Category Archives: Poles

Sententia contra hereticum et astrologum lapsum et postea relapsum

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The 15th century Polish version of the inquisition was very much in tune with the anti-Hussite times. The below was a sentence issued by Zbigniew Oleśnicki the Bishop of Cracow (later cardinal) and John the Dominican inquisitor against the alleged Hussite Henry of either Brieg/Brzeg or, perhaps, of Prague. This sentence was pronounced circa 1429. The interesting passage is as follows:

“…ad suffragia demonum cum suis certis complicibus pro inveniendis thesauris aliquociens habuit refugium, credens id licere nec esse peccatum, ipsum constabat esse relapsum iudicio sapientum et ob hoc curie seculari tradendum.  Verum quia, an invocare demones pro inveniendis thesauris sit manifesta heresis, licet procul dubio heresim sapiat manifeste, cum non esset de hoc lucida determinacio, poterat dubitasse…”

Here Henry is accused of “calling upon demons and certain accomplices” in order to help find treasure, an indication of a “clear heresy.” He is also apparent a repeat offender.

The source of this is a codex (610.40) owned by the prelate of Włocławek Stanisław Ksawery Chodyński which was printed in Volume 2 of the so-called Codex Epistolaris (number 176).

However, as pointed out by Aleksander Birkenmajer (in “The Matter of Henry the Czech” or Sprawa Henryka Czecha), apparently the same case is also discussed in a number of pieces in BJ 2513.

So who was Henry?  He seems to have been a professor at Cracow University who was a popular scholar and even assisted during (or at least was present at) the birth of three sons of Wladyslaw Jagiello: Wladyslaw of Varna, a Kazimierz who died after a few months and of Kazimierz Jagiellonczyk. Henry, also called the “Astrologer”, fell afoul of Church authorities and was accused of Hussitic sympathies, of opposing the excessive veneration of the Holy Mary and, as shown above, of seeking out treasure by means of diabolical powers. The fact that he was a Czech we learn from Jan Dlugosz (genere Bohemus) but also from Stanislaw of Skalbmierz.

You can read more about this (if you know Latin) here in Birkenmajer’s article.

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March 16, 2018

Iasion, Jason & the Obotrites

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In English the name of this tribe is either Obotrites or Obodrites.  The Polish name is Obodryci, Obodrzycy, Obodrzyce.  In Czech the same name is written Obodrice or  Bodrice.  The same in Latin is spelled Abodriti.  They were the westernmost northern Slavic tribal confederation that had been recorded.

But where did the name come from and what does it mean?  A number of hypotheses are present:

Some say their name refers to the Oder river – Odra – and they were “people who lived at the Odra”.

A variation of this states that they had lived on “both” sides of the Odra. That is, the “obo” refers to “both” – as in “obie” (both) Odry – both Oders.

Another variation would say that they were the ones that lived “obok” that is “at the” or “by” the Oder.

Yet another variation would be to ask whether the “o” should not rather (like the Latinized version) have been an “a” – thus, for example, we can ask whether those were the people who “came from” the Oder. This would be a German etymology – that is it relies on the word “ab” or “from”. This would be a kind of an amalgam – Odra is a Slavic version (Oder being the German version) but the “ab” would seemingly be a Germanic addition.  In fact, perhaps the original name had been Od-odrites, that is “from the Oder”.

Or perhaps, consistent with some versions of their names, such as the Czech Bodrici, the name refers to the worshippers of the Polish Goddess Boda?

Their first mention seems to be in the Carolingian annals for the year 789 where we read that Charlemagne entered the territory of the Slavic Wilzi (Veleti) accompanied by Franks, Saxons, Frisians and Slavs “called Sorbs and the Obodrites, whose chieftain was Witzan.”

As was already mentioned previously, the Veleti – the Obodrites’ great Slavic competitors – who, by the way, also make their first acknowledged historical appearance in that exact same entry – strangely seem to make an (unacknowledged) appearance already in Ptolemy’s Geography where it is said, that “back from the Ocean, near the Venedicus bay, the Veltae dwell, above whom are the Ossi.”

Could the Obodrites have the same claim to fame? It seems the answer could be yes.  Ptolemy’s description of Germania says that: “below the Gabreta forest are the Marcomani, brow whom are the Sudini, then extending to the Danube river are the Adrabaecampi” (ὑπὸ δὲ τὴν Γαβρήταν Ὕλην Μαρκομανοὶ, ὑφ’ οὓς Σουδινοὶ, καὶ μέχρι τοῦ Δανουβίου ποταμοῦ οἱ Ἀδραβαικάμποι·).  Could the Adrabaecampi be a name for the Obodrites or Abotrites?  Curiously, we also have a few lines above the Parmaecampi – both Parma and Adra being, potentially, of northern Italian – and, in the case of the Adra, of Venetic origin.

But, it gets better.

There is a possibility that there were two different tribes of Obotrites.  In fact, the very same Carolingian Annals mention (under the entry for the year 824) that: “The emperor [Louis the Pious] also received the envoys of the Obodrites who are commonly called Praedenecenti and live in Dacia on the Danube as neighbors of the Bulgars, of whose arrival he had been informed.”  In the same annals, just two years earlier (in the year 822) we hear of the emperor receiving “embassies and presents from all the East Slavs, that is, Obodrites, Sorbs, Wilzi, Bohemians, Moravians, and the Praedenecenti” which further confuses the picture.

So were the “southern Obodrites” the same as Praedenecenti or was this simply a confusion on the part of the Frankish author who could not tell all these Slavs apart?

Obotrites in green shows why exactly they got swallowed up by stronger polities

There is something that suggests that the scribe got it right (for the year 824).

Abdera in the South

First, interestingly, there is another Odra river right by the Croatian capital of Zagreb (this, in addition to other places with the same name, including in India). This is not quite at the Danube but certainly closer to that river than the northern Obotrites were.

Second, there is another city whose name evokes the Obotrites or Abotrites.  This one is not in Dacia or Pannonia but in Thrace (not close to the Danube but close enough?).  This is the city of Abdera (Ἄβδηρα) of which Strabo (Book &, Chapter 7, section 44-49) says:

“after the strait of Thasos one comes to Abdera and the scene of the myths connected with Abderus. It was inhabited by the Bistonian Thracians over whom Diomedes ruled. The Nestus River does not always remain in the same bed, but oftentimes floods the country. Then come Dicaea, a city situated on a gulf, and a harbor. Above these lies the Bistonis, a lake which has a circuit of about two hundred stadia. It is said that, because this plain was altogether a hollow and lower than the sea, Heracles, since he was inferior in horse when he came to get the mares of Diomedes, dug a canal through the shore and let in the water of the sea upon the plain and thus mastered his adversaries.”

Strabo then goes on to say:

“After the Nestus River, towards the east, is the city Abdera, named after Abderus, whom the horses of Diomedes devoured; then, near by, the city Picaea, above which lies a great lake, Bistonis; then the city Maroneia. Thrace as a whole consists of twenty-two tribes. But although it has been devastated to an exceptional degree, it can send into the field fifteen thousand cavalry and also two hundred thousand infantry. After Maroneis one comes to the city Orthagoria and to the region about Serrhium (a rough coasting voyage) and to Tempyra, the little town of the Samothracians, and to Caracoma, another little town, off which lies the island Samothrace, and to Imbros, which is not very far from Samothrace; Thasos, however, is more than twice as far from Samothrace as Imbros is. … Now Paulus, who captured Perseus, annexed the Epeirotic tribes to Macedonia, divided the country into four parts for purposes of administration, and apportioned one part to Amphipolis, another to Thessaloniceia, another to Pella, and another to the Pelagonians. Along the Hebrus live the Corpili, and, still farther up the river, the Brenae, and then, farthermost of all, the Bessi, for the river is navigable thus far. All these tribes are given to brigandage, but most of all the Bessi, who, He says, are neighbors to the Odrysae and the Sapaei. Bizye was the royal residence of the Astae. The term “Odrysae” is applied by some to all the peoples living above the seaboard from the Hebrus and Cypsela as far as Odessus – the peoples over whom Amadocus, Cersobleptes, Berisades, Seuthes, and Cotys reigned as kings.

Then, a bit later:

Iasion and Dardanus, two brothers, used to live in Samothrace. But when Iasion was struck by a thunderbolt because of his sin against Demeter, Dardanus sailed away from Samothrace, went and took up his abode at the foot of Mount Ida, calling the city Dardania, and taught the Trojans the Samothracian Mysteries. In earlier times, however, Samothrace was called Samos.”

Abderan coins

Strabo then returns to Abdera in Book 11 (chapter 14, sections 13-15):

“There is an ancient story of the Armenian race to this effect: that Armenus of Armenium, a Thessalian city, which lies between Pherae and Larisa on Lake Boebe, as I have already said,26 accompanied Jason into Armenia; and Cyrsilus the Pharsalian and Medius the Larisaean, who accompanied Alexander, say that Armenia was named after him, and that, of the followers of Armenus, some took up their abode in Acilisene, which in earlier times was subject to the Sopheni, whereas others took up their abode in Syspiritis, as far as Calachene and Adiabene, outside the Armenian mountains. They also say that the clothing of the Armenians is Thessalian, for example, the long tunics, which in tragedies are called Thessalian and are girded round the breast; and also the cloaks that are fastened on with clasps, another way in which the tragedians imitated the Thessalians, for the tragedians had to have some alien decoration of this kind; and since the Thessalians in particular wore long robes, probably because they of all the Greeks lived in the most northerly and coldest region, they were the most suitable objects of imitation for actors in their theatrical make-ups. And they say that their style of horsemanship is Thessalian, both theirs and alike that of the Medes. To this the expedition of Jason and the Jasonian monuments bear witness, some of which were built by the sovereigns of the country, just as the temple of Jason at Abdera was built by Parmenion.  It is thought that the Araxes was given the same name as the Peneius by Armenus and his followers because of its similarity to that river, for that river too, they say, was called Araxes because of the fact that it “cleft” Ossa from Olympus, the cleft called Tempe. And it is said that in ancient times the Araxes in Armenia, after descending from the mountains, spread out and formed a sea in the plains below, since it had no outlet, but that Jason, to make it like Tempe, made the cleft through which the water now precipitates itself into the Caspian Sea, and that in consequence of this the Araxene Plain, through which the river flows to its precipitate descent, was relieved of the sea. Now this account of the Araxes contains some plausibility, but that of Herodotus not at all; for he says that after flowing out of the country of the Matieni it splits into forty rivers and separates the Scythians from the Bactrians. Callisthenes, also, follows Herodotus. It is also said of certain of the Aenianes that some of them took up their abode in Vitia and others above the Armenians beyond the Abus and the Nibarus. These two mountains are parts of the Taurus, and of these the Abus is near the road that leads into Ecbatana past the temple of Baris. It is also said that certain of the Thracians, those called “Saraparae,” that is “Decapitators,” took up their abode beyond Armenia near the Guranii and the Medes, a fierce and intractable people, mountaineers, scalpers, and beheaders, for this last is the meaning of “Saraparae.” I have already discussed Medeia in my account of the Medes; and therefore, from all this, it is supposed that both the Medes and the Armenians are in a way kinsmen to the Thessalians and the descendants of Jason and Medeia.” 

And Then There Were More

Curiously, there is another Abdera – appearing as abdrt on its oldest coins.  This one is Andalusia and appears to have been a Phoenician colony. Its modern name is Adra.

This Abdera, we are told, was founded by the Phonicians.  Yet, adra type names are generally understood to be Indo-European which immediately raises several questions. For example, recall the Adriatic or the various Odras – the explanation here was that these may have been “Veneti” names.

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February 9, 2018

Auguries, Sorceries and Superstitions in the Medieval Manuscripts of the Jagiellonian Library

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The following is a translation of an article by Maria Kowalczyk (aka Maria Kowalczykówna, a senior librarian of the Jagiellonian Library’s manuscript department), “Auguries, Sorceries and Superstitions in the Medieval Manuscripts of the Jagiellonian Library” (Wróżby, czary i zabobony w średniowiecznych rękopisach Biblioteki Jagiellonskiej) . It is an interesting compilation of the author’s notes that she scribbled down while working the manuscript department of the library.  It originally came out in 1979 but it went largely unnoticed until Leszek Kolankiewicz cited the article in his book Dziady (“Forefathers’ Eve”) as proof that Alexander Brueckner’s view of the Polish Pantheon as presented by Jan Długosz was in fact wrong.

Kowalczyk, namely, came across a sermon by Lucas of Great Koźmin (Łukasz z Wielkiego Koźmina) from 1405 or so which predated Długosz by about than 50 years and which predated any other source for Polish paganism.  It was obvious that Brueckner had not been aware of the existence of this source when he wrote his critique of Długosz’ interpretation of pagan Poland’s religion. So here we had proof that Długosz neither made it all up nor did he misinterpret things as Brueckner claimed (though, interestingly, Kowalczyk did not seem to understand that what she found sent Brueckner’s already-strained interpretation down the tubes). The excerpts from that sermon are here and the full sermon here.

One interesting aspect to this is that even the small fragment cited by Kowalczyk seems slightly different from the sermon from other manuscripts.  One notable exception is that the sermon mentions the God list three times but in Kowalczyk’s version based on MS BJ 1446, the list appears twice or, more precisely, the first time the idols are mentioned in the other manuscripts their names are absent in Kowalczyk’s citation. Similarly, there is a reference to Bacchus in the other manuscripts but in the Kowalczyk version the name Bacchus is absent.  Assuming that these differences are actually born out in the manuscript and Kowalczyk did not make a mistake it seems that the manuscripts differ (and there are also other differences in the text just looking at her short fragment) and that the copyist decided not to mention the names the first time around.  Why then he mentioned the list the second and third time it appears is, of course, puzzling.

