South Arabia, mentioned in the Quran.

      EVA:opchdar Abidur – The Gulf (abi) of el-Dur (an ancient city not far from Abu Dhabi is).

      • Diane

        Oh sorry – I hadn’t read this post when I sent the previous response.

        Obviously now we agree completely since this is very close indeed to my analysis of this section of folio 86v.


        • MarcoP

          Hello Diane, I am very happy that we agree on some of this!

          Here are some more speculations about the lower left circle in the f86v/Rosettes page as a map of the Indian ocean.

          The 1475 Rudimentum Novitiorum world map and its 1488 variant place the Water of Life in the Indian Ocean (at the top, labeled Oriens / East). They represent Paradise, with two men holding branches of the Tree of Life and with Water of Life flowing from the tree towards the world. The image is clearly based on the bible:

          Genesis 2,9 And out of the ground made the Lord God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

          Revelation 22,1 And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life.

          These two men are not derived exclusively from the Bible. According to the Cartographic Images site:
          At the top of the map are two figures in an enclosed garden. They are not, however Adam and Eve, but two men, each holding a branch in his hand, apparently having a conversation. Various identifications have been suggested. The scholar Anna-Dorothee von den Brincken thinks they might be a Jew and a Christian having a harmonious discussion, thus symbolizing the unity of the Old and New Testaments.

          This site gives a different description:
          two priestly figures in a walled orchard holding what may be olive branches. These may be the Master and his novice, source of rivers and all knowledge; alternatively according to H. Winter (Imago Mundi IX, 1952) they may represent “. . . two men of marvellous wisdom, Jew and Christian . . . united in love of God in one law and one road to wisdom”, (Shirley)

          Both analyses strictly parallel the Islamic story of Moses and Muhammad mentioned by Orun. In a similar story, Moses go to the water of life together with Al Khidr (also mentioned by Orun). A similar and certainly related Persian story involves Kezr and Alexander the Great.

          This last version is illustrated in a 1582 manuscript of the Book of Felicity. Alexander and Khidr/Kezr are on the right. On the left page, another episode of the Alexander Romance is illustrated: the Wall of Gog and Magog (which likely is a mythical version of the Great Wall of China).
          The Wall of Gog and Magog occupies most of the East side of this 1475 Persian World map. The map is discussed on Enciclopaedia Iranica (Fig.8). I guess that the name for Europe (“Afranja”) could also be interesting with reference to Voynich T and O maps.

          At the East of the f86v lower left circle there is a long wall that Anton Alipov identified as the Great Wall of China in one of his comments on Nick Pelling’s blog.

          So two of the elements next to the lower left circle (the Wall and the symbol of Aqua Vitae / Water of Life) can be traced to mythical elements represented in ancient maps and legends and associated with nearby areas.

          • Diane

            I think the first and most careful stage in approaching any of the more abstract folios is that of determining the intended orientation (which isn’t necessarily that of the diagram, or of the folio, as we have it.)

            Not thinking to do this wasted many years of researchers time as they attempted to identify on the western side of the Mediterranean a structure fairly clearly marked as on the eastern.

            It is also a good idea to check claims that a drawing represents literally any enduring structure (such as the Great Wall) by matching its architectural style to the one proposed.
            In general, I prefer not to compare the Vms with any sources later than 1403-1438, for obvious reasons, but that is not to say that later works mayn’t help explain details in earlier ones. But they are equally likely to distort or subvert or ‘improve’ the content of an older and/or alien source.

      • Actually, Marco, the coastlines in folio 86v are so *very* unusual that I assure you there is nothing comparable to them that I’ve seen in the past forty years.
        I did point out, if you recall, that the use of dots to indicate shallows occurs on Piri Re’is maps and so forth… but nothing like the lithological notation on folio 86v of MS Beinecke 408. It is so very remarkable that it was a major factor in my agreeing to consider this manuscript at all.

        The nearest I’ve come to finding anything remotely similar in western works is what seems to me to be a map that the European scribe made after seeing something similar, but vastly reduced the detail. (The map in question is reproduced in Obrist’s article, to which I’ve referred in recent posts and which I think you’ve also read).

        As I first said a few years ago, and have repeated every so often: I think folio 86v is probably one of those ‘Jaferiye’ which are mentioned by Piri Re’is as maps “made in the days of Alexander of the two horns”, and which western writers, somewhat overconfidently, presumed meant maps made from Claudius Ptolemy’s data. I think the admiral knew his onions…

        Anyway, keep up the hunt. Best wishes.

        • MarcoP

          Hello Diane,
          are you referring to Obrist’s “Wind diagrams” article?

