Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Finno-Baltic Poetic Sound Device and Voynich Charm Runes

Repetition, alliteration, and wordplay

Each of these elements 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. Below is probably one of the best examples of Baltic singing/poetry's distinctive, driving trochaic rhythm, sound play, and repetition. It is a video of the Seto Leelo Choir of Varska, Estonia.

The Setu people are arguably the oldest settled people in Europe. Their traditions go back thousands of years. Leelo is an ancient, aboriginal type of singing done by women's choirs.  Until the 1950s the Setus accompanied their work in the fields with communal singing.
Here are some more examples of Finno-Baltic song and poetry. Alliteration is bolded, repetition underlined, and repeated ending sounds (usually an a, i, or s) italicised.

Estonian Folk Song

Estonian runo-song (Estonian: regilaul) has been extensively recorded and studied, especially those sung by women. They can come in many forms, including work songs, ballads and epic legends. Much of the early scholarly study of runo-song was done in the 1860s by Friedrich Reinhold Kreutzwald, who used them to compose the Estonian national epic, Kalevipoeg. By the 20th century, though, runo-song had largely disappeared from Estonia, with vibrant traditions existing only in Setumaa and Kihnu.
Pilve tõuseb soost sinine,
soost sinine, maast punane,
Ei saja sinine pilve,
sajab sauekarvaline.
Mis seal pilvete seessa?
Vikerkaar pilvete seessa.
Mis seal vikerkaare vahella?
Hani vikerkaaride vahella.
(VK VI:1, 10 A "Kulla põlemine")
'A blue cloud is rising from the bog,
from the bog blue, from the earth red,
It's not raining from the blue cloud,
it's raining from the claycoloured.
What's there in the clouds?
There is a rainbow in the clouds.
What's there between the rainbow?
There's a goose between the rainbow.'

Karelian Folk Song

The importance of beginning rhyme and repetition can be seen in this song by the bard, Mateli Kuivalatar. She is regarded as the most noted among the known Finnish-Carelian folksingers of her sex (?).

Song by Mateli Magdalena Kuivalatar (1771-1846), cloudiness, Finland. 
Sung by Alice Matveinen & Tellu Virkkala (Turkka), 
Accompanied by Ritva Talvitie playing the bowed harp. 
Pictures of Finnish winter. 
"Alahall 'is allin the mind uiessa vilua water sukkeloitessa suloa ice under upset. 

"Alahall' on allin mieli
uiessa vilua vettä
sukkeloitessa suloa
änalaista rkyttäissä.
Alempana minun sitäi
viluvatsa varpusella
istuissa jääoksalla,
vilumpi minun sitäi."
"Low are the calloo's spirits
as she swims the icy waters
shuttling the slush
diving below the ice
Lower are my spirits than hers
lower than those of the shivering sparrow
perched on an icy bough
lower are even mine."

Latvian Folk Song

Below is an example of a Latvian folk song to be sung by girls at the ancient festival called Ligo.
Note that it also has alliteration, play with sound, and repetition like the Sami joik and Karelian folk song.

Estonian Epic Poetry

Below are three lines from Estonia's national epic the Kalevipoeg. Here again you can see repetition, alliteration, end rhyme, and play with sound, similar to the Karelian rune song, the Sami joik, and the celebratory songs for Latvia's Ligo.
Kattis maada, kattis merda,
Kattis rahva perekonda
Kaitseliku tiiva alla.
A very rough translation: Plowed covered, and covered merda, Population covered family Kaitseliku wing.


Regi song has three important components: the words, the way and performing.

Regilaul is a leader in the words, the music adds for expressiveness. Regilaul text is characterized by alliteration and repetition of thought or parallelism . Värsivormiks is based on alliteration - a four-foot line lõppriimita the quantitative trochaic verse. Finnish and Karelian folk used to the verse of the term " Kalevala-measure ." Verse contains four värsitõusu and sunrises, and therefore it is also referred to as neljajalaliseks trohheuseks ( "Roll, Roll, A day").


A 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. Most notable for our purposes is how the song title plays with words with a similar beginning.

As you listen to joiks, 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. Here are some lyrics to "The Shadow," a modern day joik in Samigiella by Sami singer Mari Boine. You can see how the beginnings rhyme, the meter is heavily trochaic, and repetition shapes the lyrics:
Gáhtašiid gákti ii guhko
Ja gáhtašiid gárri ii dieva
Giehkalas olmm
Velggol olmm
Giehkalas olmm
Velggol olmm

The Joik's Depth Symmetry

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 depth symmetry. 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 

Evidence in the Voynich Manuscript

Now let's take a look at samples from the Voynich. Below, a similar dynamic is occurring with the root Elu.
Word play and repetition appear to be rife in the text of the manuscript.

