Friday, April 23, 2010

Drinks & clothing & stuff

Photos are still forthcoming. I actually didn't take many photos at Slavic University because I was busy doing other things. You can go to the photo gallery mentioned at the end of the previous entry if you really are curious. Most of the pictures I've still got on my memory card are of various steps in the process of making five margučiai last month.

Yesterday someone asked me (on my LiveJournal account) whether I'd been able to find any documentation that Lithuanians made and drank krupnikas in period. Krupnikas, of course, is that dense honey liqueur that Sfandra was offering to fellow Slavik University attendees.

I responded with various links that I picked up from various Web searches. To summarize, I found some online claims that Lithuanians invented krupnikas during the SCA period, without any evidence to back it up, and I also found claims that viryta (another variation on the honey-liqueur theme) was dreamed up by Lithuanian-Americans in Maryland and Pennsylvania.

As I told my correspondent, I have a hard time believing that the immigrants of a century ago invented honey liqueur out of the clear blue sky. I suspect it was a recreation of something they had drunk back in their homeland. (And of course, all the recipes for krupnikas and viryta are a little different from each other, because families individualize the stuff the way they do with meatloaf, spaghetti sauce, and whatnot.) Now, there is no guarantee that Lithuanians were drinking that stuff back in the Middle Ages and Renaissance -- a lot of "folk music," "folk dress," "folk dancing," etc. turns out to be way post-period. (Side note: I have no idea whether this honey krupnikas is at all related to Polish raspberry krupnik, which is basically berries marinated in vodka.)

I can't resist delving into all things Lithuanian, so I decided to do a little Web surfing to check out some of the claims in one of the articles. Long story short, I ended up on a Web site with high-resolution scans of the city maps from the multivolume atlas Civitates orbis terrarum, published between 1572 and 1617. It turns out that collaborators Georg Braun and Franz Hogenberg included Vilnius in the third volume of the atlas (1581). Here's what their bird's-eye view of Vilnius looked like:

Now, at this point in my research I'm not so worried how the streets were laid out -- I'm much more interested in the people in the foreground. The site "Working-Class Images" has a close-up view of the man and woman in the center of the foreground. At last -- a period idea of what very ordinary people looked like, not just the fancy Elzbieta and Barbora! Something I might actually be able to sew for myself with my limited skills, too.

The map of Riga, Latvia, also published in 1581, has much less detailed images of people -- nothing for the clothier to take note of there. However, the map of Gdansk from the second volume of the atlas (1575) has several women in the foreground. Their gowns look more detailed and seem to have more German influence than their Lithuanian cousins, but again, they look like ordinary folk and not royalty.

I'm really, really glad I found these resources, because even though I can buy a pattern to make a Cranach-style gown, modifying it and encrusting it to look something like this portrait of Barbara Radziwill would be a bit beyond my skill level. Now I can set some realistic garb-creation goals.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Slavic University, Part Two

To continue the tale of last Saturday....

Another thing I did during the morning, instead of sitting in on the classes, was to take the pictures of medieval Lithuanian leaders I'd printed on the color printer and glue them onto the tri-fold "school project" cardboard display. Of course, I'd vastly underestimated the amount of display "real estate" those pictures and their captions would take up. But, then again, I'm looking at this as a work in progress. I should make time between now and Pennsic to fill up the rest of the display board with additional maps of the changing borders of Lithuania and the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, plus images of artifacts and reconstructed garb (such as it is).

While waiting for Sfandra to finish up her portrait session with Baron Bardulf, I hung out at with the folks at Troll (registration table). It was getting close to the scheduled lunchtime of 12:30 p.m., and Lady Marija, the autocrat (event steward), was starting to fret that she was going to have some huge holes in her afternoon class schedule if Master Mordok and his apprentice, Pan Zygmunt, did not show up from the Middle Kingdom. But, lo and behold, right at 12:30, a car pulled up and disgorged the two of them! That was a long drive from Michigan, through Ohio, and to the eastern panhandle of West Virginia!

For lunch I had cheese cubes, creamy potato soup, a mushroom tart, and some sweet bread. More coffee, too. Why, yes, I run on coffee -- I don't care whether or not it's period.

After lunch I decided to take Master Mordok's class on cloth shoes. He is experimenting with a way to make a simple cloth shoe made up of a sole and a wrap-around vamp. Of course, you put a leather sole on the thing, outside the cloth. Mordok was also interested in getting copies of our individual shoe patterns with our sizes marked on them, because he'd like to start selling them (kids going to college and all that...). We ran well over our allotted hour into the next hour, and even then intruded upon Pan Zygmunt's zupan class, but at least I could listen in while finishing up the cutting. I now have a pattern to fit my weirdly shaped feet and will have to start looking for suitable fabric scraps. I'm not anticipating that I would be able to wear such handmade shoes on a heavy day of Pennsic walking, but maybe I could make some cute lil' booties for indoor events.

Finally it came time for my class on medieval Lithuania. I got about eight people in there, including Igor and Fevronia; the former kept making his signature wisecracks. :-) I think it went pretty well, considering that I hadn't been marinating my brain in the subject leading up to the event. Afterward I collected my books and eggs and packed them in the car.

