Fall AS XXXIX (2004)
Volume X, Issue 1 (#35)

From the Nachalnik

Happy birthday to SIG! This issue commences our tenth year as an organization. In that time, hundreds of us (representing large expanses of the world) have volunteered our knowledge, shared our frustrations, and helped educate many hundreds more on medieval Eastern and Central Europe. What began as a class at Pennsic in 1994 about how to research in an area where few of us can read the languages (or even the alphabets) has grown and blossomed into something very much bigger. I am very proud of this accomplishment and moreover proud of the fact that we have remained a free organization -- open to all and without membership fees of any sort. I remain thankful to everyone who has volunteered to be members of this Group and have been so giving of their knowledge and so helpful to others. I especially want to thank the contributors to this newsletter (present, past, and future). At times, it can be difficult to acquire enough material to release an issue, but somehow we have managed (with an exception here and there) to do so. Here's to another ten years!!

On a different note, please take a moment to check your contact information on the SIG member list. It's been about three years since I last confirmed people's entries and I will probably do so again soon. I'll do this (as I did it before) by sending a postcard to the surface address I have on record for you. When you receive the card, please contact me as directed on the card if you wish to remain a member of SIG.

If you have moved in the last three years, the chances are that your entry could be out of date. We can only be there to help others if the contact information we provide is accurate. In this age of heightened worries about privacy I certainly appreciate people's trust in making themselves available as contacts, so I don't want to lose people just because their information has changed.

Pennsic SIG Celebration 2004

By Mordak Timofeyvich Rostovskogo

For everyone who missed this year's SIG meeting at Pennsic, it was one heck of a celebration! There was music, food galore, some very potent Eastern European liquors and a lot of socializing, laughter and discussion. As dictated by tradition, the meeting started off with a round of introductions and interests or personas, followed by new business. Then the party began. There was no dancing but the conversation, good will, ideas and drink flowed liberally! Among the Kingdoms represented were Drachenwald, the West, nearly every kingdom east of the Mississippi River, and even an ex-patriot of Lochac (although she lacked the accent!).

Everything said, the SIG celebration was a success, in every sense of the word!

Polish Honey-Spice Cordial

By Alzbeta Michalik

I was unpacking some things from Pennsic tonight, and I found my head which had apparently gotten detached (it's amazing the things you lose in the shuffle!) After putting it back on, I remembered that I had said I would post the recipe from my cordial that I brought to the SIG celebration. So, here it is:

Polish Honey-Spice Cordial (krupnik polski)
from "Polish Heritage Cookery" by Robert & Maria Strybel

2 cups water
1/2 vanilla pod
1/2 stick cinnamon
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
10 - 12 whole cloves
1 - 2 pinches mace
1 tsp grated orange rind
2 cups honey
4 cups 190 proof grain alcohol - alternatively use 100 proof vodka for a weaker version (which is what I used)

In a small pot heat one cup of the water, vanilla pod, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and mace. When the mixture is just about to boil, add the orange rind. Bring to a boil, then cover and set aside.

Separately, bring to boil the honey and the remaining cup of water, skimming off the scum until no more forms. Remove from heat and turn off all heat sources. (WARNING: There should be no open flames around whenever pouring spirits, since the fumes will ignite.) Into the hot honey mixture, stir the spirits and the spice mixture including the spices. Pour into a clean jar, seal, and let stand overnight.

Next day pour through cotton-filled funnel into bottle or serving carafe. It is often served hot but is also good at room temperature.


How to Make a Budzygan Mace

By Zygmunt Nadratowski

Sometime after Grunk the Neanderthal surmised that dinner could be more easily had by poking it with sharp sticks until it quit biting him, he also discovered that it could be effective to brain it with some mass. By fastening a rock to a stick (or even using the ball joint on a leg bone), he invented the forbear of the mace. The origin of the first mace may be lost in the farthest mists of time, but the ones used by the people who would become the Poles were heavily influenced by the eastern flavor of their neighbors (Byzantines, Tatars, Cossacks, etc). Over time, the mace became less of a weapon and more an insignia with the Szlachti [Nobles] of Poland.

