Wheat Motifs


Breadbasket of Europe

Vinok       Vegetables

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Ukraine was, and still is, a highly agricultural country.  It has some of the richest farmland in the all world–the chornozem (black earth) of the Ukrainian steppes–and was once known as the “Breadbasket of Europe.” It is not surprising that there would be many agriculturally-related symbols in Ukrainian folk art.

And there are: rakes, windmills, plowed fields, rain, seeds. But not wheat.

Stalks (or heads) of wheat are NOT motifs found on traditional folk pysanky.  I have looked at thousands of traditional designs, in books, museums and private collections, and have yet to see a stalk of wheat on any one of them. 

There is an example of the depiction of sheaves of wheat on Lemko drop-pull pysanky, in a very stylized form.  This pysanka is from Odarka Onyshchuk’s Symbolism of the Ukrainian Pysanka, and is from the Pryashiv region (present-day Slovakia).

I am not sure what her source for the design was.  In Slovakia, during Soviet times, pysankarstvo was encouraged, and Soviet motifs were placed onto those pysanky (hammer and sickle, for instance).  Whether Onyshchuk’s source predates this period is not known.

Wheat is a very popular motif in the diaspora, and can be seen in examples of diasporan embroidery, ceramics, paintings and flower arrangements.  It is commonly seen on diasporan pysanky, and is shown in varying degrees of botanical verisimilitude:



These are two examples of diasporan pysanky, in which wheat has been incorporated into otherwise fairly traditional designs:



You can find many more if you look in modern Diasporan books of pysanka designs, or simply peruse the web.  They are lovely, but not traditional, and not talismanic.