Well, we're still growing.... At press time, we had 142 members, from 34 states, three provinces, Australia, Germany, Finland, and Austria. As near as I can tell, we have representatives from every kingdom and even every principality in the Known World.
The wedding. I might have said, my wedding, but as I'm a Norman and the Pennsic wedding is really Yana's, it does not seem appropriate. At this time, there is nothing new to report except that there will be a period Russian ceremony at Pennsic this year. A number of SIG members are involved in the planning. Details, as they become available, will be posted at Yana's web site (vms.www.uwplatt.edu/~millerje/) or you can call her (608-348-6209) and bug her about it.
Alternate titles. A few issues back, I reported about a list of Russian alternate titles that were being proposed for SCA use. Since then, the list has undergone some serious and productive debate and modification. Unfortunately, there has been no decision made yet. The latest snag is the proposed use of tsar and tsaritsa as equivalents for king and queen. I hope to have word soon on the results and will report what I hear here next issue.
[Editor's Note: As some of you may be aware, there is a SCA branch forming in Vladimir, Russia. This is one of the first major attempts to start a branch in the real Slavic world. Attached is a plea put out by Drachenwalder Wolfgang vom Bruch who is trying to organize an aid effort to get this group started -- PWT]
The city I live in (Erlangen, Germany) has a partner city in Russia. With the support of the person who is coordinating the cultural exchange, we contacted and later made friends with people who are interested in SCA-style medieval reenactment. They decided that they want to become part of the international SCA and are now trying to form a shire in the region of Vladimir (about 100 miles east of Moscow). A few weeks ago two of our Russian friends visited us and we had chance to show them a little about the SCA. They liked it very much and asked us to send them as much information as possible.
The current economic situation in Russia is quite bad for the majority of people (an SCA membership equals about a worker's monthly income, the head of a university earns about $100 a month) so several people in Drachenwald decided to donate things to help them getting started. If any of you would like to support the future "Shire of Wildenburg" (Vladimir/Suzdal) please let us know.
My brother and I shall collect, sort and store all items and send/take them to Vladimir as soon as possible (car transport is not possible in winter). Russia has no working mail system so mail has to be transported by travellers which is organized with the help of the city of Erlangen. This means that only letters with the maximum size and weight of approximately a magazine can be sent. I shall gather all electronic information, try to structure it, and have it written on a CD-ROM.
If you would like to help us: Foremost the new shire needs information. They have no chance to go somewhere and learn and it's very difficult for anyone to go there and teach. The more graphics and pictures the material contains the better; videos would be excellent of course. Because of the difficulties sending mail to Russia I'll collect all information I get in electronic form, try to stucture it and send it to Russia on CD-ROM. If you would like to contribute such text please use ASCII format if possible (I don't use MS-Windows).
Besides real instruction material (like articles and classes), videos and pictures showing SCA activities like courts, tourneys or A&S competitions are very welcome because it is not very likely that more than a few people from Vladimir will be able to visit foreign events during the next years. The next things that would be useful are samples of armor that can be copied (even if it's not useable anymore) as well as patterns for garb. Of course any useable material is welcome as well. Duct tape, strapping tape and rattan are not available in Vladimir.
Apart from SCA matters: If you would like to support our friends mundanely you might do this by sending old PC parts (from 286 upward). Most university teachers and students cannot afford to buy even used PC's and any help is appreciated.
It would nice to know who is helping us, so a list of names or maybe even a picture of the senders would be nice - not neccessary of course. For questions or requests for more information, I am: Wolfgang Mskens, Hartmannstr. 95, 91052 Erlangen, GERMANY, email@example.com. But for sending donations, Lord Fionndaire Fearcuairt was so kind as to offer us his help, allowing mail to be sent to his military address:
PSC 9 Box 5163
APO AE 09123-5163
Please do not write anything but this and your return address on the outside of the package!! (a note saying "for Wildenburg" can be placed inside!) Thank you very much for your support!
