Fall AS XXXIV (1999)
Volume V, Issue 1 (#16)

Greetings from Pennsic

From the Nachalnik

The latest stats put us at around 250 members. Our homepage gets about 30 hits a day and has had nearly 1500 visits (at the time I write this) since July when I set up the new counter. Wow!

New Web Page Materials. For those of you who are on-line, we have several major new additions. Per request, I have added a page about the childhood artwork of Onfim, a 13th century Novgorodite. I have also mounted scans of all 80 or so illuminated pages of the Life of St Alexander Nevskii. Finally, The Onion has allowed us to be the permanent home for the "SCA Seizes Russia" article (which you may recall I have an appearance in!). All of these items are available from the homepage (www.uwplatt.edu/~goldschp/slavic.html).

Walraven has now set up a Croatian knowledge page (www.geocities.com/Athens/1336/croatia/ ) and a Baltic States knowledge page (www.geocities.com/Athens/1336/baltic/) to add to our growing collection of regional "knowledge" pages. There is also a picture gallery to display Slavic items, member photos, and for anything else you can think of. It is at www.sit.wisc.edu/~jdmiller2/gallery/ index.html

If you would like to add anything to it, send them to Ilyana Barsova (jdmiller2@students.wisc.edu)

Mordak. We have several peers in the Group already but I hope you'll indulge me for giving a special place to announce the elevation of Mordak Timofei'evich Rostovskogo a few weeks ago. Mordak has been a prolific and tireless contributor to this Group and we hope that he will keep up the good work. Which brings me to my next subject....

Call for Articles. I will bug people again about this later, but this quarter's Slovo is a bit thin on material and I've used up most of my backlog. We will really need some contributions for the Winter issue (deadline 1/1/00). Remember, it does not have to be anything big. Book reviews and short articles are my favorites.

Finances. As we enter our fifth year (any thoughts for a special 5th anniversary party at next Pennsic?), we experience a few growing pains. One of the serious ones that we need to address in financial. I've been trying to run the Group completely for free because a) it encourages everyone to join; and b) it lessens the potential legal liabilities I take on. We've managed so far on donations. They hardly ever cover the entire cost of producing the Newsletter, but they help. People who read this on-line do not cost us anything but anyone who receives the Slovo by surface mail runs us about $4 a year on average (0.89 for US domestic/issue; 1.08 for Canadians; and $1.56 for foreign overseas). That adds up to about $65 an issue or $260 a year. Annual donations add up to about $50 a year, so I chip in a little over $200 a year to make this work.

One solution would be to simply start charging for surface mail subscribers, but I'm still averse to doing so. However, I would like to put out a plea to anyone who does receive the Slovo in paper format. If you have not made a financial contribution to SIG recently, would you consider doing so now (using the $4/year guideline I calculated above as a rough guide)? The longer we can keep this going through voluntary donations, the better chance we have of reaching everyone. And, by the way, donations from anyone would be greatly appreciated!

While I'm on the subject, let me thank this quarter's donators. We were pleased to receive money to produce this quarter's Slovo from Birgit av Birka, Maria Piknepotno, Katherine, and Smirenka.

Pennsic XXVIII

By Ilyana Barsova and Paul Wickenden of Thanet

Several Slavic-themed classes were available at Pennsic this year, although not as many as in previous years. Paul introduced us to "Period Russian Language" and Peotr told us (in persona, no less) about Slavery in Kievan Rus'. He even had some "slaves" for us to view at the end of class! A class on the modern Russian language was taught by Brigette.

