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MAIN POINTS CONCERNING

THE VOYNICH MANUSCRIPT: A “ShAAKTA” ARABIC BOOK IN JEWISH SCRIPT OF SPAIN.

  1. The V.M. is written in a kind of Jewish script, which is closer to the formal Jewish alphabet than modern Jewish cursive is.
  2. The whole V.M. is a (not skilful) copy from an original work written  in old Arabic language in Arabic script.
  3. The scribe has only roughly approximated the original’s phonology, because he had not the knowledge to precisely render the words in the book. Also the illustrations have been copied in a crude manner.
  4. The V.M. type of Jewish script evolved in Spain by Spain Jews who were Spanish speaking. No other document has survived in this type of script, but it was used rather widely in Spain before the expulsion of Jews from there. This type of script was not devised for cryptographic purposes, but naturally evolved for easier handwriting.
  5. As the Spain Jews were Spanish speaking, they normally used the ordinary Spanish alphabet for everyday purposes. The V.M. type of Jewish script was only used for easily writing texts in Jewish (the V.M. was perhaps not the only exception where that script was employed for a non Jewish and non Spanish language, in circumstances that there was reason to conceal the reading). Spanish being the scribes'  first language spoken and written, explains also why the V.M. alphabet was used in writing from left to right.
  6. The V.M. was written shortly before the expulsion of Jews from Spain about 1500 A.D.. The V.M. originally belonged to some Jews expelled from Spain, who took it with them.
  7. The contents is incantations aiming at fulfilling all kinds of human desires, in the well known manner of Hindu and other nations’ incantations. Plants, diagrams, and explanatory illustrations depicted in the V.M., all serve the purposes of incantations and ways to meditate and visualise for those purposes.
  8. The main deity addressed in all incantations of the V.M. is the same as Hindu "Devi" or “Shakti”, the deity held in «Shaakta» traditions all over the world to fulfil human desires most quickly and easily.
  9. The cult in which the V.M.’s incantations belong, originates in ancient Mesopotamian worship of the Goddess commonly known as Ishtar. In the V.M., the Goddess is most commonly addressed as Siit, which was originally the Egyptian name Seeth, meaning “Lady, Empress”. This cult survived under Islam in the Sabian cult of ancient Mesopotamian origin, then was brought by Arab magicians into Spain, when a part of Spain was conquered by Arabs. Some time some Jews of Spain tried to use books with incantations of that cult, by having someone who could read Arabic dictating for them to write in their own Jewish script. This is how the V.M. originated.
  10. ««Shaakta»» worship in some form is in fact a part of every nation’s culture. India had its own form of «Shaakta» worship, but modern India’s «Shaakta» worship was formed after models brought in India by Arabs and other inhabitants of Mesopotamia from the 7th century A.D. onwards. Even the most important Hindu «Shaakta» mantras are in fact not Indian; they are of Mesopotamian source, themselves originating in Babylonian and Sumerian incantations. So, both recent Hindu «Shaakta» worship and the V.M. originate in the same cult.
  11. The usefulness of the V.M. is for learning about the ancient history of religions. The V.M. should not be considered as a source of incantations to use, because the precise phonology of the V.M. texts is unknown, and because there r countless other incantations in the actual Hindu tradition for any need.
  12. As all deities are forms or parts of the One God, it is best to worship the One God only, there is no point to worship any «Shaakta» deities. Moreover, the “Shakti” Goddess is often named “Gaayatrii” and “Saavitrii”; therefore, it is best to worship using the universal chant called “Gaayatrii” and “Saavitrii”, which is this:

OOOM VUR VÝWA: SYwÁ:

TÁT SAWITÝR WÁRE,NIjAM)

VÁRGO DEWÁSJA DhIIMAHI

DhÍJO JÓ NA: PRAKODÁJAAT)) (see here for pronunciation)

instead of worshipping a personification of this verse by using different, often doubtful or dangerous, formulas.

For details concerning how the V.M. type of script evolved, and all that has been said above, please read on.

 

42  49   2    8

 7    3  46  45

48  43   9    1

4     6  44  47

My acquaintance to the “world’s most enigmatic manuscript”

             The last months of 2001, around the Christmas holidays, I happened to hear, over the phone, from a friend of mine, レ゜ヲーニダ イヨーアンノウ, that there is a manuscript that no one has been able to decipher, so it is thought to be “the world’s most enigmatic manuscript”. That sounded queer. I said: “there must be something tricky about it; the only texts that cannot be deciphered are the ones that lack sufficient length and context; but this one you say it is a whole book, and richly illustrated. So this means that no sensible research has been done on it, and if it is called mysterious, it is only for commercial and other make-believe reasons. Anyway, may I have a sample of the text? You know, some days ago I found an old copper coin on the street, outside an old house in パナギヤ (the old part of カバラ), it is inscribed in Arabic Ottoman script, with the Sultan’s signature on one side, and is dated 1171 (Muslim chronology); so I think that finding this coin is a presage that I shall make an interesting discovery”. ㄌㄜㄡㄋㄧㄗㄚㄙ〢 said he was sure I could give a sound answer to the “riddle”, as he knows me since our university years, when I already had won a reputation of being familiar to most writing systems of the world, so even if I cannot read something, I can at least say what sort of script it is. Himself had known of the manuscript through his wife’s uncle, from whom he obtained and sent me some photocopies in the next days.

            To my surprise, the text on the photocopies was obviously alphabetical and much more simple than I expected. Immediately I thought: “dear goodness! This is clearly Jewish cursive!”. Most people know, I presume, what printed Jewish looks like, but only specialists, apart from Jews themselves, seem to know that hand-written (i.e. cursive) Jewish is a good deal different than printed. That is of course natural, as the printed forms of letters come from an elaborate artistic calligraphy properly using a special reed stylus, but that calligraphy is too hard for unskilled people, and anyway cannot be applied for reasonably speedy writing.

            Still I didn’t know well the modern Jewish cursive, and the easiest way to have a table showing the shapes of letters was to go to ㄚㄇㄧㄙㄧㄢㄚ〡, a nearby village, where I store many books and other things of mine, in a part of a storehouse that belongs to me and my brother. By peculiar coincidence, I could not go the village because the roads were blocked by snow, which very rarely happens. So, before the roads opened again, for some days I studied hard on the photocopies, testing all possibilities: “why, it would be quite likely for such a manuscript to be written in Latin; or maybe even Italian. What about Greek? Oh, lucky me if it is in Greek, I shall have it read by tomorrow, literally”. Indeed I have seen various short texts on paper, or graffiti on any surface, written by children in alphabets of their own, which they invent in order to write things for themselves and few friends only, keeping them secret from everyone else. To “break” the code and read such texts is a matter of one or at most two hours. The most recent occurrences I remember were: a graffiti by a schoolgirl on the front cover of a teacher’s desk recording her self’s and a boy’s name, and one written in pencil on a wall of a house being demolished, reading ΑΥΓΑ ΤΟΥ ΑΥΓΟΥ (meaning: EGGS OF THE EGG)[1]. When I was a high school student I liked to solve “cryptographic” crosswords, that is without definitions of the words, having instead each letter encoded as a number; a 4 letter word would be given as a clue, but I always blackened those letters so as to lack the clue; still it was easy to solve those crosswords, although they are harder to decipher than texts, because a text always comes with useful context, which in a crossword is missing. I am saying all this to make clear that it is always easy to decipher a text in which a symbol stands for an alphabetical letter. So I sought to decode the “mysterious” manuscript as if it was in Greek, or Latin, or some similar language; I worked hard on this hypothesis, before it proved to be wrong. If it were such a simple matter, anyway, the manuscript would have been decoded shortly after its discovery. So, we can move on: it is absolutely certain that is not in Greek or Latin or any language related to these; equally it is certain that this alphabet has consonantal signs only, and even the consonants are not accurately distinguished, for if they were, there would be explicitly a larger gamut of signs. The script, apart from rare occurrences, makes use of 17 signs only, and even of those 17 some are used only in special positions and in certain combinations. No natural language around the Mediterranean could have been so poor in sound. Consequently, I returned to my first perception, which can be soundly grounded historically, that the script is nothing but Jewish cursive; not yet having the table of Jewish letters, I recollected from memory all that I could, especially the formal, “square” forms of Jewish letters, trying all manners in which the human hand would draw the “square” letters in order to write easier. In this way, I was able to identify correctly about half of the manuscript’s usual letters, and begun conjecturing the reading of some words, like aql and aqil, which already seemed to be Arabic ̉aqil (wisdom) and ̉aqiil (wise). From such an early stage I deduced, and I still hold, that while the script is a form of Jewish cursive, the manuscript’s language is basically Arabic. So, this was the stage of my research before the snow melted so I could go to the village and get the tables of Jewish letters, which I had photocopied from some encyclopaedias in 1992.

            Now that I had the tables showing the forms of all Jewish letters, I studied how the hand moves to write each letter, so I understood how the habitual movement of hand makes the letters’ shape naturally evolve. This is exactly analogous to the way all small letters (lower case) have evolved from the corresponding capital letters (upper case). Here it must be noted, though, that the Voynich Manuscript letters are very conservative in shape, that is they are much closer to the formal, “square” shapes than modern Jewish cursive forms are; also, the V. M. letters are quite closer to their originals than Greek, Latin and Cyrillic cursive forms are to the capital ones. So then it was, in general, a simple matter to find out the formal (“square”) form that each V. M. letter comes from. On the 24th of January 2002 I completed a grid showing all Jewish letters in their formal shapes with their corresponding V. M. shapes side by side. That grid, with few inaccuracies, was to be slightly improved in the future.

            On the 20th of January 2002, ㄌㄜㄡㄋㄧㄗㄚㄙ〢 posted me a copy, in Greek translation, of Ethan Ashmole Jones’ “The Voynich Manuscript – Who Is Who of a Riddle”. The photocopies that I used earlier, all had come from this book. It contains numerous illustrations in colour, and a detailed account of the V. M.’s known history. Further, the author makes no attempt in this book to help with the decipherment, rather he makes some not very meaningful comments like “what can this strange book be?”, always trying to impose that the V. M. is the world’s biggest wonder and so no one should expect its decipherment, implying that all future claims to its decipherment must be frivolous. It is quite against science to present the manuscript in such an attitude. The right attitude is to repeat what Jesus said: “There is no secret which will not come to light. Even what is today whispered in secret, tomorrow it will be spoken out in public”. E. A. Jones also says that there are no one- or two-letter words in the manuscript, which proves that he had not examined it with his own eyes. If you only take a quick glimpse in any page of the V. M., you shall find lots of two-letter words like: sl, sd, an, ql, and some one-letter words too, as: n, k. Describing the V. M., E. A. Jones says it is written in a script that looks like no other in the world, while even at first sight it presents a striking similarity to modern Jewish cursive. Also, his descriptions and quotations of others’ descriptions of the V. M.’s illustrations are rather misleading. It is much better to see them for yourself than relying on descriptions.

