In Winter, Old German Tradition Celebrates Bird Mating Season

The following article by Gary Clark ( was first published in the Houston Chronicle Star on Saturday, January 20, 2018 and is reprinted here with the author’s permission.

            The Sorbs of Lusatia, Germany, celebrated an ancient winter tradition known as Vogelhochzeit, or the “Bird’s Wedding.” Reader Leo Symmank – whose ancestors were among the Sorbs, aka Wends, who immigrated to Texas in the 1850s and founded the town of Serbin near Giddings – wrote to tell me about the tradition.

            The Wendish custom had children place plates of seeds outside for the birds on the eve of their wedding.

            “We did put out seeds in a can for Vogelhochzeit on the evening of Jan. 24,” Symmank wrote. “On the morning of Jan. 25, in some traditions, the children would find pastries and candy in the form of birds, which they were told had been left by birds celebrating their wedding.”

            A Wendish children’s song had a thrush as the groom and a blackbird as the bride, while ducks and geese played music for the wedding ceremony.

            Here’s a stanza:

                        “The house sparrow is preparing the wedding meal

   And he’s eating the best bites himself.” 

            I’ll attest to house sparrows cribbing the best bites at my bird feeders, whether or not birds are celebrating a wedding.         

            Then again, maybe the birds indeed getting married. Our bluebirds have already been pairing up and will have eggs in the nest by late February.

            A male northern cardinal has been singing his fervent crooning a song for days.

            Male Carolina Wrens are belting out multiple wooing songs, sometimes more than 50. How can a female wren resist so many upbeat love songs?

            Male purple martins will soon show up at our martin house to set up a home for females arriving later.

            And those doggone house sparrows will be interlopers in the martin residence.

            On the sweeping landscape of the Attwater Prairie Chicken National Wildlife Refuge near Sealy, male prairie chickens are preparing for one of the great mating ceremonies of the bird world.

            lt begins in March, when males gather on prairie rises called leks, where they do vigorous jumping jacks with frenetic wing flapping, while whooping and cackling, all for the sake of importuning a female mate.

            The Wends knew that bird courtship and mating in no way replicated human weddings. Yet their longstanding celebration of the Bird’s Wedding surely cemented in the minds of children the beauty and joy of birds.

            Meanwhile, I’m putting out food for birds on the eve of their wedding. And I’ll gladly gobble up pastries they leave for me the next morning.

The Origin of the Slavs by Prof. M. Zaborowski

This article by M. Zaborowski first appeared as an abstract in The Annual Report of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution on 30 Jun 1906. It is presented here as one of the article that Anna Blasig used in writing her book, The Wends of Texas.


The Origin of the Slavs[1]


by Professor Zaborowski


Professor of Ethnography, École d’Anthropologie, Paris





            In another article by the present writer there was discussed the question of the original home of the Greeks, the Umbro-Latins, the Gauls, and the Germans.[2] Though history does not tell us the exact period of the departure of those peoples from the proto-Aryan territory, we can nevertheless trace them back to the very borders of that time.

            The Greeks were the first to find their historic home, but the story of their migrations hither is lost. We have, however, in all probability, remains of their ancient sojourn northeast of the Adriatic, in the varied artistic potteries found in such abundance in neolithic villages, as at Butmir, near Serayevo in Bosnia.

            The Umbro-Latins, who came from the northeast, may be studied at a time when they were still in close relation with the region of the Danube.[3]

            The home of the proto-Gauls adjoined the proto-Aryan territory, and was formerly confounded with it. It has now been definitely located along the upper Rhine and the upper Danube, whence it reached to more or less fixed limits northward and eastward.

            The original home of the proto-Germans I place, on the basis of archeological and even historical data, in the region west of the Baltic.

            It now remains to determine the fatherland of the Slavs. This is the most difficult task, for the first historic information concerning them discovers them already spread over vast and widely separated territories. The hypothesis that they came from Asia, or were identical with the Sarmatians, is the least tenable, being based on fanciful theories, while best-informed authors have derived them from the region of the Danube.[4] Their language, of the Satem group, could have originated only in the eastern zone of the proto-Aryan territory. The linguistic ancestors of the Slavs spread over the western part of the valley of the Danube only after the Umbro-Latins and Greeks, on the one hand, and the Gauls and Germans on the other, were either drawing away or had left that region. The Slavs came later, without being in direct contact with any of those peoples. We know that the Illyrians came from the east to occupy the Adriatic littoral,[5] and subsequently came the Thracians, from whom the former separated. We know also that the Pannonians were the parents of the Dacians, and that the Moesians, Illyrians, Dacians, Getes, and Pannonians were all Slavs.

            The principal promoter of this westward movement, the oldest constituent element of the Slavic peoples, notably north of the Danube, from Pannonia to the Baltic, and from the Elbe to the Vistula, was the people that, spreading over central and northern Europe, exclusively practiced cremation of the dead. This people was likewise the propagator of brachycephaly or short-headedness. They became known in history as the Veneti, one of the most ancient political groupings of central Europe, and in the days of Herodotus they occupied all the western districts from the Adriatic to the Danube. A close study of the Veneti has proved beyond doubt that the Slavs of the western zone of central Europe, from the Adriatic to the Elbe and the Baltic, are their descendants.



            If we examine the region of the Danube basin from the Alps to the Black Sea, we find the Slavs there as autochthons.[6] If there are districts where at present none or but few Slavs live, nevertheless we always find them in proximity thereto, in places where they sought natural protection against invaders or into which they were driven. There is no other ethnic element in the Danube basin that could dispute their indigenous origin, for all other occupants are either conquerors or immigrants of later times. We know that the Dacians, the Pannonians, and the Moesians of the Roman period were ancestors of the Slavs, and there is substantial proof that those Illyrians, with whom the Gauls mixed four hundred years before the present era, were likewise Slavs. But when and how did the Slavs become the indigenes of the Danube basin, which as early as the eighteenth century B. C. was proto-Aryan territory?

            It is known positively that the Thracians of the eastern zone of the basin spread toward the west and the Adriatic Sea, and this at about the time when the Umbro-Latins and the Greeks were still associated north of the Adriatic or were just separated. The Illyrians detached themselves from these Thracians and subsequently even drove them out from present Servia. At the same time the Dacians and Getes settled in distinct groups on Thracian territory, and it is known that till a late period their language did not materially differ from that of the Thracians. From their first movements the Thracians were doubtless mixed with some elements from parts of Asia where they themselves had lived.

            The remains of Glasinac show that in 1100 B. C. the Illyrians largely preserved the characteristics of the proto-Aryans. But we also find there a new people that burned their dead and that mixed with and modified the character of the natives. The progress of this new constituent is marked by the growth of the custom of incineration of the dead and the expansion of a civilization now called Hallstadtian.[7]

            The transformation thus effected in the indigenous Illyrians and others is the point of departure for the formation of the Danubian Slavic type, distinguishing it from the proto-Aryan. Its expansion became, as it were, symbolical for that of the Slavs, although it was itself by its origin neither Aryan nor Slav. These people, whose brachycephaly extended to the neighboring countries, were the Veneti.


            Herodotus mentions the Veneti in two passages. In the first (I, 196) he tells us that the Babylonian custom in every village of auctioneering handsome maidens, and with the money thus obtained from rich wooers endowing the less fair maidens and marrying them to poor men, also existed among the Veneti of Illyria. In the second passage (V, 9) he tells us that they live on the confines of the Adriatic Sea and, toward the north, adjacent to the Sigynnae that inhabit the entire territory beyond the Danube. Both references hint at the Asiatic origin of the Veneti. Strabo is even more explicit concerning this origin.

            Polybius (219-125 B. C.) relates (Book II, Chap. IV) that when the Gauls captured Rome (300 B. C.) the Veneti invaded their country – that is, the plains of the Po. He says of the Veneti (Chap. IIT) “they are an ancient people celebrated by the tragic poets for their prodigious strength. Their customs and dress are nearly the same as those of the Gauls, while speaking a different language.” This language, which Polybius says was neither Latin nor Gallic, could only have been a Slavic dialect. The funeral inscriptions from the Venetian village of Aquila contemporary with Strabo are Slavic, and the people of the extreme northeast of Italy still have a particular Slavic dialect, the Rhesian.

            In the time of Herodotus the Veneti were associated with the Sigynnae, who settled north of the Danube and were connected with the Gauls. For while the Veneti called themselves a Median colony, the Sigynnae, on their part, had “habits resembling those of the Medes.” (Herodotus V, 9.)

            For another passage in Strabo (XII, 3, 12, and 25) we learn that the traditional origin of the Veneti was that they came to the Adriatic shortly after the fall of Troy (1183 B. C.), from Paphlagonia, where they were associated with the Cappadocians, after having participated in the Trojan war with the Thracians. Traversing Thracia and Illyria, they reached the Adriatic, bringing with them elements of their civilization, their large Asiatic horses, and the custom of burning their dead.


            An unexpected light is thus thrown on the prehistoric past of central Europe. As stated above, there was at Glasinac, to the south­east of Serajevo, a warlike Illyrian people, their customs identical with the Thracians, who mingled with a foreign race that incinerated their dead. Now, according to their number and their material, the Glasinac sepulchers date between the eleventh and fifteenth centuries B. C., and some belong to the time when the Veneti, after the Trojan war (1183 B. C.), gradually crossed Thracia to reach the country north of the Adriatic.

            We know nothing directly of the physical traits of the Paphlagonians. Of the Cappadocians, however, something is known, for the Assyrians fought against them before the end of the twelfth century B. C., and they formed part of the Empire of the Medes. They had racial and linguistic affinities with the Turanian element of Hither Asia, with the Sumerians, the proto-Armenians, and the Medes. The same was probably the case with the Paphlagonians, for the ancients depicted them as very different both from the Thracians and the Gauls of Galatia. As to the Veneti, the figures on the famous stele of Watsch all show their type, with the nose concave or short and depressed at the root, Short-headed and brown, they introduced brachycephaly into the northeast of Italy, profoundly modifying the Umbro-Latins and the Gauls; and likewise from them all the characteristics since known as Celto-Slavic, a term which ought to abandoned. They also carried brachycephaly into the northwest and the north as far as the Baltic littoral, and that character is the principal constituent element of the present Slavic type. In Italy itself six cities are given by the ancients as Venetish, including Padua, Vicenza, Belluno, and two obscure cities in the Province of Treviso. In these provinces inscriptions have been found which are attributed to the Veneti.[8] Similar inscriptions were noticed on rocks near Wurmlach in the eastern part of ancient Noricum. (D’Arbois, II, 79.) In Carinthia, near Dellach, bronze objects and pottery fragments were found, marked, it seems, with characters of these inscriptions. (Pauli, III, p. 62, 70.)

            The language of these inscriptions would be settled if the earliest topographical names of the Veneti and the tomb inscriptions of their ancient and powerful city, Aquila, were accepted as Slavic. But even aside from this we find that in the whole Danubian region, occupied down to our era by Veneti intermixed with Gauls, there are none but Slavic tongues. These languages include elements introduced into them by the conquering Gauls of the fourth century B. C., when they fused with the Illyrians. They must, then, have existed at least since the fourth century B. C., and it is very probable that it is to one of these languages that Polybius refers as being neither Gallic nor Latin, but peculiar to the Veneti. The name Veneti in historic time, at least in the sixth century A. D., was the generic term for the Slavs north of the Carpathians. Not only did they use a Slavic language, but they played the chief role among the Slavs, and a knowledge of them is therefore of material assistance in tracing the advance of the Slavs.



            Wherever the Veneti spread, there Slavs have lived or still dwell. The name Veneti, analogous to that of the Franks in France, and of the Variags in Russia, appears in the Pannonian city of Vindebona, Vienna, in that of the Vindelician part of Bavaria, between Switzerland and the Danube, and in that of the Wends, who still hold their own in Lusatia, notwithstanding invasions and a very active Germanization. It was transplanted without the least alteration to the Baltic littoral, where positive traces of the Veneti are preserved in the name Vindava, borne alike by a river and a city.

            From the preceding facts it is clear that people of Venetish origin have dwelt since a prehistoric period north of the Carpathians, and that their name, preserved through the ages, was applied to no others than the Slavs. It can now be demonstrated that these were the ancestors of the Veneti of the Adriatic, and that they penetrated even as far as the Baltic littoral at a remote period. In the center and in the north they were the propagators of the rite of cremation.



            The rite of cremation appears in the terra mare of Emilia, and as the presence of this custom must have a relation to the intrusion of a foreign race, Sergi thinks that even at that time Illyrians – that is proto-Aryan” (or our Veneti) – had penetrated into Italy.[9] In the northeast of Italy there are circular ramparts resembling those of Bohemia, Istria, Dalmatia, Bosnia, and Herzegovina.

            Cremation did not become general in Italy before the early iron age, and perhaps coincides with the first Venetish invasion. If the Italian civilization of that age is not to be attributed to the Etruscans (as Sergi is inclined to believe) the Veneti were evidently its authors. In any case, from the early iron age the Veneti had relations with Italv and with the Etruscans, and the role in the civilization of central Europe, hitherto attributed to the Etruscans, must be credited to them. They are the authors of the cinerary tombs of Glasinac and Sanskimost, of the cemetery of Santa Lucia in Tolmino, and of other Hallstadtian cemeteries. They are thus the originators and the propagators of the Hallstadtian civilization. There we meet with their name and with the practice of cremation and the products of that Illyrian and north Italian civilization.

            A large number of amber beads from the Baltic was found at Glasinac, while objects of glass, gold, and ivory are preserved at Hallstadt, and beads of blue glass from the crematory tombs of Bosnia were transported to the Baltic. This points to a strong northward migration from Illyria and Pannonia. Having reached the Danube, it followed its course as far as the Lake of Constance, entering it through the mountains of Salzburg, where Hallstadt is located, and in part through Switzerland. North of the Danube this movement ran at the same period, in part through Bohemia along the Elbe and Oder, occupying Silesia, Lusatia, Posen, and the Vistula, and finally the Baltic.

            In this extensive territory there settled in the course of the Hallstadtian period a population less warlike than the Gauls and the Germans and more sedentary, its chief point of distinction being the religious rite of burning all its dead. It used iron and bronze ornaments of the Hallstadtian type and also received the products of the Mediterranean civilization, while its cinerary vases and urns and articles of amber and bone were of home manufacture. This colonization preceded the civilization of Téne[10] and the conquests of the Gauls on the Danube and in Illyria. These cremationists never quitted the soil thus colonized about the end of the eighth century B. C. Their connection with the Adriatic has never since been broken, and neither the Gauls nor the Germans have definitely dispossessed them.

            The present Slavic peoples of the West will be shown to be the descendants of these immigrants of the Hallstadtian period, and consequently they themselves were Slavs.




            Cinerary sepulchers have been discovered wherever the Veneti have gone. From information furnished by Tacitus,[11] I added to that by Journandes,[12] it follows that the Veneti, driven by the Goths from the lower Vistula, were forced to the east of that river. They mixed with peoples who buried their dead. When Tacitus says that the Veneti were in contact with the Sarmatians he speaks, without doubt, of the Lithuanians along the Narew River. Traces of cemeteries with cinerary urns are also found to the north of the Bog and in Courland. The Veneti have also communicated somewhat of their physical characteristics to the Finns who were settled in the littoral, and the Lithuanians who occupied the interior. It is at least possible that the crania of the ancient tombs in the vicinity of Wenden were brachycephalic.

            Various modes and arrangements of cinerary cemeteries have been observed in the ancient seats of the Veneti. The cineraries north of the Danube, in Bohemia, Moravia, on the Elbe, the Oder, and the Vistula as far as the Baltic are like those of the Adriatic, Pannonia, Bosnia, and Italy. According to a recent comparative study[13] of the cinerary urns of various regions, the first and most important group, that of Lusatia, recalls all the types of those of Illyria and also some of Italy. The second group, that of Aurith, on the right bank of the Oder, south of Frankfort, shows resemblances to the types of Lusatia of a certain zone, extending from Saxony through Posen as far as western Prussia. A third group, that of Goeritz, likewise on the right bank of the Oder, north of Frankfort, has also for its basis the type of Lusatia and includes urns identical with those of Illyria and Italy. The fourth group, that of the large cemetery of Billendorf, in the district of Sorau, also comprises specimens much akin to those of Villanova in Italy.


            We can follow the movement of the cremationists from Pannonia, their starting point, to Moravia, Bohemia, Silesia, along the Oder through Billendorf, Lusatia, from the Oder to the Vistula through the territory of Goeritz, which reaches to Pomerania and western Prussia, and finally to the lower Vistula and the Baltic. All these regions thus traversed and occupied have intimate relations with one another; the urns characteristic of each of them blend with and cross one another. Figured urns are peculiar to the lower Vistula as far as Silesia, though they are also found of a somewhat different kind in the cemetery of Kuffarn, in lower Austria. The tombs of the lower Vistula are more or less quadrangular chambers, made of and covered with flagstones. Each tomb contains several urns. The oldest tombs are surmounted by stone tumuli resembling those of Bosnia. Later the stone tumuli give place to those of earth; at Glasinac they consisted of a heap of stones mixed with earth.

            The circumference of the urns is greater than their height and the opening is comparatively narrow. They are handmade, of clay mixed with pounded granite, and unevenly baked. They vary greatly in size. Some ornamentation or a simple groove divides the body from the neck, the surface of which is often carefully polished, in contrast to the rough and grained body. At the base of the neck there are frequently two handles. Their color is generally reddish gray from the baking, but they are completely or partially covered with a black tint. Their covers are basin-shaped. They are of good depth and identical with the cinerary urns of Italy. Each contains the debris of calcinated bones of a single individual, without any admixture of ashes, though they are occasionally filled full with earth.



            With the calcinated bones are often found beads, pins, fibulae, rings, chain-lets, and other ornaments. The beads are of blue glass, bone, or clay. The pins, pincers, clasps or fibulae are of bronze. Iron appears exceptionally in the form of small rings and uncertain ornaments. The glass beads are the same as those of Illyria. The metal objects, as well as the beads, are of foreign manufacture and consequently of the same origin. The type of industry represented in the tombs, which represents two specimens of iron to seven of bronze, is purely Hallstadtian. At Hallstadt itself the cremations, numbering 455, were less numerous than the burials. The immigrants who brought the custom of cremation to the Noric Alps were not the masters there, for the Gauls continued in the majority. The same was the case in Bohemia. But northward, in the forest region between the Oder and Vistula, on the Baltic littoral and the left bank of the Vistula, they were in full possession of the country. Their crematory tombs are imposing in number. In western Prussia alone the cremations represented by these sepulchers are estimated at 200,000.[14]



            One of these tombs without a tumulus has a paved floor and held at least 200 urns. Apart from this exception they are of the average size; that is, 40 to 75 centimeters in height by 60 to 150 centimeters in length, with the roof about 50 centimeters below the surface of the ground. The urns are there buried in the sand, as in Italy. Some are decorated with a human head, nearly always modeled on the raised pate of the upper rim of the neck. The figures include the eyes, indicated in various ways; the nose, generally jutting out without regularity of form; and the ears. The mouth is not always represented. The ears bear rings of bronze wire with beads of glass, amber, or clay. The covers of the urns are frequently shaped like a saucer or a more or less deep basin, though more frequently they have the form of headgear, such as flat caps, or round hats, either with a narrow brim or wide turned-up rims like the felt hats now in use. Some resemble the hats worn in the north of Italy during the Etruscan period. Even in Greece, where as a rule the head was uncovered, sailors and old and sick people frequently wore a rimless cap of felt, leather, or straw, called pilos, and in Boeotia, at least, there was in use a hat with turned-up rims called kyne. This was, no doubt, transplanted to the Balkan Peninsula and the north of the Adriatic.

            The interesting point for our consideration is that the headgear, in all the variations of form worn during the Hallstadtian period, is common among the present inhabitants of the region of the box­shaped tombs. It will, moreover, be seen that this is not the only Hallstadtian custom that survived in Bohemia, Moravia, in the Carpathians, and on the Vistula, showing that the Slavs of these regions are in all likelihood the direct descendants of the immigrants who introduced cremation.



            The builders of the crematory tombs on the sandy heights of the left bank of the Vistula, as far as the Baltic littoral, were not able, it seems, to expand eastward. Extensive swamps then covered a considerable portion of both Prussias. Besides, the Estonians were in the proximity of the Baltic. Consequently, cemeteries are found on the right bank of the Vistula only at a certain distance from the Baltic littoral, between Graudenz and Thorn. The basin of the Narew includes none. This would support the view that the Neures of Herodotus, that is, the Lithuanians, occupied the basin of the Narew as far as the Dniester.

            The custom of cremation and of placing the debris of the bones with a few articles in urns extends as far as Scythia. It was introduced along the shores of the Black Sea in the stone period with the painted potteries of the pre-Mycenean period; but from the river San to the Dniester, cremation alone does not appear to have been practiced at any period.

            Exclusively crematory cemeteries are found only where the Veneti alone were established. With the exception of the marshy littoral of Pomerania the territory on the Vistula and between the Vistula and Oder exhibits during one period only crematory sepulchers. The Veneti settled and lived there alone during many centuries, till the arrival of the Goths, In the tombs of this entire region are found the same styles of urns as on the lower Vistula; urns with figures, with their hats and caps, and of the same material which seem to prove that they are all the work of the same people.

            The region between the Vistula and Oder embraces not only the south of Pomerania and Posen, but also Silesia; then Lusatia and the south of Brandenburg, From the basins of the Oder and the Vistula the crematory cemeteries extend to Moravia as far as the valley of the Vaag, and the eastern and northern parts of Bohemia; while in the western part of that country and thence toward the Saale cremation was checked by the Gauls, who kept up the custom of burial.

            Exclusively crematory cemeteries are then found in the region extending from Pannonia to the Adriatic littoral and the valley of the Po, And, it is probable that from here one and the same people spread as far as the Baltic, having almost identical customs.



            With the beginning of the Téne period important changes took place in the condition of the people. The Gauls then made their appearance south of the Danube, and that meant the cessation of exclusively crematory cemeteries. Bohemia became the center of the spread of the conquering Gauls in central Europe, so that burial obtained there the upper hand. Tombs in rows, in which the skeletons lie on the back, accompanied with iron weapons, supplanted in the west particularly the mixed sepulchers covered with tumuli. Crematory cemeteries maintained themselves in Bohemia only on the frontier of Lusatia in the east, and in Moravia. In fact, aided by the cemeteries, we can trace with precision the phases of the conquest of the Gauls, their supremacy, their decadence, and their final absorption. Everywhere in Illyria the influence of the Gauls reveals itself by a return to the custom of burying the dead, and their subsequent assimilation is manifested by a decrease of the number of burials or even their entire abolition.

            The Gauls invaded this region in the fourth century B. C., where they constituted the stock of the Yapods. Corresponding to this period of invasion there are found in the cemetery of Watsch, near Laibach, in Carniole, two kinds of contemporaneous sepulchers: First, with cinerary urns, without weapons, and with merely some scanty and poor ornaments; and second, those with skeletons resting on their backs, accompanied with weapons and numerous articles of ornament.

