Besahy Motifs



Besahy–also called bysahy, or sakvy–are a sort of saddlebag that was either worn across the shoulders or placed on a horse.  The were made from two similar bags, each called a besazhka (bysazhka).

Besahy is the name sometimes given to motifs on pysanky that have this appearance:


Additionally, similar motifs have been given all the following names

крила (wings)

голубка (dove)

косі рукави (oblique sleeves)

пави (peacocks)

безконечник (endless line)

лапка (paw: bird or animal foot)

This symbol is of the family of hand-shaped motifs often referred to as “the hand of god.”  Such motifs are ancient--they are though to go back to paleolithic times.  I suspect the “besahy” and other descriptions are a later ones, given to an old symbol whose meaning and original name had long been forgotten by the pysankarky writing the design.

This particular variation on the hand of god is found in Vinnytsia oblast.  Some versions of it bear a strong resemblance to a ram--whether that is coincidental, or a purposeful modification, I do not know.

Interestingly, sakvy (a synonym for besahy) is the name given to a basic pysanka division, one which also resembles saddlebags, drawn here by Binyashevsky:

This is my depiction of the saddlebag division:

As for the besahy themselves, they were bags joined by a central yoke.  The ranged in size up to 0.5 by 1.5 meters.  They could be worn around the shoulder and used to carry things, or placed on a horse in front of the saddle.  This fanciful depiction of a kozak has him riding and wearing besahy:

Besahy were usually made of hemp or wool; colors, ornamentation, even mode of wearing them varied locally and regionally.  There were everyday besahy, and holiday besahy–you would use special besahy to carry your pasky to church on Easter for blessing. Besahy were used in weddings, too–the starosta would wear one, and they were needed to carry kolachi and horilka for the wedding party.

Besahy were used everyday for carrying things.  They were particularly useful for bringing goods to the yarmarok (market).  Until fairly recently, the women of the village of Velykyi Kliuchiv (Kolomyia region) carried their dairy goods to market in besahy, and became known as the “Besazhinyky.”



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