Winter AS XLV (2011)
Volume XVI, Issue 2 (#60)

From the Nachalnik

My heartfelt thanks to the folks who contributed articles for this quarter’s issue (and my apologies to Sofya for not being able to print her piece on Russian calligraphy). I hope you will enjoy them and find them helpful. I also appreciate all of the folks who have been sharing their research findings/sources on the SIG-list and I hope they won’t mind that I’ve republished them at the end of this issue. It’s these little sharings that I’ve also felt were the most important part of what we do.

As always, I’m looking for someone to host the next Slavic University. We’ve had a great time at them so far and I enjoy getting out to meet fellow SIG members at them! In the next couple of months, we’ll be thinking about Pennsic again (and I know that there is talk about get-togethers at Gulf Wars and other major interkingdom events). If you are planning anything, feel free to share it with the SIG-List and I’ll try to republish it here (if I can get it out in time).

As this was going to press, I learned that long-time SIG member, Zygmunt Nadratowski just found out that he would be elevated to the Laurel for Polish Persona studies/Polish Garb. Congratulations!


The Mysterious “Omega” Brooches

By Ásfríðr Úlfvíðardóttir

If you’ve ever spent much time looking at the items that have been popping up on antique sites and eBay over the last year or two, you may have noticed some very striking penannular brooches with wide, flattened terminals. Sometimes, they have silver accents on their copper-alloy base, or have loops along the sides of the terminals, where beads or cowry shells are attached. Or, there are beads or shells threaded onto wire that is wrapped around the head of the brooch. The plainest style is a simple length of wire that has been shaped with the ends flattened to achieve a rough, “omega brooch” shape.

Many of the sellers of these brooches say they are from Staraya Ladoga, and Viking Age, and you can find reproductions on websites catering to re-enactors that imply they were used to fasten that characteristically Norse garment, the “apron dress” (e.g., Raymond’s Quiet Press).

But how true are these claims, and where else could they have come from?

Figure 1: Photograph of fancy brooch reproduction in bronze, by “Chips” Whitthread, Australia


Figure 2: Drawing of simple brooch, from Sheppard (1904).

Finds from Staraya Ladoga in the early medieval period, even when carefully excavated, are problematic when trying to determine the origins of the deceased. The women were often buried with a collection of Scandinavian, Finnish and Slavic jewelry, making it difficult to determine “ethnic origins” (Roesdahl and Wilson, 1992; 304). Thankfully, the Hull and East Riding Museum and the British Museum purchased part of the finds from an excavation, undertaken in 1900, from Efaefsk, or Efaevo (Sheppard, 1904; 50), which provides a vital clue. Efeafsk, near Krasnoslobodsk, is located in the Penza Oblast of Russia, which neighbors the Republic of Mordovia. At the time that these brooches were worn – the 11-13th centuries (Hull and East Riding Museum, 2010) – this area was occupied by a group known as the Mordvins, whose language was a branch of the Finno-Ugric language who were also known as the Volga Finns. These brooches are therefore not “Viking” or even particularly “Viking Age,” but are early medieval and are Finno-Ugric, most likely Mordvinian.

I have been unable to find any information about what was worn by Mordvin women, or men, at this time, however from personal experience using a reproduction, these brooches are too petite to hold up an “apron dress”-like garment but are an attractive way to close a keyhole slit neckline. The plainer, unperforated style, according to Sheppard (1904; 53) was “found in rows, resting upon the bones of the chest, and had evidently been used for fastening garments,” although the presumed gender of the owner is not mentioned.

While this brief note doesn’t answer all the questions about this interesting and beautiful style of jewelry, it will hopefully answer some of them, and point other people in the right direction when they wonder about those “Viking” penannular brooches.



To access photographs and text describing the simple omega brooches from the Hull and East Riding Collection, and the more complex examples in the British Museum Collection, go to the Hull and East Riding Online Collection Catalogue ( and search for the following ID numbers: KINCM:2008.6067 .42, KINCM:2008.6067.55, KINCM:2008.6067.56 and KINCM:2008.6067.58 Go to the British Museum Collection Database ( and search for 1905,0524.26-32 and 1905,0524.25


· Hull and East Riding Museum. 2010. Online Collection Catalogue
· Raymond’s Quiet Press. 2010. Viking Women's Dress Brooches, Shawl Pins. Available online at:
· Roesdahl, E. and Wilson, D.M. [eds.] 1992. Viking to Crusader: The Scandinavians and Europe 800-1200. (New York: Rizzoli).
· Sheppard, T. 1904. Ancient Russian Ornaments and Weapons. The Antiquary 50(290); 50-4. Online at:

Towards a Recipe for Period Kvass

By Vitasha Ivanova doch’

“A slightly alcoholic drink, similar to beer, made by fermenting rye bread in water. This is the generally accepted anglicized spelling (Russian kvas” or KBAC in Cyrillic). (The Domostroi, p. 248)

Recipe from The Domostroi p. 198
Ordinary Kvass. To brew ordinary kvass, take four parts honey and strain it until it is clear. Put it in a jar and ferment it using an ordinary soft loaf, without additional yeast. When it is done, pout it into a cask.

With the assistance of Master Donal, we redacted it to the following:



1 loaf Mestmacher Whole Rye Bread, no preservatives – 17.6 oz.
¼ cup raisins + 3 raisins per bottle
1 teaspoon bread yeast (Red Star Active Dry Yeast)
1 tablespoon clover honey
Lemon peel


Chronological Notes

7/11/10: Break slices in half and stand up on edge in a cooling rack that is on a cookie sheet. Dry in oven at 200 degrees for 1 hour. Medium dryness, but not hard. I had dried 2 loafs like this, but ended up not using the other one. A couple days later, I took the hard bread and put it in a paper bag to use at another time.