Another mention is that of Quia which Kowalczyk seems to believe is in the BJ manuscript but which does not appear appear in at least some of the other manuscripts.

Without further ado, here is the article that sparked a minor renaissance in Polish pagan studies. All the numbered notes are the Kowalczyk’s – mine are only the asterisk notes. For the name Stanisław I use Stanisuav throughout to better help with the pronunciation.

In the medieval manuscripts of the Jagiellonian Library there survived a number of texts discussing various manners of auguries, sorceries and superstitions.  The most notable of those are four sermons by Stanisław [Stanisuav] of Skalbmierz [or Skarbmierz so aka Stanisław ze Skarbimierza], a professor of canon law at Krakow University (d 1431).  One of these he dedicated almost entirely to the study of various superstitions, that is the sermon Magistris non inclinavi aurem meam (Proverbs 5, 13), which sermon has survived in  a number of manuscripts as part of the sermon collection by the same author entitled De sapienta Dei [1].  In this sermon the author notes that despite the fact that many people go to church, it is not by any means certain that they follow the Catholic faith in accordance with the teachings of the Church.  For they commit many transgressions against the faith, which transgressions the preacher lists in a detailed manner.  This is the most extensive known sermon about magic sorceries – of which the author list about fifty different types.

Skalbmierz coat of arms

Though not as thoroughly, Stanisuav also mentions the matter of superstitions and transgressions against the faith in his sermon Hic venit [2].

In this sermon the author undertakes a dialogue with a superstitious interlocutor with the latter asserting that he cannot be comitting a sin if – while engaging in his superstitious rites – he also utters Catholic words and prayers and even employs holy objects.  The preacher eventually asks rhetorically, how should this person then explain the various superstitions such as incomprehensible and laughable spells, the calling of the wolf, offerings and writings (pictura verborum).

In turn the third sermon Domine Deus rex celestis Deus Pater omnipotent is found in a collection of sermons by Stanisuav of Skalbmierz called Super Gloriam [in excelsis]  [3].  While speaking of the various false gods that a Christian may fall prey to worshipping, he mentioned and described a series of superstitious practices.

Finally, only  a brief mention of such matters can be found in the sermon Et in unum dominum nostrum Ihesum Christum cilium Dei unigenitum in the series Super Credo [4].

[1] MS BJ 193, 118v-121v and other manuscripts, in which are found the sermons De sapienta Dei.
[2] MS BJ 191, 16v-20r.
[3] MS BJ 191, v. 170r-172v.
[4] MS BJ 190, 18r-20r.

All these collections of Stanisuav of Skalbmierz’ sermons existed already around the year 1415 [*note: for example, Super Gloriam was written during his stay in Prague in the 1390s as per Zawadzki].  However, other sermons of his were written at various other times.  Some had been prepared already at the end of the 14th century.

In the second part of his “Medieval Sermons” in the chapter entitled “Superstitions of the Polish People in the 15th century” [5] Alexander Brueckner published large fragments of four anonymous sermons, which had been in the keeping of the National Library in Warsaw up until World War II.  An examination of these sermons (originally kept at the Holy Cross monastery [6]) allowed me to conclude that, other than a few omissions and minor additions, they were largely taken from the sermons of Stanisuav of Skalbmierz.

Also a large fragment of Stanisuav’s sermon entitled Magistris non inclinavi had been added to the confessional materials contained in MS BJ 2540 from the first half of the 15th century [7]. Among contemplations on the topic of mortal sins is found chapter devoted to auguries and superstitions [8].  Therein are found the fragments taken from Stanisuav [9].  It is also worth noting that in that document there is found a Polish gloss “booze spor”, a name of a disease which was treated by measuring the sick man or animal with a thread [10].

Because the various superstitions listed by Stanisuav of Skalbmierz had already been discussed by Alexander Brueckner, I will only summarize them directing the reader to the above mentioned discussion of Brueckner’s and the fragments published in it.  First of all the various magics, superstitions and auguries were the province of women.  These so-called “vetules” popped up in towns and villages.  Many of the superstitious practices became part of the regular liturgical year cycle for they were associated with Christmas, Candlemas [Feast of the Presentation/Purification or Święto Matki Boskiej Gromnicznej], the Holy Week, Saint John’s Eve, the Feast of the Assumption of Mary, etc. They played the greatest role at Christmas.  The entire Christmas Eve was spent on festivities, playing dice, and inviting as guests those people who were considered lucky in the belief that they would bring luck [to the household].  Fire was not shared with the neighbors.  Also on Saint John’s Eve, people kept watch among entertainments and dances and superstitious practices.   Women and girls danced and played on Saturday nights.  On Holy (Maundy) Thursday, they did not wash the dishes after dinner so that the dead souls could have a meal.  Also for these souls did they toss out the leftovers.

[5] A. Brueckner, Kazania średniowieczne [Medieval Sermons], part 2, Rozprawy Wydziału Filologicznego AU, XXIV, 1895, pages 318[really 317]-347. [*note: Brueckner issued his Medieval Sermons series in three parts that were part of AU volumes 23 and 24 (or series II volume 9 and 10); these also contain other interesting publications like Władysław Nehring’s Kazania Gnieźnienskie and Brueckner’s Drobne zabytki języka polskiego XV wieku: pieśni]
[6] Warszawa, MS BN Lat. IQ 24, which manuscript was destroyed in World War II.
[7] The work begins Qui bene presunt presbiteri duplici honore habeantur digni (1 Timothy 5, 17) Do. X, cap. V, Ecce ego. Recipiunt enim in hac vita honorem reverencie… Sunt autem specialiter quatuor propter que sacerdotes sunt honorandi… The topic agrees with the summa De doctrina sacerdotali of Richard Wetherset but the proper incipit is different. Compare M. W. Bloomfield, “A Preliminary List of Incipits of Latin Works on the Virtues and Vices”, ‘Traditio’ XI, 1955, number 758.

[8] It begins Sors est ars divinandi, qui nunquam in bono accipitur…, MS BJ 2540, 228v.
[9] Peccant omnes illi qui contra dolorem oculorum per totam noctem a die Nativitatis Iohannis Bapitiste vigilant… X… Et multa talia supersticiosa et diversa et errores superseminati sunt, quod nec omnes de mundo magistrorum possent eos describere, in the same work, 232r-233r.
[10] Quandam infirmitatem vocant vulgariter b o z e  s p o r, in the same work, 232v.

Various priest-blessed objects were also used in superstitious ways – such as large wax candles [gromnice], Easter palms, fire, and especially blessed wax and water that had been blessed by the priests on Holy Saturday and herbs that had been blessed by the priests on the day of the Feat of the Assumption of Mary [Matki Boskiej Zielnej which means the Herb/Green Mother of God day].

Some superstitions and sorceries were intended to divine the future or assure prosperity.  One would read [the future] from the dripping of waxed candles, salt or herbs that had been blessed on the Feast of the Assumption of Mary or figure out the what coming across a hare or a wolf would portend.

The superstitions related to the various important events in a human life: birth, marriage, funerals.  For example, returning home from a funeral one would leave some ash at the home’s doorstep.  It was also the case that people would commission the dying to take care of their matters (after they crossed over).  The superstitions also translated into various activities.  For example, one would not set out any journey on a Monday.  Superstitions were also introduced when starting on the  building of a dwelling.

Superstitions were also associated with the various trades.  The farmers and gardeners who were dependent on the vagaries of nature were also especially prone to them.  From the blooming branches one would divine whether one’s livestock would multiply; one would not hold barehanded the rod or twig which was given at New Year’s – then used to drive the cattle out come springtime.  At the Feast of the Presentation [Purification or Gromniczna] one would walk around the house and the stables holding the candles [i.e., the gromnice]; then one would use fire to brand the cattle hair with the sign of the cross. When the farmers when out till the soil, they would tie an object to the horns of an ox and sprinkle ash that had been blessed by the priest on Ash Wednesday so that the wheel treads (of the wheeled plough). At Easter morning they would go around the field with a cross and the knife that had been used to cut meat at Easter was also used to cut cereal stalks so that the weeds would not grow amongst such crops. They would add something to the cereal so as to protect against rust [!]. They would invite the wolf to a feast so that he would not eat the sheep and they would not name the wolf at Christmas.  They would pour milk from a cow that had just birthed a calf behind them [for good luck?]; and they would refuse to sell milk or dairy products after sunset.

The innkeepers used all kinds of secret practices to ensure that they receive a lot of orders for beer. When buying a horse you were not supposed to use a bare hand to grab its bridle. Also contracts were agreed upon only while wearing gloves.  Hunters and fishermen would use all kinds of superstitions such as incense to help the sucres of an [upcoming] hunt.

However, the most magics and superstitions were practiced as part of the medical arts. Since there were relatively few actual doctors and medical advice was expensive, people turned towards the local old women who cured people using herbs, conjurations and magic.  It was believed that the inscription Lutum fecit Dominus ex sputa (John 8, 9) written during the reading of the Gospel at the fourth Sunday of Lent (Quadragesima Sunday or Invocavit Sunday after Ash Wednesday) can be used to treat eye ailments. It was also a belief that keeping watch on Saint John’s Eve (summer solstice) would avert eye disease.  That night people also wrapped the artemisia plant around their heads so as to prevent headaches throughout the year.  Garlic was attached to garlands and sashes.  Also some sort of small wooden boards would be attached to the brow with signs or writing.  Drawn lines, inscrutable words, signs, made with chalk or by other means were supposed to help with toothaches.

To cure various fevers, as soon as it was discovered that someone was suffering from it, some people would use a sort of a hand “manubrium” uttering words and making motions.  Others wrote words on an apple or wafers and gave these to the sick to eat.  There were also those who, fearful of falling ill with a fever, would not let anyone speak the word fever in their presence.  Another illness (unclear which one) which was called in Polish “miara” [measure] people tried to cure by measuring a person and his head with a thread.  That illness or a similar one, people also tried to cure by stomping on something.

Against ghosts [or anxiety?], people would pour molten lead or wax onto water.  Once this solidified they tied it on a child or on a sick person.  It was undesirable to drink while holding a light [candle] in one’s hand so as not to fall into an incurable illness. For this reason too one would not sit down on the door step.  For reasons unknown, one would chew on Easter wax and eat the [willow blooming] catkins from Easter palms.

One would pray during the new moon, kneeling and fasting even.  One would walk towards the sun to get rid of sickness.  Or would stick a nail in a tree.  Walking barefoot was believed to have medicinal qualities.  To read charms/bewitchments one would use elderberries.  While administering medicine one would pray “our Father, Credo.”  One would make a picture representing death and would walk it out in a procession out of the village.  In medicine one would take into account unlucky days, the so called “dies egypciaci.”

One would not let horses and cattle drink water in which hands (nogcie) had been washed so that they would not become stick with an eye disease (which was also called nogiec [hence the perceived connection]).  To treat this disease as well as uraz one would use farcical enchantments [?].  To treat household animals one used fire that had been blessed on Holy Saturday. Herbs blessed during the Feast of the Assumption were used to treat cattle and to shoe away demons by sticking them onto the house and in the cowshed.  One would place a [piece of paper with?] the name of Saint Luke written on it since his symbol is an ox.  In the conclusion of his sermon Magistris non inclinavi Stanisuav of Skalbmierz says that one writer is unable to write down all the superstitions especially since they always multiply as new ones arise constantly.

Of course, Stanisuav, being a cleric, saw all these practices from his own religious vantage point.  Therefore, to fight such superstitions he used primarily theological arguments.  He asserted that those who attach incomprehensible caracteres to sick people, receive blessings from old women [as opposed to priests], and those who believe that diseases and human ailments may be cured, create a false god; in his opinion, they wound the faith, steal from Christ, flee from the light. He warned that one should not worship either the Sun or the Moon for veneration is owed only to God who created them.  In the sermon Hic venit Saint john is made to address his audience to ask whether he who came as a witness of truth is to be seen the same as those who try to find salvation in various [ritualistic] writings, apocrypha, signs, plants, wax, lead, wood, stones, carvings, empty words, inane blessings, curses.  Stanisuav also appealed to common sense.  He encouraged his listeners to hearken more to doctors than to old women.  He said, for example, that the sheep will be better protected from the wolf by being closely guarded rather than by avoiding the uttering of the wolf’s name. He tried to convince that a sickness is best driven away not by using a thread but by applying medicine [whatever that “medicine” may have been]. He ridiculed those who would scribble down various words and signs which were understood by no one and those who would take as blessed that which had not been and is not blessed.

It is not easy to determine how much of the writing of Stanisuav from Skalbmierz is original since we still know very little about his models.  While it is true that there is a treatise by the Silesian Nicholas from Jawor De superstitionibus, which is known from various XVth century copies but Stanisuav’s sermons do not appear to have made any textual borrowings from that treatise [11].  However, already Zofia Kozłowska-Budkowa drew attention to the influence of Czech preachers [12].  In their sermons too does the problem of sorcery and superstition appear sharply. What’s more, one can see that Stanisuav’s sermons are dependent on those.

