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!

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