By the way, you can read the Slavic University lunch and dinner menus here. Sadly, I didn't see any sour cream, but both kinds of pierogies were excellent -- a little different in taste because they were made with buckwheat flour (not sure if they were 100 percent buckwheat or a mix with regular wheat flour). The pre-sliced kielbasa was also outstanding. Some people brought additional dishes, so there was a bit of a potluck going on, but I was slow to get to the table, so I missed the cheesy potatoes. Again, sadness.

After dinner, the shire members gave away some extra bread, so I ended up with a bag of some very dense sourdough slices. As the shire folks busied themselves with putting away furniture and cleaning up the site, I was thinking that I didn't get to talk to Sfandra enough during the day, and she and her friend from Rhode Island were inviting people over to par-taay in their room at the Comfort Inn. So I drove over there at dusk. Good thing Sfandra had told me that the Rite-Aid store was a landmark, because otherwise I would have driven right past the little lane where the hotel was hidden.

As it turned out, Sfandra and Katrina/Catriona had a great crowd in their room: Igor and Fevronia, Mordok and Zygmunt, and me. It was getting late and I was getting a little tired, so Igor and Fevronia graciously invited me to crash on the sofabed in their room at the inn. So I called home and informed my friend about this, and then I hit the krupnikas and the Stoli and the rum. *grin*

(To be honest, Shepherdstown is not right off the interstate highway, and I'm glad I didn't have to negotiate the twists and turns of unfamiliar two-lane state roads in the darkness.)

After watching the first few Tina Fey skits on SNL, I went downstairs and fell asleep like a log. In the morning, I certainly didn't have much to pack up. I washed my face, made one of those big round waffles in the "free breakfast" room off the lobby, and headed home in the brilliant sunshine, past the battlefield of Antietam and several adorable little towns.

Don't worry, I'll show pictures! But this entry has gone on long enough already. In the meantime, the Slavic University website has lots of links to photos.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Slavic University: A happy experience! (Part One)

Why, yes, I did enjoy Slavic University after all!

I think attendance was about 50 people -- not bad, considering that the kingdoms of Aethelmearc, Atlantia and the East were all holding their Spring Coronation events the same day. (I can't speak for other kingdoms, but I know that Atlantia's Spring Coronation is almost always the first Saturday in April; it was moved back a week in order to avoid conflicting with Easter and Passover.)

Lady Marija Kotok, the autocrat (or event steward, if you prefer) made wonderful site tokens out of amber and leather. They are called znaki. (Literally, the word means "signs" in Polish, according to Google Translate.) I haven't been able to find much listed under that word, because it is so common, but a search for the phrase gromoviti znaci was a bit more enlightening (try it yourself). Here's what was written on the back of our event programs:

These [tokens] have been designed so that you may continue to use them as a period-appropriate piece of your Slavic/Rus garb. Although they show religious symbolism, they are not intended in any way to be religious. Rather like the crosses you see on Templar garb, these represent a period practice of that time.

What is a znaki and how was it important in Slavic culture?

Znaki means a word or symbol, often one associated with power. A talisman or charm. For thousands of years, Slavic people have made talismans. The designs on them were called znaki, which means "charm or symbol." Each of the znaki had special meaning, and since the ancient Slavs had no written alphabet, these symbols were the expression of ideas and the method of communicating magickal desires. During the Middle Ages in times of double-faith, it was common to see many people wearing double znaki. In the case of our tokens, one side bears the symbol of Svarog the ancient pagan sun god, and the other symbol of the new faith. This way they could turn the znaki to present the symbol they wished to be displayed at any given time -- appearing Christian or Pagan as they deemed suitable and/or safe at the moment.

I left home a little later than I had intended, so I missed Sfandra's class on Ukrainian gerdany, or beading. Sadness! (OK, I believe she may teach the class again at Pennsic.) Yes, this is one of those "not-quite-Lithuanian" topics, but a good part of Ukraine was under the influence of Lithuania for a chunk of the SCA time period, and gerdany just looks like something that's fun to do. (Note to self: One of these days I ought to look up the history of Ukraine and Belarus from the Ukrainian and Belarussian points of view.)

So, anyhow, once I arrived around 11 a.m., I busied myself with setting up my books at the library table (where there was already an excellent selection) and my A&S display (the five natural-dyed eggs I'd managed to make before the event). I honestly don't know if anyone noticed my eggs. They probably would have looked much more appealing if I had had the time to shine them up with clear nail polish. (Yeah, that's not a period substance either, but it makes them look purty, and it probably helps to preserve the designs and the shell in the long run.) Around this time I greeted Master Igor and Mistress Fevronia, who are among the former landed baronage of Storvik and still reside in my barony. They were dressed in their full Russian garb and looked great (especially since Master Igor has dropped about 80 pounds recently).

I will write more, I promise!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Eve of Slavic University...

'Twas the night before Slavic University and I have SO much to do! Don't worry, though, at least I remembered to print out some handouts for my class. :-)

If you're going to be anywhere in the vicinity of West Virginia tomorrow (Saturday, April 10), PLEASE stop by! The event details are all here.