            Two peoples thus lived side by side, one dominating the other; the one warlike, the other peaceful and oppressed. The social conditions which one school of students, supposed to have existed on the Danube only at the time of the Avars, in the sixth century A. D., must therefore already have existed in the fourth century B. C. The Gauls found in Pannonia a people given to agriculture, and consequently with little taste for arms or aptitude for war. These indigenes were oppressed and exploited by the Gauls. The series of foreign conquests comprises also that of the Avars. But the natives were not supplanted by the newcomers.




            As regards the first conquerors, the Gauls, they not only did not supplant or exterminate the natives, but were themselves assimilated. Other invaders were but transients, and soon left in search of less impoverished territories where booty was more abundant. Gallic words in the Slavic tongues, and Gallic types among the Bosthians, confirm the record of history.

            In certain cemeteries, as in that at Jezerine, in the northwest angle of Bosnia, the struggle of the indigenes can be followed up and its final triumph established. In the Jezerine cemetery, the proportion of sepulchers with burial in the first period of the Téne, was 85%; in the second period, during the decline of the Téne, it fell to 40%; and finally, in the third, or Homan period, it was on the point of disappearing, being only 7%.

            The crania collected, though insignificant in number, also bear witness to the absorption of the ancient dolichocephalous, or long­headed people, there being a proportion of three mesocephales to five brachycephales. If, then, where numerous conquerors passed through the territory, a population which had existed since the Hallstadtian period continued to maintain itself, there is still more reason to assume that it would survive in regions free from great conquests. When it shall be proved that in the territories where cremation alone prevailed, as in the homes of the independent Veneti, the population has never been exterminated or dispossessed, then it will also be proved (since these regions are at present Slav), first, that the Veneti were of Slavic tongue, and, second, that the Slavs settled in these very countries in the period of the Hallstadtian civilization.





            It has been seen that in Pannonia the cremationists of the Hallstadtian period were, at the period of the Téne, invaded by a burying people, and that the latter almost completely disappeared toward the Roman period at the beginning of the present era.

            In the north of Bohemia and in Moravia, between the Vistula and the Oder, such an intrusion of the burying people at the same period is not recorded, because no Gallic invasions there took place, and the crematory cemeteries remained long undisturbed, even down to about the present era. Considering that the number of bronze objects found in these cemeteries far ‘surpasses those of iron, and noting the absence of arms, iron being used only for ornaments, they must be dated at least as far back as the Hallstadtian period. And since nearly identical cemeteries, with similar contents, are also found in lower Austria, it must be concluded that these finds on the Vistula represent not merely an archaic industry, which owed its continuous existence to its isolation and remoteness from intercourse, but rather that these purely crematory cemeteries north of the Danube are the work of peoples of the same origin and of the same civilization who came there during the Hallstadtian period. That the crematory cemeteries of the Vistula and the Hallstadtian cemeteries of Pannonia and Illyria coincided more or less in time is, moreover, evident from the fact that permanent commercial relations existed between the peoples of the Adriatic and those of the Baltic before the iron age, the Téne period, and the Gallic conquests.

            In the 267 tumuli opened at Glasinac in 1895 and 1896 there were found, among other objects, 1,885 amber beads. These tombs date between 1100 and 500 B. C. The amber indicates relations between Illyria and the Baltic prior to the fifth century B. C. In Italy the custom of cremation was introduced at the latest between 1000 and 1100 B. C., more likely earlier, so that in Italy, as well as at Glasinac, there is a correspondence between the spread of this custom and the arrival of the Veneti on the Adriatic shortly after the Trojan war. On the other hand, Hallstadt is not older than the eighth or ninth century B. C.; so that the crematory cemeteries of the Adriatic preceded by several centuries those of the Vistula, and it was from the shores of the Adriatic that the custom of cremation spread, not from the basin of the Vistula.


            This is proved by the objects of Etruscan and Roman art collected in the cinerary sepulchers of the north. The interesting stele of Kuffarn, in lower Austria, doubtless belongs to Etruscan art. The scenes represented on it closely resemble those of a stele of Cestosa (near Boulogna) of the fifth century, which, is Etruscan. At Burg, in the center of Lusatia, cinerary urns were found, containing two Etruscan votive chariots of bronze. In the urns of the Oder and Vistula lachrymatories and Roman glass vials were found, along with debris of calcinated bones. A bronze vase was found, among other things, near Kalisch, a city situated midway between Breslau on the Oder, to the southwest, and Plock on the Vistula, to the northeast, in the very center of the region of cinerary sepulchers and on the route by which they were propagated, from Pannonia to the Baltic. The handle of this vase is decorated in répousse with a figure of the infant Bacchus, with a cloak of a panther skin on his shoulder and holding a bunch of grapes. It is a masterpiece and evidently of Graeco-Roman or early Roman art. It can be approximately dated from the fourth century B. C., when the representation of Bacchus as an infant came into vogue. In a tomb at Czarnkov on the Nortec, in the north of Posen, there was a Roman terra-cotta mask, dating probably from the beginning of the imperial period, when Roman armies campaigned in Illyria and Pannonia.


            There is one proof that the builders of the crematory tombs remained independent until the arrival of the Goths on the lower Vistula. In a cemetery of the district of Wejcherovo, northwest of the mouth of the Vistula and Danzig, on that strip of land which stretches along the Baltic, and which must have been one of the first tracts occupied by the invading Scandinavians, there was found a cinerary urn, the bottom of which was adorned with Runic characters, though these could not be deciphered and their genuineness was contested.[15] Now the Goths possessed the Runic script, for a Gothic lance engraved by them was found at Kovel, in Volhynia; and in Romania were found different objects with Runic signs. The Goths thus met at the mouth of the Vistula a Veneto-Slavic people that buried their dead. And it was the Goths and the other Germanic invaders who followed them, the Burgunds and the Vandals, if they may be counted among the Germans, who disturbed and drove back the peaceful Veneto-Slavs.

            Cinerary tombs incased with stone disappear with these new arrivals, while the iron age fully makes its appearance, the age of the Téne with iron arms.

            Did the Slavs, too, disappear about the beginning of the present era under the Germanic onslaught? No. They were but partially and only for the time supplanted. Even their tombs will again appear.

            But there must first be considered the conditions existing in Bohemia, Pannonia and the Danube, prior to and during the first centuries of the present era.

            In the east and north of Bohemia, the Gallic supremacy clearly imposed itself upon the cremationists from the fifth century B. C. to the first century A. D., for fields of cinerary urns, together with the industry of the beginning of the iron age, are there mingled with, or are succeeded by, fields with urns characteristic of the iron industry of Téne or of the Gauls. There is, however, no appreciable interruption of the existence of the Venetish tribes who had inhabited Bohemia since the Hallstadtian period. The Germanic conquest while crushing the warlike Gallic element, did not destroy the indigenes or builders of the crematory tombs. Thus, there are discovered in these tombs Roman influences subsequent to the Téne period, as in those between the Oder and Vistula. Such is a cemetery at Dobrikov which received cinerary urns down to the fourth century A. D., while other crematory cemeteries continued still longer in existence.

            The exclusive practice of cremation continued in Bohemia, especially in the north and east, till the introduction of Christianity, and is an indication of the persistence there of customs that belonged neither to Germans nor to Gauls. The Gauls of the Téne period are represented in Bohemia, as already shown, by burial tombs in which the skeleton is laid on its back with iron weapons at the side. With the advent of Germans in the first century A. D. (just the period assigned to the entrance of the Marcomans in Bohemia), there appear on the Vistula tombs in rows, Reihengraber, which are characteristic of the Germans, particularly of the Franks.

            In 1892, Niederle[16] asserted on good evidence that “all the fields containing urns in Bohemia belonged to a people that had been settled there from the bronze age to the Christian period.” Now, it will not be difficult to establish a close ethnographic connection between this people and the Bohemian Slavs of today, and the conclusion follows that the ancestors of these Slavs were settled in Bohemia before the Gallic period of Tene, or since the Hallstadtian period – that is, since the fifth century B. C.

            In the northwest of Bohemia and in Thuringia, a variable pro­ portion of place names reveals the former presence of the Slavs. But the Germans, descending by the Elbe, probably dispossessed them at an early date. This was not the case, however, in Lusatia, where the marshy region remains in possession of the Slavic Wends even to the present day. There, as in Bohemia, the presence of cinerary urns bears witness to the permanence of the people that introduced the rite of cremation and of its historic identity with the Slavs. The same was the case in the greater portion of Silesia.



            In ancient Pannonia the cremationists were as much disturbed by a burying people as in Bohemia, but survived under even more difficult conditions.

            In 1883 Prince Windischgraetz distinguished tombs of cremation and of burial side by side in the cemetery of Watsch. The former are to a great extent earlier than the latter, and pertain to the conquered people who, as evidenced from the mutual position of the graves, were indigenous, while the latter, or burial tombs, are of the conquerors. These conquerors, as we know, were the Gallic Scordisci, Taurisci, and Boil, who advanced in the fourth century B. C. from Bohemia to the south of the Danube, Pannonia, Illyria and Thrace. They mingled with the Illyrians and Thracians, and toward the beginning of the present era were to a great extent fused with them. Thus, Strabo tells us (VII, 5, 2) that the Yapods, who occupied the primitive territory of the Veneti on the Adriatic, in Carniole and the present Istria, were a nation half Celtic and half Illyrian. The cemetery of Jezerine, which illustrates this gradual fusion accomplished about the Roman period, has been attributed to these Yapods; but all the Gauls were absorbed in the same way. Strabo (VII, 3,11; 5, 2) records the destruction of the Boii, Taurisci, and Scordisei by the Gatse and Dacians, who were kindred to the conquered Illyrians and Thracians and spoke the same language. Thus, all the Gallic tribes ended by fusing with the indigenes, and disappeared.

            On the other hand, the survival of the native cremationists is definitely proved by the persistence of crematory cemeteries from the Hallstadtian epoch until after the conquest and assimilation of the Gauls – nay, down to the Roman period. Such a prolonged existence may be assigned, for instance, to the cemeteries of Jezerine, of Prozor in Croatia, Meclo in the Tyrol, Gurina in Carinthia, Idria in Istria, and Ribic in Bosnia,[17] where amber beads and Roman coins of Hadrian (117-138 A. D.) and of Antoninus (138-1G1 A. D.) were found in the cinerary urns alongside of beads of blue glass.

            It is certainly significant thus to see in the original home of the Veneti the ancient rite of cremation triumphing over the custom of burial imported by the Gauls, and persisting as the exclusive funeral ceremony under Roman dominion, at least till the end of the second century of the present era.



            This much has been established above, and it should be remembered that the natives of Pannonia and Illyria, who as early as the tenth century B. C. burned their dead, continued their existence in these countries in the presence of the Gauls and Romans. It was these cremationists, speaking a language that was neither Latin nor Gallic nor German, with whom the Romans became acquainted in Pannonia. Mixed and fused with the Dacians, they were strong enough at the time of the Roman conquest to put on foot well organized armies under brave leaders. They remained, however, very barbarous, and their national and ethnic individuality was effaced by the armies and the strong absorbing administration of Rome, though they were not exterminated. Who could they have been if they were not the ancestors of the Slavs? What could be the inscriptions of the Veneti in the northeast of Italy, which Pauli[18] was able to clearly distinguish from Etruscan inscriptions, if they were not Slavic? Pauli calls their language Illyrian. But what was this language if not the one that Polybius called the Venetish, Tacitus the Pannonian – the Slavic of the tomb inscriptions of the old Venetish city of Aquila? There is no indication of the existence in this region of any languages other than the Slavic and the two other known tongues, Gallic and Latin.

            In Bohemia, especially in the east and northeast, the cremationists were never completely supplanted, as evidenced by fields of cinerary urns which never entirely disappeared. The Germanic domination of the Marcomans, begun with the present era and coinciding with the introduction of burial tombs in rows, the prototype of our modern cemeteries, was directed against the Gauls, the former warlike masters of Bohemia, and had little effect on the indigenous cremationists, who were peaceful tillers of the soil.

            Thus, as regards Bohemia, it is proved that crematory cemeteries continued in use from the Hallstadtian epoch through the Téne period and the Roman period, coinciding with the Germanic domination, and even after the introduction of Christianity, down to the ninth century; therefore, the peoples who established these cemeteries must have continued to live in Bohemia until after the introduction of Christianity. Now the presence of the Slavs in Bohemia at the time of the Empire of the Avars is historically established. The natives whom Christianity found were Slavs; consequently, the cremationists must be identical with the Slavs, since in Bohemia, outside of the Gauls and Germans, there never were any people other than the Slavs.

            Farther north, between the Oder and Vistula and on the lower Vistula, the cremationists enjoyed a longer period of tranquility, being spared the Gallic invasions, and were therefore not disturbed in their customs. We find their ancient sepulchers containing numerous urns persisting in use until the arrival of the Goths; that is, to about the beginning of the present era.



            It is evident that had the Gauls gone up the Vistula, iron weapons would be found in the contemporaneous crematory and burial tombs, as on the Dniester, whither the Bastarni had gone, and on the Danube. The real introducers of iron weapons on the Vistula, as indeed on the entire eastern littoral of the Baltic, were the Germans.

            The encased tombs on the lower Vistula were first succeeded by burial tombs in rows, Reihengräber, which, as has been seen, also spread in Bohemia after the arrival of the Marcomans. There is no question about these Reihengräber being German. The Germans had fibulae peculiar to themselves, and these fibulae, according to Montelius, are met with in the Baltic provinces on the Vistula, in the north and east of Germany, as also in Bohemia and on the Black Sea, wherever the Germans settled.[19] They disappeared on the Vistula in the fifth century, more than two or three centuries after the successive departure of the Goths, the Burgunds, and the Vandals. The invading Goths and Burgunds drove out the cremationists, especially from the Baltic littoral and the left bank of the Vistula. Still, the burial tombs of the conquerors are found mingled with the cinerary urns of the natives, as at Elbing on the littoral, to the right of the mouth of the Vistula. Crematory cemeteries thus maintained themselves constantly down to the seventh century A, D., and even until after the introduction of Christianity.

            The Germanic peoples who settled on the Vistula did not continue their distinct individuality. Like the Gauls on the Danube, they were partially, but not completely, assimilated. Moreover, the German colonization had for its result the strengthening of their ethnic importance; yet neither was the older population, the cremationists, submerged by the Germans, for, on the contrary, they regained the mastery over all the regions first occupied, restoring their own funeral customs, as their congeners were doing in Silesia, Bohemia and Moravia, and as their congeners in Pannonia had done several centuries before.



            Some fifty or sixty fields with urns, which are common in Bohemia and Lusatia, were discovered also on the lower Vistula, and fragments of broken urns indicate a considerable number of them on the Bog. They were found in the elevations that served as intrenchments for the Burgunds.

            These tombs are the work of the natives while restoring their old customs in their homes, which for several generations had been possessed by Germanic immigrants from Scandinavia. They are comparatively modern. Some of the objects found in them do not differ much from those now in use in Slavic countries. They represent the period between the invasion of the Goths, the Burgunds and the Vandals and the introduction of Christianity.

            The permanence of the cremationists is thus established by the persistence, in face of the intrusion of the burying people, of funeral customs that are the expression of peculiar creeds and conditions of existence.

            Thus, the Christian propaganda found there peoples who were Slavs and who cremated their dead. Historical documents show that when the Christian missionaries came in contact with the Slavs the latter were still practicing cremation. This one fact enables us to trace the genealogy of the Slavs, for they must have been identical with the ancient Venetish cremationists. There are still further proofs that the Slavs are the descendants of the cremationists of 2,500 years ago.





            The first preachers and bishops sent out to convert the Slavs came to the Vistula from Germany. In their work, which was promoted by the expeditions of the German princes of the frontier, they were joined by Bohemia.

            Bohemia, which was a Slavic state toward the seventh century, adopted, through its prince, the Graeco-Slavic cult toward the end of the ninth century, after Rotislas, the grand duke of Moravia, had the apostles Methodius and Cyril brought before him. But the German clergy won Bohemia over to Roman Catholicism, and in the tenth century it was itself the propagator of this faith among the other Slavs of the north. It was thus only in the second half of the tenth century that Christianity began to obtain a foothold between the Oder and the Vistula, and it does not seem to have taken deep root in Pomerania before the twelfth century. Helmold, a priest of Lübeck, who was sent in 1155 to evangelize the Slavs, speaks of them as a “depraved and perverse nation,” and their country is to him a land of “horror and a vast solitude.” In his work, Chronicon Slavorum, he treats in particular of the peoples who advanced farthest eastward and were thus inclosed in the German colonies between the Elbe and the Oder. Being familiar with the Slavic tongue he put under contribution for his book such works as that of Adam of Bremen of the first half of the eleventh century; also written traditions as well as the oral narrations of old Slavs who “preserved in their memory all the deeds accomplished by the barbarians.” He knows well, and admits, that the German Christians committed depredations on the heathen Slavs, which sufficiently explains why the latter so long resisted the new religion or abandoned it after having accepted it. He says, among other things:

Of the whole Slavic nation, which is divided into provinces and principalities, the Rugil are the most obstinate in the darkness of infidelity, and they persisted in it to our time.

            It is, in fact, known from the mythology of the Slavs that the Slavic inhabitants of the isle of Rugen were still attached to the cult of Svantovit in the middle of the twelfth century, and from time to time offered human victims to him, preferably Christians.

            In a pastoral letter, written in 1108 by Archbishop Adelgott, of Magdeburg on the Elbe, in the northwest of modern Lusatia, is read:

These cruel people, the Slavs, have risen against us. They have profaned by their idolatry, the churches of Christ…. They have invaded our land…. They have cut off the heads of Christians and offered them as sacrifices. Their fanatics – that is, their priests – say in their feastings: “It is our Pripegala who wants these sacrifices. Let us rejoice.” They say: “Christ is vanquished. The victory belongs to Pripegala, the victorious.”

            Pripegala, Prepiekal, is the personification of the action of burning; prepjekac, a word still in use in the Pannonian Slavic dialect. It is known that the Slavs before or after the burning of their dead offered sacrifices and united in a funeral meal, Tryzna. This custom was in vogue with the Slavs of the Dnieper, as well as with those of the Oder.

            In the Chronique de Nestor (p. (17, edition Leger) is read the following account:

Vladimir (who was about to he converted) went to Kiev to offer with his people sacrifices to the idols. The old people and the idols said: “Let us draw by lots a young man and a young maiden, and upon whom the lot shall fall shall be sacrificed to the gods.” The lot fell to the son of a Christian Varlag. The father refused to deliver his son and locked himself up with him in his home. They were both slain.” In another case, Vladimir desiring to offer sacrifices to Rerun, Dazbog, etc., the people offered their sons and daughters.

            From documents collected in 1868 bv Kotliarevski it follows that the pagan Slavs of the Dnieper, who practiced both burial and cremation, not only held banquets in honor of the dead, Tryzna, “meal of the dead,” but also offered sacrifices. The women in particular allowed themselves to be burned on the funeral pyre of their husbands. According to a document relating to the destruction of paganism in Novgorod (988), the most usual sacrifice consisted in the killing of horses. As regards the cremating of the dead, the Chronique de Nestor is positive:

When one of the Radimitches died they celebrated a tryzna around the corpse, then they raised a great pyre, placed the dead on it and set it on fire. Afterwards they gathered the bones, put them in a small vase and placed the vase upon a column on the edge of the road. The Vlatitches still follow this custom.

            Ibn Fozlan, who went as ambassador in the year 922 to the Bulgarians on the Volga, relates that he assisted at the cremation of a Russian. One of those present said to him:

You Arabs are a foolish people; you place your dead in the ground where they are devoured by animals and vermin. We bum them in an instant, that they may fly to paradise.

            A Czech chronicler, Cosmas, of Prague, of the twelfth century, in relating that Brzetislas endeavored in 1092 to suppress the customs connected with the pagan cult, says:

He abolished the sepulchers made in the woods and fields and the feasts celebrated after the pagan rite in the open places and crossroads for the repose of the souls, and likewise the profane plays in which they indulged over the bodies of the dead, disturbing their manes and celebrating the mysteries.

            There was thus a systematic campaign against the ancient rite of cremation, for it was the expression of the opposite creed, the occasion and center of the pagan ceremonies.

            What Cosmas says of the Czechs of the eleventh and twelfth centuries, Otto of Bamberg, who became acquainted with the Poles, records of the Baltic Slavs of the middle of the twelfth century. He forbids the “burying of Christians among the pagans in the woods and fields.” The result of such a prohibition was the abolition of cremation when once Christianity became the master of the country.

            It is needful, however, to notice that on the Vistula, as well as in Bohemia and Lusatia, elements of German origin influenced the Slavic peoples even before the official introduction of Christianity. The burying immigrants affected not only the customs and manners of the natives, but brought about important modifications in the conditions of their existence. When the first immigrants from Pannonia came to the territory between the Oder and Vistula, this entire region was still covered with dense, impenetrable forests. The clearings began with the arrival of these cremationists, who for each of their dead needed a supply of wood. They also burned the forests to provide spaces for cultivation, though this was not widely practiced, for the population grew but slowly in the centuries before the present era, and forest resources in game readily supplied the necessary food. With the invasions of the Germans, however, about the beginning of the present era, the natives found a refuge in the still intact forests, being pushed toward the south and east. Moreover, these invasions resulted in a light increase rather than a decrease of the population. The indigenes became more numerous, better equipped, more attached to the soil, and better able to hold and cultivate it. Large tracts of forest were then cleared by fire, and the population grew apace.



            Although the rite of cremation may not have persisted everywhere down to the introduction of Christianity, yet the customs symbolized by this rite were not altered in the same degree as the changes in the conditions of existence. Here, as elsewhere, purely pagan practices and ideas secretly survived, though the Catholic religion became dominant. As late as the thirteenth century the funeral fetes of the Gentiles, as the Polish chronicler Kadlubek testifies, still continued unimpaired. Still more must this have been the case with such customs and manners as did not concern religion. Great revolutions may take place among a people without greatly affecting the habits of life. The most simple usages are the most lasting, because of their simplicity. This is the more so with agricultural peoples, whose wants vary little, the most primitive objects and customs persisting through all external changes. It is a mere general ethnographical observation to assert that the objects found in the urn fields of Bohemia, the Oder, and the Vistula, after the introduction of iron implements and arms, are of the same material civilization as survives in these regions to the present time.



