The results of the 2004 renewal are in and we have slimmed down to a compact group of about 90 members (down from 250 before). This might seem a step backwards, but it ensures that we have a group of active members. Since we don't charge membership fees, about the only way to figure out who is still interested in the Group is to do this periodically. If you were removed from the member list because your renewal card came back as undeliverable, you are in good company. Just sign up again and I'll be happy to add you back. To the folks who did respond, you have my thanks for continuing to support the organization.
My thanks go out to Dianne Kowalski, Susan Toker, and Peter Stebila for their generous contributions this quarter. As always, contributions (financial, artistic, and literary), while not expected or required, are very much appreciated!
By Paul Wickenden of Thanet
So, you're rummaging through a book store and you find a dusty old book written in a language that looks suspiciously like Polish or Russian or Urdmut, and you think to yourself: "Hey! Is this that hard-to-find book of period Urdmut costumes I've been looking for? Or is it Baba Yaga's Fantasy Costuming Book for Dummies? Oy! If only I could read Urdmut (or Russian or Polish)!" Well, even if you don't read the language, you can still evaluate a book and figure out if it's the one you need or one of the many you should avoid.
Some Basic Hints
While I have the advantage of reading Russian, I have often had to operate in languages that I did not know at all. In the process, I've found a few tricks that help me quickly determine if a book will be useful to me and, if so, for what. None of these tricks is foolproof, but they will help you to eliminate a lot of duds:
Learn your A-B-Vs. Know the alphabet of your language. It's not much to ask. Most languages have 35 or fewer letters in their alphabet. And even if your chosen language uses Cyrillic letters, any student of Russian can tell you that the alphabet is the least of your worries.... But seriously, great mileage can be achieved simply by being able to sound out a title.
Kak skazat' "gold-leaf illumination" po-russki? Learn some basic vocabulary words. When I'm looking for Hungarian name books, I focus on the word nevek, when hunting in Polish, I look for nazw. I'm not going to bother to learn these languages fully, but I do learn a dozen words that will help me find my books faster.
Easy enough! However, be aware that most of these languages are subject to "declension," meaning that their endings sometime mutate when they take on other parts of speech besides the subject of a sentence. Unless you want to learn all the grammar of the language, a good rule of thumb is just learn to ignore the endings of words. Focus instead on the basic root. Like most languages, most related words have a common root. So, following this advice in English, "nam-" gives me "name," "names," "naming," "named," and so on.
"V" is for century. One of the neat little things about Slavic languages is that they share a lot of cognates. One of those commonalities is the word for "century" -- vek. Now, it can complicate things a bit that the Poles spell it wek, and it is spelled BEK in Cyrillic alphabets, but this is one powerful word you should look for. Often abbreviated as just "V" (or "W" or "B") in the title of books, you can quickly check if your book that depicts a bunch of women's headdresses covers the "16 v" or the "19 v." And, while we're on the subject, the use of two v's conveys the plural (i.e., centuries), so "15-17 BB" means "15th-17th centuries." Note: in Hungarian, the word is szazad, so look for S's if you're a Magyar!
When in Prague do as the Romans do. On a related note, bone up on your Roman numerals. Almost all Eastern European countries maintain the habit of using Roman numerals to convey centuries ("XII-XV vv"). When I want to scan really quickly, I frequently just look for the Roman numerals. If I see lots of "XII" and "XIV" then I know I have a good book. If I see "XIX" and "XX" then I put it back.
Judging the Reliable Book
Having survived a cursory examination to determine that the book covers useful material, how do you know it is reliable? Like everywhere else, there is plenty of junk out there:
Akademia dilemmias. Most Continental European countries have an active flourishing scientific society called an "Academy of Science." In Budapest they're called "Akademiai Kiado," in Poland they are "Akademiia nauk." While these are official state-run organizations historically full of political apple polishers (see below), they are include the best academics that most of these countries have to offer. And they produce serious books with serious reputations. Not that everything that bears the Academy's imprint on its cover is worth reading, but they have a better track record than any other publisher. At the very least, the work has likely been reviewed by peers.
