On Sunday April 14th, the Ukrainian Youth Association (CYM) in Perth held its monthly cultural-educational session for members, friends and other interested people, to encourage youth participation in our Ukrainian parish and community. With the CYM motto “God & Ukraine”, the sessions held on the second Sunday of every month, begin with Holy Liturgy followed by a half hour cultural-educational activity and end with ‘a bite to eat’, to which all members of the parish are invited to catch up over a cup of tea or coffee and view the youth activities.
Because Easter according to the Byzantine or Eastern rite Christians, falls on Sunday May 5th the CYM Sunday on April 14th was based on preparing for Easter by decorating traditional Ukrainian Easter Eggs or Pysanky. an activity which required considerably more than the usual half hour. Consequently members of CYM, with the parish priest Fr Wolodymyr Kalinecki, had a special Youth Liturgy at 8.30am with the readings and homily in English and the rest of the liturgy recited in Ukrainian, using bilingual prayer books.
It was particularly pleasing to see older CYM members (druzhynnyky) together with parents and their children come along to Holy Liturgy and the Pysanky Decorating activity which followed.Those that weren’t able to make it not only missed out on an interesting learning experience in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere, but also delicious Doghouse doughnuts and toasted sandwhiches.
Pysanky (pysanky-plural, pysanka-singular) comes from a Ukrainian word ‘pysaty’ meaning ‘to write’. Pysanky are eggs decorated using a wax-resist method where one draws (or ‘writes’, as Ukrainians would say) those portions of the design which you want to remain the colour underneath the wax. A small, hollow funnel attached to a stick is used to heat the wax and write with. This drawing or writing implement is called a kistka.
Archeologists have discovered ceramic pysanky in the Ukraine dating back to 1300BC linkin gpysanky designs to symbolism of the Trypillian culture in Ukraine around 6000 – 3000BC. Unlike most societies which were patriarchal, the Trypillians were a matriarchal society worshipping “mother earth” with little interest in politics, ruling castes, power struggles, taxes and money. Trypillian symbolism in design and colour reflected the peoples close attachment to the soil and other elements of nature and the egg represented new life.
Ukrainian symbolic art is based, in large measure, on these early ideograms, most notably the Ukrainian meander or unending line, which denotes the cyclical nature of life. Other examples include motifs such as the circle, stars, dots, matriarchal symbols, wheat, fir tree, horse, stag, horns and various geometric patterns and designs. With the acceptance of Christianity in Ukraine in 988AD, pysanky were integrated into the Christian tradition of Easter, especially the Resurrection of Jesus Christ and a new beginning for humankind. The egg was likened to the tomb from which Christ arose and ideograms, including the cross and other Christian symbols became more prominent.
The symbol on a pysanka’ put simply, is a word picture, an ideogram, a special code, embodying key elements of a culture. It expresses feelings such as love, happiness, hope, sadness, dread … more effectively than words. For people with some understanding of symbolic art, it tells a story with a deep meaning, remaining a mystery to those who cannot decipher the code. Each pysanka involves a trinity of symbolisms: the symbolism of the egg itself (life), the symbolism of design, and the symbolism of colour, embodying the sense of mystery in its creation
Information about pysanky is readily available on Google. A useful site for writing pysanky is http://www.learnpysanky.com