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Tree of life2 avaIn Ukraine, ceremonial wedding towels are an integral part of the traditional (and even modern) marriage ceremony. Practically every couple uses a so-called “rushnyk” during their wedding and then preserves this item as something sacred for the family. In the past, each woman wove and embroidered her wedding towel by herself. So, many authentic examples survived to this day and are now kept in museums and private collections. Here is a large collection of wedding towels with the Tree of Life depicted on them. Why did women like the Tree-of-Life motif so much? Let’s find out.

These are wedding towels from central regions of Ukraine, the 19th – early 20th century. Exhibited in Ukrainian national center of folk culture “Ivan Honchar Museum” in Kyiv

The Tree of life or Family Tree is a very widespread pattern embroidered or woven on ceremonial Ukrainian towels. It is seen in various shapes, designs, and sizes. But the basic image remains the same: a plant with the main trunk, roots or vase at the base, many branches, and plenty of flowers or leaves or even abstract details that cover the branches. It can be a variation of a real plant (tree, vine, or flower – grapes, oak, lily, rose, etc.) or a depiction of some fantastic imaginary plant – it doesn’t matter. Every woman created her own pattern according to her tastes and skills. Often, she took the pattern on her mother’s or grandmother’s ceremonial towel and changed it to make the design personalized.

If to talk about the color palette, most of the needlework is done by red threads. Sometimes, a little of black threads are used as well. In some cases, other colors can be seen among red patterns, but not much.

But what does this Tree of Life mean? For Ukrainians, it symbolized a connection between different generations of the same family; the infinity of life; the 3 levels of Universe (roots are the underworld, trunk is the earthly life, and upper branches are the heavenly powers). There were also some other meanings believed to be encrypted in the image, but the mentioned three are the most popular.

The Tree of Life on a wedding towel always had many branches so that the family had many children and grew in numbers. Also, there should be a lot of needlework, which means that the woman gave much of effort and her time to this handiwork.

Often, there are many, many flowers, vines, leaves, tendrils, etc on a wedding towel. Other symbols that occur on them are birds (most often, pigeons, roosters, eagles, martlets), sometimes even stylized human figures, horses, dogs, and other animals. Some women embroidered the year of their wedding, initials of the bride and groom, or other meaningful info to preserve the memory.

There were ceremonial towels with geometric needlework patterns as well and with woven designs, but this particular collection represents floral embroidery.

So, here you are the examples of everything mentioned above.

 

Towel1

Tree of life1
Cherkasy region of Ukraine, the mid-19th century


Tree of life2
Cherkasy region of Ukraine, the 2nd half of the 19th century


Tree of life3
Cherkasy region of Ukraine, the early 20th century


Tree of life4
Poltava region of Ukraine, the late 19th century

 

Towel2

Tree of life8
Poltava region of Ukraine, the late 19th century


Tree of life7
Cherkasy region of Ukraine, the 19th century


Tree of life6
Cherkasy region of Ukraine, the 19th century


Tree of life5
Poltava region of Ukraine, the 2nd half of the 19th century

 

Towel3

Tree of life9
Poltava region of Ukraine, the early 20th century


Tree of life10
Poltava region of Ukraine, the late 19th century


Tree of life11
Poltava region of Ukraine, the early 20th century

 

Towel4

Tree of life12
Cherkasy region of Ukraine, the late 19th century


Tree of life13
Cherkasy region of Ukraine, the late 19th century


Tree of life14
Poltava region of Ukraine, the early 20th century

 

Towel5

Tree of life25
Poltava region of Ukraine, the 19th century


Tree of life24
Cherkasy region of Ukraine, the 19th century


Tree of life23
Cherkasy region of Ukraine, the late 19th century


Tree of life22
Cherkasy region of Ukraine, the 19th century

 

Towel6

Tree of life21
Cherkasy region of Ukraine, the late 19th century


Tree of life20
Poltava region of Ukraine, the early 20th century


Tree of life19
Cherkasy region of Ukraine, the late 19th century


Tree of life18
Cherkasy region of Ukraine, the 19th century

 

Towel7

Tree of life17
Cherkasy region of Ukraine, the late 19th century


Tree of life16
Cherkasy region of Ukraine, the 2nd half of the 19th century


Tree of life15
Poltava region of Ukraine, the 19th century

 

Towel8

Tree of life27
Cherkasy region of Ukraine, the late 19th century


Tree of life26
Cherkasy region of Ukraine, the late 19th century

 

Towel9

Tree of life29
Cherkasy region of Ukraine, the early 20th century


Tree of life28
Cherkasy region of Ukraine, the early 20th century

 

Tree of life30
Poltava region of Ukraine, the 2nd half of the 19th century

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