Those who forgot their history are doomed to forget others' as well. History is written by the conquerors and nowhere is that more true than in Central Europe. Know the recent history of your chosen nation-state, as well as its period one. Be aware of when the book was published and understand that it will have probably have been written to please the ruling regime of the moment. Sometimes this is due to blatant censorship. But often enough, authors are making an effort to please their readers (or the authorities that bestow useful things like food, apartments, and pensions). That means that inconvenient facts are likely to be overlooked in favor of data that please those on the throne. Hey, if nothing else, it's a very period thing to do!
Objectivity is in the eye of the beholder. Objectivity is largely a Western academic concept. Eastern European scholars, while no less rigorous and hardworking than their Western counterparts generally see no particular problem with inserting their own contemporary political agendas into their works. Understand this fact and read accordingly.
Lingua Russica. I am sometimes quite thankful that the Soviet Union had such a wide expansive embrace on the region we research, because it means that all of the "fraternal" members of the Eastern Bloc were forced to make their works accessible to the Russians, by often providing abstracts (and even full indexes) in Russian, even if the book was written, let's say, in Slovak. Thus, while I can't read Slovak, I can take my much better command of Russian and use it to determine if the book covers material I want to know more about. And now that Russia's star has been eclipsed, you will find that recent scholarship obliges you with abstracts in English, German, or French instead. So, just because the book is written in Latvian, it doesn't mean that the entire book is written in Latvian.
How to Read Slavic Books
Finally, there is the basic question of finding your way through the tome itself. Eastern European books are not organized like Western books and some basic orientation is in order:
Kindergarten documentation for grownups. Most historical works from the 20th century rely on drawn illustrations rather than photographs. In many cases, this is a blessing as the quality of Soviet-era photographs leaves a great deal to be desired, but you need to remember that the line drawings are impressions. Oftentimes, they are maddeningly inaccurate too.
Front is back. In most Eastern European books, the first page of the book after the title page is the first page of actual text. The table of contents and the copyright page are stuffed at the back of the book. So, when you open a book, be sure to jump to the end first to know if it is worth reading cover to cover.
Citation by number, 1-2-3. Most contemporary academic works in Eastern Europe rely upon a numeric citation system, where the cites is portrayed as a number (236a) within the text. You then go to the back of the book, to its bibliography, and find book #236a in the list and that is the source of the information.
So, for example, if I find an interesting passage that seems to be talking about birch bark shoes and I want to know more, I jump back to that numbered source and find out...and Lo! The source the author used is entitled "<something I can't read> shoes <something else I can't read> XVIII v," which means it is probably something about 18th century shoes, so I probably can't use the material. Got the hang of this yet?
You can't buy it at a Barnes & Noble. Finally, bear in mind that finding the right book is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Eastern European books generally only have one printing and go out of print immediately. Buy it when you see it, because you will never find it again.
Hopefully, some of this advice can help you in your search for sources. And for those with experience in searching, feel free to send in your additional suggestions and we'll publish them here.
By Zygmunt Nadratowski
Along with the Zupan, Delia (later Kontusz) and Szabla, the Colpak became one of the main elements of "Polish Dress" starting in the mid-1500s. One of the earliest pictures is from a fragment of an engraving done by George Braun, figure 1, dating from 1572. Figure 2 is from an engraving of Polish nobles by Paprocki, dated 1586 [Gutkowska-Rychlewska, 1968].
Among their Sarmatian beliefs, the Poles devised a whole system of behavior regarding their headgear - its sizes and its uses [Bogucka, 1996]. This article will show you how to construct one, and what the typical construction costs will be. Total construction time is 20 minutes to an hour.
A - Half the circumference of your head at just above the brow
B - Overall hat height.
C - Front slope (measure between your brow line and hair line).
D - Back slope reference point (The distance between A and the large knot at the back of your skull, about ear height).
E - This will be the front wing peak of the fur side piece. 3" recommended height.