            I sought to see all extant pages of the V. M., so I am grateful to Mr ㄚㄌㄜㄎㄙㄢㄗㄖㄛ〣ㄚㄌㄜㄎㄙㄚㄑㄝ〢, an old friend of mine, skilled in Greek palaeography, who sent me from the U.S.A. a reel of microfilm containing a copy of the whole extant V. M., together with printouts from the w.w.w. and from the microfilm itself; I received these in May 2002.

            But it is time I presented the grid showing the evolution of the formal “square” Jewish letters into 3 cursive forms, of which the most conservative is that of the V. M.; less conservative is modern Jewish hand-writing, and even less conservative is the Gabelsberger shorthand system.

(In other words, the V.M. script is nothing but formal Jewish script made easier for the scribes).

To view the letters correctly you need to install this fonts file. Unzip the fonts file, copy it, then go to control panel then fonts, and there you paste the fonts file.

 

 

General notes on the above grid

            Franz Xaver Gabelsberger may be considered as the father of modern shorthand, although his system, introduced in 1834, is no more used in Western Europe today, as it is thought to be too ambiguous and difficult to read. Born in 1789 in Bavaria, he was, to my opinion, of Jewish background, this explains why his system is a kind of Jewish cursive, whereby all letters are reduced to the simplest single strokes. When Greece was under Bavarian reign, the Gabelsberger system, introduced by Joseph Mindler, F. Gabelsberger's close friend, was adopted in Greece, and it is probably still in use today, as a book teaching the system for Greek language was published around 1970.

            In columns first, second and fifth from the left, some times there are two forms: then the second form is the one used at the end of words (the end of a word in ordinary Jewish script is on the left). In the V.M. there is no distinction between final and non-final forms of letters. What the V.M. system founders wanted, was to simplify the formal Jewish script while making the letters more explicitely distinct from each other. In formal Jewish script it is easy to confuse letters with others of similar shape.

            Jewish script, both square and cursive, has always been written from right to left. Gabelsberger shorthand is written from left to right, and the V.M. too. Some people may thing it is a big wonder for a form of Jewish script and Arabic language to be written from left to right. In fact it would be strange if it was not so. The V.M. script was devised for writing rightwards; this explains the shape and direction of its signs. As I shall say later in more detail, it was the Jewish alphabet handwriting of Spain Jews, who used Spanish as their first language, oral and written, for all everyday purposes. They made only limited, very specific use of the Jewish alphabet, and, accustomed to read and write Spanish, they found it too uncomfortable to write with a different script from right to left. I also find it too uncomfortable.

On the V.M. page 82, the process of reincarnation is depicted from right (death) to left (rebirth). Though less striking, movement from right to left can be seen in other illustrations too. This means that the V.M. artist copied (directly or indirectly) from a manuscript written and illustrated by people who used to write their language from right to left, consequently feeling it natural to depict things in the same direction, just like ancient Egyptians. That original manuscript, according to this thesis, was written in Arabic script of which the V.M. scribe (a Spain Jew) had no idea, so he rendered the text in the Jewish rightward script familiar to him.

            The Jewish script was (and is) learnt not visually, but rather kinetically: the scribes memorised certain hand movements for each letter, just like all kinds of stenographers do. It is important to notice in every case the starting point of writing a letter, so as to understand how following the basic line course of a formal letter the scribes made it easier for the hand. An excellent example of this is the V.M. letter p.

            Formal Jewish calligraphy was done by using a special, rather thick pen of reed, which left a tiny curve where it touched the page (parchment etc.) to start writing each letter. The V.M. system was written with different materials (ordinary European pen), which also account for the change of the letters’ shape. Instead of the starting curve of formal Jewish letters, the V.M. system used rings (clockwise when practicable), and it used loops instead of (especially right upper) corners. The latter is also common in many Greeks’ handwritings: many Greeks write the letter Π (similar to Jewish ת) exactly like the V.M. t, also they write Z, ζ, ξ and the number 7 with right upper loops. I already said, and shall remind again that the V.M. system is nothing but a special handwriting of the formal Jewish script.

            Another factor that influenced the V.M. letter shapes, was, naturally, the fact that the scribes were more familiar with the Spanish (Latin) script, that is why some of the V.M. letters resemble Latin letters and European numerals. All scribes are always influenced in a script by other scripts they know. Greek ρand Latin p are not the same shape, and stand for quite different sounds, yet most people who know both scripts write both these letters the same, and countless other examples might be quoted.

Notes on each letter of the V.M. alphabet

All V.M. letters are referred to by the names I give them in the above grid under “Transliteration in Latin” (7th column from left). Ligatures in the V.M. are here shown by a normal . (dot) after the joined letters. It ought to be clear that signs like c KH c PH are not single letters, but ligatures, of which, according to my research, the taller letter is to be read first, so the mentioned ligatures are here transcribed as tb. and Mb. respectively.

Although all Jewish letters are basically consonants, I transliterate some as Latin vowels, which come from the respective letters of the Phoenician alphabet (the Jewish alphabet corresponds exactly to the Phoenician, which is its earlier form). E.g., Latin e comes from the Phoenician letter corresponding to Jewish ה, and in the same way i, u, a, and o (and Greek θ, Θ) are related to the Jewish letters shown in the same line of the grid.

 

 

a. Everyone can see that this is an easy writing of the formal type. It is influenced by the numeral sign 8. It was used for the ‘ (“glottal stop”, a momentary shut of throat when speaking). Actually every vowel not preceded by consonant is held to be preceded, and “supported”, by ‘. The normal Jewish type of this letter was used in Yiddish for the vowel a. The corresponding Gabelsberger sign is used for the vowel a when not preceded by consonant (when it follows a consonant, “a” is only marked by writing heavier the consonant, pressing harder the pen on paper).

b. Drawn from lower left edge. This is the formal type rotated by about 90 degrees and curved for easiness. Almost identical, but much less rotated is the modern cursive form. The Gabelsberger first sign was used for German b, while the second sign was for German w.

g. Following the V.M. script’s habits, I guessed that the V.M. g, (very rare anyway) could have the shape which indeed is found in the manuscript as z ˜ ° ®.

Later I understood that these are in fact only badly written forms of t. The V.M. system users could not make g as I thought, because then it would be confused with t; avoiding such confusion was the strongest factor that shaped the V.M. letters. The script’s tendencies must have made g originally as shown here: but then you can see that the letter is in risk to be confused with b. What could they do to differentiate it from b? The best idea seemed to be reversing the left curve (which was only a decorative element). The left curve reversed was almost a mirror image of the right oblique line, so it ended up as exactly symmetrical to it. This is how g came to be as shown in the grid, 3rd column.

Since the manuscript’s language is basically Arabic, and in Arabic[2] there is no “g” sound, but only ğ (fricative voiced guttural), then it represents ğ when it is used.

d. The angle (upper right) was marked out as a loop, then the letter was rotated (by about 45 degrees) for easiness, as it was one of the most used letters, so it had to be easy to write. This is one of the first V.M. letters I identified.

e. Transliterated as e, but used as a consonant, practically same as English h. It is reasonable to ask how this letter is to be told from double r. Actually it is not likely to find a letter for the sound h in such a text ignoring subtle distinctions of sounds, moreover the sound h not being in Spanish, the scribe’s first language. Spanish has the sound h, practically same as Greek χ with back vowels. Just like a Greek speaking person would use χ for h, the V.M. scribe would use the same letter for h and h.

Then again, apart from the shapes of r and i, no other letters in the V.M. are ever duplicated, so all double consonants are written as single, the same as in Jewish and Arabic scripts, where duplication of a consonant is only shown through diacritics, but the diacritics used to be absent, and even today are often omitted. If we consider “rr” as twice r, then the word had necessarily a consonant between the two r, as Arabic harar- (=hot). Sometimes 3 successive r shapes are found together, which attests that they should be “er” as they can hardly be thrice r! So further testing   is needed to exclude that the letter e, in the shape of double r, may exist in the manuscript. That rr/e occurs always in the same words with different prefixes, without any effort by the scribe to separate the two “r”; for separating, a pronounceable space or insertion of “a” could be used. Tentatively reading the words with “e” (h) can make good sense, as the context points to the meaning “curse” (or the like), and there is a well known word ah = curse in Arabic (see page 19). In this work I transcribe “e” (to be pronounced h) but the reader must keep in mind that it is probably rr in fact.

u. For all I have observed and remember, this letter is only used at the beginning of words, usually in the combination us-. Every time the word without the u- is common throughout the manuscript, which shows that the u- is only added to words and it is not used by itself.  Words in the V.M. are not divided as in modern European languages, instead a word in the V.M. is a unit of morphemes pronounced together, no matter if affixes are included which one would write separately. It is like in modern Greek where we separate morphemes in writing to obey the rules, but from the aspect of pronunciation and function they are joined together in one word, for example «δέν θα σου πώ» is written as 4 words, but in fact they are only morphemes belonging to one word: the main morpheme is πώ, while σου is the indicator of indirect object, θα is the indicator of the future tense, and δέν is the negation of a statement; that these 4 are one word, is shown by the fact that they cannot be placed in different order[3], also all grammatical morphemes are pronounced unstressed with the sole exception of negative particles. In classical Hebrew, prepositions and other prefixed particles are joined in writing to the word they are semantically attached.

            All the above shows clearly that u- is a prefix, namely the Arabic conjunction wa (=and), used very frequently, just like the cognate Hebrew conjunction in the Bible. In the V.M. which is all a corpus of incantations, this wa (=and) is not so much used for its meaning, but for its esoteric effect: that is, it forms syllables like was-, waś-, was-, wasit-, etc., all of which were considered to have great power as mantras, analogous to Sanskrit wásat, waaúsat, wat, phat, waśa-, and the holy name Wasudewa.

            As this letter is always used for the conjunction wa-, it seems that all long u and all other w sounds were not written in the V.M., although those are written in all normal Semitic alphabetical texts.

            Palaeographically, this letter is only a vertical line, which, in the formal type starts with the calligraphic curve. That curve has become a loop in the V.M. type, not a round as in n, but an angular loop, because to connect to the following letter (as usually) it was easier practice to draw it like this. Of course the scribe was influenced by the shape of Latin q-, but I think there was one more reason to make the loop angular instead of round: to make the letter more explicitely different than z. (z is rare in the V.M., yes but in different texts written in this system z should have been much more usual).

