Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The Sami influence

I do not believe that the Voynich manuscript is Sami but rather from a neighboring people (Kvens, Seto, Karelians, Orcadians, Veps?) influenced by the Sami. You might say that the manuscript is woven on a Sami loom. Here is a list of reasons why.

The old Kvens exploited and to some extent culturally appropriated the Sami

The birkarls who ruled northern Norway during the Middle Ages exacted taxes from the indigenous Sami and enslaved them, perhaps even committing genocide against them. That is the dark side of Kven history. They were also culturally and linguistically influenced heavily by the Sami and may have in some cases intermarried.

Sami culture is ancient 

The Sami have inhabited the northern regions of Europe for thousands of years. With Basque they are the only living non-Indo-European European languages whose origins are prehistoric. Their culture and traditions are aboriginal. Even though the Sami (or Saami) have a distinctly different language from Finnish, studies suggest that the two groups of people have intermingled throughout their history, the Sami being somewhat older perhaps (actually with ancient DNA ties to the Berbers), the Finns being a Europeanized offshoot that strayed, returned, and grew independent from the Sami once more.

Sami culture has been seminal

Among the Sami were nomadic traders who traveled at least as far south as Orkney, Scotland. In exchanging goods with their neighbors (Finns, Slavs, Norse), they spread their ideas, symbols, and words.  Thus, most of the peoples neighboring the Sami have been influenced by them, adopting Sami lore and adapting Sami deities to their own culture.
"The position of the Sami between Russians and Orcadians (from north of Scotland) is probably attributable to the fact that the Sami share much genetically with other Scandinavians, who are closer to British populations than the Russians are." From The men of the north: the Sami by Razib Khan

Sami shamanic influence

The Voynich manuscript depicts many women performing some ritual. The Sami noaidi, meaning the one who sees, appears to be a prototypic shaman/wise person/community leader. The noaidi could be either female or male. Legends of sorceresses among neighboring peoples (Baba Yaga, Louhi, volva, seikona) hark back to the Sami noaidi. The origin of the legendary Baba Yaga (her house is said to be on chicken legs, as typical Sami storehouses seem to be) may be couched in the memory of various Slavic peoples encountering the Sami culture, especially the noaidi, as they pushed westward.

 The woman inside the sun (below right) looks like she is blowing out air. Here is an excerpt from Vladimir Napolskikh's "Seven Votyak Charms" from Estonian Folklore.
The common Votyak word for the healer (or witch-doctor) is emjas'kis' "healer" - a participle (= nomen agentis) from emjany; "to heal" - or pel'l'as'kis' "blower" - a participle from pel'l'as'kyny "to blow"; the last word describes one of the main ways of magic treatment, well-known throughover all the Europe, when the healer blows upon the water with charming and gives it to the patient to drink. 
Below left is a scene from the movie "The Cuckoo." In it, the Sami widow Anni blows on near-death Finnish Soldier Veiko to turn him back to the land of the living. 
Below is Veiko's soul being beckoned toward the land of the dead.

Sami and Sacred Places

The holy place, called a seita, is a central idea in the ancient north-European culture of the Sami. The Voynich manuscript may in fact depict such a setting (a cave with hot springs) to which a yearly pilgrimage was made by people from a far wider area. Hence the variety of head-dresses, held objects, and hair color. Like nothing else during the 15th c., pilgrimages gave women freedom to travel.

Sami and the sauna

For thousands of years, the sauna has been a tradition among the Sami. The Voynich manuscript depicts images of sauna: birch, bucket, scoop...

Sami tradition of female solar deity

At the center of several of the star charts in the Voynich manuscript is a female sun. The myth about a heavenly maiden is known in the mythology of the Sami, Estonians, Mari, Komi-Permyaks.
Many Sami drums have the symbol of the sun in the center. Beaivi (above is her symbol) is the spring and sun goddess of fertility and sanity. She was worshiped by the Sami, one of the indigenous peoples of Fennoscandia. ...She travels with her daughter Beaivi-nieida through the sky in an enclosure covered by reindeer bones, bringing green plants back to the winter earth for the reindeer to eat. More about Beaivi here.

