The colours used in pysanka design are steeped in symbolism. Each region of Ukraine uses characteristic colour combinations in its designs. The most ancient pysanky were composed of only one or two colours. The most magical ancient pysanky were considered to be those having four or five colours, each carrying a message of good will for the recipient such as happy family life, peace, love, good health, or success. Briefly, the meanings associated with color in pysanka design are as follows:

This is the symbol of light and purity. It speaks of youth, happiness, the harvest, hospitality, love and benevolence. It is the colour consecrated to the light deities and is the Christian symbol of recognition and reward.

Symbolic of endurance, strength and worthy ambition, orange is the colour of fire and flame. it represents the red of passion tempered by the yellow of wisdom. It is the symbol of the golden, everlasting sun.

As seen in the spring renewals, green symbolizes the breaking of shackles, freedom from bondage. It is the colour of fertility, freshness, health and hopefulness. In the Christian context, it represents bountifulness, hope and the victory of life over death. It is the colour of Christmas, Easter and Epiphany.

The magical colour of folklore, red is considered a positive colour signifying action, fire, charity, spiritual awakening. It also glorifies the sun and the joy of life and love. Consequently, pysanky with red fields or motifs are typically designated for children or youth. In the Christian symbolism, it denotes the divine love and passion of Christ.

Said to represent the absolute, constancy, eternity or the womb, black may also denote death, fear and ignorance. Black and white pysanky are said to signify respect for the souls of the departed. Black in opposition to red is said to signify ignorance arising from passions, while in opposition to white it is believed, by some, to denote ignorance of mind.

Brown is symbolic of the mother earth, bringing forth her bountiful gifts.,

Blue is used sparingly. It signifies the blue skies or the life-giving air and is a talisman of good health.

Purity, virginity, innocence, and birth, are symbolized with this colour.

When used in pysanka ornamentation, purple speaks of fasting, faith, patience and trust.

Other colours were employed on a regional basis.

The individual motifs or ideograms combine with the characteristic colours to form total design concepts which depict the rich and colourful life of the inhabitants of Ukraine. Each design is a treasure of symbolic meaning and interpretation.

From pp. 31-32, Pysanka: Icon of the Universe by Mary Tkachuk, Marie Kishchuk and Alice Nicholaichuk, 1977, Ukrainian Museum, 910 Spadina Cresent East, Saskatoon, Sask, Canada S7K 3G9

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