Bella Luna Toys.

Since the time before the Christian church, people have been using eggs to honor spring. In the old Pagan traditions, the egg was a symbol of the sun and used on the spring equinox to honor its return. There is even a story of the Germanic Goddess of Spring, Ostara, which involves the starting of decorated eggs and egg hunts. These are the humble beginnings of a wonderful craft known as the Ukrainian Easter egg, Pysanky.

To begin, we should start with, “Why the egg?” There is, of course, the rooster calling the sun to rise every morning. To dispel any myths, roosters actually start to crow at sunrise and crow all through the day. They want to make sure the sun does its job, I suppose. Also, chickens are very photosensitive. When it is dark, they will be sleeping, but once the sun is up, they, too, are up. With that said, a hen needs a minimum of 12 hours of sunlight a day to lay an egg. Unless you use artificial lighting (which industrial factories do use), you don’t have eggs in the winter. It is the return of the sun that also brings forth the egg. There are, as well, stories of the egg being a part of the creation of the universe. In addition, there is a tale about the firebird (the Phoenix) being stolen, and before it was abducted, it laid an egg, which in turn became the sun.

We call Pysanky the Ukrainian Easter egg, but in reality, the Ukraine is only one home of this beautiful egg. Slovakia, Russia, Poland, the Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, and even France all boast Pysanky eggs, although today, they are mainly found in the Ukraine and Eastern Europe, along with their communities around the world.

There is also more than just the Pysanky style. Krashanky and Skrobanki are two other ways eggs are decorated for the spring.

Krashanky, the easiest style, and the one done in almost every home all over the world, is the single-dyed egg. Pagans used this egg, usually dyed red, to symbolize the sun, but today, the Christians use it to represent the blood Christ shed for them. These eggs tend to be given as gifts and employed in games, as well, such as rolling eggs and knocking eggs. The eggs are hard-boiled first. With the rolling, it is much like a race; the eggs are rolled in a field, and the first egg that rolls the farthest wins. This is also done to help the planting of the fields, so they will be fertile in the spring. The knocking of eggs has been of great importance, with specific rules. It is very easy. Two people knock their eggs together; the one that does not crack is the winner — a fun game for both children and adults.

Shrobanki is also a single-color dyed egg. The difference is that the decoration is scratched on with a pin or a knife. These are also given as gifts and used for home decoration.

Pysanky eggs are the ones with many colors and elaborate designs. The method used is a wax resist, where you generally start with a white egg (although not exclusively) and with melted beeswax draw a design on the egg. Once the drawing is done, you dye the egg. You continue in this way until the egg is complete. You start off with the lightest color and move to the darkest. Once the egg is finished, you can either bake the egg in an oven set on low heat to melt the wax or use a candle flame to remove the wax. Once done, the egg can be emptied and sealed.

To create the designs, you can utilize what is called a kistka, which is a small funnel attached to a stick. This is heated up and run through the beeswax; the metal of the funnel stays hot, melting the wax. From time to time, you can heat the funnel for another minute or so to keep the wax melted. You can then with a light touch draw your design on the egg.

In modern times, there are three sizes of kistka to create different effects. In the past, Pysanky creators would make their own kistka or stylus by crafting a funnel from a small piece of tin and tying it in place on a split twig. This style is used the same way as the modern version. Feathers and pins are also used to create designs, by dipping either in melted wax and placing it on the egg (feather) or drawing with it (pin). The feathers are specially trimmed for use in Pysanky.

There are many designs or styles in Pysanky, with each region naming them after their main feature. This can be a horn, mallow, fish, rake, hen feet, oak leaf, spider, and the list goes on and on. The different geometric designs date back to ancient times, with the main motifs coming from nature or people’s daily lives. There is one design called the infinity band, which is generally a diagonal band going around the egg. These bands can be very elaborate or simple; what makes them infinity bands is that they have no beginning or end. These eggs were used in fertility and protection amulets for bees. An infinity egg would be taken to the apiary and placed in the “mother hive,” which would also have incense at it. This egg would help protect the hives and ensure the good production of the bees in the new year.

In today’s world, the Pysanky style is very Christianized. But in reality, all the motifs are very pagan or from everyday life to help guard against fire or the house being struck by lightning. Pysanky eggs would be placed in the house to ward against these things.

As you may have noticed, there are no meanings for Pysanky symbols provided in this article. This is for two reasons: first, space, and second, the author found contradictory meanings. In reality, if you wish to venture into the world of Pysanky, it would be best for you to use your own meanings for your decorations on the eggs, anyway. These will be employed by you; therefore, it is best for you to use the symbols’ meanings with which you are comfortable and which mean the most of you. After you create your eggs, you can empty them, then fill them with a powder to help manifest your desires. Or you can just use them to decorate your home for spring, or both. Whatever you do, enjoy them!

Happy Creating!
High Elder Redhawk



Sumtsov, Horlenko, Nomys and Others, The Story of Pysanka A Collection of Articles on Ukrainian Easter Eggs. Sova Books Pty, Ltd, 2019. ISBN: 978-0-9945334-8-7.

Jodi Smith, Wax Resist Decorated Eggs. ISBN: 9781700142689.

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