MS. 1396 (written at Plock in the year 1414 it originated from the library of the Plock preacher Jacob of Piotrkow) contains a synodal sermon Sacerdotes contempserunt written by the Czech preacher John Milicz from Kromieryz – from which we learn that not only the common people but also priests, especially clergymen took part in various superstitious practices. In agreement with local women and sometimes in exchange for money, during their first [?] masses they put on belts (or straps/girdles) which were then later used in superstitious practices (of unclear type); during the gospels being read they would write various words on communal wafers, laurel leaves and cards designed to counteract fevers or other diseases such as Ihesus autem transiens etc. or the already mentioned Lutum fecit Dominus ex sputa. On Palm Sunday during the reading of the Passion they would cut out the aforementioned crosses.  They created amulets (“ligature“), which were then worn by superstitious, illiterate people. Therefore, the preacher [John] concludes that those priests who engaged in such practices or who permit that others do so, are not priests of Christ but of Baal or Belial [13].

The same [John] Milicz in a sermon for the feast of Saints Simon and Jude [Judas Thaddaeus] entitled Principes apostolorum (a part of the compilation known as Abortivus) raises the issue of superstitions. In MS. BJ 1645 a glossator observes at this juncture: Nota been contra incantatrices et incredulous [14].

[11] See A. Franz, Der Magister Nicolaus Magni de Jawor, Freiburg 1898. It also could not have been taken from Katalog magi Rudolfa, pub. E. Karwot, Prace Etnologiczne, v. 4, Wrocław 1955 and the rev. G. Labuda, “Studia Źródłoznawcze” III, 1958, p. 314.
[12] Z. Budkowa, Sermones Sapientiales Stanisława ze Skalbmierza, “Sprawozdania Polskiej Akademii Umiejętności” LIII, 1952, p. 395. See also Largum sero Marcina z Holeszowa, MS BJ 1400, p. 337-353.
[13] Sunt et alii sacerdotes vel clerici, qui sacramentis abutuntur in suis vel mulierum coniuracionibus, incantacionibus, sortilegiis. Sunt qui in missis suis novis vel primis amorem mulierum vel precio vel pecunia conducti cingunt se cingulis ad supersticiones faciendas. Sunt qui scribunt contra febres vel infirmitates super hostia, super lauri baca, super cedula, vel scribunt illud Ihesus autem transiens etc. vel Lutum fecit Dominus ex sputo etc. quando ewangelium legitur ac si illa verba evangelii non valerent alio tempore scripta, quam cum evangelium legitur, quia hoc est supersticiosum, quod tempore illi creditur, vel incidunt cruce infra passionis leccionem in in die Palmarum vel ligaturas faciunt… Hi sacerdotes Domini sed Baal, non Christi sed Belial. Vertunt enim letanias sanctorum in invocaciones demonum, Ioviniani sunt non Christiani…, MS BJ 1396, 273v.
[14] Ad hoc eciam pertinent omnes ligature et remedia, que eciam medicorum disciplina condempnat sive in verbis sive in caracteribus sive in quibuscumque rebus suspendendis vel ligandis vel solvendis, vel qui credit in occursum lupi, leporis vel hominis, vel qui sperat in inicia fori, vel contractus… quidam adorant lunam et murmurant in novilunio, pecunias ut augmententur. Quidam observant dies egipciacos… Quidam contra febres vel dolorem dencium, capitis vel oculorum in pomo vel lauri baca, in plumbo in hostia, sive qui scribunt Lutum fecit ex sputo Dominus sive Ihesus autem transiens etc. infra evangelium, incidunt cruces infra passionem que ideo supersticiosa sunt… Coniurant quidam serpentes… Caveatis quibus sanare homines vel peccora quandoque conantur, quia ut plurimum admiscent aliqua ut mensurare hominem vel pecus vel spuere vel insufflare vel police tangere vel cereo digito et non alio quidquam ad hoc pertinens facere et talia in vestris ecclesiis facere prohibetis… Quidam eciam per artem notoriam scienciam nituntur aquirere… Quidam in sacramentis de crismate et oleo faciunt sortilegia. Caveant ne sint irregulares…, MS BJ 1645, 153v, compare too MS BJ 1175, 327v.

A student of Stanisuav from Skalbmierz, Lucas from Great Koźmin, a professor of theology at Cracow University, who died in 1412, speaks against superstitions and magics  in several sermons contained in his postilla. While discussing the text of the evangelical pericope regarding the wedding at Cana [where Jesus turned water into wine, resulting in mass inebriation and several “angry drunk” incidents], he mentioned that, in his time, “old wives,” witches and fortune tellers were being invited to weddings so as to foretell the future [presumably of the married couple] [15].

Koźmin coat of arms – Prussian version

In his sermon for the second Sunday of Lent, while discussing the story of the Canaanite woman [Matthew 15.22 or Greek, Mark 7.24], who’d asked Christ to cure her daughter who was tormented by Satan [demon really], upbraids women of his own time, saying that they, instead, engage with the devil when they medicate themselves and their children by incantations and amulets [nawąz, presumably from wiązać referring to tying of plants in some sort of a wreath?] [16]. Therefore, [according to Lucas] Jesus said to the Canaanite “Woman, great is your faith!” but to those other women [Lucas’ contemporaries], he would have said [according to Lucas]: “Great are your incantations and great are your magics.” Lucas also speaks of old women, alewives who gave themselves to superstitions, in his sermon for the Assumption of Mary [17].

An interesting detail found itself in Lucas’ sermon for the Green Week/Pentecost regarding Si quis diligit me ([Anyone who loves me] John 14.23). He mentions in this sermon namely relics of a pagan past, disappearing then under the influence of the Christian preachers; these dances and parties, during which were uttered the names of alleged pagan Gods: Lada, Yassa, Nia [18]. This same was repeated about fifty years later by Jan Długosz [19].

[15] MS BJ 1446, 167v, compare J. Wolny, Materiały do historii wagantów w Polsce średniowiecznej, “Biuletyn Biblioteki Jagiellońskiej” XIX, 1969, page 80.
[16] …non ad Deum sed magis ad dyabolum, scilicet ad artem eius puta ad incantaciones, ad sortilegia vetularumque ligaturas, que eciam libri medicorum condempnant, recurrunt, et tunc cum faciunt voluntatem dyaboli ipso cessante vexare estimant incantaciones illas vel illa sortilegia seu ligaturas ipsos vel ipsorum filios filiasve dixerim sanare… autem mulieribus posset dici o mulier magna est luxuria tua, magna est incantacio tua, magna est ars sortilega tua. MS BJ 1446, 199v, 203v.
[17] Same at 257v,

[18] Hoc deberent advertere hodie in choreis vel in alibi in spectaculis nephanda loquentes, in cordibus immunda meditantes, clamantes et nominantes ydolorum nomina, [] et attendere an possit referri ad Deum Patrem. Certe non. Venit ad summum bonum, nisi quod bonum. Non enim festa libere [] quales proh dolor celebrant ex remanenciis rituum execrabilium paganorum, quales fuerunt predecessores nostri, pervenire poterint ad aures, nisi ad ulciscendum, sicuti ascenderat clamor Sodomorum et Gomorrorum.  Nam in hoc festo liberi fiebant turpes  denudacione et alia turpia, que dicit Apostolus eciam non nominare gracia domini Dei. Tamem talia iam auctis predicatoribus, cessantur et in multis locis cessaverunt…. Non est aliud nomen sub celo in quo oportet nos salvos fieri. Non enim salvatur in hoc nomine Lado, Yasa, Quia, Nia, sed in nomine Ihesus Christus… Non Lada, non Yassa, non Nia, que sunt nomina alias ydolorum in Polonia hic cultorum, ut quedam cronice testantur ipsorum Polonorum… Same at 268v-269r.
[19] See B. Ulanowski, Kilka uwag o statutach synodów diecezyalnych krakowskich, Archiwum Komisji Historycznej V, Kraków 1888. page 27; Ioannes Dlugossius, Annales seu Cronicae incliti Poloniae, v. 1, Varsaviae 1964, page 106; Brueckner, same as above pages 10-11; the same, Encyklopedia staropolska, v. II, Warszawa, Kraków 1937, page 181, where he states that these are not names of pagan Gods.   

In MS BJ 1619 from the year 1407, containing a large number of sermons with Polish glosses (which also contains the oldest version of the Bogurodzica [mother of God, Polish hymn]), in the sermon regarding Nupcie fact sunt  there is a [description of] superstitions related to marriage (such as entering the house with the right foot first) [20].

The archdeacon of Gniezno, Peter Wolfram (died 1428), owned a manuscript which contained a sermon to the clergy entitled Ierusalem, Ierusalem, que occidis prophets (Matthew 23.37) of unknown authorship, in which he upbraided those [amongst the clergy?] who continued using superstitious practices [21].  The Sermo de S. Mathia regarding Surgens Petrus (Book of Acts of the Apostles 15.7) in MS BJ 2513 from the first quarter of the 15th century discusses auguries/ fortune telling (the manuscript also preserves the sermon of Marcin of Holeszow) [22].

Also Jacob of Piotrków, a preacher from Płock (d. 1447), talked on Palm Sunday about superstitions connected with the Holy Week; we know this because on the backside of a letter he personally wrote down directives in this matter, that is, an injunction against swallowing [willow blooming] catkins, against the preparation of crosses, against the placing of bread underneath the cross, against the strewing of ash, and against abuses [of what kind ?] with the [holy?] fire and holy water on Holy Saturday [23].

From a recommendation written by Kasper Rockenberg, the later decretist [Decretum Gratiani], at the occasion of the awarding of the bachelor of arts degrees at Cracow University, we learn of another superstitious practice. We find out that Kasper suffered from a fever but was able to get rid of it when, on the advice of one of the university masters, he transferred the said fever pursuant to a notarized deed – and without a right of repurchase – to the Jew Zacharias [24].

During Lent, pastors would read to their congregants the so-called prohibitions a communion paschal, so that they would know which sins would prevent them from being admitted to the Holy Communion during Easter. The registers [of such sins] have survived in several fifteenth century codices of the Jagiellonian Library. Among others, mortal sins included the practice of magic and superstitions, sometimes just being mentioned in general form, for example Item incantatricibus [25]. But we also find more detailed descriptions:

[20] MS BJ 1619, 96v.
[21] Sed heu nonnulli faciunt qui per vanas benedicciones per fatuas aplicaciones rerum quarumlibet querunt faustum vel procurant fieri infaustum… Taceo de illis, qui tempora observant et rebus sacramentalibus abuntur, querentes inde faustum ceram fundentes vel plumbum, MS BJ 2459, 207v-208r.
[22] MS BJ 2513, 358v.
[23] Dicendum in die Palmarum. Ne abuntantur ramis gluciendo, cruces parando. Item de pane posito sub cruce. Item de audicione passionis. Item de cremacione ignis feria quarta. Item de cieccione pulveris postea. Item ut feria 5 ieiunietur. Item ne igne et aqua consecratis errent. Item de pane benedicendo. Addition BJ 225/70, compare M. Kowalczyk, E Belczrzowa, F. Wysocka, Glosy polskie Jakuba z Piotrkowa i innych autorów w rękopisach Biblioteki Jagiellońskiej, “Biuletyn Biblioteki Jagiellońskiej” XXIII, 1973, page 86.
[24] MS BJ 2459, 263v-264r, M. Kowalczyk, Krakowskie mowy uniwersyteckie pierwszej połowy XV w., Kraków 1970, page 94. [my note: Kasper came from a local German town family so whether this practice could be Polish or German we can’t tell.  One wonders who could sue under the deed if Rockenberg had instead died – Zacharias who would not have gotten the desired (?) fever or the relatives of Rockenberg!? If there was a payment made for this “transfer” who paid whom?].
[25] MS BJ 1619. 55r.

Item omnes divinatores, incantatores, vel incantatrices… Item omnes benedicentes oculos, caput, dentes seu quascumque infirmates in hominibus et in animalibus, alia mala contra Deum facientes non admittantur. Item omnes demones pro furtis vel pro perditis coniurantes. Item omnes betheniam fugantes vel fodientes.

Magic figures also on the list of sins whose absolution was reserved for the bishop:

Ad episcopum mittuntur… maiores sorciarii maxime qui baptizant ymagines et qui ymolant demonibus [26].

During a bishop’s episcopal visitation, investigations were conducted to determine whether there were any witches in the parish. In MS BJ 399, which belonged to the afore-mentioned Jacob of Piotrkow, there are queries put together in connection with such a visitation; several of those have to do with magic and superstitions. Specifically, this a fragment from the third book of Decretum [or Decretorum libri viginti] by Burchard [the bishop] of Worms [De aeclesiis (“on the congregations”)]. In the same codex is found also initial fragments from the nineteenth book of Decretum [De paenitentia (“on penitence,” or “Corrector Burchardi”)]. Those fragments appear under the name Corrector et medicus. Therein, a large part of the text is devoted to matters of interest to us [27]. Since codex BJ 399 had been copied in 1420, we can infer that these texts which had been written at the beginning of the 11th century were still relevant in the territories of Poland [in the 15th century].

In 1888 B. Ulanowski [28] published a questionnaire from MS BJ 143 related to an episcopal visitation of the Włocławek diocese dated to, probably, the 14th century. By means of this questionnaire the clergy also investigated magic and superstitions. A similar text has been preserved in MS BJ 2415 from 1415, which belonged to a doctor decretorum [of decrees] of Cracow University, Nicholas Spiczmeri [Nicolai Spiczmeri].  It contains the following question:

Item an sunt aliqui sacrilegi, incantatores vel divinatores cum invocacione demonum, aut aliorum nominum, aut aliquas supersticiones facientes et servantes [29].

It is also worth noting that such investigations were also undertaken to see if a parish did not harbor Wycliffites or Hussites. Also in the chapter discussing usury, there is a Polish gloss “wplath” [30].

