We missed the Winter issue this year for lack of material to publish and we almost missed the Spring issue as well for the same reason. An emergency call out to folks this past month however allowed us to gather up enough material to have an issue. Still, it was a bit tight. So, please don't hesitate if you have something you can submit. I generally prefer shorter pieces because they are easier for people to get through, but I'm willing to take just about anything of interest to fellow Slavic reenactors, and there have been some discussions of expanding the size of Slovo to accommodate larger pieces better, although right now, I do not think that getting too big has been a problem!
I have moved since the last issue. Please note my new contact information (just about everything has changed). Having joined the landed gentry, I can now be found at: Paul Goldschmidt, 5625 Highland Way, Middleton WI 53562, 608-827-6891, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Finally, it is time for us to celebrate our tenth anniversary. In 1994 (AS XXIX), at the Pennsic War, I held a class called "Researching Things Slavic" that was such a big hit that we decided afterwards to start up a group that would support people's effort to research the region. I will probably wax eloquently on the subject again in the Fall, but in the meantime, please consider coming to our tenth annual gathering at Pennsic. I probably will not be there as I am currently unemployed and counting my kopecks, but I hope as many of you who can will come. And perhaps the old timers can talk about the early days!
By Mordak Timofeyvich Rostovskogo
Hello, Everyone from 'dak, 2004 Pennsic Party Conspirator Master!
I have tentatively scheduled the Slavic Interest Group Celebration for Sunday (8/15) or Monday (8/16) after 6PM. I realize that these dates/times might not work for everyone but the Courts are on the other nights and I'm a fighter, so I selfishly scheduled it so I could attend, as I love and appreciate all of you and want to see you all again. I'll update you with a solid time and date when I get one.
I envision a brief meeting and then informal discussion, rumors, stories, etc., interspersed with noshing, drinking, music and laughter. In a perfect world some of you out there might be willing to lead some Slavic dancing.....This is more of a party and re-union of our warm little "family", our mir, than a ritualized meeting. I already have too many of those in my daily life, I refuse to do one on my vacation when fun is to be had!
By Olena Kukuruza
The art of decorating the pysanka has always been considered a holy and ritualistic task. In the past, belief in the power of the pysanka was so strong that prior to beginning the work, specific prayers were recited. These prayers guaranteed that the recipient of the pysanka would be endowed with a message of happiness, well-being, joy, good fortune and protection from harm.
Many ancient pre-Christian people believed that before anything else existed, there was only a great cosmic egg. Due to some unknown but definite will, this original cosmic egg began to expand throughout the primeval night until it burst, giving birth to all living things. Thus, the egg came to symbolize the greatest of all mysteries that humans could experience - the mystery of life.
It was believed that, in order to assist the world in remaining alive, powerful, and above all, good, it was essential to decorate eggs with the many symbols of fertility, power and life. During the spring cycle festivals, the ancient people used decorated eggs to welcome the sun and help the sun's rebirth into power and warmth, hence ensuring fertility of the fields, rivers, herds, and ultimately, of man.
For many centuries, the code of this highly symbolic art was handed down from mother to daughter as a conscious cultural heritage. The egg itself represents the original source of creation. Then there's the symbolism of individual motifs and colors, an integration of mankind's interrelationship with nature and God/desses. Christians adopted, adapted and integrated these various symbols and motifs with some new ones in the pysanka designs. Thus, a new symbolism was added to the cultural code. Actually, it was the interpretation that created much of the difference between pre-Christian and Christian symbolism.
In the folk life of Ukrainian people, the pysanka possesses talismanic and curative powers for humans and animals. Not only is the receipt of a pysanka a token of friendship, affection or high esteem, but it also brings with it protection from harm. Ancestors (also some present-day Ukrainians) believed that pysanky in the home bring good fortune, health, wealth, and protection from lightning and fire.
Since many Ukrainians were farmers and depended on nature for all their riches, traditions of the farmers were indeed interesting. For example, many farmers had a custom of rolling an egg in green oats and then burying it in the field to ensure a bountiful crop, unharmed by rain or wind. In spring, oxen and other beasts of burden would have their chests stroked with pysanky so that the harnesses would not rub them. The farmer would then bury the eggs in the soil of his field, often times at the beginning of the first furrow, and the end of the last furrow, to ensure a large, bountiful harvest for the year.
