Wednesday, February 23, 2011

follow-up: Voynich, Sion, Tolkien, etc.

1. The Prior of Sion, a centuries-spanning secret mystical order of knights claiming descent from the secret son of Christ, is definitely a hoax.  Wikipedia has a pretty darn good article on it, the jist of which is that there's no evidence of its existence prior to 1956.  I like to think that Pierre Plantard, the guy what did it, would have made a great DM if he had been born a generation or two later.  Anybody who tries to sell you on the Priory as something besides the second greatest hoax of the the twentieth century is either a tool, a salesman, or Dan Brown (i.e. both).  The greatest hoax of the 20th century is the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.  And by "greatest" I mean "worst".  Published at the beginning of the century, it purports to be the meeting minutes of the international Jewish conspiracy to destroy/enslave all us Gentiles.  You ever meet anyone who gives the Protocols the least bit of credence and you have my permission to punch them in the face.  It's what Indiana Jones and Captain America would do.

2. I never meant to imply yesterday that I suspected Tolkien was the creator of the Voynich Manuscript.  My theory was that he encountered the Manuscript as an academic curiosity and contacted the unnamed military man in the quoted anecdote to see if the text was a cipher of some sort.  Though someone wanting to make a little money could probably knock off a "non"-fiction book arguing that Tolkien faked all the pre-20th century history of the codex.

3. Like James in yesterday's comments, I don't buy the theory that explains the Voynich Manuscript as some charlatan's attempt to gin up a fake grimoire.  That would violate the first principle of faking: make sure your fake resembles the real deal.  When someone shows me an earlier grimoire that resembles Voynich, then we have something to work with.  Until then, it would be like me taking a transcript from the Gong Show and trying to pass it off as a lost work of Shakespeare.  It's just not a good match for serious fakery.

4. Now let me tell you my pet theory.  The mystery of the identity of Jack the Ripper and the mystery of the authorship of the Voynich Manuscript are two of a kind to me.  Until I see better evidence otherwise the answer to both is this is the work of an anonymous crazy man.  I double dog dare the universe to prove me wrong and come up with something awesomer than that, but until I see good solid evidence I feel that Occam's Razor leans towards the side of the most boring explanation.  Though I don't find that answer as boring as most people.  The Whitechapel Murders are horrible tragedy, but under my theory the Voynich Manuscript  is really a triumph of outsider art, like if the HYBRID-RPG was written in its own script and fully illustrated.


  1. >>Published at the beginning of the century

    Beginning of last century.

    (and you thought writing the previous year on checks after the New Year was a hard habit to break, eh?)

  2. '[T]he century' was in reference to my previous mention of the 20th century, so I thought I was clear.

    I still write 2010 for the date sometimes, though.

  3. ah yeah, sorry. Brain frazzled over here.

    (now I'm wondering what I'm screwing up with what I'm doing if I miss something that clear in your post... ay ay ay)

  4. Anonymous11:36 AM

    "You ever meet anyone who gives the Protocols [of Zion] the least bit of credence and you have my permission to punch them in the face. It's what Indiana Jones and Captain America would do."

    QFT. I tip my hat to you, sir.

  5. Voynich as outsider art has a certain appeal, since there's a pretty good example of non-outsider art that looks a lot like the Voynich MS: the Codex Seraphinianus.

    However, leaving aside the specific script used in the MS, I think the Voynich manuscript looks a lot like some of the rare, mysterious volumes of the period a con man might want to fake. Half of it is a "description" of possibly medicinal plants (although as I recall, none of the species have been identified, hence they're probably faked.) The other half is astronomical (which could actually be medically-oriented, since astrological correspondences were considered part of medicine at the time.

  6. Jeff, I agree.

    I also think they were the same man.

  7. @anarchist: Francis Tumblety?

  8. @Talysman:
    No, Lorraine Williams. Apparently she's responsible for everything bad that's ever happened.

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  10. Let me try that again.

    Re: Capt. America & Indiana Jones -

    Hear, hear.

    If you haven't seen it, one of Will Eisner's last graphic novels was The Plot: The Secret Story of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. A good read about an ugly old conspiracy theory that needs to die.

  11. "Until I see better evidence otherwise the answer to both is this is the work of an anonymous crazy man."

    Ever heard of the Mad Fishmonger? Also known as Saint Fishmonger, this individual is alleged to be responsible for the mysterious rain of crabs and periwinkles that beset Worcester, England in 1881. Charles Forte rejected his existence, while Robert Anton Wilson suggested (at least in fiction) that this mad saint was responsible for many of the other things that have been recorded falling from the sky.

    A nice summary including Charles Forte's own words: