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Tree-of-life Motif

Ritual Uses



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"Rushnyk Maker"


Ukrainian Traditional Folklore

Rushnyky - Tree-of-Life

In the home, rushnyky must be draped around the icons in the icon corner. Other uses of rushnyky are optional, but extensive. Typically, rushnyky are draped around pictures, be they family photographs or images of important persons such as the poet Taras Shevchenko.

The most basic rushnyk to used in the home is the one with the embroidery motif that is called the tree of life. As its name implies, the tree of life insures the longevity and prosperity of the inhabitants of the household. The tree of life is believed to connect all realms: the underworld, this world, and heaven. Because of this, the tree of life also symbolizes continuity between the past, current, and future generations of a family and between people and the natural world.

The rushnyky presented here were collected by Halyna Kapas' in the area where the Kyiv, Poltava, and Cherkasy regions meet.

  The basic tree of life motif for this region has a sinuous central branch or stem with flowers, usually roses on either side:     The tree of life can be doubled, or tripled, or used in greater multiples.
Tree of life motifs can run horizontally instead of vertically and most bands of flowers are essentially horizontal tree of life motifs

With the exception of a very branchy motif such as the one on the left, most people do not consider the horizontal bands to be trees of life. Rather, they focus on the flowers in the band. What they consider important here is the type of flower selected: each blossom has a meaning, or a set of meanings, that represents a desired quality. See the glossary.