To begin with, my apologies to all our new members (btw, we are now 193 members strong) who could not find us on-line. At the end of August, my internet provider changed my e-mail address overnight (and thus altered the address of the SIG home page). As a result, the old URL suddenly ceased to operate and if you tried to find the Group, you were rudely sent a "File Not Found" error. The problem has not been rectified and I have had to simply adapt to the changes. My email address is now firstname.lastname@example.org and the SIG home page has been moved to: http://vms.www.uwplatt.edu/~goldschp/ slavic.html.
Those of you receiving this issue by regular mail will notice that you have also received a copy of our new brochure. We encourage you to make copies of this and distribute it at events or whenever you meet someone who might be interested in the Group. If you are currently receiving only the electronic version of Slovo and would like a copy of the brochure to hand out, drop me a line (email@example.com) and I will send you a copy.
Thanks to Katherine and to Kamila for their donations to the Group which helped to finance this quarter's issue. The financial assistance is appreciated, as are the writings of this issue's contributors. I have now used up almost my entire backlog and am always seeking material for future issues.
By Ilyana Barsova
It was another prolific year at Pennsic for Slavic classes. Nearly every day of War Week had at least one Slavic class. On the Wednesday before the War officially began, Thomas the Lapidary held a class on Ukrainian Egg Dyeing and Mairi ni Raghaillaigh taught a class on Recreating Byzantine Accessories which included some references to Russian accessories and jewelry. Monday had Jadwiga Zajacek giving an Introduction to Medieval Poland and Paul running the annual recruitment and info-share he likes to call Researching Things Slavic. On Tuesday Mordak Timofei'evich Rostovskogo taught everyone how to make Fur-lined Coats from Scratch and Peotr Alexeivich Novgorodski taught his Introduction to Kievan Rus' for the second year in a row. On Wednesday evening, we had the annual Slavic Festival. The week finished with a brief Introduction to the Russian Language taught by Vinchenzio Martinus di Mazza.
There were a lot of classes added during the week. Apologies to anyone I missed. Some people are already thinking about classes they would like to teach next year. Plans include a different class introducing the Russian language, this time with an emphasis on period Russian instead of modern Russian.
By Ilyana Barsova
For those of you who missed it (and those of us who couldn't hear over the storm going on), here is a synopsis of the Russian Betrothal ceremony which was held this Pennsic.
The betrothal ceremony began with a brief explanation of what was going to take place for those who didn't realize what they had walked in on. After explaining that Paul only understood English and that the Russians were only speaking "Russian" with Mordak providing translation between the parties, the Amateur Slavic Players, as I like to call ourselves, got down to business (for those of you not in the know, this was all rather ironic due to the fact that Paul was the only one among the cast that was fluent in Russian).
The cast: the blushing bride, Ilyana Barsova; the unctuous uncle, Mordak Timofei'evich Rostovskogo; the greedy bridegroom, Paul Wickenden; the meritorious matchmaker, Yelizaveta Medvedeva; and the scrupulous scribe, Peotr Alexeivich.
Mordak and Paul went over the items they had previously worked out concerning the betrothal and negotiated some final details. Paul wondered about the size of the dowry and sought some more details from Mordak. Paul was concerned if Ilyana could count or not and if she could handle servants and manage a household efficiently. Mordak assured him that not only could she count, she had been taking care of one of his estates for quite a few successful years. Ilyana also knew how to properly discipline the servants and would be sure only to bruise, not maim. Paul replied that he had heard that Russians were good at this sort of thing. Paul asked for more dowry, especially now that he would have three more mouths to feed (see contract below). Mordak promised him many sable and beaver furs, which Paul could sell. Paul complained that his wife would only be speaking gibberish and Mordak placated him with silk fabric and jeweled and pearled garments , which he then displayed for all to see. The deal was finally cinched when Mordak assured Paul he would receive 100 head of cattle. Or rather, he said not to worry about it. Hmm....
The matchmaker, acting on behalf of the bride's welfare, expressed concern over how Ilyana would suffer spiritually, particularly since as a good Orthodox, she was not allowed in the heathen churches that filled Paul's land. Mordak translated this for Paul (telling him that all the fuss was merely over some 'female matters') and assured the women that the Priest had given permission for Ilyana to attend the churches in Paul's land, but only in order to keep her mother-in-law company as a dutiful daughter-in-law should. The scribe then read the (finally) completed document and Mordak translated what was being read to Paul. At this point the rain started to come down very heavily (an omen perhaps?). Paul wanted to make certain that the 100 head of cattle were included in the document and Mordak once again said, "don't worry, it will be taken care of." The two parties signed and all rejoiced (except maybe the bride, who now has to go to some heathen land and learn a foreign tongue and put up with this dirty, smelly, unwashed 'Aangleeshmun' and his mother. Oi!).