            In the Gabelsberger system, the first form is used for German u, the second for German v, and the third for German f.

z. Probably it does not occur in the V.M. at all, the main reason being that the scribe’s first language was Spanish, were the sound z occurs only as a form of the phoneme s, written with s always. It may occur a few times throughout the manuscript, although it is easy to confuse with other letters, especially u. The Gabelsberger sign is used for German z, although, strangely enough, there are more Gabelsberger signs for German z. The (supposed) V.M. form of the letter is due to the habit of making the angles into loops; then the direction was changed to suit the rightward writing. As it was so rare a letter, I will not be surprised if it is found out that it has been drawn backwards a few times (normally looking like a “q”, but at times may be like a “p”?).

h. This sounds like Greek χ or German ch with back vowels. The Gabelsberger sign, used for German ch, is very close to the ordinary Jewish cursive form. This V.M letter has the shape of b with a “cap” over it; the “cap” may be in the shape of  ', but usually as shown in the 4th column. All fonts I have found through the Internet do not help me to show the evolution of Jewish h. However, a piece of an old manuscript in ordinary Jewish calligraphy (see chapter “An interesting document of ordinary Jewish script” at the end of this work) has proven beyond any doubt that this is the V.M. h.

 

θ, Θ. This letter, explicitely a form of Jewish ט is quite common in the manuscript, but it occurs always at the end of certain words: qθ, qΘ, qiΘ, qSθ, aqiθ, aqiiθ, and similar ones. Often it appears with a small curve joined to its starting point, and that small curve is interpreted, or at least transliterated as an i, but in fact it must be not an i, only a calligraphical curve that remained from the square calligraphical form of the letter ט. So, to be faithful in transliterating, it is necessary to indicate this second form (starting with the i-like curve) by Θ. The normal use of this letter in Jewish is for a t with a dot under it, which means a retroflex, emphatic t, here shown as t. In Yiddish this letter was used for t in general, while the actual Jewish t was restricted to words of old Jewish origin. The V.M. scribe never uses t / T at the end of a word, because θ / Θ is reserved for the sound of t (or similar) there; and never uses θ / Θ unless at the end of words (very rarely a suffix like –n may follow). This is additional proof that these two letters were similar in sound, and the scribe, hardly aware of the sound difference, found it convenient to use one letter at the end of words, the other letter elsewhere.

The corresponding Gabelsberger sign is used for German z, mostly in the word zu (there is no t phoneme in German). Similarly, the Phoenician form of this letter was applied for Greek θ (as there is no t in Greek).

i. Explicitely a form of the Jewish י, frequent in the V.M., this letter is used in limited kind of context only, almost always preceded by q and followed by θ or l. Its limited context shows that it was not used for every long i and j (j = semivowel i, as Latin j and English y), therefore most of long i and j in the manuscript were not written at all. Although it can be confused with S and the starting curve of Θ, it stands very often alone (unjoined to other letters), so it is then clearly an i. The Gabelsberger sign is used for i, when written smaller, and for German j, when bigger; it is only a small vertical stroke, but can take the second form in the grid to stand at the beginning of words and to join with certain letters.

k. This was basically pronounced as k, which is the unvoiced and unaspirated palatal, just like Greek κ followed by front vowels. The word brk, both alone and prefixed, is very common throughout the manuscript, where it must represent the Semitic root brk (= bless). Prefixed by m/M it is to be read mubarak- (= blessed), and prefixed by t/T it is probably a “nomen agentis”, i.e. “the one who blesses”. (ta- is an Arabic deverbal prefix meaning “the one who…”.)

Then, on manuscript’s page 56, where an egg-plant is depicted with flowers and fruits having thorny stems, the text’s second word[4] is bbk(T)n, which is bound to be the Arabic name of eggplant: I remember that in Lebanese restaurants and cafés eggplant was served as babachun (or something like that). This means that in the V.M. the letter k was also used for Arabic c (voiced palatal, today aspirated ch like English j). As Arabic (the language of the V.M.) is rich in consonants while the V.M. is very poor in letters, some of the manuscript’s letters had to represent more than one Arabic phonemes.

The corresponding Gabelsberger sign was not useful for k (as there is no q versus k distinction in German), so it was used for the German syllable chen. Note that in ordinary Jewish this letter, like b and others, can be used both for fricative and for plosive consonant; a dot may be used to mark the plosive ones.

l. The Gabelsberger sign is only a knot in writing. The V.M. form is a knot where a curved and a straight line meet. It seems to have been influenced by the shape of the numeral 2. The square form was written as then reversed to suit the rightward writing.

 

m, M. Just like t, this letter has two forms, both used in the same place of the same words. M stands for the one with the two symmetrical loops, while m is used to transliterate the one with a knot (left) and a loop (right). The choice of one of the two forms depended solely on the scribe’s whim, both forms being for the sound m regardless of context. Just like m in the square script, the V.M. letter m/M is sometimes prolonged so as to take the space of quite a number of letters, then it may be filled with decorative vertical lines like this: ± .This letter is the one that the scribe most loves to toy with, extending it into fanciful decorative shapes and manieristic ligatures that imply a vine with grapes, like  œ  !   H =Mmb. ´ =Mm. ¸ =mo.? Ç =moo.?   Ÿ =TM. º =tm.=mT.?  =mot? It is only by wild imagination to be reminded of the famous Sanskrit mantra Om; (what I transcribed as o in mo.? and moo.? above, is most probably nothing but doodling), still the Arabic root ʿm (meaning “general, universal”) could perfectly furnish a meaningful word functioning like the Sanskrit biíca mantra aam. But the most common ligatures in the V.M. are t/Tb. and m/Mb.. This playing with the shape of letters is further evidence of how much the scribe liked to draw trains of loops; this is important, because it is a tendency that gave the V.M. letters their shape. He used clockwise rings to start a letter, and anti-clockwise loops to move right or down. Keeping this in mind, the V.M. form of m is identical to that of ordinary Jewish, it is drawn from the “foot” up (starting from bottom left) like the cursive forms (5th column). Especially notice the second cursive form: it is drawn exactly in the order of the V.M. m: first up, then a knot, then right (where the V.M. m forms a loop) and then down and left to meet the starting vertical line. (The square non-final form too starts from the lower left corner).

n. In ordinary Jewish script (both square and cursive) this letter is similar to u, the difference between n and u being that the u vertical goes down straight, while the n vertical is curved towards the left. The same principle distinguishes the two letters in the V.M.. The starting calligraphic curve that is omitted in the cursive forms (fifth column from left), is made into a ring in the V.M. type, predictably. In the Gabelsberger system, the first form is for n, the second is for German ng; they start with a curve, and end with another curve.

s. This is the most common letter in every line of the V.M., while in ordinary Jewish it is the most rare; you may find whole pages without a single occurrence of this letter, because the phoneme s is and always was very rare in Jewish language. This is because the older Semitic ś (more commonly transliterated as š) has been kept in Jewish, while it has turned into s in Arabic. So ś is unusual in Arabic, where it has evolved from secondary phonetical changes, while s is very common. In Arabic script there is not even a different letter for ś: it is written as s with three dots added. Consequently, the Spain Jews who learnt some Arabic noticed that Arabic has s where their own ancestors’ language, Jewish, had ś; not thoroughly educated on this matter, they generalised this making it a rule: “Arabic has always s even where Jewish has ś”. Then they practiced hypercorrection, writing s even when Arabic itself has ś. The manuscript’s very frequent word sd is probably Arabic śid (“powerful”). It is quite possible that other Arabic sibilants too, like s, z and z, where also written as s in the V.M., as Jewish was a second language to the scribe (the first being Spanish), and Arabic a third language of which he had too limited knowledge to tell the sibilants from each other. If I knew Arabic, I would experiment with modern Greeks who can write Greek only, dictating them some Arabic to see how they render the different sibilants. I am sure they would render all ś, s, s as σ (s).

The Gabelsberger s is just a small circle, which is written as a loop in between other letters. This letter has a circle form in all types of Jewish script, including the V.M., where it is written clockwise, for as much as I have observed.

o. Note that this is one of the letters transliterated with Latin vowels, although they are consonantal (well, semivocalic) in Jewish. This one is normally pronounced as ʿ, that is a laryngeal sound that may be described as a voiced h to English speaking people, and a γ articulated inside the throat, not velar as real γ to Greek speaking people. It is written ع in normal Arabic. A Spanish speaking person (as the V.M. scribe) would pronounce it like Greek γ with back vowels, that is a fricative g. So the letter was recognised, otherwise it would not be used at all in the manuscript.

As already said, the ordinary Jewish cursive (5th columne from left) does not bother with the calligraphic starting curves, which, however are carefully rendered in the V.M. system as rings (clockwise). So, to write this letter, the scribe started with a (clockwise) ring continuing into a small downward line (to represent the left line of ע), then up, making a loop (to represent the calligraphic curve of the right line of ע) continuing down, curving left. So, this letter was earlier as I show in the drawing, quite like an English y as written by many people. Soon, as the curve formed between the two rings took too much space and was inconvenient to the hand, also unnecessary, it was minimised, so then the left ring was found under the right one, resulting in the familiar V.M. shape of this letter. Once it is found without the left ring (second form in the 3rd column of grid). This letter, transliterated as o, is unusual in the V.M., still enough attested as to be identified with certainty[5]. For (possibly) ligatures, see notes on letter m/M. In the Gabelsberger system it is reduced to a curve, used for German vowel o (the laryngeal ʿ being not a German phoneme). The Phoenician form of this Jewish letter is the origin of the Greek (-based) alphabets o.

p. To write the Jewish פ the scribes had to leave a calligraphic tiny mark inwards (that is, towards right) when the reed pen first touches the parchment, then straight up, there making a knot in order to change direction to the right, then curve down, ending with the leftward curve. Following this course more loosely, using a thinner European pen instead of the thicker Jewish reed pen, the starting calligraphic mark was made into a tiny line in the direction of this arrow: , then (instead of going straight up) a line this way, and (instead of the knot) a loop anticlockwise, then down, curving left – that’s all the story of how the V.M. p was shaped[6]. The same movements are used to write the final form in ordinary Jewish cursive, except that the starting calligraphic mark is omitted. The non-final form in Jewish cursive keeps only the major curve; which, turned the other way round to suit the rightward shorthand, is the Gabelsberger system’s p.

            This Jewish letter was used both for p and f, in texts with diacritics p distinguished with a dot in it. Modern Arabs cannot pronounce p, as the older Arabic p has turned into f. This means than where this letter occurs in the V.M., it stands for Arabic f. It is not a frequent V.M. letter; it occurs usually at the end of certain words.

S.      This letter is not scarce in the manuscript, but it is used mainly in a special context: after q and before θ. It is the last letter on which I overcame my doubts, pondering that according to the habits of the script, the calligraphic starting marks should have become rings; the standard Jewish form of this letter is basically a curve mounted by another curve. So, since very early I understood that the V.M. letter shown at S, 4th column in the grid, is Jewish צ (a comparison to the cursive form, 5th column, is very convincing); just like “double r” is in fact e, so this, looking like double i, is really S. Both e and S have been reversed to face right in the V.M. system; exactly because S has been reversed, the calligraphic starting marks have not become rings: those rings could not be formed in this letter turned to face right, because not only it is too small sized, short letter to accommodate the rings, also the start rings would have to be drawn anti-clockwise which was not accepted in the system: the only reversed letter that has a starting ring is the rare, if extant, z, being tall, and its loop drawn clockwise. The calligraphic form’s starting marks were not really disregarded in this letter: they were made as small lines (pointed to by arrows in the drawing), the letter’s early form being (reconstructed) as drawn here. Reverse this reversed form to see how it resembles צ. As the letter was used in special context only, the Arabic sound s (ص) in the manuscript should appear usually as s.

