Pysanky Legends

One of the most popular, and oldest, pysanky legends tells of a young woman who was on her way home from the market in town. She had with her a jug of fresh water for her journey and a basket of eggs. On her way she met a stranger sitting on a rock. Thinking he must be a tired traveler, she offered him a drink of her water. When he handed the water back to her, she was surprised to see that he had wounds on his hands. The stranger said nothing, but got up and went in the opposite direction of the young woman. When she arrived home, she uncovered her basket and discovered her eggs had been turned into beautiful pysanky.  The stranger, of course, had been Jesus Christ, and that was the first Easter morning.

Another story is of a poor man who was on his way to the market in town with a basket of eggs. Just outside of town, he came upon a crowd of people who were mocking and jeering a man who was carrying two wooden beams. The poor man put his basket down and ran to help the man to carry the heavy wooden load. After helping, the poor man returned to his basket of eggs by the road. Then he discovered that all of the eggs had become beautifully decorated in stunning designs and lovely colors. The poor man was Simon of Cyrene, and the man carrying the wooden beams was, of course, Jesus Christ.

A different pysanky story tied to Holy Week tells that after Jesus was arrested, His mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary, prepared a basket of eggs to present to Pilate. She hoped to present them and ask for mercy for her Son’s life. As she prepared the eggs, her tears fell on them, forming designs of many colors.  When Mary went before Pilate, she fell to the floor in grief and the eggs rolled out of the basket and across the floor. The eggs continued to roll until they were found by people all around the world. 

Perhaps one of the most repeated pysanky stories tells of the journey of Mary Magdalene and her companions on the morning after the Sabbath. The women were on their way to Christ’s tomb to anoint His body with sweet spices. They had taken along a basket of hard boiled eggs to eat after their work was completed. But when they got to the tomb, the stone was moved aside. They set down their basket and spices and went inside, only to find the tomb was empty. When they joyfully left the burial place, having discovered that Christ had risen, they found that the eggs in their basket had been changed into many bright and beautiful colors.

There is this old legend that underscores the power and influence that Ukrainians believe pysanky have in the world. Far away, it is said, there is a very large and evil monster chained to a cliff. This monster has servants who travel in every country each year taking a count of how many pysanky have been made for Easter. Each year that fewer eggs have been decorated, the monster’s chains are loosened and there is more evil in the world.  If ever there are no pysanky made, the evil one would be released and he would destroy the world. But, in years that many pysanky are made, the monsters chains are held tight. In those years the power of love and the goodness that the pysanky bring is felt throughout all nations, bringing peace and harmony to all.


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