Fall AS XLVIII (2013)
Volume XIX, Issue 1 (#70)

From the Nachalnik

Welcome to the nineteenth year of this organization. We continue to evolve. When we first started, we were a paper-and-mail organization almost exclusively. Gradually, we developed a web presence and the hard copy became the exception to our distribution. This past quarter, we have seen a significant increase in our Facebook presence as our membership there has grown from under a hundred members to over three hundred now. The media keep changing, but hopefully our purpose (to link people to resources and to each other) remains as valid and vibrant today as it was at our first meeting at Pennsic back in 1995.

Speaking of which, while there was a gathering at Pennsic this year, I don't have any sort of write-up about Pennsic (apparently, what happens at Pennsic stays at Pennsic). However, I did want to call your attention to the upcoming Slavic University in Abhainn Ciach Ghlais. Are you coming? October 26th is the date and we would love to see you there!

As always, I am indebted to our contributors. And my special thanks to Dorian Patkus for her donation which helped to underwrite the costs of this issue.


Slavic University

Slavic University is coming to the Aethelmearc!! A gathering for all those interested in the Slavic culture is coming to the Shire of Abhainn Ciach Ghlais in picturesque Central PA on October 26, 2013 at the Trinity Lutheran Church, 120 South Main Street, Hughesville, PA 17737.

Join us to experience the unique aspects of these peoples. Learn from those gentles who have studied many years. Practice your art. Welcome newcomers with a bit of your experience with the Slavic world as a class instructor. Check out classes already scheduled at http://www.eg.bucknell.edu/~acg/  and register your class soon! There will be a library available to share resources. All attendees are urged to bring your best sources: a librarian will be present. Share your projects in the A&S display and show your works in progress. We are organizing a fashion show: Dress in your period best and a moderator will explain your attire. We have forms at Troll as you check in for the day. Entertainment is planned for the day, TBA. There will be a token for the gentle who travels farthest in the Known World to join us.

Autocrat is Lady Byrgida Zajacszowa (Laurie Ann Balsavage), happypolishlady@yahoo.com. Send registrations to the Troll: Lord Conrad Kienast (Robert English) 124 North Second Street, Sunbury, PA 17801. If you would like to teach please contact Lady Aibell ingen Dairmata (Lea Wittie) ladyaibell@yahoo.com. A Slavic sideboard will be provided by Lord Ciaran O'Tighearnaigh (Craig Griffiths) ciaran.otighearnaigh@yahoo.com. Contact him if you have dietary concerns.

Site opens 9AM , closes 7PM . This is a DRY site. Cost is $10; this includes the all-day sideboard. Make checks payable to SCA of PA, Inc., Shire of Abhainn Ciach Ghlais. Children between the ages of 5 and 17 pay $5.00; babies age 4 and under free. The family cap is $25.00. A $5 surcharge applies to anyone without proof of membership the day of the event. See ACG website http://www.eg.bucknell.edu/~acg/ for area hotels. Some crash space available, contact the autocrat.

From the north: Find your best route to Route 15S. At Williamsport, follow I180E/220N about 15 miles; Exit for 405N; follow 405N into Hughesville. One block past first red light turn left: Academy Street (church on the left as you make the turn). Park in the large parking lot at the rear of the church.

From the west: Find your best route to Route I80, Exit 212B , merge onto I180W toward Williamsport. (You are about 15 miles from the site.) Exit 405N; follow into Hughesville. One block past first red light, turn left at Academy Street (church on left as you make the turn). Park in the large parking lot at the rear of the church.

From the east: Find your best route to Route I80W. Exit 212B to merge onto I180W toward Williamsport. (You are about 15 miles from the site.) Exit 405N, follow into Hughesville. One block past the first red light, turn left at Academy Street (church on the left as you make the turn). Park in the large parking lot at the rear of the church.


The Rushnyk

By Vasyl Jula

Rushnyk literally translates as “towel.” It derives its name from the root word rooka or roochka meaning hand, but it also means a ritual cloth in the Slavic tradition. In this article, both names are used interchangeably to mean a ritual cloth. The word ruchnyk can also be found in various dialects in the areas of ethnographic Ukraine.

