Life in a Slavic tribe – Pomeranian Chronicles
Modern view of early Slavonic societies is very deformed. Among rodnovers and people who simply cherish their ancestral culture, myths of hippie-like image prevail. Those myths were built in opposition to leftists stereotypes of an “evil” and “cruel” Christianity. You probably know about what myths I am talking about: our ancestors’ taking of natural drugs, practicing “free-love”, and organizing orgies during Kupala Night. They prayed to their merciful and loving Gods in Sacred Groves. Peace-loving farmers who took lands after Germans “without any bloodshed”. They were ecologists and their love for nature was practically a religion on its own, and so on and on. They were also poor and less advanced than their neighbors; it’s almost like they were already experiencing communist economy in practice.
But what was the truth? What do we actually know and may say for sure? Let us examine the everyday life of early medieval Pomeranians and find out.
The center of the entire society is always the individual family, and the center of the individual family’s life is always the place they call home. Houses in early medieval Pomerania were the same as houses of all Slavic people, from Polabia to Kievan Russ, and they evolved in a similar manner. In the earliest periods, they were half-dugout houses with only one room, which could fit no more than just the parents and their children. Later, the houses began increasing in size and comfort, with a few separate rooms and also beautifully sculptured ornaments and painted patterns.
The most important part of a house was the fireplace. Sometimes it was placed in the center and sometimes in a wall of the house. The fireplace was surrounded by dishes and cooking equipment, while a table and a bench were the most basic furniture in the household. Sometimes a house did not possess normal beds for its inhabitants to sleep on, but there was the bench and the table – both used as beds if needed.
Wooden boxes, clay vases and similar containers were used to keep valuable things. Those most valuable and essential parts of wealth were hidden underground in the gardens or even under the home. This method was very popular because it worked. In cases of enemy raid, pillage or even burning down the house, the owner still had a secret place with the things hidden, and practically impossible to find.
Some houses were filled by tools for crafting clothes or ceramics. Beds and benches, but also walls, were warmed up with furs, skins and other materials. On special occasions, the table was also covered with colorful blankets.
There are Slavic-style half-dugout houses that have been found on Iceland as the oldest settlements. However, the lack of differences in house building methods between Slavonic people makes it impossible to say for sure which tribe settled this island, but most probably it was some group of one of the Pomeranian tribes. One of the signs of the long-time settlement of Slavonics on Iceland is the fact that the original layer of ground was totally destroyed by cattle. Now let’s bust the “ecological” myth. The Rani tribe, in order to build their houses, forts and strongholds, which were highly advanced, felled down every single tree on their island. Luckily, they also had continental territories.
We have to explain something here.
Many people think that since written history of Slavs started relatively late, they must have been on a lower level of advancement than their neighbors the Franks, Saxons or Danes. Yet if one would actually look into the chronicles, they would find out that there was no difference in the standard of living between the “west” and Slavs. Moreover, it has been written down that “Germanic” people were jealous of Pomeranians because they had more gold and silver than anyone else. What is more, every free woman and man in 10th century Poland had at least some small golden accessory on their clothing.
They managed to gather vast amounts of wealth in part through piracy, but most of all by creating big trading centers with ports. A trading center which economically dominated the Baltic Sea was Wolin, an island considered the source of the legends about Wineta and Jomsborg (we will cover those legends in separate articles). Graves of Pomeranian traders found in Denmark, Sweden and Norway showed to be richer than other archaeological sites. Saying that the Rani were the poorest of Pomeranians does not mean that they were objectively poor – they were still richer than their Western neighbors. We will write about it a bit more in a different article.
Next time on Pomeranian Chronicles, we will cover the topics of early medieval Pomeranian society, family and slaves. We would like to thank Marek Kalisiński who has contributed to Slavic Chronicles by sharing his photos. Please check out his other work here.