Summer AS XLIV (2009)
Volume XIV, Issue 4 (#54)


From the Nachalnik

Happy Summer months to you! This month, we have a wide variety of articles that represent the eclectic interests of our members.

Summer for many of us inevitably brings our minds to thoughts of Pennsic. Once again, there will be a gathering for SIG members at noon on August 4 th (see below) and I hope that everyone who is at the War will also attend this valuable gathering. When Magdalena had to step down as the coordinator, Master Mordak graciously agreed to emcee the activities. He is, unfortunately, unable to attend the entire three hours (his own class starts at 2pm) but hopefully others can cover for the last hour. August 4 th is in fact a busy day, as the schedule of SIG-related classes that we are publishing in this issue shows.

For the Fall issue, I'll be interested in your feedback about this year's gathering and of the classes you attend. Stories about Pennsic (and photographs) will be particularly welcome for those of us who cannot attend.

There has been some recent discussion about hosting another Slavic University and I hope to have more details to report about that in the Fall.

As always, new contributions are appreciated. Without your involvement, none of this is possible!


Pennsic Gathering

August 4th , Noon-3pm, at A&S 12

Come one, come all, bring your favorite potable, your best books and materials and your projects from the last year! Once again, we are having our Slavic Interest Group Gathering!

This is a chance to show off your research to an interested audience, meet old friends and make new ones! Bring some food! Bring some potables! Bring your curiosity and sense of humor! See you there!

-- Mordak


Pennsic Classes

By Paul Wickenden of Thanet

Listed below is my annual survey of Pennsic classes with a Slavic or Eastern European theme. It's a little thinner than last year and unfortunately clumped around a single day (August 4 th ), but there is still a good variety to the offerings. I hope that those of you who are going to Pennsic this year will attend these classes, both to support the instructors as well as to learn more and share the knowledge.

I compiled this list from the advanced posting of classes on the Pennsic website and I may have missed some classes. My apologies for any omissions. As always, I'd also like to call your attention to a number of not-explicitly Slavic-themed classes taught by members of SIG. For example, Maria will be doing her valuable survey of fabric (“Fabric 101”) again. And there are certainly others to see.


July 30

9am – Fabric 101. Overview of period appropriate fabrics, fabric use, fabric types; identifying fabric using a burn test or chemical test. Hands on. Bring pencil for notes. (1.5 hours) Maria Pienkneplotno. Merchant booth #25 (Dragon's Magic).

5pm – Archaeology and Medieval Slavic Material Culture. Medieval jewelry, pottery, beads and other artifacts will be discussed from archaeological sites in Russia and the Balkans. The discoveries will include first hand descriptions from his recent archaeological excavation at the Castle of King Marko. (1 hour) Michael of Safita. A&S 2.


August 3

11am – Russian and Slavic “Period” Illumination and Art. Æthelmearc Advanced Track: An in depth hands on class in Russian and Slavic Illumination styles, and even a bit about icons. There is a brief meeting in Æthelmearc Royal between 9-9:30am on August 3rd to get updates on the class and purchase materials. (four days @ 2 hrs/day = 8 hours total) Marija Kotok. Æthelmearc Royal.

11am – Early Russian Clothing. A look at early Russian clothing from the 10th to the 13th centuries. Learn the pieces, patterns, finishes, ornaments, and accessories. Examples will be shown, and handouts available. (1 hour) Sfandra Dmitrieva Chernigova. A&S 9.

12pm – Byzantine Icon Painting. An introduction to the ancient art of Byzantine Icons, also known as Icon writing- theology in line and color. An in-depth overview of history, symbolism, and technique. (2 hours) Dosalena Sophia della Mirandola. Merchant Booth (Guild Mirandola)

5pm – Period Sources for Russian Bards . We will discuss source materials which would likely have been available to a Russian story teller of the Kievan Period (pre 1250 AD). (1 hour) Peotr Alexeivich. A&S 8.