 The pronunciation of צ in Hebrew is that of an s with a dot under it, here written as s, pronounced as a retroflex (= articulated with the tongue bent inwards) and emphatic s. But it is often transcribed as ts, used for ts in Yiddish and modern Jewish. The shown Gabelsberger type is used for German z as in Zeit and most other words.

Please note that although fonts with underdotted letters like ñ ö ù are available to me, in this work I prefer underlining to underdotting, because underlining is more visible to the non-specialist, and some computers to which I send this writing may lack the corresponding fonts.

q. At last a usual letter in the V.M.! You can see that the ordinary forms of Jewish q both square and cursive are the reverse of this V.M. letter; it was reversed to suit the rightward writing, also there is some influence from the shape of Latin a. While Semitic k is palatal, q is velar. Both k and q sounds exist in modern Greek, traditionally considered as forms of the same phoneme; k may be followed by all vowels in modern Greek, while q can only be followed by the back vowels (α, ο, ου).

There is also a ligature qθ. = U in the V.M..

r. This is also common in the V.M., it is the reverse form of the ordinary Jewish cursive. It was reversed because the V.M. script is written from left to right, reversely to ordinary Jewish. Also there was a little influence from Latin c. The Gabelsberger type had to be “pulled out” straight, otherwise it would be confused with other shorthand signs.

$. This is only a little better attested than z, generally extremely rare in the manuscript. The forms Ó o' É must belong to this letter, while » is doubtful. Æ and must be ligatures of u, and not this letter. The ideal form of the letter as I conceive it is in the 4th column of the grid. The square letter ש has 3 “branches” pointing up; the cursive type starts from the bottom right corner and makes a loop to represent the left and middle “branch”, then continues into a “tail” to represent the right “branch”. The V.M. type, more faithful to the square form’s mode of writing, starts from up and right, makes the right “branch” as a 'or y according to the script’s habits, ending in a loop that consists of the left and middle “branches”. The Gabelsberger type, used for German sch, is practically same as the V.M. type. It is variated as the second form (6th column) to write German schw. The reason why this letter is so rare in the V.M. is explained in the notes on s. If the manuscript’s language was Jewish, it would have been very common. Anyway, the so-called doodles ü,ý,þ are calligraphic rubrics (initials of paragraphs), why not of the letter $.

t. This letter, quite common in the V.M., has two different forms, one with two loops, and another with a loop (right upper) and a “knot” (left upper), the latter transliterated here as t and the former as T. Both t and T represent the same letter, I earnestly tried to find if there is any different use of each form: for instance, t might have been used with certain vowels while T with others, or even t for t and T for th; but you may see hundreds of times the same words in the manuscript written indifferently, now with t, then with T. It is so obvious that both t and T are scribal variants of the same letter regardless of context. Still, to conserve the text’s appearance, I differentiate the two variants in transliteration. This V.M. letter was shaped according to the habit of making (especially the right upper) corners into loops. (See also notes under g). Sometimes it is lengthened so as to take the space of several letters, as is done with the square form of this letter in Jewish calligraphy.

 

That was how each V.M. letter evolved from the square form of the Jewish alphabet. Properly speaking, it is not a cryptographic system, rather a special handwriting more close to the square than to the cursive script. It seems that no other documents have survived in this type of script, which is easily explained if we consider that it was only used in (some place of) Spain, and not for formal documents as e.g. mainstream religious texts, not even for commercial or general everyday purposes for which Spanish was used.  All other documents written in this script have probably been destroyed at the time when the Jews were forcibly expelled from Spain (in early 16th century). Even if some Jews wanted and managed to keep some manuscripts written in this kind of script, they would have every reason not to publicise them. It was only because some Jesuits (persecutors of Jews) found this manuscript and thought it useful to keep it, until it was again deemed useless, as it could not be read, so they preferred to sell it – and this is how it came into W. Voynich’s possession.

The language of the V.M.

I must explain a little more why I insist that the manuscript’s language is basically Arabic, although the script used is clearly Jewish.

Strong evidence is the passim use of s, while $ is extremely rare, and no less rare is s. (See detailed notes on these letters). Also very eloquent evidence is the fact that most words in the manuscript end with n, which is the final sound of most words in any Arabic text, while it is not very common as final letter in Jewish. The V.M. being a collection of incantations, uses very few verbs, most of its vocabulary consisting of nouns and adjectives designating the object of worship. Now, Arabic declination cases all end in -n (nominative: -uun, accusative: -an, genitive: -in) also many plural forms end in -n, while in Jewish the most common suffixes end in –m. –m is the most common as final letter in Jewish, and hardly any words in the V.M. end in –m.

            If the V.M. language was Jewish, then it would have been much more correctly spelt according to the rules, which require that every w and every long u and o be written with ו (u) and every j and every long i and e be written with י (i). Far from this, u is used in the manuscript only for the conjunction wa-, and i only after q and before θ or l. These are the arbitrary rules of a scribe who employed a known script to a language unknown apart from incantations vocabulary that he had memorised, and presumably some very basic elements used for conversation.

            This is why expecting correct orthography of this manuscript, would be like expecting orthography from the miller’s wife’s backside[7]. More scientifically speaking, to undestand the usage of letters in the V.M., being acquainted with Μακρυγιάννη’s manuscript is a must; or at least it is awfully useful. Μακρυγιάννης was a Greek writer who never went to school and was never formally educated; he learnt to write from friends when he was old enough to be a merchant, and a little more later, when he was a military leader. His writing is so unusual, that a scholar said “it is his own invention!”; it is illegible for practically every Modern Greek person. If it was his own invention, it would represent somewhat more precisely the sounds of his language. Actually his writing is basically phonetic, but not very precise. He used the following letters, ligatures and special combinations:

α β γ δ ε ζ η θ ι κ λ μ ν ξ ο π σπ ρ σ ς στ τ υ φ χ ψ ει ου αυ ευ τζ γκ 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 και, εις, αδελφ-

As to capital letters, accent marks and numerous other diacritics and special combinations and punctuation marks – he totally ignores all those unless the following: Three dots implying a triangle pointing up, used as a mark of blessing, chiefly after numerical digits; a cross + to denote a position where some words (later written, prefixed with the same cross) are to be added; and the right (only) bracket mark: ) which he uses rather frequently to separate a piece of text from the following. Quite rarely (few times in his whole work) he leaves a space at the end of a line and / or an indentation starting a new line. Although he does leave spaces between his words, they are actually between groups of elements pronounced together or close to each other, and not unusually leaves spaces in wrong places, that is breaking apart ordinary words.

Peculiar usage can be found of some of his letters, namely: his ε is only a small size line slightly (but explicitly) curved so as to be distinguished from his ι. Quite often, though, he confuses these two letters. His η is a hybrid letter, something in between ε and η; it looks more like printed ε than printed η; he uses it more often for ε sound, more rarely for ι sound.

He used υ only after κ or starting a word or after another vowel. So, he writes the syllables sounding either κε or κι as κυ always; at the beginning of a word or after κ, υ can be either ε or ι sound; after another vowel, υ is used only for ι sound or the corresponding semivowel.

A special sign (common in his time, but not now) he uses for στ, and another special sign (an old ligature) for σπ.

ς is used by him at the end of words as in normal script, but often he makes the mistake to use it in non-final position. The word και (=”and”, which he uses excessively, for it functions as punctuation otherwise missing) he writes with a special combination κι, wherein he curls the ι pronounceably.

The special combinations αυ, ευ, he uses as in ordinary script for av/af, ev/ef sounds respectively, but not where normal orthography requires these.

A special ligature normally used for ου he uses only after the letters π and σ, sometimes after τ too; still it is not meant for the sound of ου; in no case Maqrijanis distinguished between ο and ου in writing; so his ‘ου’ ligature was only used for convenience after certain letters, and not to mean a different sound; both his ο and ου where meant for either ο or ου sound.

He did know the special combination ει but used it solely for the (practically obsolete in everyday speech, but common in formal texts of his time) preposition εις.

Rarely the combination γκ is found in his work: normal for him is to write simply κ for γκ, analogically to his always using τ and π for ντ and μπ sounds respectively.

He uses the letter ν (“n”, which he shapes similar to γ) for every nasal sound, when necessary, except for bilabial μ (m). ν is the only letter that he doubles, not where orthography requires, but only where a word or a supposed particle ends with ν and the next element starts with a vowel – there is nothing like such a rule in ordinary orthography.

His use of τζ for both τζ and τσ was ordinary in his time.

He gives ρ several somewhat different shapes taken from ordinary calligraphy of his time, according to the letters surrounding it. One such shape is whith an “aspiration mark” formed like a big curve reminding of a qalpaq (headgear of Muslims). Such a curve is found a few times by itself without any meaning, it is obviously the start of a κ or τ which he then decided not to write. Once such a curve is above υ, there it may be an “aspiration mark” he used once only.

All this does not mean that Maqrijanis did not know of capital letters and so many diacritics and punctuation marks, he had seen them, as he kept an archive of useful formal documents and some newspaper issues; but he did not know how to use all those “unnecessary” letters and marks, so he avoided them. All this set of peculiar rules was naturally formed by force of his so very rudimentary knowledge of writing while he felt an unyielding necessity to write down his experience and judgements. It is only because of these two forces: necessity to record something and extremely rudimentary knowledge of the relevant script, that the V.M. writer uses such a peculiar set of writing rules, which are quite analogous to those of Maqrijani.

The content of the V.M. must have been derived from all that remained from the religion of Akkadians, that is the religion originally called Sabian (tolerated by Islam) formed around Mesopotamia. To my personal opinion this was the original Sabian religion, being a remnant of the Akkadian cult, which was also introduced in India and formed a school of Tantra in the 7th century A.D.. The word Sabian should be derived from the Akkadian word saab-u(m) meaning “people, a multitude of people”, by extension: “troops”,  “group of workers” and “saabu seeri” = “dwellers of steppe =steppe dwellers (see Wolfram von Soden’s Akkadisches Handwörterbuch, s.v. sābu(m), page 1072).  So, who could have brought this cult into Spain, unless the Arabs? Everything points to that: the Arabs who conquered Spain brought with them the wisdom of that cult, at a time when they were open-minded and willing to learn and assimilate other nations’, notably the Greeks’, wisdom.

            The most essential idea in this work that I am now writing, is that civilisation never knew borders. It is like water that moves all around the earth and can never be locked in a place because it is always flowing, evaporating, moving, condensating. So water molecules that were in Jesus’ sweat, must be now in the mouth of the person reading these lines. And because civilisation knows no borders, nobody knows its place of origin. Can a sensible person tell where spears were used for the first time? or, where was the first man who made a sacrifice to a deity?

