marycatelli (marycatelli) wrote,

The Domostroi

The Domostroi: Rules for Russian Households in the Time of Ivan the Terrible by Carolyn Johnston Pouncey

An introduction to the book, and the book itself in modern English.  The intro has some of the problems with figuring out the author of the original work:  the question is who would be prosperous enough to give this kind of advice and yet literate and so able to write it.  It appears to be someone below the boyar stratum, but still plenty rich, and monks have rather different household structures, and priests were seldom rich.

But -- it touches on all sorts of stuff.  What to believe and how to pray.  How and when to invite the bishops, priests, and monks in and how to receive them.  How to amass a daughter's dowry -- in advance.  How important it is to have servants of good character, which gets all the more interesting when you realize that most household servants were slaves, who had sold themselves for support.  The duties of a wife, which include corporal punishment of both slaves and children, and the duty not to keep a guest without her husband knowing -- which must have been feasible, pointing at the segregation of the household.  The importance of keeping your servants from hobnobbing from witches, which is all the harder in that you would naturally notice when a female slave is talking with a man (scandalous, even for a slave) but think that her talking with an old woman is innocent.  Warnings against using any kind of herbal treatment for medicine -- all magic, that, stick to prayers.  Take about leaving inches of fabric in the seams when you make a fancy garment for a "young son, daughter, or young bride", so you can let it out and so keeping it while they are growing; apparently they married very young (the canonical age was twelve for girls) in his social class.  How to buy supplies and how much better it is to have your own -- how to store them and how important it is to feed the poor from them.

I skimmed over the meals section where it describes, in exhaustive length, what kinds of fish and meat can be eaten in every season of the year.

It has a long description of proper wedding ceremonies, taking days.  Describing the "young prince" and the "young princess" also known as the bridegroom and bride  It's interesting to note that some of the ceremony takes place at the bride's parents', and some at the groom's parents', and the other set of parents did not attend those ceremonies -- part of it was sending word to them what had happened.  The bride is always to be borne to the church in a sleigh.  And sprinkling the couple with a mix of grain and golden coins, which must have been uncomfortable.

Some of the advice is repeated.  Particularly in the opening section.  And it's not always consistent (which lend weight to the belief that it's a compilation) -- for instance, it says that the wife must confide everything about her housekeeping to her husband, but also that she should not tell him about the servants' wrongdoing when she can correct it herself.
Tags: families: matrimony, families: parent/child, history reviews: 15th-18th centuries, local color, primary source review, world-building: festivities, world-building: social structure

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