Saturday, November 7, 2015

The Context for the Voynich Manuscript

Lands surrounding the Gulf of Finland
To understand the culture of the people native to the lands surrounding the Gulf of Finland, you would in fact have to start off the map toward the east, in the cradle of the Urals and read from right to left. For millennia, a North-Eurasian mythology was known variously to the Sami, Estonians, Mari, Komi-Permyaks, Mordvins, Setu, and Karelians, which influenced the entire region.
Permian Animal Style and the Manpupuner rock formations
Moving west and advancing centuries, you would negotiate the vast woods and myriad lakes of Karelia, perhaps encounter the Ruskeala caves, perhaps a Pirunkirkko or "Devil's Church" as gathering places of this older belief system came to be called until you come across the massive Swedish fortress of Vyborg where in the 14th c., a king gave the women of Karelia ownership of their land and protection under his rule.

Birger of Sweden, c. 1322

Traveling still more west you arrive at the Askola Glacial Potholes, human sized pocks in a hillside interconnected by rivulets. And other formations oddly familiar.
Askolan Potholes
In fact, Finland is riddled with fields of potholes, as follows:

Mountain in rosette map beside orbicule
Askolan giant rock 
A shamaness, what I'm calling a Hiidet or Huldra, 
emerging from the Pike of Tuonela

From there you come to Lohja with its Church of Saint Lawrence where half the murals embrace the folk, especially the women, and their beliefs so strange to Judeo-Christian thought, and half urge them to eschew watery caves and demons among their cows to come into the embrace of the Holy Mother and Christ.
Mural of what appears to be
either the Pike of Tuonela or Antero Vipunen modified to be Hell 
eating the damned, St. Lawrence Church, Lohja 
Girl about to descend to meet Mother Holle
Stair down St. Lawrence Church well
Tytyri cave, just a stroll away
Farther west you enter Naantali, a church and abbey of Birgittines, an Order started by a nun who wanted a woman to oversee both women and men at the monastery as a metaphor for the all-encompassment of the Holy Mother.
Heliga Birgitta
At Naantali, there is a spa, and the nuns teach medicinal arts through the use of plants. They have even written an herbal, and no, it is not the Voynich Manuscript. It is only contemporary with the Voynich Manuscript. In addition, they have built a thriving textile industry selling embroidery known the world over.
Altar cloth from Huittinen church. Silk , gold and silver thread on a linen ground.
Made in the late 15th C by Birgitta Anundsdotter, a nun at the Naantali Convent.
Only, be warned, the style starts out, as has been said of the Voynich, fantastic and bizarre.

You've made a geographic journey, but you've also made a journey through culture, from influences that go back to Neolithic times to cutting-edge science for the day. And at every step of the way, from Karelia to Naantali, what you have met the most of are women. This is not an accident. You are, in more ways than one, in the Land of the Women. You are in the area that gave birth to the Voynich manuscript.
Who created the wall drawing of the face of Jesus in Naantali Monastery?
St. Olaf's Church in Tyrvää, Sastamala, Finland
St. Lawrence Church, Lohja, Finland
The churches tell you that you are in Voynich land. The land tells you this as well. Just about everywhere in southern Finland points to this fact. So do the features and habits of the women, e.g., sauna, and finally, so do the words themselves. As I've said so many times before, Voynichese is Finno-Ugric blended with Old Norse.

