Pisanki

In many parts of the world one finds ancient myths in which the Egg features as a symbol of the Sun, Spring and Revival of Nature. Ethnologists of the 20th century have discovered that the ancient beliefs of many peoples regarded the Egg of Light as a source from which the world had sprung, developing from Chaos to Order. Pisanki were most popular in Eastern countries, particularly in Poland, The Ukraine and Russia.

Christianity imbued the painted egg with new meanings transforming it into the Easter egg and giving it a new symbolism but it could not totally eradicate the elements of pagan beliefs associated with the painted egg. Easter eggs, blessed in church by a priest, were continued to be used as a sort of charm for many different occasions: to be placed under the corner stone of a house; to help making bees to give more honey; to guard against misadventure on a journey; to secure happiness in marriage; to promote multiplication in the animal, floral and human worlds, to a name but a few of its functions

A sign of fertility, the egg plays an important part in the ancient tradition and history of Poland. Throughout the years, the egg was associated with traditions involving the beginning of Spring, the birth of new life, and the fertility and growth of abundant crops and livestock. Not only that, but colourful and decorated eggs, "pisanki" were given as gifts during a Polish courtship. Traditionally, the eggs were coloured and decorated by the women of the village on Holy Thursday or Good Friday.

Although the term pisanki has come to mean Easter eggs in general, strictly speaking it refers only to those eggs decorated with the molten-wax technique. Depending on how they were decorated, the eggs were called a variety of names...."malowane" or "kraszone" (solid coloured eggs), and "pisanki" (eggs with intricate patterns, images and inscriptions depicting the symbols of Easter, of life, of prosperity). Various regions have developed designs of their own, which include floral and geometric patterns, typical Easter motifs (the Lamb, Cross, pussy willow), the greeting, "Wesolego Alleluja," or simply "Alleluja" and the current year. These beautifully decorated eggs are placed in the swieconka on Holy Saturday as a symbol of new life and Christ's Resurrection from the tomb.

In Poland a lot of their original symbolic meanings have been forgotten. They are now predominantly used in the religious festivities of Easter and not as universal charms. Whatever your personal views and beliefs they remain a joy to the eye and an exiting field for ethnographic studies. Even those who do not care for pisanki prehistoric and Christian symbolism cannot help enjoying the art of pisanki.

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Rev. Piotr Redliński T.Chr.
Leszek Rygiewicz T.Chr.
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