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PYSANKY (Ukrainian Easter eggs)

Easter egg, pysanka, decorating is one of the most interesting expressions of Ukrainian folk art. This tradition is very old and its beginnings reach back to antiquity, when in attempting to understand creation, ancient people developed myths in which the egg was perceived as the source of life, the sun and the universe. Although such similar myths are found in many cultures of the word, Ukrainians today are one of the few groups of people who still strongly adhere to many of the ancient traditions associated with the egg.

The Ukrainian pysanka (from the word pysaty, to write) was believed to possess an enormous power not only in the egg itself, which harbored the nucleus of life, but also in the symbolic designs and colors which were drawn upon the egg in a specific manner, according to prescribed rituals. The intricately colored eggs were used for various social and religious occasions and were considered to be a talisman, a protector against evil, as well as harbingers of good.

The symbolic ornamentation of the pysanky consists of geometric motifs, with some animal and plant elements. The most important motif is the stylized symbol of the sun, which is seen as a broken cross, triangle, an eight point rosette or a star. Other popular motifs are endless lines, stylized flowers, leaves, the tree of life and also some animal figures such as stags, horses or birds. The Christian influence brought elements such as the cross, the church and fish.

The most popular method of decorating pysanky is the use of the wax resist method or batik. A specialized instrument called the kistka or ryl'tse is used to write the design with hot wax. The dyes used in the process also had a symbolic meaning. Red symbolized the sun, life, joy; yellow stood for wealth and fertility; green was the symbol of spring and plant life. In the not too distant past artisans prepared their own dyes using natural products such as the bark of oak or ash trees, twigs of sour apple trees, saffron or willow tree leaves. Today, chemical dyes are used.

 
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