Friday, March 8, 2013


Bonnie Balas teaching the art of decorating eggs (pysanky)
During the holy season of Great Lent, a common tradition practiced by Carpatho- Rusyns in the homeland and in America is the preparation of pysanky.  The egg, itself, a symbol of life, is relative to the feast of the Resurrection, the climax of the Lenten season.  Prepared in a prayerful manner throughout Lent, these eggs are exchanged with friends and family during the three days of the Resurrection Feast.
Although many cultures decorated eggs as a unique art form, the types of pysanky made by Rusyns are  diverse.  There is not one particular style  or design.  Each style or design depends on region, landscape or village.  The pysanky give an artistic view of life, superstitions, environment, religion, and beliefs of the Carpatho-Rusyns from primitive times to the present day.
There are four main types of pysanky common to Rusyns.  These are line-drawing, scratch, bead, and drop-pull (teardrop).  The method for drop-pull and line-drawing are primarily the same – wax resist (layers of wax are applied while going through a dyeing process), whereas, bead and scratch eggs use other materials and methods.
The drop-pull (teardrop) type is common in the Lemko region (Poland), eastern Slovakia, and westernmost parts of Subcarpathian Rus’.  In this method a pin or nail head in a small staff is used to make designs by pulling a drop of wax on the surface of the egg. A variety of designs including swirls, starbursts, animals, plants, and even people are creatively formed with a small teardrop strokes.  Most often the egg  is dyed and wax removed,  but in some cases the wax designs are left on the egg.
In the heart of Subcarpathian Rus’ more detailed pysanky are prepared which have lines forming the designs.  The designs and symbols have meaning which are incorporated into the “message” that the artist wishes to convey.  This method requires a tool called a kistka, filled with beeswax that has been melted over a candle.  Then the melted wax is applied to the egg through the small funnel-shaped tip of the kistka.  The designs become more intricate going farther east in the Carpathian mountains.  There are endless designs/symbols which have meaning, for example, triangles signify the trinity or fishnets, horses mean strength or prosperity, and the sun represents life.  Patterns and colors change moving through the Carpathian mountain region.  There is also a variety of images and motifs from region to region.   Floral designs and a wide  variety of colors are predominant in western regions.  Geometric patterns, mainly used in eastern areas have color schemes of yellow, orange, red, green, brown, and black (from light to dark colors) in the dyeing process as each layer of wax is added to make the designs more intricate.
The scratch style eggs found mainly in Sharish, Spish, and some areas of Poland are done on an egg that has been dyed one solid color.  The artist uses a sharp tool such as a razor blade or sharp pin to scratch off the color, creating the design.  The motifs can be floral, geometric, or scenes of Rusyn village life.
One of the most unique forms of pysanky, the bead style, can be found amongst Rusyns in western Ukraine and northern Romania.  These are done by completely covering the egg in a thick layer of wax.  Then small colorful beads are carefully pressed into the wax, creating intricate designs such as crosses and geometric patterns.
These beautifully crafted jewels used to adorn a traditional Rusyn pascha basket enhance our celebration of the Feast of Feasts – the Resurrection.  We say, with our hearts and voices, “CHRISTOS VOSKRESE!  VOISTINNU VOSKRESE!”   “CHRIST IS RISEN!  INDEED HE IS RISEN!”
For more information about pysanky events see EVENTS SECTION-8th EGG EggSTRAVAGANZA
Bonnie Balas is a noted Carpatho-Rusyn pysanky artist who teaches pysanky classes each year during Great Lent at St. John the Baptist Byzantine Catholic Church, Uniontown.

Written by:  Bonnie Balas