The Voynich Manuscript Investigations of Morten St. George







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What animal was used to make the parchment on which the Voynich manuscript was written?

On the last page of the manuscript (folio 116v), we find the following depiction:

Voynich Manuscript drawing of a marsh deer allegedly used for parchment

Many mammals resemble this animal to some degree or another. The only one that lived in the American swamps, and whose skin could serve as manuscript parchment, was the deer.

The marsh deer, similar in appearance to the Voynich depiction, is still extant in parts of South America. Here's a photograph of a female marsh deer courtesy of the Fauna Paraguay website:

Marsh deer photo courtesy of

Take special note of black coloring of the lower legs (a feature not seen on European deer) and compare with the Voynich drawing where you will notice black coloring on the lower legs.

Note also, in both cases, that the ears are pointing up and back from the back of the head (deer ears), unlike horses, mules, donkeys, sheep, goats, cows, or dogs, all which have ears pointing straight up, forward, sideways or down.

The Cathar perfecti were vegetarians, which makes me reluctant to suggest that they hunted deer for food, but depictions of the consolamentum ceremony imply that some of them had to be credentes, who may have been allowed to eat meat. Of course, if they ate deer, it would become easy to explain how they managed to accumulate hides to make parchment.

To clarify: our latest theory maintains that the Cathars wrote astrological and text pages in Europe in the 13th century, that they took those pages with them when they migrated to America later in the 13th century, that they then wrote more pages (mainly on botanical themes) in the Americas on deer skin, and that, in the early 15th century, converts to their religion copied everything on to bison skin, which is today the VMS located in the Beinecke Library at Yale. In medieval times, the range of the American bison extended well into Mexico.

On folio 76v, we see an indication that the girls were not shy about skinning animals:

Voynich Manuscript drawing of the hide of a spotted jaguar

Though far from certain, she may be holding the hide of a spotted jaguar; thus, her right is raised as an expression of triumph over the predator animal.

I recently read that, to help gain converts in Europe, the Cathar perfecti established workshops for teaching paper-making among other skills. There is plenty of reason to believe that they could have had the skills needed to make something to write on in the swamps, including the following drawing:

Voynich Manuscript drawing of instruction in parchment making


1. This is not the ceremony of consolamentum as the perfecta's right hand is placed behind her back. Also note that her left arm is misplaced, too far down from the shoulder.

2. The perfecta is not poking at the credente's eye but rather pointing to her brain. Knowledge is being passed from the perfecta to the credente.

What is being taught to the credente?

3. In her right hand, the credente is holding a curved blade with handles on each end. This was the standard tool of medieval parchment makers. They used this instrument to scrape away animal fur from the furry side of the hide, a necessary step in the making of parchment.

4. The credente is dreaming about making a belt and short skirt from scraped animal hide.

5. The credente is standing in blue, not green, water. Another important step in making parchment was the frequent washing of the hide, requiring clean rain water, not the dirty green water of the swamps.

Conclusion: These gals knew how to make parchment.

You say they drew the marsh deer to indicate that this was the animal used for parchment. Do they also portray the manuscript's authors?

Yes, of course. We see the proud author here:

Alleged female author of the Voynich Manuscript

This gallant female presents herself directly under the drawing of the deer and is the last thing we see in the Voynich manuscript (folio 116v).

Why are all the women naked?

That's a silly question. In the rainforest we still see naked people today. With high heat, high humidity and frequent rainfall, clothing can be more of an annoyance than a necessity.

Indeed, the fact that these women are naked is another reason for believing that the Voynich manuscript was compiled in the tropics and not in Europe. As far as I know, there were no nudist camps in medieval Europe.

But at night, the temperature in the tropics can drop considerably and it can feel even colder due to all the dampness.

Voynich Manuscript drawing of a rainforest female wrapped in a blanket while sleeping in her tree hut

On folio 82r, we see one of the girls wrapped in a blanket, peacefully asleep in her tree hut under the stars.

With such strong evidence for a tropical climate, why does Wikipedia think that the Voynich manuscript was composed in northern Italy which is hardly tropical?

