A proposed identification of a word found on f77v – by Darren Worley

This is a post sent in by Darren Worley – thanks Darren.

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In this report I suggest a possible reading for a text label found on f77v. This follows on from a 2015 post on the same topic (here) that I now believe to be incomplete. I also speculate on what this might imply for the identity of Voynichese.

The text label under-disussion is shown bordered in red in the image below. It accompanies a diagram of the male genitals. Importantly, also depicted within the same image is a pregnant female figure. I believe that this pregnant female figure is critical to correctly interpreting the meaning of this text label.

There are slight variations in the possible readings of this word. Here are the variants from published EVA transcriptions:

# left center figure, above W nymph
<f77v.N.4;H> sosoral=
<f77v.N.4;U> sororal=
<f77v.N.4;V> saroral={Grove’s #6}

Applying the phonetic transcriptions based on Prof. Bax’s 2014 paper (A proposed partial decoding of the Voynich script), yields :

EVA:sosoral -> “sasarul”
EVA:sororal -> “sorarul”
EVA:sororal -> “sararul”

I would interpret this word as being composed of a root verb (sara- or sora-) with a gender, tense or plural suffix (-rul).

Previously, I suspected this word maybe related to the Arabic “sararat” for jetting out water (fountain) or perhaps the Persian “shasha” for urine, exudation [ref: Dictionary of Persian, Arabic, English; Johnson]. However, this interpretation fails to explain the pregnant female figure.

However, whilst researching the origin of the root “s-r-” for “flow, stream” (ref : here I identified what I consider to be a better set of matches.

Better matches are provided by words found in Semitic languages (Hebrew/Amharic/Arabic/Syriac) that have meanings relating to conception, which aligns well with both the image of the pregnant female figure and the male genitals.

For example, here are examples of related terms in several modern languages. (You can hear some of them being spoken using Google translate.)

 

It would therefore appear that the text label (EVA:sororal → sararul) is describing either conception, or a related term like seed, seminal fluid, ejaculation or offspring. Specially, the root of this word (EVA:soro- read as “sara-”) appears to be related to the word for “seed” in Semitic languages.

I also considered similar terms in other languages,for example, there are similar terms in Sanskrit. However, these words do not relate to conception or pregnancy, suggesting a weaker link with Sanskrit.

For example:

sar “to flow, move” (Sanskrit)
sara “liquid, water” (Sanskrit)

I also gave thought to the possibility that this word might be related to the Latin verb serō. However, this does not fit as well with the phonetic transcriptions.

serō (present infinitive serere, perfect active sēvī, supine satum); third conjugation
1. I sow, plant.
2. (of persons) I beget, bring forth, produce.
3. (figuratively) I found, establish; scatter, spread, disseminate; propagate; excite; cause, produce.

In conclusion, I propose that the label above the male genitals and figure of a pregnant women, [EVA:sororal -> “sararul”] means “to seed” (conceive). Furthermore it would appear that Voynichese has similarities to Semitic languages (Hebrew/Amharic/Arabic/Syriac) or contains borrowings from them.

 

This identification also demonstrates that it is possible to make meaningful identifications using the transcriptions described by Prof. Bax in his 2014 paper.

It also informs us that text labels do refer to the accompanying images.

Finally, on a more speculative note, I wanted to discuss what Voynichese might be, based on this evidence.

Of the languages described above, both Hebrew, Arabic and Syriac are written from right-to-left. Only Amharic, like Voynichese, is written left-to-right.

It is interesting to speculate that Voynichese might be related to Amharic, the official language of Ethiopia. There was some cultural contact between Ethiopia and Europe in the early 15th-century when the Voynich manuscript was written, for example, four Ethiopian monks attended the Council of Florence in 1441. However, what is perhaps more interesting is why Amharic switched to being written left-to-right: it was due to the influence of Greek.

This historical example of a switch in written direction, suggests that when a Semitic language is influenced by another language that is written from left-to-right (eg. Greek, German or Latin etc.), this might provide the conditions to reverse its normal written direction. Such conditions could have possibly re-occurred amongst Hebrew speakers in Europe (by Jews right across the European continent), or amongst Arabic-speakers in Europe (in medieval Spain or Malta).

