Read an Excerpt
|chapter one a rainbow of color|
You even make color choices with your food. You might choose a red apple in preference to a yellow banana. This may have nothing to do with taste, but be a subconscious decision based on the right color for you at that time. Incidentally, you should eat foods of many different colors to keep your body healthy.
After breakfast, you'll brush your teeth. What color is your toothbrush? What made you choose a toothbrush of that particular color?
You might drive to work in your own car. Why did you choose a car of that particular color? As you go to work you might see green grass and a blue sky. You'll certainly see many different colored vehicles on the road.
You may not have a great deal of choice in the color scheme at your place of work, but the chances are that you can add different colors by personalizing your workspace with potted plants, ornaments and photographs.
All day long you're being exposed to a variety of different colors. These colors affect every aspect of your being. The psychological effects that colors have on people have been studied for many years. The colors of fire, such as red, orange and yellow, make us feel warm. This is not just a psychological effect, as scientists have demonstrated that under a red light we secrete more adrenaline, our blood pressure and rate of breathing increase, and our temperature rises slightly. The opposite occurs under blue lighting. We consider blue and green to be cooling colors.
Even young children are aware of the psychological effect that different colors produce. They usually relate red to anger, aggression, and excitement, while green is related to peace and quietness. In 1978 a study was undertaken in which children were asked to color in a shape while looking at happy and sad pictures. They used orange, yellow, green and blue while looking at the happy pictures, but chose brown, black and red while looking at the sad ones.1
People also have personal color preferences, and these vary as we go through life. All around the world young children like red best. Only after the age of eight do children express a preference for cool colors. Not surprisingly, extroverted adolescents like red, while their quieter, more reserved compatriots prefer blue. More than half of all adults in the Western world say that blue is their favorite color.2 Only in Spain is red placed before blue and yellow as a favorite color. Elderly people prefer light colors, but find yellow the least appealing.
There may be a geographical basis on which colors people like best. In an experiment, Scandinavian people indicate a preference for blue and green, while people from Mediterranean countries preferred the warmer colors.3
Let's start by looking at the basic meanings of the colors you see most frequently.
When red is used positively it is fun loving, creative, ambitious, persistent, and motivated. It symbolizes strength, power, and self-confidence.
Interesting Facts About Red
The word red is derived from two words: the Sanskrit rudhira and the Anglo-Saxon read.
Red is associated with the planet Mars, which was named after the Roman god of war (who drove a red chariot). Red was also the color of the Russian Revolution, which is why the communists were called "Reds."
When red is used negatively it is destructive. An angry person "sees red." When someone is caught "red-handed," they are committing a crime. The very term "red-handed" conjures up an image of blood on the hands. In the seventh century, adulteresses in New England had to wear a scarlet letter A to compound their shame and disgrace. In the Bible we read: "Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool." (Isaiah 1:18) As red attracts immediate attention, it is used on stoplights and on signs indicating danger. At one time, red-haired and red-bearded people were viewed with suspicion. This is because Judas Iscariot was believed to have red hair.
Red is useful for people who want to lose weight, as it stimulates the pituitary gland and speeds up the assimilation of food.
Insurance company records show that red-colored cars are more likely to be involved in accidents than cars of other colors. However, there is also a tradition that says that a red ribbon should be tied inside all new cars to produce and safe driving.
Cardinals wear red vestments to remind them of the blood spilled by the Christian martyrs. The ancient Greeks wore red robes when acting the Iliad to remind them of the blood spilled in battle.
The legendary philosopher's stone, which was sought after by medieval alchemists because they believed it cured disease and transformed base metals into gold, was thought to be red in color.
The Hebrew people consider red the color of sacrifice and sin. Red symbolizes the blood of Christ for Christians. Consequently, it was sometimes worn by martyrs.
Orange is usually positive. However, when it is used negatively, it can be sensual, self-indulgent, lazy, and lacking in energy.
Orange is virile and is useful for people who need more force and drive.
Interesting Facts About Orange
Oranges were not imported into Europe until medieval times. Until the seventeenth century, the word orange was associated only with the fruit. Items that were orange in color were called red, yellow, or gold. At about the same time, orange gained an erotic connotation. This is because the people of the day believed that Nell Gwynne (c.1650-1687) seduced King Charles II (1630-1685) with the oranges she sold.
In ancient Rome, people used bleach and henna to create red and orange hair, which was considered highly fashionable.
Orange was the color of the early Christian church, as oranges symbolized the fruits of the earth.
In Northern Ireland, the Protestants who want to remain part of the United Kingdom are called the Orange after the orange-colored flowers they have worn in their parades since 1795.
Interesting Facts About Yellow
Yellow is sometimes considered a negative color. The actor playing the role of the devil in medieval morality plays always wore yellow. Cowards are called "yellow." When this color is used negatively it can lead to cowardice, jealousy, treason, treachery, dishonor, and perversion. These associations came about because medieval artists believed that Judas Iscariot wore yellow robes. In Nazi Germany, Jewish people were made to wear yellow armbands. Victims of the Inquisition were also made to wear yellow armbands.