Many thanks to the kind gentle who didn't know he would be roped into taping the ceremony for us (sorry, I can't remember who did this) and also big thanks go to everyone who gave us the unexpected betrothal gifts: to Yelizaveta for the facsimile copy of Fletcher's Of the Russe Commonwealth, to Maria Piekneplotno for the embroidered Polish linens, to the gentle who gifted us with the homebrew (potent stuff, since Paul forgot your name) and to anyone else we have carelessly forgotten.
One last request, would anyone who took pictures of the betrothal please send us copies?! We forgot to take any stills!
An Agreement for the Marriage of Ilyana Barsova to Paul Wickenden of Thanet
Lo, I, Mordak Timofei'evich Rostovskogo, uncle to Ilyana Barsova, have issued this memorandum, to him, Paul Wickenden of Thanet. I, Mordak, have agreed to give my niece in marriage to him, Paul. And I bless my niece with the Mercy of God: icons of the Most Holy Mother of God, and of the Blessed Saint Ol'ga; jewelry and pearls; embroidered linens for household use; tableware and glass vessels. And I also give for the dowry my two servant women, Marfitsa and Anusia, who are unmarried.
In addition, I give dowry clothes: a jeweled and pearled feriaz, wrought with goldwork, and many yards of silken fabrics. Also sables and other precious furs.
And I, Mordak, am to give my niece to him, Paul, to be married on the Day of the Dormition of the Most Holy Mother of God, and if I, Mordak, at that assigned date, do not give my niece, then I, Mordak, am to give my niece at another date, on Mikhailov day. And if I, Mordak, on these two dates which are written in this memorandum do not give my niece Ilyana to be married to Paul, or if Paul does not arrive to claim as his bride Ilyana, then the offending party will pay the other 50 grivna.
And Peotr Alexeivich, scribe, wrote this memorandum, at Mordak's order. To this agreement did Mordak Timofei'evich Rostovskogo and Paul Wickenden of Thanet affix their hands.
By Mordak Timofei'evich Rostovskogo
One of the great elements associated with Slavic research is uniqueness and room to do original research or make unique accouterments. With the mushrooming of communication between fellow Slavic personas among the many Kingdoms, the subject of period encampments seems to be gaining fresh momentum. The idea has been raised for years at Pennsic by Ilyana Barsova and now at Gulf Wars by Isabelle de Foix, often with scant feedback. While at Pennsic a few weeks ago, I started gathering ideas from various camps and coalescing them to possible plans.
The problem with having a Slavic camp for most folks seems to be three-fold. First, most of us have established groups we camp with. Second, there are rarely more than one or two of us at an event at once. Third, due to space, facility or climate most folks don't camp but two or three events a year. This said, I propose that we start smaller, with situations that are much more common in the SCA experience. Later, we can all use this knowledge to build towards a larger goal of the Slavic encampment at any of the many large outdoor events in the Known World.
The most common venue for most SCA folks is the day event, centered upon either the tourney area or an A&S function. These events are also predominantly indoors for most of the year. In my particular kingdom, this means the site is either a school, national guard armory or municipal building of either public or private nature. Other areas will have better climates or facilities for a larger proportion of outdoor daysites or even actual overnight camping. The southern United States from coast to coast and some areas out west immediately come to mind. For most of Canada, the northern United States and Europe, the situation often demands cramped indoor conditions.
This last situation calls for some creative compromises and equipment for "the Slavic indoor camp." Whether the space available is barely enough for two chairs and your associated gear or large enough for a small pavilion, you can make that area Slavic in nature. The extent and complexity of that decoration will differ according to personal means, talents and transportation space but I have seen several adaptations lately that seem to address these issues. Its also a great tool for recruiting and encouraging more Slavic personas in your area.
Make your space distinctly Slavic. If this means covering those ugly but comfortable event chairs, cooler or rug in a decorated or painted fabric, then do it! Another way to create a little easily transportable ambiance is to have a decorated panel behind your area. Since, at worst, most of these accessories will only act as decoration or even a sunshade, the use of heavy or bulky fabrics are not only unnecessary, but even counter-productive. Another idea is to make a lightweight 6' x 6' indoor pavilion with sectional rods that break down in size for easier packing. An excellent website to find easy construction plans for indoor pavilions and every other piece of period camp furniture can be found at http://www.dnaco.net/~arundel. Look for the articles by Charles Oakley.
