Winter AS XLX (2016)
Volume XXI, Issue 2 (#79)

From the Nachalnik

It's a warm winter everywhere this year. Even Moscow had a green Christmas and New Year's! My heart goes out to all of you folks in thick furs.

This issue features a nice diversity, with articles on Magyars, Estonians, and general Slavic folklore. I hope you enjoy it!

Feeding a Magyar Army on the March

By Istvan Valkai

Prior to the conquest and settlement of Hungary, Magyar armies had fought as mercenaries and on raids throughout Eastern Europe. A normal Magyar army usually consisted of around 20,000 warriors. Using pack horses and multiple mounts, Magyar armies often travelled eighty miles in a single day. Travelling at that speed and distance and without carts to transport foodstuff, how did these armies remain in the field for extended amounts of time?

One answer is that the Magyars had developed their own version of military MREs (Meals Ready to Eat). Each warrior carried thirteen pounds of powdered meat, thirteen pounds of powdered milk, thirteen pounds of millet and two pounds of salt on his horse. They also carried a small kettle and a bottle with a stopper and lanyard. When they stopped and were able to start fires, each warrior would boil some water and toss in a measured amount of powdered meat and millet. This made a nutritious and filling meal.

The powdered milk was used to sustain them on the long day's journey. Before starting out in the morning, the bottles were filled with water and a handful of powdered milk was added. The bottle was stoppered and hung on the horse. The movement of the horse would shake the contents of the bottle and produce a nutritious dairy emulsion. This would be drunk all day as they traveled. This small amount of provision, not counting anything acquired along the way, was equal to over 390 pounds of food for each warrior.

If they passed a farming community, they would supplement this basic meal with fresh meat, vegetables, fruits and other grains. This was good for the army but bad for the farmers.

Making these Magyar military rations sounded like a fun and interesting project. But I immediately ran into a couple of roadblocks. I'm a terrible farmer and decided it would be much easier to purchase the millet at a health food store. Next I turned to the powdered milk and found that this must have been a highly skilled trade. Even though I had a good grasp of the mechanics to powder milk, I never was able to develop the skill to do so. I could not control the temperature of the metal piece on which the liquid milk was brushed or get the correct amount of milk to apply. The milk evaporated, burnt, or just got warm. I also discovered that the amount of milk needed to create powder was cost prohibitive. And so, another trip to the store to purchase a box of powdered milk.

So far I'm 0-2 and looking at making the powdered meat. I obtained five pounds of very thinly sliced meat. I washed and patted the meat dry. Then I rubbed in coarse kosher salt into both sides of the meat, and then covered the meat with the salt. I let the meat sit in a cool room for three weeks until thoroughly salted.

Once salted, I completely washed the meat and prepared to dry it. I had thought about building drying racks and letting the meat dry naturally outside. But with a few dogs roaming the yard I wouldn't have any meat left, so I used a dehydrator to completely dry the meat. All that was left was to grind the meat into a powder. Not having a quern stone (maybe another project?), I used a mortar and pestle instead.

While this made a good filling meal especially with the addition of fresh vegetables, I'm not sure I would be thrilled to be eating this every day for weeks on end, even if it did allow Magyar armies to roam far from home.


Winter Time

By Vasyl Jula

How have Slavic folk tales explained winter?

One story describes how winter solstice marks the escape of the sun princess Lada (goddess of summer's lush growth) from her icy imprisonment. As the story goes. Lada's lover Yarylo (lord of the summer) was slain by a dragon. Stricken by grief, Lada's smile faded. The evil empress of death Morana abducted Lada and imprisoned her in her own lifeless ice castle. Without Lada's warming smile, the earth fell into winter, enveloped by a shroud of ice. In despair, the people of earth implored Kniazh Rado (lord of the moon) for his help. Taking the form of a silver wolf, Kniazh Rado resurrected Lord Yarilo. Together they embarked on their quest to liberate Princess Lada from the death grip of Morana. Once again the two lovers united and danced upon the earth. Wherever they trailed the icy mantel melted, revealing the earth's lush bounty.

Another tale is of the sky god Stribog and the mother earth goddess Mokosha, who had two children. The first born, a son, was the moon Kniaz Misyats. The second, a daughter, called Mylanka (or Malanka) from the word myla (loving), who is the goddess of love and merriment. The king of the underworld Volos was jealous of Mylanka and abducted her while her brother the moon was hunting, whisking her off to his icy and forbidding underworld kingdom. Mokosha was deeply heartbroken. Forsaking all life on earth, she made the land cold and frozen. Kniaz Misyats in disguise as a mere mortal called Vasyl rescued Mylanka from the clutches of Volos and returned her to Mokosha. This marked the heralding of a New Year. The celebration of Malanka (New Year) symbolizes the beginning of spring being released from captivity, which then permits flowers and foliage to bloom again.