            Metal ware manufactured by the Slavs, and dresses, especially in the Carpathians, are decorated in the same manner and with the same motifs as the objects of Hallstadt. The dress embroideries in Moravia and Galicia as far as the Ukraine thus recall a decorative system which was already spread with the Hallstadtian civilization. If the same costumes, the same embroideries, are met with, for instance, among the Houzouls of the Carpathians, the descendants of the Bastarni, and among the Ruthens of Galicia, on the one hand, and among the Bretons on the other, it is apparent that it is not merely a question of accidental analogy. And if these analogies can be explained in no other way than that these peoples must have preserved common models through the ages, it must also be admitted that these common models must have had the same origin, and that consequently there was a contact between the ancestors of these peoples. Now, such a contact had really taken place. The Gauls, whose center of expansion was the upper Danube and the upper Rhine, became masters of modern France during the iron age, at the Téne period, immediately after the Hallstadtian period. At that very period they mingled with the Slavs in Bohemia and the Danube, and expanded as far as the Dniester. Thus, these ethnographic similarities have their source in the Hallstadtian civilization of central Europe, and for their origin the double movement of the Gauls at the beginning of the Téne period, westward on the one hand, and toward the center and the east on the other. The existence of the same ornaments, dresses, and customs in regions so widely separated as Bretagne and the Ca pathians constitutes in itself a proof of their antiquity, going back to the Hallstadtian period, when alone these diverse peoples came in contact.



            The covers of the urns are a perfect facsimile of the hat of horse­men represented in répousse on the scabbard of a sword of Hallstadt. On the famous stele of the cemetery of Watsch, near Laibach, which is Hallstadtian, figures are represented some of which wear pointed caps similar to our cotton caps; others have toques with ornamented crowns. The stele is of Venetian manufacture, and some of the urn covers reproduce quite accurately the quoit-shaped bonnets of certain of the figures which are of the Venetish type.

            The kinds of headgear thus represented are still worn by the Slavs, whose kinship with the cremationists has been otherwise established. On the Upper Vistula the hat is seen as a truncated cone, commonly worn by Italian boys. The felt hat, especially with raised or turned-up rims, remained in use in the very region of the ancient urn fields. It was such a head-cover that decorated the idols, the four-headed statues of Svantovit, such as the one found at Zbrucz in Galicia. It also survives in the Carpathians and Moravia, worn by all ages and classes. The close relation between these hats and those worn by the cremators is evidenced from the fact that they are seen only in the regions of the Hallstadtian crematory cemeteries and where urns with covers representing them are found.

            This headgear represents a part of the dress and manners of the cremators who made the figured urns. As their descendants are Slavs, so they themselves were Slavs.

            Kinship is based on physical relationship, though neither ethnographical elements common to two peoples nor even intellectual and moral resemblances, implying the identity of language, will always absolutely suffice to establish it. In this case, however, the question is of two peoples who in the course of time became one with no break in their existence on the same soil. Two peoples thus following one another must have some blood relationship, some kinship, even if their customs were not the same, but here the customs remained identical from age to age. Ethnographical similarities in this case therefore prove a certain bond between the peoples, one of whom was the heir of the other, and that there has been no ethnic severance, no substitution of one people for another. Still, demonstration of complete ethnic identity must, above all, rest on identity of physical characteristics of the two peoples; it must consist in a comparative study of their crania, but unfortunately we have none of these to study, for they were all cremated. We must therefore resort to indirect means to determine their probable physical characteristics.

            The burying people that settled in the north during the stone age was marked by an elongated skull, a generally high stature, and other features that permit us to term it blond dolichocephalic. In the burial tombs of Hallstadt, as also in those which appear about the beginning of the present era on the Vistula and in Bohemia, this type is exclusively found. Judging from the skeletons collected from the burial tombs, it can be said that the entire north, from the Danube to the Baltic, was occupied by this blond dolichocephalic people until several centuries into the present era.

            When the cremationists ceased burning their dead the aspect of things completely changed, and their crania begin to appear. We then perceive that the inhabitants of the very regions where formerly only blond dolichocephales were found are composed in the majority, and here and there exclusively, of people of medium size with a round skull or of the brachycephalic type. It therefore follows that the cremationists were brachycephalic. Now, brachycephaly is at present the essential, in fact, the only characteristic which connects with one another the great majority of the peoples of Slavic tongue.

Those people who introduced bronze in the Occident also introduced the rite of cremation; they early mingled with the indigenes. Directly and through its influence upon the indigenes we know that that people was brachycephalic, with dark skin and medium or short stature. They spread from the Danube toward the west during the bronze age, especially toward its end. We reserve for this people the name of Liguri. Before them came another people with the same characteristics, brachy cephalic and of the same origin, that settled on the Danube. For this people the name of Veneti is set apart, although it does not comprise all the brachycephales of the Danube and never belonged to those of the eastern zone of its territory.

            This settlement took place, as has been seen, at the beginning of the iron or Hallstadtian age. These cremationists gain ground and gradually become masters of the territory, at least north of the Adriatic and in Pannonia. We have none of their crania, and even in the countries where they constituted the entire population we cannot determine their personal appearance by direct observation, since they burned their dead. But we have the crania of their direct descendants, namely, of those who ceased cremating their dead under the influence and the injunctions of Christianity, and these crania are of the brachycephalic type. These brachvcephales, who from the Danube expanded northward as far as the innermost part of Russia, can be traced wherever there are Slavs, losing somewhat only in the intensity of their primitive characteristics in proportion as they are remote from their point of departure, their center of expansion.

[1] Abstract, by permission of the author, from Origines des Slaves, by M. Zaborowski, in Bulletins et Mémoires de la Sociéte d’Anthropologie de Paris, Paris, 1904, 5th series, Vol. V, pt. G, pp. 671-720.

[2] For other articles on the Slavs by Professor Zaborowski, see Revue de l’École d‘Authropologie for January, 1905; also the same Revue for January, 1906, under the title Penetration des Slaves et Transformation Cephalique en Bohéme et sur la Vistula. (The same author has in preparation similar papers on the Lithuanians and the Finns.)

[3] See Revue Scientifique. February 18, 1905.

[4] Revue de l’Ecole, January, 1905.

[5] Anything littoral has to do with a coast or shore.

[6] Authochthonism – the state of being aboriginal or native to a particular area.

[7] The Hallstadt culture was the predominant Western and Central European culture of Early Iron Age Europe from the 8th to 6th centuries BC, developing out of the Urnfield culture of the 12th century BC (Late Bronze Age) and followed in much of its area by the La Tène culture. It is commonly associated with Proto-Celtic and Celtic populations in the Western Hallstadt zone and with (pre-)Illyrians in the eastern Hallstadt zone. It is named for its type site, Hallstadt, a lakeside village in the Austrian Salzkammergut southeast of Salzburg.

[8] Compare Carl Pauli, Altitaliscbe Forschungen, III; D’Arbois de Jubainville, II, 57.

[9] Arii et Italici, 1898, p. 134.

[10] The La Tène culture was a European Iron Age culture named after the archaeological site of La Tène on the north side of Lake Neuchâtel in Switzerland, where thousands of objects had been deposited in the lake, as was discovered after the water level dropped in 1857.

[11] Germania, XLIII.

[12] Histoire des Goths, II.

[13] Voss. Zeitschrift für Ethnologie, 1903, p. 167.

[14] Ossowski, Monumenta, p. 101.

[15] Undseet, p. 137.

[16] Les Slaves de Race, Bulletin, 1900, p, 74.

[17] Wissenschaftliche Mittheilungen aus Bosnien. VII, 1900.

[18] M. Pauli, Die Veneder und ihre Schriftdenkmaler, Leipzig, 1891, p. 456.

[19] Les Slaves de Race, Bulletin, 1900, p. 77.


Autochthonism of the Wends or Serbo-Lusatians

This article by the Reverend Francis Domanski, S. J. first appeared in the Bulletin of the Polish Institute of Arts and Sciences in America in July 1944.

Authochthonism – the state of being aboriginal or native to a particular area.


By the Rev. Francis Domanski, S. J.

Durch die Ortsnamen, die ältesten und dauerndsten Denkmäler, erzählt eine vergangene Nation gleichsam selbst eigene Schicksale, and es jägt sick nur, ob ihre Stimme uns noch verständhch bleibt” – Topographic names reveal the history of most ancient and most lasting monuments as well as of peoples lost sight of in dawn of history; we need only to inquire whether their voice is still comprehensible. Wilhelm von Humboldt

            This significant opinion of the German linguist may be strictly adhered to in the case of the Sorbo-Lusatian or Serbo-Lausitzian people whom the Germans named “Restvolk,” remnants of a people … since they thought the nation dead and hoped that the world would soon forget about its remnants still living on the immense cemetery of Western Slavs.

            Fortunately, conscientious scholars, among them even Germans, in their philological and partly historical researches recognized the existence of Western Slavs in the basins of the Elbe and Oder rivers. The outcome of these researches furnishes an importance source of information to prove the autochtonism of the Sorbo-Lusatians. Objective truth, spoken by representative scholars of an unfriendly nation, lends formidable argumentative power to the problem in question.

            To this group of German scholars chiefly of the XVIII and XIX century, among others, belong: Burmeister, Domeier, Eccard, James Grimm and his brother William,[1] Leibnitz,[2] Jacobi, Oerlich, Pfefhnger, Tetzner.

            Their deductions concerning western Slavs, it is true, are predominantly one-sided and fallacious, nevertheless these researches in the realm of Slavonic languages furnish excellent source material proving that the Slavs are the autochtons of the Elbe and the Oder river basins.

            Pre-war anthropological, ethnological, particularly archaeological researches in Biskupin, Mogilno and Gniezno (in Poland) unearthed the historic truth about Western Slavs. They confirmed the results of nearly a century of research by Czech, Jugoslav, Lusatzian, Polish and Russian Slavists, like; Antoniewicz, Boguslawski’s, Czekanowski, Dobrowski, Hilferding, Hornik, Jegorov, Jencz, Katarga, Kętrzyński, Koczka, Kostrzewski, Lehr-Spławinski, Lelewel, Miklosich, Muka, Niederle, Niemierov, Palacky, Parczewski, Pful, Rudnicki, Smoler, Szafarzik, Strojev, Wachowski, Widajewicz, Wojciechowski and repudiated the German theory that the Western Slavs appeared as newcomers on ancient German soil (“urdeutsch”) in the basins of the Elbe, Oder and Vistula rivers in the sixth century after Christ.

            Sorbo-Lusatian autochtonism rests on solid foundations: 1-0 on the autochtonism of all European Slavs – thoroughly proven by Slavonic scholars; 2-0 on ancient Slavonic topographic names in Sorbo-Lusatia; 3-0 on ethnographic ancestral family names of the Sorbo-Lusatians of today; 4-0 on the religious ideas of ancient prehistoric Slavs of the Elbe basin; 5-0 on the outcome of researches concerning Slav languages in general and the Sorbo-Lusatzian tongue in particular; 6-0 on the prehistoric origin and the scope of Lusatzian culture.

            Since the fact is already firmly established, we shall in the course of this treatise merely touch upon the autochtonism of the Slavs. We intend to dwell more in detail on evidence of Sorbo-Lusatzian autochtonism evident in topographic and some family names.


            In this dissertation we are chiefly interested in the composite name of the country called “Sorbo-Lusatia” and in its inhabitants the “Sorbo-Lusatians.” Its compound character suggests that it is a geographic, ethnographic and historic definition. Consequently, in using the name “Sorbo-Lusatians” we have in mind the Sorbs who, under German pressure came to Lusatia from the triangle of the Sola (Saale), Mohan (Germ. Main) and Wettawa (Germ. Fulde) rivers in the IX and the X century. This definition may also be termed historic since Lusatia, or Sorbo-Lusatia of today is closely connected with the tragic history of the Transelbean Sorbs. When applied to the inhabitants of the country, the name Sorbo-Lusatians becomes an ethnographic definition since it is derived from two kin Slavonic tribes—the Sorbs and the Lusatians. The name Lusatia, used to define the country, is geographic. It began to be adopted in the X-th century. Prior to this period, the province bore the names of various tribes that dwelled therein. An example of this is ancient Milsko (now Upper Lusatia) which was inhabited by the Milzini, and Lusatia (now Lower Lusatia), the home of the Lusatians.

            What then is the correct name that should be applied to the inhabitants of Lusatia? Should it be the composite form of the name as is the case with the names Jugoslavs and Czechoslovaks, or the single name “Lusatians”? The majority of geographers and historians prefer the compound name: Sorbo-Lusatians; whereas Sorbo-Lusatian leaders and poets call the inhabitants – Sorbs, their language – Serbian and the mixed territory of today – Lusatia. Let us lend our attention to what John Arnoszt (Arnosht) Smoler has to say about his nation: “The Serbs called “Wends” (Wenden) by the Germans are a part of the great Slavonic peoples that at one time inhabited the entire province extending from the Bober to the Soła (Saale) rivers and to the Czech mountains. They bordered on the south with the Czechs and on the north with the Lutitzi. In some points the eastern borders touched on the Oder and the Warta rivers and the juncture at which the Soła empties into the Elbe. The Serbs consisted of many tribes, the most numerous among them being the Lusatians and the Milzini. Then as now, the Lusatians lived in Lower Lusatia, whereas the Milzini lived in what is now called Upper Lusatia but which at that time was known as Milczany or Milsko (Milzin).”[3] The Sorbo-Lusatian linguist and historian, J. A. Jencz, describes the ethnographic boundaries of the Sorbo-Lusatians as follows: “The Lusatians inhabited Lower Lusatia and the neighboring countries to the north as far as Berlin and on the east, they reached the Oder river. Whereas the Milzini lived south of Lower Lusatia, between the Queisse (Serb. Kwiaź) river, the Czech mountains and the Elbe river. In our days this country is called Upper Lusatia. The Sorbs, strictly speaking, lived on the left bank of the Elbe river and in the entire basin of the Queisse river, in the neighborhood of Lipsk (Leipzig), Starogrod and Zyc.”[4] (Zeitz, near Leipzig).

            According to Jencz, the Serbs were transplanted in the IX century from Transelbean soil to the present Luneburg (Drzewiany) to clear the Luneburgian forests. He bases this assertion on Mencken’s “Scriptores rerum Germaniae’ where in part 11, page 65, the author writes thus: “Carolus Magnus assumpsit etiam populum Transalbinum ad 10,000 utriustque sexus et per omnes terras distribuit, unde hodie per Teutoniam slavicae villae inveniuntur”. Charles the Great also chose about 10,000 Transelbean people of both sexes and scattered them throughout all parts of the territory; that accounts for the large number of villages in Teutonia that bear Slavonic names.[5] It is true that a large percentage of the Sorbs that dwelled in the Elbe river basin were dislodged from their native land by the Germans but this does not prove that Luneburg and Brunswick were never inhabited by Slavs. At present the historic boundary of western Slavs is scientifically established. The Transelbean Serbs lived in the triangle lying between the Upper Elbe river, the Erzgebirge (Kruszne Hory) mountains, the Soła (Saale), Wełtawra (Fulde) and upper Mohan (Main) rivers. Whereas the Lusatians dwelled on the right bank of the upper Elbe river in the west, and the Oder, Bober and Queisse rivers in the east, the Union of the Welets (Weletaben, Veletians, Wiltzi) in the north and the Czech mountains in the south.

            After establishing the boundaries of the Transelbean Sorbs and the Lusatians, let us direct our attention to the etymology of the names of these countries and of its inhabitants. Etymologically it is impossible to trace the derivation of Serbsko and of its inhabitants on the basis of ancient and more recent authors for lack of definite references. What was transmitted to us by some medieval and modern German authors is so uncertain and hazy that it appears more like the product of phantasy than historic facts.

            Jencz’s statement that the history of western Slavs is enshrouded in darkness may also be applied to the origin of the name Serbsko and Sorbs. The name of Transelbean Sorbs, according to Jordan, is derived from Slavi, that is the Slavs. “The Sorabs – writes Jordan – were also called Sorbi, Serbi, Svorbi, Sverbi, Sirbi, Svirbi, Servi.” Then citing Francelius, he continues: “We must seek for the derivation of the name Lusatia not elsewhere but in the name Sclavi that is Sorbi.”[6] According to Manlius, commentator on the works of Hoffman, the Sorbs are indebted for their name to the Sarmatians.[7]

            There is evidence of some kinship between the names Serbs and Suevi (very likely a Slavic tribe). The proximate neighborhood of the Suevi and the Serbs, the near identity of the sound of the names of these tribes (Suevi, Suavi, Sverbi, Servi, Serbi) leads to the supposition that probably the Transelbean Slavs are the Suevi Semnones distinguished by the Greek writer from the Suevi Teutoni.

            According to Kętrzyński and Kujot, the Suevi were Slavs. This opinion was formed on the basis of the chronicles of Procopius, where southern Slavs are called “Suevi” and on Caesar’s history, “De bello Gallico” which states that the lands of the Suevi extend as far as Slavonic topographic names of today, that is to the right bank of the Rhine river. Kętrzyński repudiates the German theory that the Sueves are Germans (Schwab) since most ancient sources indicate that the Suevi are autochtons.[8] However, the reports of Kętrzyński and Kujot encounter obstacles in the fact that the language of the Suevi of medieval times has nothing in common with Slavonic languages in general and with the Serbian language of the Elbe basin in particular. It is rather an old German tongue called by Scherzius – the Schwabian dialect.[9] Likewise many German linguists in presenting specimen and relics of the languages of various ancient peoples that at one time or another dwelled on the right bank of the Rhine river and in the Elbe basin, fail to present the language of the Suevi as Slavonic. There remains only one hypothesis, namely, that Ptolemy’s Semnonian Suevi differentiated by him from the Teutonic Suevi – were Slavs.[10]* * * 8 * 10

            On the strength of this hypothesis we may take for granted that the Slav language of the Suevi is the Sorbo-Lusatzian language. The fact that in remote times the Slav language was common to all the Slavs, confirms this hypothesis. Variation in dialects must have been very slight in those days since even at present, the remnants of languages of the Drzewiany, Lutitzi and Obodriti, differs little from the Sorbo-Lusatian language spoken in Luneburg. Thus, in the name of Transelbean Sorbs there is trace of etymological kinship with that of the Suevi. Probably in his description of the Slavonic tribe which he called: ‘‘Osmisjoj Ouenetaj, Souevoj Samnitaj,” whose dwelling place extended from the Elbe to the Sueve river, Ptolemy had in mind the Slavonic tribe that in medieval times was designated as Svorbi, Sverbi, Svirbi, Serbs.

            Vibius Sequester (VI cent.) in his work: “De fluminibus” mentions the Cervati, that is the Serbs. “Albis (Elbe) – he says – Suevos a Cervaus dividit.” The names Cervetii, Cervati, Ciervisti, Zerbisti, Kirvisti designate one Slavonic tribe, namely, the Serbs.[11]

            Although a thorough etymological clarification of the names Serbsko and Serbs has not yet been attained, nevertheless it is historic truth that from most remote days this country was Slavonic and its autochtonic population is of Slavonic origin and remains Slavonic to this very day. Jordan tries to prove, through reference to Nesenus, Cramer and Kunschke, that the Serbs were brought by Czechs to the banks of the Elbe river and the Lusatians to the Spree river.[12] These fantastic ramblings of German leaders and writers, by which they entangle themselves into an intricate mesh from which it is hard to extricate oneself, were aptly repudiated by Szafarzik.[13] In the latter part of the XIX century and in the period preceding the present war (World War II), German scholars endeavored to prove that the origin of the Sorbo Lusatians is German. Their bare worded boasts met with a sharp retort from such Sorbo-Lusatian scholars as: Pful, Smoler, Muka, Jencz.[14]

            The etymological derivation of the names Lausitz or (in Latin) Lusatia and Lusatians is not as difficult to as difficult to ascertain as to the names Serbsko and Serbs. The name Lusatia is derived from the nature of the country that lies between the rivers Black Halstrov (Die Schwarze Elster) on the west, Oder (wendish Vodra, that is weather, wind, in Ptolemy: Jado, Viadro, Viedro), Bober and Queisse on the east, the Veletian Union on the north, and Milsko (Upper Lusatia of today) on the south.

            Tacitus terms the Lusatians, or rather the Sorbo-Lusatians – Lygians.[15] Strabo calls them Lujans – a great people.[16] The ancient name Lygii, Luji corresponds to the Sorbo-Lusatian name: Łuhi, Łuhoyty, Łuża meaning – meadows, marshes, lowland fields; and the inhabitants of that country called Łużichenyo (Lusatians), in his book “Wo słowjanskich mestnych mjenach i wo jich wuznamje,’’ (About the Slavic topographic names and their meanings) Smoler explains the origin of the Lusatians in this manner: “The Upper and Lower Lusatians are people whom the Czechs call Serbs, but they proceed from Ługi that is meadows, marshes.”

            According to Jordan, the Lusatians hail from northern Slavs called Lutitzi.[17] Francelius derives the names Lusatia and Lusatians from the Serbian word “łuża” (marsh, moor, lake). This name, properly fitting Lower Lusatia is also used to for a part of Upper Lusatia.[18] Nesenus and Kunschke – like Jordan, derive the names Lusatia and Lusatians from Lutitzi.[19]

            There is no longer any shadow of doubt that the name Lusatia and that of its inhabitants is derived from the nature of their country, that is from “Ługi” (meadows, marshes). Similar names are encountered in Poland and Russia. There is the river Łužyca, tributary of the Prosna river, in the Kalisz district of Poland; Włodzimierz Wołyński (Vlodimir Volynski), also in Poland, is situated on the Ługa river. The Russian town of Ługa lies in the marshy regions of the Ługa river, which empties into the Gulf of Finland; the Łuża river is a tributary of the Donetz river in the Ukraine. All these topographic names derive their origin from the nature of the territory on which they are situated.

            In Local Lusatian dialects Sorbo-Lusatians are called Hajaks, Groniaks, Holans. Speaking about an Upper Lusatian, a Lower Lusatian will say: “This is a Hajak.” This expression is coined from the adverb “haj” which means – yes. Since in commonplace conversation the Sorbo-Lusatians often use the characteristic affirmative expression “haj, haj,” they are called Hajaks, Whereas Lower Lusatians are called Groniks or Groniaks from the word “gromić” which means – to speak, to say. In the Upper Lusatian dialect “to say” is expressed by the word “ryczec”- from “rykać, rzykać, recz, recz” In Polish this word means – to bellow. In the wooded regions in the vicinity of Mużakov, the Sorbo-Lusatians are also known as Holans or Holaks from the word “hola” (forest, woods); the diminutive form of this word is “holka” and when applied to persons it becomes Holak, Holk, The word “hola” in Sorbo-Lusatian dialect also designates the exclamatory word “hey!” Polish – hop, hop! The Poles call the Sorbo-Lusatians also Pushchans or Pushchaks from the word “pushcha” which means in Polish a thick, deep forest.[20] The same phenomenon of dialectic formation of ethnographic names is also encountered in Poland. For instance, name “Tajojki” (Tayoykee) from “ta joj!” is fondly applied to the Polish inhabitants of Lwów.

            As a rule, the Germans nowadays do not use the names “Sorbo- Lusatians, Lusatians,” but the ancient name of Wends (Wenden).