The rather plentifully preserved in the Jagiellonian Library manuals for confessors also discussed auguries, magics and superstitions. Unfortunately, although there exist editions of confessional summas [31], it is difficult to establish, at least for now, their authorship or even to determine whether any of them were written in the territories of Poland. MS BJ 2213 from about 1450, contains the Tractatulus multum utilis pro confessionibus which features a small Polish insert:

[26] MS BJ 2397, 283v, 279v.
[27] See edition PL 140, 573-579, 949-962.
[28] B. Ulanowski,  Modus inquirendi super statu ecclesie generalis z pierwszej połowy XV stulecia, Archiwum Komisji Historycznej V, Kraków 1888, page 228.
[29] MS BJ 2415, 232v.
[30] Item an aliqui mutant pecunias super usuris vulgariter w p l a t h…, in the same.
[31] P. Michaud-Quantin, Sommes de casuistique et manuels de confession au moyen âge, Montreal 1962.

Prosta, pocorna spowyecz ma bycz, czysta y vyerna, czasta, odthcrita, rostropna y dobrowolna, srmyeszlyva, czala, tayemna, rychla, placzacza, moczna, poszluszna y tesz nasza zaluyącza [32].

Among the sins committed by means of an affirmative act there are listed the following:

Sortilegys, auguriis aut divinacionibus intendere. Karacteres, scripturas, in plumbo aut in aliquo alio coligaturas plumbi fusi vel cere vel alicuius alterius non medicionalis differe atque in his contra preceptum Domini et ecclesie spem ponere [33].

In the short instruction which begins with the words Sacerdos, qui debet confessions recipere…, in the codex BJ 2403 there features the following query:

Si corpus Domini servasti in ore tuo vel posuisti ipsum in aliquo loco indigno propter incantaciones faciendas…[34]

The above-mentioned MS BJ 2397 from 1418, attached to which has been preserved the will of Mikolaj Wisliczka also contains short texts dealing with confession. One of them begins with the words Post modem querat de denim preceptis and contains the following question in the part dealing with the sins violating the First Commandment:

Querat ergo utrum experimenta vel incantaciones vel coniuraciones pro mulieribus vel sortilegis pro rebus inveniendis fecerit vel auguria servaverit vel divinaciones vel demones consulerit.

As regards the Third Commandment, the confessor was supposed to ask the following:

…si in festis ad ducendas choreas vel spectacula ad videnda exivit vel sicut est consvetudo in aliquibus partibus in vigiliis sanctorum et in ecclesiis cantilenas luxuriosas cantare. Quod grave peccatum est.

In the notes towards the end of the codex there is a copy from some kind of a penitential regarding superstitions involved in taking Communion:

De mulieribus, que corpus Domini tenent in ore et osculantur viros suos. Sorciarie, que corpus Domini in ore retinent et cum ipso osculantur amasios suos, ut eos habeant coniuges omnibus diebus sue vite peniteant… Similiter ille qui crismate meleficia procuraverit penitendus est ad arbitrium sacerdoties vel de aliis sacramentis… Omnes srciarie graviter sunt penitende tanquam ligate comunicacione generali [35].

In the confessional manual contained in MS BJ 2540, to which has been attached a fragment of a sermon by Stanisuav of Skalbmierz, we find a chapter beginning with the words Sors est dedicated to discussing auguries and magic. The matter of wearing amulets is discussed and, among others, the following question is raised:

[32] MS BJ 2213, 194r.
[33] Same, 199r.
[34] MS BJ 2403, 169v.
[35] MS BJ 2397, 277v-278r, 281v.

Utrum cartle et alligature circa collum infirmorum contentes verba evengelica aut versus psalterii vel alia divina verba suspendere circa collum sit peccatum?

Another chapter, entitled De imaginibus. quasi facing astronomi discusses the pictures/drawings that were being made by astrologers [36]. In turn, the Casus penitenciales secundum iura which is contained in MS BJ 2151, dated from the first quarter of the fifteenth century, sets out atonements for various mortal sins. Among other things what is discussed there includes instances of soothsaying and magic: “qui videt in astrolabio” as well as “sortilegus” [37]. Another source is the fourteenth century Determinaciones diversorum casuum by Stephan of Rudnice (who was the vicar general of Ernest of Pardubice) in MS BJ 2220 which also touches upon magic and superstitions; perhaps this was a source of some of the discussion by Stanisuav of Skalbmierz [38].

The short Questiones vulgares de apparition mortuorum (MS BJ 2121 from the fourteenth century) contains matters regarding magic, for example, Posse vel non posse anima, que ex hac vita migravit, magicis carminibus evocari et vivorum apparere aspectibus… An sit aliqua virtus in caracteribus [39]. 

In the anonymous Questiones de Eucharista in codex BJ 1395 from about 1430, which belonged to the theologian Paul of Pyskowice, there is the matter of Utrum divinatoribus, sortilegus et carminatricibus debeat dari corpus Christi. Et videtur quod sic [40].

It is known that in the fifteenth century Cracow’s scholarly circles, people concerned themselves not just with astrology but also with magic.  For example, in the 1410 letter by the queen Anna of Cilli [second wife of Wladyslaw Jagiello] to the Pope, we have described an otherwise unknown Nicholas who is supposed to have engaged in secret practices [41]. During the 1428-1429 trial of the royal astrologer, Henry the Czech, it was revealed that both crystal gazing and black magic were practiced in Cracow [42].

Because the line between that which was permitted by the Church, that is between black and white magic, such matters were subject to heavy debate also at Cracow University. In MS BJ 2070 from the second quarter of the fifteenth century, the following matter has been preserved: Utrum futurorum divinacio, ex genere duo illicita, in alliquo casu sive eius specie determinata ab ecclesia, licite sit tolleranda. Quod questio sit vera… [43] which was, perhaps, written by or under the direction of Thomas Strzemplinski, a professor of decrees, later theology and, eventually, a bishop of Cracow. The author cites Augustine, Isidore, Thomas Aquinas, William of Paris, the Decretum [and] the Summa [de casibus poenitentiae] of [Saint] Raymond of Penyafort.    The author also discusses different types of fortune telling and magic. He seeks to prove that the “carminatores” [spell chanters], if they incant against diseases without connection to any demons, do not commit mortal sins. Nevertheless, he concludes that the practice should be prohibited since the permitted spells are often mixed up with the forbidden. Naturally, he stresses that one should never summon demons although it is permissible to bind them in the Name of the Lord so that they would not harm the people.

[36] MS BJ 2540, 228v-233r.
[37] MS BJ 2151, 264r.
[38] MS BJ 2220, 21r; ed. R Zeleny, The Quaestiunculae of Stephan of Roudnice, “Appolinaris”, 38, 1965, pages 236-283, 372-405.
[39] MS BJ 2121, 44r, 48.
[40] MS BJ 1395, 288r, see Z. Włodek, Paweł z Pyskowic, Materiały is Studia Zakładu Historii Filozofii Starożytnej i Średniowiecznej V, page 154. 
[41] J. Zathey, Per la storia dell’ ambiente magico-astrologico a Cracovia nel Quattrocento, in Magia, astrologia e religione nel Rinascimento, Convegno polacco-italiano (Varsavia: 25-27 settembre 1972), Warszawa 1974 (Accademia Polacca delle Scienze […]. Conferenze, fasc. 65), pages 99-109; also see R. Ganszyniec, Pas magiczny, Archiwum Tow. Naukowego we Lwowie, Dział I. v. I, number 6, Lwów 1922; Modlitewnik Władysława Warneńczyka w zbiorach Biblioteki Bodlejańskiej, edited L. Bernacki, R. Gaszyniec, W Podlacha, Kraków 1928, page 72 and others. 
[42] A. Birkenmajer, Sprawa magistra Henryka Czecha, “Collectanea Theologica” XVII, 1936, pages 210 and others.

De carminatoribus vel eciam carminatricibus qui carminant infirmos vel pueros vel alia aliqua circa ipsos faciunt eciam est dicendum secundum Wilhelmum, quod si nichil supersticiosum dicunt aut docent aut faciunt… non credo, quod peccent mortaliter… Sed credo, quod prohibendi sunt viri et mulieres a talibus, quia multa inutilia et supersticiosa solent admiscere nisi forte sit sacerdos, religiosus et discretus aut eciam laycus sive vir sive mulier excellentis vite et probate discrecionis, que fusa oracione licite super infirmum non super pomum vel pirum aut cingulum aut similia super infirmantes manus imponat iuxta illud Marci ultimo [16, 18] Super egros manus inponent et bene habebunt. Nec sunt hee persone prohibende a talibus nisi forte timeatur, quod ad exemplum illorum et indiscreti et supersticiosi carminatores sibi abusum usurpent… Sic eciam si portentur reliquie ad fiduciam Dei et sanctorum non erit illicitun. Si aut circa hoc attendatur aliqua aliud vanum puta quod vas sit triangulare vel aliquid huiusmodi… supersticiosum erit… [44]

From this Church questionnaire we learn details about auguries/prophesizing [and] amulets which in Old Polish were called nawęzy [singular nawąz]. To fight off disease, the above-mentioned notes were written down and attached onto the human or on an animal. Of course, all these practices were condemned [by the Church] for religious reasons:

Ad supersticionem pertinent omnes ligature atque remedia que medicorum disciplina condempnat sive in precacionibus sive in quibusdam notis, quos caracteres vocant, sive in quibuscumque rebus suspendendis atque alligandis que miciori nomine phisicam? vocant, ut quasi non supersticionem implicare…

Sive qui attendunt sompnalia scirpta et falso Danielis nomine intitulata et sortes, que dicuntur sanctorum apostolorum, auguria avium aut aliqua pro domo facienda aut coniugio complendo aut in colleccionibus herbarum carmina dicunt aut pitaciola pro quavis infirmitate scripta super homines aut animalia ponunt, preter Symbolum et Oracionem Dominicam… Qui autem talibus credunt aut ad eorum domum euntes, aut suis domibus introducunt et interrogant, sciant se fidem Christianam et baptismum prevaricasse et paganum ac apostatam et retro abeuntem et Dei inimicum iram Dei graviter in eternum incurisse nisi ecclesiastica penitencia enendatus Deo reconcilietur [45]. 

We learn too that these co-called “caracteres” contained Hebrew angel names, unintelligible for most.  Nevertheless, it was feared that something may have snuck in there that was forbidden by the Church:

[43] MS BJ 2070, 150r-181r.
[44] Same, 160r-160v.
[45] Same, 155r, 167r.

…nunc multi aliqua nomina hebrayca angelorum confingunt et alligant, que noni ntelligentibus metuenda videntur. Est ecuam cavendum ne aliquid falsitatis contineant… deinde 20 cavendum est ne cum verbis sacris contineantur ibi aliqua vana puta caracteres inscripti preter signum crucis… [46]

How these 14th century signs looked like we can see in the fragments attached to MS BJ 1309. Here there are mentioned angels standing super gradum VII and there is a listing of the signs which you were supposed to write [or etch] onto a silver plate/plaque to protect against ghosts as the damaged text informs us:

…scribe angelos supradictos cum karakteribus istis in tabula argentea et porta supra pectus tuum et non timeas [47].

In MS BJ 551, dating from the 14th century, there was added at the beginning of the 15th a list of a number of magical customs: the welcoming of the new moon, that is kneeling, recitation of transcribed prayers [48] and other practices. When engaging in such practices, it was noted, one must have at the beginning declared/decided to remain in the Catholic faith. The codes also contains other magical practices, for example, a recipe for a love potion.  Some of these have been entirely blotted out with ink.

In those days another popular belief was in the magical power of stones. Such belief reached into antiquity. Even the Catholic Church engaged in the practice of blessing stones. In theological works of the period we find discussions of the symbolism of stones, especially the precious ones. Medieval doctors also utilized stones as medicines. In the Jagiellonian Library manuscripts there are a number of treatises de lapidibus [“Regarding Stones”]. An interesting anonymous treatise has been preserved in MS BJ 778 [49], which belonged to Jacob of Dobra, a professor of medicine at Cracow University [d. 1447]. The Incipit [the beginning] of his Abesten lapis latine dictum, qui in Greco Odolfanus dicitur, Fetularinus perisces in Caldeo nuncupatur… does not appear in the library’s catalogues/inventory. The treatise is, however, undoubtedly largely a compilation of other sources.  There appear in it fragments taken from Aristotle, Saint Albert the Great [bishop of Cologne], Matthaeus Silvaticus [or Mattheus Sylvaticus] and others but there are also interesting annexes dealing with German controlled lands of the Mark Brandenburg. This treatise was compiled sometime around 1300 since Přemysl Otakar II [king of Bohemia] (died 1278) is mentioned in it as dead, his son Wenceslaus II Přemyslid (1275-1305) as being king of Bohemia and Henry [III] the margrave of Meissen/Misnia (died in 1288) as also dead. The author in alphabetic order describes about 100 minerals and other stones. Included is an external description of the stone, locations where it could be found, its properties, what it is useful for, how to wear/carry it and what it should be framed/set in. For example, a diamond (adamas) when attached onto the left side of the body restrains anger, and increases wealth. It should be set in gold, silver or an alloy of these metals (electrum).

[46] Same, 159v.
[47] MS BJ 1309, Ir-Iv See also R. Bugaj, Nauki tajemne w Polsce w dobie odrodzenia, Wrocław 1976.
[48] In novilunio cum primo perspexeris lunam flexis genibus dic hunc versum Illumina domine vultum tuum super nos et fac hoc, quam diu vixeris. Et tunc vade domum ad cameram tuam devoveno, quod nunquam peririum voluntarie volueris facere et quod in fide katholica semper volueris perseverare et dic aliquias oraciones… MS BJ 551, 109v.
[49] MS BJ 778, 200r-210r.