We held our fifth annual Pennsic brainstorm session again this year. We probably had about 40 people show up for it. Bogdan pointed out that Eurocon will be held in Gdansk, Poland next year (for anyone who wants to skip out on Pennsic). He also recommended that anyone with an interest in Orthodoxy consider an overnight visit to the Jordanville monastery in New York. Stefan the Wanderer told us about the adventures of our sorely missed Kolozszvári Árpád who has brought back many books from Hungary (hopefully we will get him to share them with us!) and brought to our attention a book called 500 Years of Hungarian Heraldry which covers a great deal of period heraldic material. Margaritsa asked for help finding material on the Ukrainian region prior to the time of Kiev. Tyrvar offered to share stories and pictures of his conquests of Eastern European castles (he has been "claiming" them for the SCA over the past couple of years). He also asked for help from (and offered help to) anyone interested in Polish religion and culture. Kathy mentioned two groups that could be of assistance to people with Polish personae: the Polish Home Associations and the Polish National Alliance. Marisha Karola brought to our attention a store called "Alex's European Grocery" in Pittsburgh that sells Eastern European foods. Magdalena told us about an outfit called Magyar Marketing (see details in the "Resources" section) that sells Hungarian materials. Keran Rosin informed us that St Barton's Cathedral in Watertown MA has a library and bookstore which may prove useful. Katheryne of Krings Keep introduced herself and the book on Polish names that she is writing.

The Slavic and Hungarian (and Romanian, and Transylvanian, and assorted others) Party also went off well. About 60 people total showed up (not all at once) and the tent was comfortably filled, although we did have more room available if we needed it. We had a small spread of period treats including gingerbrede, hais, hulwah and prince biskit. Also available were chips and salsa (left over from our camp's Celtic Happy Hour the night before) and homemade kvas. The only thing left at the end of the night was some salsa and the dregs of the kvas. I pushed the kvas on everyone that I saw and got comments ranging from "not bad" to "really good". The native Slavs in attendance said that it was good stuff, so at least I now know it turned out correctly. A big thanks goes to Bogdan for making the excellent-tasting period nibbles! Katryna brought her (and Jadwiga's) collection of Polish, Russian and other books for people to look at and Tamara brought some books, Russian craft items, and modern Russian music as background. Luckily the absence of our traditional musicians did not keep the attendees from enjoying themselves. People were still sitting around and talking when Paul and I stumbled out of the tent around 11 o'clock.

Wild Animals in Ancient Rus

By Peotr Alexeivich Novgorodski

Europe at the first millennium still had vast tracts of wilderness. The mega fauna of these primeval forests are now rare or extinct. Grolier's Endangered Species Encyclopedia says, "During the last centuries most the original European biotypes have been either destroyed or irreversibly altered, causing inevitable changes in plant and animal habitats."

Echoes of what was lost and what has changed are found in several documents from Kievan Rus. The Testament of Vladimir Monomach (circa 1125) says: "I devoted much energy to hunting as long as I reigned in Chernigov. Since I left Chernigov, even up to the present time, I have made a practice of hunting a hundred times a year with all my strength, and without harm, apart from a certain hunt after bison, since I had been accustomed to chase every sort of game in my father's company. At Chernigov, I even bound wild horses with my bare hands or captured ten or twenty live horses with the lasso, and besides that, while riding along the Ros', I caught these same wild horses barehanded. Two bison tossed me and my horse on their horns, a stag once gored me, a boar tore my sword from my thigh, a bear on one occasion bit my kneecap, and another wild beast jumped on my flank and threw my horse with me. But God preserved me unharmed."

The natural world is also strongly evoked in the epic Song of Prince Igor's Campaign (1185) which uses numerous animal metaphors. Wild animals mentioned include wolf, fox, ermine, raven, falcon, swan, eagle, nightingale, hawk, crow, cuckoo, magpie and woodpecker. Indeed, Igor's brother himself is nicknamed or identified with the wild bull or ox.

Of the animals mentioned in the above passages two are now extinct and a number are rare in Europe. The European wild horse or tarpan (Equus caballus) which Prince Vladimir captured was a short stocky animal with a tan coat and short black mane. It once ranged the forests and steppes of Eastern Europe. This primitive horse was hunted to extinction for food. The last recorded animal died in the Ukraine in 1876. Although some biologists believe that the Przewalski horse which survives in remote Central Asia may be the same species as the tarpan.

