Insect Motifs


From Butterflies to Beetles


Spiders       Reptiles

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The butterfly is not a symbol found on traditional pysanky. There are several traditional pysanky which can be found in the literature which have been given the name “metelyky” or “babky,” but these names do not appear to be original, and may be later reinterpretations by Binyashevsky and Onyshchyk.  Both of them are known to have created new names for pysanky when it suited them. These examples are from Binyashevsky, and are three-winged; the original designs are from the Hutsul region and Kurshchyna.


Onyshchuk includes a version of this pysanka, first recorded by Kulzhynsky, in her book as an example of “metelyky”; however, these motifs are quite obviously “swallow tails” that she has simply renamed “butterflies.”

Butterflies are seen with some frequency on Diasporan pysanky and art pysanky, and various interpretations have been created for them, but these are simply modern inventions and have nothing to do with folk pysankarstvo. This turkey egg, created by So Jeo, is an example of a beautiful batik art egg with butterfly motifs.


Bees can sometimes be seen on diasporan pysanky, but are not found on traditional folk pysanky. They are a modern motif. This is one example of a modern diasporan pysanka with bee motifs. 



Note the anatomic accuracy, which would not be seen in traditional stylized zoomorphic motifs.


Other insects are less commonly seen.  Some modern diasporan pysanky show the ladybug, known in Ukraine as a “sonechko”  (сонечко, little sun). 


Ladybug motifs do not appear on traditional pysanky.


Beetles are not common motifs on pysanky, but they do occur. These are two examples, from Western Ukraine, as collected by Elyjiw, and from Nemyrivskyi raion in Vinnytsi oblast (Podillia).


Neither one looks anything like a beetle, nor much like any particular insect. What these “bugs” do resemble, somewhat, is the letter Ж, which, in Ukrainian, is pronounced “zh.” That is where its name is said to come from, the resemblance to the shape of the letter.