9/27/10: Boil 1 1/2 gal water for 10 min to remove chlorine. Remove dry bread from the paper bag, break it up and steep in water for 1 hour, stirring every 10 minutes. While the bread is steeping, I put the carboy, airlock, funnel, strainer, hydrometer, hydrometer tube, plate and knife (for chopping raisins) in Iodaphor sterilizing solution (1 capful per 5 gallons of water). Strain bread out of liquid and pour liquid into carboy. Chop ¼ cup raisins and add to carboy.

9/28/10 (AM): Hydrometer 1.034. Added 1 teaspoon of bread yeast and added airlock. I chose bread yeast as it seemed to be what would have been naturally in the kitchens in period, and because I felt it would be the yeast best able to ferment the bread.

10/2/10: I soaked the second carboy, airlock, funnel, strainer, hydrometer, hydrometer tube, and tablespoon in Iodaphor sterilizing solution (1 capful per 5 gallons of water). Then I racked the kvass and added 1 tablespoon of clover honey. The hydrometer reading was 1.008 at 76 degrees – adjusted to 1.010 (3.1% alcohol).

10/5/10: I soaked the funnel, bottles, bottle caps, hydrometer, hydrometer tube, plate, potato peeler and knife (for cutting the lemon peel) in Iodaphor sterilizing solution (1 capful per 5 gallons of water). Then I poured the kvass into the bottles, added 3 raisins and 1/8 of a slice of lemon peel to each bottle and capped them. (Please excuse the Samuel Adams bottles. I reuse the bottles from the commercial beers we buy as they are easier on the pocketbook.) The hydrometer reading was 1.006 at 74 degrees – adjusted to 1.0075 (3.5% alcohol).

The final product is cloudy and should be lightly carbonated. I believe that the product comes out cloudy since it is brewed from bread which is made of finely ground grains. The recipe does not mention straining it, so I would surmise that it was also served cloudy in period as well. One may wish to roll the bottle before opening it in the same manner that a modern wheat beer is properly served in order to redistribute the sediments throughout the kvass. Otherwise, the first few drinks of the kvass may be weak and flavorless.


Historical Notes

The Domostroi says that a good wife should know how to make kvass for the household, and should never drink anything strong, but “weak beer or kvass.” (p. 138)

In Bread & Salt, kvass is listed as an “everyday drink” (Smith and Christian, p. 6). The Domostroi includes kvass as one of the beverages to have on hand for the mistress of the household (Pouncy, p. 159), as one of the items the steward should inventory and store in the cellar (Pouncy, p. 164-165), and a wedding ritual states that mugs of mead and kvass should at hand on the sideboard (Pouncy, p. 213).

Kvass was mostly consumed as a beverage; however, apples and pears were also soaked in kvass and syrup and served as a dessert. (Pouncy, p. 152)

A doctor in the 17th century noted that the tsar’s bread was made of rye instead of wheat as the Russians felt that rye was more nourishing than wheat. (Smith and Christian, p. 6)



· Pouncy, Carolyn Johnston, ed. The Domostroi: Rules for Russian Households in the Time of Ivan the Terrible. New York: Cornell University Press, 1994.
· Smith, R.E.F. and David Christian. Bread & Salt: A Social and Economic History of Food and Drink in Russia. Cambridge, Mass.: Cambridge University Press, 1984.

[Acknowledgements: I wish to thank Master Donal O’Brein for his assistance in working out brewing recipes, and Count Conrad Breakring for tasting each and every one of my attempts. Thank you both for your encouragement.]



· MIPP International (, purveyors of many fine books from the former Soviet Union, are advertising a multi-volume set of facsimiles of a 16th century annal of Russian history. The work, entitled Litsevoi letopisnyi svod XVI veka: Russkaia letopisnaia istoriia [The illuminated annalistic chronicle of the XVIth century: Russian annalistic history] is being released in 24 volumes (23 covering the text, plus an additional volume of explanatory material): “The illuminated annalistic chronicle represents a legendary collection of Ivan the Terrible - the largest chronographic work of Medieval Rus. It is illustrated with about 17,000 colored miniatures with a binder made of high-quality nubuck lettered in gold and decorative elements on the book cover.” Individual volumes (each about 500 pages) cover 15-20 year intervals and are priced at $250-300 each (which translates to slightly over $6000 plus shipping for the entire set!). SIG members with wealthy patrons are welcome to notify the Nachalnik.

· Praksedys sends the URL of a new website featuring photos from the 1903 Ball ( “Lots more here then I had seen previously.” She also included, “I found the link at this blog She has what looks to be an interesting free ebook on Russian pearling of the 16th and 17th centuries. Since I don’t read much Russian it isn’t helping me much, but I thought it might be of interest to some of you.”

· Marija Kotok sends along a new book (available online) on mushrooms in Russia: “In doing some research I stumbled across a great book that is online in its complete form (“Mushrooms, Russia, and History” by Valentina Pavlovna Wasson and R. Gordon Wasson) can be accessed by going to this address This book gives a good overview on mushroom beliefs, uses, and many quotes from period sources. It contains many drawings as well. Happy Reading!”

· Marija also recommends http:// (“This info is post period but many of you will find it interesting anyway!”).

· Asfridhr sends the following: “With all the talk recently about Russian icons, I thought I should share the section of the British Library catalogue I just stumbled onto: A catalogue of the Russian icons in the British Museum Hope it’s useful!


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 (