When discussing the properties of beryllium, asserts that one of its alloys/types is possessed by frogs/toads. At this point he introduces a fable, heard allegedly in Styria [Steiermark] about the Czech king Otakar II. When he and his army entered Hungary and the soldiers were resting, a giant toad (the size of a dog) was to have run through the camp who probably held such a stone for no one attacked it.

In this treatise  there are mentioned numerous places primarily located in Germany in which one is able to find these stones. For example, the author states that jacint may be found in the Saale [Solawa] which in Franconia [Franken] is called Christian but when it enters Saxony is called pagan. The treatise mentions a scientist by the name Ulderic who worked in the area of Goslar. A part of the treatise (dealing with love) has been blurred out.  When discussing magnesium, the treatise mentions a chamber near Freiburg in Meissen/Misnia.  In one part of chamber one could hear what was being discussed in the other.

After discussing the last (alphabetically) stone (zigrutes), the author moves on to the art of making amulets and different ways of attaching stones [50], something that he largely lifted from Albert the Great.

To conclude this review of the Jagiellonian Library manuscripts containing materials dealing with auguries, sorceries, superstitions and magic, I would like to stress that this is hardly a result of a systematically undertaken inquiry but only a compilation of notes taken [by me] while working in the manuscript department of the Jagiellonian University. Therefore, this review can hardly be seen as complete. Nevertheless, this inquiry confirms that magic, auguries and superstitions were widely spread in Polish lands in the 15th century.

Moreover, these materials demand an edition by specialists, ethnographers, especially since often older (even 11th century) non-Polish texts or fragments [51] were being being copied in the 14th and 15th centuries.  Especially the sermon of Stanisuav of Skalbmierz Magistris non inclinavi aurem meam, which, shortly, is supposed to appear in print together with the entire collection De sapienta Dei, deserves this kind of an edition and printing in Polish.

[50] Perhaps the gold-plated dragon tongue mentioned in a court record served as this kind of an amulet. Offic. Crac. 15, page 426.
[51] The fragment …qui credunt de nocturnis temporibus equitare cum Dyana et Herodiade… which appears in Stanisuav of Skalbmierz sermon [enttiled] Domine Deus rex celestis is present in  Burchard’s [the bishop of Worms’] Decretum [or Decretorum libri viginti] as well as in a number of above discussed texts in MSS BJ 2121, 48; 2070, 152v. 

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January 26, 2018

Rashi on Ballynia

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The Book of Nahum is the seventh book of the 12 minor prophets (a portion of Nevi’im Aharonim) of the Hebrew Bible.  He wrote towards the end of the 7th century B.C.

Its chapter 1 begins as follows:

1 The harsh prophecy concerning Nineveh. The book of the vision of Nahum the Elkoshite.

א מַשָּׂ֖א נִֽינְוֵ֑ה סֵ֧פֶר חֲז֛וֹן נַח֖וּם הָֽאֶלְקֹשִֽׁי

This refers to Nineveh, the capital of the Neo-Assyrian Empire until its fall about the year 612 B.C. when, after a period of civil war, it was eventually destroyed by the Neo-Assyrians’ former subjects (Babylonians, Medes, Chaldeans, Persians, Scythians and Cimmerians). The Neo-Assyrians (911-612 B.C.) were the successors to the Old Assyrian Empire (circa 2025-1378 B.C.) and the Middle Assyrian Empire (1365-1050 B.C.).  They spoke Akkadian but Aramaic was also in usage.  Anyway they conquered a lot of places and one of those was Israel. The Israelites (and others) did not like being taken over and one of them – Nahum – wrote of the downfall of Nineveh (though it is suspected that he wrote his “prophesy” after the actual downfall).

Now, this is what the Bible Gateway website has to say about the term “Elkoshite” mentioned to describe Nahum:

ELKOSH, ELKOSHITE ĕl’ kŏsh, īt (אֶלְקֹשִֽׁי). A term used to identify Nahum the prophet (Nah 1:1). It prob. refers to a place, but if so, the place is unknown. Several possible locations have been proposed: 1. A site in Galilee called Elcesi. Jerome thought this was the site. 2. A site in Mesopotamia N of Mosul near the Tigris River. Nestorius was the first to suggest this site. A so-called “tomb of Nahum” is found at Elqush N of Mosul. 3. A site in S Judah, prob. Beit Jibrin between Jerusalem and Gaza. This supposition has the merit of Nahum’s apparently having been from Judah. 4. The most apparent site, but one doubted by most scholars, is כְּפַר נַחוּם i.e. Capernaum, the village of Nahum. This is the village on the N shore of the Sea of Galilee where Jesus taught frequently in His earthly ministry. It must be emphasized that there is no real evidence for any of these sites. Perhaps the site is yet to be discovered, if indeed a geographical site is intended.”


Anyways… quite some time later you had Shlomo Yitzchaki (1040 – 1105) aka Rashi, a rabbi in France (born in Troyes, Champagne) write a commentary on (among other writings) Nahum the Elkoshite and his book.  Of course, he, like others,before and after him did not know where Elkosh was but he, like others, tried to interpret this name based on his own then current knowledge.  That knowledge apparently included knowledge of a kingdom in the East of Europe and a city in it – the Polish Olkusz.

The following comes from that commentary:

“Chapter 1

‘1 The harsh prophecy concerning Nineveh

Heb. מַשָׂא . The burden of the cup of the curse [which was] to be given Nineveh to drink.

‘The book of the vision of Nahum the Elkoshite’

חזון is vowelized with a “kamatz” (חָזוֹן) since it is not in the construct state, and it is unlike “ חֲזוֹן יִשַׁעְיָהוּ ,” the vision of Isaiah, which is vowelized with a “hataf pattah.” This is its meaning: A book of vision has already been written concerning it [Nineveh], the prophecy of Jonah son of Amittai; and now, again, Nahum the Elkoshite prophesied this harsh prophecy over it. Elkosh is the name of his [Nahum’s] city. And so did Jonathan paraphrase: In early times, Jonah son of Amittai prophesied concerning it, and they repented of their sins, and when they continued to sin, Nahum of the house of Elkosh prophesied further concerning them.

‘the Elkoshite’

That city is in the province of Ballynia, which is in the state of Eretz Israel, although it is outside the Holy Land. Proof of the matter is that there is gold, silver, and salt dust near it because the Dead Sea, which is near Eretz Israel, goes there under the earth. In this state they do not crown a king the son of a king [i.e., the throne is not hereditary]; and they are of the seed of Judah. [Sod Mesharim]”


“Ballynia” refers to – probably – Poland.  What Rashi was doing was trying to figure out where Elkosh was and, knowing of Olkusz in “Ballynia”, he came up with that as the place for his ancient Nahum.

Now, Olkusz supposedly has a German etymology (it lies near Katowice) and its rise is tied to German colonization of Silesia.  Officially, the name appears first only in the 13th century (after the Mongol invasions when local rulers were trying to repopulate Silesia including by bringing German colonists in).  Its names are listed as: Lcuhs (1257), Hilcus (1262), Helcus (1301), Ylcus (1314), Elcus (1409), Olkusch (1462).

If Rashi was right then Olkusz’s place in history can be pushed up some 200 years back.  Moreover, we get a mention of Poland and the fantastic assertions that:

  • the Dead Sea extends – underground – all the way to Poland, and that
  • its nonhereditary rulers (which at that time was most certainly not the case – although perhaps Rashi meant that the crown was not hereditary – because the Empire was actively against that), and that
  • its rulers were from the tribe of Judah.

As to the last claim, what is interesting in this is that the Poles had a counterpart in the East – in Kiev and Ukraine there was a tribe of the “Eastern” Polanie.  They were tributary to the Jewish Khazars and then, after, perhaps, a brief period of independence became conquered by the Rus.  A half century later, the Polish state emerges.  While some have posited Mieszko or rather his ancestors as Vikings and others as refugees from Great Moravia, a more plausible scenario involves Poles (or people we today would call Ukrainians) fleeing the Vikings from the East and establishing their own state in the West, that is in Poland. Compare, for example, Gnezdovo in the lands conquered by the Rus with the Polish capital of Gniezno – both meaning “nest”.

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December 25, 2017

Thietmar Book VII

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Here are the “Slavic” excerpts from Thietmar’s Chronicle Book VII in the Warner translation.

Chapter 4 (1014)

After crossing the Alps, the emperor travelled through neighboring regions, exercising his royal prerogatives.  He celebrated the birth of the Lord at Pohlde.  Afterwards, he went to Merseburg, where he revealed to his supporters how things stood with Boleslav’s loyalty and support [April 6, 1015]*.  He asked them to recommend unanimously either that he seek justification or redress…

[*note: these are Gregorian calendar dates – the text obviously contains Julian dates]

Chapter 8 (1014)

… Departing from Alstedt, the emperor spent the birth of the Lord at Pohlde.  On the Wednesday before Easter, he came to Merseburg [April 6], On Maundy Thursday, though unworthy, I consecrated the chrism in his presence. Abbot Redbald of Werden died o nthe vigil of the holy Resurrection, which fell on April 9, and Heidenreich, the monastery’s provost, was lee fed in his place,  On the holy day itself, Archbishop Gero sang the mass.  In the meantime, Ulrich, duke of the Bohemians, had arrived, and we spent solemn days in good spirits.

Chapter 9 (1014)

Meanwhile, Margrave Herman celebrated the feast of Easter with his father-in-law, Boleslav Chrobry.  Immediately thereafter, he went to see the emperor, in the company of Stoignev, one of Boleslav’s emissaries.  His coming had long been awaited by the emperor who was then residing in the West.  This emissary was well acquainted with the art of lying and had been sent by his fickle lord to make trouble, rather than peace, as he pretended.  The emperor commended him to his familiars.  At the same time, he mercifully bestowed his grace upon his brothers-in-law who had asked for it with bare feet. To ensure that the big windbag would see this and accurately inform his lord, he ordered him to appear ahead of time.  Upon his return, however, he reported things quite differently from how the emperor had ordered, and so the wretched duke sent him back, along with the margrave, who still wished to make peace.  In the presence of the emperor and his leading men, Boleslav’s emissary was denounced as a liar and sower of discord.  Then, the emperor again invited Boleslav to justify himself and offer compensation for his disobedience, but the latter refused to come into his presence, and instead asked that the matter be resolved before the leading men.

Chapter 10 (1014)

O reader, observe ho much kindness the emperor showed this man on a previous occasion.  The wily duke of Poland was skilled in a thousand stratagems.  He sent his son Miesco to Ulrich, ruler of the Bohemians, to propose that they make peace, on the basis of their mutual kinship, and thereby offer a unified resistance to all of their enemies, especially the emperor. After trustworthy informants told Ulrich that this plan was intended to work to his detriment, he had Miesco seized and ordered that the most prominent members of his entourage be murdered.  The rest of Miesco’s companions were taken back to Bohemia, along with their captive lord, and imprisoned.  After being informed of these events, the emperor sent my cousin, Dietrich, to demand the return of his retainer and to warn that he should not be harmed, assuming that Ulrich placed any value whatsoever on the emperor’s favour.  Dietrich received the following response: ‘My highest obligation is to obey my lord’s orders in all things, and to do so to the best of my ability and willingly. Despite my unworthiness, Omnipotent God has just seized me from the lion’s mouth and delivered into my hands the lion;s cub, sent with the intention of destroying me.  If I should permit this one to go free, there is no question that both father and son will be my enemies for ever.  If I hold on to him, however, there is a chance that I may obtain some advantage.  Let my lord determine what pleases him in this matter, and what might work to my benefit and I will obediently carry out his every request.’

Chapter 11 (1014)

When Dietrich returned with this message, however, another messenger was, quickly sent back to demand and sternly order Miesco’s release.  In return, he offered the emperor’s promise that all of Ulrich’s concerns would be resolved and a fair peace concluded.  At this, Ulrich had to surrender his captive, whether he wished to or not, and thereby greatly pleased the emperor.  Boleslav was overjoyed at his son;s release and sent messengers who duly expressed his gratitude to the emperor. These messengers also asked the emperor to send Miesco home, an act which would do honor to their lord and confound his enemies.  In return for this boon, they promised appropriate compensation in the future.  The emperor responded that this could not then be done, but promised that the request would be granted, upon the recommendation of his leading men, if Boleslav would come to Merseburg.  The duke receive this message and did no take it very well.  Discreetly ,through emissaries, he repeatedly sought to have his son returned.

Chapter 12 (1014) 

When the emperor came to the agreed upon place, he asked the leading men what he should do in this matter. Among them, Archbishop Gero spoke first:’ When there was time, and when it would have redounded to your honor, you did not listen to what I had to say.  Now, however, Boleslav is exceedingly hostile towards you because of your long custody and imprisonment of his son.  I fear that if you send Miesco back to his father, without hostages or some other surety, neither of them will be inclined to render loyal service in the future.’ The majority of those present agreed with this opinion, but the part which had been bribed complained that no great honour could be gained through such a strategy.  Gold won out over sound advice.  That all of this might be more pleasing to Boleslav, his supporters took custody of Miesco from the emperor and delivered both the son and all of the captives possessions to his father.  After receiving their promised reward, they admonished Boleslav and his son that, being mindful of Christ and their oath to God, they should neither cause the emperor any further harm nor attempt to deceive his supporters.  The two immediately responded to this friendly warning in flattering, flute-like tones which in no way corresponded with their future behaviour.  Despite the fact that they themselves had displayed little or no loyalty, they blamed the emperor and us for having delayed so long before sending MIesco back, though he numbered among our milites.

