Fall AS XLIV (2009)
Volume XV, Issue 1 (#55)

 

From the Nachalnik

I recently became my local SCA group's historian and, as I start piecing together the history of my barony, it's had me thinking about the history of this Group as well. It's the beginning of our fifteenth year as an organization and while we pretty much continue to do the same things we have always done, we do them in a very different way. Back when we started, only about half of the members had email accounts. Initially, we communicated by direct correspondence through surface mail, phone, and (for those who had it) email: people would write me and I would publish their queries/advice/recommendations in the Slovo . From nearly the beginning, we had a website, which was pretty revolutionary in 1995 (but I was a college professor and had those perks). After a few years, Yana introduced a listserv for the Group and that took off. And, at about the same time, the surface-mail side of the Group became a smaller part of what we do. Nowadays, the SIG-L listserv is pretty much the bulk of our communications.

The primary casualty of the growth of the Internet, I have come to realize, is the printed record of an organization. SIG-L does have an archive, but the most permanent record of what we do and who we are is this Newsletter. Through its previous 54 issues, we have recorded a plethora of ideas, developed by dozens of different contributors. In my mind, it remains the best record we have of what SIG is.

I'm thankful to the folks who write material for Slovo (whether they are diehard regulars or occasional contributors), but I'm insatiable. I realize that in this day of instant Internet communication, it's hard to see the value in creating a newsletter, but it is an important record of what we have been doing. The costs of producing it are minimal and I'm happy to underwrite them, but I can't provide the material to publish, which is where you all come in. Consider what you have to share with others and how you can leave a material legacy for the Group. Submit! Submit! Submit!

 


Pennsic Gathering

Unfortunately, I don't have much news to report on Pennsic this year. I know that there was a gathering and I've seen some pictures, but unfortunately, I couldn't coax anyone into doing a write-up or to sending me pictures. As a result, I have nothing to put in here. Apparently, the War is the new Las Vegas (“What happens at Pennsic, stays at Pennsic”)?

 


Slavic University

Mariia Kotok has been working on putting together another Slavic U. This one would take place in Sylvan Glen, Æthelmearc ( Martinsburg WV), which is located about two hours drive from Washington DC. The dates they are looking at would be in April or May (with a strong leaning towards Memorial Day weekend to allow more time for travel). She is hoping to keep the price fairly low and giving some kind of break on admission for teachers. More details to follow!

 


Going Green (or How the “Stealth Russian from the North” Became a Lot Less Stealthy)

By Sofya la Rus

I was protégé to Master Mikhail who was the Royal Herald at our Kingdom A&S competition in the Canton of Axed Root (Ames, IA). He'd recently been having me help him behind the thrones in court (keeping track of scrolls and medallions), but didn't ask for my help with the court that day, and I had been so busy that I hadn't noticed.

I did notice when he slipped on his Pelican Cloak of Estate in the middle of Heralding court. That's when my heart started to pound. I'd seen this sort of maneuver before when Peers “beg a boon”... I knew he only had two associates and I was the only one there, but I couldn't believe it could be for me... it was too soon… I guess you're never really ready.

After that came some major finagling to figure out how to get a vigil and elevation into my schedule before the end of the reign. And so the “Long Fall” began.

First, we had a 6-hour trip to the Barony of Mag Mor (Lincoln, NE) for my vigil at Cattle Raids. We left after work on Friday, slept in the car that night in a rest stop on I-80 and arrived at Riverside Park around 9:30am - just in time to throw on some garb and unpack a few things (vigil lamp, Orthodox chant background music, silk veil to hem) before I was put on vigil.

The next weekend, I was the Event Steward for Ages of War: the Rus vs the World in Charles City, IA - a nice little inter-kingdom event, if I may say so myself. It went well and we didn't even lose money.

The third weekend of the “Long Fall” required a 5-hour trip to the Barony of Lonely Tower (Omaha, NE) to the Known World Heraldic and Scribal Symposium where I'd promised to teach two brand new classes: Medieval Russian Titles and Ranks, and Medieval Russian Calligraphy and Illumination.

The fourth weekend was my elevation at King's Company of Archers, held at the site of Lilies War in Missouri, another 6-hour drive for us. This time we had our mundane camper to stay in at the rest stop on Friday night. When we arrived on site Saturday AM, the initial plan was for court to be in an hour-and-a-half, so we took our time getting the camper situated and changing into regular garb.

No sooner had we gotten dressed, then we were told that court would be after the next archery shoot! So we quickly got into our court garb and got out the props for the procession. I hadn't decided yet how best to wear my brand new hat (made using fabric given to me by Mistress Tatiana Tumanova), but there wasn't time to play around with it now!

The format of a Peerage ceremony in Calontir is pretty fixed. The only places to individualize are in the procession, the wording of the oath of fealty, and the scroll text. Most people swear a standard oath of fealty, but I took the opportunity to make mine as Russian as possible, based on period Russian loyalty certificates.

Master Mordak drove all the way from Ohio to attend the ceremony. He discovered my webpage when I was a newbie in the Slavic Interest Group and he's been a constant encouragement ever since. So it was very appropriate that he help escort me into court as a representative of SIG.

After the elevation, the “pack of Russian Laurels” escaped to a fabric store to celebrate appropriately and got back in plenty of time to attend the archery potluck. It was a fun time to bond, particularly valuable since we all live so far away from each other, especially Mordak.

To see more details and photos, go to: http://www.strangelove. net/~kieser/Medieval/laurel.html

 


The Court of King Arthur: Merchant Guild or Proto-Medievalists?

