Pisanki: An Ancient Art of Hope and Life
by Lorraine Grochowska-Kiefer
Although the ancient European art of "Pisanki" has become very closely associated with Easter, it first came about more than 2000 years ago when people realized the connection between the egg and spring. (Our chickens always lay many more eggs in spring, when the daylight hours are long, than in fall and winter). After the dark, cold, and death of winter, the egg symbolized rebirth or hope. Even then certain people used wax and natural dyes to decorate the eggs with meaningful symbols. There is also an old legend that says that every pisanki egg made will reinforce the chain that holds an old evil monster in the bowels of the earth.
The "chicken and rooster" were symbols of fertility and grain symbolized plenty or good harvest.
The much-loved sun that gave light and life was often shown on the egg and so was a green bough or bloom.
They used onion skins, buckwheat husks, campion, bark of the wild apple and the flower of the lilac for yellow. For red they used cochinel (a female scale insect), deer horn, sandlewood, or beets. Green came from sunflower seeds and berries of the wild alder. Sometimes hollyhock blooms were used for certain shades, as well as various other blooms, leaves and moss. Today, we buy our dyes for the most part, although one time we tried onion skins, beets and some berries. A thousand years later, when much of Eastern Europe had embraced Christianity, the eggs were still made and considered to be a Lenten project in Poland. They were often made with Easter symbols, as well as some of the natural ones. The sun became the symbol for rebirth.