Spring’s Rebirth – Slavic and Balkan Pysanky

Compilation by Phoenix of Elder Mountain – The Rites of Spring is about honoring our rebirth and the earth’s rebirth, this has specific rituals that are ancient and help us stay connected to our moon nature, our soul and our emotional nature in a positive way. Here at Elder Mountain we do the ritual of building the archaic Goddess Marzanna Effigy (at the autumn equinox and winter solstice) and then burn and throw her into the lake or river, on the day of the Spring Equinox to transform Winter into Spring (and the symbolism of the grandmother into the maiden once again.)

A Pysanka (Ukrainian: писанка, plural: pysanky) is a spring or easter (ostara) egg, decorated with traditional folk designs using a wax-resist method. The word pysanka comes from the verb pysaty, “to write”, as the designs are not painted on, but written with beeswax. Many other eastern Europeans decorate eggs using wax resist tradition. These include the Belarusians (пісанка, pisanka), Bulgarians (писано яйце, pisano yaytse), Carpatho-Rusyns (кашанкы, kašankŷ, or писанкы, pysnankŷ), Croats (pisanica), Czechs (kraslice), Hungarians (hímestojás), Lithuanians (margutis), Poles (pisanka), Romanians (ouă vopsite, încondeiate or împistrite), Serbs (pisanica), Slovaks (kraslica), Slovenes (pirhi, pisanice, or remenke) and Sorbs (jejka pisać).

According to many scholars, the art of wax-resist (batik) egg decoration in Slavic cultures probably dates back to the pre-Christian era. They base this on the widespread nature of the practice and the nature of the symbols utilized. No ancient examples of intact pysanky exist, as the eggshells of domesticated fowl are fragile, but fragments of colored shells with wax-resist decoration on them were unearthed during the archaeological excavations in Ostrówek, Poland, (near the city of Opole), where remnants of a Slavic settlement from the early Piast Era were found.

The Goddess of Spring and her Fertility rites of both woman (children), her creativity and nature (the land) is the basis and root of Pysanka (egg) symbolism, anything other than that was added later in paganism. The egg, like any sacred object are from folk traditions, pagan traditions and religious traditions. These Tal·is·man, noun, is typically inscribed on objects, rattles, clothing or stones, which has a magical touch of power to them, to bring good luck or bad luck depending upon the creator’s energy and intention.  In Slavic and Balkan traditions, Pysanky and Krashanky are used as natural powers and are considered magical talisman. Krashanka are hard-boiled eggs that are dyed in a solid color that are eaten anywhere near the Spring Equinox and in Religious celebrations on Easter for breakfast after being blessed along with other foods.

Ukraine Pysanky 0

Krashanka comes from the Ukrainian word “kraska” meaning “color.” The shells of the Krashanka are placed in thatched roofs to turn away high winds and fires, also under the beehives to insure a good supply of honey and in the fields to protect and enhance the crops.

Pysanky are the richly decorated raw eggs which are never eaten and while most of the pysanky (decorated eggs) were made in a given year were given away to friends and family, some were saved and used for talisman purposes.  A pysanka holds very strong, ancient Balkan and Slavic magic as an ancestral tradition (folk tradition), as its used for protection of the family and the home throughout the year.

Much like each stitch of embroidery thread of the more sacred folk clothing, which is for the wearer’s protection, so too the design when drawn on the egg in a ritual form, much like Buddhist’s mandalas. There are several intentions that the Balkan and Slavic people use when making the more sacred eggs:

1. Several are saved to keep in the home for protection from fire and storms.
2. Two or three are placed in the trough where animals eat, to help fertility.
3. One egg is placed beneath a bee hive to insure a good harvest of honey.
4. One is saved for each grazing animal with the herders in the spring.

marzanna 2Some eggs are hung on trees instead.  A bird’s head would be made of wax or bread dough, and wings and tail feathers of folded paper attached and this links from the ancient pagan rituals of women’s bird tribe clans, which most art of birds are still in folk clothing and modern art. These “birds” were hung before icons of religion ever stepped foot into the lands. A pysanky can also be strung on a string with a tassel, or encased in a straw bird.  In either case, the pysanka is a powerful “oberih” (оберіг, charm) used to keep your home, family and community safe.

