Summer AS XLIX (2014)
Volume XIX, Issue 4 (#73)

From the Nachalnik

It's event season and, in addition to Pennsic, there are two Slavic Universities on the calendar. The first one will be held at the Randy Rooster Tavern Brawl Extravaganza, in the Shire of Montevale (Fannettsburg PA) on September 12-14. See separate article in this issue.

The second one is being sponsored by the Barony of Wyewood (Renton WA) and scheduled for October 17-19. The official announcement on An Tir's website ( ) is out of date, but there is also a Facebook page ( ) which has more up-to-date information.

As for Pennsic, there's no word yet on an official gathering, but hopefully someone who is there will get a party together. My annual roundup of the class offerings is below.


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, July 30

4pm -- Russian Sarafans and Short Jackets . Womens' regional dresses and short jackets; overview of styles and pattern layouts for cutout and construction. Baroness Tatiana Ivanovna of Birchwood


Thursday, July 31

5pm -- Russian Men's Rubashki and Porti . Overview of men's shirts and trousers: regional overviews, construction tips and garment layout guidelines. Baroness Tatiana Ivanovna of Birchwood


Friday, August 1

11am -- Beginning Pysanky . Students will learn the history of the pysanka , and have the opportunity to create one of their own. Lady Muirgheall O'Riein


Sunday, August 3

9am -- Russian Men's Rubashki and Porti . See above.

1pm -- Romani : An Introduction to Gypsy Persona. Don't know how/where to start with this persona? Learn about the Rom , their history, common pitfalls, and the fun of this fascinating persona. Lady Pesha the Gypsy


Monday, August 4

9am -- Russian Sarafans and Short Jackets. See above.

11am -- Beginning Pysanky . See above.

2pm -- Pagan Beliefs in Ancient Russia. This is a brief reconstruction of ancient Russian mythology, based on archaeological and folkloric evidence. Lady Luceta Di Cosimo


Tuesday, August 5

11am -- Poland: How Its Poetry Relates to Its History. Poland's history, culture and language reflected in its poetry. Lady Katarzyna Witkowska

2pm -- Baba Yaga, the Arch-Villainess of Russian Folklore. Baba Yaga is a common character in Russian fairy tales. We will discuss the diverse roles she plays, and look into the origins of the character. Lady Luceta Di Cosimo

6pm -- Beginner Russian Calligraphy. The basics of medieval Russian calligraphy. Learn the basics of writing the Old Church Slavonic alphabet. Lady Lada Monguligin


Wednesday, August 6

11am -- Introduction to Russian Names. The basics of constructing, documenting, and registering a period Russian name with the SCA College of Arms. Lord Yehuda ben Moshe

3pm -- Conversational Russian. Covers the Russian alphabet and basic modern-day Russian conversational phrases, plus words and phrases more related to the SCA. Lady Lada Monguligin

6pm -- Romani : An Introduction to Gypsy Persona. See above.


Thursday, August 7

12noon -- Decoding Russian and Ukrainian Embroidery. Review and discussion of traditional elements of old Russian and Ukrainian embroidery, many of which date from pre-Christian era. Lady Luceta Di Cosimo


Slavic University East

By Magdalena Gdanska

Greetings one and all! I am pleased to announce that the Shire of Montevale of the East Kingdom has invited us to hold the Eastern version of Slavic University at their Randy Rooster Tavern Brawl Extravaganza on September 12-14. This is a camping event. You don't need to pre-register except to ensure a cabin/camping space for yourself.

If you are interested in teaching at the eastern Slavic University, please contact me at magdalenag56 (at) yahoo (dot) com. I look forward to meeting old friends and making new friends at this gathering.

For information, other than teaching at Slavic University, see the event's information on the East Kingdom website ( ). If you have any trouble, let me know and I will get you to the correct person. 


The Rushnyk, Pt III: The Spinning of Threads and Weaving of Linens for Making the Rushnyky

By Vasyl Jula


[Editor's Note: Parts I and II of this series on Ukrainian textiles appeared combined in the Fall 2013 issue of Slovo ]

According to the famous contemporary researcher of Ukrainian folk culture, Serhiy Verhowsky, linen material by itself, even without embroidery, has five sacred levels.

