- Associated Press - Sunday, June 29, 2014

WESTON, Conn. (AP) - Before coloring eggs became a fun Easter activity for kids, the Ukrainian tradition of pysanky was used to transform eggs into decorative pieces of art, rich with symbolism.

The Red Bee Apiary held a recent workshop in the art of pysanky — the ancient Ukrainian art of writing on eggs.

With a few tools including beeswax and colored dyes, the practice of pysanky was originally created to promote prosperity and protect against misfortune.

“We call it writing on eggs, not decorating,” said Southport based-artist and teacher Marika Kujan-Ford.

“It was started to bring about peace in the world.”

Kujan-Ford, who has Ukrainian roots, grew up doing pysanky as a child in America.

“The symbols all have meanings,” she said. Many of the symbols go back in time to pre-Christianity.”

“For example, a horse would mean strength and prosperity. A ram symbolizes male strength and virility. Birds represent fertility. A spider means good luck.”

Colors also hold special meaning. White symbolizes youth and black means age or wisdom.

“When Christianity came to Ukraine, the symbols took on more Christian meanings,” said Kujan-Ford.

“Where a fish represented one thing during pre-Christian times, it came to represent Christianity and Christ.”

Along with the establishment of organized religion, churches and crosses became more prevalent in pysanky.

Through symbolism, Ukrainians believed pysanky enabled eggs to have magical powers. The eggs were often given as gifts.

During the workshop, members outlined the eggs in pencil before applying permanent color with beeswax and aniline dyes.

The workshop utilized some of the main resources of the Red Bee Apiary.

Its founder, Marina Marchese, an experienced beekeeper, produces honey and beeswax. Marchese also receive a steady supply of eggs from chickens she raises at the apiary.

“What’s interesting is pysanky combines beeswax from our bees and eggs from our chickens so we decided to marry the birds and the bees,” she said.

Red Bee Apiary holds several classes each year about bees, honey production and soap making.

“We’re starting to become more of an educational resource for the community,” Marchese said.

It’s not customary to eat pysanky eggs since aniline dyes are not edible. Ukrainians have a similar process called krashanky, which uses hard-boiled eggs and natural dyes like food coloring.

Suzanne Kachmar, of Milford, was one of several who enjoyed writing on eggs.

“I’ve done it before but not very good so I’m trying it again,” she said.

“It’s such a great meditative process and it’s nice to do around Easter time too.”

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Information from: The Hour, http://www.thehour.com

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