Winter AS XLVIII (2014)
Volume XIX, Issue 2 (#71)

From the Nachalnik

It's been a great quarter! First of all, we had a Slavic University in October, which was a small but lively affair (see review and pictures below). And then, immediately after that, a group in An Tir offered to host another University next October (see also below). It's wonderful to see the interest in hosting Slavic-themed events continuing and I am happy to offer whatever assistance I can. Keep in mind that, even though there are plans for another Slavic U already in the works, it does not mean that we can't have yet another one in the planning stages (can you imagine having a Slavic University every month?). Anyone else want to organize an event?

My thanks to Vasyl for the latest in his series of Ukrainian holiday pieces (this one actually arrived last year, but just a bit too late for inclusion in last Winter's issue). I'm pleased to include it this year. I'm also still looking for material for the next Slovo. Let me know if you have anything of interest. For the Spring issue, the deadline is April 1st .

And finally, a brief note: The article “A Minor Foray into Ukrainian Naming,” which appeared in the Summer issue of Slovo (#69) has now been revised and prettified, and is available on Sofya's website at the following location: http://sofyalarus.info/Russia/ukrainian.html .

 


Slavic University Recap

By Paul Wickenden of Thanet

The Shire of Abhainn Ciach Ghlais (ACG), in the Kingdom of Æthelmearc was our most recent host for Slavic University. The event itself was lightly attended and mostly by local shire members, but I did see long-time members Patricia, Magdalena, and Marija there. That said, what the event lacked in size, it made up for with energy and spirit (and this from a group that was still recovering from hosting Coronation a few weeks before!).

 

 

A huge dayboard was created by the ACG Cook's Guild and featured representative dishes from several different regions of Eastern Europe, with a variety of soups, salads, and entrees. And, while we ate, there was a fashion show highlighting various styles of dress from the region.

 

 

Classes during the day included history and everyday life, iconography, and embroidery. I did my class on period Russian. And the day wrapped up with Slavic and East European dancing. In sum, it was a quiet affair, but a good event and very well run. Thank you, ACG!

 

 


Slavic University in An Tir

By Tvorimir Danilov

We are planning a Slavic University to be held in Wyewood, in the Kingdom of An Tir (modernly SeaTac, Washington), sometime in October 2014. I'm Tvorimir Danilov from An Tir in the Society for Creative Anachronism, conveniently from right near the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (and a two hour drive from Vancouver International Airport in BC, Canada). Slavic U is a gathering from all over to teach, learn, share and geek out. This is less formal than an academic conference and will be held in period clothing, but still expect to come away with a huge infusion of knowledge, ideas and excitement! We are only just beginning to organize, so please be patient while we're gathering people and exploring options and frameworks.

We have a group on Facebook and I have added people that have already expressed an interest in working with this event or who I think will have an interest or good suggestions. Feel free to add friends who want to be added, and to remove yourself if you wish to stop receiving the feed.

This event won't be official until we can get a completed event bid approved by the host branch. We have time, lots of time. Let's reach out far beyond SIG and even the SCA - there are other groups whose members have contributed hugely to SIG's knowledge base.



Christmas Eve Dinner and Customs

By Vasyl Jula

Have you ever stopped and wondered about the origin of the Slavic Christmas Eve dinner called Svyata Vechera (holy supper), the Vyliya (vigil), Kutya (a ceremonial food) and the various customs that surround them?

These are very archaic folk practices and are associated with Paleolithic ancestor worship, lunar calendar observances and Neolithic solar celebrations such as the winter solstice. Winter solstice takes place on or near December 21st and marks the longest, darkest night of the year. No one is really sure how long ago humans recognized the winter solstice and began heralding it as a turning point, but a guess is about 4000 years ago. These people had no special instruments to detect the solstice, but they were able to notice an increase in elevation of the sun's path within a few days after this event.

In prehistoric times, winter was a very difficult time for the agrarian aboriginal peoples of the northern hemisphere. The growing season had ended and the tribes had to live off of stored and preserved food. These tribes would be troubled as the life-giving sun dipped lower and lower in the sky each noon. Fearing that it would eventually disappear and leave them in permanent darkness and cold they would perform various rituals to conjure back the sun during this anxious vigil. After the solstice, they would have reason to celebrate as they saw the sun rising higher and strengthening once more, the rebirth of the new solar orb.

This holiday was called Sviatky by the tribes of Rus' (and today is called Sviatiy Vechir , or “Holy Evening”) and lasted for about 12 days -- each day representing a full lunar cycle. During this time all the fires in the hearths were extinguished and a “live” fire was created by friction. For the Solstice special foods were prepared, like a cereal dish embellished with honey along with various other agrarian foods. Meat was also consumed. Twelve to thirteen prepared foods representing the lunar cycles of the moon around the earth were presented at one time for the whole family was to share it from that communal dish.

Various forms of divinations were practiced to foretell the outcome of the upcoming year. Multitudes of ritual songs were also incanted at this time. Being animists, the Paleolithic proto-Slavic people always strove to actively influence their gods and the spirits of nature by prayers, supplications, and offerings. Feasts were held in honor of their deities and they were always invited to the celebration. The ancestral spirits of the clan were also invited to the feast. A live evergreen tree was cut down and brought into the home during the bitter winter as a reminder that soon their crops would grow again and be bountiful. This tree was hung upside down from a rafter of the house and decorated with nuts and dried fruit to honor the spirit of the tree. There are only scattered fragments of information on the solstice practices of the ancient Slavs.