The first level is the spinning of the fibers from hemp or flax and twisting them into one. The threads are imbued with human energy, along its entire length, from the three basic power fingers. We make the sign of the cross, holding the thumb, index and middle finger together. These same fingers were used to twist the fibers and this energy becomes part of the thread and later the material as they are woven into a living cloth of life. This twisted thread is wound into a ball; the thread itself has found widespread mention in the myths, fairy-tales and legends of various peoples worldwide. Just think of the fairy-tale of the goddess Pralia, who holds a thread of life for each mortal. After spinning a sufficient amount of thread, the weaver sets up the loom to begin weaving material. Since ancient times, this profession is associated with the Creator, who weaves a tapestry of life. In this way, linen cloth personifies a living cloth of life, where the thread, wrapped around a shuttle running across the warp threads on a loom in a continuous oscillatory motion from one side to another, creates a road.

The second level is represented by the rectangular form of the linen cut from the rolled scroll of woven material for a rushnyk . The rectangle (as well as a square, a rhombus or diamond, and a circle) belongs to sacred geometrical figures as well.

The third level is the interwoven cross form of the threads. Because of this characteristic, the linen was valued and used as a kryzhma and as a shroud. Besides the cross interweave, the linen consisted of a lot of squares – or windows -- which, as we just noted, belong to the sacred signs of the folk art world.

The fourth level is the forming of a scroll by rolling up the finished linen towel. This is a spiral -- the most basic form of living matter. The scroll becomes a model of the world and is the most basic form of living material, the genetic DNA helix.

The fifth level is the color of the cloth, which is white. The process of whitening was considered a magical process. The cloth was whitened by the Sun and the Moon and moistened in the morning dew and dried by the wind. The spirits of all the elements of Nature took part in the whitening process; thus lending the humans a helping hand. White is the color of power, because it comprises all the other colors. White embroidery was done to motivate logical thinking, meditation and spiritual needs. The white color radiates force and energy. Wearing white was believed to have protective power; we find this mentioned in the Holy Bible. In the Old Testament the priests were to wear long linen chemises with other linen elements of clothing when taking part in ceremonies near the Ark of the Covenant.


Going through such stages of creation, the linen acquired unique properties and could serve as a ritual towel even without embroidery on it. This is demonstrated by the fact that during a wedding, in some of the regions of Western Ukraine, the parents take the young couple for a walk on a clean, bleached linen towel that symbolizes a clean, untarnished future in married life. Also, this unblemished linen has an advantage over an embroidered or woven towel in that it does not carry any program for a future and completely entrusts all in the hands of God.

The healthful properties of homespun hemp or flax linen should also be noted. In Ukraine older people were hesitant to wear clothing made of synthetic materials when they became available. Homespun linen provides the optimal regulation of body temperature. In a shirt made of linen, the wearer is not hot during the summer heat and is not cold during winter weather. Homespun linen also gives a good body massage. Evidently, with these physical and energy creating characteristics, utilization of homespun linen in the care of sick, bedridden people could be very beneficial. They will never develop bedsores if they wore a shirt of homespun linen. In the current state of our environment, with raised ultraviolet radiation levels from the Sun and the release of radiation from atomic electric power stations, such linen becomes beneficial.

As result of its various types of usage, clean white linen was always kept on hand which was used to embroidery a necessary rushnyk . Also, it should be noted, that for wedding towels, and other household ceremonies, the person should make the linen with their own hands. The reason is that a towel made by a stranger will carry that stranger's unwelcome energy. Naturally, for towels that are made just for decorative purposes, any fabric would prove useful.


Princely Russian Naming Practices

By Sofya la Rus

According to A.F. Litvina and F. B. Uspenskii, the Riurikid royal family in Russia had a rather sophisticated way of assigning names, balancing the ancient taboo against naming a child after a living direct ancestor against the desire to give the child a name reflecting their membership in the family dynasty.

In pagan times, this meant that a Prince would simply never have a son or grandson named after him while he was still alive. In other words, a son of Sviatoslav could not be named Sviatoslav if his father still lived. Nor could he be named after his grandfather, if his grandfather was still alive.