The rushnyk is a unique and sacred object and a cultural characteristic of many nations, chiefly Slavic, Baltic and Finno-Hungarian. Ukrainians, who are Slavs, have accumulated a substantial amount of information on woven and embroidered towels. As part of their traditional and spiritual culture, these ornamental patterns and symbols that appear on the towels pass on information about the history of a nation, the planetary/cosmic genesis and the creation of human and all other life forms. Ukrainian women were the guardians of ancient traditions and values. They were able to store these linen cryptograms and preserve them to the present day. These cryptograms are codes which are the keys to understanding the laws of how the Creator created this world. That is why on the embroidered towel we see the subject of the Tree of Life, which indisputably is the central symbolic motif with extraordinarily deep meaning. Among woven towels, which are widespread, especially the old ones, the compositions include continuous ornamental stripes, alternating in colors and ideograms that transmit the knowledge that the world is multi-faceted and complex.


The Wide Application of Rushnyky in the Spiritual and Material Culture of Ukrainians

In the distant and not so distant past a ritual towel accompanied every Ukrainian through life beginning at birth and ending with death. A newborn child was placed on a pure white linen cloth, which was called a kryzhma , symbolizing the cleanliness of the newborn soul. To our ancestors, a long rectangular cloth always meant a road, a way that guides a human through life. Similarly, at burials, grave towels or linens were used to lower the deceased into the grave. Just as the kryzhma was used during the birth of child, the body of the deceased was likewise wrapped in a shroud of clean, bleached linen to wish the deceased further bright roads in the kingdom of the stars.

The rushnyk was a part of Ukrainian daily life. They were used during the annual ritual cycle and various personal ceremonies. Long before Christianity, the people hung woven or embroidered towels in sacred groves and woodlands, where they offered prayers to the Creator. All nature is His creation, and He is present in each living and lifeless form. Towels were the original mediators between God/gods and humans. The codes embroidered on the towels in lines and colors were the keys that helped people to associate with the myriad numbers of invisible spirits. It was believed that these spirits belonging to the four elements of life - Fire, Earth, Wind and Water. These four elements combined to create all living forms, including human. Our ancestors believed in this as they sought to communicate with these spirits, to attract the good spirits for help in daily chores and to ward off the malevolent ones.

But let's return to the "golden age" of the Ukrainian rushnyk . With what the ethnologists could establish during the second half of the XIX and beginning with the XX centuries, the ritual cloth had a wider application besides the traditional ceremonies. There are the obydenni towels, which were woven and or embroidered in one night—from sunset to sunrise. Women made these towels when problems arose with family members or the village community. This could be an illness in the family that needed a cure and where zhillia homeopathic botanicals and other methods did not help. Or the women of the village embroidered a towel when their husbands were fighting a war. The towels were also made during times of epidemics and illnesses, not only among people, but also when domestic animals fell ill.

As a rule, throughout the night, a single woman or a group of women embroidered in silence. Not a word was spoken among them as they all concentrated on the work at hand and on the specific problem. Each woman directed her thoughts to create a positive field of energy. These energies combined together made a towel unique and imbued it with mystical properties. During such an epidemic a rushnyk was embroidered in one night and when finished it was taken to the edge of the village. There the women would lay it flat on the ground. Holding one end of the towel to the ground, they would walk the towel in an end over end fashion. All the women would pray as they moved clockwise skirting the perimeter of the village with the rushnyk until they reached the point where they started. This action created a mystical barrier against the upcoming threat. There were prominent rushnyky that were embroidered for the first day of the cattle being sent out to pasture around the holiday of Sviatiy Yuriy (Saint George). These towels were given to the herdsmen and were called yurivsky or skotarsky . Towels were also used during the building of a house and for times of laboring in the fields.

Memorial towels were also embroidered for special days of commemoration during the year. The towels were hung out an open window with one end hanging on the outside and the other end inside the house. On the center of the towel, where there wasn't any embroidery, a lit candle, water, and bread were placed. In doing so, they honored their departed ancestor and kinfolk, inviting them to use the rushnyk as a road to return to the home.

In pre-Christian times the rushnyk always hung in the pokutia, a place of honor, the corner of the room where the family gathered for meals. Subsequently in the past the towels performed the role of the sacred Christian icon in present time. With the establishment of Christianity, they did not vanish but coexisted with icons. Since the Icon was holy and should not be touched by the bare hands, the rushnyk was used to transport the sacred object from one location to another. Since those times, the significance of the towel has been reduced to only a decorative function.

The philosopher and mathematician Plato said that God acts in geometrical lines. The ornamental patterns embroidered on towels and on clothing gave order and structure to one's surroundings in a comfortable and desired state. In the case of a dwelling-place or sacred grove, this order was found whenever a rushnyk was present. Embroidery gave ambient structure to the aura around the human. A rushnyk made the home atmosphere warm.

