There is nothing more enjoyable at the Vernal Equinox than sitting down with your children, grandchildren or neices and nephews and making Ostara eggs with homemade, plant-based dyes. Children are amazed and delighted by the colours you can create with a bunch of everyday ingredients from the kitchen. They love the fun and messy magick, and any concerns about synthetic food dyes is removed.
Certified food dyes (approved by the FDA) may include colours synthesized from petroleum derivatives and coal tar. While some food dyes are based on natural ingredients, many come from things that, although natural, you still may not care to ingest:
Have you heard of carminic acid also called cochineal? - It is a commonly used red food coloring which comes from the dried, crushed bodies of pregnant female scale insects called cochineal (obviously where the name comes from). Now while this is not harmful it may not be something you want to use especially if you are vegetarian or vegan or just a supporter of animal rights - they may be an insect but they still fall under the category of animals :)
By using plant-based dyes at home, for colouring Ostara eggs, not only do you know exactly what you’re getting (no chemicals or bugs), but the colours are far more vibrant and natural than their synthetic counterparts and knowing their source is gratifying on a deeper aesthetic level.
Children seem to find that mashing food up and seeing the resulting colours form, is also much more fun that simply dropping a tablet or a few drops of liquid in a cup.
It can also form the basis of an improptu lesson - on history and nature, as well as the exploration factor - the children get to experiment with which plant materials work in what manner, and can get creative with items from the refrigerator, pantry or garden.
Some of the materials work best when they are boiled with the eggs (see below), and some work well made ahead and used by dipping or soaking the eggs. If you choose to use one of the juices, freshly squeezed and straight is best. However some can be used from canned products and their juices in the can, such as berries and seem to work very well.
Bulky materials can be boiled with the eggs or boiled and allowed to cool for dipping. Obviously the longer you let the eggs soak or boil, the more intense the colours will be (for the boiled versions, remove from the heat and allow to cool in the dye bath).
Of course you CAN use commercial dyes, paints, or any number of other decorative ideas for creating decorative blown Ostara eggs and we will also look at some of these ideas, for those of us who don't mind using synthetic products - as long as we are not going to eat the eggs.
How to Blow an Egg
Here is a quick how-to guide on blowing an egg...
You will need:
a wooden skewer or long needle
1. Gently swirl the point of your scalpel into the end of the egg, pushing as you go slightly, until it pierces.
2. Repeat at other end but continue to widen the hole at the other end by swirling the scalpel around so it chips away at the sides. Make it large enough to just insert the skewer.
3. Insert the skewer and jiggle it around a little to break up the yolk.
4. Place your mouth over one end, the other end over a bowl and gently blow into the egg. It might take a few puffs before it starts to come out, but once it gets going it will all come out with a few blows. If the yolk appears stuck, shake the egg and try the skewer again.
5. Now hold a finger over the bottom hole and place the top one under running water so the egg catches a little water. Shake it around a little and blow out again.
6. Leave to dry and then they’re ready to decorate.
Tip: If the egg cracks slightly as you’re piercing it, you can still try blowing. Make sure you blow from the cracked end otherwise the pressure will cause the crack to fully break. You can seal it when you decorate it.
Dye Colour Sources:
Red onion skins, use a lot (boil with eggs)
Canned Cherries with Juice
Yellow onion skins (boil with eggs)
Lemon or orange peel (boil with eggs)
Carrot tops (boil with eggs)
Celery seed (boil with eggs)
Ground cumin (boil with eggs)
Ground turmeric (boil with eggs)
Dill seeds (boil with eggs)
Mustard Seeds (boil with eggs)
Black walnut shells (boil with eggs)
Strong Black Tea
Bright green apple peels (boil with eggs)
Spinach leaves (boil with eggs)
Canned blueberries and their juice
Red cabbage leaves (boil with eggs)
Purple grape juice
Red onion skins, less amount than you need to make red (boil with eggs)
Diluted purple grape juice
Violet blossoms plus squeeze of lemon (boil with eggs)
Red Zinger Tea
Beets, fresh or canned
Cranberries or cranberry juice
Red grape juice
Below are some traditional symbols used on eggs. In addition to these, you could also use symbols that have meaning in your Path. Pentacles for the elements or earth, the divine, humanity. Cauldrons for rebirth and wisdom. Cups to represent Water: emotion, healing, adaptability. Swords for Air: clear thought, intellect, learning etc...
Circles: Protection, everlasting life, continuity, completeness. The Sun, and cycles of life.
Triangles: The elements of earth, air, fire and water. Or fire (the alchemical symbol for fire is a right side up triangle). The Trinity. Sun, Moon, and Stars.
Suns: The life-giving, all embracing nature of God, especially as the Sun is seen as the God. Fire and warmth, enchantment, prosperity, good fortune. (It is the most ancient and significant symbol, appearing on almost every Ukranian egg, from a small circle or dot to an elaborate many-rayed affair).
Tripods: Man, Woman, and Child. Birth, Life and Death.
Dots: Usually represent stars. Also can represent the Sun.
