Friday, April 2, 2010

Pysanki Eggs for Lent

I am a little late on this one. But better late than never, right?

Food mixed with traditions is always a fun thing to me. So we'll talk about the Ukranian Art of Pysanki. One reason that this tradition started is that people had chickens, but during Lent you were not supposed to eat eggs. But, the chickens really did not understand that, they kept laying eggs.

So with this art you need some dye (There is special dye you can order, but I have used homemade or even Paas dyes.), beeswax, a taper candle and an instrument to put the wax on, like drawing, which is called a kista.

You take a raw egg and with a pencil draw your design on the egg. There are many designs, you can look them up, and each has a meaning, or "wish" or prayer for the person you give the egg to. Then you decide on a first color and submerge your egg. It is important to do this similar to doing watercolors. Which means you go from light to dark. The last color that you use will be the actual color of the egg, and the color that gives your message.

So you have your design and the egg has been put in one color. Now, take your kitsta and fill it with some beeswax. Light your candle and run the kista back and forth in the flame, until the beeswax is melted. Now apply the beeswax to all the areas that you want to remain your first color. Example: You have your design on and you submerge your egg in yellow. Now all the places that you want to remail yellow you put wax on.

Now you continue to add color to your egg layer by layer. As you put your egg in each color you then add the beeswax each time to the areas that you wish to remain that color. The designs can be as intricate or simple as you choose.

By the time you are finished your egg should look almost completely like a mass of beeswax. The only part that is not colored is after the application of the last color. You can look up the traditional symbols and colors and thereby decide what you want your color scheme to be.
This takes a long time for the application of all the colors. When I did Pysanki on a regular basis, each egg would take about 3 - 6 hours depending on the intricacy. So be patient, this is not a "quick art".

Now comes the magical part. You take the egg and very gently pass it back and forth through the flame. You go a little at a time, not keeping the egg in the flame too much at one time, because you do not want it to scorch. As you pass parts of the egg back and forth in the flame you gently wipe off the now melted wax with a paper towel or soft rag. I prefer a sof rag.

You now see the vibrant colors now magically appear in their design. At the end it is good to very gently pass it through a little at a time and get the last slight film of wax off until all the colors look vibrant.

After allowing the egg to dry for at least a day you gently put a pin hole in the top and bottom of the egg. You put a little larger hole in the bottom. Gently shake your egg to break the yolk and now start to blow the egg out of the shell.

Some people wash the inside of the egg with many things. I think this is a little over the top and it is too easy to wash your colors off the egg. And if you have gotten this far without breaking the egg, my advice is to not push it.

The eggs were blessed at church and then distributed as gifts to family and to one's true love. Each egg with the design and color held a meaning - health, posperity, happiness, love.

If you are interested google and find the meanings to the symbols and colors or even better order a kit and make some yourself. This is not an expensive art form. They also make very nice Christmas gifts and ornaments.

There is a belief that as long as Pysanki remains being done in the world - goodness with outweigh evil. Let's help that along. Enjoy and let me know how your eggs look!


cc said...

This is my favorite Easter tradition by far. Sadly, my dyes were too old this year and I didn't prepare ahead and get new ones ready. I really missed the experience.

I was told that I could leave the eggs intact and that the insides would eventually dry up. Is this a mistake? I have a basket full of finished ones in a VERY safe place to avoid breakage until they are empty, but it worries me a bit.

Appalachian Woman said...

I have heard that, but never found it to be true.

drill small hole - after awhile tho - it might be stinky!

Omgirl said...

I had no idea that was how you make those. Do you actually make those yourself? It seems really hard! But they are so beautiful.

Diandra said...

That looks so great. Too bad I have at least 2 left hands.

Selwyn said...

Stunning eggs! Alas, I do not have the time or patience at the moment :)

And I'm now on the lookout for a pullman pan!

Anna Maria Junus said...

I have always loved those eggs (blame my Russian heritage) but had no idea how they were done. I'd like to try it sometime.

Thank you for your lovely comment to my post at Segullah.