What Are Pysanky?

Pysanky-making is a Ukrainian folk art with pagan roots. Creating a single, beautiful pysanka (Ukrainian: писанка, plural: писанки) requires hours of focused attention. Artisans layer beeswax and dyes, then they melt off the wax to reveal unique, intricate patterns (see videos on Vimeo and YouTube).  

 

Traditionally the craft was practiced at night by candlelight. The “pys” root of the word means "to write" or "to inscribe"—and images are not painted on, but inscribed in wax.

Symbolism

While pysanky eggs overall are associated with rebirth of nature and the protection of households, traditional pysanky designs also carry specific symbolic meanings. The eggs we have made employ imagery ranging from more familiar (doves, flowers, and hearts) to homages to Ukrainian patriotism and resistance (the blue and yellow of the flag, sunflowers, Cyrilic writing, and the seal-trident of Volodymyr). A few designs adhered faithfully to the traditional, intricate patterns Ukrainian babushkas have made for centuries.

 

Carpathian legends say that the fate of the world depends on pysanky, and that as long as the custom continues from year to year, the world will continue to exist. If the custom is abandoned, “evil” will overrun the world. 

 

With Vladimir Putin’s February 2022 invasion of Ukraine, the fate of democracy and of the world feels as delicate and precarious as an eggshell. On the other hand, this folk art serves to signify the power of life, creativity, and “the feminine” as resistance to war, destruction, and dominance.

 

Obviously, during an active war, the Ukrainian babushkas who annually lovingly craft these for many weeks leading up to Easter and other spring rituals are not at leisure to produce the bounty of beauty they usually do. We are stepping in to help keep the tradition alive from afar, and to encourage others to take on the mantle.

 

Sometimes a gorgeous design is accidentally destroyed just at the end of an egg’s creation. Along with intact eggs, we are also auctioning shards of broken eggs as reconstructed art. We do this with a hopeful nod that the sovereign nation of Ukraine will soon be restored to peace, security, and freedom.

 

Learn Even More!

Please visit the website of our partner in Pysanky for Peace which has even more information about this traditional folk art and ways to contribute wherever you are.