The Poles used the mace as a badge of office, with two main types consisting of the badge - the Bulawa and the Budzygan. The Bulawa (Boo WAH vah) was the symbol of the Hetman (General) and Grand Hetman of both Poland and Lithuania[1]. These were round and spherical (onion or even pear shaped), usually smooth and, due to the significance of the office of the holder, were extravagantly decorated with precious metals and gem stones. Field models were a bit tamer, however[2].

The Budzygan (boot ZEE gaan) mace was also used as a badge of office for the Rotmistrz (captain of a group of Polish Husaria). It was characterized by six to eight vanes around the shaft, of varying shapes - sometimes even leaf or eagle shaped. And in our time period (unlike the Bulawa), the Budzygan mace was often still an actual weapon. I modeled mine (size wise) on a Piernacz-style Cossack mace[3].

The fly in the ointment was that these maces are next to impossible for the re-creator to find. Occasionally one of the replica catalogues will provide one that looks right, but are more than one might want to pay. Plus, I love the challenge of solving problems and making something myself. On one of the historical society e-lists I belong to, someone suggested that this particular brand of finial would make a good Bulawa mace head. I researched it, decided my persona would not have a Bulawa, but could have had a Budzygan. After seeing the finial in person, I agreed with the originator's idea, and began trying to figure out how to make a mace of my own.


1 x 3/4"diameter x 36" long Oak dowel rod
1 x 'Cassidy West' Baroque/Bronze Copper finial
1 x 3/4" Copper pipe plug
1 x 2 1/2" "National" brand solid brass hook & eye #N118-133 v2001
1 x 1/2 pt jar of 'Minwax' brand #215 Red Oak stain
1 x 12 oz can of "Olympic" brand #43806 clear satin finish interior oil-based polyurethane spray
1 x package of 12 foam paint & oil applicators
1 x 4 oz bottle of "Elmer's" brand wood glue
1 x 7/8" iron ring
1 x 22" leather thong


Variable speed drill
3/16" drill bit
Iron punch
Two pairs of needle nose pliers
Buffing wheel for the drill
Sharpie marker and a fat tipped marker, both black.


My original idea was simple: use the finial as the mace head, attach it to a wood shaft, and use a metal chair slide for the end cap. Drill a hole in the end cap, insert a ring, and tie a leather thong to it. I wanted a thong just for its looks. And none of my modifications seemed to need any 'real' tools that a mechanically challenged person like myself would not have. With my list in hand, I set off for the hardware store.

At 36cm, I needed my shaft to be about 14 inches long. However, I made a mistake when doing the metric to imperial conversion in my head, and had the dowel cut for me at the store at 16". After consulting the book 'Ogniem i Mieczem: Portret Filmu' [4], I determined that the shaft of the mace handle would be no longer than 10". I felt that my measurement was accurate enough historically, since one of the sources I consulted provided 14" measurement, and no standard of production existed during the relevant time period, giving me plenty of latitude for style. Once I determined all that, I went ahead and cut the mace shaft down to 10" at home. I used no preparation of my dowel, save that I made sure that the edges were sanded after I cut it down to size. You may wish to prepare the oak dowel by sanding and (if preferred) sealing it before you cut it to size. Once cut and sanded, I wiped it with a tack rag and then applied two coats of the stain with the foam applicators. After the first coat, I waited two hours before I lightly sanded it with some fine grain paper, tacked it again and applied another coat of the stain. Then I let it dry overnight.

