(Image from here)
The word pysanka is derived from the Ukrainian verb pysaty 'to write'; we 'write' designs on the eggs. Nearly all Slavic peoples and those in the eastern Mediterranean area practiced this art in ancient times using beeswax and dyes to create tiny masterpieces of art but Ukrainian Easter Eggs from the more modern Christian era seem to be the ones best known. In Western Ukraine, the art form was retained even though it declined because of religious suppression in most areas. Symbolism is at the root of all pysanky and it is not uncommon for a simple design full of symbolic meaning to surpass a very intricate design that is beautiful in its own right but nearly devoid of symbolic meaning and artistic expression.
The symbols used in pysanka design are a blend of ancient pagan motifs with Christian elements. As an example, pagans celebrated the high points in life and the yearly cycle. The Christian church does the same throughout the religious year with both highlighting Spring and the resurrection of Christ. The symbols used remained the same--the interpretation of them was changed to be in keeping with the acceptance of Christianity. This blend between the ancient pagan beliefs and symbols and the Christian beliefs and symbols has resulted in a richness seen in modern pysanka.
Certain designs and symbols are reserved for different rituals such as matchmaking, healing the ill, encouraging fertility in animals and childless couples, increased harvest etc. Shells were considered sacred and powerful in themselves and were saved, crushed and fed to the hens to increase fertility and also spread on roof tops to ward off evil.
The art of making a pysanka was and is a holy, ritual task for the traditional Ukrainian artist. The pysanka is believed to have power similar to a cross. Each step in the process of making a pysanka was proscribed so that they might be made with the holiest of attitudes and the strongest forces imbued in them. Beeswax is used as it comes from bees who gather it from flowers who are nourished by the sun. The wax is melted off in the heat of the oven to remove the wax in a purifying process that unites it with the life-giving sun.You can read the rest of the article here.