Sami borrowings in Finnish and in the Voynich Manuscript

 Here is a list of Saami Loanwords in Finnish and Karelian.

The Voynich manuscript is overwhelmingly Finno-Ugric with Old Norse and Slavic borrowings. Being Finno-Ugric, it contains words of Sami origin.

For example, Esaikkaisa, a word found on f23r could be an old spelling of the Sami word Isogaisa meaning superb.

Head-dresses with a possible Sami influence

The Sami risku or sun brooch

Women in many parts of Europe would have been particularly familiar with radial, circular designs. Some of them would have worn the brooches (solde, solju, risku) that are found throughout this region of the globe, from Norway to Setumaa, Estonia, where only those women could wear the big brooch who were able to give birth to a child. When a girl was wearing a heaped brooch this signified the onset of menstruation and women who were not wearing brooches anymore had already passed their menopause. As you can see, these brooches were circular and big. At least for the Sami, the risku represents the sun. The star charts with the women in the center, with light radiating from her, are reminiscent of a risku.

A drawing reminiscent of a Sami drum

Compare this Voynich page with a heliocentric Sami drum. 
They both give you that sensation of lying on your back and staring up into the sky. 6/16: I came across this article in the Journal of Voynich Studies, J.VS : Voynich f67v2 and Sami Noaidi (shaman) drum symbols in which Berj N. Ensanian speculates on a Sami influence.

Sami deities surrounding pregnancy and childbirth

Much of the Voynich manuscript is concerned with childbirth, especially that performed in sauna/spa/banya, which may well be originally a Sami tradition.
Uksahkka ("Door Wife"): midwife helper of newborns and protector of menstruating women and of children from illnesses and other dangers. In homes she stood near the door.
Sarahkka: a well-respected goddess who molds an unborn baby's body around a soul. She also helps the mother give birth and sat near the hearth. Drinks were offered to her by women, who also ate a special gruel in her honor. Similar to Artemis/Diana.
Juksahkka ("Bow Woman"): goddess who can make an unborn child male; also an instructor of boys. She lived near the entrance of the home. In some ways reminiscent of Athena/Minerva.
When the original Baba Yaga was explaining what she was, could she have used Samigiella: Baahpa-Akka to designate herself as a minister of the Akka, that is, a female Sami shaman (Northern Sami: noaidi, Lule Sami: noajdde, Southern Sami: nåejttie, Skolt Sami: nōjjd, Ter Sami: niojte, Kildin Sami: noojd/nuojd)? Or might that be how other Sami described her to foreigners: the sage woman?

Names in the Voynich echo Sami names

Many of the names of present-day Sami people look as if they had been lifted straight out of the Voynich manuscript:

Plants familiar to the Sami

Pedicularis Flammea

Range of Pedicularis Flammea

Bog Rosemary

This is andromeda polifolia suokukka showing pink bud clusters. Andromeda polifolia, common name bog rosemary, is a species of flowering plant native to northern parts of the Northern Hemisphere. It is the only member of the genus Andromeda, and is only found in bogs in cold peat-accumulating areas. In Samigiella it is known as Alášrássi.  Prevalent in Finland's Muddus National Park, bog rosemary contains grayanotoxin, which when ingested lowers blood pressure, and may cause respiratory problems, dizziness, vomiting, or diarrhoea.


I challenged myself to find buckbean, because I knew the Sami have used it (Muoskkáš) in various ways, including making a bread (missen) out of it. So I looked for clusters of flowers shooting up from a long sole stem with a group of three leaves sort of cupping it, plus a generous, single root. Here is what I found.

