Summer AS LI (2016)
Volume XXI, Issue 4 (#81)

From the Nachalnik

This issue contains our annual Pennsic class round-up. My apologies if anyone's class(es) were missed. Also, I haven't heard about a Pennsic gathering, but am always eager to publicize an activity. There was, however, a gathering at the Fifty Year celebration and we are fortunate enough to have an account of the event.

Of all which brings me to my next topic: a perennial call for a Slavic University. It's been almost two years since our last one and I'd love to see one show up. We're always hoping for one in the West, but I'd be happy to attend them wherever they may be held. I will personally do my best to attend it and have lots of ideas for course. I know that there are plenty of other folks who would come if they can to teach and to learn. All we need is a host! Reach out to me (or feel free to ping the Group) if you're interested or want to know more about what is involved.


Fifty Year Celebration

By Luveday de Salford

Not anticipating the request to be a journalist, I apologize in advance for any mistakes in the following brief summary of the SIG Meet and Greet held at 6pm in the A&S Hall at Fifty Year on Wednesday , June 22nd . About twenty-five people gathered and when we received word that our moderator was unable to join us, the A&S volunteers encouraged us to go forward anyway. By process of elimination we attempted to identify those with the longest-standing interest in Slavic culture, hoping to coerce them into leading us. They declined, instead encouraging us to simply go around the circle, introducing ourselves, our kingdom, areas of interest and so forth.

After that, a good lady (whose face I can recall, but whose name I cannot) suggested we divide in to two groups, "early period," roughly from the beginning of history through the thirteenth century. “Late period” necessarily became the fourteenth century and later. I joined the early period group. The lady who had suggested we divide into two groups became our de-facto leader. As I recall, she described her area of interest as being the period when the Norse and Slavic cultures were beginning to intermingle. She explained how the different elements of her garb reflected this transitional time. We all asked questions galore. I don't think she came expecting to lead a class as such, but she was very gracious and knowledgeable. People shared what they had been learning and asked questions about how to progress in their areas of interest. The Facebook SIG page in particular was strongly recommended, so I think we will have more participants in the future. I suppose the “late period” group had much the same experience. I personally enjoyed the gathering immensely and only wish more time and opportunity had been available to slake my thirst for all things Slavic.

Perhaps others with more information than I will be able to fill in the gaps regarding names and other specifics?

  (Picture by Norman Minzey)

Pennsic Classes

By Paul Wickenden of Thanet

As is my annual tradition, I'm providing an informal survey of the offerings at Pennsic University which I believe may be of interest to SIG members because of subject matter. My apologies if I have overlooked any appropriate classes.

Tuesday, August 2

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


Thursday, August 4

12Noon – Skomorokh : Comedic Minstrel Theatre of Russia. An unbroken lineage spanning 600 years, the skomorokhi were the oft-persecuted minstrels, buffoons, harlequins, and puppeteers of medieval Russia. THL Niccolo Bartolazzi

1pm – Russian Folk Singing. Learn to sing the 16th-17th-century Russian folk song, “Oy da ne vecher.” [more details in the Resources section below – ed] Master Karl von Nord Mark

3pm – Ribbon Moravian Stars. Learn a little about the medieval roots of the Moravian Church, their beautiful stars, and make a ribbon star to take home. THL Wu Yun


Friday, August 5

12Noon – Ivan: Was He Really “Terrible”? A discussion of the life and reign of Russia's Tsar Ivan IV, in the context of surrounding events. Was he terrible or just misunderstood? Lord Dmitrii Zhirov

12Noon – Balkan Hand Drumming. Have fun with Balkan rhythm on your hand drums! Bring your frame drum, dumbek/darbuka, riq , or whatever! Lady Zakiyyah Ayagachin Al-Sharq

1pm – Russian Folk Singing. See above.


Saturday, August 6

12Noon -- Balkan Hand Drumming. See above.


Sunday, August 7

12Noon – Beginning Pysanky. Students will learn the history of the pysanka and have the opportunity to create one of their own. Lady Muirgheall O'Riein

12Noon -- Balkan Hand Drumming . See above.

3pm – Baltic Wire Weaving. Beginner, hands-on introduction to “Viking” wire weaving techniques for making jewelry and trim. Brief discussion of history and artifacts included. Mistress Serafina Alamanni

5pm – Romani: An Introduction to Gypsy Persona. See above.

5pm – Magyar Tales. Enter the Magyar (Hungarian) world with a telling of their tales. Zsof will tell of ghosts, vampires, battles, and strength of her people.


Monday, August 8

1pm – Pysanky: Period Dyes and Techniques. A review of dye/application methods available to period writers of pysanky, and how the dyes appeared on the shells. Lady Muirgheall O'Riein


Tuesday, August 9

11am – 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

12Noon – Beginning Pysanky. See above.


Wednesday, August 10

12Noon – Baba Yaga: Not for the Faint of Heart. We all know the stories, but what was the history of the Baba Yaga? Where did her stories come from and why? Come to the class to learn more. THL Katrusha Skomorokha

12Noon – Romani: An Introduction to Gypsy Persona . See above.