Spirals: Mystery of life and death, divinity and immortality.
Crosses: These are usually equal-armed crosses, though not always. Represents the four directions, the four ages of man, the four elements, rebirth and eternal life.
Plants: Rebirth and nature. Very popular symbols.
Trees: Strength, renewal, creation, organic unity, growth, eternal life.
Leaves: Immortality, eternal or pure love, strength, persistence.
Flowers: Beauty, children, female principles of wisdom and elegance.
Fruit: Continuity, good fellowship, strong and loyal love, love of the Divine.
Sunflowers: Motherhood, life, love of the Divine.
Wheat: Bountiful harvest.
Stars and Roses: Popular symbols for purity, life, giver of light, the eye of God, the God's love for humanity. Also success, knowledge, beauty, elegance, and perfection.
Stags: Leadership, victory, joy, masculinity.
Horses: Wealth, prosperity, endurance, speed and the motion of the Sun.
Rams: Leadership, strength, dignity, perseverance. Ram's horns symbolize strong leadership, dignity, and perseverance.
Horns: Mobility, wisdom, triumph over problems, and implies manhood and leadership.
Bear paws: A guardian spirit, bravery, wisdom, strength, endurance, the coming of spring.
Birds: All kinds, are messengers of the Sun and heavens, pushing away evil, fertility, fulfillment of wishes, good harvest.
Bird Parts: (eyes, feet, beaks, combs, feathers) carry the same meaning as entire birds.
Roosters: Good fortune, masculinity, coming of the dawn.
Hens: Fertility. Hen feet offer protection for the young, and guidance.
Goose feet: Symbols of soul or spirit.
Butterflies: Ascent of the soul, pleasure andfrivolity of childhood.
Spiders: Patience, artistry, industry, healing and good fortune.
Fish: Abundance, sacrifice, regeneration.
How to Hard-Boil Dyed Eggs Method 1.
This is one method to use for Dyed hard boiled eggs, you can use the same method to dye blown eggs as well, you will just need to place a weight over them during the boiling stage to keep them under the dye water.
What You Need:
A pot of water
Natural ingredients (see above) for colours
First of all, plan on only doing about 3 - 4 eggs at a time. You'll want them to have room to bob around in the pan, and not be piled on top of one another. Before starting, poke a small hole with a pin or needle in the end of each egg. This will help keep them from cracking while they boil. You'll really want to have at least a minimum of a dozen eggs, just because it's a lot of fun to experiment with different colours.
Start your water boiling. Use enough to cover about an inch over the tops of the eggs, but don't put them in the pan yet. Add 2 tsp of white vinegar, and bring the water to a boil. Once it's boiling, add 3 - 4 eggs using a slotted spoon (helpful hints: Do not use eggs right from the fridge - allow them to come to room temperature, this aids in preventing cracks and do NOT let your kids drop them in the water. Trust me on this one!). Next, you'll add your coloring material. Here's where it gets really fun!
To color your eggs, add one of the above dye items. You'll have to experiment a little to see how much to add, but try different amounts to get different shades of each color. Once you've added your colouring, allow to simmer for 20 minutes minimum.
After they've boiled, carefully remove the eggs from the pot with your slotted spoon and place them on a paper towel to dry. If you'd like them darker, you can allow them to sit over night in the pot of dye, but the vinegar can weaken the eggs' shells. When the eggs have dried completely, dab a little bit of vegetable oil on a paper towel and "polish" the eggs to give them some shine.
Keep your eggs refrigerated until it's time to hide them, eat them, or show them off to your friends.
Remember to never eat eggs that have been sitting at room temperature for more than two hours.
If your kids are more into the colouring than the eating of Ostara eggs, use blown eggs and try brushing your colored eggs with a thin layer of glue, and then sprinkling some glitter on top, or you can add beads or other decorations.
Eggs can take on the flavor of whatever you use to dye them, so unless you enjoy coffee-flavored eggs, put some considerable thought into using dyed eggs in recipes. Use a wax crayon to make designs and sigils on the eggs before dying - the waxed area will appear as the colour of the original egg once you've finished.
Creating Hanging Eggs
To create hanging eggs trees, you first need to make a lot of hanging eggs, you can join together as a street, a Coven or these are wonderful for a large scale festival. You could even choose to make a hanging egg tree as part of your families festivities and make new eggs to add to your collection each year. You can then hang them and bring them in and box them away for the following year.
You will need:
Blown eggs (lots and lots)
Dyes, paints, glitters etc
Beads, ribbons and any other decorations you may like to add
Needle long enough to extend the length of the egg
Blow your eggs as per above method
Dye eggs, paint them or cover them with glitter
Further decorate your eggs in any manner you choose (just remember NOT to cover over the piercing holes used for blowing the eggs as theese will be used to create the hanging section).