These are just two short stories of the myriad versions of this mythological folk tale. These tales are clearly similar to that of Persephone in Greek mythology, which just goes to illustrate the cultural link between the ancient Greek civilization and the ancient Slavs since Greek colonies flourished on the Black Sea coast 2,500 years ago.


Three Women from Kullamaa, and the Designator Nayne

By ffride Wiffsdotter

Researching Estonian naming practices, it is quite striking how rare it is to find mention of women. And finding their bynames recorded in Estonian is rarer still! Naturally, there were women living in Livonia during the SCA's period, but records we have mentioning them are scanty.

The first issue is trying to find records of Estonian-language bynames in the first place. Outside of a small community living in the otherwise German-language towns, Estonian was the language of the illiterate peasants (Põldvee 2011; 367) making up 90% of the population of Livonia (Põldvee 2012; 260). And so, when Estonian names were written down, they were recorded mostly by the German speaking educated elite. When we do find mentions of women, such as on their tombstones (Mänd, 2012) or in testaments (Mänd, 2013; 24-5), they are middle-to-upper-class women, hence they are written in German. Similarly, in financial dealings recorded in Tallinn that mention women, be they foreign Swedes (Leimus, 2014; 257) or native Estonians (Kivimäe, 2009; 586, 589), they are recorded simply as wives in the financial lingua franca of the Hanseatic league, Middle Low German. For example, Leimus (2014; 257) mentions “Olleff vyssche hakers... vnde syner frouwen...” Byrgytte, but while Oleff has a byname meaning “fish hook”, Byrgytte is only identified as his wife. Similarly, Kivimäe (2009; 587) notes an Estonian peasant called Jan Koppelman in 1541 with his wife Maddlen, who is not identified any further. His byname, however, is a Middle Low German descriptor; “paddock-man”.

It therefore should come as no surprise, given the economic importance of men in society, that in the three examples I have been able to find so far, women are identified and able to be distinguished by their husbands. The three examples come from the Wackenbuch von Goldenbeck . Today the municipality is known as Kullamaa in Estonian, in Lääne County, in western mainland Estonia. The Wackenbuch von Goldenbeck is dated between 1524 and 1532 ( Tartu University, 2007 ), and Põltsam-Jürjo (2011; 32) mentions three women (Saareste only mentions two of them) found in it. Only one woman is mentioned with a personal name, Barbar (ie. Barbara):

In all three cases though, the women's byname uses the term nayne (modern standardized Estonian: naine), meaning woman, or wife.

To understand why these bynames are only found in a specific type of record, it is probably important to know why these records were created in the first place. Their origins lie in the administration of the manorial economy of Livonia, when the local manor functioned much like a small, independent, local government in terms of caring for their peasant workforce (Praust, 2013), but was primarily a means of running an agricultural business by the nobility. Wakenbücher are, therefore, inventories of the manorial economy, the farmsteads on the manorial lands and their obligations. These inventories could include the name of the head of the household, the number of people living in a particular farmstead, their status, and their livestock. As the expected head of the farmstead would be male, it is only in rare circumstances that a woman would be mentioned. Põltsam-Jürjo (2011) believes it is most likely that they were widows who were managing their farmstead holdings until their children came of age.



Kivimäe, Jüri. 2009. “Eesti keele kaja Helmich Ficke kaubaraamatus 1536–1542” Keel ja Kirjandus 8/9; 583-594. Online:

Leimus, Ivar. 2014. “Kalakaupleja ja tema naine: pilguheit ühe Tallinna mittesaksa paari elujärge 1550. aastal” Ajalooline Ajakiri 2/3; 251-264.

Mänd, Anu. 2012. “Naised, memoria ja sakraalruum hiliskeskaegsel Liivimaal” Tuna: ajalookultuuri ajakiri 3; 6-29. Online:

Mänd, Anu. 2013. “Frauen, Memoria und Sakralräume im spätmittelalterlichen Livland” Forschungen zur baltischen Geschichte 8; 11-39.

Põltsam-Jürjo, Inna. 2011. "Sissevaateid Liivimaa külaühiskonda 15.-16. sajandil" Tuna: ajalookultuuri ajakiri . 1; 20-40. Online:

Põldvee, Aivar. 2011. “17th century Estonian orthography reform, the teaching of reading and the history of ideas” TRAMES 15(65/60); 365-384.

Põldvee, Aivar. 2012. “Wennekülla Hans and Estonian church language” Eesti ja soome-ugri keeleteaduse ajakiri , 3(1); 259-278. Online:

Praust, Valdo. 2013. Estonian Manor Portal: Short History of Estonian Manors. Online:

Saareste, A. 1923. “400a. vanune leid Eestis.” Eesti Keel 5/6; 136–149. Online :

Tartu University. 2007. “ Kullamaa käsikiri (1524–1532) ” Tartu: Tartu University's Estonian Dialect Corpus. Online:



•  Vasyl Jula provided the following link to an article about the Slavic Winter Solstice Festival, Koliada:  


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