The wild ox or auroch (Bos primigenius), that Vsevelod was named after, was well known in the ancient world. The animal stood six feet high at the shoulder, with a blackish brown pelt, long sharp horns that swept out and forward, then upward and in. Cows were lighter brown and the calves reddish color. The aurochs lived in small herds in the forest, browsing on vegetation, acorns and nuts; venturing into the open in the summer. By the 1400s aurochs were hunted to extinction in most of Europe except Poland. There, small herds survived until 1627.

The bison that nearly killed Prince Vladimir almost went extinct as well. The European bison or wisent (Bison bonasus) is closely related to the American buffalo. It is taller and less stocky that than the North American animal and subsists mostly on leaves. The preservation of the wisent is an epic in conservation history beginning the Middle Ages and stretching through World War II. The wisent suffered the same decline as the auroch and tarpan due to hunting and clearing of land. Remnant herds lasted into the twentieth century in Poland. In the chaos after the First World War all the remaining wild wisent were destroyed, but 55 remained in various zoos. International efforts followed and restoration work has yielded results -- today there are several thousand animals worldwide including herds in the hundreds in Poland and Belarus.

Brown bears (Ursus arctos) and wolves (Canis lupus), also mentioned in Vladimir's Testament were both species once common throughout the Northern Hemisphere. These animals still exist in the more remote parts of Europe, with substantial numbers of wolves in the Romania, Poland, Ukraine and Russia. Animals relatively rare in modern Europe that were likely common in the Kievan period include moose and elk (Alces alces), beaver (Castor fiber) and lynx (Felis lynx). Other important animals found in Eastern European forests are red deer (Cervus elaphus), roe deer (Capreolus capreolus), otter (Lutra lutra), fox (Vulpes vulpes), marten (Martes martes), badger (Meles meles), ermine (Mustela erminea) and wild boar (Sus scrofa).

Some significant birds of the region include the corncrake (Crex crex), white-tailed eagle (Haliaetus albicilla), white stork (Ciconia ciconia), the black stork (Cioconia nigra), peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus), eagle owl (Bubo bubo), Pomeranian eagle (Aquila pomarina), spotted eagle (Aquila clanga), booted eagle (Hieraeetus pennatus), tawny owl (Strix aluco), pygmy owl (Glaucidium passerinum), three-toed woodpecker (Picoides tridactylus), white-backed woodpecker (Dendrocopus leucotos), crane (Grus grus), nutcracker (Nucifraga caryocatactes), red-breasted flycatcher (Muscicapa parva), and raven.

Would it not be wonderful to see that landscape of ancient Rus undisturbed by the intervening centuries? Oddly enough such a place exists. Belovezhskaya Pushcha/Bialowieza Forest is an UNESCO World Heritage Site on the border of Poland and Belarus where bison and other historic species still roam. This primeval forest retains spruce, linden and ash over 150 feet high and oak trees of nine-foot diameter. The first recorded piece of legislation on the protection of the forest covered this land and dates from 1538. The forest was declared a hunting reserve in 1541 for the protection of European bison. In this place, by good fortune, we have a snap shot of primeval Europe, along with most of its original animals.


1. Identification of species is tricky using vernacular names (as opposed to scientific names), doubly so because I am reading English not Russian texts. My correlation with medieval texts should be taken as reasonable inferences rather than fact.