However, in China yellow was the imperial color and was considered highly auspicious. Lucky charms were often printed on yellow paper.
Interesting Facts About Green
The word green comes from the Anglo-Saxon grene, which derives in turn from the old German gro for growth.
Green is associated with growth, which is why a "greenhorn or someone who is "green" or "green around the gills," is inexperienced, as they are not yet fully grown. Tom Brown, the hero of the nineteenth-century novels Tom Brown's Schooldays and Tom Brown at Oxford by Thomas Hughes, was described as "very green for being puzzled at so simple a matter."
Many actors are superstitious about green. Despite this, they are happy to wait in the "green room" before going onstage. This superstition began when stages were lit by limelight. The lights burned lime, which produced a greenish light that made anything green almost invisible. Actors also do not like wearing green onstage. Two reasons have been suggested to account for this. The first is that stage lights make green clothing look unflattering. The other reason is that fairies and leprechauns like green, and they might cause mischief to anyone who dares to wear it.
It is not only people in the acting profession who dislike green. Mario Andretti, the famous racing car driver, would not allow green to be used in any of his clothes or equipment.4
Sailors also have a fear of green and consider it highly unlucky. Even Winston Churchill was affected by this superstition. It is said that when he visited the fishing community of Hull, England, during World War II, he paid a man ten pounds to dispose of a green sweater.5 A possible explanation for this superstition is that green is the color of nature. However, everything ultimately dies, and so green turns to black. Consequently, to avoid turning black (dying), all you need do is avoid wearing green.
Green is considered a lucky color in Ireland, and leprechauns wear green. A children's sing-along game in Ireland discusses what to wear at a funeral. After the words: "Shall we come in green?" the response is: "Green is for the good people. You cannot come in that." The good people are, of course, leprechauns.
As plants are green, green is also believed to symbolize the resurrection.
Interesting Facts About Blue
The word blue is derived from both the French bleu and the German blau.
Blue has some strange connotations. A "blue story" is one that's licentious. "Bluebeard" is a synonym for a murdering husband. Blue has also been associated with melancholy ("feeling blue" and "blue Monday"), and this might be where blues music received its name. "Blue-collar" workers are laborers, but "bluestockings" are intellectuals. We sometimes experience good luck "out of the blue." Someone who is loyal or faithful is termed "true-blue."
It would be hard to find a bride who didn't walk down the aisle without "something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue." The old item should have caused "luck" to someone in the past, the new object brings hope to the bride, the borrowed object carries the lender's blessing and good luck, and the blue object banishes all evil spirits from the wedding day and the entire marriage.
Philosophers in ancient Rome wore blue in their robes to indicate spirituality and wisdom. Druid bards also wore blue to symbolize harmony and truth. Blue still denotes philosophy in the American university system today.
Wearing blue traditionally protected people from witches, as it was believed that blue was the color of heaven, and witches didn't like it. It also protected the person from the effect of the evil eye.
Another traditional belief about blue relates it to luck. Children have a rhyme that goes:
And your wish
Will come true.
The Order of the Garter, which is the highest form of knighthood in Great Britain, was established after King Edward III stooped to pick up a blue garter that had been dropped by one of the ladies at court.
The term "blue blood" is given to people of high birth, and originally comes from Spain. The aristocrats with no Moorish ancestors possessed veins that looked bluer than those who had a mixed ancestry.
Mosquitoes are attracted to blue more than any other color.
Interesting Facts About Indigo
The word indigo is derived from a Greek term that means "from India."
Indigo was originally obtained from the woad plant and was a popular color in ancient Greece, Egpt, and India. It was also known in ancient Asia and Peru.
The British Museum in London has a tablet of Babylonian dye recipes, showing how popular the color indigo was 2,700 years ago.
Before 1900, indigo was obtained solely from the Indigofera and Isatis genera of plants. Until the beginning of the twentieth century, India exported large quantities of indigo dye extracted from these plants. The chemical structure of indigo was discovered in 1883 by Adolf von Baeyer, and a commercially feasible method of manufacturing a synthetic form of indigo was invented in the late 1890s.
Interesting Facts About Violet
The word violet comes from the Old French violete, which is a plant that produces a flower of this color. Purple comes from the Latin purpura. This was a mollusk that the Tyrian purple dye came from. Purple was an imperial color in ancient Rome.
Violet and purple are generally considered to be the same color, although some people believe that violet is slightly redder than purple.
The Greek priests at Eleusis wore purple or violet robes. This shows how long spiritual qualities have been associated with violet. In Christianity, violet symbolizes the Passion of Christ, and is the color of Advent and Holy Week.
Some people believe that Jesus wore purple garments when he was crucified.6
Violet flowers were used in ancient festivals because people believed that they would protect them from headaches and drunkenness.
At one time, newborn babies were wrapped in purple cloth to encourage future fame, wealth, and success.7
It is interesting to note that the U.S. military decoration, the Purple Heart, is awarded to soldiers who are wounded or killed in action. This decoration was established by George Washington in 1782, and was originally presented to recognize exceptional military merit. The choice of purple as the color is most likely because it exemplifies the extraordinary nature of the effort that warranted it.