After Christianity was introduced and the Russian princes received Christian names at baptism, they kept using the old pagan names as well. This provided a way to satisfy the old taboo, while accommodating the political need to maintain the appearance of dynastic legitimacy in competing branches of the royal family. Grandfathers, fathers and sons could have the same dynastic baptismal name, but would not have the same pagan name, unless the father (or grandfather) had already died.

Eventually, the use of pagan names died out even in the princely families, and a new solution was found in the fact that different saints may have the same name. Thus princes could appear to have the same name but honor different patron saints and so preserve the old tradition of non-identical names. This was a common pattern from the 14 th century onward.

In the 14th century, Ivan Danilovich Kalita was named, apparently, for St. John the Forerunner (aka John the Baptist). One of his sons was also named Ivan (Ivan Ivanovich Krasnoi), but it's not certain who his name saint was. He seems to have been born on March 30, the feast of several saints named Ivan/John: John of the Ladder (John Climacus), Ioann Ierusalimskii and Ioann Bezmolvnik (the Silent).

Ivan III (grandson of Ivan Kalita) officially adopted John Chrysostom as his patron, but he seems to have also honored Ioann John the Forerunner since he is associated with a church built in his honor. And yet he also seems to have had a third patron saint, the Apostle Timothy for whom he built a side-chapel in his church of John Chrysostom. Ivan III was born on January 22nd on the feast of Timothy, while the feast of the Transfer of the Relics of John Chrysostom is January 27th (so it seems the princes continued to honor the saint of their date of birth, even if they didn't take the name of that saint!).

Ivan III's son, Ivan Ivanovich the Younger was born February 15th , when Feodor Tiron (Theodore Tyron) was venerated. But even though Feodor was a well-established name in the Riurikid dynasty, another name was chosen – based on the February 24th feast day of the Finding of the Head of John the Baptist – to emphasize nearer dynastic associations.

So we see that a royal prince's Christian name was based on a saint whose feast day fell on or soon after the day of his birth, with preference made to names of saints already honored in the dynastic line, although not exactly the same saints as living ancestors in accordance with the old taboo.

While members of the nobility and lower classes likely didn't have the same political importance attached to their names, inheritance and family connections were still important. So even there it is possible that the church's tradition that children be named after a saint venerated on the date of their birth or baptism was balanced with a family desire to honor important relatives.



•  Litvina, A.F. and F.B. Uspenskij. “Glavka iz istoriii vybora imen u riurikovichei: Kniaz'ia-tezki i ikh patronal'nye sviatye [A Chapter from the History of Choice of Names Among the Riurikids: Prince-namesakes and their Patron Saints].” Voprosy onomastiki , 2004 No. 1


Book Review

•  The Russian Primary Chronicle: Laurentian Text. Trans and ed by Samuel Hazzard Cross and Olgerd P. Sherbowitz-Wetzor. Cambridge MA: Medieval Academy of America [Reprint Edition].

It's a classic and on most must-read lists for Russian medievalists. After all, the Primary Chronicle features the story of the Conversion to Christianity by Vladimir in 988 as well as the vivid Revenge of Olga tale, much beloved in bardic circles. And while I used a facsimile edition as one of the resources for my Dictionary, I've never actually read it from front to back (and never seen it in translation!). So, it was a great amount of fun to just sit down and read the Primary Chronicle from start to finish.

All the favorites are there, as well as a blow by blow account through the years of all the princes who killed this person or that person, and the regular back and forth of Rus versus all of their neighbors. But then there are also all the wonderful digressions, like when the scribe precedes to provide a digest of the Bible in about ten pages (you never saw so much smoting and begetting in so little space and yet there is still time to add in a few flourishes that aren't in any modern version!). There's also a fair number of miracles and portents described amidst all the historical chronicling. It all wraps up with the Testament of Monomakh and Monomakh's letter to his son – wonderful introductions to the medieval mind in and of themselves.

This is the print-on-demand edition available from Amazon (for around $27 USD). It's readable, but the copy is sometimes faded or poorly aligned. The family tree at the back is notably hard to read. As a means to put this essential book within reach of the average SCAdian, I appreciate the fact that it is available, but the cheap binding and print job will win no medals.


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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 (