My efforts of late have been focused on the large-plants section. To my own surprise, it occurred to me that certain Christian symbols had been worked into the plants, and the thought has not let go of me since. I have been fortunate enough to be in contact with people who support these ideas, come up with their own additions, or offer constructive criticism (although concerns have also been raised about my mental health :)). I would once again like to express my sincere thanks for this; to be able to interact with constructive individuals makes all the difference.
This post will (hopefully) be short and to the point. I will focus on one plant to show how my ideas on the extent of the Christian imagery worked into the plants are shifting – or rather, expanding. At first I thought it was just the Arma Christi, but there are reasons to believe that we are looking at a wider array of Biblical scenes. More like the programme of an illustrated Book of Hours, a Bible or something along those lines.
The plant I’d like to discuss today is f34v. As far as I’m aware, it’s not exactly the VM plant that gets the most attention. I’ve never been able to make sense of its root; its right half appears zoomorphic, like the back end of a lion. But the left side, where the head should be, splits into a bunch of bulbous appendages.
There are ten leaves, five on each side, placed on ivory white stems. There are also three “flowers”, one of which is bent.
Now, there are different schools of thought, but my feeling is that you don’t just randomly draw a root like this. So I’ve always thought there was something behind this root, but I did not understand what… until I started counting. In the image below, I highlighted what would be the body of the beast. I assume the appendage underneath the body is a tail because it’s got a tuft at the end. This would be in line with common feline iconography, where the tail often goes under the body like this.
So if we discount the body, tail and four limbs, this leaves seven appendages. Additionally, there is a conspicuously placed hole in the parchment. This looks like the kind of cut that is made on purpose, and which I have previously linked to the practice of physically representing “wounds” in the parchment. There are no signs of repair, unlike in some more randomly located holes on other folios.
The image above compares a hole (accidental damage) in the corner of f10 to the one in our folio (right). Note how the latter has a cleaner shape and shows no stitch marks. The hole in f10 has once been repaired, but the threads are now gone.
If I want to maintain some semblance of consistency, I must interpret this hole as signifying a wound.
So in summary about the root, we have a feline creature with a wound and seven appendages where the head should be.
Now open your bibles at Revelation 13: 1-4
1 And I stood upon the sand of the sea. And I saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy.
2 And the beast which I saw was like unto a leopard, and his feet were as the feet of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion. And the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority.
3 And I saw that one of his heads was, as it were, wounded to death, and his deadly wound was healed. And all the world wondered after the beast.
4 And they worshiped the dragon which gave power unto the beast, and they worshiped the beast
The beast from Revelation is “like a leopard”, with seven heads and ten crowned horns. It is wounded and healed. It is worshipped by the unfaithful.
There was quite some variation among medieval artists in the depiction of this beast, since the description was quite a challenge. How do you draw something “like unto a leopard” with seven heads and ten crowned horns? How do you divide ten horns over seven heads, and how do you put crowns on horns?
One common solution is quite elegant: the horns are drawn like a pair of antlers or a single “tree”.
Now we place them side by side:
It is possible that the seven appendages in the VM are actually the seven heads’ tongues. A common thread is that the VM does not like to draw the heads of birds and mammals in zoomorphic roots, so they may have opted for the tongues instead. The beast’s main activity is, after all, to “blaspheme God’s name”, and most illustrations convey this by tongues or opened mouths.
If indeed this plant contains the first part of Revelation 13, then it does so brilliantly. A feline beast, wounded, blasphemous, ten crowned horns.
I’m less certain about what the flowers might mean in this context. Perhaps the righteous versus those who bow to the Beast? Or rather one worshipping the beast and a trampled saint?
So, back to the drawing board again, I guess. I don’t know what more I can do to explain this… Here he is one more time.