The term "purple prose" is used to describe florid, ornate or hyperbolic language. The color purple is rich and vivid, and this has become related to the exaggerated style of writing that bears its name. People are also described as being "purple with rage" when they are extremely angry.
Interesting Facts About Pink
In English country lore, pink is believed to encourage happy thoughts about the future. The phrase "tickled pink" probably relates to this. People who are "in the pink" are believed to be happy and healthy. However, if someone is described as being a "pinko," it is because they are thought to have extremely left-wing views.
Pink has a calming effect, and in the United States there are at least 1,500 hospitals and correctional institutions with a pink room that is used to calm down violent and emotionally disturbed people.8
Interesting Facts About White
"White magic" is magic that is performed with a positive goal in mind. It harms no one, but helps all. A "white lie" is an untruth that is either harmless, or is said to avoid hurting someone's feelings.
Priests frequently wear white robes, as the color signifies spirit and light. Freshly baptized Christians also wear white clothes to signify their purity after being born again. This association also carries through to the tradition of brides being married in white. At the Transfiguration, Christ's robes were "exceeding white as snow" (Mark 9:3). White also signifies forgiveness. In Isaiah 1:18, the Lord says: "Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow."
A "white elephant" is an object that costs much more than it's worth and is difficult to dispose of. This term is credited to one of the kings of Siam, who gave a white elephant to any courtier he wished to ruin financially.
In the seventeenth century the Bourbons used a white flag to symbolize a legitimate cause. However, the meaning of a white flag gradually changed and it became a sign of surrender. This comes from the white feather that symbolizes a coward or poor fighter.
A "whited sepulchre" is a hypocrite. (Matthew 23:27) To "whitewash" something is to cover it up to make everything appear above board.
The most famous white building in the world is the White House in Washington, D.C. In 1800, the decision was made that the building had to be white, the same color as the ancient Greek buildings. Half a century later, scholars found that the ancient Greek buildings were not white at all, but had been painted in a large variety of colors.
Brown, the color of earth and of fall, is a grounding color. It symbolizes good health, hard work, stability, and reward through effort. Brown enhances all of the other colors.
In the Middle Ages, brown was a color customarily used in mourning.
Interesting Facts About Brown
Christian monks often wear brown garments, as they associate it with poverty, humility, and renunciation. This symbolism is derived from humble clay. In China, the emperors of the Sung dynasty had a completely different view of the color. The color brown was used to symbolize the dynasty.
Brown was an extremely popular color for men and women's clothing during the Great Depression. This was because it naturally concealed any dirty marks. Sigmund Freud, not the most cheerful of people at the best of times, thought that the main symbolism for brown was excrement.
Interesting Facts About Black
Black traditionally has negative connotations. This is why we have terms such as blackball, blacklist, blackmail, black magic, and black market. Despite this, if you're "in the black," you're making a profit.
A "black sheep" is someone who causes embarrassment because he doesn't fit in with the rest of the group he belongs to. "Black magic" is magic performed for an evil purpose. Priests wear black as a sign of respectability. However, the tradition of wearing black at a funeral was not originally done as a sign of respect for the deceased. It is a continuation of an old Roman custom that says that, in the presence of death, we are totally insignificant.9 However, it may also have been intended to make the survivors invisible to the spirit who had taken away the soul of the deceased.
A black cat can indicate either good or bad luck, depending on your beliefs. At one time, people believed that witches could transform themselves into cats. Naturally, these cats would be black, as this color was believed to be evil. Consequently, if a black cat walked across their path, these people would think that it could easily be a witch. In the thirteenth century, Pope Gregory IX associated black cats with witchcraft. People believed it could be the devil in disguise. When the Order of the Knights Templar was suppressed in the early fourteenth century, its members, after being tortured, were forced to confess that they worshipped the devil in the form of a black cat. Fortunately, black cats have not fared as badly in other parts of the world. The Japanese consider black cats to be a sign of good luck, and Buddhists believe that a dark-haired cat in the house indicates future prosperity. Today, although some people still believe that a black cat walking in front of them is a sign of bad luck, many also believe that a black cat walking toward them is a sign of good fortune. Needless to say, cat lovers love all cats, no matter what color they happen to be.
Interesting Facts About Silver
Because silver has always been associated with the moon, it became associated with hope, wisdom, and eloquence. This is why a good speaker is described as being "silver-tongued." The Chinese have a saying that relates to this: "Speech is silver, silence golden." If you're born "with a silver spoon in your mouth," you're distinguished from the time you were born. A cloud with a "silver lining" is a sign that the future will be much brighter than the present.
At times, silver has had a negative connotation. This is because Jesus Christ was betrayed for "thirty pieces of silver."
Interesting Facts About Gold
Gold has always been valuable and valued. In ancient times, it was believed that gods were the color of gold. It was also believed to be a residue of the sun. Gold is considered a masculine symbol because of its association with the sun.
Now that you've looked at the main colors it is time to examine some techniques that will enable you to harness the powerful energies the colors provide. We'll start looking at that in the next chapter.