The next day, I wiped, sanded and tacked the shaft one more time before I began applying the polyurethane. I applied five coats, rotating the shaft to get a nice even coating, after waiting about 45 minutes between each coat (of course this will vary due to whatever environmental conditions you have in your area). I did this over the course of two days. Once this was dry, I fit the bronze finial over one end and used the screw built into the finial to secure it to the shaft by screwing it straight down. Care must be taken to ensure that, when screwing the finial down, that it goes on straight. The dowel and the finial are not fitted quite tight enough, and it will go on at an angle if you are not careful.

The end cap proved to be the trickiest detail to finish. I had originally wanted a chair leg slide, but none of the mega-warehouse home improvement stores in my area carried any, let alone metal ones. I finally settled on a bronze colored drawer pull to fit on the end. I epoxied it down, and tied the thong to that, but I was never pleased with the appearance of the finish. I then took it to an event with a feast to see how it would stand up to normal wear and tear. I tucked it into my belt and at feast at the first event I took it to, the motions used during eating easily broke the end cap off. So back I went to the drawing board.

I went back and looked at Portret Filum again, paying closer attention this time to the end cap. I could still see that it had a metal fitting that came up the shaft about 1/2". Then I saw that it had some kind of arrangement that allowed an iron ring to be fastened to the mace, and the thong was tied to it.

Armed with this new idea, I spent several hours in both stores looking for appropriate parts. The iron ring was easy enough for me to come by - I had bought a bunch of decorative women's belts (the decorations looked like ornate Kontusz [Polish overcoat] fasteners), and the ring was part of the belt buckle. I used the pliers to carefully bend the ring off the belt and bent it shut again. When I still could not find a chair slide, I discovered that a copper pipe fitting had the right look and dimensions. Even better, it came in 3/4" diameter sizes! So, ignoring the odd looks (although it did give me a great excuse to tell the workers about our group), I brought the mace into the store and test fitted it successfully. It fit so snugly that it made a slight 'pop' when I pulled the cap free.

With that problem solved, I hit on the idea of using part of a hook & eye latch since it best fit the criteria I needed - a small round hole (for the iron ring to fit into snugly) and a long thin screw. So off I went to the fencing section. The store had these in metal and wood screw varieties, and of course I chose the wood one.

I decided on 3/16" for my hole in the end cap since the screw for the ring was that size. I used the punch to carefully mark the spot in the center where I wanted to drill. And here I ran into two problems. The first was that, while the cap is flat on the outside, it is concave on the inside. My mark kept sliding when I was measuring. So I took a lot of extra time making sure I had the spot correctly marked. The next problem was my tool. I tried to drill the end cap out with the 3/16" bit, but it wouldn't go through easily (must be that my bit was a bit dull). So I used a smaller bit to drill through the hole and then widened it with the 3/16" bit. Make sure to lube the drill with oil to keep the bit from breaking. I had a friend with a drill press, but this can be done with a regular power drill as long as you are careful to keep it straight (I have problems with that, hence the drill press). Once drilling was completed, I washed the oil and metal shavings out with soap and water and then dried it. Then I buffed the burr off the edge of the hole with the buffing wheel.

With the drilling completed, I used the wood glue to glue the end cap to the shaft. Before I glued it down, I test fit the end cap, shaft and eye hook all together. The cap still fit as snug as before, but the eye screw caused a slight problem. The hole and the screw are extremely tight, and the grain of the screw wanted to follow the edge of hole and screw in crooked. I had to fiddle with it a bit before I could get it to work right.

The assembly was easy after all the preceding glitches. I put a line of glue about 1/8" from the interior outer edge of the cap and then pushed it onto the shaft. I inserted the eye screw and screwed it down finger tight. But this left the screw about 1/8" above the surface of the end cap. I wanted it flush, for appearances and to reduce stress on the screw (since it is going to be tucked into my belt a lot). I used the pliers to screw it down until it was flush on the end cap. Then I used the pliers to bend open the iron ring, inserted it through the eye screw, and bent the ring shut.

To end the construction, I tied the thong onto the iron ring, and let the glue dry over night before putting any stress on the cap or hook.

