The goddess motif is an ancient one, and most commonly found in pysanky from Polissia or Western Podillia. The berehynia was believed to be the source of life and death. On the one hand, she is a life giving mother, the creator of heaven and all living things, and the mistress of heavenly water (rain), upon which the world relies for fertility and fruitfulness. On the other hand, she was the merciless controller of destinies.

The goddess is sometimes depicted with arms upraised, and the arms vary in number but are always in pairs: 2, 4 or 6.

This is similar to the appearance of the Christian Oranta, like this one in S. Sophia’s cathedral in Kyiv:

Pysanky with this motif were called “bohyn’ky” (богиньки, little goddesses) or “zhuchky” (жучки, beetles), the latter because they are similar in appearance to the Cyrillic letter Ж (zh).  You can see examples of the oranta-style berehynia in these two examples from Binyashevsky (Podillya, Kyivshchyna), and the one at the top of this page (Volynian Polissia):


Traditional examples from my collection include these:



The sixth pysanka above only really reveals the berehynia when laid on its side:


Ancient Mother Goddess

Berehynia       Vazon

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