Pysanky were placed in mangers of cows and horses in the belief of ensuring safe calving and colting and a plentiful supply of milk for them. To encourage laying, they were placed in the nests of hens. An apiarist blessed each beehive with a pysanka and left one for a few days under the first beehive. Oftentimes, shepherds gathered spring flowers and wove vinky [garlands] which they placed on the heads of all the animals in their flock that had horns. They then set out to pasture with their flock, with a pysanka and a willow branch. What a beautiful sight it must've been!
I would like to thank my parents and the Ukrainian community at large for teaching me all I know about my Ukrainian heritage. Also, I would like to acknowledge the following authors for refreshing my memory with their books:
[Editor's note: This article is republished from Susannah West's quarterly Pysanky newsletter. The author, Olena Kukuruza, can be reached directly at shyDragon@worldwidewitches.org. As with all articles published in Slovo, all rights are reserved by the original author. Copyright Olena Kukuruza 2002]
By Jadwiga Zajaczkowa
[Editor's note: This article is excerpted from a larger piece that was part of a project originally entered in Northern Lights Pentathlon. The full article and pictures are available online at http://www.gallowglass.org/jadw iga/SCA/eggs/eggdyes.html]
I started wondering about period egg dyeing when Sarah bas Mordecai and I undertook to dye 35 dozen eggs with natural dyes for an event. My fancy was particularly caught by a reference to red Easter eggs in Russia (see below) and by the beautiful mahogany red we obtained from boiled onion skins. So I began investigating possible period dyestuffs and methods.
Colored eggs, including red and gilt eggs, can be documented to period as Easter gifts in a variety of cultures, but what dyes were used in period is unclear. One of the aims of this experiment is to determine what dyes might provide the best red and yellow colors and might be most plausible as the dyestuffs used for dyeing period Easter Eggs.
Solid-Color Dyed Eggs: Documentation.
Single solid colored eggs for Easter can be documented to at least the 13th Century. According to Veronica Newell, "One of the earliest known records of colouring Easter eggs comes from the household accounts of Edward I, dated 1290, which show an entry of 18d, spent on purchasing 459 eggs, to be coloured or covered with gold leaf and distributed to members of the royal household." p 219. [This reference cites William Hone, The Every-Day Book, London, 1837, i. 429] She continues: "In Poland itself the first written mention of painted eggs occurs in the thirteenth-century Chronicle of Archbishop Vincent Kadlubek: 'In distant times the Poles used to amuse themselves at the expense of their lords with coloured eggs [pictis ovis].'"
Newall gives a very comprehensive account of the use of dyed eggs in various cultures all over Europe and parts of Asia, over time. While dyed eggs and egg-related activities (such as egg rolling and egg-cracking fights) appear to be primarily associated with Easter by late period, they did appear in other contexts.
In Eastern Europe, colored egg-shaped items of various materials were found in various ancient tombs, and eggs appear to have been associated with burial customs in that part of the world over a long period of time. Sophie Knab, in Polish Customs, Traditions and Folklore, says, "The oldest written knowledge of pisanki [decorated eggs] at the graveside was documented in the life of St. Hedwig, which was penned after her canonization in 1267. The many miraculous healings attributed to this saint were documented by the wife of King Henryk Brodaty, who told the following story: When the son of a prominent judge was still unable to walk at eight years of age, his mother brought the boy to the grave of St. Hedwig in her arms and was praying to St. Hedwig to heal him when, lo!, a miracle happened. In the presence of the priest who baptized him and the abbess of the monastery, the boy suddenly stood up, took an egg that lay before him and walked around the saint's grave. The abbess took other decorated eggs and threw them at the feet of the young boy, compelling him to walk further from the tomb. This miracle is said to have happened near Easter between 1274 and 1287." (p. 107)
It's not clear whether the original refers to eggs decorated with symbols and multiple colors, which Poles now refer to as pisanki, or to single-color eggs, now referred to as krashanki.
Nor were colored eggs solely a Christian, Easter tradition: David Gitlitz and Linda Davidson quote Spanish Inquisition records referring to eating "Jewish red eggs".