Finishing Details

I felt that the finial's appearance was a bit flat due to its factory-applied paint job. So I used the fat tipped marker to blacken the troughs between the mace head vanes, and edged it closer to the vane tips with the sharpie marker. I then sprayed a light coat of polyurethane over it for protection.


The finished mace turned out almost as good as I hoped for. The shaft is a beautiful reddish-brown color protected by a gleaming sheen of polyurethane. The finial is real metal, so it gives the mace a nice heft. One quibble is with my end cap - the one I chose is more gold in color rather than the reddish color typical of copper. Since it is so new, it doesn't match well with the dark bronze color of the mace head. I hope that by repeated handling and exposure to air it will acquire a dark patina that will be a better match. Also, I find that the finial screw is a bit to easy to see and detracts from the mace appearance, but since its absence would leave a hole I found no good solution for this problem. The iron ring squeaks slightly when moved, but I think there is little to be done about that.

Overall, the weapon is exactly what I hoped for when I first heard of the idea of using the finial as a mace head. I hope these plans are helpful to you!


[1] Anna Sieradzka, Tysiac lat ubiorow w Polsce (roughly translated, "Polish Costume through the ages"), pages 72 and 85 for period portraits of Zygmunt Wladyslaw, and Janusz Radziwill. The portrait on page 71 is a period one of a soldier holding what looks to be a Budzygan mace. In addition, the 'Stockholm Roll' painting shows hussars with Budzygan maces in their belts.

[2] Richard Brzezinski, Polish Armies 1, p. 35.

[3] Richard Brzezinski, Polish Armies 2. See the photo and reference on page 41.

[4] The book has a wonderful picture of what I believe is a Piernacz-type mace, being held by the character Dzedzan. I think this since it [1] matches the example from Polish Armies 2, and since the Bohun character is a Cossack, it is reasonable to assume he would that type of mace. Since the book does not furnish page numbers I can not, but it is arranged in chronological order based on the scenes in the film. For those who have the film Ogniem I Mieczem, it's the scene directly after the Pan Michal/Bohun duel, where Dzedzan presents Bohun's mace as proof. The book has a very clear picture of the mace. I got my copy of this on library loan.


  • Brzezinski, R., Polish Armies, 1569-1696 (1). Osprey Publishing, Oxford, UK, 2001.
  • Brzezinski, R., Polish Armies, 1569-1696 (2). Osprey Publishing, Oxford, UK, 2001.
  • Hoffman, J., Ogniem i Mieczam, TVP, U.S. film distribution by Polart, 1998.
  • Sieradzka, A., Tysiac lat ubiorow w Polsce, Arkady, Warsaw, 2003.
  • Zyburtowicz, Z., Ogniem i Mieczem: Portret Filmu, Proszynaki i S-ka, Warsaw, Poland, 1999

    Traveling to Moscovy in the 16th Century: Part Two

    By Mordak Timofeyvich Rostovskogo

    Your party enters a blockhouse gateway, two stories of stone with a roof unlike the wooden palisade wall stretching off to the next blockhouse in the distance to either side. Like the rings on a tree this teeming sea of buildings and wide streets is called the Wooden City, the outmost suburb of sprawling Moskva. To each side of you roadside merchant stands are side by side with hawkers of every variety, from cure-all medicines to entertainment, implements for farm, house, horse and human. Inter-mixed are flocks of pigs, goats and sheep vying for space with wagons, children, dogs and beggars in infinite number. Though none of the buildings look that old, all seem to be made of gray, weathered wood, unpainted, some intricately carved but all well constructed with tight seams in a true plethora of joindery, a people obviously long used to carpentry and wood. In fact, everything is wood, from the street paths to the compound walls, including every building, great or small in sight. As you gaze at the shingle roofs a sudden feeling of alarm pierces when you see smoke beginning to billow from under a nearby eave. Before you can raise the alarm a gust of breeze clears the smoke for a brief instant, revealing a hole cut into the wall under the peak of the roof. For the first time you realize that all the buildings have these same holes, for there are no chimneys in sight, absolutely none at all! A curious design, something you make a note of to ask about later.

