The Phaseis of Ptolemy and f86v3

I have for a number of years thought that representations of the classic Greek winds can be found in the Voynich. And I recently came across a new wind which bought new lights on f86v3, a folio with text and four pillars, one in each corner, two nymphs clinging to two of the tower and a bird that appears twice, once seated and once flying.

Note: I think English terms in the following are correct, I am translating them from a mixture of Catalan and Spanish documents, which in term translate Arabic and ancient Greek terms, so it’s a bit of a pot-pourri! I am unable to type the original Greek terms into here, I suppose it doesn’t matter too much.

The source manuscript in question is the Phaseis of Claudius Ptolemy. A ‘parapegma’ is precursor to the modern day almanac. Originally it was a table that related star phases and corresponding weather predictions. Ptolemy believed that the astronomical phenomena caused the changes in seasonal weather; his explanation of why there was not an exact correlation of these events was that the physical influences of other heavenly bodies also came into play. Hence for him, weather prediction was a special division of astrology, and his philosophy filtered through into mainstream Arabic astrology in around the IX century under a translation known as the Kit’ab al-Anw’a, originally translated by Sin’an b.T’abit (b. 943). The Kit’ab formed the basis for many Arabian almanacs for the next few centuries.

Only the second tome of the Phaseis is preserved from the Greek. However, influences from it are preserved in original Arabic works. Kepler is believed to have had access to these when formulating his astronomical theories, as he lifted large parts of it straight from the Arabian works (his originality was to take the Arabian astronomic data and change it to a heliocentric model).

The Phaseis examines the many winds, assigning names and attributes to the most common ones depending upon the cardinal point from which they originate, and incorporates them into Ptolemy’s parapegma. I shall here skip over most of them, concentrating on one that appears just once in the year, known in greek as (/eXiBovíai), in Spanish as “quelidonios”, English translation unknown, but the term derives from the Greek for “swallows” (the bird). It refers to the winds of spring that bring the swallows, Sin`an calls it by its literal name in Arabic – al riyab al-jutt’afiyya, giving its dates as 22,23,24 Feb.

With relative frequency for these dates the text refers to the ornithological winds, the spring winds, which “expel young birds from the nest”.

And on the 24th Feb a reference to the “alciones” [es] or “wind of the halcyons” blowing is made; the text refers to “the winter winds which force birds to their nests”.

Now, in short, what the Phaseis is referring to are seasonal calendar dates recognised by the traditional winds that blew in Greece at the time, a tradition that is still recognised by country-folk today.

Given the unusual attribute of the bird to be found on f86v2, inasmuch as it is an animal which is fairly well drawn and designed to be an integral part of the drawing rather than a scribbled afterthought, I am starting to think that this page could be depicting the winds described in the Phaseis, although not necessarily from this book, but from the same mythology.

An important part of the ID would be whether or not the bird is on its “nest” in the bottom tower (swallows nest under eaves in custom built houses). I do not think the bird is in fact any sort of real animal. Instead, it is a mythological reference, most possible to a halcyon, which was a fabled bird identified with the kingfisher that was supposed to have had the power to calm the wind and the waves while it nested on the sea during the winter solstice. Ptomley however talks of “when the halycons make their nests”, a seasonal change in the year – he is referring to the time of the year when the Med calms down and fishermen can venture further out to sea with fewer fears for sudden storms.

Under this theory, the two nymphs appearing on the left hand towers would thus be wind spirits, as seen in other parts of the Voynich. You can see how one of the nymphs is blowing wind from its hand, an attribute that only an astral spirit can do. Can the towers be linked to this mythology? Unknown at this time.

This is simply a brief outline of an idea forming in my head and I would be interested to see if anyone has pursued this, or can shed any light on the theories or sources mentioned.

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