We must also remember that Hebrew, Arabic and Syriac are living languages, however, there were other now-extinct languages spoken in the European and the Arabian/Mediterranean region. I think another good candidate language for Voynichese might be the language of the Sabians. This group of people lived in the region around Harran and Edessa (in modern day Turkey close to the border with Syria) until the 11th-century when the populations were dispersed following Muslim expansion into this area. Contemporary Muslim sources refer to Sabians as Syriac-speaking pagans and Greek immigrants. (ref : Gündüz, The Knowledge of Life, p.131-32).

Centuries earlier, many important Sabian astronomers, astrologers and mathematicians were to be found living in Baghdad. I’m inclined to think the Voynich manuscript is likely a “summa”, a compendium of knowledge of various topics including astrology. For this reason I find a link with the Sabians to be plausible. I’m also mindful of the fact that the Kitab al-Bulhan or Book of Wonders (late 14th-century) a manuscript probably bound together in Baghdad contains Voynich-like symbols.

Texts based upon the works of Sabian writers were circulating in Europe at the time that the Voynich manuscript was created, for example, the Sabian astronomer/astrologer-philosopher Thabit ibn Qurrah (826-901) is named in one of the important astrological texts of the period – the Picatrix. Thabit’s native language was Syriac, which was the eastern Aramaic dialect from Edessa, and he was fluent in Greek and Arabic too. Latin translations of his astrological works continued to be widely copied into the 15th-century. Its perhaps, not too much of a stretch of the imagination to think that a Sabian manuscript might have survived in a copied form. There was a great interest in unusual manuscripts in the 15th-century, and collectors travelled widely collecting and copying unusual manuscripts.

One other possible explanation for the identity of Voynichese is that it represents an attempt to write Judaeo-German (Yiddish) or a now-extinct form of Judaeo-Czech (Knaanik) using a novel alphabet. I find both these possibilties plausible, especially the latter, since Voynichese shares many common characters also found in Latin abbreviations and medieval Czech. Furthermore, a significant number of parallels have been reported between the Voynich Zodiac symbols and similar depictions found in other Central European manuscripts from the same time-period. The earliest known history of the Voynich manuscript places it in Prague and its earliest known owner, Jacobus Horcický de Tepenec (Sinapius) (1575 – 1622), was born in Borenovice in Moravia. Both these locations had local Jewish populations, and this might have provided the opportunity to write a regional Jewish-Moravian/Bohemian dialect in a left-to-right direction.


This is a post sent in by Darren Worley – thanks Darren.

 

35 Comments

  1. D.N. O'Donovan

    Darren,
    Once again, sorry for the delay – I just don’t get to read online material as often as I did.

    Your post doesn’t make very clear the line of cause-and-effect in the way you reach your ideas. Did you begin by interpreting the label, and then interpret the pictures on that basis, or vice versa?

    I feel that I should tell you that the notion that these pictures show the female figures with swelled abdomens in order to convey the idea they are pregnant women is entirely a product of the modern imagination, and it seems few have paused to ask either who proposed the idea (and what evidence they adduced) or even whether the assertion is true. The short answer is that it is not true. What you’re seeing is a fashion in art. Other periods see the human figure with its rib- and leg- and arm-bones visible in a way that one could read (just as wrongly) to mean the text is about starvation.

    Similarly – I’m not sure which biological photographs you have referred to, but if they show male testicles looking like that, I’d suggest the book is about the final stages of some fairly awful venereal disease.

    Exactly which part of the testes did you think was large enough, or hollow enough for a pregnant woman to stand in, or which to be so enlarged that she could sink an arm up to her elbow?

    If you interpreted the label first and then imposed the interpretation on the image, all is not lost. As you say the word can refer to other things than human insemination or ej**ulation. But if you interpreted the label by your false impressions of the imagery, then perhaps it’s worth re-thinking. I’d refer again to the former Sasoon 823, now in the LJS collection. There you see (in the illustration for Gemini) persons with hairstyles like this, rounded bellies like this, and flat seemingly ankle-less feet like this. Seems to be a stylistic thing.