    Suddenly, a hand on your calf and the upturned face and outstretched hand of a street urchin, begging in the local tongue. Before you can answer, one of the guards is already sending his whip snaking toward you. With a deafening crack the imploring face staggers away, hands over his ear, fingers turning bloodier with each step, followed by the snaky tip of the whip, striking with the speed and friendliness of an adder. The Armenian merchant next to you has been amicably chattering non-stop since this morning, his command of your language understandable but not insulting or infuriating, at least for now. The stink of tanneries has been replaced by the smell of blood and animal dung, whether its from the stock pens or the butchers street you neither care nor are concerned about, beyond the firm conviction to avoid any meat that is not still alive when it arrives at your quarters. The sight of butchered pig carcasses hanging in line outside a shop reminds you that you are a stranger in a strange land, even more than the language or other customs. With an effort you try to hide a shudder of revulsion at the thought of eating such unclean animals.

    The smell of wood resin and the sound of axes chopping soon fills the air as an army of carpenters swarm over stacks of logs; trimming bark, squaring logs, others measuring and marking lengths with charcoal in black smudged hands while other teams do joindary or fit the finished pieces into remarkably similar sized stacks, each with its own mark, obviously letters. To your amazement two miracles occur. First, you are able to interrupt your "friend" without apparent insult. Second, in response to your query, he spins the most amazing tale. It seems that the Rus are such clever carpenters that they build their houses with interchangeable wooden sections, held together with wooden pegs and easily expandable as the family or business either grows or shrinks.

    In fact, he informs you that two years ago his cousin, Gregor, ordered an entire compound, including stockade, house, storage sheds, outbuildings, laborers and assemblers from the same merchant, with only half a day's haggling! More amazing still, the entire thing was constructed within a week, the parts delivered by a continuous line of wagons, the foundations measured and dug, pieces pegged together and roofs attached in sections. All in a week, start to finish, a true miracle. Probably leaky and drafty but a true miracle, indeed. Inshallah!

    An eternity later, the sun blazes overhead and sweat trickles down your back, yet you have yet to enter the high stone walls of Moskva, capital of the Rus and home of their Grand Prince, their Velikii Kniaz.. You have long since begun to despair that you won't live to escape the outer suburbs of the city when you notice two things. First, the white walls of the city that was in front of you is now over your left shoulder and the wind, which started off in at your back is now wafting over your right shoulder into your face, or at least that half of it. As you twist in your saddle, looking this way and that, you realize that you approached from the south but now are near the eastern gate to the city, and you begin to know anger and frustration, mixed with admiration for a ploy well played to impress the gullible. A turn later a wide river appears ahead, behind a teaming sea of humanity, beyond stretches a long wooden bridge, wide enough to accommodate the traffic surging in both directions.

    The guards lounge on waist high barrels arranged at either side of the gate, playing the board game the Rus love called chess, as common a sight in this land as a church, a bath house or black robed priests, the popy. Truly unremarkable by itself except for the dirt under one barrel that catches your attention. Not the puddle as much as the oily sheen reflecting in the noon day sun, wet yet obviously not drying in the heat. With a start you hear the horses hooves rattle over the wood of the bridge and you suddenly realize the barrels aren't for provisions or water but for burning, burning the very bridge you are clattering across over the deep rushing waters below. Long before you reach the other side a new picture of the Rus has begun to form in your mind.