2. An interesting project is underway for the genetic recreation of the extinct Tarpan. The Polish government created a preserve for animals descended from the wild Tarpan at a forest in Bialowieza. Over the years this herd has developed more and more Tarpan characteristics. Today this breed is sometimes referred to as the Polish Primitive Horse. For more information see www.ansi.okstate.edu/breeds/horses/tarpan/

3. For more information on the Belovezhskaya Pushcha/Bialowieza Forest, start with the following site which has excellent links (www.unesco.org/whc/sites/627.htm). Superb pictures can be found at www.sll.fi/TRN/Bialowieza/Bialow.html

Common Czech Names of the 15th & 16th Centuries

By Walraven van Nijmegen (Brian R. Speer)

[Editor's note: this is republished from the Academy of St Gabriel site (www.panix.com/~mittle/names/ walraven/lateczech/), with permission of the author.]

The names in this list were found in František Kopen, Pruvodce Našimi Jmény, 2nd ed. (Praha: Academia, 1991). Unfortunately, this book is in Czech (which I can't read), but there is a general discussion of the history of Czech names to introduce the book. Pages 14-15 include a summary of the most common names from several sources of the 15th and 16th century, and it is this material which is summarized here. English equivalents are given in square brackets after some names.

Researchers interested in dated examples or early spellings of names will be disappointed by the rest of the book. Most spellings are the standard modern ones, and few of the entries in this book have any examples or citations. However, I have found the book useful for identifying the gender and origin of modern Czech names. All spellings given in the list below are the standard modern ones, and are not necessarily those used before 1600.

Common Masculine Names: The following names were used by 50% to 60% of Czech men in the 15th & 16th centuries. In all the sources, Jan was consistently the most popular name, accounting for 15% to 27% of the men's names in any sample. Other names varied in popularity at different times. The list includes: Jakub [Jacob]; Jan [John]; Jií; Martin; Matj [Matthew]; Matouš (16 c only); Mikuláš [Nicholas]; Ondj (16 c only) [Andrew]; Pavel (16 c only) [Paul]; Petr [Peter]; Václav.

Common Feminine Names: The following names were used by 60% or more of Czech women recorded in the 15th & 16th centuries: Albta [Elizabeth]; Anna; Dorota [Dorothy]; Kateina [Catherine]; Klára; Ludmila; Magdaléna; Markéta [Margaret].

Book Reviews

  • Dembinska, Maria. Food and Drink in Medieval Poland. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, 1999.

    For those who have been ravenously searching for material on medieval Polish (and Eastern European) foodways, this volume is good news and bad news. The good news is, it's the best resource on eating habits in Poland available in English. The bad news is, it has several serious flaws, the biggest being that the recipes given in the text are neither reproductions nor redactions of period recipes, but attempts to re-create dishes using period methods, documentation from menus and purchase records, and foreign cookbooks of the time.

    The original work on which this volume is based was the 1963 thesis of Maria Dembinska, one of the most well known Polish food historians, who died in 1996. William Woys Weaver worked with Ms. Dembinska to adapt the translated work, removing some of the larger sections of tables and footnotes, and adding appropriate material from her later works, as well as adding material on Cypriot and other possible influences. Weaver does an excellent job in the introduction of explaining which parts he added.

    The body of the book is in four chapters. The first, "Toward a Definition of Polish National Cookery", gives a good review of the underlying assumptions of the book and a description of living conditions and foreign influences on medieval Polish foodways. But it also exposes the main methodological weakness of the work: the emphasis on a "national" cuisine. This work would be even more helpful if Dembinska had simply outlined the material on cookery of related cultures at her disposal, rather than trying to squeeze it into a definition of 'Polish' cuisine, and perhaps relied a little less on modern Polish ethnography as well. Nonetheless, it is a helpful review of the literature and gives some useful insights, such as the role of meat in peasant diet, the question of standard of living rather than social class as a distinguishing feature in diet, and the Byzantine, Italian, Hungarian, Swedish, Turkish and Russian influences on Polish cuisine.

    The second chapter, "Poland in the Middle Ages", gives a tidy little history of Poland, but includes some interesting sidelights of economic history, such as the change to "German law" land tenure, the polyglot nature of late medieval Polish culture, and the role of the lesser nobility. Of special interest is the analysis of the congress at Cracow in 1364, though materials on what the assembled royals ate at their feasts are, sadly, not available. (There's a good discussion of forks, though!)

