Pagan Anglo-Saxons made offerings of colored eggs to the Goddess Eostre/Ostara at the Vernal Equinox. In fact, most cultures did pay homage to their springtime goddesses with gifts of eggs, including the Egyptians and the Greeks. None, however, surpassed the traditions of the Eastern Europeans, particularly the Ukrainians. They created intricately colored eggs called pysanky. Pysanky were, and still are, amulets of fertility, protection, and prosperity. Witches today continue to practice this ancient craft, decorating eggs, powerful symbols of rebirth, with potent magickal inscriptions.
There is an ancient Ukrainian legend that tells of a demon monster who wants to devour the world. This monster is chained, but weakens his bonds as he pulls and tugs to break free. Every spring, the chain is strengthened in proportion to the number of pysanky made and exchanged. The magickal eggs represent the light that pushes back the darkness of winter.
People of the Ukraine didn't accept Christianity as its official religion until nearly 1000 CE. Even then, the pagan population refused to give up this magickal art. Eventually, the Church had to accept it. So today, we will find Christian symbols carved along with the ancient symbols on these beautiful eggs.
SYMBOLISM OF THE EGG
The golden yolk of the egg represents the Sun God. The white shell symbolizes the White Goddess, and the whole egg is a symbol of rebirth. Today, we know that chickens begin egg production as the days grow longer. The reason for this is that the retina of the hen's eye is stimulated by more than 12 hours of light a day. This, in turn, stimulates egg production. Egg-laying, then, is intricately connected to the lengthening of days at the Vernal Equinox.
To alchemists, the egg also has symbolic associations with the four elements: the shell represents the earth, the membrane represents air, the egg white represents water, and the yolk fire.
As you follow the links below, you may feel a little overwhelmed at the intricacy of this beautiful art form. Don't be discouraged! You don't have to be an artist to make powerful pysanky amulets. The process is much simpler than it sounds. Beginners may blotch a little wax on the eggs when learning, but that's OK.
Pysanky art uses a wax-resistant method similar to batik. Using a tiny brass funnel called a kistka, melted wax is used to make designs on the egg. The egg is dipped in transparent dye, waxed again, dipped in another color, waxed again, etc.
Follow these links:
Pysanka, a lovely site with lots of lore.
Pysanky Instructions for Pagans
One of the best pages, How to Make Ukrainian Easter Eggs
Slavic Runes for Psyanky
Another helpful page is The Art of Pysanky at the Ukrainian Gift Shop site.
PYSANKY AS RITUAL
Pysanky are powerful magickal amulets. Traditional pysanky incorporate ancient symbols of fertility, prosperity, and protection. In olden times, an egg might have been decorated for protection and given to a loved one. Blue lines particularly protected against fire. Eggs with wheat designs were planted in the soil for abundant crops. Eggs decorated for prosperity were kept throughout the year, and so forth. Encircling bands of color represented the eternal cycle of birth, death, and rebirth. Solar crosses represented the union of male and female, or spirit and matter. All symbols on the egg had meaning, from the obvious -- wheat for fertile crops -- to the obscure -- ladders for different planes of existence.
I made a pysanky to empower a career move as a professional tarot reader. I incorporated runes into my design, particularly ones to stimulate intuition and open channels to other realms. I also added the prosperity rune, as this was, after all, a job. These were worked into a sun symbol with encircling bands and a wheat design. This egg is now displayed beside my tarot decks. I've also used more modern symbols in my designs -- the goddess with upraised hands, the eight phases of the moon, and others. Utilize the ancient symbols, but also be creative.
A Pysanky Ritual
You will need:
Raw, room-temperature eggs (cold eggs will "sweat" as you work
with them and resist the wax and dye)
Transparent dyes made particularly for pysanky (go to All Things Ukrainian to order supplies)
A kistka (a funnel-shaped stylus that holds the melted wax for "drawing" on the egg)
A spoon for dipping eggs in jars of dye
Egg carton or egg holders for eggs
Newspaper to spread on work area
A ritual candle, preferably in a color that matches your magickal intentions,
inscribed with runes, and dressed in oil (also for melting the wax)
Herbs and incense to match magickal intention
1. Prepare your area as you would for any magickal working by casting a circle, calling the quarters, etc.
2. Bless and consecrate your eggs and other tools for the purpose of your magickal working.
3. As you light the candle, recite a chant asking the God/dess to be with you and to accept the magick you are about to perform. Summon the power of the ancient signs and begin to draw them on the egg. As you draw on and dye the egg, visualize your magickal goal. Is your spell for prosperity? Visualize yourself with abundance. For fertility? Visualize your healthy, beautiful baby. Continue this visualization throughout your work. Chanting is entirely appropriate here, and will strengthen your magickal working.
4. When your egg is completed, bless it with these or other words:
In the names of the Goddess of Spring,
And the ever turning God of the Sun,
By the power of the four elements --
Earth, Air, Fire, and Water,
I do consecrate these eggs.
Then point your athame at each egg and make the sign of the pentagram as you visualize the energy flowing from you through the blade into each egg.
Now do they contain new life.
In accordance with their signs,
And with my will,
So mote it be!
5. Place your magickal amulet in a safe, well ventilated place. I use
raw eggs, and it takes approximately a month for the inside of the egg to
dry. If it breaks in the meantime, you'll have a smelly mess on your hands.
Avoid shaking and excessive handling -- although the egg will need to be
turned every two weeks until you are sure it is completely dried. Of course,
if you blow out your eggs (AFTER decorating), this will not be necessary.
Save the amulets to display each Ostara. They are beautiful, powerful additons
to your Ostara altar.
References: Wheel of the Year and Ancient Ways, both by Pauline Campanelli