          I don’t understand which of the 34 illustrations is the one that you find relevant. Could you please provide some detail, e.g. the image number or page number?

          • Marco,
            with all due respect, I think I won’t be more specific until I’ve had a chance to write a post for my own blog. After all, this is an observation drawn from my own research and experience, and I’d prefer to present it in a format where it can be cited properly if anyone else should want to adopt it, and re-use it in their own work. You have probably not yet had the experience of having your results repeated as if they had been common knowledge, or drawn from the air by divine inspiration… but it is a too-common phenomenon in Voynich studies, as most of us older-timers have learned the hard way. Cheers.

  11. MarcoP

    I post this comment here because it is related to the elements (which possibly also appear in T and O maps). This web page by P Han presents (among other things) an analysis of f80r, the bathing queens. At the center of the top illustration, we can see a “nymph” who wears a flower crown and seems to be coming out of a bathtub.

    P Han compares the central Bathing Queen (Nymph #6 from the left) to ancient images of Venus Anadyomene: the identification of the subject as a water goddess is a possibility, independently on linguistic considerations. The nymph is labeled EVA:opor reading Apar (or ^abar^, following Derek’s phonetics). I think this confirms the idea we discussed with Derren that the label EVA:opoey on Voynich f86 / Rosettes O T map (an possibly EVA:opcholdg on f68v3) could be related with the Zoroastrian sacred water Aban/Apas. Nymph #6 likely is a personification of Aban.

    Nymph #4 is labeled EVA:okolo, reading Akasha (the fifth element of Hinduism and Zoroastrianism, as Stephen discussed here). She wears what appears to be a jewel tiara. Jewels are among the attributes of Buddhist personifications of Akasha (Akasagarbha).

    So, at least some of the characters apparently are personifications of natural elements. The preponderance of women among these personifications seems to me noteworthy (for instance, the Buddhist personification of Akasha is male).

    I also find the couple on the right interesting: Nymph #9, who wears a flower in her hair and has her hands tied behind her back, seems to he held captive by the Man. They are facing towards Apar. I tried to collect a set of random ideas for an embryonic explanation of this scene. I am sure that none of the following stories is exactly the one illustrated in this page.

    The scene seems to me somehow similar to some Mesopotamian seals (eg ME 103317). From the British Museum description:
    “Cuneiform documents dating from the early second millennium BC describe how Ea, god of water and wisdom, held the Tablet of Destiny, a cuneiform tablet on which the fates were written and gave supreme power to its possessor. According to these accounts, Ea decides to bathe, and removes his crown, clothes and tablet. Anzu steals the tablet but the hero god Ningirsu defeats the monstrous bird and recovers the tablet. This serpentinite seal appears to show Anzu (shown as a bird-man) brought as a prisoner before Ea.”

    I propose the following parallel:

    * Nymph #6 Apar roughly corresponds to the water god Ea.
    * The Man at the extreme right (EVA:okar akur – Ahura? / a god?) roughly corresponds to the hero god Ningirsu.
    * Nymph #9 (EVA:okiin?) roughly corresponds to the bird-man Anzu.

    A related Avestan myth exists: the bird Kamak steals all the water from the world. He is defeated by the hero Karshasp. ”When Kamak appeared he spread his wings over the whole world, all the rain fell on his wings and back into the sea, drought struck the earth, men died, springs, rivers and wells dried up”.

    But the beautiful and floral Nymph #9 is very different from these monstrous bird demons.

    Another possible parallel can be found in Botticelli’s Allegory of Spring. The central character is Venus. On the right, the personification of the West wind Zephyr is kidnapping Chloris, a nymph closely related to Flora (the goddess of flowers), who stands nearby.
    A possible Avestan relative of Flora and Chloris is Anahita, also associated with flowers (and so a possible match for Nymph #9).

    * Nymph #6 Apar roughly corresponds to Venus / Spring.
    * The Man at the extreme right roughly corresponds to Zephyr.
    * Nymph #9 roughly corresponds to Chloris/Flora.

    The rape of Persephone / Proserpina also comes to mind.
    The myth of [U]kur is a Mesopotamian variant: A dragon. He abducted Ereshkigal and became ruler of the underworld with her. He was killed by Enki and Ninurta but his body had held back the primaeval waters and now a flood threatened. The situation was saved when Ninurta built a wall to hold the waters back. The Man labeled Akur could correspond to Ukur.

    * Nymph #6 Apar roughly corresponds to the water god Enki.
    * The Man at the extreme right (Akur) roughly corresponds to Ukur.
    * Nymph #9 roughly corresponds to Ereshkigal.

