Mariona.

This is one of those questions about an incredibly trivial issue that probably bothers no one but me and that may be unanswerable, but I’ve had luck getting obscure questions solved here before, so here goes. In Mandelstam’s Путешествие в Армению (Journey to Armenia; see yesterday’s post) he gets onto the topic of naturalists, and says:

Россия в изображении замечательного натуралиста Палласа: бабы гонят краску мариону из квасцов с березовыми листьями, липовая кора сама сдирается на лыки, заплетается в лапти и лукошки.

Russia in the imagination of the remarkable naturalist Pallas: peasant women distill the dye “mariona” from a mixture of birch leaves and alum; the bark of the linden tree peels itself off to become bast, and it is woven into sandals and baskets.

What the heck is this “mariona”? Google finds “ТКАНЬ: мариона, футер с лайкрой 2-х нитка” (FABRIC: mariona, 2-strand lycra futer [‘knitted cotton with polyester’ — anybody know where that word is from?]), and Google Books finds in the Travaux de l’Institut d’ethnographie N.N. Mikloukho-Maklaï (either 1947 or 1963) “Он назвал несколько растений, применявшихся для крашения шерстяных тканей «мариона»” (He named several plants used for dyeing woolen “mariona” fabrics [I don’t know who “he” is — Pallas maybe?]), so it’s a thing, but it sure is scantily documented, and it’s not even clear whether it’s a dye or a fabric. Any information gratefully received.

Comments

  1. Apparently a blue color, so probably not marena (Rubia tinctorum) as I would have suspected first. Pallas repeatedly mentions alum-based fabric dyes, I found these passages in his descriptions of Crimea and Penza, but Mandelshtamm meant something else. Here’s another Mandelshtamm quote:

    Паллас насвистывает из Моцарта. Мурлычет из Глюка. Кто не любит Генделя, Глюка и Моцарта, тот ни черта не поймет в Палласе.

    Вот уж подлинно писатель не для длинных ушей. Телесную круглость и любезность немецкой музыки он перенес на русские равнины. [Он писал не тонко измельченными растительными красками. Он красит и дубит и вываривает природу с красным сандалом. Он вываривает крутиком и смолчугом. Симбирские пашни, березники и киргизские степи — в арзамасском фабричном котле. Он гонит краску из березовых листьев с квасцами — на китайку для нижегородских баб и на синьку для неба]

    https://rvb.ru/20vek/mandelstam/dvuhtomnik/01text/vol_2/03annex/0680.htm

    Not sure what was this китайка fabric yet. (Upd: usually blue, originally manufactured in Kineshma uezd of Kostroma Governorate)

  2. Thanks!

  3. And then he goes on to say “Чувашки звякают болоболочками в косах.” What are болоболочки? Google Books finds Сергей Михайлович Шпилевский, Древние города и другие булгарско-татарские памятники в Казанской губернии (1877): “Ко мнѣ принесли множество мѣдныхъ и желѣзныхъ болоболочек…” — no help there, except that it’s something metallic.

  4. In Google Books there is an book called View of the Russian Empire During the Reign of Catharine the Second Volume 3 by William Tooke (1800). On page 368 it talks about making dye — “wild madder or krap” can be used to make red dye. In the footnote, it says “In russ, mariona, which is commonly the root of gallium mollugo”.

  5. Village Russia loved homespun blue fabrics, mostly flax. My wife has excellent specimens in her collection, but I couldn’t recall how the village masters dyed this sinyak or krashenina. Some internet recipes do suggest birch leaves with alums for greenish-blue, not too durable, color.

    The other references is Pallas as well. «Путешествие по разным провинциям Российской империи» (Спб. 1809) :
    “Одеяние мордовских жен состоит в высокой набитой и пестро вышитой шапке, у которой назади привешены малые цепочки, небольшая лопасть и балаболочки, также в холстинной рубахе и в нижней одежде, которую они по своему вкусу вышивают синею и красною шерстяною пряжею. Потом носят обыкновенно пояс, у которого назади висит книзу разделенная, разноцветною шерстяною пряжею вышитая, бахромою, пронизками и гремушками увешанная кожа. Если хотят нарядиться в праздник, то, кроме того, еще привешивают к поясу спереди и по сторонам всякие пестро вышитые и бахромою обвешанные лоскутья. Тогда же надевают они гораздо больше и красивее рубахи; а к совершенному убранству принадлежит широкое холщовое верхнее одеяние с короткими, но в пол-аршина широкими рукавами, которое по большей части бывает у них желтое. Обыкновенную верхнюю рубаху застегивают на шее малою, а на груди большою пряжкою, на которой висит столь тяжелая сетка из пронизок и медных пуговиц и сверх того столь много малых цепочек с шелехами, малыми колокольчиками и с другими гремушками, что все мордовское праздничное одеяние по крайней мере не легче конских шор. У девиц на одеянии гораздо меньше гремушек, а в прочем почти ничем не разнится их одежда, только не носят женских шапок. “

