There is no point in discussing the aesthetic of the Codex. Somebody called it the”ugly duckling” of the undeciphered manuscripts. The drawings are unsightly on the verge of ridiculous. The script doesn’t look much better. I think we can settle on the conclusion that it is a painfully ugly piece of work, and I cannot imagine the beholder who would challenge that.
However, many splendored things lie in the bedazzled eye staring at a mystery manuscript. Not just the perception of beauty is biased from within. Great expectations, or pride and prejudice, or momentary lapses of reason can take you far and astray.
“If this baby held its secret for so long, it is time to reveal it to me, and it would rather be worth the trouble.” No matter how humble you are in your approach, this thought crosses your mind at some point, if it wasn’t the working hypothesis from the beginning.
Even with the the most candid of attitudes, what we know prepares us to see and understand things in our own way, and our knowledge can be the very seed of our deception. Ioan Culianu warns about creating a vicious hermeneutic circle “thanks to which we ultimately find in Gnosis exactly what we have put into it.” Replace Gnosis with the Codex from Rohonc, and it is exactly my concern.
Because when I saw this:
My first thought was this:
It ultimately made Toldy and Zriny (the Hungarian academicians who first found the Codex in the Batthyany library) see Hungarian Runes, made the Indian Mahesh Kumar Singh decipher 24 pages from the manuscript as a Hindi text in a Brahmi script, and made Viorica Enachiuc see a killer combo of Dacian script, fantasy Vulgar Latin and elusive medieval Romanians. Here are some of her interpretations.
(The analogy I found: king Solomon dedicates the temple to God)
This is what Viorica Enachiuc published (Codex Rohonczi: Déchiffrement, transcription et traduction) as an explanation for miniature no.3 (I did my best to translate it): “Young Blaks pledge on the cross to defend the western part of the Blak territory, guarding the fortification from Ineu; meantime, they pledge to reject the unchristian religion of the old Dacian temple (behind the young warriors is depicted the vertical section through the old Dacian temple, with the interior compartments, having on top the ideogram of the sun; the image of the wooden temple is the first drawing of a Dacian temple known to this day).”
(Preparations for Passover or the Feast of the Unleavened Bread)
“The miniature is based on a representation of the St. Andrew Cross, which on the right side, on the upper part, is doubled by the Christian Cross; The Blak bishop, Sova Trasiu, together with the warriors gather provisions for the upcoming campaign against the Uz people; top left – in all the cities, protected by fences and ditches – it is announced the conscription to army to stop the danger.”
And a last one:
In short: the Blak king, Vlad, prays at the feet of crucified Jesus, his spear ready to be grabbed, his army prepared to go to war.
Fortunately, I only have several pages copied from the book, or I’d go on and on.
Viorica Enăchiuc is not the only starry eyed and mystery-struck in the field. Within a week from downloading the Codex, I knew I hit the jackpot. I found the Manichee’s lost Evangelion. The tall angel floating in front of the king got a strong grip on my imagination. It made perfect sense.
(King and Angel – maybe emperor Constantine and the archangel Michael)
Mani had a twin who was an angel and who visited him from childhood and kept helping him. The explanation I proudly found was obvious “… a local shah and his court were so impressed by Mani’s preaching and by two impromptu appearances of the twin that they became Manichees” (Albert Henrichs, The Cologne Mani Codex Reconsidered, Harvard Studies in Classical Philology, vol. 83, p. 342).
(Baptism on a mountain top?)
“In 216, Mani’s father Pattik, joined a baptist sect in the marshes of southern Babylonia and arranged to have his infant son brought to him” (ibidem, page 339)
(Moses receives donations for the temple)
“In my private life I was seeking to be purged from these corruptions of ours by carrying food to those who were called “elect” and “holy”, which in the laboratory of their stomachs, they should make into angels and gods for us, and by them we might be set free.” (St. Augustine, Confessions, book 4, chapter 1)
And so on…
Then I did some maths and decided that 12 centuries (or so) are too long a spell for an extinct religion to resurface. I changed my focus to the Bosnian Bogomils. I had my reasons: the Cyrillic and Glagolitic influence on the script, strong connections between the Batthyany family and Bosnia and Croatia, the omission of key scenes (like the baptism in the river Jordan) or characters (like the Virgin Mary).
(Sacrifice of Isaac)
And this is the neat Bogomil legend I assigned to it: God had two sons, the elder Satanael and the younger Michael. Satanael rebelled against his father and raised his sword against him, whereas Michael was devoted and the true bearer of the Holy Spirit.
(Moses, Aaron and the tables of the law)
In return for the permission to use the earth as a source of food, Adam sold himself and all his posterity to Satanael. The covenant was written on clay (stone) tablets.
(Preparations for Passover or the Feast of the Unleavened Bread)
The archangel Michael taught the true believers to be vegetarians and they banish all food that has been alive because it is unclean.
I still believe there are heretic elements in the drawings, and a Bogomil or Paulician influence is quite possible, but I have to admit that I went overboard with the meaning of all my examples (and I have even more outrageous ones, which I decided not to share).
For a similar situation, please check the Book of Abraham, one of the canonical books in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. It is well worth a look.
These explanations are funny when you put the CR drawings in the context of popular religious books, but I did not write this post to make fun of Viorica Enachiuc or myself (maybe just a little). I did it to show that alternative interpretations of the images are possible, they can be connected in different stories, and as long as the script is not deciphered, we can only guess their meaning. The fact that in many Codex drawings well-known Christian themes are vague and corrupted (by ignorance or an ulterior motive) makes things more difficult. Nonetheless, the effort to understand the Rohonc doodles will ultimately help to understand the Rohonc scribbles.
Until then, a fitting chorus. Ladies and gentlemen, Mumford and Sons