Spirals and Curls

Шпірали і кучері


The spiral is a powerful motif, and is one of the many ancient depictions of the Zmiya (Serpent), the god of water and earth. 

The spiral was drawn onto pysanky as a protective motif.  It was said to protect a house and its occupants from evil spirits: those evil spirits which entered the house would be drawn to the spiral, and then trapped in its endless curves.


Curls  (kucheri) are small, truncated spirals, and usually have the same meaning.  These are examples of simple curls:

The pysanky below are from Shuliavka, once a separate village but now a raion of Kyiv (left and right) and Zolochiv in Lviv oblast (center).  The pysanky on the left is called “Khreshchata (Хрещата), or cross-like.


The pysanky below are from Binyashevsky.The one on the left is called “Kruchenyky (Крученики),” or little curls, and is from Volyn.Next to it is a pysanka from Eastern Podillia which is called “Perervy (Переви),” which means breaks or interruptions.



Kucheri are very common in the pysanky of Western Podillia, where they are used to represent the Berehynia, the great goddess.  These kucheri are not simple curls, but have added features–wings, a crown–and are usually duplicated as mirror images.  They are ancient symbols, and have odd names: “Curl with tree and sun,” “princess,” “queen,” “roosters,” “drake,” “scythe,” “wings.”  These names are mostly later attempts to describe the symbol, but a few (princess, queen) contain echoes of the original meanings.

These are a few examples from Binyashevsky of these ancient designs:


The pysanky above are named “Kachur (Качур)” or “Drake (male duck)”, “Заячі зуби (Zayachi zuby)” or “Rabbits’ teeth” and “Koroleva (Kоролева)” or “Queen.”  Below we have “Kucheri z hilochkamy (Кучері з гілочками)” or “Curls with branches,” “Kucheri z derevom i sontsem (Кучер з деревом і сонцем)” or “Curl with tree and sun,” and “Kruky (kruky)” or “Ravens.”


Also from Western Podillia are these pysanky from Binyashevksy:


They are called “Kucher z kvitamy (Кучер з квітами)” or “Curl with flowers,” “Zirka (Зірка)” or “Star,” and “Kniahynia (Княгиня)” or “Princess.”


Below are examples of a variety of spirals, which are just more deeply curled curls/kucheri; they are sometimes called “ravlyky” (равлики, snails).  They can be simple spirals, kucheri arranged in a circle, of spirals on top of spirals:

Here you see three pysanky with simple spirals: a row of white on black spirals from the Boyko lands, a dual spiral (Sigma) from the Kyiv region, and a small spiral from .



And this is a classic zmiya/serpent representation, a sigma (double curl.spiral) with curls arising from it:

Tripods       Dots and Spots

Serpents, Protection and the Goddess

Tripods       Dots and Spots

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