[Endnote: Predslava and I are assembling an English-Russian SCA Glossary to help the Russians translate words like "mundane," "armor calibration," "troll booth," etc. -- PWT]
[Editor's Note: This is the second of Soraya's class notes (the first one appeared in issue #6). It is based upon her more extensive illustrated monograph, "Russian Historical Costuming," which you can acquire for your own perusal from Soraya or from myself.]
For Wealthy and Noble Men and Women [with Peasants in brackets] --
EARLY CLOTHES: Early Russian clothes were put on over the head, and only had short openings down the front. Early shirts (rubakha) are of rectangular construction, with fairly straight side gussets, and no neckband. The rich wore a second, embroidered shirt (in linen, muslin or silk), over the first. Mens' shirts are thigh-length, worn with a sash or belt over pants. Women's shirts are ankle-length. [Over their shirts, women also wore a wrap skirt (panova), a long tunic (zapona), or a short tunic (navershnik).] A more elaborate, calf-length rubakha of expensive fabric (with embroidery, gems, contrast trim, and jeweled collar and cuffs) was worn by both men and women, with a hat or headdress, and a rectangular or semi-circular cloak.
FOOTWEAR: Russians wore leather boots with pointed or rounded toes, with embroidered, dyed, or appliqued trim, and a contrast-colored decorative patch above the heel, usually red. There were also boots of red velvet trimmed in pearls. [Peasants wore felt or leather boots, and flats of woven birchbark (bast), which laced up the legs.]
COLLARS AND KAFTANS: The Russians had been wearing wide, round separate collars since they adopted Byzantine fashions in the 10th Century. These collars are made of velvet or brocade, embroidered in metal threads and pearls, and lined. They are flat circles or ovals with no neckband, and fasten at the back with small buttons. After the Mongol invasion in the 13th Century, Russian court clothing for men and women changed to kaftans that opened up the front, and some Russians began to wear Mongol collars, which are made of a square piece of material, about 14" square or larger, depending on your shoulder size. The outer edge is cut into a design, and it was worn on the bias, with the corners of the original square resting on the shoulders, and going down the center front and the center back. The collar can be separate, or can be appliqued or embroidered onto the garment.
COURT COSTUME (and ceremonial costume for royalty to the 20th century) is the kaftan. Use symmetrical brocades in oval patterns, in cream and bright jewel colors, especially reds to burgundies, using rectangular construction methods, with angled gussets for width. Black is rare, except for religious orders and as a ground to be thickly embroidered over in gold, gems, and pearls. Worn over a shirt, the kaftan is an ankle-length A-line garment, with set-in sleeves about 10 inches wide where they end, just below the wrist. It has a double line of trim down the front, a single line of trim around the hem and cuffs, made of galloon (woven gold trim), gold lace, or velvet with gold and pearl embroidery. It opens down the front and has ornate domed, spherical or oval metal buttons. (This method of closure can be simulated by buttons and loops on a front flap that does not really open, but spreads at the top to allow the garment to be slipped on over the head).
CUFFS: Rich shirt sleeves can be decorated by adding separate cuffs (originally bracelets to hold the extra long sleeves in place). These cuffs are from three to five inches long, and are made of velvet or brocade, embroidered in gold and pearls and sometimes small metal plates, and close with small buttons and loops. Costumes for men and women after 1300, showing Mongol influence, may have shirts with pointed horseshoe cuffs which are part of the sleeve, and cover the back of the hand. These cuffs may be plain, appliqued, or embroidered.
COATS AND CLOAKS: In winter, men and women wear long coats with fur linings and fur showing at the openings. Odnoryadkas have small fur collars and horizontal closures down the center front. Shubas have wide fur collars and wrap diagonally across the front, like a kimono. [Peasants' coats would be made of wool or sheepskin.] A fur-lined cape, or outer shuba, could be worn over the shuba for extra warmth.
WEALTHY AND NOBLE WOMEN
OUTERWEAR: Women also wear short, flared, sleeveless or long-sleeved jackets, and light coats like the litnik (a damask slip-on overgarment with long bell-shaped sleeves cut off at an angle and left open along the underarm seam, so the sleeve is like a flap over the arm).