    About the suggestion of a Semitic language, I can hardly object, given that (i) I’m not a comparative linguist and (ii) on the basis of detailed study of the mss’ images I’ve been saying since 209-10 fthat I think we owe transmission of a great deal in the Voynich manuscript to eastern (non-Ashkenazi) Jews who brought it there.
    That doesn’t mean I expect the text to be in Hebrew. I tend to think that if it were, one of the linguists… someone like Stolfi … would surely have noticed the fact a good many years ago. Still – who can say it’s impossible?

    • Mr DONOVAN
      Mr Stolfi ainsi que Mr Casanova ne peuvent plus ignorer avec les documents fournis,
      que le texte est de forme hébraique.
      L ‘informatique ne maitrise pas ce système de lecture.Livre de la TORAH JUIVE
      LA KABBALE.
      La page 2 du codex ,parle de la Lettre SAMEKH …..La Lettre du secret.
      Mr BAX …..voici pour vous tous un axe de recherche avec un solide fondement.
      recherches Physiques…..et spirituelles …sur le Plan Structurel de la Création
      NICOLAS Georges
      France

  2. Melissa Swem

    The women in the images portray what activities might be going on at the cellular level. This may even interpret a conscious cellular level.

    • I think this is unlikely. Cell theory only came about after the 17th century, which is much later than the VM’s apparent origin.

  3. Hemanth

    We could be barking up the wrong tree, but I just wanted to point out that sasuraal (ससुराल) in modern Hindi, means in-laws.

  4. Ina Han

    I have the feeling that this part of manuscrip is about mithologic gods and goddesses. This small female must be goddess depicted, and their names are next to them, or the land where they are belived to exist. And possibly the script is their story…

    • MarcoP

      Hi Ina,
      a couple of years ago, we discussed similar ideas on this page.

      Ishtar was also mentioned, since one of the “nymphs” could be holding a spindle, which was one of the attributes to that goddess.

  5. Ina Han

    On f83v in the middle and by the left hand side I read word ”asasara”just next to female shaped bottom fish-tale figure, and there I have found that on web;
    A-sa-sa-ra. A name found in pre-Indo-European Linear A libation formulas and thought to be a name of the Goddess. Its similarity to the names Asherah, Ishtar, and possibly Isis, led to the suggestion that this name was brought to Crete c.3000 BCE by new settlers who also brought the bronze smelting technology. However, it is possible and not unlikely that the name came to Crete with the original settlers from Anatolia, especially since unlike her counterparts in the Middle East, the Ariadnian Goddess was not subordinated to a Father God.

    Could Asasara be the name of the Snake Goddess?

  6. Ina Han

    On that f82r I can obviously read the word ”atlas” above the green area and at the both sides of river like shape. Am I alone??

  7. Damian

    Unsure where to post this but I find the text very interesting its at the top of a picture by Albrecht Duerer 1471-1528
    More of his work in the link below some looks very similar
    https://www.lessingimages.com/viewimage.asp?i=40130218+&cr=22&cl=1

    • Laura

      The text dates the painting “1493 AD”

  8. Wayne Tucker

    I have examined the word you describe and found that it can also be spelled Zororal. Using a Catalan dictionary it would appear the word means “crazy.” I have applied the Bax method to the first page of the manuscript with good results and will follow up with an article posted here on what I found if you wish. I found a date in the manuscript of 1438, or the year of hunger.

    • Wayne Tucker

      I’ve been looking at the first page of the Voynich Manuscript, Quire 1 f1r Paragraph 3 Line 3 Word 3 most specifically and come up with a tentative meaning. The word is as follows: [ kosam ] or kosmos (cosmos)

      Which means, of course, that the cosmos was the universe regarded as a complex and orderly system; the opposite of chaos. The philosopher Pythagoras used the term cosmos (Ancient Greek: κόσμος) for the order of the universe, but the term was not part of modern language until the 19th century geographer and polymath, Alexander von Humboldt, resurrected the use of the word from the ancient Greek, assigned it to his multi-volume treatise, Kosmos, which influenced modern and somewhat holistic perception of the universe as one interacting entity.