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

5pm – Beginner Russian Calligraphy. The basics of medieval Russian calligraphy. Learn the basics of writing the Old Church Slavonic alphabet. Lady Lada Monguligin


Thursday, August 11

11am – Beginning Pysanky. See above.



By Vasyl Jula

The embroidered tree is never a copy of some actual plant, foliage, flowers, or fruits. It is always a composite, generalized and symbolic image. Many motifs and patterns display small trees that are differentiated by color, time, configuration, or dimension. In this, there is an echo of an ancient cult of plants and trees, which was popular not only among our own ancestors, but also in the mythology of the Celts and Druids.

Several plants are recognizable and even embroidered in a particular fashion so that everyone is sure of what they represent. Such plants, which are often found in the patterns on the Ukrainian ceremonial towels, include grapes, oaks, and lilies. They are also favorite ornamental patterns for shirts.

Grapes. Grapes, foliage, and grapevines can be seen on the Tree, but still more frequently in the bezkonechnyk [endless twine] embroidered on the full perimeter of the towel. Grapes are the symbol of fertility, fruitfulness, endlessness (eternity), and later became the symbol of Christianity. Remember the icon Jesus Christ - the Viticulturist or the words of Christ from the Bible, “I am the vine from the grape.” The popularity of grapes is connected to what we call the “gray” side of antiquity and to the myths of Dionysus, Bacchus, Orpheus, Tsereri, or Izida, associated with the use of the grapevine or juice. Grapes are a plant that absorbs most of the sun's energy and retains it the longest. Most ancient myths are associated with the Sun. The grape, the “sun berry,” has a direct connection with it. The “drink” (i.e., wine) mentioned in ancient manuscripts is an elixir of immortality made from grapes. It serves also as a reflection of immortality which can be found on Earth.

Oaks. Another plant that plays a prominent role in myths and stories in many cultures is the oak. Oaks are a symbol of longevity, strong health, and masculine beauty. For Ukrainians, the oak tree is associated with the Tree of Life. Many tree motifs found on towels have embroidered oak leaves. Among the numerous stitches in the techniques of the Poltava region, the most popular is the dubochok [little oak tree] or lyshtva dubova . We find the same on shirts in Kyiv and in the eastern Podillia region. This leaf is embroidered in two directions, one half vertically, and the other horizontally. But the leaf has a diagonal disposition.

Earlier we talked how during the dyeing of the threads, the emanations of plants penetrate the embroidery threads. Plants, through holistic medicines, can also penetrate and heal. These medicines are made from the extract of plants (their essence, their ether) and are used not only to cure physical illnesses, but also to cure psychological problems. Drops of the essence of oak are said to help to eradicate or calm obsessions. Evidently, the popularity of oak in architecture and furniture design is rooted in the role that wood was thought to play in harmonizing the environment. By embroidering oak leafs on a towel, we create invisible bonds between humans and the tree.

Lilies. The lily is a popular flower on towels that include the Tree of Life. It most often crowns the Tree as the “Fire of Life” (a typical addition found in the chernytski towels from Cherkassy region), in the same way that the troyanda [rose] is a symbol of sanguine earthly life. The lily is a symbol of spiritual life, its cleanliness and perfection. We find many examples of lilies in ornamental patterns of other nationalities and in their heraldry. The lily is often used in icon painting and in the religious sculpture of the Western Christian world. The use of the lily in embroidery testifies that the towel is not only a material thing, but also highly spiritual.

Other plants. Besides the oak and the lily, one will find myrtle, kalyna [a type of currant], ash berry, and many others used in the embroidery on ritual cloths. The symbolism is again often tied back to pre-Christian Earth Mother cults. These in turn are part of a larger set of beliefs about how we should behave amid nature, learning to live in harmony with the surrounding world and not considering ourselves its master.

In most Podillian towels, there is a central, dominant geometrical object. Most often it is an octagonal star or some other eight-sided motif (for example, a rhombus, crossed cross, etc.). The so-called "full” or “compass rose" (an eight-pointed star) is of the most popular motifs in the Ukrainian embroidery and deserves separate consideration. In many cultures of the world, this symbol means God or sun (it may also mean star or year). It is also called the Mother's Star. In icons, the cape that the Virgin Mary wears bears such a star on her shoulders. And over her forehead you will see eight-pointed stars or eight-leafed flowers. The image of the Father also shows this. He is often portrayed with a three-cornered nimbus, but also with an octagon. In this case, the star has a different configuration—two squares, one of which is a diamond shape.

The eight-pointed star is a popular motif because it represents the energy field around each living organism. An impregnated ovule in all organisms (including humans) when it is subdivided three times has eight cells. This idea is also expressed in a common full svarha swastika. The look of this geometrical figure is a rhombus with double spiraling rays emerging from the top of it. In folk culture they are called “the sheep horns.” In the eastern Podillia region it was a custom for the parents, on the wedding day, to present the young couple a towel with such a sign in the center and with a lunar calendar on the perimeter.




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