Of course very little of the content of the voynich can be identified with any certainty… outside of the human forms, some of the dress, a few buildings (not which they are… just that they are buildings), a crossbow… a scale… a ring, perhaps… and at this point we are pretty much lost on the rest. Which of course is why many have long stared at the various other enigmatic animals and objects, and tried to make connections to the real world. But one set of comparisons I see often overlooked… even, rejected… are what I think may be representations of the original elements. That is, Air, Water, Fire and Earth. This would not be so unusual to find in works covering a wide range of subjects, created over a vast possible time frame. I mean, it would or should not be surprising to anyone that they could be in the Voynich, whatever one’s theory about the work.
The first interesting grouping is on folio 77r. There is shown a series of pipes with several joints and openings. From four of these openings, there are seen to be several different emissions of some kind. From the first, the emission seems gasous. The substance is drawn as three vaporous trails, dispersing from the tube in various directions. From the second, the emission is possibly meant to be water, as it is blue. At any rate is seems to be more “solid” than the first, as it is dropping straight down, and not dispersing. The center tube shows no emission. The fourth tube has what can be construed as a fiery emission… it is colored red, and has a bit of a “puffiness” in it’s representation, with a (possibly) smokey ring. And then the fifth emission, from the last lower tube, does seem to flow, and it does have a touch of blue. But it then breaks down into particles, or chunks. It is not as obvious a comparison, but may be a representation of the element earth.
If this is correct, there are important clues here. There is very little in the Voynich to use in any attempt to compare labels to. The Zodiac is probably the best, but the words… months or zodiac names, are obscured and over-written. The T-O, or Medieval “world maps” which appear in two places in the Voynich, would be the other. As for plants, animals, cylinders, and so on… the identities are so obscure as to offer little help in determining a possible meaning of the accompanying labels. But here we have another case, as I said, often overlooked… in which labels are very close to imagery which can plausibly be identified as air, water, fire and earth. At the least it can serve as a check for decipherment attempts… for if one did think they had begun to translate the Voynich, and came back to these “words” and read the elements, I think it would be cause for celebration. If not, no worries… they may not be the elements at all.
Another good case for possible representations of the elements, in my personal opinion, is found on folio f86r. On this page are four “mounds” of some sort, all pointing to the center of the page. The two mounds on the right are most probably meant to be air and earth. The upper one shows a gaseous emission, with a bird flying in it. The lower shows plants growing, and a bird nesting. These are almost iconic representations of air and earth, in fact. Compare these two birds with the illustrations of two birds from Michaeal Maier’s Atalanta Fuegens, below.
The noted Alchemy scholar, Adam McLean posted Clay Holden’s translation the Latin caption “Fit pullus à nido volans, qui iterùm cadit in nidum”, as “A young eaglet attempts to fly out of its own nest & falls into it again”. According to the Maier text, “For in things perfectly mixed are the light Elements, as Fire & Air, & likewise the Heavy, as Earth & Water, which are to be poised and tempered together, that one flies not from the other”, and, “But the neighboring Elements easily suffer themselves to be taken & detained by their Neighbors. Earth & Air are contrary one to the other, & so are Fire & Water, & Yet Fire maintains friendship with Air by heat common to both, & does so with Earth by reason of dryness, & so Air with Water & Water with the Earth”. You see the flying bird in Maier is fire and air, and the sitting bird, water and earth… and he is presupposing they have a tendency to stay together. Although quite a bit later than the carbon-14 dating of the Voynich, the illustrations in the Maier book are both strikingly similar to the Voynich birds. This is interesting, too, when we consider that the Maier birds are representing air (&fire) and earth (&water)… as in the two elements. We even find the mound under the birds:
On the left side of f86r, the upper illustration is reasonably water spewing downward, with a person gesturing near it. The bottom left is not so good at being fire… it does not have the coloring of fire, and can only be loosely interpreted as such. For one thing, why would the man have fire spewing from his hand? The only other interpretation I have seen of this is that the specks are bees, and he is a beekeeper. But given the more fitting interpretation of the two right portions, and the better one of the upper left as water, I think it could possibly be a representation of fire.
So are these examples of the four Elements? Of course I don’t know. But I think the possibilities are good enough to keep them in mind, along with the zodiac labels, certain better plant identities, and the T/O maps, as a potential “toe in the door” for anyone working on decipherment. H.R. SantaColoma