I tried primarily red and yellow dyes for eggs, because red eggs are specifically mentioned in Eastern Europe, and gilded eggs are also mentioned. We do know that other colors of eggs (than red) were known and it seems a reasonable supposition that less well off people might choose yellow eggs to imitate the gilded ones. Newall says: " "It is interesting that much earlier (1557-8) Anthony Jenkinson observed that while the ordinary people of Russia carried red eggs at Easter, the gentry had theirs gilded." p. 220, citing Richard Hakluyt, apparently (I did not find this reference in the abbreviated Hakluyt available to me). Further: ". . . there are thirteenth century references in both Germany and England. Freidanck, in his poem Bescheidenheit [Modesty], written in 1216, refers to eggs colored red and black: "ein kint naem ein gewerwet ei /fur ander drin oder zwei. (a child takes a colored egg, /or perhaps two for those inside). "
Documentation for Patterned-Decorated Eggs
Eggs decorated with patterns may be documentable before the late 1500s, but the only instructions we have for decorating such eggs is from Hugh Plat, The Jewel-house of Art & Nature (1594) (this was emailed to me as a personal communication):
"32. How to grave any armes, posies, or other devise upon an egg shel, & how to through-cut the same, with divers works & fancies, which will seem very strange to such as know not the maner of the doing thereof.
"Dippe an egge in suet being molten, first the one halfe, and then the other, holding the same betweene your thumb and forefinger when you dippe it, let the same coole in your hand, and beeing colde, with a sharpe bodkin or some other instrument of iron, worke or grave in the suet what letters or portrature you wil, taking away the suet clean, & leaving the shell bare at the bottom of your worke. Then lay this eg thus engraved in good wine vinegar or strong alliger in a Glasse or stone Pottinger, for some six or eight houres, or more, or lesse, according to the strength and sharpnesse of the Vinegar, then take out the egge, and in water that is blood warme disolve the suet from the egge, then lay your egge to coole, and the woorke will appear to be graven in the shell of a russet color. Saepius probatum. And if the egge lie long inough in the vineger after it is so graven, and sovered in suet as before, the letters will appear upon the egge it selfe being hard sodden, or else if you care not to loose the meate, you may picke out the same when the shell is through graven, and so you shall have a strange piece of work perfourmed."
Within a century after the end of SCA period, it appears that decorated eggs were common, according to Newall: "The Bavarian priest Andreas Strobl gives a detailed account of contemporary Easter eggs in his collection of sermons, Ovum Paschael Novum Oder Neugfarbte Oster Ayr of 1694, in which he writes: "The whole year eggs do not receive so much honour as at Easter; they are gilded, silvered, painted with spots and figures, they are also painted and decorated with beautiful colors in relief, they are scratched, they are made into Easter lambs or into a pelican who feeds his young with his own blood, or they carry the picture of Christ or something else; they are boiled, they are dyed green, red, yellow, gold, etc. They are made up and then given as gifts by one good friend to another. They are even carried in large amounts to church to be blessed, and there are many who now eat or drink a soft boiled egg, rather than anything else." (An Egg at Easter, p. 292)
By Zygmunt z Nadratowo
Polish Tribal Structure and Carolingian Retinue Structure
Polish Structure. Polish tribes were organized along family lines. Since the land was often not enough to sustain a family working alone, families would band together with their kin in order to share resources. These clans were called a ro'd (pronounced "ROOdt"), and was the basic component of Polish society. All lands were held in common by the entire family, as opposed to the Western European nobility. Among the Poles land was divided up among a land owner's heirs but upon death it was administered by the rest of the ro'd. All crimes were borne equally by the family as well. The property was administered by a starosta ("star-OS-tuh"), who was the family elder, and general in war time. In the pre-Christian era, the starosta also functioned as the high priest.
The central authority in a region was a council of families called the wiec (VEEts), and took place in a gro'd (gr-OOdt), meaning fortified place or castle. Each male member of the r'od in a region had the ability to summon the wiec - except for peasants. The starosta administered the law of the wiec . The wiec was an informal gathering, with no fixed composition or meeting schedule, called only when the clan needed it. Initially, the starosta was the best fighter in the clan as well, but in later times the title remained but came to be the designation of an office.