Curiously, despite common beliefs regarding the maladies and generally recommended therapeutic measures, there are not many similarities at the individual recipe level between the five recipe collections, for example the systematic use of a certain plant for a certain ailment. This is due to the fact that medieval materia medica is a very broad tradition, embracing various cultural layers and apparently plenty of regional or even local knowledge. Based on this limited survey, it seems that Hildegard's Physica contains the most divergent sources, probably local in origin and perhaps founded on her personal empirical experience. One suggestion is that she received support from persons who visited her monastery. One such individual was the Swedish Bishop Siward from Uppsala, whose impressive library may have enhanced her medical knowledge. In spite of this possible Swedish-German network, it is hard to see any closer ties between Physica and the Naantali monastery book, though for a more definitive view this topic would require further investigation. Many monasteries did produce and copy various texts, but they could also receive and heal patients in hospices and infirmaries. Medical knowledge was also needed by cloister inhabitants for their own use, especially when physicians were not available, as was the situation in Naantali. The first university-educated doctors apparently did not come to Finland until after the Catholic Era in the sixteenth century. In addition to monasteries and physicians, who increasingly took over the responsibility for curing and healing from monks and priests after the emergence of universities, other professionals, such as apothecaries, appeared on the medical market. All these groups of professional, semi-, quasi- or even unprofessional healers participated in practising, teaching and conserving the art of healing by copying, writing and compiling medicinal texts. To sum up, medieval recipe books from both the South and the North show that when institutional care was limited, recipes provided information, therapies and prevention for men and women regardless of their social group and in the most intimate areas of life too, such as sexuality.   
From Infirmity in Antiquity and the Middle Ages: Social and Cultural Approaches by Christian Krötzl, Katariina Mustakallio, pages 239-240 



Resources for Studying the Context and Origin of the Voynich Manuscript

The following works give a good entry, in my opinion, into researching the context within which the Voynich manuscript was written. In this post, I furnish citations, summaries, links, and samples. I am not affiliated with any of these resources. Locating the Voynich manuscript within the context of Finno-Ugric pre-Christianity is my own theory that to date remains unespoused by any other entity. I will be adding more resources with further research.

More Than Mythology: Narratives, Ritual Practices and Regional Distribution in Pre-Christian Scandinavian Religions 

