Pysanky: What Are They?, Symbolism of Colours

Symbolism of Colours on Pysanky

In addition to motifs being symbolic on pysanky, colours also have various meanings. Even though some of the very early pysanky possessed only two colours, it was often believed that the more colours, the more magic the pysanka holds, bringing better fate and more luck to the owner of the pysanka!


The range of colours back in the day was fairly limited and made from natural dyes. They spanned from yellow, orange, red, to green, brown, and black. Blue and purple also slowly became incorporated in the 1800s with the advent of aniline.

Here is a very basic guide to the meanings of various colours used. *Note that the meanings below are generalizations; different regions of Ukraine interpreted colours in different ways.

  • Red – the oldest symbolic color. It represented blood (which gives life), and often appears on pysanky with nocturnal and/or heaven-like. It also represented the sun, love and joy, and the hope of marriage.
  • Black – a sacred color, and was very commonly associated with the “other world,” however not in a negative sense.
  • Yellow – symbolized the moon and stars as well as the harvest.
  • Blue – Represented skies, the air, and good health.
  • White – Signified purity, birth, light, rejoicing, virginity.
  • Green – new life in the spring. It represents the renewal of nature; the richness of vegetation.
  • Brown – the earth.

Certain colour combinations even possessed specific meanings, too:

  • Black and white – mourning, respect for the souls of the dead.
  • Black and red – perceived as “harsh and frightful” and disturbing. It is common in Podillya, where both serpent motifs and goddess motifs were written with this combination.
  • Four or more colors – the family’s happiness, prosperity, love, health and achievements.


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