August 4

9am – Fabric 101. [Repeat of 7/30 class – see above]

11am – Russian and Slavic “Period” Illumination and Art. [Continuation of 8/3 class – see above]

11am – Early Russian History. A look at the formation of the Rus' nation and its history - social, economic, and political - until the burning of Kiev by Mongol forces in 1240 AD. (1 hour) Sfandra Dmitrieva Chernigova. A&S 6.

12pm – Slavic Interest Group Gathering . Annual meeting of the Slavic Interest group at Pennsic. (3 hours) A&S 12.

1pm – Hungarian Names & Heraldry . An introduction to names & heraldry for Hungarian personae, with a quick overview of relevant history & language & available sources. (1 hour) Kolosvari Arpadne Julia. A&S 3.

2pm – Late Period Russian Costuming. Male and Female costuming for Russians at all class levels, with a concentration on beginners and decoration/fabric selection/patterns. (2 hours) Mordak Timofeivich Rostovskogo. A&S 8.

5pm – Conversational Russian . Learn everyday conversational Russian phrases and idioms. Introduction to reading and the Russian alphabet. (1 hour) Lada Monguligin. A&S 6.


August 5

11am – Russian and Slavic “Period” Illumination and Art. [Continuation of 8/3 class – see above]

2pm – Lithuania: The Biggest Medieval Country Of Which You May Not Have Heard. In 1400 CE, Lithuania stretched from the Baltic to the Black Sea. I will discuss its history from ancient tribes to the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, plus clothing, names, culture, and more as time permits. (1 hour) Patricia of Trakai. A&S 1.

5pm – Conversational Russian, Part II . More complex phrases (both mundane and SCA related) as well as numbers, and dates. (1 hour) Lada Monguligin. A&S 6.

5pm – Period Sources for Russian Bards . [Repeat of 8/3 class – see above]


August 6

10am – Late Period Russian Costuming. [Repeat of 8/4 class – see above]

11am – Russian and Slavic “Period” Illumination and Art. [Continuation of 8/3 class – see above]

2pm – Early Russian History. [Repeat of 8/4 class – see above] A&S 5.

5pm – Archaeology and Medieval Slavic Material Culture. [Repeat of 7/30 class – see above]


August 7

11am – Early Russian Clothing. [Repeat of 8/3 class – see above]


A Story of Two Saints: St. Stanislaus of Cracow and Thomas à Becket

By Magdalena Gdanska

Stanislaus died 39 years before Thomas à Becket was born in England, but the lives of these two clerics, at times, follow similar patterns. Some have gone so far as to call Stanislaus the Thomas à Becket of Poland.

Stanilaus was born into a noble family in the city of Szczepanow near Cracow. He was ordained after he received his education at Gnesen. Bishop Lampert Zula of Cracow gave Stanislaus canonry which made him the Bishop's preacher.

Thomas was born to Gilbert, sheriff of London, and his wife Matilda. Thomas started his education at Merton Priory, studied law in London, and continued his studies at the University in Paris. When his father died around 1141, it left Thomas without means. Thomas soon thereafter joined the household of Theobold of Canterbury. Theobold sent Thomas on mission trips and in 1144 to study canon law. He was ordained a deacon in 1154 and became archdeacon of Canterbury after being nominated by Theobold.

Upon becoming Bishop Zula's preacher, Stanislaus became well known for his preaching and was a sought after spiritual advisor. Stanislaus was successful in his reforming efforts and was named Bishop of Cracow in 1072.

Thomas caught the attention of Henry of Anjou when he convinced Pope Eugene III not to recognize the succession of King Stephen of Blois's son, Eustace. This secured Henry's ascent to the throne as Henry II. Thomas was appointed Chancellor of England, which made him the second most powerful man in England, second only to Henry. Thomas soon became known for his life of luxury and even went to war with Henry in 1159 at the head of his own troops.