by Catharina Raudvere, Jens Peter Schjødt
Nordic Academic Press, 2012 - History - 287 pages.
The religion of the Viking Age is conventionally identified through its mythology: the ambiguous character Odin, the forceful Thor, and the end of the world approaching in Ragnarök. But pre-Christian religion consisted of so much more than mythic imagery and legends, and lingered for long in folk tradition. Studying religion of the North with an interdisciplinary approach is exceptionally fruitful, in both empirical and theoretical terms, and in this book a group of distinguished scholars widen the interpretative scope on religious life among the pre-Christian Scandinavian people. The authors shed new light on topics such as rituals, gender relations, social hierarchies, and inter-regional contacts between the Nordic tradition and the Sami and Finnish regions. The contributions add to a more complex view of the pre-Christian religion of Scandinavia, with relevant new questions about the material and a broad analysis of religion as a cultural expression.
Section: Possible Models for Agricola's List of Mythological Agents
Uno Harva (1882-1949; until 1927 Holmberg), one of the pioneers of comparative religion in Finland, has dealt in great detail with sources concerning Agricola's list. In his 1948 publication Suomalaisten muinaisusko (The Ancient Beliefs of the Finns); Harva suggests that Agricola's decision to include a reference to folk beliefs in the Preface may have been due to a custom adopted by translators of medieval Christian texts. Harva refers to two possible sources for this model. The first is the Lithuanian Martinus Mosvidius, whose translation of Luther's Catechism was published in 5547. In his preface to the work, which is in Lithuanian and in verse form, Mosvidius lists the names of the most important false idols (visas tvelnutvas) and exhorts the common people to abandon their worship. The other possible model suggested by Harva is a Swedish manuscript from as early as the end of the fourteenth century, entitled Sjainna Trost  (Consolatio animi; The Soul's Comfort). The medieval manuscript, preserved in the Royal Library in Stockholm, is assumed to have originated at the Vadstena monastery and to have been copied during 1438-1442 from an original, which has since been lost. The assumed original, dating from the mid-fourteenth century, was in Low German, and was entitled Die Grosse Seelentrost. The folklorist Vilmos Voigt, who has examined the critical editions drawn up by philologists, has identified references to 'heathen traditions' in two fragments of Sjcela trout in Danish, dating from c. 1405. The text addresses a young man (Sw. min kare son, 'my beloved son') who has given his soul to the Devil. The speaker is a priest, who urges the young man to renounce heathen folk beliefs and to attach himself more strongly to the true Christian way of life. Below is the text in Old Swedish, Harva's translation into Finnish, and a free English translation: 
Wilt thu dhet forsta budhordit wel halda tha skalt thu ey thro oppa tompta gudha ills oppa wank, ey oppa nek, allir forsa karla, ey oppa skratta ellir tompt orma. Thu skalt ey thro oppa maro ellir elfwa, oc oppa enga hands spook ellir willo.  
Jos sir. tandot ensimmaisen kaskysanan hyvin pia, niin sinun ei pi& uskoa kartanon jumaliin tai maahisiin, ei nakkiin tai kos-kenhaltijoihin, ei lcratteihin tai kartanolciarmeisiin. Sinun ei pida uskoa maraan tai keijukaisiin eika minkainlaiseen kummitukseen rai harhaan.  
If you wish to hold well to the First Commandment, then you must not believe in the gods of the land, or in imps, or water spirits [Sw. nikkent whether of the lake or the rapids, nor in Kratt-beings which protect buried treasures, nor in home-snakes. You must not believe in fairies or elves, or in any other spirit or delusion.  
In Harva's translation, as noted by Voigt, the mythological agents are given Finnish names. Harva's approach is based on his assumption that the version of 'The Soul's Comfort' in Old Swedish is directly connected to Scandinavian folk beliefs. Taking into account Harva's hypothesis that Agricola may have used existing models for his Preface,. Voigt began to look for support for this assumption. He concluded that the Sjdlinna Trost is a catechism text of German origin commenting on the First Commandment. The Swedish translator of the lost original text is assumed to have been a monk at Vadstena, Olav Gunnarson (Olaus Gunnari), who later became Bishop of Viscera's. Olaus Gunnari was one of the monks in Vadstena who was sent to the newly founded daughter nunnery at Naantali (Nadendal) in Finland on 06 May 1442. A copy of the manuscript may have traveled with him. According to Voigt, it is possible that the migration of both monks and manuscripts between Vadstena, Naantali and Turku may have affected the content of the text of Sjiilinna Trost, copied by a monk of Finnish-Swedish origin. In addition to references to Swedish folk beliefs, the Vadstena/Nadendal manuscript may reflect the folk beliefs of the Swedish-speaking Finnish population in south-western Finland.• The idea of the manuscript being connected to Agricola's list of mythological agents in his Preface gains possible support from the timing of Agricola's translation of the Psalter — it was a period of religious transition when the new liturgy was becoming established. The earliest surviving liturgical manuscript from the time of the Finnish Reformation is the Mathiae Joannis Westh Codex from Vehmaa.. The text includes an Old Literary Finnish passage translated from an original manuscript in Old Swedish, the `Sielens tort ooh likedom'

Naantali monastery herbal book (Olde Naantali 2011) 

by Emeritus Professor Rauno Tirri and his wife, translator Seija Tirri

At the end of the Middle Ages, Finland, Naantali operate over a century abbey. The establishment of the town of Naantali was born in 1443 and much later to shore Ye Olde Naantali trade. Since early this store released Seija and Rauno Tirri submitted and none of this Naantali monastery herbal book (Olde Naantali 2011). Trilingual book (in Finnish, Swedish and English) derives from the Naantali monastery at the time. The initial factor or factors are not known, sources of work have been even older than the Danes and the English herb books. Some text is obviously written in Finland. The preface mentions a lot of Naantali, written by Jöns Budde, the first Finnish writer, but his tekemäkseen herbal book is not mentioned. Medicines and herbal book is a nine-scale share foliolehden Naantali monastery records (nadhen dals closters book), the monastery of the book is 268 pages. Elias Brenner found it in the 1600s Turku Cathedral to collapse olleesta room, and later the manuscript arrived at Stockholm's Royal Library. Animal Physiology, Emeritus Professor Rauno Tirri and his wife, a translator Seija Tirri are made on the basis of published translations GE Klemmingin in 1883 transcriptional. Also, it is connected to satasivuiseen work. The script is Finland's oldest known Swedish care guide, and it deals with eight different herb or drug. Late Middle Ages medicine was based on old familiar ways of ancient times. Predicting The purpose was to get the body and body fluids in balance. Most of the mentioned drugs (THUS incense (gum?), Juniper, myrrh, mustard, wormwood, nettle, and myrtle) describes the hot and dry. Here It is safe to conclude that most of the care is required by diseases caused by human cold and wet state. Medicines and herbal book describes the process and a variety of ointment and mixed drinks, which are recommended horkkaan, festering wounds, boils and so on. Mustard is recommended to prevent the common cold. Cold caused by a disease also explains the headache. It helped castoreum (beaver castor glands and excretion of fluid), a state of emergency in beaver pee. Even the worst poisoning handled in liquids obtained lodge until at least the book written by firmly believed this. And the word was secured by a master of Pliny (23-79 AD). Myrtle enhance a variety of aches in addition to Pliny testified champion Isaak (Jewish scholar, 830-920). An interesting opus, which has a long tradition in spite of his advanced age behind him. Something echoes this and similar works are in the current alternative treatment oppaissakin. Excerpted from blog