Both the panel and the pavilion are freestanding, yet merely involve dowel rods, a drill and a few winged screws. You can even combine them by making the walls detachable using either velcro "buttons," snaps, lacing or hooks and eyes of various sizes. For instance, you could use your wall panel as the back wall of the indoor pavilion for a mural effect. These indoor pavilions are essentially a freestanding sunshade with room enough inside for your chairs and gear. You could even have a painted ground cloth of duck canvas or a painted/applique design on the top. It is sharp looking and easily broken down and packed into the car later.
One of the easiest and most period forms of decoration is fabric painting. Instead of making the common SCA mistake of using a glaringly white bedsheet , use a patterned cheap cotton or muslin fabric. Most fabric stores or chains will periodically have patterned or striped fabric in the $1-2 bins that should be quite serviceable. Another idea is block printing a design onto the fabric in either a repeating or border configuration. The central elements could even be cut out of scrap fabric and either sewn, glued or ironed onto the panel.
An idea I personally plan to use involves getting a couple yards of craft felt in several primary colors, ironing heat-bond on one side and then cutting the applique pieces out. Then all that remains is to arrange them on the fabric of your panels, seat covers, and so on and merely iron them on. No mess and so easy that even your kids or friends can participate. Best of all, craft felt and heat bond are cheap, have a high polyester so they won't rot in your basement or garage between events and felt decoration is extremely period. The colors are also usually quite bold and strong but will fade in full sun like all chemical dies do. I recommend the fabric center at Walmart for accessibility, selection and low price for these materials.
If you don't trust your artistic ability for the job, ask or bribe an artistic friend or local gentle. Artist types seem to be a plentiful resource in the SCA. Have them draw the parts for you design on construction paper as patterns. Then, you cut them out and can even use them as patterns to trace onto other items for painting or applique at a later date.
Look for Part II (outdoor Slavic camps for daysites) and Part III (possible plans for Slavic encampments at large SCA events) in future issues of Slovo.
By Isabelle de Foix
I first ran into the word "kokoshnik" on SIG-L. Someone wanted to learn how to make one. Needless to say, my first reaction was "what on earth is a kokoshnik?" A few notes later, I realized that it was a hat, and my curiosity was piqued. I have been making hats in the SCA for five or so years, but they were all after the style of the French. I was pretty bored with this and wanted a change, so I started to pester people with questions about how to make a kokoshnik, because I wanted one too!
I chose to use the Novgorod style for my first kokoshnik. The pillbox shape was very similar to the circlet-type hats I'd done, and it's much simpler than some of the other designs I'd seen, like those huge Muscovite kokoshniks. I chose blue velvet for my fabric. I saw the bright, beautiful blue velvet on the rack when I went to the fabric store, and I thought, presto, there's my fabric. I'd been advised to use either velvet or silk, and I prefer to work with velvet on hats. I use a fair amount of adhesive on my hats, and these work well on fabrics like velvet and velveteen, and abysmally on smoother fabrics. Then there was the issue of pearling the thing. I got some cheap imitation seed pearls at the fabric store. I have never done embroidery, and don't have a couch stitch. So I used the stitch I've used countless times on hats, the modified backstitch, for the beading. The trouble was, how on earth was I going to make the pattern for the beading? I took a piece of interfacing and cut it to the exact size of the blue front. I used an adhesive to bind the fabric to the interfacing. Then I drew the design on the interfacing. I'd seen some nice curvilinear beading designs for Russian beadwork, so I drew curvilinear shapes and geometrical ones like circles. Then I tackled the beadwork. I sewed on approximately 1,200 beads -- hey, who has time to count that many beads? Despite the messes and screw-ups of a kokoshnik novice, I thought it looked pretty spiffy when I got that done.
The biggest problem I had was the fitting of the hat to my head. I am used to using adhesive to bind hats together at the back, and I was very confused about how to make a tie-on hat. So I decided to play it safe again, and used the adhesive to bind the ends of the hat. I'd used the same length that I'd used with my circlet-type hats with this in mind. After this I strung up large faux pearls on a nylon thread, alternating with gold and pearl beads on two of the strands and alternating with silver and pearl on the other two. I attached these on both sides to the bottom of the hat so that they are very large loops hanging off of the hat, using another sort of adhesive, one that dries harder and is more resistant to the pressure of weight. Netting? I haven't figured it out yet!
