The Ancient Origins of Pysanky and Stories Told About Them

Pysanka Power Podcast

Pysanka Power Podcast by Joan Brander of
Saving the world one pysanka at a time . . . . ™

Listen to Pysanka Power Podcast on BabasBeeswax.comListen to Episode 2 released March 16, 2019 – The Ancient Origins of Pysanky and Stories Told About Them

Pysanka Power Podcast by Joan Brander of BabasBeeswax.comTranscript of Episode 2

Hi, I'm Joan Brander and you're listening to my Pysanka Power Podcast. I love Ukrainian egg decorating! I've been doing it for several decades since I was a child. I've amassed so much knowledge and experience over those years, I thought that podcasting would be a great way to share my passion with you. I'll be telling you about their history, legends, and symbols. On the practical side, there's tools and techniques used in making them, hints, tips and do it yourself projects to talk about. Did you know that the fate of the world depends on pysanky? There's an ancient Ukrainian legend that says as long as pysanky are being made, evil will not prevail over good in the world". They're one of the greatest traditions of all time. So I hope that my Podcast will inspire you.

In this episode we'll glimpse into the ancient origins of pysanky. I've also got some stories and legends about these magical and powerful eggs to share with you. The origins of these incredible eggs began in Ukraine, where my ancestors came from. Although other cultures around the world decorate eggs in various ways, the symbolism and technique of pysanky belong to Ukrainians. You'll recall from Episode 1 that symbols on pysanky are written with wax. They're not painted nor stencilled, which is why we say we write pysanky. We don't paint them.

How long have pysanky been around? Well, it's believed they've been written since pagan times-before Christianity. Over time the symbols and their meanings evolved and changed. This was so that they would fit into the new religious beliefs of the people. So I've done some research to substantiate the origins of pysanky in Ukraine. This is what archeologists have found.

  • In 2008 they uncovered fragments of a 300 year old pysanka on a real chicken egg. By some miracle it was preserved all those years in layers of 17th century Ukraine.
  • Then, in 2013 they discovered the oldest known pysanka. It was written on a goose egg over 500 years ago!

I'm so amazed with these discoveries. Real eggs are so fragile, so how incredible is it that they were so well-preserved! They're kept in museums in Ukraine for future generations to appreciate. My dream is to travel there one day and see the Lviv Pysanka in the Pysanka Museum in Kolomyia, or the remains of the Baturyn Pysanka being restored in the State Historical and Cultural Reserve in Chernihiv.

Today people love to repeat and recreate those ancient eggs. They reveal both pagan and Christian symbols. But the ancient designs seem to be the ones that people gravitate to. That makes sense, though. Those symbols have deep-rooted meaning. You'll learn more about those symbols and their meanings in future episodes. Now I'd like to take you down my memory lane and tell you my experience with stories and legends.

Traditionally, the ritual practiced by Ukrainian women while they wrote these symbols on eggs included saying a silent prayer. They asked for different blessings for each egg, because they believed their good wishes travelled with the pysanka.

I learned the tradition of pysanky when I was a young girl at the hand of my Baba, my grandmother. But my sessions of making pysanky with her were not always stepped in prayer nor silence. At times she would tell me stories and legends. The one that captivated me was the ancient pagan legend that the fate of the world depends on the pysanka. It's the one I mention in my introduction to this Podcast.

The story goes that an ancient vicious monster lies heavily chained to a huge cliff. Each year the monster's allies keep score of how many pysanky are being made around the world. When few pysanky are being made the chains loosen and evil begins to destroy the world. But when many pysanky are being made the chains of the monster tighten, allowing love to conquer evil. I love that story!

As I sit here recording this Episode, Spring hasn't arrived yet. I'm looking out the window and it's cold out there! I hear the snow geese flying by, and the scene reminds me of another story my Baba shared with me. It goes like this. One cold and bitter winter came so quickly that migrating birds had no chance to fly to warmer lands. They suffered in the cold and began to fall to the ground. Peasants gathered the frozen birds and brought them into their homes. They fed them and warmed them throughout the winter. When spring came, the peasants opened their homes and allowed the birds to fly free. The story says that the birds flew away for several days and then returned. And when they did, they brought a pysanka for each of the peasants in thanks for saving their lives.

