Paganistan: Notes from the Secret Commonwealth

In Which One Midwest Man-in-Black Confers, Converses & Otherwise Hob-Nobs with his Fellow Hob-Men (& -Women) Concerning the Sundry Ways of the Famed but Ill-Starred Tribe of Witches.

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Egg-Dyeing Secrets of the Elders of Paganistan

There are lots of edible, natural dyestocks that can be used to color eggs. Listed below are those with which we've had the most luck over the years.

The results will vary from batch to batch and from year to year, depending on amount of dyestock used, length of cooking time, and various other imponderables, possibly including (who knows?) the phase of the Moon. The colors you get may not be predictable, but they'll certainly be beautiful.

Most natural dyes are heat-applied; realistically, this means that you add the dyestocks while you hard-boil the eggs. Dyeing eggs is, of course, a controlled chemical reaction in which loose radicals in the dyestocks bond with the calcium molecules of the eggshells, and heat facilitates this bonding. As always in the pagan world, it all comes down to relationship.


Onion-skins Add several handfuls to the pot while you hard-boil the eggs. Some sources specify red onion-skins, but in my experience red and brown onions produce the same result. The more skins you add, and the longer you cook 'em, the more beautiful they'll be.


Onion-skins Just as above. Pull the eggs out of the dye-bath when they reach the color that you want.


Tumeric Add 1-2 tablespoons to the eggs as you boil them.

Birch Leaves Fall gathering for spring dyeing. Collect them in the autumn when they're bright yellow. Dry the leaves, and break them up into flakes. Add a generous handful to the pot as you cook the eggs.


Purple Cabbage Unlike those listed above, this is a cold-applied dye. Chop half of a purple cabbage coarsely, cover it with water, and boil it until the water is purple and the cabbage is lavender. Strain out the cabbage. Add a goodly dollop of white vinegar, and cold-dye hard-boiled eggs in the cabbage water. This will take several hours; I often leave the bowl with the eggs and dye in the refrigerator overnight.

Again, unlike the dyes listed above, this dye will only color a certain number of eggs. Go figure.


Yerba Maté  Add a goodly handful to the pot as the eggs boil.

Liquid Chlorophyll Drugstores carry it. Immerse hard-boiled eggs in liquid chlorophyll for 1 hour. Longer soaks don't seem to produce a deeper color. Fine, be that way.

Purple Cabbage Cold-dye eggs dyed yellow with tumeric.


Logwood or Brazil Wood chips  I found some at a local fibers store that caters to spinners and weavers. (Of course, you can find anything on the internet.) Add a small handful to the pot while you boil the eggs.

Let me add that both the dyes and the shells of the dyed eggs participate in the sacredness of the feast, so it's best to return them directly to the Earth. If you have a garden, that's the best place. They say that they'll make your flowers flourish and your vegetables burgeon.

You can learn more about natural egg-dyeing (and much, much else) in our coven cookbook:

Photo: Katie Clapham

 For Sarah






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Poet, scholar and storyteller Steven Posch was raised in the hardwood forests of western Pennsylvania by white-tailed deer. (That's the story, anyway.) He emigrated to Paganistan in 1979 and by sheer dint of personality has become one of Lake Country's foremost men-in-black. He is current keeper of the Minnesota Ooser.


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