Chapter 16 (1015)

The emperor went to Goslar for the feast of the birth of Saint John the Baptist which was fast approaching.  While there, he gave Duke Ernst’s duchy [Swabia] to the duke’s cousin and her son. Then, he moved on to Magdeburg where he humbly asked Saint Maurice, Christ’s miles, to help him conquer his obstinate enemy, Boleslav.  After an army had been assembled, the emperor proceeded to a place called Schlenzfurt where he inflicted much damage on the population and their margrave, Gero.  We assembled on July 8, but instead of giving the inhabitants the protection that was their due, we plundered them,  Afterwards, our forces crossed the Elbe.  Meanwhile, I accompanied the empress and her entourage to Merseburg where we awaited the emperor’s return.  When our forces came to a district called Lausitz, they were confronted by troops issuing forth from the burg of Zuetzen.  Accepting the challenge, they killed a great number.  They also captured Erich ‘the Proud’, who had fled our region because of a homicide, and presented him, in chains, to the emperor.

Chapter 17 (1015)

The emperor went to a place called Krossen, on the Oder, where Miesco was sitting with his forces.  He then sent a delegation composed of the leading men of his army, who reminded Miesco of his oath to the emperor and unanimously asked that they might not lose their property on his account, this having been anticipated by his surrender.  He responded to them with the following words: ‘I concede that the emperor rescued me from the power of my enemies and that I promised you my loyalty.  I would willingly fulfill that promise, if I were free.  At present, however as you yourselves know, I am subject to my father’s dominion and he has forbidden this.  Nor would it be permitted by his milites, who are here with me.  Hence, I must reluctantly decline.  To the best of may ability, I will defend this land which belongs to me, but is desired by you.  When my father arrives, I will try to win him over to the emperor’s favour and to friendship with you.’  After hearing this, our representatives returned and relayed Miesco’s response to the emperor.  Meanwhile, Duke Bernhard and his supporters, with bishops, counts, and a band of the heathen Liutizi, moved against Boleslav from the north, and encountered him on theOder which was defended on all sides.

Chapter 18 (1015)

On the feast of the discovery of Christ’s protomartyr, the emperor crossed the Oder and crushed the resistance of the Polish multitude [August 3].  We had no losses, except for that famous youth, Hodo, along with Eckerich and a another dependent of Count Gunzelin.  The emperor had accused this Hodo and Siegfred, the son of Margrave Hodo, of having been too familiar with Boleslav, but on this day each vindicated himself completely.  While Hodo was pursuing the enemy and quite a lone, having outdistanced his companions, he took an arrow in the head.  Initially, he lost only his eye, but then lost his life as well.  Miesco’s tears flowed freely when he recognized the corpse of the man who had been his guardian and companion during his period of captivity.  After showing every concern for the body, he returned it to our army.  The enemy’s dead numbered no fewer than six hundred, which left us with a great deal of booty.

Chapter 19 (1015)

Messengers quickly brought news of these events to the place where Boleslav then resided.  Although the duke would willingly have hurried to the field of battle, he did boo wish to leave an entry for his enemies, who were so close at hand.  Indeed, wherever our forces tried to land their boats, Boleslav and his warriors followed on horseback.  At last, our people quickly raised their sails and travelled for a whole day.  Since the enemy could not follow, our people reached their destination and safely came ashore.  They set fire to the surrounding areas.  Some distance away, Duke Boleslav was made aware of what had happened and fled, as usual, thereby leaving us – albeit unwillingly – with both the confidence and an opportunity for destruction.  Duke Bernhard who had been unable to support the emperor with his own forces, as previously arranged, sent messengers who secretly revealed all that had occurred and indicated the reason for his disobedience.  The duke then returned home, after pillaging and burring everything in the vicinity.  Ulrich, who should have come to the emperor’s aid, along with his Bavarians, also gave up, for many and varied reasons. Even though these men did not accompany the emperor, they rendered faithful service while in the area.   In particular, Ulrich attacked a very large burg, called Biesnitz.  Aside from the women and children, he took no fewer than one thousand men prisoners.  After setting the burg afire, he returned victorious.  Henry, count of the eastern march, learned that Boleslav’s milites were in true area and had captured much booty.  Accompanied by the Bavarians, he immediately fell upon them,  Although the enemy resisted vigorously, eight hundred of them were killed and all of their booty was taken…

Chapter 20 (1015)

The emperor, still unaware of what had occurred, acted with great care because of the smaller number of his forces.  Nevertheless, as long as he wished to, he maintained a powerful presence in this region.  Thereafter, he returned to a district called Diadesi.  Unfortunately, the army had set up camp in a very narrow location where only a beekeeper resided – he was immediately put to death.  Boleslav, hearing that the emperor planned to leave by a route other than the one by which he had entered, secured the banks of the Oder  in every way possible.  When he learned that the emperor had already departed, however, he sent a large force of foot soldiers to the place where our army was camped, ordering that they try to inflict injury on at least some part of it, should the opportunity present itself.  He also sent his Abbot Tuni to the emperor with a sham offer of peace.  The abbot was immediately recognized as a spy and detained.  In the meantime, virtually the entire army crossed the swamp that lay before it, using bridges constructed during the preceding night.

Chapter 21 (1015)

Only then was Abbot Tuni permitted to leave, a fox in a one’s habit, whose craftiness was highly esteemed by his lord.  The emperor commended the remainder of his forces to Archbishop Gero, the illustrious margrave Gero, and the count palatine Burchard, advising them that they should be even more watchful than usual.  After this, in fact, a great clamor and three shouts went forth from the enemy, concealed in a nearby forest.  Immediately they attacked out troops and shot arrow at them.  Archbishop Gero and Count Burchard, who was wounded, barely managed to escape and tell the emperor what had happened.  The young Count Liudolf was captured, along with a few others.  Count Gero, Count Folkmar, and two hundred of our best milites were killed and plundered.  May Omnipotent God look upon their names and their should with mercy! May all of us who caused their deaths, through ours sins, be reconciled to him through Christ! And, may God mercifully protect us so that we never need to endure such a thing again!

Chapter 22 (1015)

When the emperor received this unhappy news, he wished to go back and fetch the bodies of the dead.  Many advised him to wait, however, and he reluctantly complied.  Instead, he sent Bishop Eid of Meissen, who was to press the cursed Boleslav for permission to bury the dead and beg for the body of Margrave Gero.  The venerable father willingly agreed to the emperor’s request, and quickly proceeded to his destination.  Gazing upon the scene of such wretched slaughter, he began to groan and weep as he offered up praiser for the dead,  The victors, still intent on plundering, noticed Bishop Eid when he was still some distance away. Believing that he was accompanied by others, they initially fled in fear.  As he came closer, however, they greeted him and allowed him to proceed unmolested.  Boleslav, overjoyed at our destruction, readily granted Eid’s requests, and the bishop quickly returned to the battlefield where with great effort and the enemy’s indulgence, he buried our dead comrades.  He had the corpses of Gero and WIdred, his companion-in-arms, transported to Meissen.  At Meisssen, a tearful Count Herman took custody of the bodies and, in the company of his brothers Gunther and Ekkehard, transported them to Nienburg.  During the reign Otto II, Archbishop Gero of Cologne and his brother, Margrave Thietmar, had founded an abbey there in honour of the Mother of God and Saint Cyprian.  Thietmar was Herman’s stepfather and the father of the dear margrave.  Archbishop Gero commended the bodies to the earth and offered consolation to Gero’s lady, Adelheid, to his son, Thietmar, and also to his sorrowing friends and milites.

Chapter 23 (1015)

Meanwhile, the emperor and his entourage moved on to Strehla.  But knowing that Miesco was following with his army, he had also sent Margrave Herman to defend the burg at Meissen.  The emperor himself went directly Merseburg.  Miesco, instructed by his wicked father, knew that our forces had divided prior to their departure and had not left any guard behind them.  At dawn, on September 13, he brought seven war bands across the Elbe near Meissen, ordering some to lay waste the surrounding areas, others to lay siege to the burg itself.  When the Withasen saw this, they had no confidence in the safety of their suburb and instead sought the protection of the upper burg, leaving virtually every possession behind.  Full of joy at this turn of events, the enemy entered the abandoned suburb and set fire to it, after removing all the booty they could find,.  They also launched repeated attacks on the upper burg which had caught fire in two places.  Seeing his few exhausted helpers, Margrave Herman threw himself prostrate on the ground and invoked both the mercy of Christ and the intercession of Donatus, his illustrious martyr.  He also called on the women to help.  They hurried to the walls and helped the men by throwing rocks.  They also put out the fires, using mead because they had no water.  Thanks be to God!  The enemy’s fury and audacity abated.  Miesco watched all of this from a nearby hill where he awaited the arrival of his companions who were busy ravaging and, wherever possible, setting fire to everything up to the river Jahna.  They returned late in the evening, with their horses exhausted, and spent the night with their lord.  They were to attack the burg on the following day. The fact that the Elbe was rising escaped their notice, however. Because of this, the army went home, extremely tired, but in unexpected safety.  This good fortune easted the anxious hear of their leader. The emperor, as soon as he learned of these events, sent whatever forces he could assemble to help the margrave. Shortly, afterwards, he restored the suburb.  To supper this undertaking and provide Security, Archbishop Gero and Bishop Arnulf met with the counts and many others on 8 October. I was by far the least of these.  Within fourteen days the task was completed and we could leave.  Count Frederick was to assume custody of the burg for four weeks.

Chapter 24 (1015)

Archbishop Gero and I, his companion, came to the place called Mockrehna.  There, after I reminded him of his sweet promises, he conveyed to me, with his staff which I still possess today, parochial rights over four fortresses: Schkeuditz Taucha, Puechen, and Wuerzen,* as well as the village of Rassnitz. He postponed any decision regarding the remaining five: namely, Eilenburg, Pouch, Dueben, Loebnitz, and Zoechritz,* saying that he would return them later. All of this occurred on October 25 in the presence of the following witnesses: Heribald, Hepo, Ibo, Cristin, and Siegbert.  On the same day we came to the fortress of Zoerbig* where, after the archbishop’s milites had assembled, I revealed how mercifully their lord had treated me.  We also learned of the illness of the venerable Friderun whose guests we were.  Alas, after a few days, on October 27, she abandoned this human flesh. From thence, the archbishop moved on to Magdeburg where he celebrated the feast of All Saints [November 1]. I did the same in Walbeck…

[* note that with one or two potential exceptions, these are all Slavic names]

Chapter 25 (1015)

After having just returned from Poland with many impressive gifts, Bishop Eid became ill and surrendered hjis faithful soul to Christ, at Leipzig, on December 20. Bishop Hildeward of Zeitz was asked to attend to him and arrived quickly, but upon entering the house in which the holy man had died, discovered that it was filled with a wonderful odor.  He accompanied the body to Meissen and buried it in front of the altar, with the aid of Count William whose turn it was to guard the burg…

… Foreseeing his end, however, he often asked that he might never be buried in Meissen.  Indeed, from fear of future destruction had always hoped instead that he would be found worthy of burial at Colditz, resting police of the body of Magnus, the martyr of Christ.  But Margrave Herman, hopping that the church would benefit from his prayers, still had him entombed at Meissen, as I already mentioned.

Chapter 39

No one can comprehend the northern regions, and what marvelous things nature creates there.  Nor can one believe the cruel deeds of its people.  Hence, I will omit all of this, and merely say a few things concerning that brood of vipers, namely, the sons of Sven the Persecutor.  These sons were born to him by the daughter of Duke Miesco, sister of the latter’s successor and son, Boleslav.* Long exiled by her husband, along with others, this woman suffered no small amount of controversy. Her sons, who resembled their beloved parent in every way, tearfully accepted their father’s corpse and placed it within a burial mound. Afterwards, they prepared shops and made plans to avenge whatever shame had been inflicted upon their father by the Angles.  The many outrages they committed against this folk are not familiar to me and so I shall pass them by.  I wil briefly describe with my pen only that which has been related to me by a reliable witness.**

[* note: Adam 2.35/Schol. 24, pp. 95-96; Tschan (trans.) 1959: 78.]
[** note: Presumably Sewald.]

Chapter 50 (1017)

…This wise man [Count Frederick], recognizing that the end of his life was fast approaching, had conveyed the burg [Poehlde] to his brother’s [Dedi’s] son, Dietrich. It was agreed, however, that the remainder of the count’s land would pass to his three daughters.  Such arrangements were necessary because Dietrich was an heir, and to have done otherwise would not have been legitimate. Later, Dietrich received from the emperor both Frederick’s countship and control over the district of Siusuli*…

[* note: a very interestingly named Slavic tribe]

Chapter 51 (1017)

Meanwhile, the emperor came to Merseburg where he awaited the outcome of this matter.  While he was there, many highwaymen were put to death by hanging, after champions had defeated them in single combat. The two archbishops, Erkanbald and Gero, Bishop Arnulf, Counts Siegfried and Bernhard, and other leading men, camped for fourteen days on the river Mulde.  Through intermediaries, they asked Boleslav to come to the Elbe for the meeting which he had so long desired. The duke was then residing at Zuetzen.  As soon as he had heard this message, he responded that he would not dare to go there, for fear of his enemy. The messengers asked: ‘What would you do, if our lords come to the Elster?’ But he said: ‘I do not wish to cross that bridge.’ After hearing this, the messengers returned and related everything to their lords.  The emperor was with us, celebrating the Purification of the blessed Mother of God [February 2].  Somewhat latter, the bishops and counts arrived, outraged that Boleslav had so contemptuously trie dot deceive them.  In turn, they sought to arouse the emperor’s ire by describing how things had gone during their legation. At this point, they began to discuss a future campaigning and everyone loyal to the emperor was advised to prepare fir it. The emperor firmly prohibited any exchange of messengers between us and Boleslav, that enemy of the realm, and every effort was made to identify persons who might have presumed to do so in the past.

