Pysanky is the word by which the ancient Heathen custom of Ostara egg decoration is known in Eastern Europe… and beyond. This custom is thought to have originated in the Ukraine… the same place where the earliest known examples of that most ancient and holy European symbol, the swastika, were found. Paleolithic figures, carved out of mammoth ivory and decorated with swastikas, were discovered in Mezine, Ukraine.
The swastika is a sacred representation of the solar wheel of Sunna and the lightnings of Thor. Even ancient Viking swords had this holy symbol inscribed upon them because these symbols are believed to confer protection and prowess in battle. For more about the swastika as a symbol of Thor, see here and more recently, here.
The ancient practice of engraving a swastika on a sword is one meant to call upon the power of Thor. A sword smith engraving a sword with Thor’s swastika or with runes is a sacred act… He is seeking the Divine and blessing of the Gods in war. The decorating of the egg is also a ritual, in this case, one meant to participate in and bring about the fertility of the Earth Goddess, Nerthus. These eggs carry decorations which contain sacred symbolism. They act as talismans against various types of harm, and are also a way of thanking the Gods… a sort of artistic message to the elemental Gods, asking for their blessings and protection, as well as expression of gratitude and love.
The painting of eggs with magical symbols is well known and exceedingly popular in our present culture, but few know the true meanings of the symbols enjoyed, and some even think of this holiday as being Christian. The truth is that Christianity had no traditions of its own any more than it had its own temples. Both sacred places of worship and holy festivals were ruthlessly appropriated and the Jewish supremacist “god” forcibly superimposed upon them. Fortunately, however, the essential character of Ostara still remains, and once the parasitic foreign god is removed from the equation, the true significance of many of the customs is readily apparent.
The as yet undecorated egg is a blank wintry slate, apparently white and barren like a snowy field, yet inside it is full of potential. Within it lies the mystery of creation and new life. In essence, this is the world egg, and the creatures and plants of the earth, and related symbols that appear on the earth were likely to be thought of as first appearing upon the egg, in part due to the intention of the artist. The very act of drawing the riotous blessings to come is a magical one. It both heralds and helps to call into being those miraculous expressions of the fertility of the Earth which will come forth abundantly in the spring.
The custom or game of breaking dyed red eggs, by cracking them against an egg held by another person, is still observed by many orthodox Christians in Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean. It is called τσουγκρισμα or tsougrisma in Greek.
Although the Christians themselves may very well not be aware of it, I suggest that it is also a fertility ritual in honor of the Norse Goddess Nerthus, also known as Gaea, Ge, or Mother Earth in more southerly regions. It also may commemorate her daughter, the Spring Goddess, known as Persephone or Kore (girl) in Greece, and in our Norse and Germanic traditions, as the Goddess Ostara. This clearly Pagan custom has been given a false Judeo-Christian overlay, for example, the description we see here:
“Easter eggs are dyed red to represent the blood of Christ, shed on the Cross, and the hard shell of the egg symbolizes the sealed Tomb of Christ—the cracking of which symbolizes his resurrection from the dead. “
Clearly this is not the case, but at least this added gloss allowed our customs to survive during that terrible Judeo- Christian take-over which we still suffer from today. No, the significance of this beautiful custom is not a Jewish Marxist Zombie tottering out of a tomb to inflict White genocide on all of us, but something far more positive, real, beautiful, and pure. The bright blood red hard boiled eggs which are ritually blessed, ceremonially cracked, and eaten on Ostara morning (called Krashanka) are red because they symbolize the blood of fertility, marriage, and birth, as well as the wonderful abundance of blessings that rise out of a seemingly barren earth, breaking through her soil, at this time of year.
Hard boiled eggs that are merely colored, (as opposed to decorated) are known in Eastern Europe as Krashanka and are typically dyed red, blessed on Ostara morning, and eaten as part of our celebratory feast. Pysanka eggs are the highly decorated version, which are so full of Pagan symbolism, and these are not eaten. To this day, even in Christendom, both varieties of egg are thought to bear sacred powers.
The shells of the Krashanka eggs are placed on thatched roofs to turn away high winds, and in fields of crops, and under beehives to bring prosperous harvests and high yields of honey. The egg shells are rich in minerals and do indeed aid the health of plants, but a natural spiritual blessing of the forces of Nature is also called upon in these ancient customs. The Pysanka eggs are thought to protect against fire, storm, and lightning  , which is no doubt one reason why they often bear the holy symbols of the sky God, Thor.
