Sunday 23 March 2008

Eggs & Serpents

♥ ♥ ♥ Happy Easter friends! ♥ ♥ ♥

Two egg tales for you today ...
First a few pysanky ~ Ukrainian easter eggs, decorated beautifully using the wax resist (batik) method. The name comes from the verb pysaty ~ to write as the designs are written on with beeswax rather than painted.
So long as pysanky are decorated every year, the world will continue to turn. If, however, the custom is abandoned for any reason, evil, in the shape of a horrible serpent chained to a cliff, will overrun the world. Each year this serpent sends out his minions to investigate how many pysanky have been made.
Another old Ukrainian myth tells of giving highly decorated, intricate and dark coloured eggs to the elderly because their life is rich and full of experiences. In the same way, the young are given eggs with more white space on them for their life is a blank page.
Girls should never give their boyfriends eggs which are undecorated at either end as this can foretell baldness!
Have a look at this etsy seller who is making and selling some beautiful pysanky.

Second, the English folk belief surrounding abnormally small yolkless eggs sometimes produced by old hens. These eggs were thought to be cockerel's eggs; they were extremely unlucky and were thrown over the roof because if hatched they would produce a cockatrice ~ a legendary creature with the head and legs of a cockerel and the body and tail of a dragon or serpent. The cockatrice (often interchangeable with the basilisk) was venomous and could kill people with its deadly glance. It was often said that this creature had come from a cockerel's egg hatched out by a toad.
According to legend it could only be killed by a weasel (see picture below right) or by tricking it into seeing itself. At Saffron Walden (Essex), a knight is said to have donned crystal armour to destroy a cockatrice; and at Wherwell (Hampshire), where a man lowered a mirror of polished steel into the creature's den, it fought its reflection till exhausted.

"The Bazeliske the Serpents King I find,
Yet Weasels him do overcome in warre,

The Cyren land him breedes of Lernaes kind,

They to all other a destruction are:

And if we may beleeve, that through the heat of Sunne,

In old Cockes Egges this beast is raised first,

Or beastes by sight or s
mell thereof are all undone,
Then ist not good, but of his kind the worst."


Gretel said...

Sigh. I wish you wouldn't keep finding such amazing Etsy shops, it is going to be very hard on my pocket one day ;)

Andy was commenting in how many eggs we had in our compost as he spread it out, you can never have enough eggs, can you?

Ulla said...

Facinating! I love hearing how highly decorated eggs would go to the elderly and less decorated to the young... And the idea of a serpent ruling the world surely must make artists want to clamor to learn this lovely art... Thank you for filling us in about this wonderful folk tradition... And thank you for your comments about my childhood... Surely we share wheels in our hearts! Happy Easter to you Rima!

mama p said...

So neat :) I began my first psanky in maybe 10 years today; the scent of the beeswax brought my grandmother right in the room. She taught me when I was a young girl, as her Ukranian friends had taught her in Vestal, NY. I'm taking pics of each step of the way; I'll post them soon.

I actually saw a movie once wherein an old Ukranian "medicine woman" created a psanky specifically for her client, and then used it as a talisman for her to become pregnant. If I remember right, she rubbed the egg on her much like I've seen the Peruvian curanderos use guinea pigs on their clients...Of course the woman ended up conceiving! It was amazing to see the egg used in a way other than pure ornament. They are quite powerful!
Very happy Easter, & welcome spring. -Pilar

ArtPropelled said...

Thanks for a lovely post! I love hearing about folk traditions and the eggs are so beautiful.

Tess Kincaid said...

Oh oh oh....I love those beautiful eggs!! And you always have such interesting and informative little blogs and pix. Happy Easter to you and yours, too.

Unknown said...

Happy Easter, Rima!
I love the cockerel story, that's wonderful! I'd never heard it before.

craftswithcare said...

Just wonderful! I have to check out this sellers beautiful pysanky on Etsy!

Rima, I get so inpired by your writings.
I loved reading the wonderful stories behind the pysanky and the English Folk belief about the small yolkless eggs!

Hope you had a nice Easter!