Friday, April 6, 2007

Ukranian Easter Eggs

A few weeks ago, some of our family gathered at Oma's house to dye eggs for easter. These are called Pysanky, and they are traditional Ukranian Easter eggs. They look almost painted, but the process is actually just like batik-- you make designs in wax on the egg and dye the unwaxed shell, layering wax and colors. You can see here my eggs as well as the works-in-progress of our friend Lori.

The process is honestly rather tedious and can be rather infuriating, as eggs do break--but it is all the more beautiful for that--Lent is a season of patience and care. (plus it was great to talk and catch up while hunched over our eggs for hours on end!)

These are the tools of the trade. In the cup are kistkas. Each has a small metal funnel set through a wooden handle. To work an image on an egg, one scoops beeswax into the wide end of the cone, then heating the narrow end in the candle flame. As the wax melts, the kistka is drawn over the surface of the egg, leaving a trail of wax which hardens as it quickly cools. I'm not sure how much you can see in the above picture the varying thicknesses of line.

Ukranian eggs are usually bright vibrant colors, working from lightest to darkest. First is the color of the egg itself, then yellow, light green, dark green, red, etc... until all the colors are covered with black.

That's right; there's nothing pastel about this Easter! As wax and dye are layered on, the egg looks messy, clotted with globs of sometimes blackened wax, as you can see here in Mary's egg in progress. Underneath, however, the brilliant colors are preserved.

We tend to have illustrations of traditional Ukranian egg designs scattered over the table while we work, but I've noticed most of us (Mom and Diane excepted) just use these for ideas if at all, drawing freeform pictures. After an egg's design is completed, the artist actually holds it right in the candle flame to melt off the wax. The trick is not to singe the shell (or one's fingers!) or get the egg too hot. (They can explode!)

We're not Ukranian, but we've been making these eggs since I was a kid. The little ones were around, though we kept them well away from the work table! Gib loves to see his cousins (he had been begging to see 'Lyssa and Befany, and had lots of fun playing with his Cousin Nafan on the stairs) and we need excuses like this one to get together. Lent is the season before Easter. It is the last of winter before spring; and a time of self examination, of looking honestly at my own faults and wrongs; and of remembering Christ's love for me in light of these. The beauty is that looking at shadows more clearly shows light. Jesus' giving of himself shows his great love for me.

People think that Easter is about how Jesus died for us--it's not exactly. That's what Lent and Holy week (that's the week just before Easter) are about--the death of all in me that is not of God, of all my sinful self (my hatred, malice, injustices...) When Jesus died, all that in me died with him. But all this leads to Easter, the jubilation of life. For you see, His death was the end of Death, and then He came to Life. This is my greatest joy; Death turning into Life. Out of a ruin comes strong, beautiful life. Life vibrant and full, the breath of God in me. Ahh.
So, the eggs. I made the cross here glorious, in celebration of the life we have discovered in Christ. The other side is a hand with a heart. This is the Lenten side. The hands of Christ were written with love for me, as was written in Isaiah--See; I will not forget you; for I have carved you on the palm of my hand. I love that these are opposite sides of the same egg; for us every death leads to greater life. Death always turning into life.

Also an egg for Ezra; E on one side, a lovely red-cheeked babe on the other. Maybe a special egg for Gibbie will come next year. Being second, Ezra will need a few things just for him. And lastly, my rose egg. The thorns and blooms have long been a symbol of that same theme of sorrow turned to beauty.

May the brightest light shine into your deepest gloom.


Oma said...

I am really enjoying reading your blog. Well, maybe not the car repair one so much. I'll show that one to Doug. I am working on the scrapbooks this weekend and would really love to have some of the photos printed. Could you possibly look into uploading the photos on Snapfish or some other photo site so that I could order prints?

MamaBear said...

I think you can take the images directly: right click on the pic and select "save image as". Paul will correct me if I'm wrong.

paul said...

Yeah, you can also just click on the image and get the full size file. Then save it. Much better resolution for scrapbooking!

Anonymous said...

I enjoy the blog. I was not aware that enough heat could be generated by a solar device to cook food in such a way. I have seen an egg fried on the sidewalk on a hot day. I am the father of Paul.