The word Pysanka comes from the Ukranian word “pysaty”, which means “to write”, which is appropriate, because it seems to me that the symbols drawn resemble in form and function symbols drawn on petroglyphs, probably also for magical purposes, or to honor Gods and heroes, or commemorate great events. Surviving Heathen solar symbols are extremely popular as Pysanky egg themes even now, and the tradition of them being meant to honor a Sun deity still survives and is remembered.
Two of the most popular holy symbols of Pysanky are the swastika, which has many solar connotations, for instance in its form as a Sun wheel, and the symbol of the Sun itself. These symbols rejoice in the return of the Sun Goddess and confer good fortune. So great is the power of the Sun Goddess that even a representation of her in the form of a star is thought to ward off evil, illness, and ill-intentioned spirits.
In addition to solar and swastika themed eggs, there are such a host of wonderful Pagan symbols on the Pysanka that it would be hard to introduce you to all of them in just one article. Even the individual colors of the dyes have meaning. For now, we shall simply mention a few other symbols, as well as a brief description of the process, and references to resources about how to perform this ancient art if you decide to try it yourself this Ostara weekend.
In general terms, Pysanky designs tend to have at least one of a few basic themes, sometimes all at once on the same egg. These themes often include geometric and elemental patterns which have hidden meanings, for instance, the 4 corner or cross motif, which was originally a Slavic Pagan holy symbol, and the triangle, which represents the trinity of three Gods, also Heathen originally. Lines drawn around the eggs are said to represent eternity, and are, I believe quite possibly reminiscent of the great snake which is sometimes thought of as twining around the world in Pagan lore. Upon doing some research into this, I have found that there are indeed some Pysanka which portray snakes or a snake, known as the Haad, the good snake, which wraps around the world, protecting it from evil.
One tradition from the Hutzuls of the Western Ukraine speaks of a monster who, much like Fenris, is chained but will some day escape and wreak havoc and destruction on the entire world unless the Pysanky eggs continue to be made, granting us their magical protection and blessings. It is said that if their numbers diminish, the chains of the beast are loosened, and he can enact evil on the world, but when greater numbers are made, the chains tighten again.
Other very popular ancient themes include floral elements, which speak of fertility, sometimes female, and sometimes male. The pine and oak and acorn symbolize male strength and stamina, while flowers often represent the female principle. Riotous growth of vegetation, an embodiment of Frey, the Green Man, or of Nerthus are other common themes. In similar fashion, animals, which have connotations such as communication with the Gods, in the case of flying birds, or prosperity and wealth, in the case of farm animals, often appear on the eggs as well, meant to call these blessings and draw them to us.
The process of Pysanky is both complex and interesting and truly can be considered an art form as well as a spiritual and meditative ritual. The design is created by writing with a candle- heated metal funnel attached to a handle as though it were a stylus. This instrument, called a kistka, is used to paint a design on the egg in hot beeswax. The design is painted in successive layers. The first layer uses the white of the egg shell itself, which symbolizes the Moon. It will stay white underneath the wax, and eventually when the wax is melted, different layers of design, over different stages of dyeing, will reveal the paintings that were drawn in wax when a particular color was on top, making a multicolored multi-layered egg. For example, after the wax design is made on a white egg, it is dyed, generally with yellow, which symbolizes the Sun. The process of making a wax design is then repeated, on the yellow background, and this time the design made, even when the wax is melted, will remain yellow.
All of the necessary Pysanky art tools are readily available on the internet, for example on Ebay, but if you cannot gather these in time this year, you could always try to start with an egg simply decorated with a wax crayon then dyed, remembering that the artificial dyes yield the most brilliant colors the most quickly if one is strapped for time. For eggs one eats in particular, one may wish to make the effort to make proper natural dyes, leaving eggs in the dye as long as is necessary to color them to one’s liking.
Here are three videos on Pysanky which you may find of use. The first demonstrates a simple step- by- step- process, while the second demonstrates more possible variations in a far more involved manner, which is somewhat reminiscent of the “anal retentive fisherman” skit on Saturday Night Live. Nevertheless, it is still quite compendious and useful. The third is a music only close up, chill-out version with Ukranian folk music.
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