Colors affect us. No question there, right? Each hue seems to have a different emotional effect, whether they’re connected to our own history and experience or to something more mystical, the symbolism is profound. Here are some of the more general emblematic uses and symbols for six of the big colors. Be sure to tune into part 2, tomorrow!
1. Green a) The ancients often used the same words for deep blue, green and steel gray. b) In Japanese, the same word can be used to say blue or green. c) Green = money and riches, also growth and prosperity (because of nature/trees) d) But watch out! Too much money and prosperity makes people green with envy In antiquity, the Hebrew word for envy, qinah, referred to the burning color in the face produced by a deep emotion. The Greeks believed that jealousy was accompanied by an overproduction of bile, lending a yellowish-green pallor to the victim’s complexion. In the seventh century B.C., the poetess Sappho used the word “green” to describe the face of a stricken lover. e) The most famous such reference and the origin of the term “green-eyed monster” is Iago’s speech in Shakespeare’s Othello: “O! Beware my lord, of jealousy; it is the green-ey’d monster which doth mock the meat it feeds on.” f) Of course, these days green is associated with the movement to clean up the environment. Go green!
2. White a) Ah, the color of light itself! That’s why it’s always been associated with God, or the local divine power. (Good over evil.) b) The priests of Jupiter wore white robes. d) In Egypt, Osiris wore a white tiara. e) The Greek word for white, aspros, suggests happiness and gaiety. f) Romans used white chalk to mark auspicious days (and, conversely, black chalk for inauspicious days). g) But least you think white has only been associated with good, let’s not forget that pallor and blankness can be seen as sinister and, of course, ghosts and phantoms are often depcitetd as white.
a) The opposite of innocence might be defilement—black is mourning where white is joy.
b) Black has long been associated with error and annihilation.
c) The Athenian expiatory ship that sailed every year to Crete and Delos hoisted black sails when it departed (and, surprise surprise, white sails when it returned).
d) Speaking of sailors, Pirates favored black hats.
e) More recently, we have Darth Vader and other nefarious sorts represented by black
f) The eight ball in billiards is black (“Behind the eight ball”)
g) But then there’s the other side of black that signifies a solid basic or structural strength.
h) Black also can conjure up feelings of peace and quiet, in contrast to the nosy agitation of light. Think of the deep restful quiet of a heavy night’s sleep.
a) Of all the hues, red generally pushes the most emotional buttons.
b) Love, valor, fire, fervor, energy - they’re all red.
c) Red is the sign of alarm!
d) Why is the Staples That Was Easy Button red?
e) Red can represent sin, too: “though your sins be as scarlet.” (Isaiah 1:18)
5. Yellow a) Next to white, yellow, the lightest of colors, also generally symbolizes “light” though not as pure as white. b) Yellow is rich and “gold” - the noblest of metals. c) Divine love enlightening human understanding has been symbolized by yellow d) Yellow is the imperial color in China e) On the other side, we have sayings like “a yellow streak”—which means acting in a cowardly way and not very brave.
6. Blue a) Blue has long been associated with truth, wisdom, divine eternity and immortality. c) While white may be an absolute truth, blue is a truth that could be revealed to and understood by men. d) Blue moons, the third full moon in a season with four full moons, or the second full moon of a calendar month, are rare. e) Blue may be sad and lonely for some these days, but traditionally its been associated with the idea of constancy and loyalty. f) In China blue was the color of the dead (vis-à-vis red, the color of the living) g) On a personal note, blue has long been my favorite of all the colors!