When your egg is finished being decorated, thread through it using ribbon and the large needle, thread a bead at the endand knot off, then thread the ribbon back through the egg again, slide a bead onto the other end and tie off leaving a section to hang egg
You can finish off by painting the egg with varnish if you choose to weatherproof it somewhat, however if you are making an indoor egg tree you wont need the added protection (and chemical exposure)
Other Ostara Egg Ideas
Faberge Eggs - The art of creating these detailed, jewelled eggs is something more for adults than for children but the basic ideas can be adapted for anyone.
Chalkboard Eggs - These are great fun, simply paint the blown eggs with chalkboard paint, and decorate and redecorate with coloured chalk!
Surprise Eggs - Simply Blow the eggs, and decorate but rather than leaving a small hole, make a lager hole at one end, fill the egg with sweet treats such as M&Ms the glue into a colourful paper patty pan to seal the end (be careful to turn the egg upside down during the glueing process and use very little glue to prevent the glue getting onto the sweets - or maybe just stick with wrapped lollies to be safe)
Guilded Eggs - use gold leaf to give your dyed eggs some richness.
Stenciled Eggs - You can make simple stencils from contact, cut out your desired shape and stick on before dying (please note don't use this with boiled dyes - only for use with cold water dyes such as food colouring!)
Marblized Eggs - These are absolutely gorgeous to look at and no where near as hard to make as you might assume. A combination of oil and dye creates a marbled effect on the eggs.
Beaded Eggs - these are very intricate but absolutely beautiful to give as gifts each egg represents hours of work , time and effort, but they could be a challenge for those who find egg dying a little on the borning side.
Wrapped Eggs - Cover your blown eggs in a thin layer of craft glue and wrap the carefully in tissue paper or thin craft paper.
Herb Stenciled Eggs: Lay a leaf or stem of herb against the undyed egg, then wrap the egg in stocking to hold the leaf in place, then dye as susual - this will leave a stenciled image of the leaf or herbs on your egg.
Glitter Eggs - Cover your blown egg in a light layer of craft glue and roll it in glitter, set aside to dry, then repeat this process several times until you have a thick layer of glitter and your eggs sparkle.
Crackle Eggs - This effect can be achieved by using a speciality crackling effect, paint a layer of acryilic paint over the egg and allow to dry, then paint on crackle paint, then again allow to dry, then paint again with a contrasting colour paint, as it dries the crackle effect will become more noticeable (detailed instructions come with the crackle medium) - available from art suppliers
There are so many arty crafty ideas for decorating your Ostara eggs you just have to allow your imagination to flow....
Further Hints and Tips
Using Empty Eggs Shells:
Empty egg shells by themselves are light-weight and fragile. You can strengthen them further by putting on layers of newspaper covered with layers of paper towels . Use white glue, homemade flour-and-water paste or wallpaper paste to apply the paper to the egg-shell, just like when you’re making papier mache.
Before decorating the egg shells, you can cover the holes in the ends with melted wax or with tissue paper and glue.
If the decorated egg turns out to be a masterpiece and you want to preserve it for a long time, evenly coat the egg with thinned white glue, clear nail polish, or spray shellac.
For hanging the egg shells for displaying, you can run a loop of ribbon, yarn, string or wire through the holes. Tie the end to make a hanger for your decorated egg.
Make a stand for your decorated eggs out of a small bottle cap, an empty film canister or a section of a cardboard tube.
If you have any broken eggs , don’t throw them away – you could glue a fuzzy chick figurine inside and make a cute display piece by itself or clubbed with other Easter ornaments, or as the basis for a Faberge Egg.
Using Hard-Boiled Eggs:
Refrigerate the eggs whenever you’re not working with them.
Make sure the eggs you color aren’t cracked. If any crack during cooking, dyeing or decorating, throw them away. Also throw away any eggs that have been out of the refrigerator for more than 2 hours (they are not longer safe to eat).
For dyeing the eggs you can use artificial egg dyes or natural ingredients like turmeric, coffee and other day to day items from the kitchen. If you want to try dying your eggs the natural way, see above for more details. If you use artificial coloring, go for specially-made, food-grade egg dyes.
For dyeing you can hard-boil the eggs in the water with the dye, which gives you a less consistent color. It’s great if you like the variegated look.
For a more consistent color cook the eggs separately and let them sit in the dye solution. The longer the eggs sit in the dye, the darker the color.
Place shaped stickers, like flowers, hearts, bugs or other shapes, on eggs before dyeing. You also use celery leaves. After the dye is dry, remove the sticker for a perfect silhouette.
Draw on eggs with a clear wax “magic crayon” found in many decorating kits or use an ordinary white crayon. The wax protects the egg from the dye. After the dye has dried, wash the egg with hot water to remove the wax and try dipping into another color for a cool tie-dyed effect. If you plan to eat the Easter eggs, be sure the label says nontoxic on any crayons, pens, paints or other art materials you use. Or, use edible decorations like herbs.
Wrap a few rubber bands around an egg before dipping it into the dye. After the egg dries, remove the bands, revealing white stripes. Try placing the rubber bands in different places and using another color for a striped rainbow effect!
Add sequins or sparkles to eggs while the dye is still wet to make an egg fancy enough for the diva in every family.