Ruzha Motifs


One of the most popular motifs found on pysanky is the eight-pointed star, which is often called a “ruzha” or “rozha.”  A ruzha is actually a mallow flower (same family as hollyhocks and hibiscus), although the term is applied, with modifiers, to many different flowers.  The modifiers are botanical:

ruzha borova – geranium

ruzha rusalchana – peony

ruzha yapons'ka – camelia

ruzha poliova – poppy

ruzha vodna – water lily

Neither rozha nor ruzha refers to roses, as is often falsely assumed by diasporan Ukrainian speakers. The Ukrainian word for a rose (botanically speaking) is troianda (торянда). Binyashevsky, in his book, has renamed several old “ruzha” patterns as troiandy, but this is an incorrect modernization of the names. (Troiandy/roses are found primarily in Brocard-style cross stitch embroidery, which is a recent addition to the Ukrainian folk art canon.)

The term rozha/ruzha is typically used for the large type of eight pointed star motif which is based on a circle, as opposed to the the smaller stars you often see in bands that are based on squares. The former more closely resembles a flower.

Marusia Chaika states that the ruzha/rozha is a solar symbol, especially when it is used as a large motif on two sides of an egg.  When there are many small ruhzi on the surface of a pysanka, these may represent stars.

The term is also used for more floral appearing forms with rounded petals.  Selivachov describes the “rozha” as usually being “a flower with eight petals, without any express botanical features,” and gives these examples of ruzha motifs (all but 1 and 3 are pysanka motifs):

2)   Poltava

4a) Poltava

4b) Transcarpathia

5a) ”Sobacha rozha,” Elizavethrad

5b) ”Khrestova rozha,” Elizavethrad

6)   ”Pusta rozha,” Lviv

7a) “Povna rozha” Poltava

7b)  Zhytomyr

(Notes: “Sobacha rozha” (dog rozha) appears to be a common name for a mallow.  “Khrestova rozha” is a cross-shpaed rose.  “Pusta rozha” is an “empty” rozha. “Povna rozha” means “full” rose.)

There are many modifiers used to describe the various types of ruzhas found on pysanky. The two primary modifiers refer to the location of the ruzha.

The pysanka on the left, from eastern Podillia, is a simple, classic ruzha.  It has eight points, and is the central motif of this pysanka.  It is of the most common sort, is бокова/bokova (side/lateral) ruzha, referring to those pysanky with ruzha motifs on the two sides (each face) of the egg. This is a pysanka with a longitudinal division.

The pysanka on he right is also a bokova ruzha; it is from Zakarapattia, and written using the drop-pull technique.  It has many more points than eight, but is still considered a ruzha.


The other locational modifier is сторчова/storchova, also called сторцова/stortsova and сторчева/storcheva (per Manko, examples in the book). This is when the two ruzhi are located on the top and bottom of the egg (an equatorial division of the pysanka).  This example by Binyashevsky is from the Chernihiv region.

Other modifiers refer to characteristics of the ruzha. Повна/Povna (full) ruzha is the most common; this refers to a compound ruzha (or a ruzha in a ruzha). It is sometimes used for irregular rozhy with more than 8 points, too, when the points are on different levels. The example on he left is from Kholmshchyna; the one on the right is called «зелена рожа» (green rozha) and is from the village of Hubske in Poltava oblast, Lubenskyi raion.


Половинчаста/Polovynchasta is a half ruzha, literally. It has four points and looks like someone lopped the other half off.  These two examples are from Poltavshchyna; the one on the left is from the city of Lubny (Kulzhynsky), and the one on the right is from the Great Soviet Encyclopedia.


Клинчаста/Klynchasta is usually used, in pysankarstvo, when describing sorokoklyn ("40 triangles") type pysanky. I have seen it used occasionally to describe an ordinary povna ruzha (Manko 36-27). It means "wedgy."  Although it Binyashevsky has labelled this ruzha from Zaporizhia “kosychata,” it is a classic example of this sort.

You'll sometimes see a косичаста/kosychasta ruzha - it is "awry" in some fashion.  Often the ends of the star are curled, as though in motion (the way that a svarha is a moving cross). Variations of this can be called закручена/zakruchena or кучер'ява/kucheriava.  The examples below are all from Kulzhynsky. The first is from the Nemyriv region of Podillia (Vinnytsia oblast).  Its name is “Duck necks and rakes.”  The pysanka in the middle is from Podillia, too, but the exact location is not known. 

The pysanka on the far right has two different ruzha attributes, as it is a povna ruzha (star within a star) as well as kosychasta–the tips of the outer star curl.  This pysanka is from the Poltava region, village of Nyzhniy-Bulatets, Lebenskyi raion, and is named “Povna Rozha.”


Another variation is a "stretched" version of a storchova ruzha; it is called поздовжна/pozdovzhna or повдожа/povdovzha. These examples are from Kulzhynsky; on the left is an example from the Chernihiv region (Mutyn, povit Krolevetskyi) and on the right is a pysanka from the Kamianets-Podilskyi region.



Stylized mallow flowers

Flower motifs       Vinok

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