Ukrainian eggs also known as Pysanky aren't just for Easter anymore!

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Richard Nebesky
Ukrainian eggs also known as Pysanky aren't just for Easter anymore! A pysanky is another name for a Ukrainian egg, decorated using a wax-resist (batik) method. The word comes from the verb pysaty, "to write", as the designs are not painted on, but written with beeswax.


With a special tool called the kystka (pronounced keyst-ka) and molten beeswax, the writer or artist creates a pattern on the Pysanky Ukranian egg. The egg is then dipped in the lightest colored dye to be used on the Ukrainian egg design. The area underneath the applied beeswax resists the color of the dye. An additional pattern is then applied with more molten beeswax to the dyed area, and then the egg is dipped into a darker colored dye. This process is repeated, applying patterns on the dyed areas of the egg and dipping it into successively darker dyes, until the pattern on the egg is completed. The last colored dye that the Ukranian egg is dipped in (usually black) is the colored background for the pattern. The egg is then held over a lit candle to melt the applied wax. The molten wax is wiped off with a cloth, and the egg's brilliant colors come to life!

The designs date to the Pagan era when the stars, the sun, the moon, the earth, the plants, the animals, fire and water were worshiped and revered by all. According to Pagan worship of the sun in Ukraine, during the season of spring, the sun brought back life to the earth. The days were brighter, warmer and longer. The earth's soil was fertile again causing the trees, the fields, and the flowers to blossom. The wild animals appeared again and began mating and giving birth. Eggs were a symbol of fertility and life. Since the egg brings into existence new life, it was considered an amulet or a charm that averted misfortune and brought good luck.

The practice of giving pysanky became part of the Ukrainian tradition and also served as a means of preserving and continuing the art of pysanky itself. For centuries the designs and symbols used on pysanky were handed down from mother to daughter. The cultural heritage of the Ukrainian nation was entrusted this way.

When the equinox neared and later, after Christianity, when Easter neared, women would set to work creating just the right pysanka for each loved one. Ukrainian eggs or Pysanky used to be made at night by women only when the rest of the household was asleep.No one was allowed to observe her creating her pysanka since the sole purpose of pysanky art was to ward off evil. She would speak certain prayers to ensure that this pysanka would bring wealth, protection or other goodwill to the recipient. This was a mystical expression of the Ukrainian people. The concept has evolved and now, although there are some who maintain a strict traditionalist view, pysanky has joined the ranks of other art forms as a personal expression of the individual artist. But what hasn’t changed are the links to an ancient culture and all the symbolism and heritage those links imply.

Here are some Ukranian egg meanings of the colors: Black - Remembrance, eternity, and death.

White (hard to show up here) - Purity, birth, virginity, and ignorance.

Lavender - Patience, power, royalty.

Yellow - Spirituality, youth, light, purity, happiness, wisdom. Green - Youth, growing, renewal, freshness, hope (in Christianity, victory of life over death.)

Red - Beauty, love, passion, enthusiasm.

Orange - Endurance, strength, power.

Brown - Earth

Blue - Sky and good health from good air

These are some meanings of some of the symbols:

The egg itself represents life and with the eternal cycle of creation

Birds - Fertility

Deer - Wealth/Prosperity

Horns - Nobility, wisdom, and triumph over problems

Roosters - Symbols of good fortune, masculinity, or the coming of dawn.

Hens - Represent fertility.

Butterflies - The ascent of the soul and the pleasure of childhood

Spiders - Patience, artistry, and industry

Leaves & flowers - Life/Growth

Circles - Protection and everlasting life, continuity, and completeness, as well as the sun

Suns - The life-giving, all-embracing, all-renewing nature of God Stars and roses - Purity, life, the giver of light, divine will of God, and God's love for humanity (John 3:16).

Wheat - Bountiful Harvest

Rakes -Successful harvest

Plant symbols - Stand for rebirth and nature

Trees - strength, renewal, creation, growth and eternal life

Leaves - Immortality, eternal or pure love, strength and persistence.

Flowers - Beauty, children, the female principles of wisdom

Fruit - Continuity, good fellowship, strong and loyal love, and love of GodGrapevine - Good fruits of the Christian life.

Triangle - The Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit)and the elements of air, fire and water.

Lines, waves, ribbons encircling the egg - (In any style) Everlasting life

Ladders - Prayers going up to heaven.

The 8-pointed star - Ancient symbol for Jesus Christ.

Dots or small circles - Mary's tears or the sun.

Curls - Symbols for protection.

Spirals - The mystery of life and death, as well as divinity and immortality.

Netting - Jesus was "Fisher of men" (and still is).

Cross - Jesus died on the cross for our sins, His crucifixion Fish (IKTHYS)- Greek symbol for Christianity (secret symbol..used by the early Christians)

The real Pysanky Ukrainian Eggs are beautiful but take some work to master the process. Why not design Ukrainian eggs on paper by drawing an oval and using the colors and symbols listed above. Design an egg for everyone in your family to bring them good health, luck or whatever you would want to wish for them. Remeber they don't just have to be given at Easter time.

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