Derviśin fikri ne-jse, zikri o-dur

This is an Ottoman proverb meaning: “whatever the dervish’s fikr (idea) is, that is his ðikr (religious formula to be constantly repeated), too. It is ironically said for people who always say the same things. It applies perfectly to the V.M..

You can be now sure that the manuscript’s language is Arabic, but do not think it is easy to read it. It is difficult, as Arabic, a language with 28 consonants, is rendered in a system that scarcely uses more than 17 letters without diacritics and without symbols for vowels, as it is a third language to the scribe, who has only a sketchy knowledge of it. The text, too, is built up using a very limited vocabulary: if we could list each word once, the list would take no more space than a page. But each word was used so many times and in various combinations, that about 300 pages were filled. I said that the language is basically Arabic. This means that loanwords are also expected to be found, and it is the kind of text that could be suspect to contain non-sense words of supernatural power. In fact, words of the latter kind must be absent in the manuscript (I have not even found one word that has reason to be considered a non-sense mantra), but there are some loanwords I have spotted[8].

            One of the most common words in the V.M. is st and sT, which are shown by the context to mean Lady, Goddess. It is obviously a title of a deity repeated in all occasions, and modified by  many designations, like all divine titles around the world. Illustrations of naked ladies in the book bear captions starting with st / sT. Now, there is an Arabic word sit, borrowed from old Egyptian, meaning Lady, Mistress, a title of goddesses. This is probably how st and sT should be read.

Then, on page 78 I find something amazing: there is a stream of naked women (representing souls) rising up, then the stream splits into two, one row of souls moving left towards a kind of a hundred petalled flower with the caption stbadads, the other row moving right towards another “hundred petal flower” with the caption stban. These two captions start with the word stb modified in one case by adads, in the other by an. To me, the first word is stb-‘adaadas, the second is stb-aan. stb-‘adaadas means “Lord Adad” (with some suffix), and stb-aan means “Lord An”. Adad and An were the most important gods of the Assyrians, Adad the warlike god of power, and An the wise god of all beings, therefore peaceful god. This shows that the V.M. cult was of Assyrian origin (of course Assyrians themselves had taken much of their religion from Sumerians and so on). The word stb / sTb is not much less frequent than st / sT, and by context it seems to refer to male deities, meaning something like “Lord”. It looks like stb / sTb derives from st / sT, anyway I suspect that this –b may be Semitic ab- = father. (Of course it is possible that both st = sit? and stb = ? derive from ancient Egyptian words). Judging from the occurences of these words, the religion contained in this book is mainly addressed to a female deity, to which some male (and other female) deities are subordinate. This agrees with my theory that it is derived from the Mesopotamian religion of a time when the worship of Akkadian Ishtar, (Sumerian “Inanna”) was predominant. Apart from deities’ names, quite similar are the Indian Tantric cults. One of the most revered Hindu names is Siitaa, the name of Lord Raama’s wife. The only etymology given by Hindus to this name is from a similar word meaning  “furrow”, this explained by the legend that Siitaa is a-joni-caa (not born out of genitals), but she emerged to the world from a furrow in a field. From the scientific point of view, this is only a popular etymology used to explain as Sanskrit a name that is not Sanskrit; it must be derived ultimately from the old Egyptian word for Lady, title of the Goddess. Remember, all countries of great civilizations, like India, Greece, China, etc., are not places where civilization was created; they are places where civilization was collected and cultivated. Many Greeks, and Hindus, and Turks, and others claim that their own nation is the sole source of all wisdom, but common sense says that all people were created by the same God, and God had no reason to grant all wisdom or all power to one nation forever. After all, there is objectively no higher or lower civilization, there is absolutely no objective criterion to measure the value of nations.

Groups of naked women depicted in a part of the manuscript, often represent human souls. Reincarnation was taught as part of the cult, this is explicitly shown in an illustration on page 82, where a soul (in the form of a naked lady) is lying dead in an oyster-like vessel, above her there is a star connected with a “cord” representing a notional journey leading to a bigger star going toward a “machine” with tubes, on the opposite side of the “machine” (which is labeled as: slsd aqiθ) another lady, representing the same, formerly dead, soul, is emerging live and fresh from a different vessel, symbolising the female genitals. The word aqiθ is the most important question regarding the correct reading of the manuscript. Many plant pages end with this word, and on page 47, where leaves (probably of fig) are illustrated, the text ends in: “aqiiθ aqiiθn”. This is clearly a kind of oriental superlative, with a word repeated in genitive, as in “song of songs”, “King of Kings”, etc.; therefore, in aqiΘ aqiΘn the second word has the ending –in, which is the Arabic genitive suffix. So aqiθ (also spelt aqiΘ) is a noun, meaning probably “time”; then “slsd aqiθ” (written on the machine, page 82) means something like “completion of time” (το πλήρωμα του χρόνου, in Greek), and as is well known that the number 3 signifies completeness in time (number 4 signifying totality in space), the first word “slsd” can be something like thalathad, from Arabic thalatha (“three”); this agrees with the shape of the “machine”, having 3 round openings of tubes. The word for time, like Greek αιών, can mean also “age, eternity”, so aqiΘ aqiΘn must be “ages of ages”. If so, aqiθ / aqiΘ meaning time, or ages, it must be Arabic waqit, which has this meaning. Of course w does not appear, but we already saw that w is not shown (by u) in the manuscript unless for the conjunction wa (“and”); a was used to show that the word starts with a vowel or semivowel. So, it started making sense. aqiθ and aqiiθ or aqiΘ are very frequently used as adjectives meaning “eternal”. For instance, on top of page 82 it reads “ustrsd aqiiθ”; strsd occurs lots of times in the manuscript in context of other words starting with st (which we already saw, tentatively read sit “Lady, Goddess”). Then ustrsd may be: wa sit rasid (rasid is a usual Muslim name, I don’t yet know what it means); Now, the whole compound “wa sit rasid” is described as aqiiθ (“eternal”).

Consequently, the word “waqit” used as an adjective, is spelt aqiiθ or aqiθ; thus it is clearly differentiated from what looks like “qii.θ” which is repeated hundreds of times in the manuscript. I asked my friend, ㄌㄜㄡㄋㄧㄗㄚㄙ〢, who studies Arabic since years, and Mrs ㄇㄚㄖㄧˋㄚ〢ㄇㄠㄖㄨㄗㄝ〡, who is versed in Arabic literature and related studies. I must express my gratitude through these lines. Although Mrs ㄇ.ㄇㄠㄖㄨㄗㄝ〡 has never had the time to learn the V.M. alphabet (much easier than the Arabic!) and examine the V.M. by herself, she has always been willing to answer over the phone my queries related to Arabic and even to phone call me from the U.S.A. at odd hours to reply to my messages to her answer machine. All research about it, in agreement with the context, shows me that it is not qii.θ, but qSθ (ii. being practically the same shape as S). So, the word “(u)stqSθ”, written hundreds of times in the V.M., should be “(wa) sit qist” = “(and) Queen of Justice”, qist being for Arabic qist or some other word from the root qst (“distribution; share; fair distribution, justice”). “brk qSθ” on page 82 must be “blessing justice”. Then, the fairly common word “lqSθ” should be “laa qist” or so, meaning “not justice, iniquity” (laa is the Arabic negative particle); the phrase “usten kqd lqSθ” (page 82) should read something like “wa sit ahin chaqid laa qist” = “and Queen who destroys those who cause iniquity”, and similar is “usten lqSθ”, on the same page, reading approximately “wa sit ahin laa qist” = “and Queen who destroys iniquity”, and again on the same page “hen dl brn lqSθ” is something like[9]hahin dul baran laa qist” presumably meaning “the enemy fierce of the sons of iniquity”; hahin (=enemy?) may be the origin of Ottoman hain (=traitor), and baran seems to be plural of a Semitic word “bar” = son.

st / sT is often followed by “ean”, then it may be read “sit hawan” or “sit hawin”, the second word seems to be hawan, an Indo-Iranian word for sacrifice given into fire, used till today, and borrowed into Arabic and Turkish. A kind of tobacco is called havan in Ottoman Turkish, then χαβάνι in Greek, as it was used, or at least looked, like the materials thrown into fire, for “hawan”. Alternatively, this word could make sense taken as hawa (=wind, perhaps also “vital breath”).

These meanings are suggested by the context; it is the job of an expert in Arabic to approve or correct these interpretations.

Some more tentative readings

It is not yet the time to read the whole manuscript; I would need to collaborate with experts specialising in Arabic literature. I don’t know Arabic but some words; Arabic was never in the center of my interests, and even I dislike the appearance of Arabic script, and all languages that put the verb first in every sentence. In general, there is nothing I like in Arabic or any other Semitic culture, but as I said culture knows no boundaries, so many times I was attracted by cultural elements of Arabic and other Semitic nations, especially Akkadian collections of  proverbs, on which I devoted much time. So now I can give some tentative readings of legible words in the V.M.. Even if wrong, such readings will give examples to show how the V.M. letters are used.

It is extremely rare for V.M. words to end in m, and it is unusual for s to be followed by anything other than t/T or d; yet on page 82, just under the reincarnation picture, it reads “tsdban ustran usMsd usTrasl bsM bran …”.

Note that most paragraphs in the V.M. start with t/T, the second most usual first letter of paragraphs being m/M. As Arabic sentences start always with the verb, the first words of paragraphs in the manuscript are likely to be verbs. But not necessarily so. It is a kind of text different than normal conversation or essay, so a word starting a paragraph may here be e.g. a participle used as a divine title (“the one who does this and that…”).

(Still page 82) “usMsd” may be read as “wa ism śid” or the like, meaning “and name of power”. “bsM bran” is “bi ism (barwan?)” = “by the name of (?)”. Biismillahi (“in the name of God”) is how the Quran starts, a phrase used very often by Muslims. Lots of words in the V.M. start with b, and this is often the Arabic preposition bi- (with locative or instrumental function). E.g., somewhere I saw “bsd bsd bsd” which is thrice “bi śid” (or the like) = “by the power”. On page 11, «bqSθ aqiiθ» (i.e. bqSθ aqiΘ = bi-qist waqit) is “by justice eternal”. On page 56, 4th line, it reads “usT bsl bsl bstsl” = “wa sit bi asl? bi asl? bi sit asl” that is: “and Queen most noble?, most noble?, of (all) Queen(s) noble?”. ( Here sl may well be for Arabic asl = noble).

On page 67, there are 12 labels around the picture of the Sun, the 1st is sTqdan (starting with sit, which is the most common word in the manuscript), the 2nd, sTstn, may be “sit sitin” = “the Queen of (all) Ladies”, the 6th, sTen aqil may be “sit ahin ‘aqiil” =”Queen of destruction, wise” (fitting well to the 6th sign of the zodiac, Virgo), the 11th is “sten kql”, again “sit ahin” (Queen of destruction) but with a different adjective.[10] It is anyway clear that these are not names of signs of the zodiac, but designations of the Deity as manifesting through each sign.