F - This will be the rear wing piece of the fur side piece. 2" recommended height.
You can use this pattern a couple of different ways. Either you can print out the pattern and use as-is (if your head is small enough), or make your own using the provided pattern as a model to work from. These directions assume the second option. I also created a scale for myself, after I knew what A was, and after I printed the pattern out. Printed, A was 5.75" long. Doubled, this exactly matched the circumference of my head at the brow line. So make a similar scale for yourself to get the positions right for the rest of the measurements.
Print out the pattern, and then take your measurements. You want to make a large rectangle that is as long as A, and as high as C plus F. So draw a line that is as long as A, then add the height of C & F to both sides of A. Then, at the top of C and bottom of F, connect the front and bottom to create the rectangle. Make sure you label A, since this is the bottom edge of the finished hat. Mark one side of this as "front," and one "back."
To get the B line, measure in about 4" from the back of the hat, along the top and bottom of the rectangle and make marks. Draw a line upwards that is as high as the circumference of your head.
Next, from the back, measure down 2" from A, and make a mark. Label this is as E. Draw a line between E and the bottom front corner of your rectangle at F. This will delineate the bottom edge of your flap to which you will sew the fur. It should slant towards the back (see the drawing). At the back, measure up about 1.75" and make a mark. Label this D. Use the ruler to draw a straight line between D and B, and again between C and B. This will complete the top peak of the Colpak.
The front of the hat needs to be a little tight, and the fur flap needs to have a slight forward slant. To get this, place the ruler at the intersection of F and A, and measure back in along A from the front of the hat 1/4" and make a mark. Use the ruler to draw a straight line from the bottom corner of F to this mark and from C to this mark. This will give the necessary slant to the front of the Colpak and the fur. The pattern is finished. You can give your lines nice curves at the peak, front and rear as nice finishing touches by referencing the drawing, if you wish.
Once you have all the measurements, construction is straightforward. Fold your fabric in half (if long enough, otherwise place the two pieces of your fabric together), right side out, and place the top of the pattern along the fold. Pin it in place. When cutting, leave 1/4" to 1/2" (I chose 1/4") as a seam allowance. Once the fabric is cut, remove the pattern. Turn the hat inside out so the right sides are together and the wrong sides are out. Pin the hat shut (leaving your 1/2" allowance) along the seams. Sew the hat shut along the open seams to the fold line (on the pattern, the hem is the dotted line). Make sure that when you sew the back, you DO sew the wings together (this will be at the short part of the wing - see pattern diagram). When finished, turn the hat right side out.
Fold the fur in half, wrong side out. Pin the pattern to the fur on the wing part only. Place the back of the pattern at the small part of the wing on the fur, and cut the fur leaving no more than ½" seam. Make sure to complete the wing by cutting the fur along the A line. If you are using a real fur collar for this, you may have to carefully cut and sew it to size and shape.
Fold the wings of the hat down. Pin the fur to the wings, wrong sides together. Roll the edge of the fur over about ¼" before you pin. Then sew the fur (I used a top stitch) to the wing. Flip up the fur so that the fur side is out. You're done!
If the fur sheds, use masking tape to gently pick it off the finished Colpak.
Colpaks were finished with jeweled brooches which had feathers stuck in them (pheasant or egret were typical, but any justifiable plumage will do). I have found appropriate brooches (I call them "Old lady scarf pins") at Salvation Army and Goodwill stores, as well as merchants such as Pillaged Village. Any craft store carries a variety of feathers, and they may also be found on eBay.
As you can see, the Colpak is not very difficult to make, and is a great accessory to anyone with a Slavic persona. For someone with a male Polish persona, it's practically required! I hope these instructions have been useful and fun.