            According to Thompson, the word “Wend” was used (and still is) by North Germans to describe the Slavs of the Elbe and the Baltic coast, without distinction of tribe. “The name – says Thompson was derived from the Wenidi or Winidi, a formidable Slavonic tribe in the time of Charlemagne, and came to be used to indicate the Slavs much as the word waelsch (English Welsh) was employed to indicate foreigners in general, e. g., French and Italians. A modern parallel is the Boer word Uitlander (“Outlander”) in South Africa, to describe the English and Portuguese there.”[21]

            The names Wends and Wenedi, Winidi, Wenden, Vidi, etc. for Sorbo-Lusatians and all western Slavs became established in the non-Slavonic scientific world. But never did the Sorbo-Lusatians or other Slavonic peoples employ that name. This fact was demonstrated by the best Slavonic scholars and admitted by some German authors. Burmeister frankly concedes that no Slavonic peoples that dwelled between the Oder and the Elbe river ever called themselves Wends, only Serbs, Velets, Obodrites, Lutitzi, Kashubs, Poles, etc.[22]

            A question spontaneously arises as to the reason why ancient Roman and Greek as well as medieval and modern non-Slavonic authors called the Slavs – Wenden, Wends, Venedi, Vendi, Vidi, Vindi, Vinidi, Vinuli, Vidivarii. Concerning this matter there were many theories formulated in the past century and in recent days. Most curious of all are the linguistic arguments. We may say that the development of linguistics teamed with archaeological researches supplemented history, by establishing and clarifying many historic facts.[23]

            Hanusz traces the name Wenden to the Nordic word vata and the Lithuanian vandu, meaning water, and to the Latin word unda – wave, river, (In Polish, Russian, Czech, Slovak, Lusatian water means voda). The name Wenden used to designate the Slavs; it is also said to have originated from the Vangions, who owe their name to their king Vengius. He is said to have been a king of the Sarmatians. The third explanation of the meaning of the name Wenden, Hanusz derives from old German names: binden – to bind; wintan – to torment; and from ubar-winten – to conquer, to over-come, to bound. According to this explanation Wend means a conquerer and the conquered, the free and the slave.

            Miklosich leads this name out of the Sanskrit word bandh – to bind again, to bind behind. The old German binden and winten and the Sanskrit bandh correspond to the old Slavonic: witi – to bind which in turn comes from roots: ązu, otizu; ąza, onza, that is, fetters, shackles and from: ążika, onżika, that is wife, a relative. Hence come the words “mąż, mężatka” (husband, married woman). The Polish word wiązać, wić, wieńczyć – to bind, to wreathe, to crown with laurel, and the Czech venec, vencziti proceed from the same root. The Polish: zwyciężać, zwycięstwo, to win, winner, and the Czech: vitez come from the old Slavonic: witęzi, witęz (all these words designate victory). The Sorbo-Lusatian word: wićarz and wićaz means a winner.

            The name of the generally known ancient Slavonic pagan idol Sviatovit, Svetovit, in its literal meaning designates holy conqueror, holy contender. Even to this day Sorbo-Lusatians say: “Svjatovit, Svjato-Vit, holy conqueror.” Consequently, according to Hanusz and Miklosich the name Wends was given to the warring Slavonic tribes who became subjugated as a result of their constant battles with their western and northern neighbors. The name Wend, Wenden, Windi, etc. was already known to ancient Roman, Greek and Arabian writers. Pliny the Elder calls the Slavs – Venedi, Ptolemy – Ouenedaj, Enetaj and Antaj; Jordan – Ouins.[24] The mention in Icelando-Scandinavian sagas of Slavs under the name of Vani, Venetes and of their country Vindland, dates back to the Xth century. The sagas themselves or tales about Icelando-Scandinavia date from the XII-XIV centuries.[25] The information about Slavs as Wends given by Ibrahim-ibn-Jakub comes from the year 965. The Arabian text of this book “Al-Bekri” verified by the Dutch Orientalist, Goeje, contains descriptions of the Slavonic and Baltic countries and their inhabitants, which were at that time called Venedi by strangers but by natives they were called Slavs according to their tribal and clan names. Szafarzik further proves that the name Venedi, Vindi, Wenden was used only by non-Slavonic peoples, whereas the Slavs originally called themselves Serbs (Srb).[26]

            Hilferding traces the name of Wends to the Sanskrit wanitas, wantas a synonym for the name of the entire Aryan race that inhabited the region of Arjavarta. That name denotes “noble men” or well-bred people.[27] Niederle leads the name Wends from the days when the Slavs lived in contact with the Gauls – that is Celts by whom the Slavs were so called due to the light color of their hair and eyes.[28] In the Celtic language the root word vind, vend means white, fair colored. But the derivation of the name Slavs from the color of their hair and eyes cannot serve as a criterion to ascertain the origin of the name Wends. Because the Celts, particularly those that once lived in north-western Europe have hair of the same color as the Slavs. Consequently, we must seek a different criterion as a basis for the explanation of this name. It must be noted here, in passing, that there exists no scientific source to give us certainty in this matter The knowledge in the scientific world concerning the origin of ethno­graphic names in general bears the character of hypothesis, which in the majority of cases operates on probabilities.

            The aforegiven arguments concerning the origin of the name Wends afford certain linguistic comparisons that throw a little light on this difficult question. The very word Wend, Wind, vata, vandu, traced through the languages, has its very root in the Sanskrit. The name India, transferred through Persians to Greeks and through Greeks to Romans, comes from the Persian word Hindu, equivalent to the East Indian name Sindu, meaning river in general and the Indus river in particular. The Latin words unda, wave, river, water; una, dampness, liquid; and the Lithuanian vandu derive their origin from the common Sanskrit root: nadi, river, udadhi, sea; vari, water.[29] Since in prehistoric times the Slavs that came to Europe settled around rivers, lakes and seas, they might have been given the name Wends from the nature of the terrain they inhabited (water, river, sea), that is people living around water. North of Dekan land, in East India, there are the Windija mountains, cut by rivers that strongly remind us of the prehistoric names of Slavs, namely: Windi, Wendi, Wenedi, Winidi, etc.[30]

            Szafarzik derives the name of Slavs from the Hindus, called in Greek ho Indos, Indicos, he Indike; in Latin Indus, Indi, India; in Hebrew – Hondo; in Arabic – Hind; in Ethiopian – Hendu.[31] This leads us to the supposition that the origin of this name, still enveloped in historic haze, is Hindu. This name, as is evident from various linguistic combinations and from its present meaning, as it is given by Germans and Anglo-Saxons, passed through a series of historic transitions. Beginning with historic days up to our own rimes, the name Wends is synonymous with the name Slavs. According to the Arabian chronicles of Ismael Abulpheda: “Takwim al Boldan” an account of the government – “Al Mochtassar Fi Achbar, Al Basciar” – Universal History – the name Slavs comes from the Slav chief Seclaba. After dropping the vowel “e” the name was pronounced Sclaba, later Slaba, finally Slava. Such was, according to this line of reasoning, the origin of the names Slavs, Seclavi, Sclabi, Sclavi, Slavi. There are ancient, medieval and modern writers who claim that the name Slavs is derived from the Slavonic word sława (slava) that is fame, gloria. To these belong: Jornandes, Kadłubek, Kohlius, Kromer, Kulcinius, Papanek, Prohob, Skarga. According to Papanek, the word slava comes from gloria.[32] Hence the expressions: slavny wodz (famous chief, leader), slavny pan (famous lord) corresponds to the Latin: “Gloriosus dux, gloriosus dominus.” Since the idea of glory is always linked with the idea of light, majesty, certain pertinent expression came in vogue in the Polish language, like: “Jaśnie Panie” (illustrious or famous lord). Ancient and medieval Poles, Sorbo-Lusatians and Czechs gave their chiefs and the children of princely blood names like: Bogu Slav, which means glory to God; Bole Slav, growing in fame; Vraci Slav – returning, giving back fame, glory, etc.[33]

            Długosz, Heberstein, Jordan, Hajek derive the name Slav from the word slovo (word) that is from the language common to all Slavs. To this source they also trace the names: Slovacy (Slovaks), Slovency (Slavenians), Slovincy (Slovinians—now Kashubs). “There is no agreement – says Adam Mickiewicz – as to whether the name Slav comes from slava or slovo, but according to its general and most common meaning Slavanian designates the language common to all these peoples (Slavs).”[34]

            The arguments produced by non-Slavonic authors lead to the conclusion that Wend, Wenden, used by the Germans, is rather a depreciatory name for the slavs, since there is a certain amount of malice in the word meaning – which means fettered, slaves. On the other hand, the constructive meaning of Wenden, Wend (from “ubar-winten”), meaning glory, conqueror is adopted in their arguments by Slav authors. To a certain extent, this points to the fact that the words Wend and Slavs are synonymous. Amidst this uncertainty as to the origin and meaning of the names Wends, Slavs, there is one thing clear, namely that the western Slavs just like all other Slavs, especially the Sorbo-Lusatians derived their name from the characteristics of their native land and from the conditions of life forced upon them in the course of their often tragic history.

            We have seen how German pressure brought about the migration of Elbean Sorbs to the east of the Elbe river, where, together with the Lusatians they formed the Sorbo-Lusatian principality. The numerous and culturally more alert Sorbs, were instrumental in establishing in the IX and X century the name of the inhabitants of Lusatia as Sorbs, and to designate their language, consisting of several dialects, as Sorbian. The Lusatians, on the other hand, as a more numerous group left the imprint of their individuality and of their cultural supremacy over the Miltzini, by succeeding in having their name appear in the composite name Sorbo-Lusatians. The instinct of self-preservation, consciousness of common danger of extermination by the Germans led to this union, a trace of which is found in the compound name of the country and of its inhabitants. The remnant evidence of tribal differences can, however, still be detected in the dialects of Upper and Lower Lusatia and in the Sorbian language.

When did the Sorbo-Lusatians appear in the Basins of the Elbe and the Oder rivers?

            An answer to this question is to a great extent contained in the problem of autochtonism in general and partly in the aforesaid deductions concerning the origin and the meaning of the name Sorbo- Lusatia and Sorbo-Lusatians. Since the present treatise is chiefly concerned with the clarification of the problems of the Sorbo-Lusatian nation whose autochtonism is bitterly contended by the Germans, this point lends us an opportune moment to expose the false premises on which the Germans build their one-sided, imperialistic tendencies.

            The falsehood and error of German scholars repudiating the autochtonism of the Sorbo-Lusatians lies in the fact that these scholars fixed the VI century A.D. as the time for the coming of the Sorbo-Lusatians into the basin of the Oder and the Elbe rivers. Such is the opinion of the majority of German scholars but there are exceptions among them. For instance, Jordan in his work “De originibus Slavicis” (vol. I, part I, page 216-17) realizing that these deductions are illogical and in some instances contradictory (historic gap between I to VI and IX centuries A.D.) explains the matter in this fashion: “Since the authors (German) cannot state anything definite concerning the coming of the Slavs to Germany, I see no other reason for their presence here except the fact that the Slavonic peoples flooded Germany, not once but many times.”

            Honest German scholars were aware that neither Tacitus, nor Pliny the Elder, nor Caesar, nor Ptolemy, nor Herodotus knew anything more about the countries bordering on die Rhine, Elbe, Oder and Vistula rivers, than what they had learned from descriptions of merchants.[35] Careful investigation led German scholars to the conviction that the general name “Germania” is not accurate, and that the expression “totum” must be understood as “pro parte,” since only a small part of that territory (Germania and the Germans) was well known to the Greeks and Romans, whereas 75% of the region constituted for them a “terram ignotam,” which was inhabited by Slavonic peoples. Exactly about these peoples do ancient writers speak as early as the first and second century after Christ calling them Venedi, Vindi, Vidi, Ligii, Lygii, Lugani, Suevi Semnones, Suevi Diduni, Sverbi, Servi, Sclavi, Slavi.

            No wonder then that at least some German scholars could not overlook and pass in silence over these striking facts but endeavored to overthrow the arguments of their colleagues. In a foreword to Burmeister’s work on the language of the Obodrites (in reality they were the Drzewians), the German linguist J. Grimm states that the Slavs inhabited the basins of the Elbe, Oder and Danube rivers before the VI century after Christ.[36] On page 11 of his treatise, Burmeister states that the Obodrites who live along the northern Elbe basically do not differ in language and culture from the Lutitzi or the Velets and from Lusatian Sorbs.[37] Great similarity in customs, architecture, local costumes, folklore, songs, most ancient religious beliefs and fundamental similarity of language – all point to this fact. Furthermore quite evident are topographic Slavonic names in the basin of the Elbe river.[38]

            Szafarzik, one of the most outstanding Czech Slavists, points to the incongruity of the arguments of German scholars in their endeavor to explain the origin of the Slavs, to lack of logic and contradictions in their efforts to cast doubt as to the autochtonism of Slavs. These are Szafarzik’s words: “It is evident that all pre-nations, even today unmingled and self-sufficient, like the Slavs and the Germans in the prehistoric epoch of about 3000 years ago, must have been an unigenous tribe; had they (later in historic times) originated from intermingled tribes they would cease to be a pure, self-dependent pre-nation. But no sane person would dare to assert that the Slavs are not as pure a pre-nation as the Germans. Have the Celts, Latins and Greeks appeared on the stage of history as an intermixture of various tribes, as did the Wolochs who emerged out of the mixture of Gets and Romans? Such assertion would be proof of absolute ignorance of the history of ancient peoples, and of the intellectual culture of the Slavs embodied in their genuinely developed language attributes and its Slavonic character, the Slav language bears such evident characteristics of originality which is in itself an indisputable proof of its independent formation by a pre-Slavonic nation in prehistoric times.

            Some tribe might adopt a new and foreign language without losing its antiquity, as is the case with the Jadi, but they could never produce such an original, pure, grammatically perfect language, with a wealth of dialects, as is the Slav language, without a pre-ancient, self-dependent pre-nation.”[39]

            On the basis of the few remarks thus far given about the Sorbo-Lusatians we may conclude that: The Sorbo-Lusatian language with its wealth of dialects (90,000 words) bearing the same character and self-sufficiency as other Slavonic languages, must have its pre-source in the pre-historic times of the Slav pre-nation. Slav languages are as ancient as the Greek, Latin and German languages. The pre-historic remoteness of the Slav languages is the best proof of Slav autochtonism in Europe.[40]

            There is a whole series of German authors who on the basis of similarity of religious beliefs among ancient Slavs and Asiatic peoples of the Iranian Plateau and of India, try to uphold the assertion that the Sorbo-Lusatians appeared on German soil in the VI century after Christ.[41]

            This dissertation is not destined to repudiate the purposeful and at times malicious comments concerning the religious beliefs of ancient Slavs. This was attested to by Polish, Czech, Sorbo-Lusatian and Russian scholars.[42] Our attention shall be focused on tracing the lack of logic and of historic accuracy of German authors on this topic.

            Kinship between the Slavs, Medo-Persians and the peoples of Hast India can easily be established. But this is no proof that the Slavs came to Europe in the period of the migration of peoples that is in the sixth century. The dualistic religion of the Medo-Persians (element of good and evil, the spirit of light and the spirit of darkness) dated to six thousand or at least 700 years B.C. The oldest religious system of East India originated between 2,000 and 1,000 years B.C. From the existence of kinship and of occasional cases of identity of Sorbo-Lusatian religious beliefs with those of the Medo-Persians and of the Hindu, it does not follow that the ancient Sorbo-Lusatians migrated from Asia exactly at the time of the migration of nations. The excavations in Biskupin (in Poland), in Lusatia and in Stettin bear testimony that as early as 700 to 400 B.C., that is 2500 years ago, the Slavs already dwelled in the basins of the Elbe, Oder and Vistula rivers. Neither the numerous fortified outposts, nor towns, nor well established settlements could spring up suddenly. The very kinship and identity of some phases of Slavic religious ideas with those of the Medo-Persians and the Hindus points to the fact that the Slavs came to Europe at least a thousand years B.C.

            Thompson in his “Feudal Germany”[43] presents the religion of the Slavs falsely by comparing it with Manicheism or with the beliefs of the Cathari. The author cites Helmold, who detects in the beliefs of the Slavs satanism. These false outlooks were upset by the Sorbo-Lusatian scholars: Smoler, Jencz, Muka, Hornik. From the accurate and all-sided researches of these celebrated Slavists it is evident that in the religion of the Elbean Slavs especially Sorbo-Lusatians there is not the least trace of the cult of Satan, nor Manicheistic nor Catharistic ideas. The black deity in Sorbo-Lusatia Zcerneboh or Czarnyboh is not Satan but the personification and symbol of the powerful and destructive strength of nature. Again the white deity Bjelyboh or Bielboh is the source of all good especially of light and heat. The symbol of this deity is the sun which ancient and pre-historic Sorbo-Lusatians called Dazboh, which means the greatest gift of God. German chroniclers through their lack of knowledge of Slav language wrongly interpreted the names of Slavonic deities.[44]

            We shall agree with Adam Mickiewicz, that the religion of ancient Slavs is primitive, patriarchal, such as is given in the Book of Genesis. God, the enemy of God, the immortality of human soul and memory of some transgression that demands redemption are evident in the manner in which sacrifices were offered. Religion, as we know it from most ancient historians, monuments, Slav folklore and tradition proves the very remote antiquity of that nation. The threefold dogmatic beliefs in: God as Supreme Being, struggle of good with evil, and immortality of human soul differentiates the Slavs from Greek politheists, Celtic deists, believers in spirits, and the religion-less Ural tribes. This belief in dogmas regulated the basic aspects of their political and social existence. It is now generally known that a definite knowledge of the religious beliefs of a given nation is a requisite for the tracing of that nation’s formation. Religious ideas explain the essence of the life of these peoples in the past as well as their present state.

            Superficial evaluation (often based merely on the sounds of mythological words) of Slavonic mythology is responsible for erroneous conclusions that were reached by some historians. A profound, comparative study of the religions of all mankind by learned theologians of our days, revealed that many mythological beliefs of the pre-Christian era are simply a more or less deteriorated primitive faith in one God and in life beyond the grave.

Proof of Sorbo-Lusatian Autochtonism on Topographic Basis

            The names of places in the Upper Elbe basin and along the left tributaries of the Oder river constitute objective and authoritative sources of argument to prove the autochtonism of the Sorbo-Lusatians, since the name of a given place usually describes its essential characteristics, or an important circumstance, quality or property which originated the name. For instance, Bjeła Gora (White Mountain) a village in Lusatia is so named from the white hills on which it stands. Plonka, a village in the Lublin district of Poland, derives its name from wici (vitzi) or plonks that came from ancient Slav forests. In times of a threatening attack from the enemy, these “plonki” or “wici” were sent to neighboring settlements as a call to common defense.[45]

            German linguists and historians who repudiate the autochtonism of the Slavs of the Elbe, Oder and Vistula on the basis of similarity in Polish, Sorbo-Lusatian and German topographic and family names, argue that the Slavs who came later into that region, changed German names into Slavonic. These authors simply fall into their own trap since the fact is that the root of the Germanized names of families and places is not German but Slavonic. The names as they are given in German transcription not only fail to describe the nature of the place but at times express something meaningless or even ridiculous. German authors like Abel, Bender, Orlich, Oerlich, Pischon, Pott, Schelz, Schwenk, Steub, Cassel, Geisheim, Weinhold[46] – find difficulty in reading family and topographic names, found throughout the basins of the Elbe and Oder rivers, with apparently German sounds but in reality of Slavonic origin.

            Some conscientious German linguists and authors who treat matters objectively, openly admit that the Germans live on ancient Slavonic soil and that those who desire to gain a perfect knowledge of the German language must necessarily study the Polish, Czech, Sorbo-Lusatian and other ancient Slavonic languages. German linguists like Burmeister, Oerlich, Grimm, Eccard and Kirchmeier encouraged students to study those languages. Oerlich in his Latin work on Slavonic languages in the basins of the Elbe and the Oder rivers gives, according to his expression only “some” of these topo­ graphic names in Wittemberg and its environs to demonstrate the necessity of studying Slavonic languages by Germans. In Wittemberg: the villages Breda, Trebitz, Dobrun, Dobin, Bistritz, Labez (Labecy), Laez (Lecy or Lec), Dragun, Zemiennik (very likely derived from the Slavonic tribe – Ziemczyce),[47] Murzana, Klobik. Neighboring towns: Pretz, Deuben, Domitsch, Belgora, Boiza, Zehna, Seida, Jessen, Niemec, Belzig. Towns in other localities of the broad stretch of land on the right bank of the Elbe and the left bank of the Oder river and down to the Sudeten mountains: Servesta, Sorbiga, Gueterbock, Szlieba, Brena, Rochlitz, Strehla, Warzen, Lommatsch or Glomatsch from the Slavonic tribe Glomacze, Dresden (Drażdźany), Leipzig (Lipsko), Kemnitz (Kamienica), Brema, Rostock (Roztoka), Breslau (Wroclaw), Camentz (Kamieniec), Budissin, Lubec. The more important families of nobility: Miltitz (Milczyc), Hauchwitz (Gachwicz or Hachwicz), Marwitz (Marwicz), Koekritz, Cotwitz. “Then – continues Oerlich – follow generally known family names like Foyt or Voigt, Zeche, Schelm, Schok, all of Slavonic origin.” This haphazard enumeration of topographic and family names, Oerlich concludes with the remark: “And who would be able to state in detail all the countless Slavonic names?”[48]

            Mathaeus Belius (of the XIX century), a German linguist, in his book: “Institutiones linguae Germanicae” (without date or place of publication), writes thus on page 81: “Many people of Wend nation live on this seashore (Baltic Sea) together with their kings, and numerous towns, settlements and villages got their names from their native language. Whereas a much greater number of Wends was present on this seashore from about the middle of the past century (XVIII).”[49]

            The aforementioned German authors draw the attention of their countrymen to the fact that the Germanization of topographic and family names in the basins of the Elbe and the Oder rivers is quite superficial. The German conquerors of Slavonic soil contributed their orthography and pronunciation to the vanquished, but they failed not only to give essence to the names of places but also to give to the superficially Germanized Slavs the German spirit in customs and tradition; in a word they simply coated Slavonic culture with German paint.

            Concrete examples will best clarify the aforesaid remarks. In his precious book “About Slavonic names of places in Upper Lusatia and their meanings” Smoler cites instances of this surface deep Germanization of topographic and family names, effected in an artificial, naive and at time ridiculous manner. Here are some of these names: Miloraz (village in Lower Lusatia) changed by the Germans to Muellrose which literally means Garbagerose, since Muell stands for a garbage dump. A pretty Lusatian or Polish name becomes a German scarecrow. Bjela Gora (White Mountain) – a village in Lower Lusatia – becomes Byleghure which is sheer nonsense as far as the German language goes. Strożiszczo (meaning a post, watch tower) becomes Strohschuetz – protection of a straw or straw protection. Niza Wjes, meaning a village situated in a lowland, in German is rendered as Niesendorf, that is sneezer, since niesen in German means “to sneeze.” Lichan (the name of a village which in Lusatian language means poor, forlorn, miserable) was changed to Leichnam – a corpse, a dead body. Wysoka (High) – is transformed into Weissig, that is whitish, etc. This points to artificiality, naivete, and ignorance of the Sorbo-Lusatian language by the “godfathers” who changed beautiful, ancient prehistoric Slavonic names into ridiculous, nonsensical combinations of words. The cheap, shallow German recasting of Slavonic proper names transformed them into veritable monsters. From Hawsztynek (diminutive for Augustin) the Germans coined Hausding. The official ancient name for the fields of village, zagon, zahon, the Germans in their account books gave as Sauhahn, literally meaning a piggish rooster – since Sau in German means sow, and Hahn is the word for rooster. Smoler states that the XIII century saw the birth of these monstrosities. The Sorbo-Lusatians laugh at these officially published “beautiful names” while in their daily life they continue to use Slavonic names. This is true not only of Lusatia but also of Silesia, western Poland, Pomerania and East Prussia.

