The Pysanky method of decorating eggs

Are you familiar with the Pysanky method of decorating eggs?

History of the Pysanky method of decorating eggs

For thousands of years, in Ukrainian culture, the art of decorating eggs for Easter has gone far beyond dipping the little boiled objects into a cup of vinegar and food coloring. A method of decorating eggs, similar to the art of batiking, is used in the Ukraine, and has spread to other cultures as well, due to its beauty and distinctiveness. This style of decorating eggs is known as Pysanky.

The Pysanky method of decorating eggs includes drawing patterns on the eggs with beeswax using a tool known as a kistka, and then dipping the egg into a colored dye. The wax protects the covered areas of the egg, so that the dye colors only the parts of the egg that are left exposed. Using multiple wax layers, a Pysanky artist can create a multi-layered, multi-colored pattern that can become rather intricate.

Though the method itself gives the art its name, it is the symbols used on the eggs that carry the meaning. The art of Pysanky goes back thousands of years, and ancient Ukrainians thought decorating the eggs with such symbols gave them the power to bring good things, such as wealth and happiness into the creator’s home. Other powers thought to be harbored in the art of Pysanky were more universal. It was once thought that Pysanky led to good prevailing over evil in the world. In roughly 1000 A.D., the people of Ukraine turned to Christianity, and the widely-used symbols of Pysanky were assigned new, Christian-oriented meanings. Some distinctly Christian symbols were added to the common language of Pysanky at that time as well.

Common symbols and their meanings in Pysanky

Deer – Wealth, Prosperity
Leaves/Flowers – Life, Growth
Circles – Protection, Everlasting Life
Trees – Strength, Renewal
Triangle – The Elements (Air, Fire, Water), or The Trinity (post-Christianity)
Fish – Christianity
Horns – Nobility, Wisdom
Butterflies – Pleasure of Childhood
Curls – Protection
Ladders – Ascension into Heaven
Netting – for Jesus, the “fisher of men”
Cross – Christian symbol

Symbols are not the only essential components to the art of Pysanky though. The colors used in the art carry their own significance.

Assigned meanings to colors in Pysanky

Yellow – Youth, light, happiness
Red – Love, passion, beauty
Brown – Earth
Blue – Sky
White – Purity, virginity
Orange – Strength, power
Black – Eternity, death
Green – Renewal, hope

As for the chosen canvas for Pysanky, the egg itself represents the cycle of life, and adds to the magic supposed to be held within the art.

Today, Pysanky is still a wide-spread creative undertaking in the Ukraine, and has become a popular art for craftspeople around the world. With a little practice, it is the kind of craft that anyone can do. If you would like to learn more about Pysanky, or how to create your own Pysanky eggs, try the website

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