|Vinok craft at Calgary Ukrainian Festival 2012|
The great grandmothers knew the secrets, how to weave and when, and which flowers to use. Collecting flowers from forested areas and marshes, on fields and mountains, they recognized which herbs protected and restored life. Ancestral homes depended on medicinal herbs, flowers, plants to protect and ensure the family's longevity. That is why much of Ukrainian folklore is tied up in passing on the wisdom of this herbology.
Celebrating the last harvested sheaf of grain by decorating it with a wreath flowers anticipates next year's harvest. Ritual Ukrainian wedding preparations, and vinkopletennia bring folkwisdom alongside Byzantine crowning prayers during the religious marriage. Little girls of 3 years begin to wear little wreaths woven by their mothers.
And with every age, and for every purpose there are specific flowers and colors to be used, each carrying cultural wisdom, symbolic or medicinal value.
Immortelle (strawflower) (bezsmertnik) is known as the everlasting flower, representing good health, because these flowers retain their form and color when dried, and today's cosmetic companies use its extracted precious essential oil for its anti-aging properties. Floral water from the petite, intense blue cornflower (voloshky), or bachelor's buttons, can be used as a natural mild astringent, antiseptic to prevent eye infections. Yarrow, (dereveey) in ancient times known to staunch the flow of blood from wounds stands for resilience and bravery. The trailing growncover periwinkle, vinca or myrtle (barvinok) is a delicate, yet hardy evergreen vine representing everlasting life. Cherry and apple blossoms, a symbol of feminine beauty, bring happiness and love, knowledge and health. The kalyna-highbush cranberry, represents beauty, and fidelity to one's people. Lovage,(lyoubistok) a perennial native of southern Europe resembling celery with large flat yellow flowers, now used as a culinary flavoring, was once considered an aphrodisiac. It and cornflower (voloshky) stand for committment and loyalty. The big, graceful and feminine blossoms of rose, hollyhocks (mal'va) and peony with their strong colors and fragrance represent faith, hope and love. The healing companionship of marigold, daisies and chamomile (romashki) in bright white, yellow, orange, and terracotta colors attract beautiful butterflies, deter garden pests, and therefore represent purity and chastity. Hops (xhmil') whiskers represent flexibility and understanding. The blood red poppy, (mak) beloved flower of Ukraine, represents sadness and sorrow.
And the wreath is festooned with colored ribbons, each carring meaning too! Light brick or brown represents Mother Earth, harvest and generosity, earth and life-giving food. Yellow represents the sun's flame, light, strength, youthful ambition, love, and family. Light and dark green represents hope, freshness, victory and wealth. Christmas, Easter and Epiphany are green holidays. Blue and light blue represent the air, sky, water, good health, and truthfulness. Deep yellow or gold represents bread, spirituality, wisdom. Violet is the color of faith, wisdom, trust and patience. Raspberry represents honesty, generosity. Rose represents plenty, success and contentment. White is the symbol of purity, birth, rejoicing. Red is the magical color of folklore, symbolizing life, love, action, passion, spirituality, and Christian ministry. A wreath of many colors represents family happiness, peace and love.
The ribbons are fastened to the wreath in this order. In the center the light brick colored ribbons, to the left and the right two yellow ribbons, then light and dark green, then blue and light blue, then on one side deep yellow, and on the other side violet, then raspberry and rose. White ribbons on both sides, symbols of chastity, to tie. The white ribbon on the left carried ancient symbols, the embroidered Sun, and the right, and embroidered Moon. A white ribbon without design memorializes a dear one who has died. Light blue ribbons entwined in the hair called upon the viewer's mercy, as it symbolized one's orphan upbringing.
Making and wearing a wreath is just a part of its beauty. The deeper meaning, the age old wisdom is another gift to pass forward!