Archive for the ‘Stones/Lapidario’ Category

Alfonso X’s Lapidario: Stones, Stars and Colours

October 13, 2016 6 comments

I’ve been down a bit of rabbit hole over the last couple of days which others may have already been down. I was looking once more at the Zodiac folios, in particular Taurus. The Taurus Light and Dark folios are both marked “may” in, as often remarked, a later hand. There are 15 figures in each Taurus folio, for a total of 30. However, as we well know, May has 31 days, so the figures probably don’t represent days. I thus went in search of 30-way splits of Zodiac signs ….

Alfonso X’s Lapidario

Looking at this old Spanish illustrated manuscript:

“Tratados de Alfonso X sobre astrología y sobre las propiedades de las piedras”

which is a treatise on astrology and the importance of stones/gems etc., we can see a circular Taurus diagram with 30 divisions.


Each of these divisions is associated with a stone, of a noted colour, and one or a few stars in a constellation. There is a lengthy description of each division, its stone, its stars, the various ailments the stone cures, when the stone should be used, et cetera. There is a Spanish transcription of the text here, which I found very useful (combined with Google Translate):

Alfonso X Lapidario

Since a plausible language match to the month spellings as written in the Zodiac folios is Occitan which at one point covered part of Spain (please correct me on this, as I’m not sure), there seems to be a compelling regional match here, but I can’t quite figure it out.

From what I’ve read, Alfonso X assembled a team of scholars from all world regions, who worked on documents on a variety of topics. This website says of the Lapidario: “The Lapidario is a thirteenth century Castilian translation sponsored by King Alfonso X el Sabio, the Learned. The translation was done from an Arabic text which in turn is said to have been translated by the mysterious Abolays from an ancient text in the “Chaldean language”

Matching Stone Colours

Anyway, my first approach was to try to match the colours of the headgear or tunics of the clothed figures in the Taurus Light folio to the colours of the first and second fifteen stones mentioned in the Lapidario. It’s a little tricky, because although the stones are numbered, we don’t know which is figure 1 in the Taurus Light folio, and whether the inner ring precedes the outer. Even so, the patterns of colours in the stones sequence might reveal a match. I drew a blank.

Matching Stones with Voynich Star Labels

My second approach was to try to match the names of the stones with the labels on the figures, to see if there was some correlation between the label length, or its initial glyph, with the stones’ names. Very tricky.

Some of the stones that appear in the Taurus set of 30 also appear in other Zodiac signs in the Lapidario. For example, the ninth stone in Taurus is “esmeri(l)” (Latin), and esmeril is also the third stone of Libra, and the second stone of Aquarius.

This leads to the obvious question: is there a Figure in the both the Voynich Taurus and Libra roundels (Aquarius is missing) that shares the same label? If so, might that label be “esmeril”? And, are there other stones that appear in more than one sign which might be matched to duplicate stones in the Lapidario?

(As an aside, regarding the stones and colours, I was struck by the third stone of Taurus, called “camorica”, which is scarlet in colour and associated with the Pleiades.)

Another promising avenue is to compare the shapes and orientations of the stars in the constellations as they appear in the VM with how they appear in the Lapidario. Since the Pleiades are mentioned in the Lapidario, are they illustrated there, and does its illustration of the cluster match the apparent drawing of it in the VM (which differs in detail from its actual appearance in the night sky)? I need to investigate further, but my suspicion is that others have already been down this path 🙂

Chaldean Stones

I extracted the Chaldean stone names for each Zodiac sign, from the transcription I linked to above. The stones for Aries are shown below, as an example. (The whole set is available if anyone wants it.)

The first 12 sections in the Lapidario list the 30 stones for each zodiac sign, but a few signs appear to be truncated: Leo has only one stone, Pisces only has two stones, and Aquarius only 28.

There follow more sections, again one for each sign, but these each have only three stones. I’m not clear what they represent. I posted about all this at Voynich Ninja, and MarcoP was able to explain. Others also chimed in with some useful comments. The discussion is here.

Anyway, following those sections are several more that cover the stones of Saturn (4 stones), Jupiter (4 stones), Mars (4 stones), Venus (24 stones), Sun (9 stones) and Mercury (17 stones).

Here is an extract of the list I extracted for all the Zodiac stones: this is for Aries.