Chapter 52 (1017) 

After his parting from us, the emperor went to Magdeburg, where he was received with great hour.  Because the next morning, a Sunday, marked the beginning of Septuagesima, he stopped eating meat. On Monday, the archbishop consecrated the north chapel in the emperor’s presence. On the following day, a quarrel arose between the archbishops people and Margrave Berhnard’s, but the matter was settled without violence and in the bishop’s favour. At the emperor’s order, thieves who had been defeated in duels assembled there, and were put to the rope. It was at Magdeburg as well that many questions relating to the welfare of the realm were decided and, from thence, that the convert Gunther set out to preach to the Liutizi. In the emperor’s presence, I raised many complaints a part of my diocese which had been unjustly appropriated by the church of Meissen. The restitution of this property had been promised, in writing, but just when it seemed that I might profit from that, I had to recognize that things had gone rather differently from how I had planned. On the feast of Saint Peter’s throne, February 22, the emperor held court. Ut was attended by bishops Gero, Meinwerk, Wigo, Erich, and Eilward. On this occasion, I arose and presented my complaint, expecting help from the emperor and the bishops. Instead, they ordered me – God knows, I was unwilling, but dared not resist – to  concede to Eilward a parish on the east bank of the river Mulda, in the burg ward of Puechen and Wuerzen. In return, he was to give me a parish that he held on the west bank, though I never desired it. The transaction was confirmed with an exchange of episcopal staffs. I give witness before God and all the saints: in no way did I surrender the rest of my claim! The emperor also ordered Margrave Herman to prove by oath that he was the rightful possessor of three villages which he held from the church of Meissen, or surrender them to me.

Chapter 56 (1017)

The emperor, hearing that his wife had recovered and had made a vow to the Lord, rendered heartfelt thanks to Christ.  He devoutly celebrated Pentecost at Werden, which had been founded by God’s holy priest Liudger at his own expense. The emperor’s needs were fully accomplismodated by Abbot Heidenreich. On the following day, June 10, Bishop Thiedegg of Prague, successor to Christ’s martyr Adalbert, faithfully went the way of all flesh. Thiedegg had been educated at Corvey and was especially skilled in the art of healing. When Boleslav the Leder was suffering from paralysis because of his disobedience to Christ’s preacher, he summoned Thiedegg, with Abbot Thietmar’s permission, and was much improved through his ministrations. Thus, when that burning lamp, Woyciech,* was removed from the shadows of this world, as I have mentioned,** the duke’s aid ensured that Otto III installed Thiedegg, as his successor. After the death of Boleslav the Elder, his like-named son frequently expelled the bishop from his diocese, and just as often Margrave Ekkehard brought him back. He suffered many injuries. As Saint Gregory ordered, he not only invited guests to come to him, but even dragged them in. His one major failing was that he drank immoderately, due to an undeserved illness. Indeed, the tremors in his hands prevented him from saying mass without the help of a priest who stood next to him. He grew progressive;u weaker until the end, but, as I hope, cured his soul with good medicines.

[*note: Thietmar writes Uuortegus and Athelberti for Adalbert]

[**note: Book 4, chapter 28]

Chapter 57 (1017)

Meanwhile, Moravian soldiers of Boleslav’s surrounded and killed a large but careless band of Bavarians. In no small measure, then, losses previously inflicted upon them by the Bavarians were now avenged.* As the emperor traveled towards the East, he ordered the empress to meet him at Paderborn. From there, the two of them moved onto Magdeburg where they were received, with honour, by Archbishop Gero. During the following night, July 7, a Sunday, a horrible storm arose and caused widespread destruction of human beings, cattle, buildings, and the produce of the fields.  In the forests, a huge number of trees and branches fell and blocked all of the roads. The next day, the emperor crossed the Elber, along with his wife and the army, and proceeded to Lietzkau, an estate which formerly belonged to Bishop Wigo but was now the habitation of many wild animals. He set up camp and remained there for two nights, awaiting the arrival of more dilatory contingents. Subsequently, the empress and many others returned, while the emperor pressed on with his army. On that same day, Henry, formerly duke of the Bavarians, returned with a message from Boleslav, which suggested that they negotiate a peace. After listening to this report, the emperor sent Henry back again, with a message of his own. When he could accomplish nothing, however, he was sent to join the emperor’s wife, his sister.

[**note: Book 7, chapter 19]

Chapter 59 (1017)

While all of this was going on, Boleslav’s son, Miesco, took ten war bands and invaded Bohemia.  They encountered less resistance that they otherwise would have, due to the absence of the Bohemian duke, Ulrich. After pillaging the country side for two days, Miesco returned, bringing many captives with him and much joy to his father. Accompanied by his army and a large contingent of Bohemians and Liutizi, the emperor anxiously made his way to the burg Glogow, wasting everything he encountered along the way. At Głogów,* Boleslav awaited him with his army. Surrounded by archers, the enemy tried to provoke our forced to battle, but the emperor held them back. Instead, he selected twelve war bands from this already very strong army and sent them to the burg Nimptsch (Niemcza)**, so called because it was originally founded by us, These war bands were to prevent the inhabitants from receiving any aid from outside. They had barely set up camp, however when news reached them that the enemy had arrived. Because of the exceedingly dark night and a heavy rain, there little that our forces could do to them. They put some of them to flight, but reluctantly permitted others to enter the burg. The later is situated in the region of Silesia which was named long ago after a certain mountain of great height and width, While the detestable rites of the heather were still practiced here, this mountain was highly venerated by the populace, because of its unique character and size.

[*note: ad urbem Glogua or Glaguam]

[**note: ad urbem Nemzi]

Chapter 60 (1017)
(Siege of Głogów)

Three days later, the emperor arrived there [at Głogów] with the rest of the army. He ordered that his camp be set up on all sides of the burg, in the hope that he might thereby prevent his enemy from entering. HIs  wise plan and excellent intentions would have enjoyed great success, had his supporters whom greater enthusiasm when it came to the time to implement them. As it turned out, in the silence of night, a large body of troops managed to pass through all the guards and enter the burg. Our people were then ordered to construct various types of siege machinery. Immediately, our opponents began to do the same. I have never heard of an army which defended itself with greater endurance or more astutely. Against the pagans [that is, against the Liutizi], they erected a holy cross, hoping  to conquer them with its help. They never shouted for joy when something favorable to them occurred. Nor did they reveal their misfortunes by openly lamenting them.

Chapter 61 (1017)

Meanwhile, the Moravians invaded Bohemia where they seized a certain burg and returned, unharmed and with much booty. Margrave Henry had attempted to engage them with an army. When he heard of their attack on the burg, however, he quickly set off in pursuit. As a result, more than one thousand of their men were killed and the rest were put to flight. The margrave also managed to free all of their captives and bring them home. Nor should I fail to mention that other milites of Boleslav attacked the burg Belgern* on August 15. In spite of a long siege, they had no success.  Thanks be to God! Among those Liutizi who had remained at home, a large number attacked one of the duke’s [Boleslav’s] burgs.  On this occasion, they lost more than one hundred warriors and their return was marked by great sadness. Later, they inflicted much devastation on Boleslav’s lands.

[*note: Belegori that is Biała Góra or White Mountain; the city was mentioned in 973 as Belgora and in 983 as Belegora]

Chapter 63 (1017)
(Siege of Głogów Conclusion)

In the meantime, the siege machinery had been completed, and now, after three weeks of silence, the emperor ordered an attack on the burg. As he looked on, however, all of this machinery went up in flames, destroyed by fire thrown down from the ramparts. After this, Ulrich and his companions tried to scale the fortifications, but accomplished nothing.  A similar attack by the Liutizi was also turned back. Finally, the emperor realized that his army, already weakened by disease, had no prospect of capturing the burg and decided to undertake the arduous march to Bohemia. There, he was honoured with suitable gifts by Ulrich, who illegally held the title of duke in that region. Meanwhile, September 18, marked the death, following a long illness of Margrave Henry, my aunt’s son and the glory of eastern Franconia. Three bishops, Henry, Eberhard, and the venerable Rikulf, attended to his burial. His grave was located on the north side of the monastery at Schweinfurt, outside of the church, and next to the door, as he himself had wished. The emperor, who learned of his death while residing in Meissen, was very sad.

Chapter 64 (1017)

Boleslav anxiously awaited the outcome of events in his burg at Wroclaw.* When he heard that the emperor had departed and that the burg [that is Głogów] was unharmed, he rejoiced in the Lord and joyfully celebrated with his warriors. More than six hundred of his foot soldiers secretly invaded Bohemia and, as usual, hoped to return with much booty. Except for a few, however, they were trapped by the very snare that they had wanted to lay for their enemies.

[*note: in text Uuortizlaua]

The Liutizi returned to their homeland in an angry mood and complaining about the dishonor inflicted upon their goddess. One of Margrave Herman’s retainers, had thrown a rock at a banner which bore her image. When their servants sally related this event to the emperor, he gave them twelve pounds as compensation. When they attempted to cross the swollen waters of the Mulde, near the burg Wurzen, they lost yet another image of their goddess and a most excellent band of fifty milites. The rest returned under this evil omen and, at the instigation of wicked men, tried to remove themselves from the emperor’s service. Yet, afterwards, a general assembly was held at which their leading men convinced them otherwise. If an entry could barely be forced into the territories of Bohemia, it was even more difficult to exit from them. This expedition was undertaken in order to annihilate the enemy, but it also inflicted many wounds on us, the victors, because of our sins. What the enemy could not do to us then occurred to us later because of our misdeeds. May I also bemoan the outrage which Boleslav’s followers committed, between the Elbe and the Mulde. On September 19, at their lord’s order, they quickly departed, taking with them more than one thousand prisoners and leaving much of the area in flames. With luck they returned home safely.

Chapter 65 (1017)

On October 1, the emperor came to Merseburg, where he installed Ekkehard as bishop of Prague. As abbot, Ekkehard had presided over the monastery of Nienburg for twenty-three years and five months. With my permission, the emperor had him consecrated as bishop by Archbishop Erkenbald on November. On the same occasion, a messenger sent by Boleslav promised that Liudolf the Younger, long held in captivity, would be allowed to return. In return for Liudolf’s freedom, he sought the release of certain of Boleslav’s milites who were being held in firm custody by us. Furthermore, the messenger carefully inquired whether Boleslav, might send a representative to negotiate his return to the emperor’s grace. Relying on the constant advice of his leading men, the emperor agreed to all of these propositions. Only afterwards did he learn that the king of the Rus had attacked Boleslav, as his messengers had promised, but had accomplished nothing in regard to the besieged burg. Subsequently, Duke Boleslav invaded the Russian king’s realm with his army. After placing his long-exiled brother-in-law, the Rus’ brother, on the throne, he returned in high spirits.

Chapter 66 (1017)

… On the following Sunday, November 3, [Abbot Harding of Nienburg]  granted to our brothers serving Christ at Magdeburg a property called Roeglitz… He also conceded to me three churches, located in Leipzig, Oelschuetz, and Geuss…*

[* note: in the text these names are written as Rogalici, Libzi, Olscuizi, Gusua]

Chapter 67 (1017)

Before concluding my account of this year, I must add a few more observations. In the previous year, Thietmar, venerable bishop of the church at Osnabrueck, servant of Saint Maurice at Magdeburg, and formerly the very accomplished provost of Mainz and Aachen, lost the use of his eyes which were now clouded by a kind of darkness…

Chapter 69 (1017)
(Story of Hennil)

…One should scarcely be surprised to find that such portents occur in our regions. For the inhabitants rarely come to church and show little concern at the visits of their pastors. They worship their household gods and sacrifice to them, hoping thereby to obtain their aid. I have heard of a certain staff which had, on its end, a hand holding an iron ring. The pastor of the village where the hand was preserved would carry it from household to household, and salute it as he entered, saying: ‘Awake, Hennil, awake!’ Hennil is what the rustics call the hand in their language. Then the fools enjoyed a lavish feast and believed that they were secure in the hand’s protection. They knew nothing of David’s words: ‘The idols of the heathen are the works of men, and so on… Similar to those are all who make and put their trust in them.’

[for another translation of this story here]

Chapter 72

Now I shall continue my criticism and condemnation of the wicked deeds of the king of the Rus, Vladimir.  He obtained a wife, named Helena, from the Greeks. She and formerly been betrothed to Otto III, but was then denied to him, through fraud and cunning. At her instigation, Vladimir accepted the holy Christian faith which, however, he did not adorn with righteous deeds. He was an unrestrained fornicator and cruelly assailed the feckless Greeks with acts of violence. He married one of his three sons to the daughter of Boleslav, our persecutor.* Bishop Reinbern of Kolobrzeg was sent with her. He had been born in Hassegau, educated by wise teachers in the liberal sciences, and was elevated to the episcopate, worthily, so I hope. My knowledge and faculties would not suffice to describe the effort he expended in fulfilling his assigned task. He destroyed the shrines of idols by burning them and purified a lake inhabited by demons, by through into it four rocks anointed with holy oil and spindling it with consecrated water. Thus he brought forth a new sprout on a tree which had hitherto borne no fruit for the omnipotent Lord, that is, through the propagation of holy preaching among an extremely ignorant people. He afflicted his body with continual vigils, fasts, and with silence, thereby transforming his heart into a mirror of divine contemplate. Meanwhile, King Vladimir heard that his son had secretly turned against him, at the urging of Duke Boleslav. He then seized not only his son and wife, but also Reinbern as well, placing each of them in solitary confinement. With tears and through the sacrifice of constant prayers offered from a contrite heart, Reinbern reconciled himself to the highest priest. Then, freed, from the narrow prison of his body, he joyfully crossed over to the freedom of perpetual glory.