On the death of his mentor, Theobold, Thomas was nominated by Henry as Archbishop of Canterbury. In spite of his protests, Thomas was elected to the post. Up to this point Thomas was an archdeacon, not an ordained priest. He resigned his chancellorship and was ordained a priest the day before his consecration as archbishop. Thomas changed his life completely after becoming archbishop and lived a life of great austerity. His commitment to ordained life soon caused friction with Henry.

Soon after becoming Bishop of Cracow, Stanislaus incurred the anger of King Boleslaus the Bold for condemning the king's cruelty and injustices. One painting shows King Boleslaus directing soldiers to take infants from their mothers. The story goes that these women cheated on their husbands while the husbands were fighting in the Crusades. Boleslaus was so outraged by this he ordered the infants (that resulted from the affairs) to be taken from the mothers and be given to female dogs who had a litter of pups to be nursed. The pups were given to the women to be nursed. Stanislaus is on the side of the painting witnessing this exchange. Stanislaus also condemned Boleslaus for kidnapping the beautiful wife of a nobleman.

Stanislaus finally excommunicated Boleslaus for his behavior. And when Boleslaus would enter the cathedral while Stanislaus was saying Mass, Stanislaus would stop the service.

Thomas soon began to clash with Henry especially over clerical and church rights. Thomas refused to accept the Constitution of Clarendon, which among other things, denied the right for clerics to be tried in ecclesiastical courts and to appeal to the Pope.

Thomas appealed to Pope Alexander III but the pope was intimidated by Henry and would not support Thomas. Thomas entered a Cistercian monastery. As a result, Henry threatened to expel all Cistercians from his kingdom. Thomas moved to St. Columba Abbey, which was under the protection of King Louis VII of France. Louis was able to bring about a short-lived truce between Henry and Thomas and Thomas moved back to England. After returning to England Thomas refused to lift his excommunication on the bishops who took part in the coronation of Henry's son, a blatant infringement on the rights of the Archbishop of Canterbury. Thomas was holding out for the bishops to swear obedience to the Pope.

In a fit of anger, Henry said publicly that he wished he was rid of this troublesome prelate (Thomas). It is accepted that Henry's meaning was misunderstood and that he didn't want what happened next. Several of Henry's knights murdered Thomas à Becket in his cathedral on December 29, 1170. Thomas was immediately declared a martyr and attained sainthood in 1173. The next year Henry did public penance.

After Stanislaus stopped mass when Boleslaus entered the cathedral, Boleslaus killed Stanislaus while Stanislaus was saying Mass in a chapel outside of Cracow on April 11, 1079. Stanislaus, a symbol of Polish nationhood and the primary patron saint of Cracow, was canonized in 1253. His feast day is celebrated April 11.



•  Davies, Norman, God's Playground. New York: Columbia University Press, 1982

•  Delaney, John, Dictionary of Saints. New York: Doubleday, 1980

•  Walicki, Michal, Malarstwo Polskie. Warsaw: Zakresu Kultury I Sztuki, 1961


Period Sources for Russian Bards,

Part IV: Tales of Bygone Days

By Peotr Alexeivich

[Note: I will be teaching a class at Pennsic, based on these essays I've been writing, called “Period Sources for Russian Bards.”]

Last issue we began finding stories from the Russian Primary Chronicle s. This document, written in Kiev in the early 1100s, is a history of the origins of the Russian state. Translated into English by Samuel Hazzard Cross and Olgerd P Sherbowitz-Wetzor, it was published by the Medieval Academy of America, Cambridge, MA in 1953. The book can be hard to find, but is available in most academic libraries.

The story of the early Russian Princes, essentially pagan Viking warriors, is incredibly colorful. It certainly possible to extract more stories to tell than I am highlighting in this essay series, and you will locate more to fit your tastes and needs. In the years 935 to 941, for example, we follow the third in the line of princes of Rus, Igor, in his raids on the Byzantine Empire. His defeat is ultimately laid to a secret weapon –“Greek Fire” – an incendiary that burned even in water. Dramatic as Igor's life is, it is his death that begins one of my favorite Russian tales, which I call Olga's Vengeance .