Taking into account their powerful magic, ritual towels were used during various personal and community situations. Many Ukrainian songs tell of the moment when a mother gives her son an embroidered towel to accompany him on a distant trip, such as leaving for war, which meant a threat to his life. Embroidering the towel, the mother stitched in all her prayers for his health, happiness, and a safe return home. Imagine that the son had to gather his belongings and leave in a day or two for war. Certainly, the old towels from the XVII-XVIII centuries, which are found in museum collections, bear witness to the fact that the beauty of a towel remained a secondary concern; the first was its sacred, ritual function. The primary function was to impart optimistic and positive symbolism and energy, following necessary rules and layouts.

The XIX century witnessed the end of traditional values when the industrial revolution imposed all its “blessings” on the human race simplifying it, but not for the better. These changes were also noted in the embroidery on towels. The rushnyk became more exuberant and exorbitant in color and composition. The threads filled the entire surface of the linen until there was a complete substitution of all the old traditional subjects. Newer, stranger naturalistic images, that is, floral and/or baroque forms embroidered in cross-stitch, which many scholars describe as Brokarsky were adopted. Cross-stitch is an ancient stitch but from Asia not Ukraine. This stitch made its way from China on the trade routes such as the Silk Road to Western Europe (in this case via France) then to Ukraine. Cross stitch was adopted in the mid XIX century by the inhabitants of the former Russian Empire of which Eastern Ukraine was part. Historically Russian perfumes were created by the French who settled in Russia in the late 1700s. At that time the empress Catherine the Great was infatuated by French culture and encouraged a number of skilled craftsmen to move to and start a new life in Russia. One of these Frenchmen was Henry Brokar. He founded the first inexpensive domestic soap and perfume factory in the suburbs of Moscow in 1864 and soon became an exclusive supplier to the royal family. In Ukraine some ethnographers call cross-stitch Brokar because of the Brokar and Company. On one side of their advertisement was an ad for their perfumes and toiletries and on the other side were patterns for cross-stitch embroidery, usually floral. Later woman's magazines started featuring cross-stitch patterns also. These advertisements spread far and wide, first to the cities and country estates and later entered the village culture. This new type of embroidery and its patterns spread like wildfire and usurped the authentically ethnic Ukrainian embroidery stitches, stitching techniques and embroidery patterns. One reason for this was cross-stitch was easy to execute and another was that the peasantry wanted to look sophisticated like the gentry of the city. More than 200 kinds of embroidery stitches were used in Ukraine in the past but eventually replaced by only cross-stitch and, to a lesser extent, the satin stitch.

The rushnyk was a sacred and mystical talisman and in the past people once know this basic belief. One contemporary researcher of popular domestic textiles, Tamara Prykhodchenko, told the following story from the South Podillia region (today's Odessa oblast): During the time of collectivization, when the Bolsheviks treated the peasants with the utmost cruelty, one such family was being sentenced to Siberia. They were not allowed to take any farm tools, food, or clothing, but were told to gather and be ready to leave in ten minutes. Grandmother took the oldest rushnyk from the pokutia , started praying, and walked clockwise following the sun, three times around all the members of the family who were kneeling on the ground. She prayed that the family be unharmed and for a safe return home after this travesty. The family survived, and no one, except for the old grandparents, died. All the rest returned to their place of birth. T. Prykhodchenko saw this rushnyk first hand and realized how valuable it was to the descendants. There was no need to explain to them what a relic they had in their possession!

The widest use of the rushnyk we see is in the wedding ceremony. Ethnologist Sophia Tereshchenko noted in the beginning of the XX century in the region of Zvenyhorod (Cherkassy oblast) that the rushnyk was used nearly twenty times during the wedding ceremony. In reality a wedding was a holiday, for which a family prepared in advance and the bride embroidered her dowry including the rushnyky . That is why the wedding towels in museum exhibits are the most richly embroidered. Regretfully, in the past ethnologists paid little attention to the semantics of the towels in the ritual ceremonies during a wedding. Because of this, the rushnyk was given the role of ornamentation.

The richest culture of embroidered towels is in the Central Nadniprianshchyna region of Ukraine. A wedding folk song eloquently testifies to their quantity in each home:

On the beam in the pantry,
Forty rushnyky hang.
So let's go and get them
And decorate the Boyary .