            On the whole, the Germanization of Slavonic topographic and family names was restricted to the addition of a German suffix to a Slavonic name. Let us take such Germanized names as Drauskowitz, Jannowitz. These names, in the purest Serbian language of Lusatia are Drużkecy (from drużk, druh – a friend), Janecy (Polish – Janecki). Whereas topographic names derived from these family names are Drużkovicy, Janovicy. (Polish Drużkowice, Janowice).

            It is evident in germanized Sorbo-Lusatian topographic names that in both of the Lusatian dialects in time “G” took the place of “H,” “D” of “DZ,” “T” of “C,” and “Ł” even as late as the XIII century was pronounced everywhere in Lusatia exactly as it is pronounced now in Lwów, Wilno and Warsaw, while at present, under the influence of Germanization it is pronounced as “W.” Let us compare such topographic names as Huska (goose) with German Gaussig; Hlina (clay) with German Gleina; Hora (mountain), with the German Guhra; Dźeżnikecy and German Denkwitz; Dźeże (a dough bowl) – German Diehsa; Hucina, and German Guttau; Necin – German Niethen; Cjemjericy, German Temmeritz; Łusk (now pronounced Wusk) – German Lauske; Łaz – German Lohsa; Luh – German Luga; Wuricy (formerly Łuricy) – German Auritz; Wopaleń (Opole) instead of former Opaleń which means scorched – German Oppeln; Boszowice, instead of Boszojce; Brodkowice, in place of Brodkojce.

            In proportion as, due to pressure, German influence on the German Sorbo-Lusatian language increased – Polish and Czech influence diminished, consequently the language adopted many abbreviations and German characteristics. There are many names in Upper Lusatian dialect ending in: ECY, ICY, ANY, OWY, AN, EN, IN, ON, UN, also in C, D, Dz, I, J, K, etc. – the same as in the Polish language. The following are some examples: From the surnames Boszecy, Jankecy (today the family of Boszow, Jankow) we have the origin of names of places like: Boszecy, Jankecy. The Germans transformed them into Baschuetz, Jenkwitz; Banecy (village in Upper Lusatia) became Pannewitz.

            The personal proper name BAN is often encountered among southern Slavs. It has the same meaning as the Polish “pan” (lord), “ksiązą” (prince), “władca” (ruler). Had the Germans at least an inkling of Serbian, Czech, Polish and Sorbo-Lusatian languages they could have named the places according to their historic derivation.

            The cited specimens constitute only a small part of superficially Germanized Lusatian names which nevertheless retained their true meaning.[50]

            The arguments stated in this sketch concerning the autochtonism of the Sorbo-Lusatians spontaneously bring forth the question why German literature is so voluminous in its treatment of the Slavs in the Oder and the Elbe river basins. What prompted German scholars to study the Slavs and how can one account for the frequently aggressive defense of their thesis? The answer to this is the fact that the Germans themselves know that at least 50 per cent of the German Reich is on land wrestled from the Slavs.[51] The memory of this truth is kept alive by erudite works of Polish, Czech, Sorbo-Lusatian, Russian and Jugoslav scholars. In the early part of the XIX century, learned Russian linguists and historians made a research expedition to the Oder and Elbe river basins at the expense of Czar Nicholas I. Professors Jegorov, Katarga, Niemierov and Strojev formed a part of the expedition. The work of reconstruction of the ancient Slavonic languages and the study of Slavonic culture around the Elbe and Oder rivers continued through the regimes of later Czars. For the same purposes worked the Polish learned Slavicists: Parczewski, Lelewel, Antoniewicz, the Bogusławski brothers, Czekanowski, Kętrzyński, Kostrzewski and many others aforecited Polish historians and linguists. In answer to this interest of Slav scholars in former Slav countries within the territory of the German Reich and to the strong pan-Slavistic contemporary movement came the feverish reaction on the part of the German world of learning. In spite of a conscious tendency (on the part of the German scholars) to obscure the Slavism that survived in the basins of the Elbe and Oder rivers with a rubbish of arguments about the “pre-Germanic” (“urdeutsch”) autochtonism of those lands, a considerable number of Germans, contrary to the general tendency of their colleagues, discovered that very Slavism, and thus rendered great service to the world of learning. This service of German scholars was particularly precious to the Poles.

            The latter part of the XIX century is replete with polemics between Slav and German scholars. True, it was only a battle in words but its influence was felt even on the eve of the First and the Second World War. After exhausting historic, prehistoric and linguistic arguments it passed into the field of “archaeology.” On the German side there appears a series of artificial concepts of political and aggressive tendencies. The numerous dissertations and works are brimful of erroneous premises, lack of logic and contradiction in their arguments.[52]

            From the learned works of Polish, Czech, Sorbo-Lusatian scholars fall calm but shattering arrows frequently based on German arguments which cannot withstand criticism. The tremendous arsenal of German evidential material became an excellent weapon in the hands of Slav scholars.

            Prior to the present war, after Hitler s rise to power, all birth records of pure Polish and Lusatian surnames in the entire territory of the Oder river basin and East Prussia were destroyed by Germans. They also did away with the Sorbo-Lusatian Ethnographic Museum in Budyszin (Bautzen) and now they are completing the work by destroying Polish and Sorbo-Lusatian libraries, cemeteries and all monuments of Slavonic culture in Poland and Lusatia. This procedure is Germany’s acknowledgement of its defeat in the field of learning and of its fear of consequences, of its uneasiness and remorse of conscience which in spite of centuries of lawlessness warns them: “Return what belongs to somebody else!” And divine and human laws insist: “Thou shalt not steal!” “Res clamat ad Dominum!”

            Characteristic expression of that fear is evident in the book of the German economist, Wilhelm Volz: “Die Ostdeutsche Wirtschaft,” Leipzig, 1930. The author warns the Germans that, due to the awakening of national consciousness of German citizens of Slav origin, there may come a moment when our grandchildren” – he says – will see the Elbe river as the eastern border of Germany. The entire German nation is aware that forty miles south of Berlin, there lives to this very day on the right bank of the Upper Elbe river the Slavonic Sorbo-Lusatian nation. In the ethnographic area of 15 counties this nation counts over 200,000 inhabitants speaking the Lusatian language and a few hundred thousand who, it is true, speak German, but they are extremely conscious of their Slavonic descent and know that their customs and culture are Slavonic. The Sorbo-Lusatians demanded liberty and at least an autonomy for themselves in 1919. But, alas, their demands were ignored. The Versailles Treaty left these Slav people to further slavery and extermination by the Germans. But this nation is unwilling to die and now pleads for consideration of its right to a life of freedom and security. This desire is expressed in an open letter of the Sorbo-Lusatian National Committee addressed to Winston Churchill written in 1943. The essence of the letter is as follows:

            “Sir! We would not dare to take the liberty of writing this letter, were our National Committee as so many others formed by emigrants under the protection of the best in the world of the Royal Airforce and of English Anti-aircraft guns.

            “Severed from the British Empire and scattered throughout occupied countries as soldiers and German functionaries, we have no means of informing British Authorities about the fate of our fatherland.

            “Let these circumstances justify our boldness in addressing this letter directly to you, as to the one who holds in his hands the destinies of the world.

            “Small, indeed, is the nation we represent, which through our medium has recourse to the Leader of the British Empire begging for the right to live under the protection of our fraternal nation – Poland. Century after century we were being pushed to the east until there was no native soil left for us. As late as three hundred years ago, our language was spoken in the whole Saxony and in southern Brandenburg, as far as river Saale, and even today the peasants of these lands have 80% Slavonic blood in their veins. The very name “Saxony” was brought to our ancient Slav country from seashore, until the fact that historic Saxony was in the environs of Hanover, became obliterated in the minds of the general public.

            “During thousand years of their beast-like government, the Germans, in spite of all, were unable to entirely eradicate our national consciousness. It is dormant in the hearts of the germanized Wend people on the left bank of the Elbe river and this consciousness is very keen in our kinsmen who live on the right bank of the river, especially in the upper and the middle course of the Spree river. These considerable concentrations of autochtonic Slav population, known in England under the name of Lower and Upper Wends, constitute the nucleus of our nation and the visible sign of its power of resistance.

            “Sir! If every nation has a right to happiness, then we certainly have earned it. Since the year 1032, that is from the time the Polish armed forces were recalled from our country, we were left forsaken by all and for 911 years withstood the ferocity of German storms. Through the course of nine centuries that preceded the coming of Hitler, we had ample occasion to become acquainted with the “modern methods” of warfare, which begin with mass executions and end in harnessing women and children to the German plough. Sir! The Germans were always the same. They only succeeded in cleverly masking their misdeeds in the eyes of Europe. They always had some “mission” ready at hand. Some they murdered in the name of Christ, others in the name of culture.

            “Nine centuries of desperate torments, and passive opposition, passed through twenty-eight generations from father to son, is ample proof of strength of which no other European nation can boast.

“Sir! we are by no means a nation of illiterates. In the short period of relative freedom, before the coming of Hitler, we created excellent literature, had our own theatre and press. The mass return to their native language of families that were Germanized a long time ago, caused much uneasiness among contemporary German authorities. We started our progress on the road to gradual de-germanization of the Wend lands on the bank of the Elbe river.

            “Today, our country is one great cemetery. Only those survived who knew how to conceal their descent. Those who write this letter live only because they are considered 100% Germans. But this is not the first time in the history of our nation that we had to become invisible. In Spring, when Polish and English soldiers will have brought us on their bayonets the liberation, we shall show the world that we are still alive, and whether we shall exist forever depends upon your will, Sir.

            “The necessary condition of our future existence is the support of our kinsmen, the Polish nation, which is so well disposed towards us. The expression of this conviction was our Memorial dated October 20, 1942 which authorized the Polish Government to carry negotiations in our name. This letter addressed with deepest respect to Your Excellency, confirms the authorization for the Polish Government to speak in the name of our Nation.”

The Sorbo-Lusatian National Committee.

[1] James Louis Grimm (1785-1863) and his brother W. Charles Grimm (1786-1859), celebrated scholars of the German language and its monuments, devoted much attention to Slavonic language in the course of their researches.

[2] Leibnit, G. W. (1646-1716) German philosopher and partly linguist developed a keen interest in the language of the Lüneburger Wends (Drzewiany). He gathered many Slavic words in his Collectanea Etymologica.

[3] Smoler, J, A., Wo słowjaniskich mestnych mjenach w Hornej Łužicy a wo jich wuznamje, Budyszin, 1867, p. 1.

[4] Jencz, J. A., “Powjeść wo serbskich kralach,” in Czasopis Towarstwa Maćice Serbskeje. Budyszin, 1849-50, II & III, vol. 1, p. 17.

            It must be noted here, that German authors by frequent reference to Roman and Greek writers often confused the Lutitzi (the Slavic tribes on the Baltic Sea) with the Lusatians, the Sorbs with the Durzynce (the Slavic tribes in what now is Thuringia) and the Drzewiany (Lüneburgische Wenden). Lutitzi literally means in old Polish, Lusatian and Lutitzian languages: inhabitants of the cold countries, around the Baltic Sea. Luto, lutość in ancient Polish language means cold, windy weather. The German authors translate incorrectly the meaning of this word by the adjective wild.” Only in the Russian language “lutyj” means wild, cruel, terrible.

                Ptolemy speaks in general terms about Slavs that lived on the Elbe and Spree rivers calling them Lutoj Omanoj, Leukones, that is Lukony (Lukons) from the Lusatian word “luka,” which means meadow, in accordance with the etymology of the “luka, lug” (marsh) Ptolemy calls the Sorbo-Lusatians – Lugans, Dydunas, Illigons, Suevs, Semnons. All these names refer to a single Slavonic nation consisting of numerous small tribes. “These peoples – says Ptolemy – and the Northern Lutitzi live in a region extending from the Elbe to the Vistula river.” See Ptolemy, Geographike hyphegesis, book II, vol 11.

                Tacitus terms the Lutitzi “Lygios Buros, id est aratores, quod plus vacarent agriculture, quam alii.” See J. Ch. Jordan, De originibus Slavicis, Vindobonae, 1745, page 216. “Medii inter Sorabos et Venedos i.e. Slavos Boreales (the author calls northern all the Slavs that dwelled north of the Danube river) ad Suevum amnem fuere Lusatii.”ibid.

[5] Jencz, ibid., pp. 16-48.

[6] Francelius, Abraham, Nomenclator utriusque Lusatiae, ad vocabulum Lusatia, vol. II, Budissinae-Lusatorum, 1696.

[7] 7. Hoffman, Scriptures rerum Lusaticorum, anno 1719, voL I, part I; Manlius, Comment, rer, Lus., liber I, caput 30, paragr, 1: “Lutici supra Suevum ad Albim usque in inferiore Lusatia consedere, superiorem Sorabi, antiquissimum Sarmatorum nomen referentes, obtinuerunt, una cum Misnia tota et principio Saxoniae superioris ad Herciniam. Unde dictae regiones uno nomine Sorabia appellatae sunt. Quidquid enim terrarum est supra Albim, usque ad montes Sudetes versus meridiem, ab ortu vero ad caput Suevi fluminis, et ab occasu secundum Salam, usque ad huius cum Albi confluentem, id omne Sorabi incoluerunt.”

                See also Alexander Lattyak, Explitcatio Geographiae Claudii Ptolemaei, exposita Budapestini, 1929, 12 die Januarii, in Societate Archeologica Hungarica, pag. 3.

                The commentator on Ptolemy’s geography draws the following conclusion concerning the knowledge of geography among the Romans especially about their accurate knowledge of the Roman Empire: “Romani ergo anno 165 post Christi nativitatem tabulas geographicas habebant, quae accurationem rostrarum omnino aequabant, de toto orbe tunc cognito et commenso, rationes itinerum, fluvios, ora maritima, urbes, montes et fines regnorum comprehendentes, quae originem probabiliter ex operibus astronomorum et geographorum graecorum ducunt” – ibid, pag, 3.

            We must note here, however, certain differentiations. On Ptolemy’s map there are besides accurately stated topographic and ethnographic names in the Roman Empire and the western part of so-called “Germania,” but large stretches of land extending east from Elbe river, and the central land of Slavs, which on Ptolemy‘s map, as a “terra ignota,” is simply shown as a white spot without any names. Only the most important rivers and the ethnographic contours of boundaries and some cities of uncertain names are shown. Whereas the amber path that extended through Kalisz (Kalish) to the Baltic Sea and the commercial route by way of the Vistula river and through Radom, are carefully designated on the map. Lusatia on Ptolemy’s map appears under the name of Lugia. The Elbe river is marked Albis.

                See also: Tabula prima Imperii Romani Constructa ex CL Ptolemaei Geographicae gradibus, Budapestini, 1921-1926, Alex. Lattyak; Hans Mzik, Afrika nach det arabischen Bearbeitung der Geographike hyphegesis des Claudius Ptolemeus von Muhaenmad ibn Musa al-Hwarizmi, Wien, 1916; Die Geographic des Ptolemeus, Handschriften, Text und Untersuchung von Otto Cuntz, Berlin, 1923, p. 49; Codices Graeci et Latini photographice depicti duce Scatone de Vries, Bibliothecae Universit. Leidensis Praefecio Supplementum IV. Taciti dialogus de oratoribus et Germania, Codex Leidensis Personianus, Lugduni Batavorum, 1907, Folium 31, Taciti Germania, 1-2.

[8] Kętrzyński, Wojciech, Swewowie a Szwabowie, Rozprawy Akad. Umiej., t.43 Kraków 1927, p. 47; Bagiński, Henryk, Polska i Bałtyk, Edinburgh, 1942, p. 46; Kujot, Stanisław, ks., Dzieje Prus Królewskich (Rocznik XX Tow. Naukowego w Toruniu), Toruń 1913, p. 167.

[9] Scherzius, Joan. Georg., Glossarium Germanicum medii aevi potissimum dialecti Suevicae, Argentorati, 1781-1784.

[10] Ptolemy, ibid. loco cit.

[11] Niederle Lubor, Slovanske Staroźitnosti, Praha, 1902-1925, p. 131.

[12] Jordan, J. Ch., ibid, vol. 1, pars I, pag. 216-217. Jordan admits that he does not trust the cited arguments nor his own words because there is no uniform opinion among the Germans on this subject: “Verum enimvero quod circa Slavorum in Germaniam adventum nihil certi auctores in medium proferre audeant.”

[13] Szafarzik, P. J., Slavische Alterthuemer. vol. I, Leipzig, 1843.

[14] Hornik, Pful, Smoler, Słownik Serbski, Budyszin, 1866. Muka, Arnoszt, “Apologia Serbowstwa,” in Łužica, Budyszin, 1884.

[15] Tacitus Publius Cornelius (54-117 AD) thus writes about Lusatia and the Lusatians in the CCCCLXIV (64th) book, of his work Germania: “Dirimit enim scinditque Suevum continuum montium jugum, ultra quod plurimae genttes agunt, ex quibus latissime patet Lygiorum nomen in plures civitates diffusum.”

[16] Strabo (66 B.C), the most celebrated Greek geographer. See: Jordan, ibid., pars III, pag. 242.

[17] Jordan, ibid, t, I, pars I, pag. 219.

[18] Frencelius, ibid., voL II, vocab. L: “Ex veritate ab Aventino Lusatos vocari gentem paludibus septam, communem sententiam esse, ab Luzicis sive Lusicis, vel Luzice, seu inferiore Lusatia, translatum ac propagatum vocabulum Lusatiae fuisse in superiorem: obindeque ortum natumque esse ex vocabulo Sorabico Luza, bohoemice Lauze (palus, lacus).”

[19] Nesenus, De Historia Lusatiae, vol. II, pars II, pag. 220: “Alii veto Luiticios sive Luticios Sclavos, quorum frequens in annalibus Francorum, ac antiquis historiae Germaniae scriptoribus memoria, Lusatiae nomen conjiciunt.” Then the author, referring to Helmold’s chronicle, lib. I, cap. 2 enumerates Baltic tribes, among them the Lutitzi from whom he derives the name Lusatia.

                Kunschke, Dissertatio Historica de Lusatia, notio l, paragr, 5, in which he speaks about the Lutitzi who also lived in Lusatia and gave to the country their name. The lack of knowledge of Slavonic languages and the hazy, generalized information reaped about the Slavs from Tacitus, Pliny the Elder, Strabo, Herodotus and Caesar may be responsible for these claims, for we know that ancient writers obtained their information from Greek, Roman and Arabian merchants.

[20] Hornik, M., Smoler, J. A., Pful, Serbski Słownik, Budyszin, 1866; Słownik Geograficzny Królestwa Polskiego, lit. Ł, by Alfons Parczewski, Warszawa, 1884.

[21] Thompson, James Westfall, Feudal Germany, The University of Chicago Press, Chicago, Illinois, 1928, page 536.

[22] Burmeister, P. J., Über die Sprache der früher in Mecklenburg Obodriten-Wenden, Rostock. 1840, page 2: ‘’Der Name Wenden oder Winden bezeichnet überhaupt den Gegensatz der deutschen Bevölkerung gegen die slavische in den westlichen Gegenden Deutschlands vom baltischen bis zum adriatischen Meere. Kein slavisches Volk hat sich je selbst Wenden genannt; es ist nur bei den Deutschen, dass Slaven Wenden genannt werden.” See also Strabo, ed. Casaubonus, 1587, pp. 134 and 146.

[23] Hanusz, J., “Über die Bedeutsamkeit der alterthümlichen Sitte des Bindens und Windens in der Kultur-Geschichte der Deutschen, Slaven und Litauer. Eine archeologische Studie” – in Jahrbücher für slavische Literatur, Kunst und Wissenschaft, ed. Smoler, Leipzig, 1854, II. pp. 305-330.

                Hanusz, J., Zur Literatur und Geschichte der slaviscben Sprachen in Deutschland, namentlich der Sprache der ehemaligen Elbeslaven oder Polaben, Wien, 1858, pp. 109-140.

                Miklosich Fr., Die Nominale Zusammensetzung im Serbischen, Wien, 1863; Die Bildung der slavischen Personennamen, Wien, 1860. Etymologisches Wörterbuch der slavischen Sprachen, Wien, 1866.

[24] Ibid. loc. cit

[25]Baltische Studien, vol. XXXI, 1881; Geschichtschreiber der deutschen Vorzeit, vol. XXXII, which contains the translation into German of the Arabic text of Al- Bekri; Wigger, Jahrbücher und Jahreobericht des Verens für Mecklenburgische Geschchte, 1880.

[26] Szafarzik, ibid., vol. I, page 34.

[27] Mueller, Max, Lectures on the science of language, New York, 1862, p. 199 Paulinus a sancto Bartholomaeo, Sidharubam seu Grammaltca Samscrdamica, cut accedit dissertatio historico-critica in linguam Samscrdamicam vulgo Samscret dictam, Romae, 1790.

                Bopp, Franciscus, Glossiarium Sanscritum in quo omnes radices et vocabula usitatissima explicantur et cum vocabulis Graecis. Latinis, Germanicis, Lithuanicis, Slavicis, Celticis comparantur, Berolini, 1847.

                Rosen, Fridericus, Radices Sanscritae, Berolini, 1827.

                Święcicki, Julian Adolf, Historia Literatury Indyjskiej, Warszwara, 1901, p. 16.

[28] Niederle, Lubor, “Najdawniejsze siedziby Słowian,” Encykl. Polska, t. IV, cz. 2, dzial 5. Ed Polish Academy, Kraków, 1912; Bagiński, ibid., p. 50.

[29] Bueckler, George, A Sanskrit Primer, Washington, 1885; Muller, ibid, loc. cit.; Paulinus, ibid.

[30] Święcick, ibid. loc. cit.

[31] Szafarzik, ibid., p. 201.

[32] Papanek, Gregorius, Historia Gentis Slavae, Quinque Ecclesiis, 1780, p. 134.

[33] Papanek, ibid.

[34] Dziela Wszystkie Adama Mickiewicza, t. V, p. 81. ed. T. Pini.

[35] Codices Graeci et Latini photographice depicti, loc. cit.; Tacitus Germania, loc. cit.

[36] “Offenbar sind – says Grimm – die Ortsnamen Tierna (Czerna), Bersovia, Sandava (present Sandau, Schandau), im Norden der Donau und Tergeste (Dargun), Pola, Lugeum, am adriatischen Meere Slavischen Ursprunges.” See: Burmeister, loc. cit.

