The Tree of Life



Tree of Life

The “tree of life,” is widely used in pysanky designs.  It can be represented many ways.  Sometimes, as is common in Hutsul pysanky, it appears as two deer on either side of a tree. 

More often it manifests as a plant in a flower pot (“vazon”), with leaves and flowers. The pot itself is usually a rectangle, triangle or a rhomboid (symbolic of the earth), and is covered with dots (seeds) and dashes (water); occasionally the pot is minimal or missing entirely.  Many branches grow on this potted plant, usually in a symmetric fashion, with leaves and flowers. 

This plant is a berehynia (goddess) symbol, as the branches represent her (many) arms. It is reminiscent of the Christian Oranta with her upraised arms.

More examples of vazon symbols found on pysanky:

The vazon motif is also said to represent the universe, because the tree of life unites the three worlds: the underground, our world, and the heavens/sky.

These are examples of traditional pysanky with a tree of life/vazon motif:



As are these examples, recreated from Solomchenko’s illustrations in “Pysanky of the Carpathians”:

Top row : Rozhnevi Polia, Sniatyn raion (Pokuttia); Hutsul

Bottom row: Hutsul;  Rozhnevi Polia, Sniatyn raion (Pokuttia)

The vazon motif is a popular one, and can be seen on many different forms of Ukrainian folk art.  Selivachov gives many examples in the illustration below:

1-3:  embroidery

6:  wood carving

4, 5, 7, 8-12: pysanky

13, 15: painted wall designs

14: kylym (rug-making)

The photos below give more examples of the vazon /tree of life motif, both on traditional pysanky, and on diasporan ones.


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