College of LAS « Illinois

Secrets of Spurlock

A pysanka egg

The Ukrainian folk tradition of egg painting, known as pysanky, dates back centuries.

What do these eggs symbolize?

Answer: Pysanka were exchanged as amulets to protect or heal, as well as to bring good fortune.

The term pysanky comes from the Ukrainian word pysaty, a verb meaning “to write,” that refers to the method of writing with wax on the egg in order to create the distinctive, intricate designs depicting plants and animals as well as geometric motifs. The dividing of the egg into bands or areas of differing patterns is what identifies the Ukrainian method of egg decorating.

Image: A pysanka (1975.04.0021), courtesy of the Spurlock Museum.