(A note about the word "peasant." Polish peasants were often either debtors, criminals, or prisoners captured in battle by a ro'd. Killing one was not the same as killing a regular person, and often only resulted in a fine equivalent to property damage. Only later in Polish history did the word come to be synonymous with its French and English counterparts, and even then, old traditional tribal structures were never supplanted.)
With the ro'd living hand-to-mouth, remote from one another and spread out, they would have had little choice but to band together to pool their resources. That isolation also provided a much higher degree of independence from royal power. "Their typical attitudes would be those of individual freedom, allodial land holding, local pride, and regional patriotism ." The main reason Charlemagne's feudalism worked so well was due to population density. "The opportunities for rulers to construct a successful power base (were) less than in Western Europe, where settlement was denser and connections between. localities were closer...."
The classic definition of Western European feudalism is that of the three estates - the Clergy to pray, the Nobility to fight, and the Peasant to work for them all. For the Poles, things were different. There were originally five estates: the Clergy, the Nobility (Szlachta), the Burghers (town mayors), the Jews and the Peasants. For the Western Europeans, feudalism meant an all-encompassing system of graded hereditary vassalage. Among the Poles, the Prince was really only the leader of his clan. Since they all oversaw clan lands and contributed to clan law, there was no room for, or reason to, develop hereditary dignitaries or vassalage. "Every free man remained directly subordinate to the local prince, and the princes regarded themselves as equals, acknowledging the Duke of Krakow only as primus inter pares (first among equals)."
Carolingian Structure. The Franks that Charlemagne ruled over had an entirely different view of how their society worked. In the Merovingian tradition, a kingdom was divided up among a ruler's sons upon his death. As can be expected, this situation usually did not sit well with ambitious princes. Frequently, Gaul descended into complete anarchy as the sons attempted to annex the territory of their kin. In the 200 years before Charlemagne ascended the throne, these conflicts increased in duration and ferocity. This atmosphere was a perfect medium for the creation of bands of armed retainers whose loyalties lay only with their lord.
This idea was not new, since Gaul was part of the orbis romanum. What was new was the diffusion of the idea throughout the ruling population. In the later periods of the Roman Empire, buccellarii (bands of bodyguards) accompanied prominent men. Due to continued pressure (barbarian invasions, etc.), the tradition survived and spread across the former holdings of the Romans in Gaul and among the Franks. The Franks called their similar concept a comitatus, a band of free warriors who had taken service under a chieftain and fought for and on his behalf . Another explanation for the survival of this tradition is that, since the Romans viewed military service as a necessary evil that was to be avoided if at all possible, and since Romans recruited legions from among their barbarian "allies", the tradition survived and was implemented because of that barbarian influence.
Regardless of its origin among the Franks or Romans, it sprang from the same cause - the disappearance of the order Rome imposed. Over time, the idea eventually became more complex and thus more formalized. By the time of Charlemagne, it was known is its Latin form as ingenui in obsequio. This meant that a free man could place himself under the protection, and in the service of, another free man while still retaining his own freedom. These free men were known as trustis. They were persons of varied status, and corresponded to the comitatus.
From the trustis came the antrustis. The antrustis were higher on the status food chain and were the personal armed companions of a king, and only a king or queen was allowed to have them. They enjoyed other benefits as well. If killed, they warranted a triple weregeld (a weregeld is an idea imported from the Saxons and Vikings, and meant a fee equal to his standing as a free man. In this case, they were worth three times a normal free man). Only their relationship with the king guaranteed this benefit. As a hand-picked fighting man of his king, he enjoyed one of the highest social status' in the population. As time went on, from Pepin the Short (ruled 751-768) to Charlemagne, these trusted servants were granted fiefs, or land holdings. These lands attracted men of ever increasing social standing, high enough that they were able to grant these fiefs and benefices of their own. Eventually, the term vassus or vassal came to be associated with these men and the antrustis, so that by the time of Charlemagne, the antrustis had ceased to exist.
