Fall AS XXXVIII (2003)
Volume IX, Issue 1 (#32)

From the Nachalnik

Welcome to the first issue of our 9th year of existence. I'll open with my usual plea for submissions. I no longer have a backlog of material to draw upon and getting enough for each issue is proving more and more difficult. We're interested in almost anything. The major restrictions (besides good taste) are length. I prefer short pieces or longer articles that can be serialized in 2-3 short parts. The next deadline is January 1, 2004, but feel free to send me material as you have time. I'd be happy to stow it away for the next issue.

My thanks to the contributors and especially to Jadwiga for her account of Pennsic, which I missed again this year. Sounds like it was good fun!

SIG Meeting at Pennsic

By Jadwiga Zajaczkowa

Despite some confusion about the date of the Slavic Interest Group Meeting-- probably caused by me-- we did have an excellent turnout.

Mordak brought his best garb, his fur lined coat, and an elegantly Russian-garbed lady (my memory for names is NOT at all good!) He will have to tell you more about the garb, all I remember is a fully lined (with raccoon fur recycled coat pieces) silk (?) gold patterned coat designed to hang ostentatiously over the shoulders; the lovely gold/green slippers the lady was wearing; the amazing headpiece (with pearls) and the excellent work of Mordak's apprentice (Anastasia). Also Mordak brought some birch-bark shoes that a friend had bought him in Russia.

Mistress Randall, a Hungarian persona from the East Kingdom, showed up with some books on Hungarian garb and illumination to share-- wonderful finds, as she has said at previous SIG group meetings that she was tempted to believe the Hungarians of her period went naked, considering how little documentation there is.

There were a number of people attending who had Polish personas, including a gentleman on his way to Poland to take a position in an organization doing Napoelonic war-era living history exhibits.

Lively discussion about both Polish and Bohemian resources, including material about the Hussites, ensued.

I'm sure I'm missing a lot. Among other things, we should all send updates to Paul for the annotated bibliography.

Speaking of the bibliography, I spoke with the SCA Chief Information Officer, and we are cooking up a plan to put up an annotated bibliography database that is searchable, and can be limited to material put in by different contributing groups... anyone interested?

The Maiden's Lament

By Mordak Timofeyvich Rostovskogo

[Modeled after the Cossack song, "The Pony by the Lane")

The wind whispers through the trees and I await my love,
The creek gurgles outside my window, flowing to the rivers crisscrossing the land,
Traveling to distant lands, lands where my love may be,
Still I wait, dreaming of where my love may be, thinking of me as I do of him,
And still I can hear the wind whispering through the trees.

In my memories my love still smiles, a twinkle in his eye,
In my heart my love still laughs, a joke on his lips,
In my soul my love still lives, his warmth still in my skin,
Does he still remember our rides on the endless steppe,
Does he still dream of our walks among the birch and the touch of hand in hand?

On the river bank I often sit, dreaming of my love,
Summer's warm winds washing over me and I dream and remember,
My long maiden's braid longing to be coiled under a married woman's scarf,
Awaiting my love's familiar voice, the tread of his shoes on the path,
Returning to me at the end of the day, tired and wearied by the day's work, back to my embrace.

Nierzadem Polska Stoi (By Unrule Poland Stands): A Comparison of Western and Polish Feudalism in the Middle Ages: Part One

By Zygmunt z Nadratowo

The term feudalism conjures up a set of powerful images. Most often these are images of power: the ownership of one noble over those who, through the unlucky happenstance of birth, happen to be less Gentle than others. Feudalism brings to mind a system of servitude and bondage to nobility, peasant poverty contrasting against nobility's riches. Authors today still use the term in this fashion. However, this term can be misleading. At best it is a generality. The term feudalism never existed during the Middle Ages. Even the meaning of the word is unclear. And the nobles, who were engaged in the system of homage and vassalage during that time, never thought of themselves as feudal. Still, the term causes an automatic linkage with a hierarchical and oppressive system. Certainly that is how French Radicals and Karl Marx understood it. This image holds true for many countries in Europe, but not for all.

When Charlemagne became king (ruling from 768 to 814), he brought an end to nearly 400 years of chaos that resulted from the disappearance of Roman order. He invented the system of feudalism to consolidate his power spread throughout Europe. Yet, in the basin between the rivers Oder and Vistula, it failed to take root. The tribes that lived in that area would later form, along with the Balts, Sorbs and other Slavic tribes, into the land known as Poland. They would escape the influence of western European feudalism and forge their own unique system of governance. It is the purpose of these articles to explore those causes and show the unique character of government in medieval Poland.

Early Poland

People have been living in the Vistula river basin from Stone Age times. These people lived in tribal units, farming or herding animals. The first mention of Slavic peoples was made by Pliny and his contemporaries, referring to them as veneti. The Romans knew little about the peoples living in Poland. In 178-9 AD, a cohort of 850 men camped through the winter in the area around Trencin in Moravia after having completed a punitive campaign against some Teuton tribesman. While the Romans were in contact with them long enough to name them and trade with them for amber, they were otherwise occupied and never bothered to give them the gift of a legion or two. While some Roman ideas crossed the culture line, the ideas contained in the pax romana were not among them.

