An egg - the symbol of life, and in pre-Christian times, lightning and sunlight, forces that revitalize nature in the Spring. It also is connected with the myth about the creation of the world ab ovo, that is from an egg. That's what they thought in Greece or India. And the Persians believed that the world was hatched from an egg - the white became the Sun and the yellow became the Moon.
An egg is not only a symbol of life, but also a symbol of a force defending against all evil. During the so-called ninth day feast, an egg was placed in the dead man's mouth. It was believed that his soul would have peace and would not wandering around the world. Later, this custom was replaced by visiting the graves of the deceased, where decorated Easter eggs were put.
Eggs were also used to treat colds and various pains. All you had to do was roll them over a sick man's body. Eggs were also supposed to fight hepatitis or fever - then they had to be held in the hand and looked at intensively.
In case of building new cities or houses, an egg was used as a cornerstone so the dwellers were to experience only good moments, while evil supposed to streer clear from them. This was the case, for example, with the St. Mary's Basilica in Kraków.
Where did the egg decorating come from?
The oldest coloured eggs found come from Mesopotamia. In turn an egg in Egypt symbolised the goddess Ptah, in Greece - Aphrodite. Ovidius and Pliny also mentioned the custom of decorating eggs.
Nowadays Easter eggs are a symbol of the emerging nature and hope for the coming of Christ.
Easter eggs were decorated on Good Friday, and only girls were allowed to do so. The water in which the eggs were boiled was used to wash their hair, so that it would be thick and shiny.
The Easter eggs, on the other hand, served as a ransom on Easter Monday - they gave them to the boys so that they would go easy during the traditional water fight - the śmigus-dyngus. And the most beautifully decorated egg they gave to the one they liked.
Easter eggs were associated with many games and rituals, and the most popular was the walatka, breaking the Easter egg against another the Easter egg. Another one was a burda, and it was all about throwing Easter eggs at each other. If anyone caught it, took it away, and when it broke, he gave one of his opponents back.
In some towns and villages there was a real competition to throw eggs through houses or churches. The children also had fun looking for Easter eggs.
And as gifts, they gave hand-decorated eggs.
We now have ready-made dyes, but in the past we used to deal with natural remedies. To obtain the yellow colour, the eggs were boiled in onion shells. And light yellow came from the bark of a young apple tree and dried field glaucoma. In order to obtain the green colour, an infusion of nettle, violet leaves or young winter rye was prepared. Eggs took on a burgundy shade when they were immersed in water in an oak trunk. Violet was obtained by boiling eggs in the broth from the leaves of a dark mallow. Red Easter eggs came from the decoctions of elderberry, oak bark, cones and crocuses. And black could be obtained from alder bark and black maple leaves. In addition to these dyes, ink, coffee and cinnamon were also used.
Every color meant something. Purple and blue symbolized the end of fasting, i. e. mourning. Shades such as yellow, green, and pink are the joy of the resurrection, and red is the blood that Christ shed on the cross.
With time, it wasn't enough just to paint eggs. They started to create paintings with beautiful ornaments. This way of decorating was evolved. Mothers showed their daughters different ways to decorate, thus every generation added something from each other and now we can see incredible Easter egg masterpieces.