Another sticking point was the stiffness. The interfacing I'd used for the pattern was as wimpy as paper. So before I cemented the ends together, I put three more layers of interfacing inside, even though, yes, I know the period kokoshniks were backed with leather. After I'd cemented the ends together and let the stuff dry, I tried it on for the first time, and I thought, hey, mission accomplished! No, it's not fit for the next A&S competition, but it's my first kokoshnik.
By Peotr Alexeivich
Come celebrate the Winter Solstice Russian style. Feast at Peotr and Otgon's (Greg Frux and Janet Morgan) at 11Sterling Place, Apt. 3A, Brooklyn, New York. Feast is Saturday, December 19. Cooking, zakuski and Russian videos about the Middle Ages (Sadko, Olga, Andrei Rublev) during the day as background. Feast served at dusk -- remember it gets dark early! Story telling, songs and mead drinking late into the night. Prizes for most authentic, best bawdy, best virgin bard and best overall.
Everyone in Medieval garb is welcome (we will try to follow Duke Caridoc's "Golden Chord" enclosing a true Medieval world). No admission fee, though donations of dishes and contributions to the Ostrov mead and yurt fund will be gratefully accepted.
As this is an apartment, though large, space will be limited. Mail or email (firstname.lastname@example.org) me to hold space. Maximum occupancy is around 40-45. Some crash space is available.
By Predslava Vydrina
We are quite used to questioning historical accuracy in Hollywood movies, but when it comes to Russian films, our ability to doubt is often suspended and we trust too much in the film makers. The Russian film, Alexander Nevsky, whose plot is based on a historical event is a good case in point.
Alexander Nevsky was recently re-mastered, the music by Prokofiev re-recorded, and the rejuvenated version aired (and is being re-broadcast as I write) on the cable network Bravo: the subtitles are now easier to read, the music is enjoyable, and the picture is clear. It is quite an interesting exercise in film making, but that is another story.
There are a good number of accurate, or reasonably accurate, details: the general look of the fortifications and of the Russian cities, the weapons and armor, most of the costumes, and of course the Ice Massacre on Lake Peipus, which indeed took place in 1242. Whether it took place exactly as described in the movie is another matter, but it is also a matter of scholarly dispute -- and therefore not our immediate concern.
The names are well chosen: they are either those of people mentioned in the Chronicles, or names found in other primary sources. However, Vasilii Buslaev is an exception. Vasilii is indeed a period name, but Vasilii Buslaev is not a real person, but a hero of Russian epic songs. True, the songs in question are believed to be period, and to have survived practically unchanged until they were collected in the XIX century. But those are works of literature, and I find the appearance of the fictional Vasilii Buslaev in a film about actual XIII century events distracting and annoying. But that is my judgment.
Then there is the ideological slant: the movie was made in 1938 as a kind of psychological preparation for war with Germany. Therefore the Teutonic knights are despicable and evil to the point of caricature (the monk looks like a prototype for the Star Wars Emperor!). Of course, the rift between Aleksandr and Novgorod (Winter 1240 - Spring 1241) is presented as a result of the requisite class struggle rather than the conflict of personalities it must have been.
Some of the costumes are a little creative. Some female characters (such as the lovely maiden who cannot chose between her two suitors) wears a cloak over her tunic that looks like an ecclesiastical garment rather than an ordinary piece of clothing (I actually thought of copying it until I realized why it looked so familiar -- just peek into an Orthodox church during a service and you will know what I mean).
Aleksandr's banners all display mythological creatures. They are indeed medieval designs, but they are used to replace what was in reality on princely banners: icons and other images of saints and religious symbols. Possibly, also, Aleksandr's personal sigil. The beasts on the banners, however, are part of artistic design, not heraldry.
The emphasis on the disparity between the ordinary citizens and the "money-grabbing boyars" is also distracting, especially when the line is drawn between wealthy boyars and merchants on the one hand, and peasants on the other. What about craftsmen? They are bundled together with the peasants, but that is of course incorrect: a city dweller would not have called himself, or allowed anyone to call him, a peasant.
Aleksandr's rousing nationalistic speeches are there only because of the ideological mandate of the movie -- they are not necessary to the plot, and they do not fit the historical facts. The concept of "Russia" as a unified whole appeared first with the Muscovite drive to unify the lands under its rule, a couple of centuries after Aleksandr Nevskii.
Aleksandr's call to "arm the peasants" is also unrealistic: Novgorod's troops consisted of levees, in addition to the Prince's own trained regular company, therefore the arming of Novgorod is not as unusual as the movies makes it: Novgorodians regularly armed themselves when necessary, just as modern nations do.