Forest Myths: A Brief Overview of Ideologies Before St. Stefan

by Pavel F. Limerov 
The article discusses forest and solar myths in Komi mythology in the era prior to Christening in the 14th century. After adopting Christianity the forest became to be regarded as the abode of heathens and dark devilish forces. In the medieval Komi calendar, the year was divided into two major periods – the elk season and the bear season, and into nine months, according to the season of hunting, and, the pagan religion. In the 19th century the Orthodox calendar had already been adapted to the hunting activities, and the agricultural activities had assumed the principal position in the southern areas of the Komi settlement. Folklore and archaeological materials provide evidence of the existence of at least two basic mythological systems in the prehistoric mythology of the Komi, one of which is connected with a calendar legend about the hunt on a Sun elk, and the other with a cosmogonic myth about a water bird extracting the earth from the bottom of the primordial ocean. The bronze pendants and metal clasps from Perm reflected the structure of the Universe, expressed in animal symbols. Particular groups of zoomorphic images in turn symbolized the structure of a ethno-social group, or the shaman’s journey across the heaven to two heavenly keepers of the world. The article examines the widespread motives about Chudes, goddess with three faces and four breasts, Sun elk, Mother Earth, etc.
Keywords: animal symbolism, hunting calendar, Komi mythology, Chudes, Sami, solar myth, totemism, shamans journey, Earth Mother, Orthodox
Published in Estonian Folklore, an electronic Journal of Folklore. Mare Kõiva & Andres Kuperjanov (editors). An international peer-reviewed journal (in English) featuring articles concerning the folklore, folk belief and related fields of different nations. Published since 1996.

The World of Ladoga: Society, Trade, Transformation and State Building in the Eastern Fennoscandian Boreal Forest Zone C. 1000-1555 by Jukka Korpela

LIT Verlag Münster, 2008
Recent works by Norwegian scholars have described the interaction and transformation
processes that took place especially among the medieval Sami populations of the north. Although this area lies beyond our central focus, the accounts deal with real peripheries and thus open up another perspective on the Eastern Fennoscandian forests. Their perspective has been the formation of both an ethnic and a cultural self-consciousness, the transformation of the economic system and its influence on the identities of the people, and the smooth formation of state and church administrations and the impacts of these on cultures. Unfortunately, when these scholars have been dealing with more southerly areas they have often been led astray by the old-fashioned Finnish national literature and its fantasies concerning the nation's past." There is indeed a strong national tenor guiding presentations of the medieval history of North-Eastern Europe, in which attention has been directed towards the ancient political fates of the author's own nation in each case. Administration building and Christianization have been conceptualized according to simple political and tribal patterns, and the possibilities for communication and supra-local identity formation have been greatly exaggerated. Describing the founding of the parish Saiminki in the Central Saimaa region in the early 15th century, Juhani Raunio claims that the entire population had been baptised during the first foreign raid — or crusade — to reach Southern Carelia, but because friars and priests from the distant centres had few possibilities to visit the Central Saimaa area, it came to form a religious vacuum, so that the local people asked the bishop to create a new parish in Saaminki. It must be clear to every historian, however, that a single crusade cannot change religious persuasions in forests hundreds of kilometres away from any population centre, and early missionaries would hardly have had any real interest in poor heathen hunter-fishers in the distant backwoods. The concept of a religious vacuum is absurd as well. It would perhaps be more reasonable to consider how the religious transformation took place among the forest dwellers, how they encountered the new impulses from the European core areas and how the new power system was established physically as well as mentally in the remote peripheries.

