Pysanky (decorated eggs) are part of ancient, pagan Ukrainian culture. They served as protection for their owners. A pysanka had "magical powers" - it brought luck and could protect from fire, prevent famine and ensure good health.

The name - pysanka (pysanky - plural) derives from the Ukrainian word pysaty (to write). This refers to the way that the eggs are decorated - by being "written on" with wax.

Many of the patterns or symbols on the pysanky have specific meanings:

Horse: wealth and prosperity

Flowers: wisdom, beauty, and elegance

Bird: coming of spring and fertility

Oak Leaf/Acorn: strength and persistence

Spirals: defence and protection

Pine Bough: strength, growth, and eternal life

Crosses: Christ and the four corners of the world

Roses: love and caring

Deer: masculinity, victory, and leadership.

With the introduction of Christianity to Ukraine in 988 A.D., the pagan symbols took on new Christian meaning e.g. triangles symbolising air, fire and water became Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

There are many legends surrounding pysanky in Ukraine - a Hutsul legend (from the mountainous, western region of Ukraine) states that the fate of the world depends on the pysanka - as long as the tradition of creating pysanky remains, the world will not end. 



The process of creating a pysanka, starts with a white egg. The pattern can be drawn on the egg first with a pencil. Next, the areas of the design that need to stay white are covered in melted beeswax through a special stylus. The beeswax is melted by picking up a small piece in a the kistka (stylus) and heated in a candle flame until it melts and can be then "drawn" on the egg.

At each stage of the creative process, the egg is dyed and covered in wax (similar to the batique method). Finally, all the wax is melted and wiped off, revealing the finished design. 

Pysanky from different regions have different patterns and colours.

From the region of Lemkivshchyna (now mostly in Poland), pysanky are created using a different method - traditionally with a sharpened matchstick and melted wax. The patterns are simple but very difficult to execute. I know - I tried for the first time this year.