Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
March 29, 2010
Pysanky eggs radiate resurrection
Beeswax, a stylus and coloured dyes plus chosen designs are used to create Ukrainian Easter eggs.
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
EDMONTON - The process of making a pysanka is not unlike a person's spiritual journey. It starts with nothing special but results in something extraordinary.
"For the actual process of doing a pysanka, it's always meant for Easter. They are really meant as a blessing for whomever you give it to. It's always meant to be life-giving," said Janet Johnson, who has been teaching drop-in pysanky classes at the Marian Centre every Friday afternoon throughout Lent, from Feb. 19 to March 26.
First, an egg is emptied out. Designs are penciled in lightly, and then the blown egg is covered with beeswax using a stylus or kistka (a stick with a funnel on the end). The egg is dipped in coloured dyes. After several colours and more beeswax have been added, the egg looks black and murky. Next, a candle flame melts the wax off, purifying it and all of the fantastic colours emerge.
That is how people make pysanky - Ukrainian Easter eggs.
The pysanka is a word picture or code containing the secrets of a culture. The symbols reveal such feelings as love, happiness and hope.
Visitors to the Marian Centre followed patterns from the many books available or devised their own designs. Even beginners and children who had never made a pysanka before walked out of the crafts room with bright, beautiful eggs.
"Anybody can do it. I am not the least bit artistic," said Johnson, who had several of her own detailed pysanky on the worktable for others to see.
Patrick Stewart, director of the Marian Centre, said the eggs represent Jesus' tomb. Beyond that, the pysanky are different from the painted eggs that children eat at Easter, bursting open with the food of life.
"This beautiful thing we're decorating and preparing is the tomb that Christ is going to lay in for three days," said Stewart.
"We don't break these eggs open at Easter. We decorate these eggs to make the house beautiful. The tomb has been made magnificent by the resurrection of the Lord."
Common designs on a pysanka include geometric figures, eternity bands, the sun, Christian symbols, nature and animal motifs, and agricultural symbols. Every design and colour on a pysanka is likely to have a deep, symbolic meaning. Ladders represent prosperity or prayer. Pine needles symbolize health, stamina and eternal youth. Birds mean fertility and the fulfillment of wishes.
animals praise god
"The symbols are sometimes liturgical or religious symbols, like crosses, or sometimes people even paint an image of Christ on the egg. Sometimes they paint animals, like the deer that yearns for running streams. There are scriptural references of the animals, from the book of Daniel, to how the animals of creation praise God," said Stewart.
Colours are secondary to symbols but play an important part of the pysanka. Yellow represents the sun, moon and stars, harvest and warmth, and perpetuation of the family. Blue symbolizes the sky, air, good health, truth and fidelity.
There is a legend involving pysanky regarding an evil monster chained to a cliff. The monster has servants who travel the world each year taking a tally of how many pysanky have been made.
If fewer eggs have been decorated, the monster's chains are loosened and more evil is unleashed upon the world. If no more pysanky are made, the monster will be released to destroy the world. In the years when many pysanky are made, the monster's chains are held tight, with the power of love and goodness that the pysanky bring is felt throughout all nations.
Stewart said the tradition is that as long as somebody somewhere is making a pysanka, God will keep the world alive. "Even if you're making a mess, you're still upholding creation."
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