[37] It is worth-while to add that the Obodrites and the Lutitzi did not differ in language and customs from the Drzewians. This is visible even now in the Sorbo- Lusatian language and in the Kashub dialect which differ little from the language of the Obodrites.

[38] Burmeister, ibid. pp. 2-3.

[39]Szafarzik, ibid. pp. 40-41.

[40] Szafarzik, ibid. p. 47. Most inaccuracies in treating the Sorbo-Lusatian problem are committed by German authors due to their ignorance of the Sorbo-Lusatian language, and Slav languages in general. But this irregularity creeps also into the works of non-Slavonic authors like Thompson. His work (“Feudal Germany”) is a precious scholarly contribution; but based principally on German sources it is one­ sided. The weak point of this book lies also in the discussion of the origin and the autochtonism of the Slavs.

[41] Jordan in the afore-cited work De originibus slavicis; Helmold, Chron. Slav I, 52; Giesler, Über den Dualismus der Slaven, p. 357; Contzen, Leopold, Origines Europae, Die alten Völker Europas mit ihren Sippen und Nachbarn, Frankfurt am Main, 1861; Schelz, T., Waren germanische, oder slavische Völker Ureinwohner der beiden Lausitzen? Goerlitz, 1842; Hauck, Kirchengeschichte Deutschlands, III, 69-87; Thietmar, VI, 17-18.

[42] 42 Szafarzik, ibid.; Afanasjev, Poeticzeskija wozzrenja Słovian na prirodu, Moskwa 1869-1886; Czubinskij, Trudy, Petersburg, 1872; Brueckner, A, Mitologia Słowiańska, Kraków, 1918; Haupt, Leopold, and Smoler, J. A., Volkslieder der Wenden in der Ober und Nieder Lausitz, Budyszin, 1841-1843; Stoeckl, A., Weingartner and Kwiatowski, F., Historia Filozofjr w zarysie, Kraków, 1927, pp. 2-20; Kostrzewski, J., “Biskupin, zatopiona wieś prasłowiańska z przed 2500 lat,” Przegląd Powszechny, t. 210, Nr. 630, Warszawa, 1936, pp. 311-324; Smoler, J. A., “Powostanki ze starodawneho nabožnistwa w serbskich Łužicach,” Czasopis Tow. Macice Serbskeje, Budyszin, 1848, IV, p. 21.

[43] Thompson, ibid., p. 387.

[44] “Est autem Slavorum mirabilis error; nam in conviviis et compatacionibus suis pateram circumferunt, in quam conferunt, non dicam consecrationis, sed execrationis verba cum nomine deorum, boni scilicet atque mali, omnem prosperam fortunam a bono deo, adversam a malo dirigi profitentes. Unde etiam malum deum lingua sua Diabol sive Zcerneboh, id est nigrum deum, appelant.” (Helmold, Chron. Slav., I. 52).

[45] Cfr. Adam Mickiewicz, ibid. V, 50.

[46] Abel, H. F. O., Die deutschen Personen-Namen, Berlin, 184 V, Archiv (Litterarisches) für Ethnographic und Linguistik, bearbeitet von mehreren Gelehrten und herausgegeben von F. J. Bertuch und dr. J. S. Vater, Weimar, 1808; Bender, Joseph, Die deutschen Ortsnamen, Siegen, 1846; Bernd, Ch. S. Th., Die Verwandtschafts der germanischen und slavischen Sprachen, Bonn, 1822; Campe, J. H., Wörterbuch zur Erklärung und Verdeutschung der unserer Sprache aufgedrungenen fremden Ausdrücke, Braunschweig, 1801; Contzen, Leopold, Origines Europae. Die alten Völker Europas mit ihren Sippen und Nachbarn. Frankfurt am Main, 1861; Cassel Paulus, Thüringische Ortsnamen. Erfurt, 1858; Grimm, Jakob, Geschichte der deutschen Sprache, Leipzig, 1848; Obermueller, W., Deutsch-Keltisches, Geschichtlich-geographisches Wörterbuch zur Erklärung der Fluss-Berg-Orts-Gau-Völker und Personen-Namen Europas, West Asiens und Nord-Afrikas im allgemeinen, wie Deutschlands insbesondere nebst den daraus sich ergehenden Folgerungen für die Urgeschichte der Menschheit, Leipzig, 1868; Olrich, G., Glossarium ad statuta Bremensia antiqua, Frankfurt ad Moenum, 1767; Oerlich, Joannes, Specimen reliquiarum linguae slavonicae in omnibus quibusdam regionum et locorum quae nunc a Germanis et hos inter imprimis Marchiae Brandenburgensis et Pomeranis possidentur, Berolini,, 1794; Pischon, F. A., Die Taufnamen, Berlin. 1857; Pott, Aug. Friedr., Die Personen-Namen, insbesondere die Familiennamen und ihre Entstehungarten, auch unter Berücksichtigung der Ortsnamen, Leipzig, 1853; Schelz, T., Waren germanische, oder slavische Völker Ureinwohner der beiden Lausitzen? Goerlitz, 1842; Geisheim, Felix, Berliner Namenbüchlein, Berlin, 1855; Weinhold, Karl, Beiträge zu einem schlesischen Wörterbuch, Wien 1855.

[47] Ziemczyce dwelled on the terrain between Struma, Elbe and Hobola rivers at Hawelberg. There was in that region the great Borki forest with its sacred woods, where the “Zemnanie” (very probably “Ziemianie”) known already to Tacitus, as representatives of 100 counties, gathered for meetings. Cfr. Baginski, ibid., p. 62.

[48] Oerlich,ibid., p. 4.

[49] Belius draws his knowledge about Wend kings from the memoirs, written during the reign of the elector of Brandenburg, Frederick William, by Jacobus Tolius, especially from the author’s “Epistola itineraria” II, p. 42. According to Tolius, the Sorbo-Lusatians, the Cassubians, the Obodrites and the Lutitzi even as late as the XVIII century chose their kings privately according to an ancient Slavonic custom. Tolius speaks about these kings with a tolerant irony as for instance one would speak about the election of the nomadic gypsy king.

[50] Smoler, ibid., p. 9

[51] Thompson, James Westfall, Feudal Germany, part II, c. XII: The German Church and the conversion of the Slavs of the Elbe, pp. 387-450; chapt. XIII: The expansion and the colonization of the German people beyond the Elbe; The conflict of the Saxon and the Slav, pp. 451-628; chapt. XVII: Medieval German expansion in Bohemia and Poland, pp. 612-657.

[52] In addition to the books and dissertations mentioned in this treatise it would be well for the reader to acquaint himself with Victor Jacobi’s book: Ortsnamen um Potsdam vom Standpunkte der Terainplastik und der Ansiedelungspraxis (Gegenschrift wider Herrn Dr. Cybulski in Berlin und die dortigen Sprachforscher und Geographen), Leipzig, 1859. The author artificially distorts Slav names in the vicinity of Berlin by deriving these names from Latin and then from Latin into German.


The Sorbs of Lusatia by Sorabicus

This article by Sorabicus first appeared in Slavonic Review, XIV, (April 1936,) pages 616-621. It is being presented here because it was one of the sources of material that Anna Blasig used in writing her book, The Wends of Texas.

For a discussion of Sorabicus and the historical context for the publication of the article see the following excerpts from page 294 and 315 of Slav Outposts in Central European History by Gerald Stone:

“In the Weimar Republic all the national minorities organized themselves into associations for self-preservation. The Poles had their Union of Poles in Germany (Związek Polaków w Niemczech) and this organization proposed the foundation of a Federation of National Minorities in Germany (Verband der nationalen Minderheiten in Deutschland), standing for the interests of the Danish, Friesian, Lithuanian, Polish, and Wendish minorities and publishing its own journal called first Kulturwille and later Kulturwehr. For the whole life of this journal (1925-1936), its editor-in-chief was Jan Skala (1889-1945), a Catholic Wend from Nebelschütz. He was an important figure, not only for the Wends but for the other minorities too. By the time he took over Kulturwille, Skala was already an experienced journalist and an irritation to the authorities. In 1928, when he was sued for defamation, he protested, though without success, against the denial of his right to use his native language in court, as guaranteed by Article 113 of the Constitution.

” the Nazis came to power in January 1933, the minorities faced new dangers. In the columns of Kulturwehr Skala continued to resist oppressive policies. In May that year the first of many searches of his home were made by the police and much of his correspondence was confiscated. When, in September 1935, he received a letter from the Minister of Propaganda (Joseph Goebells) threatening him with imprisonment for criticizing officials, he replied by requesting not only that the threat be withdrawn but also that the cause of his criticism be remedied. The same year he exposed in his journal the true meaning of the Nuremberg Laws. In March 1936 Skala was banned from engaging in any further journalistic activity even under a pseudonym. That meant the end of his career and of Kulturwehr. Unemployed and impoverished, he continued the struggle by publishing anonymously abroad. He published an article in London in the Slavonic and East European Review under the pseudonym Sorabicus, drawing attention to the plight of the Wends. Eventually, in January 1938, at the age of 48, he was arrested and taken to the Gestapo prison in Dresden to be interrogated. When he was released nine months later, he was suffering from deafness caused by rough treatment. He returned to his family in Berlin, where he found menial work (Kroh 2009: passim).

“In 1943, made homeless by the bombing of Berlin, the family of Jan Skala moved to. Silesia and by 1945 they were living there in a village then called Erbenfeld (until 1939 Dzieditz, now Dziedzice), which was taken by Soviet forces on 19 January. The German population had fled, leaving only a few Poles and the Skalas to welcome the liberators. Skala had every reason to believe that his anti-Fascist credentials would stand him in good stead, but on 22 January, a drunken Soviet soldier entered the Skalas’ kitchen and threatened them with his sub-machine gun. Skala, speaking Russian, tried to calm him, but the soldier fired an indiscriminate burst and Skala fell dead. Skala’s two daughters and his eleven-month-old grandson were unharmed.

“To the new authorities who subsequently emerged in the GDR, Skala’s fate was a cause of embarrassment. They honored him as an anti-Fascist and a victim of the Gestapo, but the circumstances of his death did not fit their rose-tinted vision of the liberation. The only acceptable formula to describe his death was the equivocal ‘perished in a tragic way following the arrival of the Soviet Army’ (NBS, s.v.). Only in 2009 was the truth revealed when Peter Kroh, who at the age of eleven months had been present at his grandfather’s death, published the above version of events, as related to him by his mother (Kroh 2009: 307-8).”

For more about Jan Skala see the book published in Berlin in 2009 by Peter Jan Joachim Kroh, Nationalistische Macht und nationale Minderheit, Jan Skala (1889-1945): ein Sorbe in Deutschland.


The Sorbs of Lusatia

            Among the national minorities of Europe the Sorbs of Lusatia occupy in two respects a special position. They are a racial group which lacks a mother-state, being entirely settled within the bounds of the German Empire: but they are also what the Germans call a Restvolk, a last fragment of the Polabian Slavs, and as such are an individual national group, which has sunk legally and politically to the status of a national minority. A short survey of their history shows that they are a “national minority” only according to external indications and the modern terminology which has grown up in the period of international protection of minorities. Their present situation is characterized by the fact that they enjoy neither this international protection, nor any legally assured status in the German Reich.

            The Sorbs are the last of the Polabian or Elbian Slavs. Till the coming of Christianity and wars of conquest during the succeeding Carolingian and Saxon period (9th to 13th century) these Slavs of the Elbe formed three tribes—the Weletans or Lutizians, on the Baltic coast between Elbe and Oder, the Bodrizians or Obotrites, in what are now Mecklenburg and Holstein, and the Sorbs or Wends, in the modern Lusatia between Elbe and Oder. It is with the last surviving fragment of the latter group that we are concerned.

            The first two of these tribes and the greater part of the latter after long centuries of defense and resistance, fell a prey to the process of Christianization and colonization under the Carolingian (800-918), Saxon (919-1024) and Franconian (1024-1125), dynasties, and were assimilated by Germanism. Their downfall was hastened by the fact that the Weletans and Obotrites had not yet formed a well-knit state of their own, but were loosely grouped together on federal lines. The permanent aggression of the German conquerors also prevented the Sorbs from achieving independence or the military power which might have guaranteed their existence. The cause of their defeat was not the incapacity to form a state of their own, as later German historians maintained, for the Federative system of the Polabian tribes was in full accord with the individualism of the Slavs. This form of state had all the preconditions of further development, as is seen from the history of all other Western Slav nations. The decisive factors that wrought their political downfall were (1) the geographical, or geopolitical, situation of the Polabian Slavs, which exposed them to most powerful attacks of the German offensive; (2) the federalist basis of their political structure, which could not resist the onslaught of centralized German Imperialism; (3) the very inadequate co-operation between the different groups and their consequent military weakness.

            The struggles of the Polabian Slavs with the Germans had both a negative and a positive effect. On the one hand two of the Polabian groups and a large portion of the third were wiped out and ceased to be a factor in the political, cultural and national development of this area, even though it did not prove possible to bring about a complete racial and biological assimilative and to assimilate the East Elbe population altogether. For the result which we see today after all these centuries, is not a “German” nation, but a mixed race which finds its most pregnant expression in Prussianism and the Prussian character. The negative results have also persisted right up to the present day, in the sense that 400 years of defensive struggles served as a first barrier to stave off the first onslaught of advancing Germanism from the other Slav peoples east of the Elbe, and thereby contributed to their rise and consolidation, enabling the Poles to form the Piast Kingdom and the Czechs the Great Moravian State.

            The Lusatian Sorbs of today only escaped the fate of the other Polabians owing to their geographical situation to the south of the East Elbe area, on the very edge of the territory really contested, and also because they offered less resistance to Christianization (though those of them to the west of the Elbe went under in the process), and because they had been subjected to the Polish or Moravian states at a time when both had considerable native forces capable of resisting the “Drang nach Osten.”

            Without some such brief incursion into the historical past the problem of the national minority of today could hardly be understood: but it is of course impossible in the present article to deal with the kindred problem of colonization beyond the Elbe or even with the social and cultural history of the Sorbs, although this is of special importance for their present position. This is, however, intimately connected with the tendencies and aims of that distant colonial period. The story of the Sorbs as a “people without a history” is unscientific and prompted by political motives, and needs no refutation: that this history is only faintly noticeable, or interpreted on partisan lines in the general European framework, does not mean that the Sorbs have no history, but only that it has been imperfectly written.

            Alike from the linguistic and the historical point of view the Sorbs belong to the group of Western Slavs, as do the Poles, Slovaks and Czechs. Their present territory is smaller than the historical Lusatia, as it existed under Charles IV (1316-1378) and comprises an area of about 7,500 km., stretching longitudinally for 150 km, from a point about 50 km, south of Berlin to about 20 km. from the Czechoslovak border, and attaining from West to East a width of about 50 km. According to the official census of 1925 the Sorbs of Lusatia numbered 72,000, divided between Saxony (Saxon “Oberlausitz”) and Prussia (Prussian “Oberlausitz ” in Provinz Schlesien and “Niederlausitz” in Provinz Brandenburg). A private census carried out in 1924, though not officially authorized, reached the figure of 120,000, even though the greater part of Prussian Lusatia had to be omitted. Without dwelling upon the details of German racial statistics, it may suffice to point out that a knowledge of the German language, which under the circumstances is an absolute matter of course – in other words, in practice, bilingualism – is treated as a recognition of German, and renunciation of Sorb, nationality.

            As in the case of all national minorities, the legal position of the Sorbs in education, in the administration and in the Church, is of decisive importance. It is at present determined by two factors – the official attitude of National Socialism to the problem of minorities in general, and the attitude of the German authorities to the Lusatian problem in particular. First of all, it is to be noted that in the German Reich constitutional protection of minorities inside its borders is only provided for under paragraph 113 of the Weimar Constitution of 11 August 1919, but that this was regarded not as a positive right, but as a direction for special minority legislation, which has never come into being. The National Socialist regime has announced – in place of the Weimar Constitution, which still exists formally – an unwritten constitutional law, which lays down and alters the “constitution” according to the requirements of the State. What value article 113 possesses, is not clear: it certainly is put into effect as little now as formerly. But the German Reich is not bound by rules of international protection of minorities, so that the Lusatian Sorbs occupy a specially unfavorable position among the minorities of Europe. Neither the National Socialist party program nor the authoritative pronouncements of its leader take up any general attitude on the question of minorities. The former puts in a word for Germans abroad (das Auslandsdeutschtum), from the angle of “German community of race” (Volksgemeinschaft), while Adolf Hitler has in quite general terms repudiated the idea of future Germanization. No special minority law exists for the Sorbs, and there is no legal basis for the regulation of their cultural and national status.

            The result of this lack of any legal basis is that all cultural requirements and demands of the Sorbs are treated from an exclusively political point of view. The practice of the educational and administrative authorities is in direct conflict with Adolf Hitler’s denial of any idea of Germanization. There seems to be a tendency to maintain that the Sorbs are neither a national group (Volksgruppe), because their partially bilingual character makes them part of the German cultural community, nor a national minority, because they have nowhere a mother-nation or state, but only live inside the German State.

            The consequence of this fiction in the field of education is that instruction in the mother tongue, which is provided in Saxon Upper Lusatia in the school plan, is being more and more abandoned. As there is no scientific provision for the training of Sorb teachers in the training colleges, and as students in the Sorb language are discouraged, the number of teachers capable of teaching in the mother tongue is steadily diminishing. Moreover, numerous Sorb teachers are employed in purely German districts, while in schools attended by 60-90 per cent, of Sorbs, German teachers are appointed and the curriculum is becoming increasingly German. All representations and complaints addressed to the central school authorities by the Sorb cultural organizations, have been disregarded. A memorandum on the position of the Sorbs, addressed in July 1935, to the Chancellor, and containing suggestions for its improvement, has hitherto remained unanswered. As a result, about 6,000 out of the 8,000 Sorb school children (or 75 per cent) remain without any teaching in their mother tongue, while the remaining 2,000 are very inadequately taught. It is to be presumed that the responsible leaders do not approve of such injustice, and it can only be hoped that the subordinate authorities will be brought to put into effect Adolf Hitler’s own words.

            Ecclesiastical conditions in the Reich are so acute, that neither the Catholic Church, to which about 15,000 Lusatian Sorbs belong, nor the Evangelical Church, to which the remaining majority belongs, can do justice to the linguistic and cultural needs of a national minority. In the latter there has always prevailed a Germanizing current, though it should be added that it is less strong among the adherents of the Confessional Church. But as the Protestant pastors in Sorb territory are almost exclusively German (in Prussia there are only five or six Sorb clergy) or are adherents of National Socialism, it is impossible to speak of a Sorb cultural mission through the medium of the Church. In Saxon Upper Lusatia there are still twenty Sorb Protestant parishes, served by Sorb clergy: but the services are held in both languages, and some parishes are already becoming Germanized.

            The new principles of provincial and communal administration do not entirely exclude minority representation, but render them dependent on the decisions of the National Socialist Party organs (NSDAP). As the administration, down to the smallest village unit, follows exclusively Nazi lines, there are no means of assuring minority interests even where a Sorb adherent of the party may chance to sit in such a body. From the higher and middle posts the Sorbs are virtually excluded, since these are filled only by Germans and members of the National Socialist party. Thus, there is not a single Sorb school inspector, still less a Landrat, Amtshauptmann or Regierungspräsident, and in the field of justice not a single district judge or higher official.

            The Lusatian Sorbs have created an organization of their own, consisting of cultural societies, which for some years after the war were represented by a People’s Council (Volksrat), and at present by the “Domowina” League, which is also their central organ. Its existence is gravely endangered by the principles and political aims of the authoritative National Socialist regime; for it presses for the absorption of Sorb societies in the corresponding German and National Socialist bodies, as a result of which their independence and special national character would be bound to disappear. It has not yet been finally decided, how far this tendency is to be pushed: but its direction is clear from the Statute which the authorities have themselves drawn up and presented to the “Domowina,” to the effect that it may no longer be described as “Zwjazk tužiskich Serbow” (League of Lusatian Sorbs), but as ” Bund wendischsprechender Deutscher”! If they should refuse to comply with this official order, their organization is to be dissolved, and all Sorb societies incorporated with National Socialist organizations.

            The use of Sorb national emblems and colors is forbidden. Their own daily paper, Serbske Nowiny, now in its ninety-fifth year, is under repeated threat of confiscation, in case of its dealing with minority questions. For instance, it dare not write that the Lusatian Sorbs are a minority or belong to the Western Slavs; it may not point out distinctions between Sorb and German “Volkstum”; and reports on lectures or meetings of the “Domowina” – which of course cannot be held without notification of the subject and names of speakers and sanction of the political authorities – can none the less not be published until they have been submitted to the censor. On placards, entrance cards, programs, and so forth the German language must be used: Sorbian may, it is true, be added, but then only in the second place.

            All these measures and threats and the employment of strong German resources to denationalize the Sorbs, only serve to demonstrate that in the political conceptions of National Socialism a Sorb minority question does exist. It is true that it is officially denied that such measures in school, administration and public life are directed against the survival of the national minority. Appeal is made to the principle of authoritarian conduct of the state, which can only permit the existence of an unitary German Volksgemeinschaft. The contradiction is too obvious to require special emphasis. As the Sorbs are an entirely isolated group, the only political effect of such contradictions, however, is to provide fresh impetus for denationalization.

            In such circumstances an improvement in their lot is only imaginable in two directions. The one possibility is that the leading political factors renounce their idea of Germanization and accord to the Sorbs the position that is their due as the last fragment or “Restvolk” of the Polabian Slavs. The other, which could only be considered if the first should remain unrealized, would consist in internationalizing the problem, and so giving it a political character. The Sorbs themselves desire a settlement within the Reich, because they regard their problem as one of right and of culture.



The Remnant Of A Great Race by Henry W. Wolff

This article first appeared in 1892 in Westminster Review, Vol. 137, pgs 538-556. It also appeard in 1894 in Odd Bits of History: Being Short Chapters Intended to Fill Some Blanks by Henry W. Wolff.


            Modern History is, in its rapid march onward making sad havoc of old races. New nations are rising up; but only like new banks and headlands on our coast, by the accumulation of drifted shingle, which the very same tide is washing away from wasting older rocks. A generation or two hence, in the making of a new German people, the last remnant will have finally disappeared of an interesting race, which historians and archeologists alike, to whom it is known, will be loath to miss. There are probably few Englishmen who have any very clear Idea as to what and who the “Wends” or “Sorbs” are. Early in the last century, we read – I think it was in the year 1702 – our ambassador at Vienna, one Hales, travelling home by way of Bautzen, to his utter surprise found himself in that city in the midst of a crowd of people, strange of form, strange of speech, strange of garb—but unquestionably picturesque—such as he had never before seen or heard of. They are there still, wearing the same dress, using the same speech, looking as odd and outlandish as ever.