On page 56 (that with the egg-plant), the 10th line ends: “l st qSθ”, here the components are separated by pronounceable spaces (not a usual practice in the V.M.), “st qSθ” is what we have already seen, “Queen of Justice”, the preceding l must be the Arabic preposition li- (“to”). Line 12 reads “h bs tbrn uststbn”, where word-play is obvious, two phrases of equal number of syllables and of same rhythm rime to each other, something like “ha bas taabarin – wa sit sitabin”; the second phrase “wa sit sitabin” is frequent in the manuscript, meaning “and Queen of (all) Masters”. The next line continues “stbn bstb rs”; here again “sitab” is twice repeated, now stbn must be nominative: “sitabuun” then “bi-sitab-rais”; “rais” is a well known Arabic word with cognates in all Semitic languages, in Jewish roś, meaning basically “head”; rais is borrowed in Ottoman Turkish as reis = “captain”. In our context, it obviously means “chief, supreme”; so “sitabuun bi-sitab-rais” = “Master upon the supreme Masters”. In the next 6 short lines, stb occurs 4 more times: twice in “ustbn”, once in “bstbn” and once in “ustben”.

In line 14 “bstsd” is (something like) “bi-sit śid” = “to the Queen powerful”. Line 15 reads “Tbs Tbsd bsd Tb.n”, this all looks like a word play on a root bs, t- meaning “the one who”, and bsd must be bi-śid = “by the power of”, so the whole phrase should be “the one who (…?…) by the power of (…?…). Line 16 ends with the rare letter o, written clearly here, in “tbql o” (or: tbsl o).

Ligatures, in my opinion, indicate that there is no vowel between the joined letters. So in “Tb.n” there may be a vowel before t and after b, but not between t and b. The letter a was used to show that a word starts with a vowel (or semivowel), but it was not always considered necessary. (When the second component of a word (-group) started with a vowel, that vowel would be usually thought to belong to the preceding consonant, therefore it would not be treated as a word-initial vowel which ought to be written).

There is word play in every phrase of this manuscript, all words jingle with their context. So in line 17 too, “bsten ustben”, this reading roughly “bi-sit ahin wa sitab ahin” = “on / at the Queen of cursing and Master of cursing”. We saw the word “-en” earlier, in the sense “destroying”, but “cursing”, instead of “destroying”, may be more precise. Ah means curse in Arabic, while af means forgiving.[11] So, “-en” is likely to read “-ahin” = “of cursing”.

The last line of page 56 reads “stbrn trsd aqiΘ”. Now “stbrn” could be again from sitab (Master), but more likely this is to be read “sit-baran” (anyway sit + some attributive “brn”, because “brn” is a common word in the manuscript). sit (“Lady; Queen”) seems to be the most usual word in the whole manuscript, chosen not so much for its meaning, but especially for its form, considered to be of great power in incantations; the same is true for all words in this manuscript, which, as I said twice again, is a corpus of incantations. Words similar to sit and s-t are important in Sanskrit sacred texts, as sat (existing), satja (truth), sadaa (always), siddha (person who accomplished perfection), saadhjá (attainable, amenable), saadhin(i) (capable of attaining), strii (Lady, Goddess), striim (the “seed mantra” of the Goddess). The letter r after st is frequent in the V.M..

“trsd” (last line of page 56) must mean something good, as it is here described by the adjective “aqiθ” = waqiit = eternal.

On page 88 the caption words starting with sm and smn, are probably Arabic sam- (“plant”) and samn- (“oil”).

The beautiful plants of the V.M..

It is so easy to understand that this is not a botany manual! Such a vocabulary could not apply to what we today call science. It is all hymns and incantations, texts of worship. The plants are of course not deities; they are used as implements of worship. Incantations are to be spoken on plants and parts of plants, which then become potent magic implements as they summon powerful spiritual beings to fulfil the user’s desires.

There are also hymns to the heavenly bodies, especially to the Sun, to each one of the 12 signs, to the 4 directions and all kinds of divisions of heaven and earth. Other incantations are connected to religious beliefs: reincarnation, heaven and hell, divine justice, the creation of the world, factors of destiny, etc.. Incantations connected with representation of human body organs are for healing, and pages without illustrations, text only, are praises of the Supreme Deity, always expected to fulfil human needs.

I do believe that this manuscript’s religion is consciously monotheistic, recognising one and only omnipotent Deity, who is manifesting through the 12 signs, the 4 directions, the heavenly bodies, angelic spirits, and other ways. It was because of the expressly monotheistic belief that this religion, which I say was the original Sabian, was permissible under Muslim law.

As to the Benedictine monk Hew O’ Neal’s view that there are included two New World’s plants in the illustrations, I strongly disagree. Why should New World’s plants be inserted among the good old plants of Near and Middle East? How could an old Asian religion use foreign, unfamiliar plants for the incantations of old? There are many plants prescribed for rituals in books of modern India, among which there is not even one plant unfamiliar to Hindus. Anyway, the plants that Hew O’ Neal suspects to be from the New World, are: a kind of sunflower, which in fact is a species native in Asia, known in Europe since early[12], and not “helianthus annuus” introduced from America; and the plant supposed to be capsicum, of which only the green leaves remind the shape of capsicum, they are not its fruits! So, these are not good guesses!

Although I have not been able to do a systematic study of the V.M. plants, I can say they are all plants of Iran, Iraq, and the area around; all of them can be found in modern Greece. Many of them were introduced in Europe after Alexander the Great’s conquest, such as cotton, eggplant and lemon. Cotton is depicted on page 17, and cannabis sativa on page 16; these are plants used to make fabrics, like the one on the right of cotton, which is flax. On page 11 it is, I think, a lemon tree. The cotton plant fruit is not only useful commercially; it has a marvellous cruciform shape, and the cross is a sacred symbol not only for Christianity. I cannot say much more about the manuscript’s plants, although I have seen them all in nature, but I am not specialist, and even of plants familiar I don’t know the names; the person who drew them, too, was not very much of an artist; the drawings are not very naturalistic; evidently the plants were copied from another book where they were better drawn. In older times, people were much more familiar with various species of plants, so they could recognise the drawings much easier than modern city people.

The origin of sodaśaaqsarii mantra

sodaśaaqsarii means “consisting of 16 syllables”. It is considered by Hindus to be the most potent mantra (and most dangerous for the practitioner), so it is considered secret, and Hindus, even spiritual teachers and writers, avoid making it known. Perhaps it ought not be publicised, but as it may be found on the Internet and in books, while even satanistic black magic manuals are openly sold for 10 dollars, I reproduce the following extracts from the Internet, advising that these mantras must not be used by anyone; I have never tried them, but I can feel that they are noxious for the user: it is my personal belief that every sound has an objective significance and so creates a certain feeling; now the sound L, important in the sodaśaaqsarii and similar mantras, is a telltale of  fickleness if not treacherousness when found in the last syllable of a name, and creates the worst feeling of all phonemes; this is my opinion formed solely by experience. I also advise everyone not to use mantras made of dead languages’ words, e.g. Sanskrit, as the correct pronunciation cannot be achieved today, and even slight corruptions of pronunciation can make the mantras poisonous instead of healing to the aspirants.

Shiva reveals the Mantra called Panchadasi Vidya. The same is of three parts. The first is called Vagbhava, as it imparts mystery over all forms of speech. It is read as ka e ii la hrii.m. The second goes by the name of Kamaraja and is composed of the six letters ha sa ka ha la hrii.m. The third is named Shaktibija consisting of the four letters sa ka la-hrii.m. Panchadasi in this form is known by the name of Kamaraja-vidya. The forms of the same respectively worshipped by Lopamudra, Shiva and Shakti are sa ka la hrii.m, ha sa ka ha la hrii.m, sa ka la hrii.m, ha sa ka ha la hrii.m, sa ka la hrii.m; sa ha ka la hrii.m, ha sa ka ha la hrii.m, sa ka la hrii.m.

Then comes the Shodashi which is read as hrii.m ka e ii la hrii.m ha sa ka ha la hrii.m sa ka la hrii.m. The second form of the same is called Chintamani read as shrii.m ka e ii la hrii.m ha sa ka ha la hrii.m sa ka la hrii.m. Artwork is © Jan Bailey, 1995. Translations are © Mike Magee 1995. Questions or comments to ac70θcityscape.co.uk

“Rooting itself in Kashmir Shaivism, Srividya became a force in south India no later than the seventh century, and eventually supplanted the Trika as the dominant tantric tradition in Kashmir. This is the first comprehensive study of the texts and traditions of this influential school of goddess-centered, Sakta tantrism. Centering on the goddess’s three manifestations—the beneficent deity Lalita Tripurasundari, her mantra, and the visually striking sricakra—Srividya creates a systematic esoteric discipline that combines elements of the yogas of knowledge, of devotion, and of ritual.” From: Auspicious Wisdom: The Texts and Traditions of Srividya Sakta Tantrism in South India/Douglas Renfrew Brooks. Reprint. 1996, xx, 301 p.,

Trika Shaivism flourished in Kashmir from about 900 CE. Though all the known texts of Trika Shaivism come from Kashmir or are inspired by Kashmiri writers, it is doubtful that the Trika tradition originated in Kashmir. There is therefore a pre-Kashmirian phase of development  which can be seen in the Siddhayogesvarimata Tantra, the Malinivijayottara Tantra, and the Tantrasadbhava Tantra. This early period was before 800 CE and was principally concerned with the trika of goddesses, who were associated with eight mother goddesses embodied in kulas, clans, of yoginis, supernatural-human females possessed by the mother goddesses.
A second phase of development incorporated Kali, first immanent in the trika of goddesses and then together with the pantheon of Krama Shaivism. Krama Shaivism was a group of mystical Kali cults, which originated in Uddiyana (modern Swat) and
Kashmir before the ninth century. The idealist metaphysics of Krama Shaivism had an important influence on Trika Shaivism. http://philtar.ucsm.ac.uk/encyclopedia/hindu/devot/trika.html.

(As Kashmir is in North India, “south” was wrongly written above instead of “north”. This is not the only mistake; the chronology given as ‘no later than the senenth century’ is obviously wrong, as shown by the much more careful text cited next. Below I shall explain where the Lalita cult of “Kashmir Shaivism” itself was rooted in).

From the above it is absolutely clear that the sodaśaaqsarii and related mantras are not words known in any Indian language; so they are referred to as syllables and not words. (Although the Sanskrit language is rich enough to interpret even random syllables as Sanskrit words, still the above mantras are described as syllables, not words). Moreover, genuine Sanskrit mantras mirror the richness of Sanskrit phonology, which includes aspirate consonants, distinction between voiced and unvoiced, various vowels and diphthongs, and impressive consonant clusters; this phonological richness is too abruptly contrasted by the bare simplicity of the above-mentioned Tantric mantras. Even the most sacred Hindu biíca (seed mantra) OM, the summit point where all different religions of India meet, even that is absent in the mantras described above!

