Писанка, або таємниці розмальованого яйця

(Pysanka, or mysteries of the decorated egg)

Author: Олеся Авраменко (Olesya Avramenko)

Format: softcover booklet

Pages:  17          

Language:  Ukrainian

Illustrations:  numerous, color

Publisher:  АДЕФ-Україна  (Kyiv, 2006)

Availability:  unknown

Acquired:  Kyiv, 2006

I've discovered the worst book ever written about pysanky, in any language. It is called (in Ukrainian) "Mysteries of the Pysanka," and was published this year in Kyiv. We received a stack of free copies for camp, and I was tempted NOT to even hand the thing out to the kids.

Why is it so bad? Because it is poorly written and highly inaccurate. It also can't seem to decide what it wants to be. The book discusses pysanka making (technique vaguely discussed but with no illustrations) and includes two stories, including some sort of sappy love story. There are some nice illustrations of traditional pysanky, most of them taken directly from Binyashevsky’s book (which was the only reason I handed it out), but several are given the wrong names e.g. ("Gypsy Roads" is called "Spiders").

It's said that, to a hammer, everything is a nail. This book was written by someone who is interested in herbal medicine, and all the symbolism is discussed from that viewpoint. Despite many years of scholarly work on the subject by many researchers, this author has chosen to impose her own interpretation on the symbols of the pysanka. "Wolves' teeth" are not really wolves' teeth, but representations of the dandelion, the root of which is good for kidney ailments. Crow’s feet are not really crow’s feet, and ram’s horns are not ram’s horns, but represent a primrose, which is also an import source of herbal medication. It cures pneumonia, asthma, vitamin deficiency, heart disease, and insomnia.  Its leaves are also tasty in salads.

And so forth, for several pages.  All is phytotherapy.

Should you somehow come across a copy of this book, do not waste your money on it. Seriously.


Pysanka illustration from book

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