            We need not go back to the records of Alfred the Great, of Wulfstan and Other, to learn what a powerful nation the Wends, one of the principal branches of the great Slav family, were in times gone by. In the days when Wendish warriors, like King Niklot, were feared in battle, their ships went forth across the sea side by side with those of the Vikings, planting colonies on the Danish Isles, in Holland, in Spain -aye, very ambitious Slav historians will even have it that our own Sorbiodunum (Salisbury) is the town of the Sorbs,” founded by Sorb settlers in 449, and that to the same settlers – also styled Weleti (Alfred the Great calls them Vylti) – do our “Wilton” and “Wiltshire” owe their names. On the continent they once overspread nearly all Germany, Hanover has its “Wendland,” Brunswick its “Wendish Gate.” Franconia, when ruinously devastated by intestinal wars of German races, was, at Boniface’s instance, re-cultivated by immigrant Wends, famous in his days, and after, for their husbandry. The entire North German population, from the Elbe eastward, and north of the Bavarian and Bohemian mountains, is in descent far more Wendish than German. Wendish names, Wendish customs, Wendish fragments of speech, bits of Wendish institutions, survive everywhere, to tell of past Slav occupation. Altenburg is Wendish to a man, the Mecklenburgs are to the present day ruled even by Wendish grand dukes. Berlin, Potsdam, Dresden, Luebeck, Leipzig, Schwerin, and many more German towns, still bear Wendish names.

            There are now but a poor 150,000 or 160,000 left of this once powerful people. And that handful is dwindling fast. Every year sees the tide of spreading Germanism making further inroad on the minute domain which the Germanized Wends have left to their parent race in that much disputed territory, the Lusatias. Prussian administration, Prussian education, Prussian pedantic suppression of everything which is not neo-German, are rapidly quenching the still smoking flax. It boots little that the Saxon Government, kinder in its own smaller country, has, very late in the day, changed its policy, and is now striving to preserve what is, at its lowest valuation, a most interesting little piece of ethnographic archaeology. It is much too late now to stop the march of Germanization, which has pushed on so rapidly that even in the same family you may at the present day find parents still thoroughly Wendish, and priding themselves on their Wendish patronymics, and children wholly German, styling themselves by newly coined German names. Evidently the race is dying fast.

            Its death was in truth prepared a long time ago. Once the Saxons had obtained the mastery, the poor Slavs were oppressed and persecuted in every way. They were forbidden to wear their own peculiar dress. They were forbidden to trade. The gates of their own towns were closed against them, or else opened only to admit them into a despised “ghetto.” No man of culture dared to own himself a Wend. Accordingly, though they possess a language unique for its plasticity and pliancy, up to the time of the Reformation written literature they had none. For centuries their race has been identified with the lowest walks in life. They must have their own parsons, of course; but that was all. Otherwise, hewers of wood and drawers of water, toiling cultivators of the soil, they were doomed to remain – very ” serfs,” lending, as we know, in the north, a peculiar name to that servile station (“serfs,” from “serbs”), just as in the south “Slav” became the distinctive term for “slave.”

            To the eye of the archaeologist, all this hardship has secured one compensating advantage. It has left the Wends – in dress, in customs, in habits of mind, in songs and traditions – most interestingly primitive. Everything specifically Wendish bears the unmistakable stamp of national childhood, early thought, old-world life. There has been no development within the race, as among other Slavs. There have been modern overlayings, no doubt; but they are all foreign additions. The Wendish kernel has remained untouched, displaying with remarkable distinctness that peculiarly characteristic feature which runs through all the Slav kindred, at once uniting and separating various tribes, combining a curious unity of substructure with a striking variety of surface. Among the “Serbs,” or – “Sorbs” – really “Srbs ” – of Germany, occur names which reveal a dose kinship with Russians, Bohemians, and Croats. By the strange survival – among two tribes alone in all the world – of a complete dual, and the retention of a distinct preterite tense (without the use of an auxiliary verb) their language links them plainly with the Old Bulgarians. Their national melodies exhibit a marked resemblance to those melancholy airs which charm English visitors in Russia. Yet a Pole, one of their nearest neighbors, is totally at sea among the Wends. His language is to them almost as unintelligible as that of their “dumb” neighbors on the opposite side, the Njemski – that is, the Germans. Even among themselves the Lusatians are divided in speech. In Lower Lusatia, for instance, where the population are descended from the ancient Lusitschani, if you want to ask a girl for a kiss, you must say: gulitza, daj mi murki. In Upper Lusatia, where dwell the Miltschani, the same request takes the shape of: holitza, daj mi hupkuh. My German friends would have it that to their ears Wendish sounded very like English – which simply meant, that they understood neither the one nor the other. In truth, there is no resemblance whatever between the two tongues, except it be this, that like some of our own people, the Wends are incorrigibly given to putting their H’s in the wrong place. The explanation, in respect of the Wends, is, that in their language no word is known to begin with a vowel. Hence, to make German at all pronounceable to their lips, they often have to add an H as initial letter, the impropriety of which addition they happen generally to remember at the wrong time. It will terrify linguists among ourselves to be told that this Slav language – which the Germans describe as barbarous, which has scarcely any literature, and which is spoken by very few men of high education—possesses, in addition to our ordinary verbs, also verbs “ neutropassive,” “ inchoative”, “durative,” “momentaneous,” and “iterative”; an aorist, like Greek, and a preterite aorist of its own; a subjunctive pluperfect, and in declension seven cases, including a “sociative” case, and a “locative.” The most remarkable characteristics of the language, however, are the richness of its vocalization, and its peculiar flexibility and pliancy, which enable those who speak it to coin new and very expressive words for distinct ideas almost at pleasure, yet open to no misconstruction.

            In outward appearance the Wends are throughout a powerful, healthy, and muscular race, whose men are coveted for the conscription. The first Napoleon’s famous ”Bouchers Saxons” – the Saxon dragoons – were Wends almost to a man. And in the present day, it is the Wends who contribute the lion’s share of recruits to the Saxon household regiments. Their women are prized throughout Germany as nurses. They are all well-built, well-shaped, strong of muscle, and nimble in motion, like the Lacedemonian women of old. All surrounding Germany recruits its nurses from Wendland. Next to stature, the most distinctive external feature of the race is its national dress, which, as in most similar cases, survives longest, and in its most characteristic form, among women. As between different districts, such dress varies very markedly, but throughout it has some common features. Short bright-colored skirts, with the hips preternaturally enlarged by artificial padding, and an unconscionable amount of starch put into the petticoats on Sundays; close-fitting bodices, under which, in some districts, by an atrocious perversion of taste, are placed bits of stout cardboard, designed to compress a strongly developed bust to hideous flatness; small tight-fitting caps, into which is gathered all the hair, and which are often concealed under some bright-colored outer head-gear, with an abundance of ribbons dependent; and a goodly allowance of scrupulously clean collar, frill, and neckerchiefs, at any rate on Sundays; and, on festive occasions, stockings of the same irreproachable whiteness put upon massive calves which on other occasions are worn all bare – these are, briefly put, the main characteristics of the women’s dress. Oddly, the Roman Catholics, who elsewhere – in the Black Forest, for instance – affect the gayest colors, among the Wends show a partiality for the soberest of hues, more specifically brown and black. The men delight in big buttons, bright waistcoats, and high boots, long coats which pass on from father to son through generations, and either preternaturally stout hats of prehistoric mold, or else large blue caps with monster shades. Their peculiar customs are simply legion, and so are their traditions and superstitions. Their fairs are a thing to see. Old-fashioned as the Wends are, ordinary shopping has no attraction for them. But the merry fair, with its life and society, its exchange of gossip, its display of finery, its haggling and bargaining, its music and its dancing, is irresistibly alluring. At the great fair at Vetzschau in olden days you might see as many as a thousand Wendish girls, all dressed in their best, formally but merrily going through their Wendish dances in the market-place. In matters of faith the Wends are all great believers in little superstitious formulas and observances, such as not turning a knife or a harrow edge or tine upward, lest the devil should sit down upon it. Their favorite devices for attracting a man’s or a maiden’s love are a little too artlessly natural to be fit for recital here. One great prevailing superstition is the belief in lucky stones – kamushkis. Stones, in truth, play a leading part in their traditions. They have a belief that stones went on growing, like plants, till the time of our Saviour’s temptation, in the course of which, by an improvement upon the authorized text, they assert that he hurt his foot against one by accident. In punishment for having caused that pain, their growth is understood to have been stopped. They have other stones as well – “fright-stones” and “devil-stones” for instance. But the kamushkis are by far the most important and the most valuable. They are handed on as precious heirlooms from parent to child, and often put down at a high value in the inventory of an estate. The supernatural world of the Wends is as densely peopled as any mythology ever yet heard of. There is the pschesponiza – the noon woman, to avoid whom women in pregnancy and after their confinement dare not go out of doors in the midday hours; there is the smerkava, or “dusk-woman,” who is fatal to children, the wichor, or whirlwind ; the plon, or dragon, who terrifies, but also brings treasure; the bud, or Will-o’-the-Wisp; the bubak, or bogey; the nocturnal huntsman, nocny hanik; and the nocturnal carman, nocny forman; the murava, or nightmare; the kobod or koblik; the chódota (witch); the buźawosj, who frightens children; the djas, the graby, the schyry źed, the kunkaz, there are spirits “black” and “white.” Every mill has its peculiar nykus or nyx, who must be fed and propitiated. And then there are roguish sprites, such as Pumpot who is a sort of Wendish “barguest,” doing kind turns as often as he plays mischievous pranks. All this curious Slav mythology alone is worth studying. If, in a family, children keep dying young, the remedy certain to be applied is, to christen the next born “Adam” or “Eve,” according to its sex, which is thought absolutely to ensure its life. Like most much-believing races, the Wends are remarkably simple-minded, trustful, leadable, and docile, free from that peculiar cunning and malice which is often charged, rightly or wrongly, to Slav races – not without fault, but in the main a race of whom one grows fond.

            To see the Wends ethnographically at their best, you should seek them in their forest homes, all through that vast stretch of more or less pine-clad plain, mostly sand, extending northwards from the last distant spurs of the “ Riesengebirge ” (which bounds at the same time Bohemia and Silesia), to the utmost limits of their territory in the March of Brandenburg, and much beyond that – or else in that uniquely beautiful Spreewald, some hundred of miles or so south of Berlin, a land of giant forest and water, an archipelago of turfy islets. That is the ancient headquarters of the Wendish nation, still peopled by a peculiar tribe, with peculiar, very quaint dress, with traditions and customs all their own, settled round the venerated site of their old kings’ castle. It is all a land of mystic romance, sylvan silence, old-world usages, such as well become the supposed “Sacred Forest” of the ancient “Suevi.” Alders and oaks— the former of a size met with nowhere else—cast a dense, black shade over the whole scene, which is in reality but one vast lake, on whose black and torpidly moving waters float wooded kaupes or isles, scattered over which dwell in solitude and practical isolation the toilsome inhabitants, having no means of communication open to them except the myriads of arms of the sluggishly flowing Spree. A parish covers many square miles. Each little cottage, a picture by itself amid its bold forest surroundings, stands long distances away from its neighbours. The outskirts of the forest consist of wide tracts of wobbling meadow, a floating web of roots and herbage, over which one can scarcely move without sinking into water up to the hips. Were you to tread through, down you would go helplessly into the fathomless black swamp. On those vast meadows grow the heavy crops of sweet nutritious grass which make the Spreewald hay valued at Berlin for its quality as is the hay of the Meuse at Paris. On their little islands, as in the Hortillonages of the Somme, the kaupers raise magnificent crops of vegetables {more particularly cucumbers, without which Berlin would scarcely be itself), which, as on the Somme, they are constrained to carry to market by boat. Boats and skates, in fact, supply in that wooded Holland the only means of locomotion. And thanks to its canals and its water, all in it is so fresh, and so luxuriant, and so remarkably silent, that, while one is there, there seems no place like the Spreewald in which to be thoroughly alone with Nature. On a mound artificially raised upon one of these islands, at Burg, once stood the castle of the great Wendish kings, whose sceptre is supposed still to descend in secret from sire to son in a particular family, known only to the best initiated of Wends. To this country more specifically, together with some scores of distinctive water sprites (each endowed with its own attribute), does Wendish mythology owe its numerous legends about snakes wearing precious crowns, which on occasion they will carelessly lay down on the grass, where, if luck should lead you that way, you may seize them and so ensure to yourself untold riches – provided that you can manage to get safely away.

            In the mountainous country about Bautzen and Loebau in Saxony, where the scenery is fine, the air bracing, the soil mostly fat, nineteenth century levelling has been far too long at work for race customs to have maintained themselves altogether pure. There stand the ancient sacrificing places of the Wends, the Czorneboh, sacred to the “black god,” the Bjeliboh, sacred to the “white” one – respectively, the Mounts Ebal and Gerizim of Wendland – and many more. Wendish traditions and Wendish speech are still very rife in those parts. And most of the brains of the race are to be found in that well-cultivated district – the “Wendish Mozart,” Immisch, Hornigk, Pfuhl—all the literary coryphaei of the race. From Bautzen, certainly, with its bipartite cathedral, in which Roman Catholics and Protestants worship peaceably side by side, divided only by a grating, it is quite impossible to dissociate Wendish traditions. That is to the Upper Lusatians what Cottbus is to the lower – mjesto, “the town” par excellence. There are very true Wends in those regions still. In a village near Hochkirch the community managed for a long time successfully to keep out Germans, refusing to sell any property otherwise than to a Wend. But under the influence of advancing civilization so many things externally peculiar to the race have disappeared – their forests, and their wooden buildings, much of their ancient dress; they live so much in the great world, that they can scarcely be said to have kept up their peculiar race-life in absolute purity.

            In the forest, on the other hand, where, in fact, dwell the bulk of the not yet denationalized race, you still see Wends as they were many centuries ago. It is a curious country, that easternmost stretch of what once was the great forest of Miriquidi, almost touching Bautzen and Goerlitz with its southernmost fringe, and extending northward far into the March of Brandenburg. At first glance you would take it to be intolerably prosaic. It spreads out at a dead level, flat as a rink, for miles and miles away, far as the eye can see, with nothing to break the straight sky-line – except it be clouds of dust whirled up by the wind from the powdery surface of this German Sahara. The villages lie far apart, divided by huge stretches of dark pine forest, much of it well-grown, not a little, however, crippled and stunted. The roads are, often, mere tracks of bottomless sand, along which toils the heavy coach at a foot pace, drawn by three horses at least, and shaking the passengers inside to bits by its rough motion across gnarled pine-roots which in the dry sand will never rot. But look at it a little more closely, and you will find a peculiar kind of wild romance resting upon it. If you take the trouble to inquire, you will find that all this forest is peopled with elves. There are stories and legends and superstitions attaching to almost every point. Hid away among it are the sites of ancient Wendish villages – you may see where stood the houses, you may trace where were the ridged fields, you may feel, Wends will have it, by a creeping sensation coming over you as you pass, where were the ancient grave yards. Here is an ancient haunted Celtic barrow. There is a cave in which are supposed to meet, at certain uncanny hours, the ghosts of cruel Swedish invaders, barbarously murdered in self-defense, or else Wendish warriors of much older time. Yonder again, is a mound beneath which lies a treasure. Here “spooks” this spirit, there his fellow. By the Wends the forest is regarded with peculiar awe. It is to them a personality, almost a deity, exacting, as they will have it, every year at least one victim as a tribute or sacrifice. Every now and then you will come upon a heap of dry branches, on which you may observe that every passer-by religiously lays an additional stick. That is a “dead man,” a Wendish “cairn” raised up in memory of some person who on that spot lost his life. Between the forest and dry fields picturesquely stretch out sheets of water, some of them of large size. And where there is water, the scenery at once assumes a hue of freshness and verdure which is most relieving. Dull and bare as this country generally is, no Switzer loves his own beautiful mountain home more fervently, or admires it with greater appreciation, than do the Wends their native patch of sand and peat and forest; nor does he miss it, when away, with more painful home sickness.

            In this flat tract of land you may see the German Slavs still living in their traditional timber or clay and wattle houses, built in the orthodox Wendish style – with a little round-roofed oven in front, and a draw well surmounted by a tall slanting beam, with a little garden, the Ausgedinge-haus for the pensioned-off late proprietor, the curious barge-board, ornamented at either end with some crudely fantastical carving (which was borrowed more than a thousand years ago from the early Saxons), and with that most characteristic mark of all, the heavy arched beam overshadowing the low windows. The house would be thatched, but that the Prussian government absolutely forbids thatch for new roofing. The entire settlement is laid out on the old nomad plan, reminding one of times when for security villagers had to dwell close together. In the middle of the village is the broad street or green, planted with high trees, which, by their contrast with the surrounding pine forest, indicate the site to the traveler a long way off. The Wends are devoted lovers of trees, and in every truly Wendish village you are sure to find a large lime tree, tall or stunted, but in every case spreading out its branches a long distance sideways, and overshadowing a goodly space. That tree has for generations back formed the center of local life, and is venerated as becomes a “sacred tree” of ancient date. Here young and old are wont to assemble. Here, on Saturday afternoons in spring-time, gather the young girls to blend their tuneful voices in sacred song heralding the advent of Easter. Here used to meet the village council – which has in recent times, for reasons of practical convenience, removed to the public-house – the gromada, or hromada, summoned by means of a kokula or hejka, that is, a “crooked stick” or a hammer, sent round from house to house. Every house­holder, large or small, has a right to be present and to take his full part in the proceedings; for the Wends are no respecters of persons. In the center sits the šolta, as president, supported by his “sidesmen,” the starski. And there are discussed the affairs of the little community, heavily and solemnly at first, but with increasing animation as the pálenza, or schnaps, gets into people’s heads. The most interesting by far of these periodical meetings is the gromada hoklapnica – the “gromada of brawls,” that is – which is held in most villages on St. Thomas’ Day, in some on Epiphany Day, to transact, with much pomp and circumstance, the business which has reference to the whole year. The annual accounts are there settled. New members are received into the commune, and if any have married, the Wendish marriage tax is levied upon them. If there are any paupers in the parish, they are at that meeting billeted in regular succession upon parishioners. Another important matter to settle is the institution of paid parish officers, none of whom are appointed for more than a year at a time. Watchman, field-guard, blacksmith, road-mender, &c., all are expected to attend, cap in hand, making their obeisance as before a Czar, thanking the gromada for past favors which have secured them infinitesimal pay, and humbly supplicating for new, which are, as a rule, granted with a rather pompous and condescending grace.

            The village homesteads line the common or street on either side, standing gable outwards, as every Wendish house ought to stand. From them radiate in long narrow strips the fields, as originally divided, when the settlers were still a semi-nomad race, when each member was scrupulously assigned his own share of loam, clay, high land, low land, peat, sand, meadow – not only in order that none might be better off than his neighbor, but also that the workers in the fields might at all times make sure of fellowship, to lighten their toil by chat and song, and by taking their meals in company. During the whole of their history the Wends have shown themselves devoted to agriculture. Their social system was based upon agriculture; agriculture occupied their thoughts. Their legends represent their ancient kings, and the saints of their hagiology, as engaged in agriculture. And their girls, thinking of marriage, may be heard to sing:

“No, such a suitor I will not have

Who writeth with a pen;

The husband for me is the man

Who plougheth with the plough.”

            By intuitive instinct the Wends prefer cultivating light land, whereas the Germans give the preference to strong. All their implements seem made for light soil. Such are their wooden spades, tastefully edged with steel which, though not perhaps as useful as our all-steel implements, look incomparably more picturesque. And from light soil the Wends know better than any race how to raise remunerative crops. They understand heavy land, too – as witness their excellent tillage in Upper Lusatia, and above all in that German “Land of Goshen,” the Duchy of Altenburg. But on sand they are most at home. And in the poorest districts you may make sure that wherever you see a particularly fine patch of corn, or potatoes, or millet, or buckwheat, that patch is peasant’s land.

            The church, as a rule, is placed right in the middle of the village. The Wends value their church. For all their stubborn paganism in early days, against which St. Columban, and St Emmeran, and St. Rupert and St. Eckbert all contended in vain, the Wends have, since they were Christianized, always been a devoutly religious people, and at present – barring a little drinking and a little stealing (which latter, however, is strictly confined to fruit and timber, in respect of which two commodities they hold communistic opinions) – they are exemplary Christians. With their parsons they do not always stand on the best of terms. But that is because some of the parsons, raised from peasant rank, are, or were – for things have altered by the introduction of fixed stipends – a little exacting in the matter of tithes and offerings, and the demand that there should be many sponsors at a christening, for the sake of the fees. There are some queer characters among that forest-clergy. One that I knew was a good deal given to second-hand dealing. He attended every sale within an accessible radius, to bring home a couch, or a ’whip, or a pair of pole-chains, or a horse-cloth, for re-sale. His vicarage was in truth a recognized second-hand goods store, in which every piece of furniture kept continually changing. Another was greedy enough to claim a seat at the Squire’s table, at the great dinners given in connection with the annual battues, as a matter of “prescription.” A third drank so hard that on one occasion he had to be propped up against the altar to enable him to go on with the service. The most curious of all was the “chaplain” of Muskau, who married his couples wholesale, on the Manchester “sort yourselves” principle. Sometimes, when things went a little slowly, and he grew impatient, it was he who “sorted” the couples, and then occasionally it would happen that, giving the word of command like a Prussian corporal, he would “sort” them wrongly. They were far too well drilled to discipline not to obey. But when the ceremony was over they would lag sheepishly behind, scratching their heads and saying: “Knés duchowny, I should have married that girl, and this girl should have married him.” However, the Church had spoken, and the cause was finished. Married they were and married they must remain. Even to this the patient Wends submitted; and, perhaps, they were all the happier for it.