  6. In the footnote, it says “In russ, mariona, which is commonly the root of gallium mollugo”.

    Great find! It’s the first footnote on p. 493 of the 1799 edition.

  7. gallium mollugo
    aka Rubia mollugo, the nearest kin of Rubia tinctorum which I mentioned in the first reply. But it may be a false association on several levels: the fabric colors are red rather than blue, and the Russian names use derivations of марена rather than марёна.

    The blue крашенина derailed me into a long phone conversation with an expert in Russia. It turns out that, while in the flax processing regions of Russia, there was typically a loom in each household and countless rolls of linen in storage, the dyeing was done by visiting professionals using imported Asian indigo (which started to come to Russia in the 1600s already under the name of крутик, which is also used for the local indigoferous plant Isatis tinctoria aka вайда красильная )

  8. Fascinating! This page describes various plants that are still of interest to people who explore organic dyes. They include galium mollugo, aka hedge bedstraw or false baby’s breath, and asperula tinctoria, also mentioned in that footnote, and having the common name Dyer’s woodruff. However, wild madder, the English plant name given by Tooke, is identified here as Rubia peregrina; similarly here, which says it was used by the Anglo-Saxons for dyeing.

    In all these cases, it’s the root of the plant that is the source of the dye.

  9. Stu Clayton says:

    крутик

    That is the last name of a German IT colleague of mine.

  10. If mariona is the same as marena (rubia) or podmarennik (galium), both members of the rubiaceae family, then the relevant part is the root and the color is red, also known as krap(p), from German Krapp.

    Google “russkaya tekhnika” danilevsky mariony – in Cyrillic, of course. For some reason, I can’t get any Cyrillic through.

  11. krap

    I knew of this color only as the color of the famous (or infamous) “krap berets” – headgear of the Spetsnaz company of the Independent Special-Purpose Motorized Rifle Division of the Internal Troops (Dzerzhinsky Division).

    It turns out it’s also the name of rose madder in German, Swedish and thereabouts.

  12. William Tooke refers to the journal of someone called Lepechin, who writes about how the Mordvins use “Mariona” root to make red dye.

    http://archeo73.ru/Russian/18vek/Lepechin/AlatirySheremshan.htm

  13. You can still buy raw birch leaves for making natural pigments, but I can’t see how you would get a blue (or red) color from those. Looking at the picture of what that company is selling, it looks like they cut green leaves, which I do not really think is the proper way to do it, because you then have to deal with the chlorophyll. My understanding is that the reason for using birch leaves is to harvest the striking golden yellows and oranges they display in fall, after the chlorophyll has left the leaves, so autumn is when you would want to harvest them. (Alum is not going to affect the hue much; it’s just a standard mordant used both to extract more pigment from the source material and to fix it better to the dyed yarn.)

    Birch bark is also used for dying, but there the reason for using birch is different. Many different kids of deciduous barks can be used to produce light red dyes, but birchbark is easy to work with, because it is so thin and flexible. That make it easy to remove the bark from cut or fallen limbs and easy to separate the soft inner layer, where the pigments are located, from the tougher outer material. You can get deeper colors from other trees, but at the cost of extra labor.

  14. William Tooke refers to the journal of someone called Lepechin, who writes about how the Mordvins use “Mariona” root to make red dye.
    Not the original Russian spelling there, but quite likely the original spelling was “io” which corresponds to modern ё and sometimes alternates with e. Interestingly, a good review of the Mordva textile techniques, with a wealth of archaeological and anthropological data, may be found in the 2006 PhD Thesis of Pavlova.
    http://www.hist.msu.ru/Science/Disser/Pavlova.pdf
    She quotes Ivan Lepekhin as well, but with a different spelling, марена rather than марёна (page 83). She also cites Lepekhin 1821 (a much-delayed publication of a 1768 expedition notebook) on the use of the blue dye (which was, at the time, purchased as small bricks under the name калга. Lepekhin believed that it was made of Isatis tinctoria (вайда). Pavlova also cites the travelogue of the botanist Johan Peter Falck from the same 1768-1774 expedition to Eastern Russia, who noted that Isatis tinctoria grew near Penza and attempts have been made to make fabric dyes out of it, but were unsuccessful at the time.