1 magnitad
2 zurudica
3 gagatiz
4 miliztiz
5 centiz
6 movedor
7 goliztiz
8 telliminuz
9 milititaz
10 huye de la leche
11 alj?far
12 anetatiz
13 beruth
14 piedra de cinc
15 tira el oro
16 chupa la sangre
17 parece en la mar cuando sube Marte
18 tira el vidrio
19 annora
20 yzf
21 cuminon
22 astarnuz
23 belyniz
24 gaciuz
25 azufaratiz
26 abietityz
27 lubi
28 ceraquiz
29 berlimaz
30 annoxatir

In total I count 301 stones in the Lapidario’s Zodiac section, of which 291 are unique to a sign. The remainder appear more than once as follows:

bezaar [(9, 'G\x83MINIS'), (11, 'G\x83MINIS')]
azarnech [(12, 'SAGITARIO'), (13, 'SAGITARIO')]
pez [(7, 'LIBRA'), (30, 'LIBRA')]
plomo [(18, 'VIRGO'), (13, 'CANCRO')]
calcant [(10, 'VIRGO'), (11, 'VIRGO')]
aliaza [(23, 'TAURO'), (29, 'TAURO')]
parece en la mar [(15, 'SAGITARIO'), (15, 'TAURO'), (17, 'G\x83MINIS'), (17, 'ACUARIO')]
de la serpiente [(12, 'LIBRA'), (7, 'G\x83MINIS')]

e.g. “bezaar” is the 9th and the 11th stone in Gemini, “de la sepiente” is the 12th stone in Libra and the 7th in Gemini.

Turning to the Voynich Zodiac, I count 298 unique star labels of which 269 are unique to a sign. The labels that appear more than once are:

otal dar ['71r', '70v2'] Aries (Light) , Pisces , 
otal ['72r2', '73r'] Gemini , Scorpio , 
okeey ary ['72r1', '72r2'] Taurus (Dark) , Gemini , 
okal ['73v', '72r2', '72r2'] Sagittarius , Gemini , Gemini , 
okeos ['73v', '73r', '73r'] Sagittarius , Scorpio , Scorpio , 
okeoly ['70v2', '72v1'] Pisces , Libra , 
otaly ['70v2', '72v3', '73r'] Pisces , Leo , Scorpio , 
okaram ['70v2', '72r2'] Pisces , Gemini , 
okoly ['70v1', '72v3'] Aries (Dark) , Leo , 
okalar ['72r3', '72r2'] Cancer , Gemini , 
okary ['72v3', '73r'] Leo , Scorpio , 
okam ['72r2', '72v3'] Gemini , Leo , 
okeody ['73v', '73v', '73r', '72v2'] Sagittarius , Sagittarius , Scorpio , Virgo , 
ykey ['73v', '73v'] Sagittarius , Sagittarius , 
okaly ['70v2', '72r2', '72r2', '72v3'] Pisces , Gemini , Gemini , Leo , 
okaldy ['72r2', '72v3'] Gemini , Leo , 
otaraldy ['72r1', '72r2'] Taurus (Dark) , Gemini , 
otoly ['72v3', '73r'] Leo , Scorpio , 
oky ['73v', '72v3', '73r'] Sagittarius , Leo , Scorpio , 
oteody ['73v', '73v'] Sagittarius , Sagittarius , 
okedy ['72v1', '73r'] Libra , Scorpio ,

e.g. “otal dar” appears as a label on both the Aries(Light) and Pisces zodiac chart.

If the Voynich Zodiac charts are indeed showing stones (and the figure/star labels are their names), then there should be good matches between the two lists above.

One potential match is:

azarnech [(12, 'SAGITARIO'), (13, 'SAGITARIO')] 
ykey ['73v', '73v'] Sagittarius , Sagittarius ,

However, the two labels “ykey” on f73v are not adjacent, which they should be if they are stones 12 and 13.


azarnech [(12, 'SAGITARIO'), (13, 'SAGITARIO')] 
oteody ['73v', '73v'] Sagittarius , Sagittarius ,

in this case, the two labels “oteody” on f73v are adjacent to one another, but the figures/stars they label are in the group of four at the top of the folio: it’s a stretch to think their locations are 12th and 13th.

To be continued ….