By Mordak Timofeyvich Rostovskogo
Even though your chatty Armenian companion calls this ring of Moskva, "the White City," the only difference you actually notice are the narrower streets and more crowded conditions. Everywhere, smells abound, be it meat, bread, leather, beeswax, damp wool and sweat, charcoal, or the haze of wood smoke. The houses are two or three stories, without exception, most being built against each other, with only narrow gaps between every few houses (if any at all!). The only other open spaces seem to be within the compounds of the wealthy, each with guards and a gatehouse, their wooden palisades higher than a man could reach but also high enough to give the guards inside a very good view of the crowded street outside.
The houses along the streets have people of all ages looking out the windows. Most seem to be trying to catch any breeze available. Some are chattering with neighbors, others hawking the wares of the shop underneath, and a few even selling the wares they can provide in the upper rooms, in "privacy" and "comfort." These offers are less frequent but afford the same wondrous variety displayed by the other merchants. You may even resolve to visit this section again during your stay here, if for no other reason than to repair the damage done by the thief and buy gifts for relatives, benefactors and investors. Exotic things, unique items, pleasant memories. The souvenirs of your travels also come in wondrous variety.
What impresses you most is how active and hard working these people are. The White City reminds you of a riled ant hill, even at mid-day when most should be enjoying the noon meal and a nap. Best of all, these streets are narrow enough to caste the street in cool shadow. The close quarters allow glimpses of the activity within the buildings, usually shadowed but in the low light afforded by rear windows or the weak flickering glow of a burning taper. Twice already you've passed naked people pouring buckets of water over themselves or other patrons outside the public saunas. The foot traffic is mere steps away, but their nudity neither remarked upon nor noticed by passers by. Shameless and unhealthy, this nudity on the street and moist heat in the chest. Truly barbaric.
Your chatty companion remarks, with obvious relief, that you are lucky not to have arrived on a market or holy day, for then the streets would be nearly impassible. You shudder at the thought of so many people, crowded, bumping into each other, calculating how many heartbeats before a thief slits you purse. Probably less than twenty, with any luck. In all likelihood, less than ten. But then, just as you begin to gaze at a pretty, pale skinned girl walking toward you, your companion begins an eloquent discourse on the great square beneath the shadow of the great keep, the kremlin.
Apparently on market days it is one huge bazaar and on other days the personal troops and nobles of the Velikii Kniaz practice archery, maneuvers and fighting on horseback at one end. He confesses to you in a low confidential tone that he often takes time to admire their skill and horsemanship, his eyes checking to make sure that his group's leader and his lackeys are out of earshot. You innocently ask to accompany him on his next trip, which he gratefully accepts as companionship, though you have other hidden reasons.
Just as you are sure that your party has completely circled the central city, the column makes a right turn onto another road, another towering wall of red brick and soaring gate tower to greet you, the heat of the day making the whole structure appear to ripple like a serpent. Your companion greets waiting relatives, his party and their stock soon disappearing into the crowd on the road you just left. Alone again, you near the gate, a grandee and his servants and other members of his party held back from entering until your column has passed through the gates. His angry shouts elicit only bored indifference from the guards, despite the angry gestures and the threatening tone of his shouting. Ah, nobles are truly the same where ever you travel! And with that thought, a pang of nostalgia briefly chokes your throat. Another dark tunnel, and more armed figures in the gloom and more glare awaiting you.
In your mind, a laugh escapes your lips of its own accord as you wonder, "how narrow can the streets become this time?" An impolitic thought and unworthy of the courtesy you normally display to the outside world, but very ironic, your secret love. Still smiling at your private joke as you re-enter the noonday glare, you are totally unprepared for the sight that awaits your gaze, as unique and unexpected as impressive with a growing feeling of awe. Across a vast area, seemingly in the heart of this city of narrow streets and crowded houses lays the Great Square, the red brick walls glowing in the full sun, a veritable sea of openness, as unexpected as it is stunning. An entire army could easily camp in this space, with room for provisions and horses for all. Above all shine the pointed globes of the great churches of the kremlin behind, cresting to the top of the rise it encompasses.