    Taken together, these two contemporaneous accounts indicate that the blue dye wasn’t locally produced, and there was no local know-how and not even certainty about the plant used in the dye they purchased. So I strongly suspect that the XVIII c. Mordvin villagers were using Asian indigo as well.

  15. He definitely chose wrong time to travel in Eastern Russia.

    In 1774, Georg Lowitz, another German scientist invited by Catherine the Great, took part in a similar expedition close to this area where he was unfortunately caught by Pugachev’s rebels.

    According to Pushkin’s “History of the Pugachev Revolt”:

    Pugachev fled along the banks of the Volga river. There he met the astronomer Lowitz and asked what kind of man he was. Hearing that Lovitz was observing flow of heavenly bodies, he ordered to hang him closer to the stars. Adjunct Inokhodtsev who was there with him managed to escape.

  16. He definitely chose wrong time to travel in Eastern Russia.

    Falck was actually a Swedish scientist, a disciple of Linnaeus. He committed suicide in March 1774 in Tataria.

    Lepekhin just labels the blue dye “Pigmentum ex Isatide”, i.e. pigment from Isatis tinctoria (known as woad in English), without a further comment:

    В синий цвет красят покупною брусковою краскою, которая также и Калга называется (Pigmentun ex Isatide). Для сего крашения делают крепкой щолок из вязовой или дубовой золы. К оному примешивают одну или две части кипятку речной воды, смотря по крепости щелока. В разведенном щелоке распускают на каждые два фунта шерсти три золотника калги. К сему прибавляют или пивных дрождей, или квасной гущи, и сию смесь называют поставом. Постав держат в теплом месте на печи, или на шестке до тех пор, пока он не начнет кваситься или киснуть; и когда чрез трои сутки никакого квашенья не воспоследует, всю смесь как негодную, выбрасывают и делают снова. Но сие у искусившихся красильниц редко случается; и когда сие случится, приписывают не знаю какой противной силе дегтя и всякой руды: по чему и хранят сию смесь в бане, или в другой какой отдаленной хижине, чтобы кто по случаю не взошел туда в дегтярных сапогах. Когда постав надлежащим образом выкиснет и начнет упадать, окутывают свою шерсть, и безпрестанно помешивая держат чрез одну, а много чрез две минуты: потом выжимают и смотрят, довольно ли напиталась пряжа: в противном случае два и три раза окунывают. А как довольно в пряжу вопьется краска, тo в отделку обмакивают в чистой щелок и сушат без всякой промывки. Бедные вместо брусковой краски, употребляют синее суконное лоскутье; и Мордовке не можно сделать большаго удовольствия, есть ли ей подарить синие суконные отирки. Остатки постава у них также не пропадают, но хранят оные на крашение в зеленую краску.

  17. I found this in an annotated edition of Mandelstam:

    Мариона (марена) — краситель алого цвета, добывае­мый из корня одноименного растения.

  18. “Mariona” appears in a 1745 memo signed by Lomonosov on comparison of different species related to Rubia tinctoria, Volume 9 of Lomonosov’s complete work, 1955 edition (the spellings are contemporized as well)
    V. IX pp. 31-33
    https://runivers.ru/upload/iblock/831/lomonosov.Sobranie9.pdf
    Промемория из академии наук в коммерц-коллегию, дек 1745
    … о свидетельствование присланной [из оной Коллегии] краски марионы, можно ли из оной краски крап делать … а делается крап в разных местах Немецкой земли и Голландии из травы, называемой рубиа тинкториа, токмо не из дикой, но из садовой
    … по каталогу покойного доктора Гербера о травах, по Волге растущих, оная же трава, из которой крап делают, растет около Царицына и Кизляра, из чего можно рассудить, что и присланное в Коммерц-коллегию из Кизляра коренье тож. Токмо во всем Российском государстве есть другая трава, которой коренье также под именем марионы известно, и видом оное коренье весьма похоже на коренье крапа, и краску такую же дает, так что из одних кореньев род оной травы совершенно узнать нельзя (an instruction to collect a proper herbarium specimen follows).
    An endnote (page 657) uses the regular spelling “marena” instead. Another memo in the same volume compares a Russian indigo product, “brick blue dye” with “imported brick blue dye”, doubtlessly the same as in the 1768 expedition reports. A dye inventor, Rzhev merchant Terenty Voloskov, with partners received an 1748 patent to manufacture dyes near Torzhok. In 1750, they sent “brick blue dye” for an expertise to compare with the imported specimens. Lomonosov’s short memo declares both Torzhok and foreign dyes equivalent for fabric-dyeing (pp. 51-52 and endnote p. 665). Based on the positive reviews, the factory received an approval to start manufacturing from domestic materials. It went out of business in 1767. Presumably the foreign competition won.