    The morning's sights gain a clarity when considered together that they lacked when seen separately. The buildings of gray weathered wood but not old enough to rot. The Wood Market in the outermost section of Moskva, with house pieces for sale and constructed so quickly, with so much expertise and practice. Whether by accident or design, buildings here don't last long enough to rot. They burn long before that. Suddenly a new feeling shares space with the wonder and curiosity you always feel in a new city. Fire. Frequent fire. With a growing shudder you again glance at the smoky haze above Moskva, more a promise of inferno than a familiar comfort, a promise you hope is not fulfilled before you can safely escape.

    Those white stone walls tower above as the horses of your party clatter over the end of the bridge and relief sweeps through you knowing that someday you will die, but not today in the murky, swift river you just crossed. Even as the massiveness of the gates and walls castes you into cool shadow you can see armed figures in the dim light of the shadows. Silhouettes holding poles with what appear to be saber blades attached towards the end, metal caps and high collars marking them as soldiers, even in this cool, dark refuge of the gate tunnel. The bright glare awaits just ahead, nearing with every echoing clop, clop, clop of your mount's steps.

    Temporarily blinded, you don't notice that the streets are narrower, the buildings much closer, the foot traffic much heavier within the walls of the White City. Again a whip cracks with a deafening snap next to you, close enough to make you flinch even as you feel the tug of a hand and hear the gurgled choking as the thief is jerked backwards off his feet. Before you even notice that your saber strap has been deftly cut, you see the guard cuff the thief with an expert snap of his whip handle. The guard's other hand grips the man's collar, lifting the thief on tip toes while he gasps for breath, his fingers wildly scrambling at the braided leather whip still tightly encircling his young neck.

    Within that stunned moment, the guard is already galloping back to the bridge guards, the limp form of the thief bouncing in his grasp, only to be dumped at full speed into the dirt in front of the waiting gate guards. With a laugh and cheers from his audience, the guard waves and wheels his horse in its own length, galloping back to the spot he occupied just moments before. In a lowered voice your friend assures you that thieves meet swift and sure punishment here, not by the strict rules of the shir'ia but by the tatar practice of a public flogging with a knout. A severe knouting can cripple a man and kill a woman or youth but thieves keep their fingers and hands in this land, and sometimes even their nose! For some reason, the Rus prefer to sell thieves south into slavery rather than executing them as we do. This must be the Christian charity you've heard so much about , though obviously much more lenient than a thief deserves. Perhaps that is why Moskva has so very many thieves?


  • Krekic, Bariša. Dubrovnik in the 14th and 15th Centuries: A City Between East and West. Norman OK: Oklahoma, 1972.

    The Federal Republic of Dubrovnik is a fascinating area of medieval study. Dubrovnik lies on the Adriatic coast in what is now the Republic of Croatia. From the 7th century to present times, Dubrovnik remains a vital center of culture and commerce.

    Like Constantinople, Ragusa (the Roman name of slavic Dubrovnik) was a crucial commercial gateway between western and eastern cultures. Ragusa, however, essentially maintained its political autonomy, along with its Roman Catholic traditions, despite being surrounded by the lands of Ottoman conquest. Indeed, the Ragusan patricians began paying the Turks annual tributes in the middle of the 15th century to ensure the free flow of commerce, which was the basis for their wealth and prosperity. Prior to this, shrewd diplomacy with Hungary and other Balkan powers kept Ragusa free. The motto of the city was "Libertas," that is, liberty.

    Krekic's book contains sections on Early History, Politics, Intellectual and Daily life, and more. While I enjoyed Krekic's readable book, I got the feeling that the overall work was flavored with a hearty dose of personal bias about the culture. When I attempted to delve into particular aspects of the culture by searching through the index, I was left wanting. Even his discussion of the role of women in Ragusa was somewhat dismissive.

    The bibliographic resources used to stitch together Krekic's book are a modest collection of about 16 Slavic references. Naturally, it would be ideal to study these Slavic resources directly, if one knew the language or had a reliable translation. Given the lack of source material in English on many topics in the Balkans, I am grateful to have access to Krekic's work in any case.

    -- Lidia de Ragusa

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