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Rushnyk (рушник)

March 13, 2015

 

  Rushnyk (рушник) is an embroidered or woven towel\runner 20–50 cm wide and 1–4 m long, used usually for a decorative or ceremonial purpose. In medieval times it was used as a basic piece of dress, covering the front and back of the body, or as a monetary unit.

 

    In Ukraine the rushnyk accompanied a person throughout their life: a newborn was placed immediately on a rushnyk. The rushnyk played a prominent role in the wedding rituals: in the engagement ceremony and the church wedding the rushnyk was used to tie the hands of the young couple; at the shower the bride-to-be and her bridesmaids wore the rushnyk across the chest; the engaged couple or their attendants carried the rushnyk when they invited guests to the wedding; at the wedding it was the bride's chief gift to the bridegroom, her in-laws, and the matchmakers; the rushnyk was worn across the chest by the most important, if not all, wedding guests; at the departure from the bride's home and during the church service the couple stood on a rushnyk; and at the wedding the wedding bread was placed on a rushnyk. As a component of the bride's dowry the rushnyk represented her wealth and talents.

 

   The Hutsuls hung a rushnyk in the window to inform others of a death in the family. At funerals the deceased were covered with a rushnyk, the oxen pulling the hearse were decorated with it, the coffin was lowered into the grave with rushnyky, and the cross over the grave was draped with a rushnyk.

 

    A rushnyk was the most common gift made to churches. It was used in various folk rituals and celebrations - to decorate the ice cross on Epiphany and the birch tree on the Feast of the Trinity. During the Kupalo festival rushnyky and flower wreaths were used for decorating roadside crosses.

 

   The final sheaf of grain gathered during the harvest festival was tied with a rushnyk. At Saint Andrew's festival girls hung rushnyky outside their windows at night to learn whether or not they would get married.

Rushnyky were also widely used in domestic life. When a house was constructed, the final beam was hoisted into place with rushnyky, which were then given to the workmen as gifts.

 

     Special rushnyky called bozhnyky or naobraznyky decorated icons or favorite paintings in the house. The rushnyk was also a symbol of the family hearth, a link between the living and the dead. A young man leaving home received a rushnyk from his mother or betrothed.

 

   Rushnyky are either embroidered or woven, and each region of Ukraine has its own characteristic patterns and colors. The embroidered rushnyky of the Kyiv region, Poltava region, and Chernihiv region usually have a floral design arranged vertically in the form of a vase. A basic element of the design is the tree of life, subtended by a horizontal along the edge of the rushnyk. The dominant color in the Poltava rushnyk is bright red; in the Kyiv rushnyk it is red and black or red and blue. A geometric pattern, embroidered in parallel stripes, is typical of Podilia. Stylized female animal and bird figures are also popular there. Volhynian rushnyky have geometric designs of red and blue made with a standard cross-stitch or running stitch. In Subcarpathia the dominant colors are black, red, and yellow, and the most popular stich is the nyz. In Bukovyna and the Ternopil region the rushnyky are richly embroidered, with the horizontal and vertical stripes of black and red designs often covering one-quarter of the surface.

 

  There are two basic techniques used in rushnyk weaving, and they determine the nature of the design. Shuttle weaving is used to create a horizontal geometric design, in which red is the dominant color. Twill weaving is used for more elaborate designs, in which horizontal stripes are combined with stylized flowers and birds as well as squares, rhombuses, rosettes, and stars.

 

    Virtually every ethnographic and regional studies museum in Ukraine has a collection of rushnyky. The largest belongs to the Museum of Ethnography and Crafts in Lviv. A large collection is found in the Ukrainian Center for Folk Culture «Ivan Honchar's Museum» in Kyiv.

 

    Rushnyky are a popular form of interior decoration in Ukraine and are exported to many foreign countries. The rushnyk often appears in folk and contemporary songs as a symbol of love, faithfulness, and patriotism.

 

Info source - Енциклопедія України в інтернеті
Photo source - Музей Івана Гончара (Ivan Honchar Museum) Google search

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