Symbolism Pysanka Symbolism

18Mar12

English: A mix of traditional Ukrainian, diasp...

Image via Wikipedia

This is a wonderful site all about Ukranian Easter Eggs. Follow the link at the end of the post to see wonderful pictures

What do all the symbols mean?

A great variety of ornamental patterns are found on pysanky. Because of the egg’s fragility, no ancient examples of pysanky have survived. However, similar ornamental patterns occur in pottery, metalwork, embroidery and other crafts, many of which have survived through the ages.

The symbols which decorated pysanky underwent a process of adaptation over time. In pre-Christian times these symbols imbued an egg with magical powers to ward off evil spirits, guarantee a good harvest, insure fertility, and bring a person good luck. After 988, when Christianity became the official state religion of Ukraine, the interpretation of many of the symbols began to change.

The names and meaning of various symbols and design elements vary from region to region, and even from village to village. Similar symbols can have totally different interpretations in different places, and can even be called by very different names. And, over the years, and especially due to the banning of pysankarstvo by the Soviets, the meanings of many pysanky have been forgotten.

When examining a pysanka, and looking at its symbols, keep in mind that there is no “secret decoder ring” to discover its meaning. One does not pick out the symbols and assign each a single, simple meaning. Instead, you must consider the organic whole of the decorated egg, not just its individual components. The arrangement of motifs into a design can often be more important than any of its individual components.

There are several thousand different motifs in Ukrainian folk designs. They can be grouped into several families:

Geometric Symbols: Among the most popular pysanka motifs are geometric figures. The egg itself is most often divided by straight lines into squares, triangles and other shapes. These shapes are then filled with other forms and designs. Common geometric symbols include triangles, diamonds, curls, tripods, dots, spirals and hearts.

Scevomorphic Symbols: The second-largest group of designs, they are representations of man-made objects. Agricultural symbols are very common, as Ukraine was a highly agricultural society, and drew many of its positive images from field and farm. Common symbols include the ladder, sieve, rake, comb, window, windmill and saw.

Phytomorphic Symbols: The most common designs are those associated with plants and their parts (flowers and fruit). Women who wrote pysanky drew their inspiration from the world of nature, depicting flowers, trees, fruits, leaves and whole plants in the highly stylized fashion. Such ornaments symbolized the rebirth of nature after winter, and pysanky with plant motifs were thought to guarantee of a good harvest.

Zoomorphic Symbols: Although animal motifs are not as popular as plant motifs, they are nevertheless found on pysanky, especially those from the Carpathian Mountains. These symbols had a double function: they were intended to endow the owner with the best characteristics of a given animal, and, at the same time, they were supposed to ensure animals with a long and productive life. Deer, rams, horses, birds, fish, insects and snakes were depicted in the abstract as well as in a more realistic mode.

Religious Symbols: Religious symbols are quite common on pysanky. In ancient times, symbols were drawn to the old gods, including Perun, Dazhboh, and the “Bohynia Berehynia” (a goddess/protector associated with the cult of Mother Earth, the source of all life). With the adoption of Christianity as the state religion in 988, the old gods were no longer officially worshipped. New symbols appeared, and old symbols, like old holidays and old traditions, were reworked to fit with the new religion. Both sets of symbols can still be found on traditional pysanky, as well as the more modern ones. (For a better understanding of the old religion, look here.)

Cosmomorphic Symbols: Pysanka have many symbols on them of the sun, the moon and the stars.

Eternity Bands: Eternity bands are among the oldest and most common motifs on pysanky. The “bexkonechnyk” or “meander” is a line that has no beginning and no end; it symbolizes harmony, motion, infinity and immortality.

The Symbolism of Color: Different colors, and different combinations of colors, have meanings as well.

via Symbolism Pysanka Symbolism.

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One Response to “Symbolism Pysanka Symbolism”


  1. 1 An Unblessed Egg or How I Know my Bedroom Drawers are Presbyterian | Pondering the Ordinary

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