  19. Wow, I never expected such detailed information!

  20. David Marjanović says:

    Futter in German means “fodder”, but somehow also “lining, padding”. Clothes equipped with such are even called gefüttert, which means “fed” otherwise.

    My understanding is that the reason for using birch leaves is to harvest the striking golden yellows and oranges they display in fall

    No oranges, just one shade of yellow – birch diversity in Europe is practically limited to Betula pendula. (There are several outside my windows, and they’ve been getting yellow streaks lately.)

  21. Futter in German means “fodder”, but somehow also “lining, padding”.

    Another mystery cleared up!

  22. I never expected such detailed information!

    It’s just we are serious old Russian textile aficionados, with a collections including some awesome Northern blues, both antique and replicas from Yelena Dikova’s workshop
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nBpqLLnb1zQ

    From her, I learned a long time ago that dyeing is done with natural indigo, but it kind of stunned me to realize that I never asked what kind of dyes have been used there of old. I just naturally assumed that it was some local plant, and I am surprised to discover that it must have been Asian indigo all along. In Arkhangelsk villages! Some sources even list XVII c. wholesale prices :O

  23. January First-of-May says:

    birch diversity in Europe is practically limited to Betula pendula.

    To be precise, as far as I can tell (…from Wikipedia), it’s limited to Betula pendula (by far the most common), Betula pubescens (common but almost indistinguishable from B. pendula), Betula nana (common within its range, which isn’t where most people in Europe live), and several other species in very tiny and/or marginally-European areas.

    (…TIL that there’s apparently a species of birch that is attested on two Ukrainian hilltops and nowhere else. There are about 50 known trees remaining.)

  24. David Marjanović says:

    There aren’t many plants that can be used to dye blue. Other than indigo and woad, I can’t think of any, and apparently dyeing blue used to be suspected of being witchcraft-adjacent…?

    B. pubescens seems to be more or less limited to bogs, B. nana to tundra (boreal and alpine) if I’m not confusing things this late at night. Hybrids of B. pendula and B. pubescens are commonly enough to have their own species name at least.

  25. i know a girl named Garance, and looked up her name just last week – madder!

    https://en.m.wiktionary.org/wiki/garance

  26. There are a lot more common birches in North America, and although most of those have the bright yellow leaves in fall, there are a few that are more orange tinted. Actually, there seem to be largely separate species in the East and West, separated by the continental divide in the Rockies. Probably the most strikingly atypical birch is the red birch (Betula occidentalis), whose trunk is genuinely red-brown and which lacks the peeling bark typical of paper birches* and most related species.

    * Apparently, Betula papyrifera (the American paper birch) is a hexaploid species, although it hybridizes relatively easily with some diploid birches like the red birch.

  27. David Marjanović says:

    That is striking!

    I’ve seen a few of the eastern species, but probably too early in the fall to notice their leaf colors.

  28. Other than indigo and woad

    Number three is probably logwood.

  29. Annette Pickles says:

    @AG
    i know a girl named Garance, and looked up her name just last week – madder!

    That recalls this classic scene:

    https://youtu.be/NISr2z6aV6Y?t=84

    “On m’appelle Garance, c’est le nom d’une fleur”

    The French somehow has more magic than “They call me Madder. It’s the name of a flower.”

  30. “Madders” sounds like a tomboyish nickname for Madeline.

  31. Jen in Edinburgh says:

    I thought birches were the ones that hybridised all over the place – either I’m confused, or the hybrids are breeding with each other 🙂 I’ll try to find that book later.

    I’m pretty sure I’ve seen Betula nana, but I couldn’t tell you exactly where.

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