E GAG CRET N TRIC
B Y SUSAN BRACKNEY
Paul “Eggman” Wirhun saves the world with his
mad egg-batik skills.
Put any stock in an ancient Ukrainian myth, write.” Its practitioners have been “writing” designs
and technically, Paul Wirhun is saving the with beeswax on eggs and subsequently resist-world, one egg at a time. dyeing them in myriad bold colors for at least the
According to the Ukrainian-American artist, it last 3,000 years. “What you’re dealing with is a
was once believed that our fate depended solely on neolithic, agrarian cultural mindset that is using an
the crafting of pysanky (pronounced PISS-ahn-kih) object out of its world for power,” Wirhun says.
— those decorative and highly symbolic batiked To harness the power inherent in them, only
eggs for which the Ukraine is so well known. As the fertile eggs were used, and their contents were left
story goes, an evil monster lives chained to a cliff, intact. “The phenomenon of the decoration is a be-and because this monster is pacified seemingly lief, first of all, that the egg has power in itself. With
only by pysanky, he sends his servants out annually the decoration of an egg, you are basically ascribing
to count the number of eggs decorated in the the intention for how you will use the power which
villages and surrounding countryside. is inherently already in the egg,” he adds.
“If there are a lot made, then his chains are kept For instance, eggs decorated with reindeer signi-tight and love abounds everywhere, but if only a fied wishes for good health and prosperity. Those de-few are made, his chains are loosened and evil picting chickens signified wishes for female fertility.
flows. And if the practice should ever cease, he will Wirhun continues, “You are supposed to give [eggs
be released from his chains, and the world will be designed with] ladders to old people for their ascent
devoured,” Wirhun explains. into heaven. Spirals just represent eternity itself.”
At the craft since he was 10, Wirhun originally Can so much power really be ascribed to the
learned the egg batik basics from his mother. By age everyday egg? Yes, Wirhun says, even now: “The
30, he began implementing his own etching, dyeing, egg still holds its symbolic power for people even in
and brushing techniques to create elaborate world our postmodern culture. It’s one of the few symbols
maps, eerie skulls, erotic scenes, and more on eggs from civilization thousands of years ago that still
of every size and shape. Although Wirhun has strayed retains its value.”
from tradition, his pysanky are designed to serve as As if to prove his point, Wirhun developed The Skull
talismans just as their ancient counterparts were. Project, an art ritual designed to commemorate all of
those killed in Iraq in 2003. Using his own scratching
That Old-Time Religion and bleach painting techniques, Wirhun and a multi-
Often referred to as Ukrainian Easter eggs, pysanky
were around long before Christ showed up. Pysanky As well as saving the world, Wirhun holds the world in
comes from the word “pysaty,” which means “to his hands — this time in the form of batiked ostrich egg.