 On the other hand, these mantras’s texts resemble very very much words frequently repeated in the V.M.. There are actually frequent words in the V.M. which may be read as parts of the above mantras (without the Sanskrit “seed-mantras” hriim and śriim): qaeeiila, hasaqahala, saqala; sahaqala (to use the system of romanisation applied for the V.M.; Although these are the main forms of the mantras, they can also be used with different sequence of syllables, namely hasaqala, haqahala, qahajala, haqalasa; qala, qahala, saqala). These mantras do not make sense in Sanskrit and Indian languages in general; but it appears to me that they originate in a Semitic language of Mesopotamia, where the original forms made perfect sense: where hiatus appears, there were Semitic laryngeal sounds; -iila (and some –la) come from an oblique case of ilu- (Akkadian for “god”; similar is the word in the other Semitic languages). saqala must be a loanword ultimately from Sumerian *sagal- meaning “intact, sound, pure”[13] (attested as segel-, written unavoidably “sikil”, while Sumerian e often came from a, and the word is cognate to Turkic sağ & sağl-am = “safe and sound”). The Goddess is usually referred to as Lalita (means “playful” in Sanskrit), which, to my opinion, is a sanskritisation of an Arabic word like al-Ilat-(uN) (or similar) meaning “the Goddess” or “the Deity”.

IndoEuropeans were in fact monotheists, worshipping one God as personification of the sky, Djeews; the elements of nature (earth, wind, fire, water) were sacred to them and ought to be respected as elements of God’s body, but their God was one: Djeews. The reason why so many forms of the Supreme Deity appeared in India, is that there were many different peoples with different religions already when the IndoEuropeans arrived, and later other nations’ religious elements were introduced, and always assimilated wisely.

As this Tantric cult “became a force in India no later than the 7th century” (in fact a few centuries later than the 7th century A.D.) and it supplanted (that is, substituted) the previous concept of the Supreme Mother, it can be understood that it was not a local cult, but one introduced, by immigrants who came from Mesopotamia (and thereabouts) forced by the expansion of the earliest Muslim warriors. The main female deity of this cult was originally Iśtar (worshipped formerly by the Sumerians as “In.an.na” = “Queen of Heaven”), who was given various names by Hindus, one of the first being śriwidja (śri is the honorific title, and widja means a mantra; this reveals that the introduced mantra was originally the main element of the new cult). This same cult was given a monotheistic emphasis by locals[14] under the menace of Arabs who knew it as Sabian religion; some Arabs assimilated it, then carried it with them into Spain. The goddess Iśtar / “In.an.na” was always dreaded as most powerful deity, so people would hardly dare to disrespect her worship (it is exactly the same attitude of Hindu Tantrists, who declare that the Goddess is the most powerful Deity in the universe). In Spain some people felt that God had to be worshipped in this most powerful form, then some Jews heared that a certain book (actually containing invocations to that Deity), when recited, is the most powerful thing in the world - but as they could not learn well the Arabic language and script (it is not easy!), they resorted to their own alphabet to record the book’s contents.

This kind of Jewish script was quick (representing no vowels), took less space on paper, and could not be read by strangers who knew the Latin and the Arabic script. Still it was easy to read without ambiguity, because the vocabulary of this book is so limited. This is how the V.M. came to be.

Something important has been written in Latin script

The manuscript’s most interesting page is the last one, having 4 lines of text in Latin script (the Latin alphabet here is used without any capital letters, although there is a distinction between final and non-final s), in the last line two words in the V.M. script have been inserted.

This proves that the same scribe could write with ease both in the Latin and the V.M. system. The handwriting here is very untidy, (by the way, it must have been a man who wrote it, I cannot imagine such an awful handwriting by a woman) and the text hardly legible. Still the content appears to be prophylactic, that is words aiming to ward off any enimity against the person who wrote and used the book.

The first line, just under the top edge of the page, reads something like[15]:

porlebev vinon putoter

Then a space of about two lines is left empty, and then written, much more legibly:

michiton oladabas multos + te + tar cevc + portas + n +

Six + jumix + morix + vix + ahia + maria +

aRoR Sheey valsen vbren (S)o nim gaSmich o

The first letter looks more like  a but also resembles an o. There is a small odd mark before o, which could be what remained from an S, but more likely it is a remnant of a q, that is a V.M. u, used for w, a non-Spanish sound. The s, used as final, is written like an d, while S, used as non-final, looks like ì, which is the usual medieval European s. What is written in the V.M. alphabet, is transliterated as “qlsl hen” (may be vocalised, for example, as “qilas li hahin”). We have already seen “hen” in the main text of the manuscript, where it is shown to read as hahin (or the like), meaning “enemy”.  The –l of “qlsl” may well be connected to the next word, as the Arabic preposition li- (“to”). So the phrase may read as (e.g.) “qilas li hahin” = calamity / bondage (or so) to the enemy, a stereotyped phrase to prevent curses.  Similar must be the meaning of the next phrase: “valsen vbren”; then “(S)o nim gaSmich o” is rather the positive image, i. e. an expression of blessing the person who wrote the manuscript, like “and blessing to the one who wrote it!” (perhaps a word cognate to Arabic “nimat” = blessings, riches). “o” (or wo) before “nim” must be the Jewish form of the word for the conjunction “and” (“wo” in Akkadian, and similar in all Semitic languages).

The crosses in between the words have been drawn obviously for apotropaic reasons, i.e. to ward off evil. “Six + jumix + morix + vix” are jingling words not belonging to a natural language, but used as magic words, obviously to summon protective powers. The words + ahia + maria + are the best legible in the whole manuscript; It is perfectly clear that they render the Greek phrase Αγία Μαρία (Saint Mary) in the form it would reach the ears of a Spanish-speaking person. (Note that “maria” is the only word that has a cross marked over it, too). And this holy Christian name is listed just after the strange jingling magic words! You may wonder, what was the religion of that person who wrote these lines? Jewish? Muslim? Sabian? Tantric? Christian? It is a meaningless question. Mahaatma Gandhi wisely pointed out:

 

“It is easy to talk about God after you have eaten a good meal and while expecting to eat another one soon; yet for a hungry person God cannot have but the form of bread and butter”.

 

I do not mean that the V.M. writer had no food to eat; any person who feels a dire need, either for food or justice, or love or anything else, has no time to think which religion is better; any religious practice that seems capable of fulfilling his / her needs, is welcome. As the Turkish proverb puts it, “yzymy je, bağını sor_ma!” (eat the grape and don’t inquire about its vineyard!).

As to the line “michiton oladabas multos + te + tar cevc + portas + n +”, I do not claim that I can read it unless by conjecturing; the obvious thing though is that it shows a phonology clearly not Italian, not even French or German; all this page sounds like Spanish mixed with something else[16]. That “something else” is not Arabic, for if it was, it would be written with the V.M. alphabet like the two words of the last line. Common sense says it cannot be phonetic Chinese or Japanese in 15th century’s Europe! This entire last page cannot be but in a form of Jewish, with some admixture of Spanish (and the sacred names of third line). To try a tentative reading without knowing the language, the “mich” in “michiton” appears also in “gaSmich”, which was previously presumed to mean “to the one who wrote”; so, “mich” meaning “to write”, michiton would mean “what was written (here)”. The “ol” in “oladabas” looks like the Semitic negative particle “not”, in Akkadian “ul”, so “ol” may be the Jewish negation of verbs. It may be only a fancy to compare –ad- to Akkadian “id-“ (“to know”), but the context points to that meaning; so I take “oladabas” as “they don’t know, they cannot understand”. “multos” is of Latin origin, may be an old form of Spanish “muchos”, borrowed early by Spain Jews to use in the sense “the crowd, the multitude, most people”. “te” may be cognate to Arabic ta (“further, even more”), in Jewish meaning “beyond, unless”. The rest + tar cevc + portas + n + (words carefully enclosed by protective crosses as in bodyguard) must be the name of the person(s) who can read and understand what the manuscript says. “portas” (a loanword from old Spanish) forms part of the name (designation); I wonder whether it can mean “the whole familly” by extension of the meaning porta = gate (in many languages “gate” can signify “the whole family”); while + n + , a letter standing alone, must be the initial, to avoid revealing the whole name. It is tempting to take “tar cevc” as the Jewish counterpart of Arabic tachir (“merchant”), a very old word of ancient Akkadian origin.[17] To resume, this whole line seems to mean: “What is written (in this book) (is something that other) people cannot know, unless (the merchant??) Portas N.”.

It seems to me that we can read between the lines of this manuscript about the insecurity felt by Jews facing general hostility a little before their violent expulsion from Spain. That expulsion, anyway, is what caused the manuscript to be lost away from Spain and wander until it reached a Jesuit library. So, the time shortly before the expulsion of Jews from Spain is the date the manuscript was written.

Conclusion

“Truth is quite simple; this is why most people can’t see it”.

And yet, nothing is more fascinating than truth, if you take a close look. This manuscript has already taught much, and may teach a lot more, when the whole is read without bias. I did not enter, only opened the door and looked inside. Only scientists with human intelligence can enter; computers will not help, as they have not helped hitherto; they have only “revealed”, after long-winded computations, what can be seen in a mere glance to the manuscript. To see your face, you may use a computer with a digital camera, photograph yourself, input the photo to the computer, find where you stored it and then view the picture, which all requires technology of the last few years; But you can also see your face on the surface of still water, as people have been doing since millions of years. Even human reasoning cannot substitute perception and sense and experience.

Who aspires to read this manuscript must have not even a trace of prejudice. It is prejudice that makes people work in the manner Nasreddin Hoca was searching for his golden ring.[18] Reading about the history of the V.M., I understood that all those who had the knowledge to “decipher”[19] it, had not the time; and those who had the time, had not the knowledge needed. The same happens today. I wish I could colaborate with experts in Arabic literature to read the whole text, and I know such experts, but they have no time at all to work on the V.M.. An expert of Arabic should first of all learn the use of this type of Jewish script, which is the V.M. alphabet; it is very easy: only 22 letters, some of them hardly expected to be encountered, and they are rarely joined together changing their shapes, as in Arabic. Arabic script, yes, it is difficult to learn. Jewish script, including the V.M. type, is easy. Still it is not enough to learn to recognise the letters visually, one must learn how to write them by hand in the correct directions; in this article I have given enough instructions as to how to write each letter. Having learnt this simple alphabet, the expert of Arabic should start reading the text, keeping in mind that it is completely unvocalised, even semivowels are missing, and the orthography is made up by a person who had no idea of the Arabic script, a limited knowledge of the Arabic language, and only a rough idea of Arabic pronunciation. Even the original Arabic text was not exactly original; it was (free?) rendering of incantations in another language[20], perhaps Persian or Syriac, and even those were modifications of older incantations in Akkadian, fashioned after Sumerian models, which in turn followed pre-Sumerian models, and … the start cannot be found!