    "Dramatis Personae of the Old Polish Table", the third chapter, is a gold mine for SCAdians. Not only does it give a detailed listing of the officials and servants (and their titles) who were involved with food preparation in the Jagiellonian royal entourage, but it gives vignettes of specific instances of food consumption. It's fascinating that all but the very highest at table ate leftovers from the high table; that at least one academic dinner was just as overpriced and underbudgeted as modern ones, and that the legendary "highly-spiced" medieval food may have been made that way to encourage digestion of large, heavy meals. In addition, Dembinska lists the names and descriptions of a wide variety of kitchen tools and equipment known in the inventories of the Polish kitchens.

    The final chapter, "Food and Drink in Medieval Poland," covers each type of food and drink in turn. We learn that the two main meals were the prandium (eaten between 9 and 10 a.m) and coena (eaten between 5 and 7 p.m.), and that they were generally similar; that Wednesdays and Fridays, and Lent, were meatless days, but special feast days were, well feasts. The most common drink, Dembinska says, would have been wheat beer and small beer, followed by wine and mead. Poles ate meat on a daily basis -- bacon and pork the most, followed by beef, poultry, and, on meatless days, a wide variety of fresh and salt fish. Game was not common, but highly esteemed and used as gifts and rewards. The majority of the diet was made up of grains, either in bread or cooked as gruels. Millet was the primary grain dish either as groats or flour, oats being an 11th century innovation, and barley a 15th century import. Bread was generally made with rye and wheat flours, and wheaten rolls were for sale in the streets. Vegetables were common also: "the daily menu in Poland included at least one vegetable, either as a side dish or as an ingredient in a one-pot recipe." Dembinska lists onions, lentils, field peas, cabbage, fava beans and bean greens (among peasants), kale, white carrots, beets, parsnips, alexanders, skirrets, turnips, radishes, cucumbers and melons, as well as mushrooms. Curiously enough, beet soup was not documented, but a borsht-like soup made from cow parsnips was eaten. Sauerkraut is common, but pickled cucumbers can only be documented to the 16th century. Neither modern bigos (game stew) or pirogi (dumplings) can be documented to the period either. Most fruit was eaten cooked -- apples, pears, plums and cherries were the most common, with wild strawberries and blueberries showing up in the records also. Dembinska also highlights many of the spices used.

    The second half of the book, "Medieval Recipes in the Polish Style" by Weaver, is a fascinating yet frustrating experience. Each recipe includes wonderful information about the ingredients and techniques, and is carefully detailed, making the recipes easy to follow. But the sources and inspirations are not documented. Especially educational are the notes on "Wroclaw Trencher Bread," giving details on how bread was baked, regulated, and made into trenchers; the "Thick Beer or Sourdough Starter;" and the directions for spit-roasting in "Hungarian-Style Spit-Roasted Shoulder of Venison"; as well as directions for making "Saffron Wafers" over a charcoal grill! So far, I've only tried the "Pears Stewed with Cucumbers and Figs" but, documentable or not, they are delicious (though I keep wanting to add more spices than the recipe calls for; so much for the overspiced food discussion!).

    The multitude of illustrations -- including many of period kitchen equipment, either from woodcuts or drawn from archaelogical finds -- greatly adds to the value of the book. Though most of the books in the bibliography are not in Polish, it is still an excellent resource; and the UPenn Press apparently invested well in a good index to the entire volume.

    While it would be lovely to have the excised footnotes, and to have period recipes and documentation, this work still far outstrips the nearest competitor, Maria Lemnis's Old Polish Traditions in the Kitchen and at the Table, which gives tantalizing sections of information on Polish food habits interspersed with undated recipes, and which has neither bibliography nor useful references. As a starting point for constructing a medieval "Polish" meal, or talking about the foodways of Eastern Europe, it's excellent.