HEADCOVERINGS are required. Unmarried women wear one long braid, with a ribbon, brocade or velvet braid ornament at the end, and an open circlet or coronet of stiffened cloth, both trimmed with gold embroidery and pearls. Married women usually wear two braids, wrapped around the head into a crown, and cover their hair with a veil and a kokoshnik (a closed headdress) whose distinctive shape indicates its origins - short round hats (from Moscow), tall and pointed (from Kostroma), or wide and crescent-shaped (from Novgorod). They are covered in cloth or velvet, embroidered in metal threads and pearls, or ornamented with beads, pompoms, or ribbons. [River pearls were so plentiful even peasants had pearl-covered kokoshniks] Veils are worn over or under the headdress. Heavier, gold-embroidered scarves of other colors may be draped over the headdress.
UNDERDRESS: Women wear a white ankle-length shirt (rubakha), made of linen, muslin, or silk, with reinforcing at the shoulders, and sleeves that are plain, or are woven or embroidered in white floral patterns, The sleeves can be from wrist to ankle length. [White linen or cotton peasants' shirts for women are heavily embroidered at all openings in red, sometimes black or other colors, using counted thread work in traditional designs. They often have red underarm gussets and are worn with a skirt or jumper]
Women's costumes include: kaftans with wide, almost ankle-length sleeves which become narrow, are sewn closed at the bottom, and can be used as pouches; kaftans with long, false sleeves, with horizontal closures at sides, sleeves and front; and sarafans (semicircular sleeveless jumpers) over fine shirts. [Peasant women wore kaftans of plainer material, trimmed with contrasting material, or in summer, a brightly embroidered shirt with a sarafan (In addition to woven patterns, materials can be plain or printed, as printed textiles existed in Russia since at least the 11th Century). In Ukraine, three-panel wrap skirts (ponyeva) in dark blue checked wool were worn with the embroidered underdress. A ponyeva had red cloth trim around the edges, while a holiday ponyeva had multicolored embroidery added. Long white linen aprons, like sleeveless or long-sleeved overdresses, heavily embroidered in red, were worn over the sarafan or skirt]
JEWELRY: Earrings, collars, and ropes of pearls. Jewelry of gold and other metals, with pearls, emeralds, rubies, etc. [Amber, garnet, glass, carnelian, coral, pearls, river pearls, and mother-of-pearl are worn by peasants and others]
WEALTHY AND NOBLE MEN
PANTS AND SHIRTS: A man wore pants with a gathered waist, tucked into boots, and a shirt, worn tied or belted over the pants. Later shirts (still of rectangular construction, and no neckband) had underlining at the back and chest, wider triangular side gussets, and square red underarm gussets. Rich men wore a second shirt (in linen, muslin or silk) on top, often embroidered in gold, which could have a small embroidered neckband. [Peasants' pants were often vertically striped, with patterned stripes, and were worn tucked into boots, or wrapped with cloth strips and worn with sandals. Their shirts were thickly embroidered in red or black] The legs of Ukrainian pants were wider than Russian ones.
LATER MEN'S COSTUMES: There was no difference between the early men's and women's long-sleeved kaftans, but later there was also a long-sleeved, knee-to-calf-length kaftan for men, trimmed with contrasting material at all openings (Boys and soldiers wore their short kaftans with short sleeves). The short kaftan often has a collar which is very high at the back and open at the front, and can be trimmed in a design of pearls on the outside of the collar and on its cuffs. This kaftan has slits at the sides with decorative horizontal closures at the top of the slits and across the front of the kaftan. This style of kaftan would be made of red wool for the Tsar's soldier-guards (the streltsy) and of white velvet for Palace guards. Kaftans were tied at the waist with a sash. The wealthy Russian man added more layers depending on the weather, the next layer being a ferjaesy, a long kaftan with long ruched (pushed-up) sleeves with horseshoe cuffs, and a wide collar. After that would come the achabeny (a kaftan with long, false sleeves, and a high collar at the back of the neck). A shuba would be the top layer. [Soldiers and working men wore thigh-length jackets fitted at the waist, with curved back seams that might have cording set in them.]