Voynich Syntax reminiscent of the Joik

The verb “to joik” is used in the transitive form—one does not joik about someone else; one simply joiks someone else (Sámi Instituttha 169). The joik is a unique form of cultural expression for the Sami people in Sápmi. Also spelled yoik, luohti, vuolle, leu'dd, or juoiggus it is a traditional Sami form of song. Like the Sami people, the yoik has been misunderstood, ridiculed, appropriated, and even threatened. According to music researchers, joik is one of the longest living music traditions in Europe, and is the folk music of the Sami people. Its sound is comparable to the traditional chanting of some Native American cultures. With the Christianization of the Sami, joiking was condemned as sinful. The traditional joik may be called the "mumbling" style, said to have resembled magic spells. Joiking’s function was both social and spiritual.  Joiks were used not only to communicate the quintessence of a person, place, or thing, to one’s audience, but were also used in the trance-inducing rituals of Saami shamans, or noadi. Lyrical joiks center around either nature (animals, plants, particular places or geographic formations) or people, the latter of which is especially common in North Sapmi. A yoik does not even need to have words. As you listen to the typical joik below, you probably won't be able not to hear the repetitions, the slight variations, and the short syllables that make of this chant-like song.
Recording from The Estonian Literary Museum (
Another fine example of the joik is one by Nils-Aslak Valkeapää, called the central author of the Sami people and defender and developer of the yoik-music. His "Eanan, Eallima Eadni" is well worth a listen if you can get past the regrettable seagull calls and really bugging synthesizer. But note how the song title plays with words with a similar beginning. This is very common in the Voynich manuscript, and no mistake. Finno-Ugric languages appear to form words by taking a root prefix and varying it at the end. This can be seen also in Estonian and perhaps other Baltic languages. 
Now let's take a look at a sample from the Voynich.
And here are lyris to a modern day joik by Sami singer Mari Boine.
Gáhtašiid gákti ii guhko
Ja gáhtašiid gárri ii dieva
Giehkalas olmmoš
Velggolaš olmmoš
Giehkalas olmmoš
Velggolaš olmmoš
It's obviously a different language, but how words play off each other with root prefixes is similar. Ánde Somby, a noted Sami and scholar and yoiker, describes the differences in form between Western song and the Sami yoik tradition:
The regular concept of a western European song is that it has a start, a middle and an ending. In that sense, a song will have a linear structure. A yoik seems to start and stop suddenly. It hasn't a start or neither an ending. Yoik is definitively not a line, but it is perhaps a kind of circle. Yoik is not a circle that would have Euclidian symmetry although it has maybe a depthsymmetry. That emphasizes that if you were asking for the start or the ending of a yoik, your question would be wrong. From The Sami Yoik by Kathryn Burke
Now let's look at a theory about the Voynich manuscript held by Torsten Timm, who 
demonstrates the partially complete lines seem to copy each other, always slight modifications were woven into the copying process, so that never or very rarely arose same, but only similar strings. At first glance, it may seem a far-fetched as too simple or too - who the hell are you to sit down and fill more than a hundred pages on this senseless way? However, the hoax hypothesis for VMS (the characters bear no content, it was not for exchange or for the preservation of information made) of many VMS researchers assumed as obvious. These Timm has his suspicions by a number of indicators in the paper itself, and especially in its annex, which one sees that someone has carefully dealt with the matter. From blog post on Jürgen Hermes theory on the Voynich. (Blame Google for the rugged translation.)
Timm and Hermes are picking up the patterning of a joik (play with the prefix roots and depth symmetry) or some related musical form and calling it either a cipher or gibberish created by an Autokopisten. 


I am not saying that all these women in these hot springs birthing centers were Sami. Maybe not a single one was. But I'd go so far as to say the ancient wisdom of sauna, the use of herbs during childbirth, and the chanting during the gathering of plants and the labor and delivery may well have Sami origins, and a few of these women just might have been descended from the Sami or had similar traditions in their culture.

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  1. Maybe that "ukkapekka" (in the second picture from below) is a name? At least UkkoPekka is a Finnish male name and "Ukko" means an old man and a thunder/lightning deity.

  2. Yes, I completely agree. Thank you for the observation.