[*note: Sventipulk]

Chapter 73

King Vladimir’s name is wrongly interpreted t mean ‘power of peace.’ Indeed, that which the impious hold among themselves or the occupants of this world possess is no true peace because it constantly changes. True peace is attained only by one who lays aside there soul’s every passion and seeks the Kingdom of God with the aid of patience which conquests every obstacle. Sitting in the security of heaven, Bishop Reinbern can laugh at the threats of that unjust man and, in his two-fold chastity, contemplate that fornicator’s fiery punishment since, according to our teacher Paul, God judges adulterers. As soon as Boleslav learned what had happened, he worked ceaselessly to get whatever revenge he could. Subsequently, King Vladimir died in the fullness of his days, and left his entire inheritance to his two sons. The third son remained in prison, but later escaped and fled to his father-in-law, leaving his wife behind.

Chapter 74

King Vladimir wore a cloth around his loins as an aphrodisiac, thereby increasing his innate tendency to sin. When Christ the master of our salvation, ordered us to bind up our loins, overflowing with dangerous desires, it was greater continence that he demanded, not further provocation. Because the king heard from his preachers about the burning light, he tried to wash away the stain of his sins by constantly distributing alms. It is written, moreover: ‘Give alms, and all will be clean for you.’ Vladimir died when hew was already weak with age and had held his kingdom for a long time. He was buried next to his wife in the great city of Kiev, in the church of Christ’s mart, Pope Clement. Their sarcophagi are displayed openly, in the middle of the church. The king’s power was divided among his sons, thereby completely affirming the words of Christ. For I fear that we will witness the fulfillment of that which the voice of truth predicted with the words: ‘Every kingdom divided within itself will be wasted’, and so on. All Christendom should pray that, in regard to these lands, God may change his judgement.

Chapter 76 (1017)

In this year, four large Venetian ships, filled with different kinds of spices, were lost in shipwrecks. As I have previously mentioned, the western regions which had rarely known peace in the past were now completely pacified. Thanks be to God! Ekkehard, a monk of Saint John the Baptist at Magdeburg, who was also one of my brethren, lost his speech due to a paralyzing illness. In the lands of the Bavarians and Moravians, a certain pilgrim, named Koloman, was seized by the inhabitants and accused of being a spy. Compelled by their harsh treatment, he confessed his guilt although it was not merited. He made every effort to justify himself and explained that he was wandering, in this way, because he was one of of the poor men of Christ. Nevertheless, they hanged this innocent man from a tree which had long ceased to bear fruit. Later, when his skin was slightly cut, blood poured forth. His nails and hair continued to grow. The tree itself began to bloom, moreover, thereby proving that Koloman was a martyr for Christ. As soon as Margrave entry learned of these events he had the body buried at Melk.

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November 6, 2017

Absolute Apsorus Absolutely

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Jan Dlugosz claimed that the eponymous father of the Lechites, Lech himself originally came from a town of Psary somewhere in Croatia.

Duo itaque fillii Iani nepotis Japheth, Lech et Czech, quibus Dalmatia, Serbia, Slavonia, Carvatia et Bosna contigerant, et praesentium et futurarum collisionum, discrimen et pericula vitaturi, pari et concordi voce et deliberatione, originario solo relicto, novas sedes quaerendas populandasque decreverunt, et caeteris quidem fratribus in Pannoniis remanentibus ipsi omnibus coloniis, familiis et substantiis, quae ditionis eorum erant, ex Slavonia, Serbia, Carvatia, Bosna, et ex castro Psari in altissima rupe (quam fluvius Gui Slavoniam et Carvaciam disterminans alluit/abluit) sito, cuius etiam hactenus nonnulli aspiciunt priscam magnificentiam, testante ruina et eius vetustam nuncupationem villaginum Psari, sub loco arcis situm in eadem die retinet, in quo Principum praefatorum Lech et Czech familiarior, peculiariorque habitandi et illic subditis iura reddendi esse usus consueverat.

This location has long eluded the best historians.  Dlugosz mentions the river Gui or Huy near the border between Croatia and Slavonia with Slavonia today being, roughly, the region of Croatia between the Sava and Drava (above the Una).  Another location was the island of Pharos – close to Hvar – far south in the Dalmatian portion of Croatia. Maciej of Miechow threw in the River Crupa as being nearby. You can read all about this in Aleksander Małecki’s “Croatian ‘Psary’ Versus Dalmatian ‘Pharos’ in the Legendary Beginnings of Poland.” Interestingly, even the Danube Schwabians were living in Slavonia.

But let’s stick to Psary.

All you need to do is whip out some old records and you will find a relatively decent candidate.  You don’t even have to go that far back.  Just open Franjo Rački’s Documenta historiae Chroaticae periodum antiiquam illustrantia.  In it you will find numerous references to Apsaros or the like.

In Latin the town goes by Apsorus.  In Greek Byzantine as Opsara.  In Croatian it is Osor.

Now, Osor is not on the border of Slavonia but neither is Pharos, of course.

Note too that the name is old.  It already appears, as an island, in the maritime portion of the so-called Antonine Itinerary (Imperatoris Antonini Augusti itinerarium maritinum) which was put together sometime in the 2nd or 3rd century:

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October 20, 2017

Lel, Polel, Lada and the Alcis of the Mother of the Gods

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I have previously discussed the similarities between the “mother of the Gods” mentioned by Tacitus and the Polish Lada as well as the fact that she was made by Polish writers to be the mother of Lel and Polel the alleged Polish dioscuri.  In turn, Tacitus said that the Nahanarvali worshiped Alcis who were their dioscuri.  The Nahanarvali likely lived on the river Narwa – which is today’s Narew. It is possible that the naha refers to -nad meaning “on the”.  It is more likely that it refers to a Germanic term as in nah or “near” such as is found in In der Nähe and so forth (neahneh meaning “nigh”).  That would not establish the language of the Nahnarvali themselves as the writers’ (Tacitus and others)  intermediaries may have been Germanic. In any event, Narwa is in Mazovia andi so too in Mazovia was Lada worshipped as per Dlugosz (perhaps in the village Lady).  I’ve written about all of this previously.

What I had forgotten to mention was that already Jacob Grimm had the same idea.  I attach that here. This passage also discusses the Krainian God Torik which Grimm dismisses as not having anything to do with Thor because it just meant the “second” (vtorik > Torik). Of course, one could also interpret Thor as the “second”.  On that see here.

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October 8, 2017

Polish Pantheon

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Who were the Polish Gods?  Jan Dlugosz is actually quite clear about this question but it’s worth to summarize again. To call these Names a “pantheon” is in some respects an exaggeration.  They were made a pantheon by Dlugosz but each Name has its own development and history and it is quite possible that some of these Names had a different tradition and came from, at least at some point, different tribes or even peoples (Sarmatian, Venetic/Lusatian, Suevic).

  • Yessa/Yassa/Yesza/Yasza (in Polish spelled with a “J” in lieu of a “Y”) – the head of the Polish pantheon its equivalent being Jupiter; this God is probably the same as the “Germanic” Jecha and Tacitus’ Isidi/Isis; He is also likely the “Greek” Iasion (the Czechs spoke of Chasson sive Jassen) and perhaps the “Greek” Jason; in Aethicus Easter, it seems Yassa as Iasion appears with the Eastern Slavic Paron; Yesha/Yessa or Yesza/Yassa; As the “yasny” or “light” God, He is also probably the “God of Lightning” mentioned by Procopius, the One who comes “first” (Jeden/Odin) and who is followed by thunder (Thor or Wtory, meaning the “second” or Perun/Paron or Baltic Perkunas); He seems to be also the God of Light and of fertility/harvest rites; at war He may be identical with Yarovit/Gerowit; He may also be linked to Ossirus or Odyseus; note that the Slavic “sh” or “sz” is nothing more than a diminutive form (compare it with, for example, Sasha); the original Name must have been Iasion;  later, after introduction of Christianity, a traveller, wanderer – much like Odin but unlike the scheming and bitter Odin, He remained the simple Jaś Wędrowniczek – a young boy who travels the countryside – very much in line with the original Iasion/Jason; 
  • Lada/Ladon – the guardian of Jessa; this deity is Mars or a Goddess; perhaps the best answer to this confusion is that Lada is both Mars and a female Deity; She is an Amazon – the protector of Yassa (Alado gardzyna yesse – which means something like “Oh, Lada, protect Yassa”) interestingly, she was worshipped, as Dlugosz says (without himself making the Amazon connection) in Mazovia; notice too that her name appears already in Luccan as the consort/spouse; She seems to be similar to Leda who was seduced by Zeus (or, in this case,  Iasion which would also make Lada similar to Demeter though Dlugosz makes Marzanna be Ceres (which was the equivalent of Demeter));
  • Niya – the God or Goddess of after life or underworld; the equivalent of Pluto; the God had a temple in Gniezno according to Dlugosz;
  • Dzidzilelia/Didilela/Zizilela – the Goddess of marriage and fertility; also associated with Venus; this Goddess is probably the same as the “Germanic” Ciza, Zizara;
  • Dzievanna/Devanna – the Goddess of the forests and hunts; this Goddess is probably the same as the “Germanic” Taefana; expressly tied to Diana as a forest Deity; interestingly, the name also appears in India (Vindi) and in Ireland (Dublin-Lublin) and parts of Britain (Cheshire with its 20th Legion);
  • Marzana – harvest Goddess associated with Ceres;
  • Pogoda – the Goddess of weather, the “giver of good weather”;
  • Sywie/Ziwie/Zyvie/Ziva – God of Life (Zycie or of the zijn);

Outside of Dlugosz many of the above Names are repeated.  Other Names include:

  • Boda/Bodze;
  • Lel/Heli/Leli – the Polish Castor but perhaps connected with the Germanic Hel;
  • Polel – the Polish Pollux;
  • Pogwizd/Pochwist/Pochwistel/Niepogoda;
  • Pan;
  • Grom;
  • Piorun (probably Ukraine only since, at the time of writing, that was part of Poland);
  • Gwiazda;

Finally, one book mentions a whole league of Deities and demons:


Farel, Diabelus, Orkiusz, Opses, Loheli, Latawiec, Szatan, Chejdasz, Koffel, Rozwod, Smolka, Harab the Hunter, Ileli, Kozyra, Gaja, Ruszaj, Pozar, Strojnat, Biez, Dymek, Rozboj, Bierka, Wicher, Sczebiot, Odmieniec, Wilkolek [werewolf], Wesad, Dyngus or Kiczka, Fugas


Dziewanna, Marzanna, Wenda, Jedza, Ossorya, Chorzyca, Merkana

For other posts on Polish Gods see here (part I), here (part II), here (part III) and here (part IV).

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October 8, 2017

Alpert’s Interesting Times

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Alpert of Metz (died 1024) was a Benedictine chronicler of the eleventh century. His De diversitate temporum (On the Diversity of the Times, which really means something like On Our Interesting Times) is a major source for the history of Western Europe (particularly for France, Western Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands) in the period it covers (990 to 1021).

In the book Alpert makes a very brief mention of the Slavs who fought Henry II.  This could refer to the Veleti but also the Poles or Bohemians – or to all of them as Alpert speaks of multiple kings of the Winnidi:

Of the Reign of Henry [II]
Book I
Chapter 5

“But as soon as the most noble Henry took dominion, this place [the monastery] was brought back to its former state.  Many exquisite things may be written by us about this man: how easily did, by God’s grace, he reach the peaks [highest position] of the kingdom; how through a quick victory, he compelled the surrender of famous and very mighty men, who had [previously] started wars against him; how he subjugated and made tributary to him kings in the interior of Germany who are called Winnidi; how he besieged for several years and almost completely destroyed Metz, a town in Lorraine that had been angering him for a long time, and [how he] finally after doing a lot of damage subjugated it. But because lord Adelbold, the bishop of Utrecht described all of this beautifully in a book, we have believed that [in describing] the part [of the narrative] that now necessarily comes to [the fore] in our work, we need to go further beyond [Adelbold’s version] so as to avoid a work of history, that is [otherwise] so full of important and that beautiful lessons, becoming muddled through us as if by a foolish pawn.

De Henrico rege

Ubi vero Heinricus summa rerum potitus est, iterum locum illum in priorem statum reduxit. Multa praeclara de hoc viro nobis scribenda sufficiunt: quam facile gratia Dei donante ad apicem regni pervenerit, qualiter illustres viros et summae potentiae, bella adversum se concitantes, celeri victoria in deditionem venire coegerit, qualiter reges in interioribus Germaniae partibus, qui sunt Winnidi vocati, suae dicioni tributarios effecerit, et Mettim in Belgis diu contra se male cogitantem, et compluribus annis obsessam, pene ad interitionem vastaverit, et tandem multis incommodis illatis sibi subegerit; set quia domnus Adelboldus Traiectensis episcopus haec omnia pleniter in uno volumine luculento sermone comprehendit, a nobis pars quae aliquando nostris scriptis necessario occurritt praetereunda visa est, ne historia tantis et tam venustis documentis edita a nobis tanquam ab insipientis latratu obfuscaretur.

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October 1, 2017

Thietmar in the Flesh

Published Post author

Speaking of Thietmar, thought this was cool. From the Dresden manuscript, the page that mentions Cedynia, Mieszko and his brother Czcibor (look also for the notes in the margins – note Cideburg):

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September 30, 2017