Macrofossil finds of henbane (Hyoscyamus niger) in the old settlement layers in southern Finland. 

by Terttu Lempiäinen, Review of Palaeobotany and PalynologyVolume 73, Issues 1–4, 30 September 1992, Pages 227-239
Festschrift For Professor Van Zeist .
The inhabitants of the castle of Kuusisto were in direct contact with the monks and nuns of the convent of Naantali where medicinal herbs were cultivated in the Middle Ages. The henbane was carried to Lappeenranta probably by soldiers or shopkeepers. The oldest find of henbane came from Rapola, Sääksmäki and dated to the Viking Age. It was found from the layer of an ancient field near an ancient castle hill. According to the present macrofossil finds, the henbane was carried to southern Finland at the same time as to Sweden.

Time and the Indo-European Gods in the Slavic Context

by Emily Lyle - paper which associates the three Dumézilian functions (three sons) with the three seasons, priests with spring, warriors with summer and food producers with winter (Studica Mythologica Slavica XI - 2008, 115 - 126/1990:4,86). 

The Question of the Ritual Year and the Answers to it

by Emily Lyle, The Ritual Year 1 (2006), 373-81 
It is necessary to address the basic question
concerning the nature and identity of the ritual year. Throughout Europe over many centuries there has been a layer of Christian liturgy but it is clearly parasitic on what preceded it and the preceding free-standing ritual year is of special interest and is particularly elusive.  This is why, the title of this paper speaks of answers to the question rather than one answer.   We can expect debate with some scholars wishing to emphasise the agricultural year, or the pastoral year, or the astronomical year, or some other formulation.  The approach  here emphasizes analogical thinking and takes the human life cycle as a key to the understanding of the patterning of the year. 
Keywords: Europe,  prehistory, ritual year, Christian liturgy, pagan, analogy, life cycle,

Finno-Ugric and Scandinavian notions about the world axis and the cosmic quern

by Eldar Heide - paper given on 5 April 2013 at the third meeting of the Austmarr Network, Härnösand.

Notes on the Finnish Tradition

by Anssi Alhonen
Taivaannaula - Pyhyyttä luonnosta, voimaa perinteistä
In ancient Finland and Estonia, sacred sites were called 'hiisi'. In folk religion though, Hiisi is also an evil spirit, a demon of sorts, and the prevailing theory has it that Hiisi originally meant 'sacred place' but later became the name of a demon due to Christian influence. In Finland hiisi as a place is associated with ancient graveyards and sacred groves. Hiisi was a place for prayer, sacrifice, and healing. The sacred place was separated from the profane human world. No tree was cut there nor was cattle grazed or the earth dug. In general the human impact on the place was kept to the bare minimum. Disturbing a sacred site destroyed the luck of the violator, and the luck of his descendants. People would only gather at these sacred sites for religious reasons during certain holidays. Food, coins, and jewel offerings were left there; as a further sign of respect, ribbons were tied to the trees.

Skandinavisches Seminar University of Freiburg

Berliner contributions to Scandinavian

Berliner Beiträge zur Skandinavistik is a publication series that centers on Scandinavian Studies in the widest sense. Publications include editions of Scandinavian texts, both old and modern, as well as monographs, collective volumes and bibliographies. 
The series reports on research carried out at the Department of Northern European Studies, but it also welcomes contributions from other departments.
Berliner Beiträge zur Skandinavistik
Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
Unter den Linden 6
D-10099 Berlin
Tel. +49-30-20939625
Fax +49-30-20939626

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