Pysankas, or, Ukainian Easter Eggs
April 21, 2019 7:25 AM   Subscribe

They have a history. And, with the right tools and patience, they can be made at home. (TLDR version) Happy Easter.
posted by BWA (15 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Orthodox Easter is April 28th, this year.
Lasts for 5 days.
posted by Ideefixe at 7:31 AM on April 21 [4 favorites]

We always did this as a school craft. I guess that's what happens when you live a couple of hours away from the Vegreville egg.
posted by clawsoon at 8:30 AM on April 21 [4 favorites]

Pysanki have been found in prehistoric graves. My grandmother once sent a dozen of these wonderful eggs as an Easter present to my sister and me.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 8:41 AM on April 21 [3 favorites]

Another belief is from the colorful Hutzuls from Western Ukraine. They believe that the fate of the world depends on PYSANKY. As long as egg-decorating continues, the world will exist. Should the custom cease, evil in the guise of a monster chained to a huge cliff, will encompass the world and destroy it. Each year the monster's servants encircle the globe, keeping record of the number of PYSANKY made. When there are few, the monster's chains loosen, and evil flows through the world. When there are many, the chains hold taut, allowing love to conquer evil.

Listen, whatever deficit of pysanky is happening in the world right now, I am all in to help address that.
posted by corey flood at 8:42 AM on April 21 [10 favorites]

There are certain things that work with one's brain, and pattern recognition is a big thing for me. When I see designs like this, I love them and immediately want to make things. A lot of them remind me of Islamic arabesque art, too, which is amazing.

One of my high-school math teachers used to say that pattern recognition is what distinguishes humans, so maybe this is just a human thing, but then sometimes I wonder if the resonance of certain patterns is a me thing, especially because of my Jewish ancestry from Odessa. Maybe there are patterns that I grok because of ancient neuronal pathways.

It's like the mysteries of why any specific art form or art period especially stands out to a person, like how Wassily Kandinsky's work is just so thoroughly my jam. I love these mysteries, too. That's one reason I now love art museums so much. Anyway, this is delightful and I hadn't thought about these eggs in a long time!
posted by limeonaire at 8:51 AM on April 21

I remember blowing out the egg as being the most magical part, though it sounds like that's not the most traditional way of doing it.
posted by clawsoon at 9:07 AM on April 21

Oh, I've made these! Part of my mother's family is Ukranian-Canadian and so how to do them was passed down. My Mom hasn't done them for a long time, but for a while she was quite good at them, had an electric kishka (sp?) and everything to make her lines more even. She raised quite a bit of money selling custom ones for the church one Easter.
posted by Canageek at 9:32 AM on April 21

We still make these! It's kind of a hassle, but the belief/superstition that if you don't write them there will be evil in this world is strong enough in my (pretty much agnostic) family that someone every year makes a handful, and the year no one did, we had a string of bad luck and deaths, so the next year we frantically set up on good Friday and made a few just in case. We sat there drinking beers and laughing, but also kind of 1% hoping it would work.

Traditions are weird, but also kind of excellent.
posted by larthegreat at 9:44 AM on April 21 [9 favorites]

I've always wanted to learn how to do this, but it always seemed so complex! It's nice to see a tutorial that is broken down like this, makes it much more do-able.
posted by blnkfrnk at 9:47 AM on April 21

Ugh, I mainly remember accidentally seeing fire to the handle of my kistka. Every. Time. Like I was cursed, or maybe the kistka was cursed.
posted by aramaic at 10:24 AM on April 21 [1 favorite]

Someone used to sell them atbour local farmers market. We still have about a half dozen beautiful ones that we put out every easter.
posted by BrotherCaine at 10:56 AM on April 21

Dan Clowes' strip about the numinous Chicago mysteries of the mid 80s included the Ukranian grocery "Red Egg Inc." that sold nothing but these easter eggs year round.
posted by anazgnos at 4:49 PM on April 21

Unlike clawsoon, I don't remember blowing out the egg as the most magical part.

I remember it as the most nerve-racking, harrowing part, because after you've spent hours making sure your lines were straight and waiting for the dyes to soak in and take effect, and after slowly and carefully melting off all that wax, then you had to risk the integrity of the egg shell by blowing out the insides. Up until that point, the egg is relatively stable. Yes, you have to be careful with it, but you can put pressure on it and hold it firmly. As you start to blow out the white and the yolk, the structural integrity collapses and the egg can easily crumble, and all your hard work and artistic effort turns into nothing but a pile of broken shells.

The way I'd always heard the "curse" was that whoever started making eggs had to continue making them -- it wasn't a transferable or transitive property that covered the family -- otherwise the following year would be one of bad luck. Apparently the countdown clock started and finished at Easter. Believe me, there have been plenty of times in recent years that the thought has crossed my mind that I should have bloody well made an egg in the past year because of the way the current year was going, and I'm really not a superstitious person in the least.

Once again, I've failed to make an egg this year. Maybe, just maybe I should do one this week. If I sneak one in before Orthodox Easter, that should cover me for the upcoming year.
posted by sardonyx at 7:00 PM on April 21 [2 favorites]

We didn't bother blowing out the egg: Its toxic and messy, and really not needed as long as you don't keep them behind glass or heat them.

blnkfrnk: It is TOTALLY doable.
posted by Canageek at 9:09 PM on April 28

sardonyx: I remember it as the most nerve-racking, harrowing part, because after you've spent hours making sure your lines were straight and waiting for the dyes to soak in and take effect, and after slowly and carefully melting off all that wax, then you had to risk the integrity of the egg shell by blowing out the insides.

Wait, no, that sounds horrible! You blow out the egg before you start! Who foisted this soaked-in-dye Sword of Damocles on you??
posted by clawsoon at 5:37 AM on April 29 [1 favorite]

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