Over time humans moved from the lunar calendar to a solar one. A Roman calendar had been in service from about 800 B.C. This calendar was only 355 days long, so it was ten days off. Julius Caesar established a calendar in 46 B.C. but it too was flawed. During the 1,500 years that some sort of calendar was in service it grew increasingly out of sync with astronomic events. Pope Gregory XIII in 1528 A.D. introduced changes to correct the error.

Christmas was established on December 25th and the feast was to replace any other celebratory practice. Because of the placement of Christmas at this time it usurped the winter solstice commemoration, but all the customs of the solstice were just moved to the eve of this new festival.

The Church modified the contents of the meal that is consumed and the people tweaked it to their own specifications. Christmas Eve for the church was a fast day so no meat or dairy products were to be eaten, although later the church introduced fish and even allowed dairy products. The animals that were killed, cured and preserved in the autumn were feasted upon Christmas Day. The Rus' tribes, being an agrarian culture, kept the Christmas Eve menu based on domesticated animals and agriculture. Here are other various examples - the number of dishes served, be it for supernatural reasons or the months of the year. Plus the types of food, various soups, porridges, dumplings with extensive fillings, stuffed cabbage, chard, or beet leaf exterior and with some type of grain or root stuffing, fermented dishes, and so on -- all cultivated locally on their farms.

Many other practices surrounding the Eve of Christmas were performed such as running the cattle through a stream to protect them from ailments, threatening fruit trees and beating on them to bear fruit or be cut down and so on. Straw on the floor to secure plenty of animal fodder; hay on the table representing the chaff from previous bountiful harvests and strewn with seeds from all the crops that will be sown in the upcoming spring. The Didukh -- a sheaf of grain or grains believed to house the ancestral spirits who are invited to commune with the family this night -- is carried into the house by the Master of the home. The white linen tablecloth that serves as a ritual cloth to shows the ancestral spirits the way home and that they are welcome. Mystical homeopathic botanicals ( Zhillia ), salt and garlic are also used to word off noxious malevolent forces; ceremonial breads are also baked regardless of shape, quantity or regional names. A lit beeswax candle placed in one of the breads for the light of the Sun, offering a vinchuvania to extend good wishes to the family, singing of carols and there are still many other esoteric practices.

 


Book Review

•  Ryadov, B.A. Russian Applied Art of Tenth - Thirteenth Centuries. Leningrad: Aurora Art Publishers, no date. Color plates, 128 pages.

Some brief notes on a good book discovery (found, naturally enough, at a Manhattan flea market): This book has the best color illustrations of Kievan Rus objects I have seen.  A great variety from a decorated auroch horn, to amulets, decorated axes and crowns. The accompanying essay (in Russian and English) is challenging because the translation is occasionally awkward and because there is little correlation between the illustrations and items mentioned in the text. However the discussion of the relationship of Pagan and Christian motifs is excellent with well supported arguments. If you are interested in Kievan period Russia and see this book, snap it up.

 


New Book Released

Our member Aldo C Marturano (turanomar@libero.it) has just had his latest book published, Kogda volga-reka byla bolgarskoi [When the River Volga Was Bulgarian] in Russian. If anyone is interested (and reads Russian), he would be happy to send you a copy. Please contact him with your address.  We hope to have a review in a forthcoming issue of Slovo .

 


Croatian Resources

By Ffride

Silvija Banic. 2011. “Damast i vez iz druge polovine 15. stoljeca na misnom ornatu u Franjevackom samostanu u Hvaru [Damask and Embroidery on a Set of Liturgical Vestments from the Second Half of the Fifteenth Century in the Franciscan Monastery in Hvar]” Ars Adriatica 1 http://hrcak.srce.hr/index.php?show=clanak&id_clanak_jezik=137448

Magdalena Dragicevic 1981. “Cetiri Fragmenta Tekstila Iz Starohrvatskih Grobova [Four Fragments of Textile from Ancient Croatian Graves]” Starohrvatska prosvjeta III:11. http://hrcak.srce.hr/index.php?show=clanak&id_clanak_jezik=144068 (The summary is in French, and it seems to be focused on knotwork?)

Magdalena Dragicevic. 1982. “Nekoliko Fragmenata Tekstila Iz Grobova Nekropole Sv. Spas u Selu Cetini Kod Vrlike” Starohrvatska prosvjeta III: 12. http://hrcak.srce.hr/index.php?show=clanak&id_clanak_jezik=143659 (The summary is in French, and is about knotwork embroidery?)

Tatjana Tkalcec, Dora Kusan Spalj, and Siniša Krznar 2009. “Textile finds from the site of Crkvari – St Lovro church” Prilozi Instituta za arheologiju u Zagrebu 25:1. http://hrcak.srce.hr/index.php?show= clanak&id_clanak_jezik=63166 (Discusses 16th century textiles)

 

Also, an article that might be useful for people interested in Croatian names: Jelena Obradovic-Mojaš. 2011. “Kolenda in Names and Surnames” Narodna umjetnost Hrvatski casopis za etnologiju i folkloristiku 1: 113-128. http://www.ceeol.com/aspx/issuedetails.aspx?issueid=3c61cf5d-5024-45fb-a69f-d20579be2fc8&articleId=b476235e-098f-41b7-88ef-375d0bcd7230 (It's mostly focused on the name Kolenda/Calenda/Cholenda/Colenda, but at the very least might point to useful sources?)

 


Resources

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

 

Contact him directly if you are interested.

 


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: goldschp@tds.net. 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 (http://slavic.freeservers.com).