When Charlemagne became king in 800 AD, the Slavic tribes along his eastern border were large but fragmented. This helped him consolidate his power in his newly won lands. He established a series of fortifications along that border (the limes sorabicus). The line also was an ethnic border as well - the peoples west of this line, some of them Slavic, were Germanized. Charlemagne turned his attention to consolidating his power and Germanizing his new subjects, and left the Slavs east of the limes alone. Geography also influenced him, as it had the Romans, with the thick forests that made up the eastern border of Charlemagne's realm hindering the advance of an army. In addition, on the Polish side of the Oder, the system of lakes and rivers all favored the Slavic defenders (This is not to say that the rivers were impassable, only a deterrent, as later invasions were to demonstrate. The eastern forests and tribes in that area served to act as a buffer for the Polanie tribe, which later assimilated the other local Slavic tribes and formed the nascent Polish kingdom).

Thus relatively unmolested, they continued on as they had before. Without an external threat and buffered in the west by other Slavic tribes, there was no reason for the tribes living in central Poland to develop a centralized government. Later one tribe, the Polanie (the word means "people of the field"), became dominant and absorbed the others and gave their name to the country. They did develop a state, called Greater Moravia and ruled by a warlord named Mojmir, but it was not a true centralized government like its contemporaries. It was short lived, lasting from 830 to 906AD, when Magyar invaders overthrew it.

Spirit Song

By Kinjal of Moravia

The fearful wind whispers through the broken reeds, Hugo - Hugo
Hear the tiny claws scramble on cold hard stones, beware, beware.
Listen to the story of the Jouvenal sword, attend, attend

Dread silence crashes in the flashing gloom,
while eagles hide with mist shorn wings,
and a floating sword carves truth from sin
to pay debt to the ghost of Jouvenal.

The castle had stood a thousand years
to turn Persians and Mongols aside.
The towers were tall 'round a hidden well
and mossy stones within thorns did hide.
Myth said twas mortared with virgin blood
with a ring moat of serpents and tear.

Dread silence crashes in the flashing gloom
while brave knights swear fealty anew.
Purpose and honor should inspire them
to match the life of Jouvenal.

Sir Hugo remained while four rode out
to claim full pride of a battle guard.
By lot his fate was to guard the gate
with less valor sure for bloodless sword.
"Safe return my friends," he cried anon
"The gate awaits those without fear.

Their race came stride their foaming steeds,
three dead in saddle and comrade dear.
"Betrayed," he cried with parting breath.
"Preserve our pledge, quick - prepare."
Hugo strode out 'fore postern gate,
spear and shield stood forever near.

Dread silence crashes in the flashing gloom
for a blood quest is honor bound,
and such treachery must quick renounce
or face the wrath of young Jouvenal.

Baron turned coward crested the hill
leading ranks of minions most foul.
Nothing stood 'tween his covet tower
but slender knight called Jouvenal.
His charged intent hardly slacked
as archers called he from the rear.

The crossbow has but two hundred range,
while the Sythian bow crosses three.
In motion swift as a falcon wing
six arrows set these archers free.
Then followed the Baron's favored horse
and two squire sons he held so dear.

Dread silence crashes in the flashing gloom
where evil is met with more sure portent.
So bold are they two hundred to one,
but quick to their heels from Jouvenal.

The milling throng did distant withdraw
to curse this blight to well laid plan.
But none would stride upon the road
where Jouvenal did protect his clan.
Yet chivalry did provide relief
for single challenge did honor share.

A knight strode down the rutted road
with shield and banner lofted high.
Sir Hugo met with buckler and sword,
with courage found one cannot deny.
The sparks did match the flow of blood
from fallen knight 'neath Hugo's glare.

Another fine knight approached the field
to clank in the dust before the keep.
Five more in turn did quick battle meet,
and each in turn made a widow weep.
But each defeat took a bitter toll
of strength and blood beyond repair.

Dread silence crashes in the flashing gloom
where valor designs its own defeat.
A warrior slow wounded in victory
will match the sad fate of Jouvenal.

As he fell to knees, no foe ahead
Sir Hugo cried out to comrades down.
"Support me now in oath and quest
to carry this day - defend the crown."
Dead comrades all did answer the call
bound by fine will each could share.

The sword swept up from the stricken hand
to dance in the air with spinning light,
to vanquish each challenge evil bent,
and none could pass dead Hugo's might.
New souls departed were two score more
before all ran from the Baron's care.

The sword still stands before open gate
imbedded in stone than none can take.
Good will can pass with contented heart,
giving a prayer for courage sake,
but evil does shrivel and run away
from symbol of shame they must beware.

Dread silence crashes in the flashing gloom
where sword of Hugo defends the gate.
Where honor is sacred to comrades
you will find the spirit of Jouvenal.
Jouvenal - Jouvenal

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@yahoo.com. 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 (slavic.freeservers.com).