Igor attempted to levy tribute on one of the more recalcitrant Slavic tribes and was murdered by them (945 A.D.). Their leaders went to Kiev to demand that his wife, Olga, marry one of their number. She replied that she would consent, but that they should act haughty and insist on being carried up to the fortress (Kremlin) in their ship.

“So they carried [them] in their boat. They later sat on their cross benches in great robes puffed up with pride. They thus were borne into court before Olga and when the men had brought [them] in, they dropped them into a trench along with their boat. Olga bent over and inquired whether they found the honor to their taste. They answered that it was worse than the death of Igor. She then commanded that they should be buried alive, and thus they were buried.”

Olga's vengeance continues through the next year. She causes a second delegation to be burned alive in her bathhouse. A third group was gotten drunk with mead and slain. Finally she besieged the tribe's city. In a motif repeated elsewhere in medieval stories, she demanded a tribute from each house in the besieged city of three doves and three sparrows. Using sulfur tied to the birds, she burns the city to the ground, killing and enslaving the tribe.

One of the most dynamic leaders of ancient Rus, Olga was also the first to convert to Christianity (948 – 955) and to ultimately be made a saint. Her son, Svyatoslav, was a fierce and aggressive leader who defeated the Khazars and renewed attacks on Byzantium. While he was away at war, nomads besieged Kiev. Olga reappeared in the Chronicles , successfully defending the city from the nomads alongside her grandsons (968).

Svyatoslav continued his warlike ways after his mother's death. He ultimately dies at the hand of nomads who, “…took his head, and made a cup out of his skull overlaying it with gold, and they drank from it.”

Next issue we will continue with the Chronicles and the story of the Rus' conversion to Christianity.


Baba's Mushroom Cream Dill Sauce

(or as my friends call it, “Granny's Heart Attack Sauce”)

By Jeanne of Ramsgaard

I don't know if this is of interest to the group (or if it's strictly medieval; my Ukrainian relatives from farms in Saskatchewan make this), but here's a recipe my Grandmother has for a yummy cream dill sauce for pyroheh . Put this on pyroheh (in place of sour cream, fried salt pork, and onions) or on small boiled or sautéed potatoes.

Slice mushrooms (not too thin). Cut green onions. Chop dill.

Saute mushrooms in pan with little bit of butter and the white part of the green onion. (If you don't have green onions, chop small amounts of white onion into very tiny pieces.) When mushrooms are mostly cooked, but still firm (and onions are clear, not brown), add cream.

Keep stirring until the cream thickens (it takes a while). When sauce is getting thick, add fresh dill.

Prior to removing sauce from heat, add chopped green onions.

(If putting on tiny boiled or sautéed potatoes, make sauce less thick; can also do it without mushrooms if going just on potatoes)


Book Review

•  Sacred Art and City Life: The Glory of Medieval Novgorod. Ed by C. Griffith Mann (Palace Editions, 2005).

Very few illustrated books have been published which deal exclusively with medieval Russia. Publication of a new one makes it nearly a necessity for serious students of our new middle ages. Without doubt this is a beautiful volume, with full color printing, good photographs and a correspondingly high price. Sacred Arts illustrates the material culture of Novgorod with an emphasis on religious icons. It was created for a 2005 travelling exhibition which visited Hamburg and Baltimore.

The first hundred pages consist of ten scholarly essays, with terrific illustrations. These cover icon painting (four articles), writing in Novgorod (two), church architecture, decorative arts, history and archeology. Each essay was penned by an expert in the field, and since they were written separately they are somewhat repetitious and a little uneven.

The balance of the book, over 150 pages, is a traditional exhibition catalogue with color photographs and descriptions of 218 objects. The photography and printing are excellent. Some significant Novgorod objects appear for the first time in easily accessible images. These include: a hoard of Byzantine coins, seals of the Princes, a silver grivna bar, glass beads, textile fragments, a writing tablet, birchbark documents, wood carvings, amulets, pendants and materials from an icon painter's studio. The largest number of objects shown are icons and other religious art.

