«Vinok» wreath – Ukrainian headdress or flower crown

It is pleasant to note that Ukrainian folk symbols have become a trend. Vyshyvanky, traditional Ukrainian embroidered shirts, are already worn not only on holidays, but also in everyday life. These days, the trendy «must-have» began to include not only vyshyvanky, but also Ukrainian wreaths – traditional headdresses. Curiously enough, but many women wear this folk accessory absolutely in a wrong way. Without knowing the history and true floral wreath meaning, they can wear this accessory with mourning flowers for example.


The history of the wreath dates back to the ancient times. According to immemorial beliefs, immortal souls came to our world from the other side through a wreath. The mention of wreaths reaches the Sumerian culture (XII-III centuries BC).

The descendants of the Sumerians were representatives of the Corded Ware culture, and left a lot of symbols to future generations. Among them was the mythical sign of the goddess Inanna – Ishtar. It consists of a wreath (a circle twisted with a ribbon) and a star with six rays in the center; this symbol means «clear sky». There is good reason to believe that Ishtar symbol is a foretype of the Slavic headdress. A wreath worn on head was considered as a protective amulet.

Ukrainian term “vinok” is a collective term, it had different names in almost every ethnographic region: it was called “korobulya” (something like box) on the Podolian lands, “teremok” (small tower) in Chernihiv region, “korona” (crown) in Zakarpattia, “kvitka” (flower) in Dnieper Ukraine.

ukrainian vinok

Types and usage

When you think about traditional wreath, do you imagine a blue and yellow flower crown? Well, there are about 80 kinds of wreaths in Ukraine, among which you can find: age-related, magic, ritual, wedding crowns, wreaths of love, wreaths of hope, devotion or separation, custom wreaths. All of them are closely associated with holidays and different events:

  • Age-related.

A wreath appeared in the girl’s life since she is three. The first wreath for her little daughter was made by mother, who embathed it in the dew for the whole week after the sunset. It was a very beautiful ritual. Such vinok was twisted with flower head pieces of marigold (to relieve headache), forget-me-not or periwinkle (to develop sense of vision) and chamomile (to calm the heart). At the age of seven, a wreath was plaited with seven flowers and apple blossom.

  • Wreath of love.

It was the most popular form of age-related ones. Girls could make it from 13 years and till the marriage. The basis of such flower head crown is chamomile – symbol of youth, kindness and tenderness.

  • Vinok of devotion.

Ukrainian girls twisted flower heads of lovage and cornflower into it. They gave wreath to their beloved at the time of separation. It wasn’t a male crown; the Cossack took a dried wreath with him to faraway lands and held it in a silk kerchief near his heart.

  • Wreath of hope.

It was twisted by girls who were unlucky in love, or who wanted to confess their love to a hesitant fellow. The basis of the wreath was a poppy, which infused with hope.

  • Wreath of separation.

The girl gave it to her men if they “didn’t work out”. For example, an abandoned girl twisted a wreath with primrose and heather. The first flower is a symbol of love that passes, the second – loneliness and despair. There was a time when the significance of such a wreath was known among all the guys.

  • Wedding flower crown.

It was a specific protective amulet and was associated with the sun shining in the sky. Such vinok was twined by the bridesmaids during the “stagette”. This is the last wreath in the bride’s life, because a married woman has to wear another sign of her social status – a kerchief. The main obligatory component of the wedding wreath in many Ukrainian regions was the «cross-shaped periwinkle» – a symbol of long love. Its leaves were greased with honey and garlic to protect the “young bride” from the evil eye. Interesting fact, that vinok with feathers is also mentioned in the texts of traditional wedding songs. Feathers were frequently used since the bride and her pure soul were associated with a bird.

  • Vinok for Kupala Night.

It is a wonderful example of ritual wreaths. This night, Ukrainian girls “set afloat” their wreaths, sometimes attaching a candle to them. And depending on how the wreath “floats”, the future fate could be predicted: if the girl will marry soon, wherefrom she can wait for her future husband, where the girl will live after the wedding and so on. Kupala wreaths were often kept at home as amulets until the next Kupala Night.

Flowers symbolism

traditional headdress in ukraine

Of course, flowers are the main component of a head wreath. In total, flower head crown could have up to 12 different flowers, each of which had its own symbolism:

  • Yarrow is a beautiful flower, looks like a blossoming tree. Such tender flowers around head were a symbol of waywardness, and hold a valuable place in the wreath’s components.
  • Flower of periwinkle is richly blue with a yellow center; it resembles a star in the evening sky and is a symbol of life.
  • Apple or cherry blossom is a symbol of motherly love.
  • Guelder-rose is a symbol of Ukraine, a symbol of purity and a girlish beauty.
  • Red poppy is not only a symbol of sadness and grief, it also symbolizes beauty and youth, and its fleetingness.
  • Lily is a symbol of a girlish magic, purity and virginity.
  • Immortelle. Its name speaks for itself – to live without death.
  • Hare’s-foot clover, field flowers are a symbol of fertility, growth and richness.
  • Violets are joy, but purple violets mean desperate woe.
  • Mint is a major figure in folk songs and rituals. As well as guelder-rose, it is a symbol of girlish beauty and virginity.

Headbands colors meaning

ukrainian girls wearing flower wreath

In addition to flowers, Ukrainian wreath was decorated with multicolored satin ribbons. Moreover, the choice of one or another color was no accident, there were strict traditions. Girls from a tender age knew how to wear a flower crown, learned the art of accurate weaving ribbons and understood what particular color meant.

The first ribbon was woven in the middle of a crown. Its color was usually a light brown, which represented fertile mother earth. On both sides of the first, yellow ribbons were twisted – the embodiment of the Sun and warmth. Yellow bands were followed by bright green, which were a symbol of girlish youth and beauty; then – blue ribbons – the symbol of the clear sky. After the blue, purple ribbons were woven (wisdom), pink and raspberry-red (wealth and sincerity).

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