Well, it may take time to read the whole text. “Even if haste bakes the bread, it will not bake it well”. But, if you carefully consider how this alphabet’s letters took their shape, you shall believe me that the V.M. is no more a target Diogenes would stand in front[21]. It is fine if you don’t believe anything I say; I only request that you read carefully the whole of this work.

An interesting document of ordinary Jewish script

In 1992 I met Miss ㄚㄦㄐㄩㄖㄡ〡 ㄎㄨㄊㄖㄨㄅㄢㄝ〢 in Kavala, who told me they had a manuscript at home, handed down from old, in a script unknown to them (herself and her parents); I was willing to see it, so she lent it to me, I examined it and made photocopies to keep; Now, in 2003, I borrowed it again to photograph and copy it and scan it to my computer. It is an entire sheet of parchment folded in two, so as to envelope another smaller piece of parchment. The entire sheet contains four columns of text, whereas the smaller, cut-off piece contains only one column. All five columns are the same of size, handwriting, appearance, and subject. They obviously belonged to a large book, written in good old Jewish calligraphy, with the traditional reed pen on parchment made of animal’s skin. It must be sheepskin, I have seen other pieces of sheepskin before, so I know what old sheepskin looks like after it has been worn and shrunk by absorbing moisture.

 Consulting a dictionary and reading some names I could recognise without any help, I was able to say it conveys an extract from the Old Testament, or at least the subject, language and style are exactly the same as in the Old Testament. It has the phrases “then God said”, “then Joseph said” repeated many times, so it contains a dialogue between God, Joseph and Joseph’s brothers and their father Jacob (their names too are frequent in the text). The words “Egypt” “Pharaoh” and “land Canaan” are also used often therein. The single column piece, worse preserved than the entire sheet, I have identified with certainty, it is the success story of Joseph in Egypt, a literary piece that I, and many people have loved to read in the Old Testament. Especially it was a thrill for me to read the honorific name that Pharaoh gave Joseph, Sapenat Paʿaneh, (written Spnt ponh, see the word copied here) meaning “saviour”. I was impressed to read it in the Septuagint version of the Old Testament, I had then wished I could read that in the original Jewish version. How felicitous it was to find that name while I was copying the Jewish text off that old piece of parchment!

It was also very moving to recognise the phrases saying that Joseph married a noble Egyptian, and had two sons with her, whom he named Manaseh meaning “(God) made me forget (my hardships)” and Ephraim, meaning “(God) made me expand (in the land of Egypt)”.

In 1992 I sent a copy to a professor in Thessalonica, but he did not send me a translation. The manuscript’s origin could be traced back to ㄚ.ㄎㄨㄊㄖㄨㄅㄢㄝ〢’s mother’s grandfather, ㄘㄜㄇㄧㄙㄊㄛㄎㄌㄝㄙ〡ㄇㄧㄏㄚㄝㄌㄧㄗㄝㄙ〢, who lived in Sampsous or Trapezous of the Black Sea in the 19th century; he went to Constantinople to study in the famous “Grand School of the Nation” (Μεγάλη του Γένους Σχολή), a kind of university for Greeks, teaching humanities and Theology (the Old Testament’s language was also a subject taught to theology students, as is today taught to theology students in Greece), so ㄘ.ㄇㄧㄏㄚㄝㄌㄧㄗㄝㄙ〢 on completing his studies he became an Orthodox Christian priest. Somehow in Constantinople he obtained that piece of manuscript, which was kept as a precious heirloom by his descedants. That manuscript must be very old, it wouldn’t have been preserved if it was on paper. I believe it was written no later than 1500 A.D., because later people would not write on parchment but on paper, and they would not hand – copy such a long test as the Old Testament, which could then be printed. Recent printed versions of the Old Testament have the text completely vocalised, while there are absolutely no vocalic diacritic marks on this manuscript, although the scribe, a really expert calligrapher, took great care to draw triple decorative antennae on many letters. The traditional reed pen makes thick lines horizontally, but very thin vertically, so it was specially used vertically to draw the decorative antennae. In that manuscript, all other letters written as printed, see 2st (from left) column in the grid, it is interesting that the letter h has not exactly the form ח, but this: (drawn here: ) i.e. the letter’s two pillars are separately drawn and then joined together with a “cap” over them. It is not hard to understand the reason: in hand written texts, ח can hardly be distinguished from ה, so the horizontal top line of ח was drawn separately and differently, as a pointed curve (which should have been likened to a roof or arch of a gate, the whole letter resembling a house or a gate). In this way the letter ח was sufficiently differentiated from ה. Sometimes in the manuscript ה has the shape ח, and once the shape ח has been wrongly used instead of what is the normal form of h in this manuscript! Exactly because the two letters were easy to confuse, both their shape and sound being similar, h was so carefully differentiated.

    

I have copied some words with this h from the ordinary Jewish manuscript, they read (from right to left): hlile (a personal name). ahinu, ahiu (from ah = brother). hi (a grammatical particle). tht (=? Perhaps this tht is cognate to Arabic taht = “under”?).

(Anyone interested to see a scan or (much better legible) the whole text of this manuscript transliterated in the same system I use for the V.M., please ask me).

This special type of h, might have been specifically Spanish, or at least used in Spain too, because most Jews in the Aegean area came from Spain, after their expulsion about 1600 A.D., so the manuscript, which ended up in possession of Th. Michaelides and his descendants, has every reason to be considered created in Spain, quite earlier than 1600 A.D.. This means that the Spain Jews used to write h with the “roof”, as shown above, and this h shape was naturally evolved into the V.M. shape, which was reversed to face right, as most of the V.M. letters. Note that in the V.M., like in the square Jewish scrip, the letters e and h resemble each other.

 

 

 

A SAMPLE OF TEXT FROM THE V.M.

 

(page 56, depicting an egg-plant)

 

A letter transcribed as bold is not very clear; if an “s”, it resembles a “q”, and vice versa.

Letters in brackets ( ) are covered by the lengthened letter after the (. (There are no brackets or other punctuation marks in the manuscript). “e” can be actually rr. Also mind that spacing between words is not very explicit. I cite this passage for anyone who knows Arabic well to offer a tentative reading of the whole page.

 

s(tbqd bbk)n sTn rkran bn nbsMb.n bsl bn bn

bstbrn bsd bsdn tsl bn bn trn bsTn hstqSθ

sd brn bstbsd brn ten usten  bsten bstkn

usT bsl bsl bst sl btsl bn stql ban

bs bsl bs bsaqdn aqiΘ

ntbs an abrn ten aqiΘ n

hs tbsd sTbsl bstn aqd

kbsd bsn b stn betb.san

Tbstn tbsd bsd bsTbrnTbsd

nTbsl sTbn bst nT brn l st qSθ

hn tben aqiΘ Tb.sd bsl bstsl

h bs tbrn uststbn

stbn bstb rs tbqd

Tbs Tbsd bsd Tb.n

usTbn bsan Tb.sl brn tbsl o

bsten ustben  kbrn a qiΘ a n

hs bstbn tbs ql   k stsaqθ

sTbrn trsd aqiΘ

 


[1] The latter was obviously written by a child of the former inhabitants, who was impressed by the folk story of a captain who ate a few eggs at a port’s tavern, and having no cash to pay he promised to pay when he would come again to the same port. When he did come back after years, the tavern’s keeper demanded an icredible amount, no less than the price of the captain’s ship, saying that during the years the credit was pending, the eggs that the captain ate could have been hatched to bear chickens, which would lay so many eggs, which in turn would have brought to the world so many hens and so on.

[2] Just like in Ukranian and other languages too.

[3] While the order in a sentence is free for all integral Greek words.

[4] it could not be the first word, because in Arabic sentences must always start with a verb. Here, the first word was a verb meaning possibly “I shall recite” (or something analogous), the whole phrase saying “I shall (now) recite the incantation with the eggplant, with has this and that effect”. Or, following a different formula, “Glory to you, eggplant, powerful, able to do this and that wonder”. In bbk(T)n, the right leg of a much lengthened T is inserted between k and n, its left leg being in a previous word.

[5] See also the rubrics under letter $; They are actually more likely to be caligraphic o’s instead of $’s.

[6] Once it was written carelessly without the loop, as shown in the grid, 3rd column, second form. A few times it appears as j.

[7] (It is a joke told by Zorba to N. Kazandzakis: The miller’s wife was unfaithful to her husband, making love with someone else as she was sitting back on a flour sack; then an ω (omega) shape was made on the sack. Another time she changed her position, so an o-like impression was left. The miller found a suspect man and asked: “sometimes I saw an impression like an ω (omega) on a sack; yesterday I saw an o-like shape there; have you got an idea what may those be from?”. The man answered: “hey boss, do you expect orthography from your Mrs’s bum?”).

 

[8] There may be even one or two Greek loanwords too, as Arabic has borrowed a considerable number of Greek words.

[9] I vocalise arbitrarily the words I do not know, for the sake of “animating” phrases.

[10] The adjective in Arabic always follows the noun it modifies.

[11] My grandmother, who died when I was very young, was born in Asia Minor, and was even taught a little “Arabii – Farsii” (Arabic and Persian) at school. My father says she used to say ‘when you feel like uttering “ah” (an interjection of pain, indignation, etc.), say “af” instead. Because ah means “curse”, while “af” means “forgiving”’.

[12] This species shown on the left of page 34 has big tubers, so it is probably the species that produces the “Jerusalem artichokes”. In this case “Jerusalem” is a corruption of Italian “girasole” meaning “sunflower”. There is a native Chinese monosyllabic word for sunflower, , which shows that at least this species was known in Asia before the discovery of America.

[13] I have seen this Sumerian word used in an incantation, in professor Bendt Alster’s “Dumuzi”s dream”, page 92 (Akademisk Forlag, Copenhagen 1972). The incantation is written as “giššinig giš-gi giš-an ki-sikil-le mú-a”, pronounced approximately: “šenigi gii ŋith-aan kee-segelee muda”.

[14] Not all fled to India, of course!

[15] I underline the dubious letters. r is very similar to v, j to f, t to c, “in” looks the same as m.

[16] por- in the first line is likely to be Spanish por- (=for).

[17] See Wolfram fon Soden’s Akkadisches Handwörterbuch, s.v. tamkar-u(m).

[18] Someone saw Nasreddin searching outside his house; “What are you looking for?” – “I lost my golden ring” – “Where did you lose it?” – “Somewhere inside my home” – “Then why are you looking outside?” – “It is too dark inside, so I am searching outside, because there is broad daylight here”.

[19] The word is misused, as the manuscript is not written in secret cipher; it is only a handwriting of Jewish.

[20] This can explain why the definite Arabic article al- is generally not used in V.M.. Also, the liberal use of the letter l may have been considered inauspicious.

[21] The ancient Greek cynic philosopher Diogenes saw an archer practicing, shooting lots of arrows and always missing. Then he went and stood in front of the target saying, “this is the only place where I cannot be hit by this archer’s arrows”.

 

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