The European Model. "Therefore, let all present and to come know that I, …Bernard Atton, lord and viscount of Carcassonne, acknowledge verily to thee, my Lord Leo, by the grace of God abbot of St. Mary of Grasse, and to thy successors, that I hold and ought to hold as a fief, in Carcassonne, the following: (a list of castles and other land possessions)…for each and all of which I render homage and fealty with the hands and mouth to thee , my said Lord Leo and to thy successors; and I swear upon these four gospels of God that I will always be a faithful vassal to the and to thy successors and to St. Mary of Grasse in all things in which a vassal is required to be faithful to his lord; and I will defend thee, my lord, and all thy successors, and the said monastery, and the monks present and to come, and the castles and manors and all your men and their possessions against all malefactors and invaders, of my own free will and at my own cost, and so shall my successors do after me; and I will give to thee power over all the castles and manors above described, in peace and in war, whenever they shall be claimed by thee or by thy successors." Thus did Viscount Bernard Atton of Carcassone pay homage and renew his vow of fealty to Leo the abbot of St. Mary of Grasse in 1110 AD. As was the custom, he made this vow, with his hands between those of the one he was paying homage to, and then kissed him on the mouth. He then swore fealty on a holy relic, either the Bible or whatever reliquary the church had.
The rest of the vow contains more detail, both trivial and useful. The viscount also goes on to detail how he would help the abbot mount a horse when visiting the viscount, how the abbot was to be fed, and the penalty for not obeying his previous vow. The viscount also states that his successors are responsible for maintaining this vow in perpetuity.
The engine of European feudalism was the relationship between the lord and his vassal, as can be seen in the above example. Each man understood his place in the chain, and was the man of the lord above him, and the lord of the man below him . The lord had a need for loyal fighting men, to serve him in time of war and to oversee his property (and thus his wealth) in an age of illiteracy and slow communication. The vassal needed lands to support his increasingly expensive lifestyle and the assurance of protection-by-association from his lord that the relationship granted. Each back was scratched: the lord was able to rely on his man to protect his system of income, and the vassal got the support he could not provide for himself . That this system developed is not surprising, given the framework in which it developed. Benefice and Patronage were concepts that any Angle, Saxon, Gaul and Frank understood thanks to Rome. The Poles also engaged in granting favors for work rendered. But to be "the man of another man", the idea of one man having that much sway over another, was alien to any self-respecting Pole. Contrast that with the example of King Jagiello (Ruled 1386 -1434).
The Polish Model. A group of Moravian Princes were requested to come and pay homage to Jagiello shortly after he became King. They replied that they were ready to pay homage "only to your person and not to the Crown of the Realm. " They wanted to make sure he knew they were doing so only to His person and not his office. No doubt Abbott Leo of St. Mary would have experienced a severe bout of apoplexy had Viscount Atton responded in kind.
Because of their ingrained, seemingly pathological abhorrence of formalized power structures, the Poles had no system of vassalage. There was no series of tenants and vassals for the King to channel power through, as well as no central chain of command radiating from the King . With royal power held by the noble class rather than in the hands of a single monarch, Poland had a very passive foreign policy. When forced to (such as with the invasion of the Mongol horde in 1241 AD, and against the Teutonic Knights starting in the 1200's), Poland would band together and fight as one . Other than that, each noble was left to pursue whatever foreign policy they desired.
An assembly of his peers among the Szlachta elected the King to his office. They looked first to members of the current royal family, but were not afraid to choose from outside it if need be. Even being the first-born son of a King was no assurance of inheriting the Kingship, as it was in Western Europe.
As mentioned earlier, the sparseness of population and difficulties of movement made governance by a king difficult in Poland. The best any ruler could do to enforce his control over his appointees was by personal visits - a sporadic solution at best, although they were greeted by the noble "hosting" the visit with the same enthusiasm as a social disease due to their expense. Add to that poor communication and an underdeveloped state apparatus, and the king ruled only as much as he was obeyed .
Over time, a solution was reached. With no hereditary offices, one of the Polish Crown's biggest weapons became political appointments. Even at the highest level, the dignitaries remained in office at the sufferance of the King . For their part, the nobles did want a King - just not much of one. They recognized the need for a unifying person to represent their nation. They also saw the need for having a unifying principle as represented by a King. Tradition also played a part - a tradition of a patriotic ethical ideal towards the almost legendary founder of the royal line, Piast (850 AD?), as well as towards a body of shared heritage, values and myths. But the big stick the Crown wielded was that of royal appointments .