HATS: Men wore their hats in layers, also. First was a skullcap, like a much decorated yarmulka. This was worn indoors. Over it came a soft furlined cap with peak curving toward the back, or a taller fur hat.
PATTERNS -- Look in current pattern books, or among used patterns in thrift stores, for patterns for Russian style hats, for kaftans, especially those that open up the front and don't have darts, for long, semi-fitted sleeves which can be slashed and extended to made very long Russian sleeves, for draw-string pants, for a well-fitting shirt or jumper to use as a basis for a sarafan pattern, for a Russian-style coat, and for a flat collar that fits nicely around your neck, which you can use as the neck hole when you draft a flat pattern for your round Russian or square Mongol collar.
Bran Castle is a medieval castle associated with the infamous Rumanian ruler Vlad Tepes (1431-76), better known as Dracula. The castle, in the town of Bran, lies about twenty miles southwest of Brasov (an important medieval commercial center) and about eighty miles north-northwest of Bucharest, the modern capitol of Romania. In Dracula's time, Romania consisted of two semi-independent principalities -- Wallachia (in the south) and Moldavia (in the east). Transylvania, although having a mainly Rumanian population, was ruled by Hungary. Bran Castle is situated in the Transylvanian Alps, also known as the Southern Carpathians.
Bram Stoker, author of Dracula (1897), visited the castle in the 1890s and used it as the setting for his novel, although he placed it in Bistriža, 100 miles north of Bražov. Although Dracula never owned Bran Castle, he likely was a frequent guest there.
The castle was built in the early thirteenth century by the Teutonic knight Dietrich. It controlled Bran Pass, through which ran the most important commercial road leading south out of Bražov to Wallachia. The Teutonic Knights at that time controlled Bražov, thus the castle served to survey and defend the southern approach to Bražov (a constant worry due to Turkish ambitions). The castle also served as a taxation point. From the fourteenth through nineteenth centuries, a customs house operated next to the castle, collecting 3% tax on all goods being taken through the pass.
In 1225 the castle came into the hands of the Hungarian kings, who ruled Transylvania fromthe 9th century until after World War I. At one point the castle belonged to J nos Hunyady, governor of Transylvania, under whose tutelage a young Dracula likely stayed at the castle as a guest. In 1498 the castle was mortgaged to the city of Brasov, which owned it until 1920 when the Rumanian royal family bought and restored it as a summer residence.
The castle was built on a hill of bedrock, overlooking Bran Pass. At first, entrance was by ladder only; later a door was put in. The castle was endowed with an archer and ballister garrison, and to support these the castle lord was allowed to tax nine nearby villages which were considered part of the castle's estate. There are at least eight floor levels in the castle and thus it is hard to walk very far without having to go up or down a set of steps. Rooms inside include a weapons hall and a chapel with Gothic arches, decorated with fourteenth- fifteenth century Gothic statuettes and once painted with frescoes. In the courtyard is a well 170 feet deep. Also in the courtyard, covered with flag stones, is a secret passage leading 150 feet down into the hill to a small chamber and from there a passage leads outside.
Bran Castle, which my lady Geta and I toured in the summer of 1993, is very picturesque. Just big enough to impress, just worn enough to look real, and located in a village probably not much changed since the Middle Ages (except for the tour buses). Bran Castle is definitely a "must see" for anyone who happens to be travelling in that neck of the Transylvanian woods.
By the time that the Mongol yoke was thrown off in 1505, Moscovy was in firm control of central and Northern Russia and wielded considerable power through control of the luxury fur trade to Europe and her ruthless suppression of the other Princes. As control tightened in central Russia, more peasants escaped to the frontier areas in the north and east, bringing Moscow's Grand Prince into direct conflict with one of the fragments of the Golden Horde operating out of Kazan. Much of the struggle between these two powers had their roots in the infiltration of Russian promyshlenniki into the Ural Mountains and beyond. This was the heart of the fur resources for Kazan as well. By the time of Von Herberstein's diplomatic missions to Moscovy in 1517 and 1526, serious confrontations had begun and would end with Ivan the Terrible's cannon and musketeers (the streltsy) besieging and destroying Kazan in 1550 and Astrakhan on the Caspian Sea in 1554.
