While I don’t formally celebrate Easter (unless you count my obscene love for Cadbury Creme Eggs as a celebration…which I do), I love nothing more than the combination of great art and symbolism.
Pysanky are a Ukrainian tradition; eggs elaborately decorated using batik (dye resistant designs “written” in wax).
Every time I see these eggs I am awestruck by the thought, care and time dedicated to each one.
Many superstitions were attached to pysanky. Pysanky were thought to protect households from evil spirits, catastrophe, lightning and fires. Pysanky with spiral motifs were the most powerful, as the demons and other unholy creatures would be trapped within the spirals forever. A blessed pysanky could be used to find demons hidden in the dark corners of your house.
Pysanky held powerful magic, and had to be disposed of properly, lest a witch get a hold of one. She could use the shell to gather dew, and use the gathered dew to dry up a cow’s milk. The witch could also use bits of the eggshell to poke people and sicken them. The eggshell had to be ground up very finely (and fed to chickens to make them good egg layers) or broken into pieces and tossed into a running stream.
The cloth used to dry pysanky was powerful, too, and could be used to cure skin diseases. And it was considered very bad luck to trample on a pysanka–God would punish anyone who did with a variety of illnesses.
There were superstitions regarding the colors and designs on the pysanky. One old Ukrainian myth centered on the wisdom of giving older people gifts of pysanky with darker colors and/or rich designs, for their life has already been filled. Similarly, it is appropriate to give young people pysanky with white as the predominant color because their life is still a blank page.
Girls would often give pysanky to young men they fancied, and include heart motifs. It was said, though, that a girl should never give her boyfriend a pysanky that has no design on the top and bottom of the egg, as this might signify that the boyfriend would soon lose his hair.
And just for the fun of it…the cookie version!
Read about the folklore and meaning of different symbols here. And if you want to try your hand at one of these creations, Learn Pysanky seems to have a wealth of information and tutorials.
Has anyone ever made these?