Royal offices were a powerful and influential status symbol. Only through royal offices could a dignitary reach the wealth of the crown, which held a great deal of land and slaves to work it. Every member of the Szlachta wanted to reach the level of wealth and influence afforded by appointment by the King. And the King would not hesitate to remove a rival and replace him with someone more devoted to his interests. If needed, he could also use his own troops, and any allies, to make his point. So while the King lacked much of the absolute power of his royal neighbors, he still had a great deal of influence at home over his brother Nobility.
The Szlachta were the Noble estate of Poland, descended from those retainers of Piast who had proven to be loyal men and skilled warriors. No one knows for sure when it became official, but sometime shortly after, or even during, Piast's reign the Szlachta became a hereditary caste. By 1569, when the Union of Lublin was signed and the Republic of Poland-Lithuania was formed, Poland was not only the largest state in Europe but also had the highest percentage of Nobility compared to total population. 25, 000 noble families, numbering at least 500, 000 souls, represented 6.6 per cent of the total population of 7.5 million. By the late 1600's this would rise to 9 per cent, and by the 18th century it rose still more. Spain and Hungary, who were the next highest at 5 per cent, could merely equal them. France, at 1 per cent, and England, at 2 per cent, were a stark contrast . While the sheer volume of them could easily show how unique they were, the Szlachta were not defined by mere numbers. The Szlachta were defined according to what legal rights they had rather than what economic class they belonged to. The word Szlachta combines the meaning of "high (noble) birth" with "military prowess." Even if you managed to accumulate wealth, there was no guarantee you could ever become Nobility. The richest peasant could live on the land of a nobleman who possessed a fraction of his wealth.
The Szlachta had many privileges, protected by constitutional law. Each male member had a vote in how the country was run; later this was formalized and became the bicameral parliament, the Sejm ("Same"). They had the ability to disagree openly with the King's wishes. The Szlachta, like other European nobles, had the exclusive right to bear heraldic arms (known as Herby ["AIR-bee"]). But among the Poles they bore their herby by clan, and not by person. In battle, their war cry was the name of their clan.
Their prosperity was guarded by a massive bulwark of laws, including monopolies on landholding and the freedom to impose taxes as they saw fit within their own holdings. They did have some military obligation to the King but it was very minimal. Their duty to the people living on their lands was limited only by their conscience. They called this system "The Golden Freedom," and they guarded it jealously .
"Our local Armenian association (http://www.washington-armenians.org/) has more info."
"This is the third in a chronological series of shows about the Byzantine Empire, and if we can judge from the previous two exhibitions, it will be a unique opportunity to see artifacts from Byzantium, Armenia, the Near East, and the Slavic world. Like the earlier show it will include icons, miniatures, original manuscript pages, jewelry, ceramics, and textiles. The exhibition draws on collections in Egypt, the Vatican, Greece, and Russia, among other places. I see from the publication that a 15th century icon from Novgorod, "The Battle of Novgorod and Suzdal" will be on display.
"For those who cannot make it to New York the museum is issuing a book by Helen Evans et al, same title as the exhibition, 656 pages, 650 illustrations, 500 in color. Cloth $75 Paperback $50."
[Editor's Note: There was a suggestion made recently on the SIG Listserv that we include a section in Slovo devoted to feedback on articles that have appeared here, as an opportunity to further education and learning. As it happens, I received this email some time ago and had planned to run it anyway. I'd like to encourage others to write in with their comments. The only requirement is that we request that the commentary be constructive, polite, and courteous.]
Russian "Heraldry" Is Religious Symbols
Always love your Slovo pages and the links. Keep up the excellent work. However, where you state in your article on "Period Russian Heraldry" in Slovo Spring AS XXXVIII (2003) Volume VIII, Issue 4 (#31): "In a 15th century icon from Novgorod, these symbols are clearly seen displayed on company banners of cavalry soldiers." I'm afraid you are wrong. These are typical ecclesiastical symbols of Eastern Orthodoxy -- stylized crucifixes on Golgotha. The thin uprights are the lance which pierced Christ's side and the one which held the sponge of vinegar.
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.
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