Pysanky are particularly protective from fire, an important consideration in times of open hearths and wooden structures. If a fire did break out, a blessed egg would be thrown across it to help either put the fire out, or lead it out of the home. Pysanky is a strong magic because its an ancient feminine and female based talisman, the strongest and most powerful ones are. Pysanky, and the cloths used to help make them, could be burned, and the smoke used to fumigate disease (both from people and animals) like sage and smudge, and also to cure skin infections. Blessed eggs by the grandmothers were useful for treating ague, toothaches, night blindness and various other maladies.

Those who use them for negative intent (dark magic) specifically revenge out of anger, jealousy or hate, could prove dangerous, but when one uses magic in an honorable way, it dissolves any shadow magic. Broken pysanky, for these reasons, had to be carefully disposed of, either ground up and fed to the animals, or thrown into running water. So too with broken talisman objects of any sort.



Animals A family’s animals are also protected and their fertility promoted by pysanky.  The sign of a cross was made over each animal with a blessed pysanka on Easter to bless it, and several pysanky were hung by a string in the stable to provide protection throughout the year.  Pysanky might be placed in beehives and feeding troughs as well. The shells of a pysanka, are always ground up and fed to the chickens so that they might lay many eggs. A ground up blessed egg, either pysanka or krashanka, might be crumbled into bran and fed to the livestock. As with people, animals could be cured of diseases by fumigating them with the smoke from a burned blessed eggshell (usually krashanka).

Of the three types, animal motifs are the most difficult to draw. They appear, then, less frequently than either the geometric or plant motifs. Reindeer and horses are the most common and placed in open spaces in the design, and symbolize wealth and prosperity.


Home A bowl full of Pysanky is invariably kept in every home. It served not only as a colorful display, but also as protection from lightning and fire and even in some villages, from bad dreams (protection in dreams). Particularly powerful are the pysanky with the spiral designs – evil spirits would be attracted to the spiral, and then be trapped inside it, unable to escape. So placing some spiraled eggs (freshly made or wooden ones), can help as talisman.

Geometric And non-geometric motif are used in Pysanky gives them specific names and symbolic meanings. Ribbons and belts that encircle the egg with no beginning or end symbolize eternity of the soul and out emotional body which is housed here in our physical body until its released. Triangles symbolize trios, such as the circle of life of birth, life, death and rebirth; the natural elements of fire, air, and water. Stars symbolize the night goddess, of dreams and life, growth and good fortunes. The cross appeared later with Christianity but that is not a popular symbol, the folk traditions of the Slavs and Balkans tend to be more pagan rituals.

Plants Flowers Plant motifs are stylized flowers, leaves, and branches; and these symbolize love of the natural self (nature), good-will, health, strength and a bountiful harvest. Pine trees symbolize eternal healthy energy and strength.

Birds Bird designs are the most ancient, mostly depicted at rest. Hens, which symbolize fertility and the fulfillment of wishes, are often placed on branches. Birds are not very common now as they have been taken over by more geometric symbols in the last 2 centuries.

Nature All drawings of insects are called butterflies, and are the symbol of the Rebirth or a living rebirth (changes) and emotional changes that are made in ones life.


          YELLOW – onion skins, apple tree bark, or mistletoe leaves
          ORANGE – infusion of crocuses
          GREEN – sprouting rye, wheat or moss
          RED – brazil wood, beets, logwood
          VIOLET – sunflower seeds, elderberry fruit and bark
          BLACK – old walnuts, oak bark or ash.

Ukraine has one of the most elaborate and wide spread Pysanky traditions and is often taken to mean any type of decorated egg, but it specifically refers to an egg created by the written-wax batik method and utilizing traditional folk motifs and designs. Several other types of decorated eggs are seen in Ukrainian tradition, and these vary throughout the regions of Ukraine.