Is my voice trembling? Because re-telling the stories always chokes me up a little. Even after so many years I'm still touched by them. Whenever I sit down before a lighted candle, with my beeswax, kistka, and dyes, I'm drawn into the ancient world of the pysanka. In the same way that my ancestors believed in their power, I, too, write symbols on eggs that are the pagan symbol of life.

I hope you enjoyed this part of the Episode and learned something from it.

Let's move on and talk about pysanky resources to support this topic of history and legends in a commentary I call "Books 'n' Bits". I'll include a commentary in each episode of the Podcast to let you know about the sources of information in this segment or on my website

The ancient history of pysanky has not been forgotten. It's been around and continues to be passed down through the generations - just like it did with me and my Baba. Fortunately many of these legends and stories are preserved in print form.So if you're ready to learn more about the ancient origins of pysanky and tell stories about them yourself, you can purchase one of the many books that are available. Many of them tell other stories like the ones I shared in this podcast. And there's some wonderful children's books featuring colourful characters and the beautiful pysanky they create. What child doesn't love a story? I sure did!

You'll get stories, legends and more in my book Pysanky on Paper: An Activity Book for Children published by Baba's Beeswax. I highly recommend ordering the book and reading it with your own children or grandchildren. It's fascinating to discover the magic of pysanky. It also makes a great gift for your teacher as its jam-packed with learning aids they can use in their classrooms.

The activities in it are a lot of fun and they teach so many important lessons, all through pysanky. Some of the other things covered in the book are puzzles, games, and art projects. There's something in it for all ages. You can order Pysanky on Paper : An Activity Book for Children, along with your supplies, kits, and other books from my store, Baba's Beeswax. Just go to and see it there. Right beside the listing of the book on the Baba's Beeswax online store is an icon that links you directly to a book preview on our YouTube Channel. There's several playlists on the YouTube Channel, from How To's and DIY's to Workshops and Events. You can even peak into the workings of Baba's Beeswax to see who we are and how we make things.

But the Playlist I'd like to point you to is the Book Preview video clips. It shows me browsing through the pages of Pysanky on Paper : An Activity Book for Children so you can see the format, the colourful cover, and contents of featured pysanka designs. This book is also available on and from other Ukrainian book stores.

Join me again for the next Episode of Pysanka Power Podcast when you'll learn about one of the essential tools I talk about in Episode 1. It will be all about pysanka dyes. As you recall, pysanky are not painted. The way we put colour on eggs is by using dyes. Pardon the pun, but "I'm dying" to tell you all about it. You'll learn how to prepare and store dyes, which colours to choose for the best results, and where and how to purchase them. Until then if you're interested to learn more on your own, visit my website

Before I go, allow me to tell you about Baba's Beeswax and how you can get in touch with me. Back in 1991, sitting around the dining room table with my family, it got me thinking, that, well, maybe I should do more with my egg decorating hobby. We came up with the whimsical name, Baba's Beeswax.

Since then, Baba's Beeswax has been doing a lot of buzzing. We have a website at Our studio comes alive with workshops and demonstrations. We write books, pamphlets, teaching aids, and videos. We have a library for all the publications we produce and collect. Not only that, we have a gallery of all the pysanky we've made and collected. Please drop by for a visit. We're located in Richmond, British Columbia. If you like shopping in person, it's very easy to get to. We're not far from the Vancouver International Airport. And, for our American friends, we're just a few hours drive north of Seattle. For shopping on the internet you can visit our online store at We've had it since 1997. Pardon the pun, but we've been buzzing around for a long time. We're doing our best to keep up with technology. So we're connecting with you on YouTube, Facebook and other platforms. Now, we're podcasting and we're very excited to be doing that. You, too, can follow the buzz… by giving us your comments or a thumbs up.

We're here to help you choose kits and supplies like the beeswax, kistka and dyes you'll need. You can get everything you need all year round, not only at Easter. In case you missed anything, you can listen to my Podcast again. We've put the audio file on our website Or you might like reading along, so we've put the Transcript there too.

That's it for me, Joan Brander of Baba's Beeswax. Thanks for listening-and have a great day!

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