Boyary was one of the names used for the groomsmen in the wedding ceremony and the rushnyk is draped over one shoulder and tied at the opposite side at waist level.

The rushnyk was a revered object and was treated with the utmost respect. This is proven by the fact that for the embroidery of the wedding rushnyky that only the finest, whitest, and the best quality linen fabric was selected and the most expensive red threads were purchased. On old towels from the Poltava, Kyiv, and Chernihiv regions a rich red color was used, while in the same period, they used fewer red threads in the embroidery on shirts.


Where Do You Sew the Re,kaw (or a Few Polish Clothing Terms in English)

By Magdalena Gdanska

You want to have a basic idea of what you are looking at in Polish costume books. Or have key words that tell you that you should focus on a particular section of an article or chapter. I hope to give you a few words to help you.

Keep in mind that Polish is an extremely inflected language. There are many endings that can be used with one word depending on the use and gender of the word. So you may come across only the word base and not the whole word as I have written it here.

Also, there are several letters in the Polish language that have diacritical marks. The comma after the e in Re,kaw should actually be attached under the e. Also there is the l/. This more correctly would look like a l with a slash through it. If a letter should have an accent over it, the accent will come after the letter as in the n' in Gdan'sk. Also, when using a Polish English dictionary that that any letter with a diacritical mark will follow the same letter without the mark. The e, follows the e; the l/ follows the l and so on.

collar – kol/nierz

sleeve - re,kaw

hat – colpak, kolpaki, czapko

dress – letnik, ubiór, strój, suknia

boot – but

shoe – some form of but (bucik, butow), trzewik

front – przód

back – tyl

linen – pl/ótno, lniany

wool – wel/na

velvet – aksamit

pearl – perl/a (pearls were often used for decoration. They were readily available due to several rivers that ran through Poland)

embroidery - hafty Polski Ubiór by Magdalena Barkiewicz, pg 75, has an example of embroidery used to decorate a rantuch or scarf worn by a woman of the Szlatcha class, Polish nobility. This embroidery is called czarnym szyciem which translates to “black sewing” (which to me could be considered as Polish blackwork). Embroidered chemises are mentioned by Irene Turnau as well as homemade embroidery being preferred by the nobility to imported lace for decoration. I have been unable to find a good example of this embroidery except for edging peeking out of necklines and sleeves.

man – me,z(dot over z)czyzna

woman – kobieta

child – dziecko

children – dzieci


Works Cited

•  Bartkiewicz, Magdalena. Polski Ubiór. Wrocl/aw, Warszawa, Kraków, Gdan'sk: Zaklad Narodowy Imienia Ossolin'skich Wydawnictwo, 1979

•  Gutkowska-Rychlewska, Maria. Historia Ubiorów. Wrocl/aw, Warszawa, Kraków, Gdan'sk: Zaklad Narodowy Imienia Ossolin'skich Wydawnictwo, 1968

•  Pogonowski, Iwo. Dictionary Polish-English. New York, NY: Hippocrene Books, 1980

•  Turnau, Irena. History of Dress in Central and Eastern Europe from the Sixteenth to the Eighteenth Century. Warszawa: Institute of the History of Material Culture Polish Academy of Sciences, 1991


Estonian Resources

By ffride

I found some books about Estonian archaeology that should be interesting!

•  “Archaeological Research in Estonia 1865–2005.” http://oapen.org/search?identifier=423937

•  “The Bronze and Early Iron Ages in Estonia.” http://oapen.org/search?identifier=423939

•  “The Migration Period, Pre-Viking Age, and Viking Age in Estonia.” http://oapen.org/search?identifier=423944

•  “Landscape Archaeology Between Art and Science: From a Multi- to an Interdisciplinary Approach” http://oapen.org/search?identifier=419690 which has an interesting article about agricultural practices in Estonia, particularly the role of fire in cultivation.

•  “Mittelalterliche Eliten und Kulturtransfer östlich der Elbe ; interdisziplinäre Beiträge zu Archäologie und Geschichte im mittelalterlichen Ostmitteleuropa.” [Medieval Elite and Cultural Transfer East of the Elbe; Interdisciplinary Contributions to Archaeology and History in Medieval Eastern Central Europe] http://oapen.org/search?identifier=353960 which is mostly in German, but has some really interesting articles about the German influence in central Europe around the Baltic.



Some items picked up on SIG-L (our Yahoo!Group) and off of the Facebook SIG group:


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