While this sounds like a terrific volume, it has some frustrating aspects. The items are documented as art objects rather than as cultural artifacts. Small, complex items are reproduced at small size, rather than magnified. Each item is given only one photograph to represent it, whereas multiple views would have been valuable, and to make matters worse the lighting often less than revealing. Accompanying descriptions are uneven in the amount of background information included; some captions are limited to a name, dimensions and provenance. Lastly, the items are numbered a little strangely, occasionally out of sequence. These problems diminish somewhat a useful and attractive book, which many of us will feel the need to buy regardless.

-- Peotr Alexeivich


Film Review

•  Alexander Nevsky (1938) B&W with subtitles. Directed by Sergei Eisenstein.

Alexander Nevsky is a Soviet film that depicts a famous battle in which Russian forces defeated the Teutonic and Livonian Knights on the ice of Lake Peipus (along the present Estonian-Russian border) in 1242 A.D. The film is noted for its mass battle scene that appears to actually have been filmed on a frozen lake and depicts shoulder-to-shoulder fighting involving what looks like several hundred people in some of the wider shots.

The title character was Grand Duke of Vladimir from 1253 to 1263. His given name can also be spelled “Aleksander.” His last name is an attribute given to him after his previous defeat of Swedish forces on the River Neva. Alexander was ruler of Novgorod (northwest of Moscow, towards the Gulf of Finland) and balanced various anti-Russian forces by paying tribute to the Tartars while simultaneously fighting intermittent battles with the Swedes and Germans who wanted Russian land. Alexander is apparently considered to be an early hero in the attempt to free Russia from foreign domination.

The film, rented from Blockbuster Video, is in Russian, with English subtitles that are commonly difficult to read due to the lack of contrast. However, one can follow along well enough to understand the story. It's not unlike a Hollywood epic with noble heroes, comic-relief characters, and evil traitors. The Teutonic/Livonian Knights are, of course, cruel and sadistic. Costuming is very good. Arms and armor seem good, too, as far as I can tell. The lake battle scene is impressive: shoulder-to-shoulder combat, including blurred swords whizzing just in front of the camera lens as it lies focused on activities farther away. Good guys/bad guys differentiation is easy: Teutonic/Livonian Knights all wear white surcoats; the Rus all wear dark clothes. There is, of course, love interest, and even an armored female warrior who appears to have been an average Russian maiden shopping in the marketplace until the call to arms! The best scene, though, is one of the heroic young male leads (sans his helmet, of course) losing his sword and going berserker crazy with a small log. He smashes Teutonic/Livonian Knights left and right (and plays trash compactor with a pot-helm) all the while grinning like the cat that swallowed the canary. I'd love to take that scene and incorporate it into an SCA fighter-recruitment film!

The film is well worth watching, even in spite of occasional jumps in the story that suggest that parts of the original film may be missing. It's as good as any of the better Hollywood medieval epics.


•  Clarkson, Jesse D. A History of Russia. New York: Random House, 1969.

•  Dmytryshyn, Basil. A History of Russia . Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hill, 1977.

•  Gurney, Gene. Kingdoms of Europe, New York: Crown Publishers Inc., 1982.

•  McLean, Fitzroy. Holy Russia. New York: Atheneum, 1979.

•  Ustinov, Peter. My Russia. Boston: Little Brown, & Co., 1983.

-- Lord István din Brasov



•  One of the members of the SIG Listserv posted a reminder about the Google translation service: “ I often use Google translation for assistance with projects I do in Spanish, Italian, German and Russian. I just realized that Google can also translate the following languages: Croatian, Czech, Estonian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Polish, Romanian, Serbian, Slovak, Slovenian, and Ukrainian. I am sure they are not as good as native-speaker translations, but they will help with basics. I am excited because I have a diary written by my great, great grandfather in Latvian, and now I will have a chance to try to translate it. If you search for Google translate, you get many options. I prefer this link: .”


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), 5625 Highland Way, Middleton WI 53562, 608-827-6891, e-mail: 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 web site (