      The word “kosam” itself comes from the Catalan language and translates to “kosmos” or “cosmos” in English. This suggests that the base language might be, in part, Catalan derived.

    • Darren Worley

      Your suggestion of Catalan words is interesting, but since these proposed word identifications are without any context, they are not really believable.

      It seems probable that the meaning of a word label is related to the accompanying diagram. For example, on ff68r2 the label next to a star is likely the name of that star. Similarly the label on f77 relates to and accompanies the adjacent diagram.

      • Wayne Tucker

        Thanks for your comment. I am including a file that contains two photographs of a device called an astrolabe. If you look at the characters on the device you’ll note that the language is more than remarkably similar to the Voynich MS. The astrolabe is Catalion in origin and I’m using it as a Rosetta Stone to decipher the first page of the manuscript. That I’ve almost done and am working up a post to include my findings as we speak. Better than 50% of the words I have figured out are from the Catalan dictionary. In graduate school linguistics was my least favorite class and yet now it is the most interesting. I hope you enjoy the photo’s and you can use them to aid in your studies if you wish. PS, I own the astrolabe.

        • Wayne Tucker

          It doesn’t look like the file made it. Sorry, I’m still learning the system.

          • Wayne Tucker

            VOYNICH MANUSCRIPT STATISTICAL ANALYSIS USING TWO CHARACER SETS

            Using the Volder method of linguistics and adding to the character set with only one modification I analyzed the first paragraph of the Voynich Manuscript. When I used the Bax character set the result was a 30% hit rate. Using the modified Volder character set the result was 25/38 or 66% hit rate. The words returned by the Bax character set were Catalan centered with a few Spanish and Latin variants. The Volder character set returned words of Latvian origin with a few Latin words. The most interesting thing is that of the 800 words I have deciphered all the connecting words; the, this, that, with and so forth were clustered around the Latvian area. The match with the two types of words is more than a coincidence. The other character sets available for the Voynich manuscript returned more or less the same percentages as the Bax character set. Because of this I will continue to use the Volder system and drop the rest as an unprofitable venture.

            T1 based on Volder

            1) Paunts? Akust Ur agum sash sash gharr Nkor sasht
            Pontiff Ur sash sash house Sasha

            2) Rorn khur ar kuyr abgum sur as ghur tuc
            Return with South as home then

            3) Tsum sbku ar nkum sat ghayb turum s?
            Summons with failures enough Gaeb consider

            4) Tam agun agatsrashahn ghur tum ag? Akuc
            Done home then

            5) Ruyn hbar ghum far ghum
            Ruins roam far roam

            BAX

            1) Patgzc nkos or ogom sash sash dors nkar sash_u rarn dkdur arnkut daguq sur uzd ugdur ugdur nu? Rnuq sdkn ar nkuq sat ghaurd ghdr turuq ru _aq aqafddn agarrashagn

            ? ? or oh sash sash sleep garth ? ? ? ? on foot South ? ?
            ? ? ? ? with ? sat scrape ? ? ? ? ? ?

            • I’m not linguist, but native Latvian, and I don’t see much of similarities with Latvian, except “ar” (with) word. Because of inflections, Latvian should have suffixes for words instead of many particles (short “glue” words like in English). There is no “f” and “h” sounds in old Latvian.
              But, as Latvian and Lithuanian have preserved quite lot of Sanskrit words, any (accidental) similarity strengthens theory that this should be Indo-Europeic language.
              More statistics for (modern) Latvian:
              letter distribution (analysis made for better Latvian keyboard layout): http://odo.lv/LatvianKeyboard1
              Word distribution in Latvian (Made for improvements of eSpeakNG text-to-speech engine. Pay attention to promilles, not percents!): http://odo.lv/Blog/160513

            • Darren Worley

              Wayne, how can I tell if your proposal is correct? There are no accompanying diagrams on this page to persuade me your identifications make sense.

              Why don’t you try and identify some of the text on f67r2? It seems reasonable that the text and the labels relate to the diagram. If you can make meaningful identifications here, this would be more persuasive.