These two areas nearly tripled the territory and fur resources of Moscovy and gave it direct access to the Silk Road and Asian market wealth for the first time. This is the period of time that sable production began to climb and the Sable Treasury was formed to collect and sell the Tsar's twenty percent cut of the furs sold at the fur markets at Astrakhan, Kholmogry, the White Sea and in Smolensk. In exchange, the markets of central Russia received cloth of gold and brocades from Italy, fine wool, pewterware, armaments and munitions from the English Moscovy company and silks, glassware, fine tools, pearls and jewels from the Central European traders based at the huge fur market at Liepsig. Astrakhan provided finely woven carpets, semiprecious minerals, silver and silks in abundance. Nearly all of this bounty poured into Russia against an equal tide of luxury furs pouring out.
In fact, this is the main reason that the Ottomans finally shut down the Italian Black Sea trading colonies in the 1580's and 1590's. The Italians had mastered the art of cloth of gold brocade with a highly textured surface through the use of silk weft threads on their looms whereas the Ottomans preferred a flatter nap and the use of cotton threads in the weft. They simply wanted a bigger cut of the proceeds and this is reflected in the trickling off of cloth of gold in ecclesiastical vestments and their replacement with the less valued Turkish brocades at the end of period. Another direct result of the wealth pouring into the Russia through the fur trade was the creation of a standard corps of professional bureaucrats divided into chanceries, dependant upon the task they were in charge of maintaining. This removed the nobles from the chance of direct theft of state proceeds and created a class of well paid state officials who advanced on individual merit and answerable directly to the Tsar and his immediate counsel, the Zemeskii Sobor. Many of these individuals were from the minor nobility (deti boiarskii) and had no connection or love for the members of the great boiar families who had always dominated them.
This was a time where merchants, traders in the export towns and enterprising boiar families like the Stroganovs could build huge fortunes and businesses paid for by the fur trade. By the 1570's and fifteen eighties, Russian ostrogs were in the heart of western Siberia. With cossacks and promyshlenniki racing each other to find newer untouched furbearing lands, the vast Ob-Iytrusk River system of Central Asia had been opened up by the 1580's. The conquest of the Khanate of Sibir ("the Sleeping Land") in 1585 was as much due to the effect of firearms as it was to greed for control of the sable rich lands of the Mangezia forests. By the times of the end of period, advance units of promyshlenniki had reached Lake Baikal. All because of fur.
Fisher, Raymond. The Russian Fur Trade 1550-1700. Berkeley CA: University of California Press, 1943
All of us doing research in relatively obscure areas of the Middle Ages often find that a single chapter of a book is our only good source on a topic. Here are two recent finds, where useful material can be gleaned from a portion of a book, in one case an exhibition catalogue and the other a wargaming manual.
The Glory of Byzantium is a lavish and exhaustive catalogue of every object which was in the 1997 show at the Met by the same name. At 560 pages, even the paperback is a major document (and expensive). 39 pages are devoted to Kievan Rus. The book provides a rare opportunity to view original Russian period objects including mosiacs, stone carving, manuscript pages, challaces, icons, and wonderful examples of cloisonne enamel jewelry. The reproductions are all of top quality more than half are in color. A few of the manuscript pages are shown reduced, limiting their usefulness, but this is a minor quibble.
An oddity for we who read mostly histories, is that each item in the catalogue is written about as an art object, spending substaintial text on description and history of the piece itself. This will be a valuable book to access in libraries for most researching the period. For those of us obsessed, it is a must addition to our shelves, documenting the influence of the "civilized" empire to our south.
