Colorful past — Egg art explained

Posted: Sunday, March 27, 2005

In the ancient Ukrainian art of egg decorating — pysanky — colors had symbolic meaning.

White symbolized purity, virginity, innocence and birth.

Yellow was the symbol of light and purity. It speaks of youth, happiness, the harvest, hospitality, love and benevolence.

Orange represents the golden, everlasting sun and the red of passion tempered by the yellow of wisdom.

Red was a magical color of folklore and signified action, fire, charity and spiritual awakening. It also glorified the sun and the joy of life and love.

Green symbolized spring renewal and spoke to the breaking of winter's shackles. It also was the color of fertility, freshness, health and hopefulness.

Blue was used sparingly, but signified the blue skies or the life-giving air and also symbolized good health.

Purple represented fasting, faith, patience and trust.

Brown was symbolic of Mother Earth bringing forth her bountiful gifts.

Black was said to represent the absolute, the constant or the eternal, but also may have denoted death, fear and ignorance. Black in opposition to red was said to signify ignorance arising from passions, while in opposition to white it denoted ignorance of mind or to signify respect for the souls of the departed.

Symbols had special meanings, as well.

The most ancient and widely used symbol was the sun, which was shown as a circle, flower, spiral, broken cross, triangle, eight-point rosette or star, among other abstract shapes. Then sun represented the source of light and life.

Stars symbolized success and were represented with even numbers of points because even numbers were believed to foretell good fortune.

Birds were symbols of spring and good harvests.

Deer, horses and rams symbolized wealth and prosperity.

Fish represented people finding their way out of confusion.

Snakes symbolized protection from catastrophe.

Bees were symbols of hard work and pleasantness.

Spiders represent good luck.

Fruit and vegetable symbols meant a good harvest and a good life. Common symbols were peas, cherries and apples.

Trees often represented people, with men being oaks, maples or beech and women being birch, poplar or bass wood. Trees also meant long life, good health, strength and youthfulness.

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