And the numbers of men in both armies are equally creative. Although the Novgorod Chronicles give a large number of dead and captured enemies (400 and 50 German knights, respectively) on Lake Peipus, modern historians note that the Livonian Rhymed Chronicle puts the totals at 20 dead and 6 captured knights. The Russian number may include men-at-arms, but even so, must be grossly inflated. But then mass scenes were the staple of Soviet film making...
Now, having soundly criticized this film, I say to you: do go watch this movie, enjoy it if you wish -- it is intriguing and attractive in its own way. But do not forget to arm yourself with skepticism and a critical eye. Russian films and Hollywood productions do have something in common: they are entertainment, occasionally propaganda (well, maybe it's propaganda, occasionally entertainment, as far as Soviet movies go), but they are not essays on history.
The author of this book integrates modern and medieval history in a very interesting and readable way. Although only the first 100 pages deal directly with events in our period, early historical events are woven throughout the book into a thematic whole punctuated by a dozen maps and several fine illustrations.
Central Europe brings a refreshing perspective to issues of large-scale history. The book does not take a view of Russian, British, or German preeminence; neither does it focus on the minutiae of political leaders and national boundaries. Rather, there is a broader look at the ideas and events that pervaded the history of this region and the connections between them. Johnson brings geography, religion, and ethnicity together into a unique concept of Central Europe as a dynamic entity.
Unfortunately, one volume is too small a space to do justice to the entire breadth of history in this region, though it does provide a fine overall survey that introduces the big picture without dissolving into sweeping generalizations.
--Walraven van Nijmegen
What a pleasure to read a useful and well written book from outside the field of history. The publisher, Llewellyn Press, specializes in books about "magic", which is to say other people's belief systems. Slavic Sorcery uses an approach taken by modern anthropologists, that of the insider's point of view. Several texts are interwoven: the author's search for authentic Russian sorcery in contemporary St. Petersburg; a discussion of the little that is known of ancient beliefs and how they come down to us; and lastly, hands-on exercises in magical practice.
The author's modern quest takes some twists and turns. The seeming irrationality and arbitrariness of his teacher annoyed me in the way I was annoyed when reading Carlos Castenda many years ago. But then I realized that this is only right, in that magical beliefs are not necessarily a consistent or unified world view. In this he is simply recording the chaotic world of these beliefs.
One of his more apt observations is that we should not be put off by language referencing "Eastern" beliefs. Often it is merely a modern overlay on an ancient Slavic system. He says of his task of reconstruction, "Those who generally describe themselves as Pagans seem, at least to outward eyes, to be participant in a kind of costume party, inspired by old movies, Renaissance Faires and wild historical misunderstandings of European witchlore -- frustrated office workers dancing around the port-a-potty by the light of the silvery moon. What else can one expect from a tradition that has been reconstructed out of old books?"
Much of the background material that follows is very well researched. I would call particular attention to Chapter 4 (Icons and Archetypes) which discusses the Russian Pagan pantheon. But as much as anything, I like the flavor, the atmosphere of this book. I feel that it took me closer to the Pagan mind. He reminds us that the Russians hold sacred house spirits, the trees and the rivers. This is a world full of open spaces, where everything is alive. In this, it is not very different than the world of the Twelfth Century Russian Epic "Song of Prince Igor."
The one serious flaw in Slavic Sorcery is its attempt to draw universals from the specific beliefs of one culture. This, I assume, is the influence of Joseph Campbell and before him Jung. In places the gods are hammered into triads, polarities, and so on. Up to a point this may help our understanding, and beyond it deadens it. You can see this especially in the exercises, or should I say meditations, which appears to stray furthest from source material. Fortunately, the author displays a good amount of rigor and these detours are limited.
-- Peotr Alexeivich
Two books in Cambridge University Press's recent catalog:
There will be a meeting of SIG next year at Gulf Wars. It is tentatively scheduled for Saturday, March 13th at 2pm with the site to be announced. Details will be forthcoming in the Winter Slovo or you can contact the coordinator, Isabelle de Foix (Patricia Hefner, 2835 Berwick Rd, Birmingham AL 35213, 205-933-7899, email@example.com).
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The original authors retain the rights to their works. Please contact them directly for permission to reprint. Uncredited material is the property of the publisher.
The publisher and editor is Paul Wickenden of Thanet (Paul Goldschmidt), 802 Bowman Ave, Madison WI 53716, 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. Slovo is also available on-line at the Interest Group website (vms.www.uwplatt.edu/~goldschp/slavic.ht ml).