Interim post – the Calendar’s goats revisited.

The author’s rights are asserted.

c.850 words

Having seen a recent post in which one Voynichero (who writes as ‘Vviews’) appears to have taken the point which I’ve been making, now, for more than a decade concerning the need to read enough to recognise mnemonic devices in medieval Latin manuscript art and, further, that in Latin works, such drawings will refer very directly to previously-memorised written text, I have also found today that the Calendar’s goats (which I treated in 2011) are again a subject of puzzled discussion in a Voynich forum, so I thought it might assist if I re-publish a couple of paragraphs from what I’ve earlier contributed to this manuscript’s study.

I remain in hopes that my constantly recommending Voynich writers read Hugh of St. Victor’s work and even more vital, the studies by Mary Carruthers which revolutionised our understanding of mnemonics before the Renaissance, will also be taken up by members of the online Voynich ‘community’.

I treated the ‘April’ beasts very early on, in my first blog ‘Findings‘ and briefly again later after switching to wordpress and starting ‘Voynichimagery’.

paragraphs from post entitled, ‘Fol.71r : the other goat/sheep’ Findings (blogger blog) Wed. 15th June 2011.

The illustration [below left. from the Aberdeen Bestiary] has a modern comment which notes that:
[In medieval works] the goat is often illustrated grazing on a mountain, standing near or braced against a tree, feeding on its foliage. A common image in [western] manuscripts is of the prophet Amos tending goats.

In the west, the images are clearly informed by use of Latin and specifically by reference to Isidore of Seville (7thC ce). They embody the Latin terms and thus serve a mnemonic purpose.

Wild goats (male capri, female caprae) are said to take their name because they pluck (carpendis) shrubs, or from the noise of their legs (crepitu crurum), or because they pursue difficult things (captent aspera). Wild goats live on high mountains and see from far away all who approach.” – Isidore of Seville, Etymologies.

[many paragaphs omitteed – 29th Nov. 2022]

For medieval Latins, the type with wide, rolling eyes (seen above, right) is significant of lascivious character in the language of Latin art), again explained by reference to Isidore.

The goat (hircus) is a lascivious animal; it likes to butt heads and is always ready to mate. Because of its lust its eyes are slanted, from which it gets its name (hirqui are the corners of the eyes). The nature of goats is so hot that their blood can dissolve diamond”.
Etymologiae: Book 12, 1:14-15

…[a number of paragraphs and associated images omitted]

One passage which would have been known by heart to any literate person in the Jewish and in the Christian traditions is one from the book of Psalms:

“The high mountains are for the wild goats; The cliffs are a refuge for the shephanim.
(Psalm 104:18 NAU)
But what the last word means, no one is quite sure and so I leave it untranslated.

Note – included on Jun 16th., 2011. By a curious coincidence, I have today seen an online paper … that the original name for Spain is thought to have come from this same word, which is said to be Phoenician.

[a number of paragraphs and images omitted – 29th November 2022]

Summary: Images used as the centre for rondels on fol. 70v and 71r represent a stock form for the depiction of goats, the darker and more “wild” goat paired with a paler and smoother type which is usually its mate in the iconography of the Latin west, but its fellow or opponent male in other and earlier regions and is traceable to so far as the art of Hellenistic and even of ancient Mesopotamia. A number of associations might be implied but none are particularly indicated.

The second goat is depicted white, presumably ‘unblemished’ and docile. ..


The next paragraphs are extracted from the post preceding that one, my analytical discussion underlining the point that attention should be drawn to this distinction the wild (here the dark and rough-coated) goat and the ‘domesticated’ (here the white and smooth beast) because I had already spoken of an equivalent distinction being made, and prominent, in the construction of a majority of the Voynich manuscript’s plant-pictures. It was plainly of great significance for that unidentified people to whom Latin Europe is, ultimately, indebted for preservation of so much of the material which would be copied in the early fifteenth century, from several exemplars and by several scribes, onto the quires which are now in Beinecke MS 408.


In another post again, when commenting on the fact that the Voynich goats are beardless, I likened them to the symbol for the city of Antioch, seen in the lower register (below) in a late Hellenistic mosaic from that city.

Earlier versions of this post (29th November 2022) included more, but I’ve decided that in this case less is best. To reduce the dislocations created by extracting so few paragraphs from detailed posts, I’ve made minor alterations here and there to my phrasing (e.g. ‘recognise’ for ‘recognising’ etc.)

One thought on “Interim post – the Calendar’s goats revisited.

  1. Years after those posts were published, the Beinecke library repaginated the manuscript, so discrepancies will be found between the current pagination and that referenced in my earlier posts.


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