Toastmasters Speech #5: Your Body Speaks
When I was a Girl Scout many years ago, the relative of a troop member showed us how to make Ukranian Easter eggs. She handed that tradition down to us, and now I am handing it down to you.
The tradition of egg decorating in the Ukraine dates back to pagan times. In nature worship ceremonies, the yolk of the egg represented the sun, and the white, the moon. Eggs were especially important in spring rituals. The bursting forth of a baby chick from an egg symbolized nature bursting forth after a dormant winter.
Decorated eggs were thought to be quite powerful. If a woman was barren, she’d be given an egg decorated with the image of a chicken, to make her fertile. Farmers were given eggs decorated with sheaves of wheat, to ensure a bountiful harvest.
When Christianity came to the Ukraine in 988 A.D., the pagan ways were absorbed into Christian traditions, and the egg became part of the Easter celebration. Eggs were decorated with Christian symbols, like fish, or triangles which represented the Trinity.
How do you decorate a Ukranian Easter egg? You need five basic items:
1. An egg. Nicely shaped, not too bumpy. At the grocery store, it takes me a few minutes to assemble a carton of eggs I want to use. This makes other people who want to buy eggs closely examine theirs, too, thinking there might be something wrong with them! Use a pin to poke holes in both ends of the egg, and blow it out. Let dry.
2. A kitska. This is a small, round stick of wood with a metal funnel wired onto the top of it. The funnel is wide at one end, and narrow at the other. It is a drawing instrument.
3. Beeswax. You use this to draw with.
4. Heat source. A candle. Electric kitskas can be plugged into a socket.
5. A set of dyes.
First, pick a design for your egg. We’ll do this one (point). Then light the candle. There’s something beautiful about a lit candle. Something magical. It is a connection to days gone by, before the invention of electricity. It is a connection to holy religious traditions.
You take the kitska and scrape beeswax into the funnel, then hold it over the flame to melt the wax. First cover the two holes of the egg with wax. Next place wax on the parts of the egg you want to stay white. Start with the lines going all the way aorund the egg. Make a few dots and connect them, so they’re straight, holding the kitska at a ninety degree angle to the egg. Cover what you want to stay white entirely with wax, or there’ll be spots of color.
Egg dyeing is a batik process, and we always go from light to dark colors. Now place the egg in yellow dye. Because it’s hollow, you have to hold it down with a weight. Once the egg is yellow, use wax to cover the parts of it that you want to stay yellow. For our design, we next place it in orange dye and cover over the part we want to remain orange, then red, then black. When you remove the egg from the black dye, it will be entirely black, with lots of waxy bumps on it.
Next comes my favorite part: The Reveal. For this you need the candle and a tissue paper. Hold the egg to the side of the flame, not over it, because you don’t want to get soot on the egg. You melt the wax, and rub it off with a tissue. Then melt more wax, and rub it off, until finally you have a colorful, wax-free egg.
There’s one more step. Place a drop of varnish in the palm of your hand, and roll the egg around. This makes the egg nice and shiny. Then set it on a drying rack, and you’re finished. Depending on the complexity of the design you’ve chosen, it can take two to four hours to create an egg.
I hope the next time you see a Ukranian Easter egg, you will better appreciate the tradition it represents, and the work involved in creating it. I will now pass around some postcards with pictures of eggs on them, and I also have a book for anyone interested in learning more.