            • Sir Robert

              Could the other 50% be old Kashmir

  9. A.M. Darling

    I watched a documentary about this and saw two characters that looked familiar, so I went on the wikipedia page of the Voynich Manuscript where there’s a list of the characters used. In there, there are two characters of the Korean alphabet, hangul. I’m not so sure about one of them, which is ㅅ (s), but ㅈ (j) is definitely there. Although, this raises some questions because hangul was developed in 1443, 5 years after the manuscript was supposedly finished. Did you guys translate these two letters? Let me know, i’m really curious as to how they ended up in the Voynich and what they mean.

    • Stephen Bax

      Thanks for your suggestion, but unfortunately a resemblance in one of two signs must be seen as no more than coincidence. What we are hoping for is to find more significant and systematic patterns! But they are rather elusive!

      • Damian

        Hi Stephen,
        Can you please check what I have posted in the plants section, I believe I have the solution to decode this and have decoded 9 words using my method which has shown success and created a sentence which relates to the page.

  10. Caz

    First off: Awesome job on the translation. I am not a linguist, but do have knowledge of regional DNA and ethnic migrations. I am very enamored in the possibility that this manuscript was an attempt at assimilation for a Jewish group in central Europe. I want to remind folks that the Jews of central europe were refugees from the Mongol destruction of the Khazak empire of the north Caucasus (converts, not ethnic hebrews, as proven by DNA analysis). So a link to the Caucasus languages could come that link. Is anything known about ancient Khazak?

    • Caz

      The Jews in Prague claim to have opened their first cemetery in ~1430, indicating an influx of Jews around the same time as the manuscript was written. Prague’s Jewish population grew much faster than other cities because the Czechs did not persecute them. Of course Jewish medicine men and other learned folk would gravitate to Prague in such a liberal environment, and likely be motivated to share their wisdom. I wonder if the option remains that the plant and medicine names and descriptions in the VM came from the Jewish immigrants while most of the rest of the text came from another language. btw – I very much like the hypothesis that the lettering is a form of shorthand or copier jargon for technical lingo of the day.

  11. Christina Hansson

    I wonder about the “womb” word. I tried searching old words, but I could not find anything like the above, which at first looked like “orsosder” to me. I better go read your decipher, see where I went wrong.

  12. Hi, Darren!
    My version of decryption F77v.N.4. ‘SOSORAL’ : SOSO = cataboli [c / re / sm?], OR = arca, AL = urina [e / lis]. ‘Cataboli [c] arca urina [e / lis]’; ‘the output capacity of the urethra’.
    The third letter in this “word”, determined by the majority of researchers as EVA-S or EVA-R, in my opinion, differs from the standard S / R-outline. I define it as a sign “T ‘with a title.”
    to more details – http://limanov.livejournal.com/8084.html

    • Darren Worley

      Hi Alexandr – I had a look at your webpage.

      I found your comments about the attribution of the Pisces star as “Kullat Nun” to be the most interesting. Can you identify some of the other zodiac labels? It would be good to learn if you can identify a pattern across several labels.

      I’m still working on applying the same method I described, to identify other labels, based on similarities with Semitic words.

      I don’t know Latin well enough to comment on the accuracy of your translations, but how can EVA:al (from f77r.X.6) mean “vein”, and yet the same text EVA:al (on f77v.N.4) mean “urine”?

      • Hi Darren!
        Here are three steps))
        Take the Latin word “vein” (Latin – vena). According to the norms of the Latin abbreviation, there are two letters from it: VN. Now look at the word “urine” (Latin – urina). It can be cut in three ways: UN, UR or UrN. In the third case, the letter “r” can be represented by a overline (titlo), by a superscript cap (letter) or be eliminated. And the Latin letter ‘V’ in written form is identical to the Latin letter ‘U’.
        So… finally, EVA:a = LATIN:u/v; t. And EVA:l = LATIN:n, p. I guess)))

      • As for the other zodiac labels, I have not yet found an option, as obvious as Taurus. Alas)

  13. Hi Darren,
    re your comment of May 15, 2017 – 7:41 am

    Sorry not to have replied earlier; I don’t often come by.

    My general principle is that attempting to name an individual as “author” for this ms is unlikely to have any positive result. The chances are very low that the text is original and authorial, and even if it is one day proven so, the odds against his name having made it to our history books is fairly low. Perhaps the cipher – if there is one – could be attributed to somebody, but so far we have no clue to that.

