Summer AS XLVII (2012)
Volume XVII, Issue 4 (#66)

From the Nachalnik

Greetings to you, as we complete our 17 th year of existence! In this issue, we have a brief account of the Gulf Wars gathering and also my annual survey of the Slavic-related offerings at War. At press time, there is no official announcement of a Pennsic gathering (although there has been some discussion on SIG-L about doing one). I urge those of you attending War to consider putting together a meeting nonetheless.

As for myself, I will not be attending War this year (just as I have missed it for the past ten years). My modern life does not give me much room for the SCA anymore and I've slowly drifted away from the organization. This year, my membership will expire at the end of this month. I have decided not to renew it. And so, I am closing a major chapter on the past twenty-nine years of my life (I joined the SCA at the beginning of 1983).

That said, I still intend to keep this Group going. I don't need to be an SCA officer to do so and when SIG hosts its next Slavic-themed event, I hope to attend (and will simply pay the NMS at the door). My interest in the Slavic world has never really been tied to the SCA. When we started the Group, I was a graduate student majoring in Russian Politics and I saw the Group as an opportunity to be useful and helpful to people who didn't have access to the resources I had at my disposal.

I know that for many of you, the Slavic world is where your ancestors came from and that doing an Eastern or Central European persona is a way of honoring that heritage. I don't have that legacy, but (like you) it's part of who I am. So, despite what you may hear, this is not goodbye. I'll be back in a few months hectoring you for articles for the Fall newsletter!


Gulf Wars SIG Gathering

By Sofya la Rus

This year we met in the Lecture Tent on Artisan's Row on Wednesday afternoon.  It was a very small group, but we had a great time looking through the Russian Elegance book.  We caught up with people we hadn't seen in a while (or had only met on-line) and nibbled on pickled mushrooms and sugared almonds.  It was a lovely hour (so lovely we had trouble leaving when the next class started to come in) and I plan to make sure there are more SIG Gatherings at Gulf Wars in the future.



Pennsic Classes

By Paul Wickenden of Thanet

As is an annual tradition, I wanted to provide my own informal survey of the offerings at Pennsic University this year to highlight classes which may be of interest to SIG members because of their subject matter or the instructor. My apologies if I overlooked any appropriate classes.


Wednesday, August 1

12noon – High Hats for the Russian Woman. Tenth through Sixteenth century Slavic headdresses with special emphasis on kokozhniks detailing regional differences. Will have several samples of finished headdresses on display as well as visual steps of construction. Class includes various hands-on construction techniques, student will leave with samples. Baroness Tatiana Ivanovna of Birchwood Keep


Thursday, August 2

9am – Fabric 101. Overview of period appropriate fabrics, fabric use, fabric types; identifying fabric using a burn test or chemical test. Hands on. Mistress Maria Pienkneplotno

10am – Making Pierogi Only a Babci Wouldn't Like. A lab/practicum in the art of making Polish pierogi (skills transferable to other filled pasta dishes). Come prepared to knead, roll, pinch, boil and be covered in flour. Lord Casimir

12noon – Trade and Trade Routes: The Roman Empire. Extensive trade routes connected the Roman Empire with Africa, the Near and Far East, northern Europe, and the Slavic lands. We will explore metals, salt, amber, spice, grain, luxury goods, wine & olive oil, minted coin, etc. routes as well as entrepots and overland/sea transport servicing same. The Empire was perhaps the first to have a "modern," reliable, and relatively safe trade network. When the Empire declined and fell, regional trade continued more or less, but Rome's vast network of interconnected and intercontinental routes also dissipated. Tourism declined drastically, as did intercultural contact and exchange, leading into what is called the "Dark Ages.” Mistress Arwen Evaine ferch Rhys ap Gwynedd


Saturday, August 4

11am – Beginning Pysanky. Learn (briefly) the history of pysanky ("Ukrainian Easter eggs") and write one of your own, using traditional methods and tools. This is a hands-on class. Lady Muirgheall O'Riein


Sunday, August 5

5pm – 15-16th C Moscovite Russian Clothing. Learn to make clothing from the rise of the Russian Empire. From the simplest to the fanciest, easy to learn for a lifetime of comfort and elegance. Don't follow the herd, start your own unique one. Go East for a class! Master Mordak Timofeevich Rostovich


Monday, August 6

12noon – Pagan Beliefs in Ancient Russia. Russian mythology is a difficult subject. The historical evidence is fragmented, with many conflicting sources and multiple later literary inventions. This is a brief reconstruction of ancient Russian mythology, largely based on archeological and folkloric evidence collected and processed by late Professor B.A. Rybakov, one the foremost authorities on ancient Slavs. Luceta di Cosimo

1pm – Beginning Pysanky. See above.