By Kinjal of Moravia
I have been this way before and they know me as Kinjal, the Traveler. It is true that I have visited many lands and basked in their mysteries, love and deceit, but the name reflects more that I am always from somewhere else. This gives me the privilege of Gusari tradition, a casual intimacy and welcome combined with a reserved distance of demeanor that serves my purpose well. I learn by speaking and teach by listening. They believe that I have only simple understanding of their tongue.
This small village of Lontas would normally not have swayed my steps from the northern ports but the new Duke of Bohemia has allowed that each village with river connection to the sea should hold an annual fair. Tomorrow will find the streets and stalls bedecked with banners and brimming with possible treasures. As I am an agent for the silk merchants of Qusar it is possible that I might make an important contact. It is a greater hope that I can unearth for a paltry sum some artifact of Thracian might or Viking lust. Treasures small in size and price can blossom to sizable fortune in the right hands. Fine silks are cooling and sensual, but a little knowledge caresses the spirit and gladdens the heart.
My plucking of simple notes on the Gusli in my lap does not cease when the quiet pulse of the forest wanes and fades with the approach of a stranger. Not a threat certainly, else the fox and jay would whistle quiet alarm. It is a simple act to spread the golden leaves into a friendlier pile and fold a corner of my great Lupo cloak across. In some lands the full cloak is proper, in others a bowl set on the edge. In my homeland my leg spike would need be thrust in the ground. But in all, the gesture with the leaves transcends custom and fear. The scent of the sun denied soil and broken acorns served as incense and provided a feeling of sanctuary to aid the boy in his quest. It is always the same. The brave adults gather in supportive groups for boast and demand. The innocents come singly or in pairs. The first test of courage, perhaps - hopefully not the last.
He is not large for his age, I would venture, with a twisted leg he only partly attempts to hide. For all of that he seems hearty and not winded from his climb. His reddened cheeks are from excitement rather than sun or embarrassment. I choose to strum a few notes that might recall a childhood prayer or mother's joy.
"Is it true that you might tell some stories and do some magic for us younger folks before the great campfire tonight?" he said with practiced exactness. Then he was silent, which shows better manners than many adults in this valley. And he fixed me with a steady gaze that commanded an eventual answer. Had we small cups of coffee or nectar, custom might allow a sip or two before settling this important matter.
"It is well known that I might - if asked."
"Have none of the yeoman asked then - there is little time"
"It is not their providence."
Having set aside the Gusli earlier, I drew from my sleeve a scroll wrapped in fine buckskin.
"I am conducting a census of sorts for the Prince," I said. "Possibly you could help."
"Oh yes," he cried, comfortable at the diversion.
"I need to know the number of building in the hamlet across the river of more than one story. I had thought to climb that rock there for a better view." Now the rock was not over large, possibly the height of three men, but it was sharp with protuberances and slick with moss. He eyed it carefully and placed his young life in balance.
"I can do that," he said, and set upon the most direct path. It was difficult with a stiff leg, but he persevered unto success. "There are five such buildings," he related, "and one tall barn that might serve." As I said nothing beyond scratching on the page, he floundered slowly to the ground.
"Now I need a count of the boats," I called over his head, and acted surprised to find him before me. He appraised me again with shining blue eyes and a bit of mirth. I could hear him thinking, "Grownups!" Then he started for the path.
"Perhaps you could survey the rock first and possible find on another side a route better to your liking." He pondered this, weighing carefully the possibility of a new test or urge to control. Curiosity might have played a factor here, but he limped a new course out of sight and soon appeared overhead.
"I found a hidden crack that allowed me to use my arms more and legs less. It was fun!" he chimed pantingly. "Now, what of these boats?" He gave me the information I needed and I thanked him, upon which he slyly asked, "Is that all?"
"From there you can see much that I cannot, " I called up. "Look out at the world as far as you can and tell me what you see." The silence was very fine indeed. Then there was laughter.
"I can see into the future," he said, "and I see a third way down that is not appearing from below."
I sat down upon my bed of leaves and awaited his vision. "I could see that the fog is coming in earlier than expected and the evening will cool quickly. Tonight I will take a cloak and the others will laugh at me. But when the fire coals grow dim it is I who will laugh."