  • Krashanky –from krasyty (красити), “to decorate”– are boiled eggs dyed a single color (with vegetable dyes, traditionally onion skin), and are blessed and eaten at Easter.
  • Pysanky –from pysaty (писати), “to write”– are raw eggs created with the wax-resist method (batik). The designs are “written” in hot wax with a pinhead or a special stylus called a pysachok (писачок) or a kistka(кістка) which has a small funnel attached to hold a small amount of liquid wax. The word that is used to describe the egg actually comes from the Ukrainian verb pysaty, which means “to write”. Wooden eggs and beaded eggs are often referred to as “pysanky” because they mimic the decorative style of pysanky in a different medium.
  • Krapanky –from krapka (крапка), “a dot”– are raw eggs decorated using the wax-resist method, but with only dots as ornamentation (no symbols or other drawings). They are traditionally created by dripping molten wax from a beeswax candle onto an egg. They can be considered the simplest version of a pysanka, or a “proto-pysanka.”
  • Dryapanky –from dryapaty (дряпати), “to scratch”– are created by scratching the surface of a dyed egg to reveal the white shell below.
  • Malyovanky –from malyuvaty (малювати), “to paint”– are created by painting a design with a brush using oil or water color paints. It is sometimes used to refer to coloring (e.g. with a marker) on an egg.
  • Nakleyanky –from kleyaty (клеяти), “to glue on”– are created by glueing objects to the surface of an egg.
  • Travlenky –from travlenya (травлення), “etching” – are created by waxing eggs and then etching away the unwaxed areas. This is not a traditional Ukraine practice, but has become popularized recently.
  • Biserky –from biser (бісер), “beads”– are created by coating an egg with beeswax, and then embedding beads into the wax to create geometric designs.
  • Lystovky –from lystya (листя), “leaves”– are created by dyeing an egg to which small leaves have been attached.

All but the krashanky and lystovky are usually meant to be decorative (as opposed to edible), and the egg yolk and white are either allowed to dry up over time, or (in modern times) removed by blowing them out through a small hole in the egg. In recent years, new forms of egg decoration have been brought from abroad and become popularized in Ukraine. These include:

  • Rizblenky –from rizbyty (різьбити), “to cut, to carve”– are created by drilling the surface of an egg to create cut out areas.
  • Linyvky –from linyvyi (лінивий), “lazy”– a joking term to describe eggs decorated using stickers or shrink-wrap sleeves.


The folk art of pysanka Belarusians have long been known, conventional or decorated eggs were also used in the rite of remembrance of ancestors. A tribute to this ancient custom is still alive the tradition of bringing the eggs on the graves on the day of remembrance of ancestors Radavnitsu. In the dahrystsiyanski period, they have been associated with spring symbolizing the awakening of nature, its vitality and symbolic character. They were placed on a threshold of the crib, in the field to grow grain well, and others.

Belarusian Easter egg is associated with a different magic, the earliest pottery egg-brazgotki, are samples of different colored eggs or carved from wood. Clay Eggs are well known among archaeological digs as well. In size they were a little less chicken eggs coated brown or yellow, sometimes green. Eggs are found on the territory of Belarus in Brest, Grodno, Volkovysk, Lukomli, Mstislav, Novogrudok.

DIRECTIONS / HOW TO Lemkyvska Pysanka

Pysanky Eggs How To Directions

Step 1 – Starting with a raw (uncooked) or empty egg, lightly sketch with pencil the main division lines. All designs are drawn free-hand on the egg. Then, heat the kistka, melting the beeswax, so that you can get the thin lines of wax. All lines that are to remain white are drawn with melted beeswax on to the egg. The wax acts like a protective covering, sealing the color on to the egg.
Step 2 – Once all the lines that are to be white are covered with wax, the entire egg is dipped into the yellow dye bath. Any part of the eggshell that is not covered with wax will turn yellow. All parts of the design that are to be yellow get covered with wax to seal in the yellow color.
Step 3 – The egg is then dipped in to the orange dye bath. The wax covering the white and yellow parts of the design is still on the egg. The wax needs to stay in place until all the designing of the egg is done. All parts of the design which are orange need to be covered and protected with wax while the egg is orange.
Step 4 – The red color on the egg is the most predominant color in designing the Pysanka. All aspects of the design to carry the red color are covered with wax. Then the egg is dipped in to the last, darkest dye bath, black.
Step 5 – Once the egg is removed from the black dye bath, all the wax that was applied from the very beginning is removed. By holding the egg next to the candle flame, the wax is slowly melted off.

Step 6 – The vibrant colors of the completed egg shine through. Then a coat of high gloss is applied for the finishing touch. The pysanka is now ready to be given ceremony, an intention to make it a talisman, for protection of home, animals, family. Or to be given as a gift of love and well-wishing intent.


Sources and art : pysanka.com, pysanky.info, 
it.dawanda.com and youtube.

4 Comments Add yours

  1. ourladyofcoppermounts says:

    Vernal EqNox – Easter (Eostre) -Navruz – in slavic tradition Velykden’


  2. raventooth says:

    I would very much like to meet you


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