Wikipedia needs to be updated. Years ago, someone noticed that the castle defenses resembled defenses seen in northern Italy, but no further support for composition in northern Italy has come forth. Meanwhile, scholars have discovered that sources for the astrology section come from northeastern France, not Italy. Coned towers, seen on the Voynich castle and elsewhere in the manuscript, are a feature of French, not Italian, architecture.

The Voynich manuscript is dated near the beginning of the 15th century and then appears in Europe in the 17th century. How did it get from A to B?

I do not know the answer to your question, but let's note that, except for a few signs that the manuscript was seen in the city of London in the late 16th century, there appears to be no historical record of the Voynich manuscript, or of any similar manuscript, anywhere in Europe during the 15th and 16th centuries. It would not be unreasonable to suspect that, during those centuries, the manuscript resided elsewhere.

Curiously, the Incas claimed to have been in possession of a book. Wikipedia cites the historian Pedro Sarmiento de Gamboa (1572) on the creator-god Viracocha: "a man of medium height, white and dressed in a white robe like an alb secured round the waist, and that he carried a staff and a book in his hands." Would not a great scholar, like Sarmiento, have made an extreme effort to track down such a book? I once imagined that he found the Voynich manuscript and brought it to London in 1584.

It seems a bit incredulous that the pre-Columbian Incas, a people who did not know how to read or write, could have imagined a "book" (or even a white man) in their mythology. Perhaps this was intended to refer to the epoch of Viracocha Inca, the king who ruled from 1410 to 1438, dates that correspond quite well with the radiocarbon range given for the Voynich manuscript: from 1404 to 1438.

The chronicler Martín de Murúa informs us that Viracocha Inca, the eighth Inca, was bearded, a sure sign that he could have been a white man because native Americans did not grow facial hair. Possibly, therefore, the Incas made him their king when he walked into Cuzco, thinking that, because of his white skin and beard, he was a direct descendant of their creator-god.

This, of course, is pure speculation. We need to decode the manuscript in order to prove that Viracocha Inca was the last of the Cathars. That would be the case, for example, if the final pages (pure text) are found to contain the Inca Prophecy that chroniclers have attributed to Viracocha Inca.

Why did the Cathars decide to go to America and not somewhere else?

They may not have planned to go anywhere specific. West of northern Africa they would have encountered the north equatorial current, which runs east to west toward the Americas.

It is unknown where and how they got the boat. The Cathars had some friends among the Knights Templar (who operated a fleet from the west coast of France) and also among the cabalists (another persecuted sect) in Girona, which was located roughly two hundred kilometers southeast of Montségur on the other side of the Pyrenees. I think it most likely that they crossed the mountains (in 1244) to reach Girona. At that time the leader of the cabalists was Nachmanides (1194–1270), whose Hebrew writings express familiarity with a text that could have been the sacred text of the Cathars.

While the escapees of Montségur may have planned to die at sea, in peace, praying (and then woke up one day to see the Americas!), there is reason to believe that their sacred text implied the existence of undiscovered land, suggesting a dedicated effort to cross the ocean. In that case, they may have been joined in this effort by a cabalist or two. Decoders would be well advised to consider encryption techniques employed by the cabalists including the interchange of letters and numbers.

Also note that Girona was a city of Catalonia, which leads us to observe that the Voynich manuscript (in some parts of its text) makes use of accent marks and abbreviation markings that are found in the Homilies d'Organyà, a work written in the Old Catalan language. In any case the Cathars should have been familiar with that language, a close relative of Occitan which was spoken in southern France.

What ever happened to the Cathars in America? Why didn't the Spanish find them when they arrived there?

Wikipedia states the following about the Cathars:

"… reproduction was viewed by them as a moral evil to be avoided—as it continued the chain of reincarnation and suffering in the material world. It was claimed by their opponents that, given this loathing for procreation, they generally resorted to sodomy."

This aversion to procreation is symbolically depicted on folio 80r of the manuscript:

Voynich Manuscript depiction of Cathar aversion to procreation

It is easy to see what this young man (no beard) wants, but notice that the girl is literally running away from him.

No other males can be clearly distinguished in the swamps. One possibility would be that mainly women made the transatlantic crossing so we should not expect to see men depicted in the swamp environment. Another possibility would be that the women we see in the manuscript are extremely old and the men had already passed away. Still another possibility is that the men went out to convert the native Americans to Catharism, leaving the women in the safety of the swamps.