"That will be a good jest."
The small forest sounds had returned and served to mark his thoughtful silence.
My compassionate nature prompted, "I am fortunate, as my cloak will serve to comfort three if they huddle close."
He appeared a little larger as he rose to leave. "I think that the young man who came down from the rock can carry a couple of blankets too," he said. "Good thoughts, my Gusari."
He did not inquire about his quest or young hopes. He knew I would be there.
By Mordak Timofeyvich Rostovskogo
Last night I'm watching Bobbie Flay on the Food Channel educate me on the finer points of grilling and a thought nudged itself to the forefront, is BBQ period in Slavic countries during period?
For my favorite Slavic realm, Russia, I believe so. After all, most BBQ sauces contain combinations of a flavored styptic, usually Worcester, garlic, onion, something sweet (I prefer cinnamon), and whatever seasonings are generally available. It's applied to roasting meat, baking meat and in the case of ribs, either marinated in the sauce or boiled partially and then roast with sauce. Many of these ingredients and methods of cooking are specifically mentioned in period texts such as the Domostroi, Rude and Barbarous Kingdom, and Travels in Moscivam. Even today no Russian cooking escapes garlic or sour cream and most, especially in Kiev and points south, is not considered "traditional" unless spiced in some way.
A valid point of debate includes the fact that soups and bread are even more prevalent in Russian cooking but so was meat, especially pork as the Moslem faith of the Tatars prohibited them from consuming it and effectively negated their incentive to lead pigs south as raid booty in period. Pork is but one of the meat triumvirate of BBQ, alongside chicken and beef, all of which were readily available in period Slavic realms. In fact, add chunks of meat, chunks of cabbage and chunks of bread to that same sauce as a soup and you have one excellent, very tasty meal. Add a hot pepper or two grown beside your izba hut and dried with the other herbs and guess what, BBQ. Seen it, made it myself, eaten it myself. All period, highly nutritious and able to feed a crowd.
Apr 2, 2005 - Barony of Nordskogen -- St. Matthew's Lutheran Church, 701 N Lexington Parkway, St. Paul, MN
The autocrat, Aryenne bat David Halevi de Troyes (Jenna Mitelman,Jenna.Mitelman@gmail.com) writes:
"It's a one day event, but if any of you are thinking of coming from far away, and would like help finding lodging in the area, let me know, and I will try to arrange something through the barony.
"For those of you who might be able to attend, I am still looking for both teachers and entertainers. So if you think you could teach on any subject at all related to Medieval Russia in any of its incarnations (Novgorodian, Kievan, Golden Horde, Muscovite, etc.), please let me know. Specifically, I've had a request for a class on egg dying (pysanky), so if anyone can teach on that, since I won't be available all day, please speak up and volunteer. Otherwise, more general classes accessible to an audience with no particular Slavic interests are best, but anything will be welcome.
"As for entertainers, I am looking for people to perform anything at all (musical or recitation) either from Medieval Rus and surrounding areas, or in a style of that region and period, in any language at all, during the feast itself. So anything like playing the gusli (if you actually have a set, I would love to see it!), chanting religious poetry in Russian, reciting a portion of an epic in English translation, reading your own poetry done along the lines of the Zadonschina, or anything else along those lines, would be very welcome. Please let me know if you would like to do something like that, and what you think you might like to do, so I can schedule it in.
"I will also be holding an A&S competition on site, where the only entry requirement is that the subject be something Russian or from nearby areas. Anything at all, be it woodworking, embroidery, garb, scrolls, food, brewery, metalwork, jewelry, poetry, music, etc. will be accepted, as long as you can document it to medieval Rus. So if you're going to be around, please consider entering.
"If you have something you have made, and just don't want to enter it in competition, please consider bringing and displaying it (especially good for large things like armor, garb, scrolls, etc.) I will have a display area set up, but please let me know if you're planning to bring something, so I can have enough space set up for you."
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.
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