Friday, 15 March 2013

Shaping Community with the Pysanka

Having Ukrainian cultural elements in my life, it is easy to take for granted what others consider absolutely beautiful. Embroideries, ceramics, weavings, but this season is the time for the Ukrainian Easter Egg - the pysanka.

Recently got an invitation to teach pysanky to the children at the community school nearby. Now that Ukraine is a focus in the Alberta Social Studies in both Grades 3 and 5, it is not only an extra to "do Ukrainian things", it is a curricular expectation. But it is assumed that everyone teaching has an expertise in every aspect.....could one conceivably have expertise in everything? Mindful to focus on the curricular expectations, I am glad to accept the invitation.
What an opportunity to shape the minds, hearts and sensibilities of a new generation! I started by telling them when my blonde, blue eyed ancestors came to Canada, and why. A little lesson on the map opens opportunities to so much discussion, about Europe, about neighbors, about the land and its chernozem fertility, the people and the culture, and of course, the economic opportunities or deficits.

Then to tell them about Ukraine's ancestral forests and steppes, rivers and Black sea, the bees, the honey, the beeswax - using every gift nature provides. Followed by terms like "non-text features" - the symbols that convey meaning over time, space, and language. Then expressing the belief that every person's culture has beauty, and reminding the children they have yet to discover their ancestral tree - perhaps a tidbid about geneology. After all, every generous contribution to Canada and her future actually shapes and molds what will come!

There are a large variety of videos online to explain the process of pysanka writing, but I found the children really wanted the basic traditional designs first. But to begin the learning, I teach. The raw egg is life, a seed bearing a life in a shell that breathes. Inscribing onto the shell creates a talisman of good wishes for the future. Their first pysanka will be the traditional 8 pointed star rosette, or sun-god with its rays of yellow, orange and red, blue/green rain drops, decorated with the red curled horns of plenty (plenty of food, prosperity and wealth), all on the black background of eternity. Precious, the pysanka will live, fulfill its mandate in the world, and eventually dry to dust, its shell will return to the earth that brought it life.

Father Paul

Gentleman - brief comment about the sun god

How to make a Beginner Pysanka (short and concise

A volunteer who generously shares the gifts of their time, treasure and above all their unique talents, is always a welcome guest it seems. Note to self - tell them about the Pysanka in Vegreville, Alberta and remind them that one in 5 Albertans has some Ukrainian ancestry! Maybe they are Ukrainian too!

For more online material about pysanka writing, follow the links at
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