            But all this has nothing to do with the Church proper, as distinct from the parson. Their religious instinct appears born with the Wends. Religion seems to be in all their thoughts and most of their acts. The invariable greeting given is “God be with you.” They talk habitually of “God’s rain,” “God’s sun,” “Gods crops,” “God’s bread” – to them “every good gift and every perfect gift cometh from above.” Worshippers returning from church are hailed with a “Welcome from God’s Word.” When the sun goes down, it is to “God” that it goes to rest. Whenever a bargain is struck, the appeal to the other party is “God has seen it,” or “God has heard it.” And although German jurisdiction, with its partiality for oaths slily extracted after a statement, has imported here and there a little false swearing, in the main that ancient confirmation of the contract is still respected. In Wendland the churches are filled as nowhere else in Germany, and however prosily the parson may preach – as he generally does – nowhere is he more attentively and devoutly listened to. In Wendland alone of all Germany have I noticed that Protestants bow at the mention of the name of “Jesus.” Barring some ten thousand Roman Catholics in Saxony, the Wends are all staunch Protestants of that nondescript Lutheran-Calvinist creed, which the kings of Prussia have imposed upon their country. But not a few of their beliefs and superstitions and legends hark back to older days. They still keep Corpus Christi. In their religious legends, which are of very ancient origin, the Virgin plays a prominent part—leading off, among other things, a nocturnal dance, in which the angels all join, clad in silken gowns with green wreaths on their heads, meeting for the purpose, of all unsuitable places, in the church, and carefully locking the door against human intruders. The Virgin’s flight into Egypt is put into strongly agricultural language. “Has a woman with a child passed this way?” ask Herod’s ruthless emissaries. “Aye,” answers the truthful Wend, “while I was sowing this barley.” You fool, that must have been three months ago.” In truth, by a miracle the barley has grown to maturity in one brief hour. By this expedient the Virgin escapes. The Virgin spins, the Virgin sews shirts; the Virgin does all that Wendish women are taught to do. In Scripture-lore the Wends have their own localized versions of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah; of the fight of St. George and the Dragon; and an even more localized tale of the doings of King David. The archangel Michael is made to fight for Budyssin against the Germans. Judas Iscariot, according to their national tradition, comes to grief mainly through gambling. The Savior gave him thirty pieces of silver to buy bread with. These he staked – tempted by Jews whom he saw gambling by the wayside – on an unlucky card; and to recover them it was that he sold his Master. To cap all this unorthodoxy, the Wends make the Creator call after Judas that he is forgiven. But remorse drives him to hang himself, notwithstanding. He tries a pine and a fir, but finds them too soft, so he selects an aspen tree – hence the perpetual agitation of its leaves. One of their peculiar legendary saints is Diter Thomas, who was so holy that he could hang his clothes when going to bed – which he appears to have done in the daytime – on a sunbeam. One day, however, at church this devout man espied the Devil seated behind the altar, engaged in taking down on a fresh cowhide the names of all whom he saw sleeping in church. There must have been an unusually large number, for the cowhide proved too small, and Satan was fain to stretch it by holding one end with his teeth and pulling at the other with his hands. As it happened, his teeth let go, and back went his head against the wall, with a bang which woke up all the sleepers. This aroused in pious Thomas so much mirth that he forgot the respect due to the holy place, and laughed aloud – in punishment for which offence his grace departed from him, and he was thenceforth reduced to the necessity of using pegs. For their regularity in attendance at church I half suspect that the peculiar fondness of the Wends for singing is, in not a small degree, accountable; and, it may be, also the attraction of a little gossip after service, and the excitement of an occasional little fair.

            The Wends would indeed not be Slavs if they were not engrossingly fond of singing. Singing is, in fact, among young folk reckoned the principal accomplishment. And they have a rich store of songs, set to exceedingly melodious airs. They have them of all descriptions – legends and convivial songs, martial songs, sacred hymns, short rónčka and reje for the dancingroom, and long elegies and ballads for the field, to shorten the long summer’s day out at work. They have their own curious instruments, too, still in use – a three-stringed fiddle, a peculiar sort of hautboy, and bagpipes of two different sizes, the larger one invariably ornamented with a goat’s head. To be a kantorka (precentress) in church, or even in a spinning-room, is a thing for a Wendish girl to be proud of, and to remember to her old age. What a Wendish village would in winter time be without those social spinning meetings it is difficult to imagine. To no race do conviviality, mirth, harmless but boisterous amusement, seem so much of a necessary of life. And none appears to be so thoroughly devoted to the practice of homely household virtues. Spinning, poultry-breeding, bee-keeping, gardening, coupled with singing, and nursing children, and making model housewives – these are the things which occupy girls’ thoughts. At her very christening the baby-girl, borne back from church “as a Christian,” is made to find a spindle and a broom carefully laid in the room, to act as charms in setting her infant thoughts in the right direction. Her “sponsor’s letter” is sure to contain some symbolic grains of flax and millet. And a lover’s principal gift to his sweetheart invariably consists of a carefully turned and brightly-painted “kriebatsche,” an antiquated spindle and distaff that is, which is held dear as a family Bible. Spinning, indeed, is among Wends a far more important occupation than elsewhere. For men and women alike wear by preference linen clothes, made of good, stout, substantial stuff, thick enough to keep out the cold. In rural Germany a peasant girl is expected as an indispensable preparative for marriage to knit her “tally” of stockings. In Wendland the trousseau consists all of spun linen. Servants invariably receive part of their wages in flax. Spinning accordingly is about the most important work to be accomplished in a household. And as it lends itself capitally to sociability and mirth, the Wendish maidens take to it with peculiar zest. The date for beginning these gatherings throughout Lusatia is the 11th of October, St. Burkhard’s Day in the Wendish calendar. On that day the young unmarried women tell themselves off into pšazas, that is, spinning companies, consisting of  twelve at the outside, all of them girls of unblemished character. Among no race on earth is purity more valued and insisted upon – in both sexes – than among these poor, forest Wends. Wherever corruption has crept in, it is wholly due to the evil seductions of Germans, who have taken advantage of the helplessness of Wendish girls when away on service. In a Wendish village, to have made a faux pas deprives a young fellow and girl alike of their character for life. The girl must not sit with the other girls in church when the young are catechised; she must not walk up to the altar on high festivals; she must not join in the singing; and the spinning companies will not have her. In olden time she was not even allowed to dance. Young men going notoriously astray used to be punished in their own way.

            Some time before the eventful eleventh, the pšazas assemble to decide in whose house the spinning gatherings are to be held. In that house they meet through­out the winter, spinning industriously with wheel or with spindle from seven to ten, and requiting the housewife for her hospitality with welcome assistance in various kinds of domestic work. On the first evening the company quite expects to be treated to a good supper of roast goose. How all the spinners, with the resident family, and those young fellows who, of course, will from time to time pay the lasses a visit – either in disguise or in their own proper garb – manage to meet, and work, and lark, and dance, where they do, it is rather a problem to solve. For many of the rooms are not large. They are plain, of course, in their equipment, like all Wendish rooms (in which paint is allowed only on chairs, all the other woodwork being subject to the scrubbing-brush), but strikingly peculiar. Almost in one corner – but far enough away from the wall to leave space for a little, cozy nook behind – stands the monster tile stove, very adequately heated with peat or wood, and showing, tolerably high up, a little open fireplace, in which burns a bright little wood fire, rather to give light and look cheerful, than to diffuse warmth. That is the vestal hearth of the Wendish house, without which there would be no home. In another corner stands the solid, large deal table, with painted chairs all round. The walls are all wainscoted with deal boards; and round the whole room runs a narrow bench, similar to the murka, a seat far more tempting, which encircles the stove. Nearly all the household implements in use are neatly ranged about the walls, or else placed on the floor – the boberzge, a peculiar plate rack; the polca, to hold pots and spoons; and the štanda, for water. There are baskets, cans, tubs disposed about, and a towel hung up for show. This room grows tolerably lively when the spinning company assembles, telling their tales, playing their games, gossiping and chatting, but mostly singing. “Shall we have any new songs?” is the first question invariably asked when the pšaza constitutes itself. And if there is a new girl come into the village, the inquiry at once passes round, “Does she know any new songs?” Indeed, the pšazas serve as the principal singing classes for the young women in the village. They are kept up throughout the year as special choirs and sub-choirs, so to speak, singing together on all sacred and mundane occasions where singing is required. Whenever “the boys” look in, there is great fun. Sometimes one will dress up as a “bear,” in a “skin” made up of buckwheat straw or else he will march in as a “stork,” which causes even greater amusement. Once at least in the season the funny man of the set makes his appearance transformed into what, by a very wild flight of imagination, may be taken for a pantomime horseman, with a horse made up of four big sieves, hung over with a white sheet. Before calling in a real, formal way, the boys are always careful to ask for leave, which means that they will bring piwo and pálenza (beer and spirits), the girls revenging themselves by providing cake and coffee; and then the entertainment will wind up with a merry dance. One very amusing occasion is the dopalowak, or dolamomak, that is, the last spinning evening before Christmas, when the boys sit in judgment upon the girls, and, should they find one or other to be guilty of idleness, condemn her to have her flax burnt or else her spindle broken, which penalties are, of course, in every case commuted into a fine. This sort of thing goes on till Ash Wednesday, when the “Spinte” is formally executed by stabbing, an office which gives fresh scope to the facetiousness and agility of the funny man. The night before is the social evening par excellence. It is called corny wečor, “the black evening,” because girls and boys alike amuse themselves with blackening their faces like chimney-sweeps, and with the very same material. The boys are allowed to take off the girls’ caps and let down their hair – the one occasion on which it is permitted to hang loose. And there is rare merrymaking throughout the night. Indeed, all Shrovetide is kept with becoming spirit, perhaps more boisterously than among any other folk, and in true excitable Slav style. The boys go about a-“zampering,” and collecting contributions; the girls bring out their little savings; and then the young people dance their fill, keeping it up throughout Lent. Indeed, they dance pretty well all the year round –

“Njemski rady rejwam,

Serski hišće radsjo;”

which may be rendered thus:

“The German way I love to dance,

But the Wendish dance I dote on.”

            To witness the serska reja – the only truly national dance preserved among the Wends – at its best, you should see it danced on some festive occasion, when the blood is up, out in the open air, on the grass plot, where stands the sacred lime tree. There is plenty of room there. The very sight of the green – say of the young birches planted around for decoration at Whitsuntide or Midsummer – seems to fire the susceptible spirits. The dancers throw themselves into the performance with a degree of vigor and energy of which we Teutons have no notion. The serska reja is a pantomimic dance. Each couple has its own turn of leading. The cavalier places his partner in front of him, facing her, and while the band keeps playing, and the company singing one of those peculiarly stirring Wendish dance tunes, he sets about adjuring her to grant him his desire, and dance with him. She stands stock still, her arms hanging down flop by her side. The cavalier capers about, shouts, strikes his hands against his thighs, kneels, touches his heart – with the more dramatic force the better. At length the lady gives way, and in token of consent raises her hand. Briskly do the two spin round now for the space of eight bars, after which for eight more they perform something like a cross between a chassez croisez and a jig, and so on for a little while, after which the whole company join in the same performance. As a finish the cavalier “stands” the band and his partner some liquor, and a merry round dance concludes his turn of leading, to the accompaniment of a tune and song, rónčka, selected by himself.

            Lent is a season more particularly consecrated to song. Every Saturday afternoon, and on some other days, the girls of the various pšazas assemble under the village lime tree, the seat around which is scrupulously reserved for them, to sing, amid the rapt attention of the whole village, some of their delightful sacred songs peculiar to the season. This singing reaches its climax on Easter night, when young fellows and girls march round the village in company, warbling in front of every door, in return for which they receive some refreshment. For a brief time only do they suspend their music to fetch “Easter water” from the brook, which must be done in perfect silence, and accordingly sets every mischief-maker at work, teasing and splashing, and playing all sorts of practical jokes, in order to extract a word of protest from the water-fetching maidens. As the clock strikes mid-night the young women form in procession and march out to the fields, and all round the cultivated area, singing Easter hymns till sunrise. It produces a peculiarly striking effect to hear all this solemn singing – maybe, the same tunes ringing across from an adjoining parish, as if echoed back by the woods – and to see those tall forms solemnly moving about in the early gloaming, like ancient priestesses of the Goddess Ostara. While the girls are singing, the bell-ringers repair to the belfry (which in many villages stands beside the church) to greet the Easter sun with the traditional “Dreischlag,” the “three-stroke,” intended to indicate the Trinity.

            Lent sees the Wends perform another curious rite, of peculiar antiquarian interest. The fourth Sunday in Lent is by established custom set apart for the ceremony of “driving out Death” – in the shape of a straw figure decked out with the last bridal veil used, which the bride is expected to give up for the purpose. This poor figure is stoned to destruction to the cry of Leč hořè, leč hořè, which may be borrowed from the Lutheran name for the Sunday in question, Laetare. In some places the puppet is seated in a bower of pine boughs, and so carried about amid much infantine merriment to be ultimately burnt or drowned. The interesting feature of this rite is, that it does not really represent the Teuton “expulsion of winter” so much as the much older ceremony of piously visiting the site on which in pagan times bodies used to be burnt after death. It is a heathen All Saints’ Day.

            I have no space here to refer to anything like all the curious Wendish observances which ought to be of interest to folklorists: the lively kokot, or harvest home, so called because under the last sheaf it was usual to conceal a cock, kokota lapać, with legs and wings bound, which fell to the lot of the reaper who found it; the lobetanz; the kermuša, or kirmess, great and small, the merry children’s feast on May Day; the joyful observance of Whit Sunday and Midsummer; the peculiar children’s games, and so on. It is all so racy and peculiar, all so merry and yet so modest in the expenditure made upon it, it all shows the Wends so much to advantage as a contented, happy, cheerful people – perhaps a little thoughtless, but in any case making the best of things under all circumstances, and glad to show off their Slav finery, and throw themselves into whatever enjoyment Providence has vouchsafed, with a zest and spirit which is not to be excelled, and which I for one should be sorry to see replaced by the more decorous, perhaps, but far less picturesque hilarity of the prosy Prussians. If only the Wends did not consume such unconscionable quantities of bad liquor! And if in their cups they did not fall a-quarrelling quite so fiercely! It is all very well to say, as they do in one of their proverbs, with truthful pithiness, that there is not a drop of spirit on which do not hang nine devils.” But their practice accords ill with this proverbial wisdom. The public-house is to them the center of social life. Every newcomer is formally introduced and made to shake hands with the landlord. They have a good deal of tavern etiquette which is rigidly adhered to, and the object of which in all cases is, like George the Fourth’s “whitewash,” to squeeze an additional glass of liquor into the day’s allowance. Thus every guest is entitled to a help from the landlord’s jug, but in return, from every glass served is the landlord entitled to the first sip. Thus again, after a night’s carousal, the guests always expect to be treated by the host to a free liquor round, which is styled the Swaty Jan – that is, the Saint John—meaning “the Evangelist,” whose name is taken in vain because he is said to have drunk out of a poisoned cup without hurt. All the invocation in the world of the Saint will not, however, it is to be feared, make the wretched pálenza of the Wends – raw potato fusel – innocuous. It is true, their throats will stand a good deal. By way of experiment, I once gave an old woman a glass of raw spirits as it issued from the still, indicating about 82 per cent, of alcohol. She made a face certainly, but it did not hurt her; and she would without much coaxing have taken another glass.

            This article has already grown so long that of the many interesting customs connected with the burial of the dead and the honoring of their memory I can only refer to one very peculiar and picturesque rite. Having taken the dying man out of his bed, and placed him (for economy) on straw (which is afterwards burnt) to die, put him in his coffin, with whatever he is supposed to love best, to make him comfortable – and in addition a few bugs, to clear the house of them – the mourners carry him out of the house, taking care to bump him on the high threshold, and in due course the coffin is rested for part of the funeral service in front of the parsonage or the church. In providing for the comfort of the dead the survivors show themselves remarkably thoughtful. No male Wend is buried without his pipe, no married female without her bridal dress. Children are given toys, and eggs, and apples. Money used to be put into the coffin, but people found that it got stolen. So now the practice is restricted to the very few Jews who are to be found among the Wends and who, it is thought, cannot possibly be happy without money; and, with a degree of consideration which to some people will appear excessive, some stones are added, in order that they may have them “to throw at the Savior.” In front of the church or parsonage the coffin is once more opened, and the mourners, all clad in white – which is the Wendish color for mourning – are invited to have a last look at the body. Then follows the Dobra noć, a quaint and strictly racial ceremony. The nearest relative of the dead, a young person, putting a dense white veil over his or her head and body, is placed at the back of the coffin, and from that place in brief words answers on behalf of the dead such questions as affection may prompt near friends and relatives to put. That done, the whole company join in the melodious Dobra noć – wishing the dead on last “Good-night.” After that, the lid is once more screwed down and the coffin is lowered into the grave. There are few things more picturesque, I ought to say, than a funeral procession in the Spreewald, made up of boats gliding noiselessly along one of those dark forest canals, having the coffin hung with white, and all the mourners dressed in the same color, the women wearing the regulation white handkerchief across their mouths. The gloom around is not the half-night of Styx; but the thought of Charon and his boat instinctively occurs to one. The whole seems rather like a melancholy vision, or dream, than a reality.

            Hard pressed as I am for space, I must find some to say, at any rate, just a few words about Wendish marriage customs. For its gaiety, and noise, and lavish hospitality, and protracted merriment, its finery and its curious ways, the Wendish wedding has become proverbial throughout Germany. Were I to detail all its quaint little touches, all its peculiar observances, each one pregnant with peculiar mystic meaning, all its humors and all its fun, I should have to give it an article by itself. It is a curious mixture of ancient and modern superstition and Christianity, diplomacy, and warfare. The bride is still ostensibly carried off by force. Only a short time ago the bridegroom and his men were required to wear swords in token of warfare and conquest. But all the formal negotiation is done by diplomacy – very cautiously, very carefully, as if one were feeling his way. First comes an old woman, the schotta, to clear the ground. After that the druzba, the best man, appears on the scene – to inquire about pigs, or buckwheat, or millet, or whatever it may be, and incidentally also about the lovely Hilžička, whom his friend Janko is rather thinking of paying his addresses to – the fact being all the while that long since Janko and Hilžička have, on the sly, arranged between themselves that they are to be man and wife. But observe that in Wendland girls may propose as well as men; and that the bridegroom, like the bride, wears his “little wreath of rue” – if he be an honest man, in token of his virtue. The girl and her parents visit the suitor’s house quite unexpectedly. And there and then only does the young lady openly decide. If she sits down in the house, that means “Yes.” And forthwith preparations are busily set on foot. Custom requires that the bride should give up dancing and gaiety and all that, leave off wearing red, and stitch away at her trousseau, while her parents kill the fatted calf. Starve themselves as they will at other times, at a wedding they must be liberal like parvenus. Towards this hospitality, it is true, their friends and neighbors contribute, sending butter and milk, and the like, just before the wedding, as well as making presents of money and other articles to the young people at the feast itself. But we have not yet got to that by a long way. The young man, too, has his preparations to make. He has to send out the braška, the “bidder,” in his gay dress, to deliver invitations. How people would stare in this country, were they to see a braška making his rounds, with a wreath on his hat, one or two colored handkerchiefs dangling showily from different parts of his coat, besides any quantity of gay ribbons and tinsel, and a herald’s staff covered with diminutive bunting! Then there are the banns to be published, and on the Sunday of the second time of asking, the bride and bridegroom alike are expected to attend the Holy Communion, and afterwards to go through a regular examination – in Bible, in Catechism, in reading – at the hands of the parson. By preference the latter makes them read aloud the seventh chapter of the First Epistle to the Corinthians. At the wedding itself, the ceremonial is so complicated that the braška, the master of ceremonies, has to be specially trained for his duties. There is a little farce first at the bride’s house. The family pretends to know nothing of what is coming; their doors and windows are all closely barred, and the braška is made to knock a long time before the door is cautiously opened, with a gruff greeting which bids him go away and not trouble peaceable folk. His demand for “a little shelter” is only granted after much further parleying and incredulous inquiry about the respectability of the intruding persons. When the bride is asked for, an old woman is produced in her stead, next a little girl, then one or two wrong persons more, till at last the true bride is brought forth in all the splendor of a costume to which it is scarcely possible to do justice in writing. As much cloth as will make up four ordinary gowns is folded into one huge skirt. On the bride’s neck hangs all conceivable finery of pearls, and ribbons, and necklaces, and strings of silver coins – as much, in fact, as the neck will carry. There is any amount of starched frilling and collar above the shoulders; a close-fitting, blue silk bodice below; and a high cap something like a conjuror’s – the borta, or bride’s cap – upon her head. Even her stockings are not of the ordinary make, but knitted particularly large so as to have to be laid in folds. The wedding party, driving off to church, preceded by at least six outriders, make as big a clatter as pistol-firing, singing, shouting, thumping with sticks, and discordant trumpeting will produce. On the road, and in church, a number of little observances are prescribed. At the feast the bride, like the bridegroom, has her male attendants, swats, whose duty it is, above all things, to dance with her, should she want a partner. For this is the last day of her dancing for life, except on Shrove Tuesdays, and, in some Prussian parishes, by express order of the Government, on the Emperor’s birthday and the anniversary of Sedan. The bridegroom, on the other hand, must not dance at the wedding, though he may afterwards. Like the bride, he has his own słonka—his “old lady,” that is—to serve him as guide, philosopher and friend. Hospitality flows in unstinted streams. Sometimes as many as two hundred persons sit down to the meals, and keep it up, eating, drinking and dancing, for three days at least, sometimes for a whole week at a stretch. It would be a gross breach of etiquette to leave anything of the large portions served out on the table. Whatever cannot be eaten must be carried home. Hence those waterproof pockets of phenomenal size which, in olden days, Wendish parsons used to wear under their long coat-tails, and into which, at gentlemen’s houses, they used to deposit a goodly store of sundry meats, poultry, pudding and méringues, to be finally christened – surreptitiously, of course – with rather incongruous affusions of gravy or soup, administered by the mischievous young gentlemen of “the House,” for the benefit of Frau Pastorin and her children at home. Sunday and Tuesday are favorite days for a wedding. Thursday is rigorously avoided. For two days the company feast at the bride’s house. Taking her to bed on the first night is a peculiar ceremony. The young girls crowd around her in a close circle, and refuse to let her go. The young lads do the same by the bridegroom. When, at last, the two force an exit, they are formally received into similar circles of married men and women severally. The bride is bereft of her borta, and receives a čjepc, a married woman’s cap, in its place. After some more hocuspocus, the two are accompanied severally by the braška and the bride’s słonka into the bridal chamber, the bride protesting all the time that she is “not yet her bridegroom’s wife.” The braška serves as valet to the bridegroom, the słonka undresses the bride. Then the braška formally blesses the marriage-bed, and out walk the two attendants to leave the young folk by themselves. Next morning the bride appears as “wife,” looking very demure, in a married woman’s garb. On that day the presents are given, amid many jokes – especially when it comes to a cradle, or a baby’s bath – from the braška and the zwada – the latter a sort of clown specially retained to amuse the bride, who is expected to be terribly sad throughout. The sadder she is at the wedding, the merrier, it is said, will she be in married life. There is any amount of rather rough fun. On the third day, the company adjourn to the house of the bridegroom’s parents, where, according to an ancient custom, the bride ought to go at once into the cow house, and upset a can of water, “for luck.” After that she is made to sit down to a meal, her husband standing by, and waiting upon her. That accomplished, she should carry a portion of meat to the poorest person in the village. A week later, the young couple visits the bride’s parents, and have a “young wedding” en famille.

            I have said enough, I hope, to show what an interestingly childlike, happily disposed, curious and contented race those few surviving Wends are. And they are so peaceful and loyal. Russian and Bohemian Panslavists have tried all their blandishments upon them, to rouse them up to an anti-German agitation. In 1866 the Czar, besides dispensing decorations, sent 63 cwts. of inflammatory literature among them. It was all to no purpose. Surely these quiet, harmless folk, fathers as they are of the North German race, might have been spared that uncalled-for nagging and worrying which has often been pointed against them from Berlin for purely political purposes! In the day of their power they were more tolerant of Germanism. They fought side by side with the Franks, fought even under Frankish chieftains, Germany owes them a debt, and should at least, as it may be hoped that she now will, let them die in peace. Death no doubt is bound to come. It cannot be averted. But it is a death which one may well view with regret. For with the Wends will die a faithfully preserved specimen of very ancient Slav life, quite unique in its way, as interesting a piece of history, archaeology and folk-lore as ever was met with on the face of the globe.