    In conclusion, I would tentatively say that the illustration is related to a myth about fertility, rain and season change (at least, these seem to me the common traits of the parallels mentioned above).

    • Stephen Bax

      Thanks Marco for a fascinating set of ideas. I have been planning to set up a page for more discussion of the Balneological section, so I have now done so, here, to provide a space where people can comment on these interesting pages more.

    • Marco, as far as I know the Sumerian myths had been long forgotten, and their script was quite unknown in medieval Latin Europe. Ditto in medieval Islam.
      Always willing to be persuaded, though, if there’s evidence to the contrary.

  12. Darren Worley

    I wanted to discuss the T-O map on the Rosette page at greater length.

    Here is an image to present my ideas in more detail.

    This image is intended to accompany my next posting.

    • Darren Worley

      The following response is a continuation of a discussion thread about the T-O map that is found in the upper-right hand corner of the Rosettes page.



      My interpretation of the Rosettes T-O map is that:

      eva: okos -> akas; refers to Africa
      eva: opoey -> apaon?; refers to Europe (West)
      eva: osal -> asu?; refers to Asia (East)

      Here is my analysis for the attribution of Europe/Asia.

      I noticed that Asia, was known as the “land of the rising sun” from the Phoenician “asu” meaning “east”, and Europe as the “land of the setting sun” from the Phoenician was “ereb” meaning “west”. These terms were possibly transformed by the Greeks into the terms we know today.


      Quote: c.1300, from Latin Asia, from Greek Asia, speculated to be from Akkadian asu “to go out, to rise,” in reference to the sun, thus “the land of the sunrise.”

      Quote (from another source): A common theory is that the Greek name [for Asia, is that it] ultimately derived from the Phoenician word asu, which means “east”, and the Akkadian word asu which means “to go out, to rise.” In reference to the sun, Asia would then mean “the land of the sunrise.”

      Quote (Asia: A Concise History By Milton W. Meyer. p1): The word Asia is derived from asu, an early Greek word for sunrise.


      Quote : Klein (citing Heinrich Lewy) suggests a possible Semitic origin in Akkad. erebu “to go down, set” (in reference to the sun) which would parallel orient. Another suggestion along those lines is Phoenician ‘ereb “evening,” hence “west.”

      Quote (from another source): [..] but one theory [on the origin of Europe] is that it comes from the Akkadian word erebu which means “to go down, set” or the Phoenician ereb which means “evening, west.” The western directional meaning would mean it had similar origins to Asia.

      This gave me the idea to compare these terms (sunrise/sunset) in a Middle Persian (Pahlavi) dictionary, as links with Pahlavi have previously been noted. In the “Manual of Pahlavi II” by Nyberg – it reports that:

      “xuar-asan”, the rising sun, or coming sun. Where “xuar, is sun” and “asan” means “to come, or rise”. “asan” seems to fits well with (eva:osal->asu?) and its position in the semicicle, which is associated with Asia, the “land of the rising sun” or East.

      “xuar-baran”, or “xuar-paran”, the West or Sunset. Where “xuar, is sun” and “paran” means “to go down, or evening”. This fits well with the text in the right-quadrant (eva: opoey -> apaon?) which is associated with Europe, the “land of the setting sun” or West. (Elsewhere, I’ve seen “apara” associated with West – google it).

      I don’t think this analysis is definitive, but it seems that the text in the semi-circle (eva:osal) relates to “land of the rising sun”, for Asia/East, and the text (eva:opoey) relates to “land of the setting sun” for Europe/West.

      The word (EVA: okos) would indicate Africa, as previously suggested.

      I think this might also tie-in with star-names. If (eva:opoey) relates to West/Sunset/Evening – it seems probable that we may find links with the “Evening Star” (a name for Venus when it appears in the west after sunset) and (eva:osal) with East/Sunrise/Morning for the “Morning Star” (a name for the planet Venus when it appears in the east before sunrise).

      • Neticis

        In modern Latvian east is “austrumi” have similar root to “asan”, but “rietumi” is not similar to “baran” at all.
        Though folklore songs have word “vakari” (almost always in plural, i.e. evenings) for west, what is somewhat similar to “baran”. And then “rīti” (mornings) could be other plausible root for east.
        Could be 4th letter in “asu?” r, n or m?
        And could be “apaon?” more likely as “akaon?”

        • Darren Worley

          Thanks for your ideas, Neticis.

          The reason I suspect its not Latvian, is simply that Middle Persian (or a related dialect) seems to be a better fit – that’s the only logic.

          If you can find a better match with medieval Latvian, please do share your results here.

