However, Maya, my sister, and I did manage to paint Ukrainian pysanky this weekend. It was Maya's first time (and it had been a while for both my sister and I) and we had a lot of fun. I'll try to post some pictures at some point. I had hoped that my mother, aunt, and grandmother would join us, but it didn't work out this year. Maybe next year. I would like this to become an annual tradition.
I enjoyed teaching Maya the basics, and I look forward to teaching her more of the history and symbolism behind the colors and images. It's such a rich, ancient tradition...one of my favorites. I always feel such a connection to those who have crafted these delicate pieces of art.
I love the entire process from conception to fruition. Pysanky are all about intention. You need to really think about what you want your egg to mean. What story you want it to tell. The patterns are ancient symbols, even the colors have meaning. My ancestors would carefully choose these symbols and colors, because the images they chose would tell a story. The story of their past, present or future. Sometimes all three.
The origin of the word pysanka is pysaty, "to write," hearkening back to a time when writing was honored as magical. Eggs were believed to hold metaphysical powers, carrying with them the energy of creation. Each painted symbol was charged with energy. Each animal, flower and geometric shape had layers of sacred meaning. To make pysanky was to cast a spell...a sacred object that held the secret wishes of its maker.
Older people were given pysanky with rich designs and dark colors, because their lives deserved the ornate patterns. They had lived those patterns. Young people's pysanky had a lot of white and sparse designs, because their lives were still new.
Designs are written on an egg with beeswax using a kistka, a heated stylus, and then dyed. Applying wax protects the covered areas of the eggshell during the series of dye baths. In the end you are faced with a dark egg covered in wax.
It's hard to envision what lies underneath. At that point you carefully hold the egg up to a candle flame and gently wipe away the layers of wax, revealing the pysanka. You never really know what it's going to look like until you burn away the wax. That's when all the parts come together, and the story is revealed.