5pm – Fur-lined Garments, Granny's Closet to Your Garb. Convert those old fur coats in Granny's closet or eBay into fur-lined garments for style or the coldest day! Master Mordak Timofeevich Rostovich


Tuesday, August 7

9am – Fabric 101. See above.

11am – Deciphering Russian and Ukrainian Traditional Embroidery. The traditional embroidery is beautiful and intricate, but do you know what it means? In this class we will discuss the meaning and persistence of old pre-Christian symbols in Russian and Ukrainian embroidery, including the Tree of Life, the Goddess, etc. Luceta di Cosimo

11am – Byzantine Iconography: Theology in Line and Color. An introduction to the ancient art of Byzantine Icons, also known as Icon writing- theology in line and color. An in-depth overview of its origins, history, symbolism, and technique dating back to the Egyptians. Lady Dosalena Sophia della Mirandola


Wednesday, August 8

12noon – Pysanka & the Magical Egg. The pysanka is any type of decorated egg created by the written-wax batik method utilizing traditional folk motifs and designs prevalent in early Eastern Europe. Eggs were decorated with nature symbols becoming an integral part of spring rituals serving as benevolent talismans. No formal art experience is necessary. Learn how to design and complete your own pysanka egg from start to finish. Alexandra el tigre del Castille

3pm – Super Humerals, Barmi, and Ornamental Cuffs for the Well-Dressed Russian. Ninth through Seventeenth century Slavic adornments with special emphasis on collars and cuffs for both male and female; with both clerical and non-clerical versions. Will have several samples of finished products on display. Class includes various hands-on construction techniques, student will leave with samples. Paper will be available for students to make their own patterns. Baroness Tatiana Ivanovna of Birchwood Keep

4pm – 15-16th C Moscovite Russian Clothing. See above.

5pm – Conversational Russian. The class will cover the Russian alphabet and basic modern day Russian conversational phrases, responses and questions. After that we will go over words and phrases more related to the SCA, which can be used to flavor one's persona. There will be time reserved at the end of the class for questions. Lady Lada Monguligin


Thursday, August 9

12noon -- High Hats for the Russian Woman. See above.


Friday, August 10

9am – Beginner Russian Calligraphy. The basics of medieval Russian Calligraphy. Learn the basics of writing the Old Church Slavonic alphabet. Lady Lada Monguligin


Book Review

•  Ot beresty k bumage: kniga drevnei rusi [From Birch-bark to Paper: The Books of Ancient Rus]. Saint Petersburg: Hermitage, 2011. In Russian.


In this catalog to an exhibit hosted by the Novgorod State Museum, we get a stunning survey of Medieval Russian literacy spanning from the 9 th century to the mid-17 th century. The exhibit itself must have been fantastic, but thankfully this catalog is so beautifully done (with large color reproductions of the seventy-four exhibits) that it is almost as good as being there. The best part is that the material is almost entirely in period! Only 3-4 of the items displayed would be considered even marginally post-period, so the large bulk of the book will be of relevance to SCA members.

The book begins with several early birchbark documents, including a wonderful piece from an extremely well–read 11 th century woman (showing just how educated women were in Novgorod in the period). There's even an example of a multi-“page” birchbark document, where several pieces of bark have been sewn together to form a miniature psalter.

The birchbarks are followed by a section on wax tablets (the original iPad), including the wooden boards that once held wax and even a leather sheath for holding them. Styli, made of iron, are well-preserved and numerous examples (some with very intricate designs) fill the catalogue. This second section is capped off with the most interesting item of all: a leather pouch for holding wax tablets and stylus, complete with a lock and key to protect the contents from prying eyes. Wouldn't it be cool to have one of those?

The exhibit continues into parchment. These works are no less old (the early ones date back to the 11 th century) but tend to be more official in nature. Largely religious, they range from scraps to full books. The later examples feature intricate illuminations which are reproduced in detail in the book.

In sum, the catalogue is a great introduction to medieval writing in Russia. Most of it is written in Russian, with the exception of a brief (and sloppily-translated) English-language synopsis at the end. However, the language barrier will not matter much because it is the pictures that make this book truly extraordinary. This is highly recommended for scribes and anyone with an interest in Medieval Novgorod.

-- Paul Wickenden of Thanet


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 (