|Sacred Geometry and the Art of Pysanky|
|By Deirdre Le Blanc|
Geometry - the measurement of the Earth and spatial order. It is viewed all around us, even in plants, rocks, and our own bodies. Life is geometry, and geometry is life. Without geometry, there would be nothing.
Is this why the Hutsul Ukrainians say that, if pysanky, their Easter eggs, are never created again, it will allow evil to rule, and therefore bring about the end of the world? Perhaps. Surely, the very philosophy of life that is instilled in the pysanky writer is renewed every time he or she creates one of these lovely eggs. The art is ingrained with Sacred Geometry.
Why do we call it "Sacred" Geometry? Because it is a philosophy that separates this form of mathematics from the more mundane measurement of the Earth. It involves a philosophy of life, our place in the universe, and everything around us. Plato considered this form of geometry and number the most ideal philosophical language, because it can become a vehicle for contemplation on different levels - even a mathematical level, if you will. Pythagoras said that everything is numbers. St. Bernard of Clairvaux, when asked "What is God?" answered "Length, Breadth, Height and Depth." The "G" in the center of the divider and square of the Freemasonic symbol stands not only for God, but also for Geometry and the Geo-Creator.
Pysanky and the Art of Living
The Ukrainian word pysanky (pronounced: PIS ankh yeh) comes from the root word pysaty, which means "to write." That is why pysanky makers are usually referred to as "writers," because the art form carries messages, and the artist is "writing" these messages on the egg as she or he creates them. Each and every egg holds symbolic meanings in both the geometric forms and the colors of aniline dyes that are used.
There are twelve ways to divide an egg in preparation for writing a pysanky. Each design determines the way the divisions are made. Since the opposite of division is multiplication, the artist is always aware of the multiplicity of potential within the design. Choices are made. Negative as well as positive space is always considered. That is why many of the eggs change as you look at them. At times the negative areas will become more prominent than the positive.
The lines are drawn, or written, on the egg with a "kistka" that is filled with blackened beeswax. More than one kistka are called "kistky," which means "little bones" because they were originally made from small animal bones about 3,000 years ago. This is a very old art form that predates Christianity. All the symbols were once considered "un-Christian," even the cross and fish. Later, Christianity took these symbols and adapted them to its own philosophy because man would not give them up.
All the old symbols for the square, or a square turned on end (which creates a diamond); the cross that denotes the four directions; the slanted cross (now known as St. Andrew's cross); the spiral; waves, etc. that are used in making pysanky - all had very ancient meanings that are part of what Carl Jung called the "collective unconscious," Even though we might not know those meanings any more, they continually call to us. We are drawn to their pleasing forms.
The kistka (there are extra fine, fine, medium and heavy) is held up to a candle flame until the wax is melted, and then the lines are written. Every line is projected around the egg, and all lines are in relation to every other line. If you realize these rules, everything becomes easier. The first lines push evil off the egg, and as you turn the egg in your hand toward yourself, you are bringing in good. We begin with pure thoughts as we create the first writing on a pure white egg.
Each egg is a little universe, an Orphic egg, and everything contained within it is arrived at through the use of Sacred Geometry. The practice of making an egg reminds us of who we are, and how our actions relate to the universe around us. Certain rules are followed: what is above, so it is below; always complete a section (or action) before beginning the next. You will have less confusion, and therefore fewer mistakes. Perfect yourself before you try to perfect an egg - the rest will follow. Project every line, and know that your thoughts are projected in the same way. Do not keep your eyes on the kistka as you draw a line. When you set the kistka down, look forward and push the tool to that spot. The results will always be better. Likewise, we should always look forward in our lives, trying to determine the outcome of our actions.
Most of the sections on an egg are divided by squares (knowledge, truth) and diamonds (searching for truth and knowledge). Diamonds are squares turned on their corners. Between the pencil lines that are drawn to divide an egg, points are made to divide it further within bands or borders that have already been drawn. These points within the parallel lines are the references for connecting one diagonal to the next, which sets up the diamonds.