By Ásfríðr Ulfvíðardóttir

It may interest some people to know, that the origins of recreating earlier time periods appears to have started, at the latest, in the middle ages, and that the heart of this movement was the Hanseatic-era Baltic; seemingly centered on Poland. The Court of King Arthur (Latin: Curia Regis Artus , German: Artushof Polish: Dwór Artusa ) was the name given to these buildings where an attempt at recreating courtly life of the mythical king and his round table of legend were played out.

It seems even in the 14 th century the desire to relive a ‘golden age' of high culture and the chivalric ideal was an attractive idea. The merchant class in Danzig (Gdansk), Poland, were no exception to this siren song, and the mercantile Brotherhood of St. George built their very own Court (Wallace, 2007). The idea spread throughout Poland, and the Hanseatic merchant towns, with similar courts appearing in Riga, Elblag, Rewal (Tallinn), Brunsberg (Braniewo), Thorn (Torun), Culm (Chelmno), and Stralsund (Schlauch, 1959).

The Gdansk court building still stands to this day, hence why it seems to have attracted the most attention. However, it is quite tempting to draw parallels between modern re-creation groups, striving to reproduce an idealized time, and those first faltering steps of the Courts of King Arthur. Indulging in feasting and frivolity to try and capture an even earlier, idealized event obviously is not a new idea. King Arthur was seen as the epitome of knightly virtues and chivalry. His round table was a symbol of equality and partnership amongst the brotherhood. While this early incarnation of the court was an aristocratic club, combining feudal ceremonies, a religious benevolent society and banking, it is the re-enactment of aspects of courtly life that has attracted the most attention. The court is remembered today as a place of feasting, tournaments and dancing (Gdansk History Museum, 2009).

Like the knightly order the merchants were trying to emulate, members of the Brotherhood were held to high standards of ideal behavior. According to an early Artushofordnung , allegedly from 1300, “quarreling, bad language, commercial malpractices, intimacy with each others' wives and marriage of women with bad reputation” would result in disqualification from the Brotherhood (Schlauch 1959, trans Simson 1900).

Like the decidedly middle-class background of many people involved in re-enactment today, the members of the Artushof were drawn from the merchants and burghers of Polish society (Kmetz, 1994) and how skilled laborers and hired workers, as well as female merchants and craftspeople, were excluded from the Brotherhood into the 16 th century (Schlauch, 1959). It seems that guests of Brotherhood members were also required to be of noble standing (Gdansk History Museum, 2009), and foreigners visiting from other Hanseatic towns was a frequent occurrence (Schlach, 1959).

Annual ceremonies included “tournaments held in knightly costumes,” although if this included historic dress as well as armour seems to be unclear (Schlauch, 1959). Although it is tempting to picture a high-medieval Polish man attempting to dress as a 6 th century Saxon from the supposed time of King Arthur, it is highly unlikely that the chivalric activities of the Brotherhood of St. George would be considered to have been a re-enactment of any time period – real or imagined – by any modern observer. It would be impossible to know for certain what a participant in such spectacles thought, too.

If anything, the court, in day to day activities, would be more akin to a gentlemen's club, known throughout the Hansa trade routes. “For it is the maner in Danswycke [Danzig] that the moste parte of all the merchaunte men have supped at vii. a clocke, and than they goe to Artus gardeyn to drinke and there to take there recreacyon, and sometyme to make bargains with theyr marchandise.” So explains a wife who knows when her lover would be able to visit safely because of this daily routine, in the 1560s text, The deceyte of women (Schlauch, 1959). It is known that food and drink was served at the court daily, excepting Sundays and special occasions, until 10pm (Simson, 1900; Schlauch, 1959).

It was a place for the merchants to trade and strike deals, disseminate and receive information, and hear announcements from the authorities (Gdansk History Museum, 2009). The acquisition of money, knightly chivalric guise, is more likely to be the principal aim of the members of the Brotherhood than a modern-day interest in the past.

Sadly, by the late 16 th and early 17 th centuries, war, disease and turmoil struck Poland, and the Court was not immune. The feasts and frivolity that had marked its existence through the middle ages declined, until the 18 th century when it became the Danzig stock exchange (Gdansk History Museum, 2009).

 

Bibliography

•  Gdansk History Museum. 2009. Artus Court ( http://www.mhmg.gda.pl/international/index.php?lang=eng&oddzial=2) Last Accessed 16 th September, 2009

•  Kmetz, John. 1994. Music in the German Renaissance (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.)

•  Schlauch, M. 1959. King Arthur in the Baltic Towns. Bulletin Bibliographique de la Société Internationale Arthurienne 11 : 75-80

•  Simson, Paul. 1900. Der Artushof in Danzig und seine Brüderschaften, die Banken. Danzig: T. Bertling. http://www.archive.org/details/derartushofindan00simsuoft.  Last Accessed 16 th September, 2009

•  Wallace, D. 2007. “Margery in Gdansk” in William Matthews Memorial Lectures , Birkbeck University of London. http://www.bbk.ac.uk/events/matthews/david_wallace. Last Accessed 16 th September, 2009

 


Resources

•  Catrina posted a fascinating link on the SIG-L that is worth a look. Apparently, the medievalists in Russia have their own Pennsic. The pictures look surprisingly familiar. You can see them at http://community.livejournal.com/russiamagazine/17267.html

 


Inquiries

•  Maya Frost (who can be reached at nisiocan@gmail.com ) is looking for documentation on period tents for 10th century Varangian Rus: “I've a few modern illustrations of approx. 14th/15th c. tent but no proper documentation. The other difficulty for me is that I haven't many resources available to me at the moment other than the Internet. Would you be able to point me in the right direction?”

 


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