I read Lake Peipus 1242 unaware that it was intended for a wargaming audience. The purpose of this type book is to provide sufficient information for people to turn this pivotal battle in Russian history into a board game-- Therein is the document's strength and weakness. Lake Peipus provides some material which I have seen nowhere else (at least easily accessible). This includes photos of the location of the battle, detailed information on the pagan tribes in the Eastern Baltics, drawings of fortifications and maps. On the other hand, in order make a playable game assumptions are made about the forces on both sides, which I suspect are unprovable, albiet interesting. One which I was unaware of previously, was that the Russians may have had Mongol auxilleries (has anyone else heard of this?)
Another problem is in the range of quality of the illustrations. Having written on the subject I am aware that you can't always find period material close at hand. The publisher has gone as far afield as Denmark, Munich and Vladimir to locate artifacts. The problem is that they may or may not apply. In addition the few commissioned watercolors are adequate at best-- I wish they had found an artist who had a better grasp of figure drawing. Never-the-less this is a useful book, especially at $16. It will help to visualize a period, although it must be approached with caution.
-- Peotr Alexeivich
Sophie Knab, history/traditions editor for the magazine Polish American Journal, has put together two works covering a good deal of ground in terms of historical Polish customs. Though both works are aimed at Polish-Americans wanting to research their heritage, there is a good deal of useful information in them for the re-creationist.
The first work, Polish Customs, covers a wide variety of traditional customs, including birth, wedding and funeral customs. These are arranged in calendar fashion, over the liturgical year, thus giving a picture of old Polish life. The author does not give date information for all the customs she describes, so many may not be period, but there are a number of customs (such as coloring eggs in the Spring) that she does document to SCA period. She is careful, also, to document the region from which each custom is documented.
In every case, Knap's descriptions are painstakingly detailed and descriptive. To prepare and serve the traditional Christmas Eve meal, for instance, one would simply follow her step-by-step, gesture by gesture instructions. There are also explicit instructions for a traditional wedding, starting with the moment the girl is marriageable, through the negotiations, the planning, the wedding, and the final capping of the bride--though who wants to drink that much vodka!? Other features are the descriptions of harvest ceremonies, Easter customs, herb lore and folk medicine (including the blessing of the herbs on August 15), and a final section on children's games.
In Polish Herbs, it seems that Knab had more to work with (herbalism, unlike ethnography, has much better documentation), and so she gives dates and other documentation, presumably based on the period herbals she cites in her text and bibliography. Not only does the work include an herbal with names (English, botanical, and Polish), uses, folklore and recipes, for herbs and other plant sources used medicinally, but it also includes chapters on Polish herbalists, gardens, etc. It is especially useful that, for many herbs, Knab gives dates for documented introduction and/or use in Poland.
I am inclined to think that Polish Herbs is a reasonably reliable source. The information given tallies with what I know of herbalism and folk medicine in period from other sources, and the 'modern' (pre-1900) information agrees with what my Great-Aunt Cecilia remembers from her family traditions. There is an impressive bibliography, of course, though most of is in Polish, of course. The only failing I can find in this work is that it should be used in conjunction with a reputable modern herbal, as many of the documented folk medicine treatments are viewed differently now!
I would suggest that both these works are starting points only, to which we would want to add more in-depth research about customs and folk medicine, both from Knab's sources and other works, cross-referenced with what we know about the cultures and customs of other Slavic nations. On the other hand, they are excellently written and very useful starting points, and are probably worth shelling out the $40 for both volumes if you are interested in things Polish.
-- Jadwiga Zajaczkowa
Standard Disclaimer Stuff: Most of us are members of the Society for Creative Anachronism, Inc (SCA) but our Interest Group and its newsletter are not officially affiliated with the SCA. Naturally, then, this Newsletter does not bear any intentional resemblance to anything that the SCA officially endorses.
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The publisher and editor is Paul Wickenden of Thanet (Paul Goldschmidt), 755 Siemers, Platteville WI 53818, 608-348-6209, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. There is no subscription fee and copies of this quarterly Newsletter are available free of charge from the editor.