Announcements

To any confused students:

With my Professor Morgan's recent retirement, there may be some slightly confusing references to her in the lesson. I solely serve as the temporary steward for this course as I am well versed in many of its topics. In the meantime, you may see some of the references disappear in order to diminish the amount of work the new professor will need to do. 

 

If interested and qualified, see the application for the position here: https://forms.gle/RYQLGcCwmwWzPAZi7

 

Lesson 9) A Few Odds and Endings

Professor Morgan leans gently against the side of her desk and gazes fondly at the students in her classroom. Their stares contain a mix of excitement, presumably for the new material they will learn today, and terror, most likely from the pile of examinations stacked neatly at the front of her desk. She smiles wistfully, then clears her throat.

I simply cannot believe that another year here at Hogwarts is coming to a close. It has been an absolute pleasure exploring ancient Europe with you! Before we get to your final examinations today, there are a few more topics for us to discuss. This material will be on your finals, so please pay close attention.

Other European Civilizations and an “End” to Magic

As was mentioned in our first class, there are several other ancient European civilizations that we simply did not have time to cover in this class. Do keep these civilizations in mind when it comes time for your Independent Study Project in Year Seven.

These civilizations, generally, experienced the same attitudes towards magical practice. In the early days (BCE) of these civilizations, magic was highly respected, and sometimes feared. Now that fear was more of a reverence for something not completely understood, not a fear that would make you cower under your sheets at night in irrational terror. Magic was simply a normal, expected part of life - it was just simply there.

As times changed and the Roman Empire spread its influence and prejudices across the continent, opinions on magic also changed - something you have already learned about in History of Magic. It started to become taboo, something to be stamped out, something to be feared.

Eventually these growing opinions resulted in the signing of the Statute of Secrecy in 1689; however, even before the creation of the statute, witches and wizards saw the changes that were starting to happen. One of the most interesting side effects - if you will - of these perceived changes was that witches and wizards created a new pastime - hiding their magic in plain sight.

Now, witches and wizards, like all humans, have a tendency to want to “one up” each other. Who could hide their magic the best? What potions could be passed off as a simple, albeit thin stew? These antics of European witches and wizards resulted - we think - in one of the greatest puzzles of all time: the Voynich Manuscript.

The Voynich Manuscript

The Voynich Manuscript is a bound vellum book that was created sometime between 1404 and 1435 CE. Its origins have been traced to Northern Italy at the time of the Italian Renaissance. It features illustrations ranging from herbal and pharmaceuticals to astronomical, cosmological, and biological in nature. There are even a few recipes tucked in for good nature. It is also full of text. Completely indecipherable text.

You see, the manuscript is in an alphabet that is not found in any other manuscript, nor is it recognized by anyone. Muggle code breakers and linguists have been trying to decipher this manuscript for hundreds of years, to no avail. They cannot even decide whether it is a completely unknown language, or if it is a code; a complex cipher of an Indo-European language.

Now, I will not go too far into the language part of the manuscript - I will leave that to a future year of Ancient Runes. What I will tell you is this: the Muggles think many of the images are pure nonsense. They see images of multiple plants fused together in a seemingly random manner. We witches and wizards believe that some of these “nonsensical” images are actually representations of magical plants. Have a look at one of the pages from the manuscript:

 

Pages from the Voynich Manuscript, courtesy of Beinecke Library

Personally, I think at least one of the images closely resembles a Mandrake, but how someone managed not to get themselves killed during that time period while getting an accurate representation of that deadly plant is beyond me!

These images, seemingly of magical plants, plus the inclusion of astronomical and cosmological images, not to mention the recipes that could very well be potions, lead us to conclude that the original author must have been a magical practitioner of some sort. Perhaps a healer, or maybe even a priestess recording her knowledge. Whomever the author, they did an extremely good job hiding the magical references from the Muggles!

Review

That concludes our new material for today. Let’s have a brief discussion about your finals before we set ourselves - well, yourselves - to the task. Quite similar to your midterms, your final will be comprised of two pieces: a quiz and an essay.

The quiz will cover the entire year’s worth of material, however there will be a heavier focus on Lessons Five through Nine. The essay will offer you more than one choice of topic - you are only required to do one. While the essay topics may be broad, I will be looking for very specific things in your responses, so make sure that you include as much relevant information from the lessons as is possible. Watch your spelling and your word counts, and you should be fine.

A few tips for studying: go over all of your previous assignments from this class. Make sure that you understand why you lost marks on your essays, and what the correct answer was for any quiz questions that you got wrong.

As always, I am here to assist you. Please owl me with any questions and I will respond to you as quickly as possible.

In addition to your finals, there is an Extra Credit assignment listed with today’s class. This is a simple feedback form about this class - you are not required to complete it. Any and all feedback is always welcome!

I do hope that you have enjoyed our discussions on ancient Europe! I hope that you will continue with me on our journey across the globe - we will be covering a vast swath of land in Year Five: the Americas. Aztecs, Incas, Salish, and much, much more is awaiting us!

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Sources:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voynich_manuscript

Our studies of magic use in ancient civilizations continues this year with our examination of several European groups, including the ancient Romans, Greeks, Celts, Norse, and more! It will be a year filled with curious enigmas and amusing occurrences.
Course Prerequisites:
  • ANST-401

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