I realise that the assumption has always been, ever since 1912, that the emblems used for the centres of certain diagrams and inscribed with month-names constitute a zodiac or ‘ought to’ – or that they nearly form a zodiac, or are a failed effort at a zodiac – but the fact is that they don’t present a zodiac and there’s no valid reason for presuming the primary document wrong and a theoretical re-interpretation right. To see they don’t form a zodiac sequence, all you need do is really look at them, but in the event few are able to do that. Theory-induced blindness is a very real phenomenon which causes perfectly honest people to lose their ability to see what lies before them on the page.
To see this series of emblems afresh, certain entrenched habits have to be corrected. It’s easiest to explain the process by using illustrations. I hope Mr. JK. Petersen won’t mind my using one of his composites as a basic template.
Seeing this (below) any newcomer must wonder how anyone could find fault with the ‘zodiac’ theory.
We begin by focussing not on asserted meaning but on form. We accept only what is said by the primary document itself. This means removing theoretical additions, and restoring theory-driven omissions.
Removing hypothetical/imaginary elements..
A. – remove reference to non-existent pages. We don’t know what the cut pages originally contained, or if they contained anything at all. To imagine they had ‘missing months’ is a product of the zodiac theory. The manuscript doesn’t tell us anything about them. So for now, wipe the phantom/hypothetical ‘missing months’ …
B. Remove the ‘zodiac-sign’ tags.
Those too are not from the primary document and beg questions never asked by Wilfrid Voynich or William Romaine Newbold in 1921. They introduced the zodiac theory.
Replace items omitted.
– 2 emblems
Re-label the images using the manuscript’s own information about them – the month-names.
How is that a zodiac?
For one thing, there are no ‘doubled’ signs in any zodiac. A zodiac is a series of 12 constellations, or (in astrology) 12 zodiac signs in a given order with one and only one of each sign.
Astrological signs may be divided between adjacent months, because an astrological sign begins around the middle of one month and ends around the middle of the next. But that’s not what we have here.
Here we have two months that are included twice, and in both cases the two emblems were very carefully distinguished one from the other, not only in form and colouring but in the way the month-names were written.
The pairings or doublings are plainly not ‘duplications’ and are not accidental; the maker regarded them as essential to the series.
The doubled months cannot be omitted, and their inclusion is not compatible with the traditional and over-simple ‘zodiac’ theory. The series must be explained as it is, not as one might wish it to be, and if any ‘match’ is offered, it must include with an historically-valid comparison, a series complete with those months doubled. Any comparison dated later than 1440 is presumed invalid, by default.
Identifying the image’s subject – by research.
If you try to label each emblem in the series with what the emblems actually depict, the ‘zodiac’ theory becomes still more difficult to maintain.
The usual practice has been a version of ‘let’s pretend’ or ‘just ignore..’
It was almost a century before anyone certainly noticed that the series apparently begins “fishes-goat-goat…”. That was a contributor to the first Voynich mailing list, in the late 1990s.
Coming a few years later to the study, no-one had yet absorbed that contribution and when I, in ignorance of it, observed the same, I found that the general reaction was ‘just ignore…’. Gripped by a traditionalist ‘zodiac’ theory, those who believed that the series ought to run “fish..sheep.. bull” couldn’t accept that the manuscript itself opposed that expectation.
Some years later, after a traditionalist of the ‘central European’ persuasion had found some late examples of German printed books in which a goat-block was used in place of a sheep-block, one of their number repeated the ‘goat’ identification (studiously avoiding admitting any precedent) and suddenly it became a thing ‘everyone knows’ and thereafter treated as self-evident. Theory-bias isn’t just theoretical.
So very little attention has been paid to the primary evidence that even now, after more than a century, few of the ‘calendar’ emblems’ creatures have been identified, and historical studies have been theory-driven, being studies of zodiacs and generally studies only of zodiacs from a preferred part of western (i.e. Latin) Europe.
Identifications – by research.
Here are my own identifications, so far, each gained as the conclusion of analytical studies. I don’t claim they are a final word, but they are the end-result of investigation and informed by evidence from art, artefacts in various media and literary sources. It is quite clear the sequence was never meant for the ‘zodiac’ though it may well reflect some different facet of astronomical lore, even lore about the stars, asterisms and/or constellations adjacent to the ecliptic
If nothing else is known about the night sky, everyone knows the zodiac ’12’.
What is most familiar is most comfortable; what is most comfortable seems easiest and most ‘commonsense’. Sometimes, though, the facts aren’t so comfortable. Sometimes it takes more effort to understand the intentions of a drawing made 25 generations ago.
Asking questions is a good idea. “Why doubled months?” “Why a crocodile?” Why write “December” for the bow-holder?
But this sequence is surely no zodiac. The only reason it is described as a calendar is because of the inscribed month-names.
Even the months and the calendar carried different implications for different people, though there may be points of correlation between one system and another.
For example, the crocodile was principally associated with Egypt and the Nile, yet in terms of the the Byzantine and the Latin Christian calendars, Egypt and November were connected by the fact that November 25th was named for Catherine of Alexandria, a character so hugely popular that her day was what we’d call a public holiday.
No-one had to work on that day; in fact work was prohibited,* and in a feudal society where landlords expected a working week of seven days, month in and month out, a high holy day really was a red-letter holiday.
*in various regions, but particularly in France.
It’s one possible reason for the crocodile’s being the emblem for November, but far from being the only possible reason. The work continues.