    -- Jadwiga Zajaczkowa

  • Medieval Literature of Poland: An Anthology. Translated by Michael J. Mikos. New York: Garland Publishing Inc, 1992.

    First let me say that this is probably the best book in my entire collection due to its excellent resources and structure. Michael Mikos starts out by giving a brief (26 page) background history to make you familiar with the state of affairs happening during the time this literature. He then separates out Secular and Religious Poetry, Chronicles, Prose and stories, explaining the difference of how Latin was actually the common language and that writing in Polish came later. The Roman Catholic church did this in such a way that they only had to write letters and doctrines in Latin and then regardless of where you lived, the individual priests would translate it into the local language (although Masses and many events remained in Latin until close to 1400 where Polish was first instituted in Masses).

    The translator of the Anthology goes on to list his resources and gives both a brief introduction (usually one paragraph) before the translated work and follows up with a very thorough footnote listing corresponding to the word or phrase in question in the work itself.

    The back of the book includes an extensive bibliography as well as several plates concerning locations in Poland, pictures of manuscripts and paintings (an especially nice one of a merchant who dances with death).

    The one overwhelming point that I did learn is that the church had such a huge impact on banding these individuals together, that it actually ran over into their secular life as well. Anyway, I do hope that others in the Slavic Interest Group get as much use out of this book as I did.

    -- Kythe Szubielka


  • Katheryne of Krings Keep (Katheryne Maeder, 721 Columbia St, Utica NY 13502, kringskeep@hotmail.com) mentioned at Pennsic that she knew a person who is selling a large number of Polish books on the net. The books are being sold by St Mary's College library in Orchard Lake, MI. The person to contact is Karen Majewski (profkaren@aol.com).

  • Magdalena Amacska (magdalenaamacska@hotmail.com) has found a place that sells various Hungarian crafts, among which are some very beautiful pottery made in a period style from a Hungarian village in Transylvania. The business is called Magyar Marketing and their address is: P.O. Box 2363, Youngstown OH 44509. Ask for a brochure.

  • Some new books of interest from Central European University Press on Hungarian history (c/o Books International, P.O. Box 605, Herndon VA 20172, 703-661-1500, mgreenwald@sorosny.org):

  • It has been mentioned many times before, but Facets Video (1517 W Fullerton Ave, Chicago IL 60614, 800-331-6197, www.facets.org) remains THE place to find good foreign films on video (* indicates availability in DVD as well):


  • Aethelred the Lothian (Tom Chelmowski, 224 Paseo del Volcan SW, Albuquerque NM 87121, 505-836-2646, tschelm@aol.com) is looking for information about the resistance of the Poles against the Mongols: "All that I can find is information about one battle led by a noble whose name I cannot spell (Weneslas?). What can I find concerning this person and the battle which he was in?"


  • Mordak informed us this summer that one of his "favorite SIG lurkers," Nickolas Grigorevich Petrov, was being knighted on July 17, 1999. "I'm currently busy making an appropriate caftan for him and consulting with his knight on appropriate Russian ceremonial ideas , though many other people are actually doing a huge amount of work as well. Sorry to gush, but I believe that he is the first Midrealm Knight with a Slavic persona and active SIG member to be elevated since our group began."

  • We've featured Russian and Polish language award texts so far, how about a Russyn version of the Midrealm's Dragon's Heart (kingdom-level service award):

  • Edgar de Raven from Poland informs us that their first Polish event (following SCA combat conventions) that was held in July was a success, with two members from Drachenwald in attendance and about 200 Polish participants.

    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, Slovo does not bear any intentional resemblance to anything that the SCA officially endorses.

    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), 3071 Cimarron Trail, Madison WI 53719, 608-288-0255, e-mail: goldschp@uwplatt.edu. 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 (www.uwplatt.edu/~goldschp/slavic.ht ml).