    I’d say there’s a fair case for a more general attribution to Jews of Ancona, or of the Majorcan kingdom (which included parts of what is now France and Mallorca) or even of France, England or southern Italy.

    btw – the Harranians who called themselves ‘Sabians’ weren’t (to my knowledge) welcome in the eastern Christian centres and they certainly considered themselves descendants of the Hellenistic-Egyptian culture of Egypt. Scholars writing since the 1980s have also demonstrated pretty clearly that they were not Mandaeans, as older writers had speculated. Edessa and Harran were savage rivals, each working to have the other’s city destroyed by whichever regime ruled both cities. In the end, the Edessans won, but the victory was short lived and it would be interesting to know how they coped when both obliged to live and work in proximity in Baghdad.

    • Darren Worley

      Hi Diane – I should clarify that I don’t think Jacob d’Ancona is the author (its quite possible that he never existed). However, I do agree with the more general attribution that a medieval Jewish-Italian merchant who travelled across land-and-sea through the Near East, to India and beyond, is a good “character profile” of a possible author.

      I’m mindful that any proposed attribution needs to fit within historical record and with other evidence that’s been presented here. For example, Derek reported that many of the plants names he’s identified, seem to derive from Indian terms and there has also been plausible matches made with Persian and Jewish plant names too.

  14. Darren, the jetting water sounds reasonable enough, but I see you dismiss it on the grounds that the figure has a rounded belly.

    I don’t know that it is characteristic that can be taken so definitively; preference for wasp-waists and board-flat, adolescent -looking bellies is a fashion that comes and goes, but a rounded belly is fairly natural. So if you’re ditching one possible interpretation of the text on that basis, perhaps consider both possibilities a bit longer?

    • Darren Worley

      Diane – in your accompanying post you make the case that Krymachak should be given serious consideration. Given that the Krymachak are Jewish ethno-religious communities from Crimea, it seems that the identification of a text label, in a Semitic language, is consistent with this attribution. Do you agree?

      I have no evidence to suggest Voynichese is Krymachak. I think it much more likely to be based on Arabic, Hebrew or Syriac. The Jewish rabbi-merchant, Jacob d’Acona, who lived in Ancona (Central Eastern Italy) in the medieval period would have known the local Italian dialect. He also knew Hebrew and appears to have been familiar with Arabic from comments in his travel writings. Arabic was the common language for trade in this period, certainly on the trade routes he travelled. He also writes about his family/business connections with Acre [Northern Israel] and Ancona was a centre of trade with the Levant (Eastern Mediterranean) where Syriac would have been used.

  15. MarcoP

    Hello Darren, thanks to you (and Stephen) for the new post!
    The interpretation you propose is certainly interesting and (being related with a wide range of languages) is compatible with several possible theories.
    I was also thinking about how your interpretation could be extended to the whole bifolio 77-82. These four pages represent about twenty “nymphs” standing on tubular objects of various shapes. In general, what can these nymphs represent?

    Taiz and Taiz (The Biological Section of the Voynich Manuscript: A Textbook of Medieval Plant Physiology? – 2011) interpreted this section of the ms as representing the reproduction of plants. Their proposal is that “the nude females may serve as metaphors for the vital force, or vegetative souls, of the plant, which, according to Aristotle, directs the growth, development, and reproduction of each plant species”. As you proposed in the 2015 post you linked, their idea could also be applied to an interpretation focused on human physiology, rather than plant physiology: the nymphs could still be personifications of vital forces. You wrote that the women could be seen as “angel/nymphs (representing stars) … depicted alongside the body-organs that they govern”. This also is similar to Panofsky opinion that the Voynich ms discusses “the medical properties of terrestrial objects, particularly plants, by celestial influences transmitted by astral radiation and those “spirits” which were frequently believed to transmit the occult powers of the stars to the earth.”

    I also noticed that a nymph with a label similar to the one you discuss (EVA:sororl) appears at the bottom left of f82r. Could she be related with the nymph in f77r? What could be the possible meaning of the complex scene at the bottom of f82r?

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