A reference similar to f116v

The marginalia of f116v are of course very interesting.   Some believe they are pen trials, but several others see the line 3 and 4 as a kind of latin prayer involving Holy Mary (see this message by Gregor Damschen and follow-ups, and this page by Nick Pelling).

Here I would simply like to report on a part of a page from a manuscript written around 1460-1480, by Gall Kemli, who was a wandering monk near St-Gall.   (The manuscript itself is entertaining, with lots of different ink types (see e.g. f128r), possibly different handwritings here and there, and many curious passages.  For instance, on f77r there is a Sator-Arepo square, around f156r some music sheets, possibly some games on f165v — hidden behind another page, and on f98av possibly some cypher text.)

The page I want to mention, due to its similarity with the VM’s f116v, is f91r where one finds these lines:

(Zürich, Zentralbibliothek, Ms. C 101)

The crosses could mean “make a prayer sign”. Indeed, they definitely mean that on another later page, f106r, where one sees at some point “amen+ Gaspard + Melchior + Balthazar”.

But on f91r the actual text is difficult to understand.  In fact, the first three words “daimana + Hathagiata + Dyodecamene” seem to be pure invention.  So could it be some non-intelligible spell then? At least the notice of the manuscript does mention exorcism.

If so, that might explain why the VM’s f116v is so difficult to read (beyond the emendations): maybe not all words are meant to be meaningful, that’s a possibility.


And just to touch upon other topics mentionned before on this blog that do occur in this manuscript too, let me mention the following.

First, if you’re wondering how that monk Kemli wrote “primus” well it varies a lot in the manuscript. It is clear he didn’t write the VM quire numbers, given the lower part of f104v (a very different primus, no ‘t’ in quintus nor sextus, no ‘m’ in septimus…),  but some instances are fairly similar to the VM, e.g. lots nearly fine ‘primus’, ‘prima’, ‘primum’ on f92r.

As for the Zodiac aspects, while his calendar starts in january on f18r, it is interesting to note that he attributed Capricorn to it, so that march is Pisces and so on like in the VM (and unlike most manuscripts I’ve seen, where Pisces tends to be february and Aries is march).  So now we know which was the custom around St-Gall at the time.

So, if indeed the VM comes from around Lake Constance, then perhaps whoever added the month names knew it had to be the Pisces=march way rather than the Pisces=february.

Note also how, on some early woodcuts pasted in the manuscript (all of which are surrounded by nice convoluted Volkenbanden!), the Cancer sign does look like a crayfish on f14v  just like in the VM , while the scales on f12r  are very similar to those in the VM. Unfortunately, Scorpio on f10v looks more realistic than the the lizard-like of the VM. Finally, there’s a crossbowman on f9v, but not as a sign for Saggitarius who has a standard bow.


5 Responses to A reference similar to f116v

  1. In religious works from the west, a cross placed within text like this means either the sign of the cross is to be made, or a bell (sometimes a clapper) to be sounded. You can see examples today in copies of missals.

  2. I was curious about this reference to a ‘wandering monk’; it is unusual. I’ve found that the formal term is mendicant friar: “they should be referred to as friars rather than monks, because in Christianity the term monk implies fixity of residence and friars are by definition peripatetic.” The interesting thing is that the mendicant orders were few, but among them the Dominicans and Franciscans, Roger Bacon (a Franciscan) being early linked to the manuscript. This point is revisited on the latest post at ciphermysteries.com, too.

  3. Another thought: the crosses may represent no more than the separation of words, taken perhaps from an older, carved, inscription.

    Romans separated words on monumental inscriptions with no more than a dot, but I think some Christian funerary inscriptions from quite early on used the cross instead, as still happens today on some headstones.

    If the words were from pre- or non-Christian sources, these crosses might be here to avoid the writer’s suffering any unhappy consequences.

  4. Szabolcs says:

    That is a prayer/charm against the pest:
    The line above (which you did not copy) reads:
    Cptrb pfstklfntkbm
    This is a primitive cipher, where every vowel is shifted one to the right (a->b, e->f, i->k, o->p, [u->x])
    and is in plaintext:
    Co[n]tra pestilentiam. (“against the pest”)

    The charm is treated in Alemannia (16. Band), 1888.

    And yes, as a charm, it’s meant to be pretty much gibberish, at least the first words “Damiana athagiata Dyodecomene Cantax ananamsapta”

    Damiana + Hathagiata + Dyodecomene +
    Cantax + ananamsapta + Jesus + Naza(-)
    renus + Rex + Judeorum + Tytulus t[ri]um(-)
    phal[is] + Alpha & O + [miserere] + [miserere] +
    [miserere] + mei Ame[n] + p[er] signu[m] s[anc]te cruc[is] +
    libera nos d[omi]ne Am[en]

    • Thomas Sauvaget says:

      Thank you for this comment and reference. I haven’t thought about the VM for years and had left this blog dormant, but I may look at it again then.

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