This is why the text is mistaken for a patterned gibberish

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/chant/charm song (play with the prefix roots and depth symmetry) and calling it gibberish created by an Autokopisten. 

Let's look at another piece of text:

Ning minna naggin, ning waat!? Seriously?? While this also looks like pure gibberish, it is in fact a snippet from a Stockholm manuscript of 1705, "John's book of Revelation," in an old Finno-Ugric dialect, possibly Livonian, akin to Estonian. Similarly, the Voynich manuscipt most probably contains folk wisdom from such a group of people, much of it pictorial and part of it the songs and chants of the text. 

Contextual Consensus

Outside of the repetition, the alliteration, the patterning picked up in the text, what precisely about the Voynich manuscript points toward the text being gibberish generated by an Autokopisten? Anything? Let us look again at this page below, #f66r. When transcribed and translated from proto-Finnic and Old Norse, the headings suggest typical topics for charm runes so that "gibberish" begins to show shades of meaning in keeping with the poetic sound devices one would expect to be used.
Thus by looking at the text alone, we are starting to discern what the Voynich may be about. As if that were not enough, the Voynich gives us depictions of many, many women performing some sort of ritual, dancing, wielding large spoons, a drop spindle, and distaffs, and shaking torcs. Collectively speaking, these are very powerfully symbolic in one certain, particular, discrete, unique cultural tradition, and nothing at all within the Voynich points outside of that tradition--not the waterfowl, the pike, the rainbow, the Wheel of the Year, nor any of the designs nor the women depicted as the sun.

One thing that has mystified researchers of the Voynich manuscript is the profound lack of punctuation throughout its pages. There seem to be no sentence breaks or paragraph breaks. There doesn't even seem to be any coherent capitalization. This probably adds to the general perception that the work is simply gibberish.

In former posts, I've talked about rune songs in places like Estonia and Karelia, I've explored how they are made up of trochees, the proverbial witches' meter, and also spoken about how old they are.

Here is one below, set to its musical score.
This is the quintessential ancient Baltic-Finnic poetic metre, regivärss. It's pretty highly focused on getting in essentially trochees, eight syllables per line. It's more complex than that, but let's at least look for these fundamentals in the Voynich.
I picked a page that was a pretty good candidate for a rune song. How do I know? It says, "Jelksa, jelksa, jelom" over and over again. That's a Voynich hallelujah!--or some such celebratory phrase found on the depictions of processions and rites.
By now, I know most of the letters and quite a few of the words and can make out a vague cadence enough to make a guess within reason at the number of syllables per line on this page. The average? 16.8.

Of course I think each line on this page is two lines of a Baltic-Finnic rune song and that the rest of the Voynich, though not all of it, may be organized similarly. I would bet you that whoever wrote this was counting syllables or was so inured in this particular prosaic tradition that it just came naturally to write this way.

This stands to reason. The Voynich is of an oral tradition--a masterpiece of the folk.

Context reinforces substance

The Voynich manuscript is not an elaborate hoax created by some Renaissance man of letters in order to make money or hide information. That theory is a figment of imagination concocted by centuries of wishful thinking and gender bias. It is what it looks like it is: an herbal, calendar, and spellbook with chants and depictions of rituals from an old pre-Christian, European tradition. As such, it is an extraordinary phenomenon worth not less but vastly more research than is conducted today. However, I've come to the conclusion that it would be easier to get every researcher onto a roller skating rink than it would to get them to abandon the presumption that something else more to their liking is hidden between those pages. And so the "mystery" of the Voynich persists.


  1. Kattis maada, kattis merda,
    Kattis rahva perekonda
    Kaitseliku tiiva alla. - translation would be

    covered land, covered sea,
    covered people family
    under a protective wing.

    and yes, there are work songs, healing songs, lullabies ... basically there´s a song to everything.
    Some songs were only sung by women, some by men, some were sung by both.
    I´m really not an expert, but HTH

  2. That snippet from a Stockholm manuscript of 1705, "John's book of Revelation" is old Estonian:
    "Ning minna näggin, ning waat! Valge hobbone, ning kes se temma seljas istus, olli Umbo Käes, ning kellele anneti Krooni, ning temma läks wälja woites, ning et temma piddi woitma."
    "And I saw and looked! White horse and who sit on him was Umbo Käes (name), who were given a Crown/Kroon (money), and he went out and he had to take."

  3. That snippet from a Stockholm manuscript of 1705, "John's book of Revelation" is old Estonian:
    "Ning minna näggin, ning waat! Valge hobbone, ning kes se temma seljas istus, olli Umbo Käes, ning kellele anneti Krooni, ning temma läks wälja woites, ning et temma piddi woitma."
    "And I saw and looked! White horse and who sit on him was Umbo Käes (name), who were given a Crown/Kroon (money), and he went out and he had to take."

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