Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Ode to colours [in prose]

I used to be a person who only loved black and almost all my clothes were black and then suddenly one day I just stopped finding black such a fascinating colour [actually black is the shade of objects that do not reflect light in any part of the visible spectrum. Scientifically black is not a hue (color); a black object absorbs all the colors of the visible spectrum and reflects none of them, this is sometimes confused with black being called 'a mixture of all colors' but that is not the case]

Colours affect many aspects of our life, our moods and perceptions and they have physical as well as psychological effects. Haven't you sometimes entered a room and immediately felt one with it or just fell in love with it? It's because colours vibrate at different frequencies and create a reaction in all of us.

The symbolism of colours in different religions and countries and how they affect health

  • Purple is traditionally worn by priests for ceremonies
  • Thailand: Color of mourning (widows)
  • Western: Royalty
Positive: Encourages dignity and respect; helps to stabilize the hormones; can help with stress
Negative: Avoid if you lack stamina or are feeling sensitive

  • In Christianity the Virgin Mary is always shown wearing blue
  • For Buddhists, blue represents the calm of the heavens and waters
  • Cherokees: Defeat, trouble
  • Iran: Color of heaven and spirituality
  • Western: Depression, sadness, conservative, corporate, "something blue" bridal tradition
Positive: Calms tension and induces life changes; reduces swelling, heals cuts and bruises, and soothes burns and headaches
Negative: Avoid if you are depressed; it is not stimulating and can increase feeling of isolation

  • In Islam green is a sacred colour
  • Western: Spring, new birth, go, Saint Patrick's Day, Christmas (with red)
Positive: Soothes the emotions and is good for general healing and restoring the body cells and lung problems. Dissolves blood clots
Negative: Can bring about stagnation, repression and feelings of jealousy [I guess that's why they call it he little green monster ;)]

  • For Hindus, bright yellow represents light, truth and immortality
  • For Buddhists it is a sacred colour - their monks wear saffron robes
  • China: Nourishing
  • Egypt: Color of mourning
  • Japan: Courage
  • India: Merchants
  • Western: Hope, hazards, coward
Positive: Brings inspiration and good self-expression, beneficial for indigestion and inflammatory problems of the joints and body tissues

Negative: Can cause irritability and exhaustion and may cause further self-criticism

  • In Japan and China orange is the colour of love and happiness
  • Western: Halloween (with black), creativity, autumn
Positive: Helps creativity, relieves headaches and colds and improves the functioning of the heart
Negative: Not good if you feel frustrated or sad, aggravates feeling of nausea

  • Symbolic of the ancient Egyptian sun god, Ra.
  • Buddhism regards red as the colour of creativity and life
  • China: Good luck, celebration, summoning
  • Cherokees: Success, triumph
  • Russia: Bolsheviks and Communism
  • Eastern: Worn by brides
  • Western: Excitement, danger, love, passion, stop, Christmas (with green)
  • For the Chinese, red is the colour of passion and luck and represents the sun and the phoenix; the red phoenix represents opportunity, luck, strength and immortality
Positive: Stimulates vitality and energy, helps when we are tired aids anemia and colds
Negative: Avoid if you are angry or have high blood pressure or flu

  • Japan: White carnation symbolizes death
  • Eastern: Funerals
  • Western: Brides, angels, good guys, hospitals, doctors, peace (white dove)
  • A white wedding gown stands for innocence and purity
Positive: Gives insight into life and purifies body on all levels; can alleviate pain
Negative: Can increase feelings of isolation, bad for making decisions

  • In ancient Egypt black was linked to deities and black cats were sacred [I had 7 black cats!]
  • China: Color for young boys
  • Western: Funerals, death, Halloween (with orange), bad guys, rebellion
Positive: Helps to provide self-sufficiency, control and protection.
Negative: If you feel depressed or are in self-denial, black can make you reject help from other


QUASAR9 said...

Great Ode to colour
Random Magus
Life is a great cascade of colour

Imagine all (almost) colours hidden in white light, each most vibrant in its own wavelength!

Random Magus said...

Awe-inspiring isn't it?

Titania Starlight said...

Awesome post. I once only were black and blue. I know sounds horrid.

I now wear pastel shades of blue,purple and pinks. A total 180.

Nice pics you chose too.

Random Magus said...

Same here - now I wear colours it makes me happy and light.

Black is relegated to partying at night... it is such a slimming colour though [;)

The Real Mother Hen said...

Think Purple is understated in many culture...

Gregory A. Becerra said...

The Phoenicians used to be called the purple people because they traded hard-to-get purple dye in the Mediterranean. This is why it led to become a color of royalty, because it was expensive.

You forgot to mention blue balls under blue.

And green is often seen as a sexually enticing color, an aphrodisiacal color.

For luminescent or transparent colors, the total mixture or saturation of all colors creates white.

For opaque colors the total mix creates a muddy dark brown, almost black looking. So this is where people may think mixing them up gets black.

There is also the aspect of complimentary colors which is the highest contrasting pair like: red-green, yellow-purple, and blue-orange.

If you search enough cultures you will find the meanings to shift between colors. That would explain why many things you list conflict in meaning, like white=death and white=good guys (the later came about because of black-and-white television and someone had to pick between black and white to represent good because there was no other color choice).

So is the meaning behind color some objective thing or are we subtly taught this meaning based on our culture and upbringing? Carl Jung would probably talk about a collective consciousness. Don’t we just agree that black is black and orange is orange? What if I taught my kids that what we call black is orange and what we call orange is black? Wouldn’t they grow up pointing to an orange when someone asked them for an example of something black? So is the meaning attached to the word, or what the word represents?

(How we ascribe meaning is actually my future subject in the next 2-3 not so random posts on my blog.)

Random Magus said...

hey Greg is there anything you don't know about? I'm totally in awe here!

Random Magus said...

By the way whatever you say to oppose it totally believe in the concept of a collective conscious

HollyGL said...

Well, my favorite color is purple. I guess that explains a lot.

:) Silvia said...

Dear Amber, your ode to colour is very inspiring. I'm pondering about painting a picture and choosing/changing the colours only by their symbolism. In fact artists often do that, but most times they do it without being aware why they prefer a certain color to another. It's a pitty that their is no universal language of colour, as almost every nation has its own interpretation of every colour :). You could "talk" with the help colours only, wouldn't that be nice? :-D

Random Magus said...

Have you noticed we unconsciously choose colours to match our moods?