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Pysanky

In pagan times, Eastern Europeans exchanged eggs to recognize the commencement of a new chapter in someone’s life. It literally symbolizes A New Birth. The eggs were decorated with dyes made from boiled onion skins, and other smelly stuff (but it was all natural!), and masked the colors with beeswax, a process similar to batik. The finished product is known as Pysanky.

When Christianity was officially recognized by Eastern Europeans in 966 A.D., those eggs were conveniently transformed into Christmas gifts marking the birth of Jesus every year. They were then broken on Good Friday, but replaced on Easter Sunday (opening the Gates Of Heaven was surely A New Chapter!); the concept of Easter eggs has been with us ever since.

Aristocrats (think Romanovs here) retained artisans to create eggs of semi-precious stones like malachite or lapis lazuli, culminating in the gloriously famous Fabergé eggs, encrusted with jewels. (Those aristocrats were slain, and pysanky promptly returned to its proletariat origins.)

Meanwhile, the peasants (think my family here) continued to make pysanky from dyes and wax, a tradition that has continued in my family and the people of Middle Europe since pagan generations. Using a little stick called a kistka, with a tiny metal funnel on the end for the melted wax, I employ the same time-tested skills taught to me by my grandmother from the Old Country. Unlike her traditions, though, I use modern analine dyes to achieve some colors that don’t exist as onion skins!

I decorated all the eggs shown here, each requiring about 4 hours of concentrated labor. In my Eastern European adventures, I've come upon displays of pysanky which always inspire this resident from the western world, as I measure my work against the craftsmanship of native artisans!