Traditional Hutsul Geometric
Image © Deirdre Le Blanc
Within diamonds further lines are written. They are usually done in pairs of parallel lines that cross each other in the center, either in an upright manner (giving you a square in the center), or on the diagonal, which will give you another diamond in the center. These lines create an upright cross or the St. Andrew's Cross. Outside the cross you will have triangles.
Modified Red and White Diagonal
Image © Deirdre Le Blanc
From the cross you can create stars. Stars mean success, and are probably the most important symbol outside that of the sun. All the Ukrainian stars are written with even numbers of points, as even numbers mean good luck. If the stars are drawn from the top point of a cross in an angle that crosses to the bottom point of the adjoining upright line, you will create more triangles (quarters of another square) on the outside of the center diamond or square. Otherwise, you run a diagonal line from the center of the center square or diamond to the upright points, giving you the two triangles in each of the four sections of the cross that make the star.
Original Diamonds and Stars, 2002
Image © Deirdre Le Blanc
Everything a pysanky writer draws is in reference to centers, diagonals and straight lines. In the highly geometric designs that come from the Western Carpathian Mountains, all the lines within one section project to the next, and continue all around the egg. One line becomes the reference point for the next. Everything is built around squares or diamonds and triangles.
Sacred Geometry and the Spiral of Life
Sacred Geometry is found in all the arts: architecture and music included. These are the forms in the universe that incorporate order. This order (or geometry) is found in everything around us, and everything spirals. In the very DNA of life forms, spiraling is present. Likewise, growth expands and retracts - spirals up and down.
I think it is interesting to note that the double spiral that is present in DNA is also the double spiral that is seen in Celtic art. The Celts called their braids "Lines of Life." How they knew this spiral was the same as that which symbol the meaning of life (or DNA) is not known. However, the spiral that can be made from Pythagoras' Golden Section, or Golden Mean, was known to symbolize life as well.
Abracadabra, a word known to Kabbalists, means "I create as I speak." It is also a Magic Square. If you take AGCT, which are chemicals in chromosomes that create the genes that make up DNA, and change them to ABRCD, it is just a change in letters, but the meaning is still the same. You could just as well make AGCT a Magic Square, as the combinations of these letters are endless. I have written about Magic Squares and the Vedic Square in my book Connections - A Quest for History, Mystery and Magic.
I hope this article affords you more interest in studying Sacred Geometry and in appreciating the art of pysanky. The subject is vast, and far too involved to pursue in any depth here.
For further reading I will recommend Robert Lawlor's Sacred Geometry, Philosophy and Practice, Thames and Hudson, ISBN 0-500-811030-3, and my book referenced above (available on CD-ROM), which can be purchased on my web site. My site also references many other sites that deal with these subjects.
For further reading on the symbols of pysanky, I recommend my digital book on pysanky symbolism that can be downloaded from my site at no cost. I would also recommend several books that are teaching aids on making the eggs, as well as explaining the symbolism, namely:
Pysanka: Icon of
the Universe by Mary Tkachuk, Marie Kischuck and Alice Nicholachuk,
printed in Canada. It can be purchased at the Ukrainian Center in
the Ukrainian Gift Shop in Minneapolis, MN,
and at the Ukrainian Arts Center gift shop in Los Angeles, 4315 Melrose
Avenue (Phone: 323.668.0172). There are several other books on the symbolism
and how to make pysanky, as well as the kistky and supplies to make
the eggs that are available at these shops.
From your Guide: Deirdre Le Blanc is a pysanky artist, painter, craftswoman and writer who lives in the Greater Los Angeles area. She has devoted years toward both proficiency in the ancient art of Pysanky and the study of Sacred Geometry. Along with the generous introduction to both, offered here, she has additional pysanky images and a digital book on pysanky symbolism available (free of charge) at her website. Images contained within this article are copyright of Deirdre Le Blanc, and used with her kind permission.