    • Darren Worley

      I was looking to see if there were any “gnostic” maps of the world when I came across the following example – this map has been reconstructed from the writings of Iraneus (c130 CE – 202 CE), in this case his tract “Against Heresies”. (ref: Christian Beginnings: Apocalypse to History by Robert M. Grant).


      Iraneus was an early Church Father, and was Bishop of Lugdunum in Gaul, then a part of the Roman Empire (now Lyon, France). His best-known book, Adversus Haereses or Against Heresies (c. 180), is a detailed attack on Gnosticism, which was then a serious threat to the Church, and especially on the system of the Gnostic Valentinus.

      I believe this map bears similarities with the Rosette T-O map. Note, that Ethopia is named. I pointed out that the word for aether, meaning hot or burning, which
      was identifed in the Africa quadrant of the Rosette T-O map, is the root of word meaning Ethiopians (Aithiopes).

      It also shows that maps conveying information similar to that depicted in a T-O map were probably already in existance in the first century (c150 CE).

      It seems very likely that “gnostic” ideas have influenced Iraneus’ construction of this map.

      Can anyone help with the Greek text? I’d be interested to know what the other words mean, to see if they match up with any VM text.

      • Stephen Bax

        Intriguing! My poor Greek suggests that in the top left section we have the words for Germans, Celts and Iberians (i.e. examples of Europeans), then in the bottom left we have Libya and Egypt (exemplifying Africa). The four words in the centre represent – according to Google translate – a sentence saying “XXXX [Hatta?] means the cosmos/world”

        So although this is dubious it does seem to fit your idea that this is an early attempt at a sort of T-O map.

      • Johannes Klein

        In Europe: En Germanias. En Keltos. En Iberias.
        In Africa: En Lybos. En Agyptos.
        Middle: Karta mesa ton kosmos.

        • Stephen Bax

          See the reply from Marnix Hoekstra which ended up at the top of the page!:

          “It says κατὰ μέσα τοῦ κόσμου. The full phrase is ‘αἱ κατὰ μέσα τοῦ κόσμου ἱδρυμέναι’ which means something like ‘the areas which are spread across the middle of the world’. (I added the missing accents.) It obviously refers to the Mediterranean.”


      • Darren Worley

        Many thanks for all the feedback.

        First a couple of corrections – the correct spelling of his name is Irenaeus; and he lived in the 2nd century, not the first, as I wrote before.

        For me, one unexpected insight is that Irenaeus, an Early Church Father, was writing in Greek even though he was a Christian Bishop living in Roman Gaul (in present day France). As he was born in Smyrna, (Western Anatolia; modern-day Turkey) I can imagine that his vocabulary and writings would also have been influenced by the strong Jewish presence in Smyrna. (ref: Wikipedia)

        I assumed, wrongly, that the Early Christian Church Fathers would have written exclusively in Latin – seemingly not. I wasn’t aware that even in Rome, Greek was the written language of the early Judaeo-Christians. For example, Clement of Rome, (c35 CE – 99 CE) wrote his Epistle of Clement in Greek.

        I believe this could be significant given the Greek influence in the VM. I think this opens up the possibility that the VM is perhaps a medieval copy/translation of an early Greek Judeo-Christian text, possibly a heresiography (a collection of heretical gnostic writings)? The Latin page numbers could be a later addition (for example, those at the bottom of f70v1, that Stephen has previously written about.)

        An English translation of Irenaeus’ “Adversus Haereses” or “Against Heresies” (c. 180); a detailed attack on Gnosticism, is available here:


      • Diane

        Brilliant find, Darren. I always enjoy reading your comments here. (Pity it’s only here).

        • Stephen Bax

          What do you mean ‘only here’!? This is the very centre of the universe isn’t it? 🙂

          • Marnix Hoekstra

            It says so in the centre of Irenaeus’ map, or it could be read that way 🙂

          • Stephen,
            Don’t you agree that it is helpful to be able to balance the short-ish comments here with longer pieces on a person’s own site?

            Not to be picky, but I cannot think that, strictly speaking, the definite article is appropriate to the noun ‘universe’. Is it?

            • Stephen Bax

              In fact I do agree Diane, but not everyone wants to run their own website.

              That is why I am more than happy to give people space here to post fuller discussions of their ideas. If Darren or anyone else wants to send me a developed version of a particular theory I am interested in publishing it – as you imply, it is great to have ideas elaborated and developed in detail.

              Oh, and if the universe is as ‘uni-‘ as the name implies, then I’ll stick with the definite article. But maybe we should deal with Voynich first before we solve the question of the nature of the universe 🙂

      • orun

        interesting maps from Anaksimandros and eratosthenes

        Map 1

        Map 2

        Map 3

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