Saturday, April 23, 2011

April 23, 2011 – Eggs

Eggs, and for some Easter Eggs, the tradition of decorating eggs goes back centuries in Eastern Europe. It was practiced long before Easter and pre-dates Christianity. The eggs are common throughout Eastern Europe but the true epicenter of egg art is the Ukraine where the eggs are known as pysanka. The traditional patterns are laden with symbolism. Each egg is actually a written prayer. In Ukrainian one says they are “writing” eggs when they make them.
Writing the eggs is a process requiring care and patience. Raw eggs are used. One would never hard-boil and eat these eggs – too much work is involved in decorating them.
It is a reverse process where wax is applied. The first layer of wax is the pattern that will remain white, without dye. The first coat of dye is the lightest color, yellow for example. Then there is another layer of wax to mark the yellow pattern. Repeat the process with red and finally black dye. Then the egg has to be carefully handled to melt away the wax. It’s done over an open flame (usually a candle). At this stage, a small hole can be made to blow the egg and empty the contents. Or the egg can be left to dry (it takes about a year). It always needs a ventilated place due to off gassing.
Beeswax is used. A stylus similar to a fountain pen is repeatedly heated over candle flame and then dipped in wax. The wonderful smell of beeswax fills the room. Great care has to be taken as you apply the wax to the egg. And being eggs, the entire process is fragile. Inevitably, there will be a time when you get almost to the end and accidentally break the egg. It is a lesson each person who writes eggs learns.
The reward is a beautiful, magical object. And the intricate process applying the patterns can pull you into a trance-like state. And if, like me, you have generations of ancestors who wrote these eggs, it is an important tradition that reconnects us to a timeline thousands of years old.

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