It is now suspected that the lone male depicted in the VMS was merely imagined to reflect their aversion to procreation. Indeed, it seems likely that only females, no males, made the transatlantic crossing. That made sense: they were probably expecting to die at sea and the lack of males would ensure that there was nothing to impede their ascent to eternal bliss in the spiritual world.

Apparently, these Cathar women (the swamp scenes depict up to sixteen of them) rode the transoceanic currents all the way to Mexico. Before perishing of old age (and as a sect due to lack of offspring), they doubtless took advantage of an opportunity to convert the native Americans to their religion, teaching them how to make parchment and how to transfer the sacred writings (brought with them from Europe) on to the fresh parchment.

The VMS is carbon-dated to shortly before the rise of the Aztec Empire which may have eliminated Mexican Catharism several decades prior to the arrival of the Spanish. The Aztecs forced their language and beliefs upon everyone they conquered. If any memory of the Cathars of Mexico survived, it surely would have been erased by the Inquisition in the 16th century. On a more positive note, the chronicles of Peru lead us to believe that a Cathar missionary reached Cuzco in the early 15th century and even made a convert of the ruling Inca!

Above all, notice that no infants or young children are depicted in the manuscript. Hence, there is no need to speculate on their demise due to disease, headhunters, or mass suicide. They could have perished from natural causes: the lack of offspring.

Of course, none of this negates the possibility that their blood line could have survived through intermarriage with native Americans and simply gone unnoticed. Indeed, if the Cathars migrated to the Americas in the 13th century, the Voynich manuscript (carbon-dated to the early 15th century) could only have been made (surely a copy of the earlier deer-skin writings) by their descendants or by converts to Catharism. Baby or fetal bison (genetically very similar to domestic cattle) would be only realistic source of parchment for the copy now known as the Voynich manuscript.

Voynich Manuscript drawing of vials for mixing herbs

The pharmaceutical section of the Voynich manuscript depicts some two dozen vials used for the crushing, mixing and storage of herbs like those shown here on the left side of folio 88v. It seems that the patterns and bright colors of those vials resemble native American artwork of the early 15th century far more than European artwork of that period.

Can you prove your theory that the Voynich manuscript was written in the Americas and not in Europe?

I do not like having to call it a "theory" because that word is often used to refer to ideas based on weak evidence.

The Voynich manuscript has 112 folios depicting plants that have never been unambiguously identified with any plant seen in Europe; there are 20 folios depicting every aspect of life and survival in swamps that are nowhere to be found in Europe; there are 34 folios related to herbs (roots and leaves) none of which, as far a I know, have been identified with herbs used in Europe; and there are drawings of fish and animals that are rare or nowhere to be found in Europe.

It is abundantly obvious that certain Europeans decided to go elsewhere during medieval times. The Voynich manuscript is in and of itself the evidence. Unfortunately, Earth has become a planet inhabited by zombies largely incapable of independent thinking. For them, there is no truth and no reality except what is programmed into their minds by television and radio.

To answer your question succinctly: Barring unforeseen circumstances, such as the successful decoding of the manuscript by someone who is very rich and very powerful, the Voynich will forever remain a document written by imaginative monks in northern Italy. It does not matter that no monks or monk activities are depicted in the manuscript.

What was the purpose of the Voynich manuscript?

I believe it had to be a missionary's handbook, for use in helping to convert native Americans to Catharism. The pretty plants attract the attention of the natives while the missionary builds friendship telling them stories about each plant; the astrology and cosmology sections enables the missionary to convey the European history of Catharism; the swamp sections tells the story of the first years following Cathar arrival in the Americas; and, finally, the text section contains the sacred text of their religion.

I imagine that in Peru the missionary would have had some degree of success given that the cosmology section has depictions similar in appearance to Inti, the Inca sun god!

Voynich Manuscript drawing of Inti

People have been trying to decode the Voynich manuscript for a hundred years without success. Do you think it will ever be decoded?

Yes. It was recently discovered that the VMS marginalia provides us with important clues on how to approach the decoding including use of a Sigillum Dei. For more information, see my Rosetta Stone articles.







The Voynich Manuscript: Miscellaneous Themes




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