A Host of Colour

I imagine as I go on writing it will become more personable and relatable. Until then please enjoy this post on the significance of colour.

Most traditions take colour very seriously. It is never just used. Even in art history you find that most of iconography is about colour-coding an image. Take for example ANY woman in blue. She is the Madonna or at least someone will raise their hand and comment on her Mary-likeness (at least for European paintings). Outside of Europe there are alternate colour-coding systems that I find more meaningful. I looked at 14-16c Japanese female shamans or priestesses known as miko, who traditionally wore wear red and white. Although I didn’t look into the history or use of these colours in Japanese clothing (I wasn’t interested yet), I had noticed a trend in comments and questions. I was wearing a red skirt with a white band above it and had people unfamiliar with miko practices note the “Asia inspired” outfit. After doing various modifications I became interested in more complex colour systems, some are even gender specific. Using Nepalese shamans as an example, they wear red and white but to evoke the feminine and masculine respectively.

I found that more popular than red and white was the use of the rainbow. Why stop at 2 when you can have 7? The use of the rainbow interested me, it’s a loaded symbol. Consider the Christian usage as the signifier of God’s promise to never flood the world again. Or how it is used to signify support and alliance with(in) the LBGTQ community. My favourite use (as I hope many of you know) is for children born after a miscarriage, still birth, or infant death. The child that comes after the storm of grief is the rainbow baby (although my sister thought these were “gay babies” – interpret as you will.) Rainbow babies will always give me goosebumps, it’s just so powerful.

Shamans often use the rainbow to invoke the sprits or the intangible. Rainbows are created by white light that is reflected, refracted, and/or dispersed through water. They have an ephemeral quality to them that is easily used in shamans’ rituals. I will discuss my own use of rainbows in relation to Dark Green Shamanism as the research in this area is less important to me.

There is a song about rainbows involving a little elf named Roy G. Biv and I think of it every time I get to work using the rainbow. Much to my shame I have omit indigo from my system. Indigo is that colour which some say is violet and other say is blue, for this reason there is no indigo chalk or thread that I could find. It was either blue or violet. I continue to use of the rainbow because of its history in spiritual connection. Shamans – like myself – are seen as being highly attuned to nature and its surrounding spirits/voice/existences. I have chosen to personify the voices by separating the rainbow and correlating colours with entities. I don’t feel the need to have all colours present nor do they require any specific balance. Instead, I am concerned with their presentation. Assigning value and meaning to each colour dictates its use. In performance that would be considered part of the score.

Red is blood. It stays in straight lines often campaigned by dashes. It references the veins and capillaries in the body. The lines are very contained. Outside the human body blood pools so another acceptable form is wide smears or actual puddling if the material being used is a liquid.

Orange is the (human) body. I draw with orange in repeating arrows with straight lines trailing behind it. I do that because of my belief system within Dark Green Religion. Humans are a problem; they are destructive and create artificial boundaries resulting in violence.

Yellow is the sun. I am focused on plant life and the sun sustains them, but also the sun has implications of the heavens so I have avoided it thus far. Generally, I use radiating beams of alternating length. So far the length of the beams has no meaning. This may change.

Green is plant life. I draw them as interweaving dashes. I think of them as peas – the only plant I’ve successfully grown. I also use the width of them to refer to either feast or famine. Very basic but very important to my work.

Blue is water. I have done other work about water and the body and so the way I use the blue is very important to me personally. I draw it across rather than vertical. I don’t want to reference rain but the great bodies of water. I draw the blue in a funnel shape usually. Water is very flexible though and I use it also in a curve or full circle. A full circle to call for water, an empty circle to call for its absence.

Violet is spirit. I use it in aggressive zigzag or soft sigsag. They refer to the type of action I am trying to convey through its usage. The aggressive line call for immediate action and the softness calls for either tenderness/forgiveness or a slow change.

In my next post I will have full images of these in a ritual for rain as I used them.

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