I love the sea’s sounds and the way it reflects the sky.
The colours that shimmer across its surface are unbelievable.
This, combined with the colour of the water over white sand,
surprises me every time.’

John Dyer

There is a lot written about colour, how it impacts on the decisions and choices that we make, and how can impact our moods. I can remember going to a Women in Business meeting in Kent, UK where the speaker for the meeting was going to talk about colour. As she walked up to the front of the room a comment by Henry Ford came to mind ‘Any colour – so long as it’s black.’ Admittedly Henry Ford was talking about the Ford cars that he invented and was selling, but it was interesting as the speaker for the meeting was dressed in black – head to toe!

There has been a lot of research done about colours and it is said that colours do have a psychological impact on each one of us. Although colour is the attribute of the eyes, the result of your interpretation of colour has an impact on the chemistry of your mind – conscious and sub-conscious. The focus on the talk at Women in Business was on the colours that we chose to wear and brought up the interesting question of what you wear – what you are expected to wear by the environment you are in or what you would prefer to wear? The reason that the presenter was wearing black was that she had been asked to present to ‘business women’ and in her mind this has conjured up an impression with her; which drove her to select more formal attire than that she would normally wear. Therefore in answer to the question, was she wearing what the environment expected or what she would have preferred to wear – she chose to wear what the environment expected. Or did it? In the conclusion of her talk she did explain that although she selected to wear black visibly; the colours she had chosen to wear underneath her ‘visible’ clothes supported her in the way that she had studied and worked with colours.

Mere colour, unspoiled by meaning, and unallied with definite form, can speak to the soul in a thousand different ways.’ Oscar Wilde

Light is reflected through objects in different wavelengths and frequencies, and a typical human eye can respond to wavelengths from about 390 to 750nm, and in terms of frequency this corresponds to 400 – 790 THz. What does this mean? Scientifically a lot, but to you and me it just confirms that colour has an ‘energy’. Interestingly the spectrum displays the colours that relate to the chakra colours, and does not include all the colours that the human eye and mind can see and distinguish. There are a number of unsaturated colours (pink, purple, magenta) that are distinguished and seen because they are made up of a mix of multiple wavelengths. Other species can see colours which fall outside the frequencies seen by the human race. For example, birds, bees and other insects can see ultra-violet light which helps them find the nectar in the flowers.

I can remember my science lessons at high school in South Africa when we talked about how light is seen and we experimented with prisms and I’m sure you’ve seen this. Isaac Newton observed that when a narrow beam of sunlight hits the face of glass prism at an angle, some of the light is reflected and some passes through the glass prism and emerges as different coloured bands. He hypothesized that light was made up of particles of different colours and that the different colours moved at different speeds – for example red light moves a lot quicker than violet – and that the result is that the red light bends less sharply than violet. As part of his discovery, Newton divided the spectrum of colours into seven named colours – red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. I’m sure that you will recognise these colours as the colours of the rainbow and the chakra colours.

I know that I frequently have this display of beautiful colours when the sun shines through the crystals that I hang in my windows and doors at home and in my office.

Over the years since Newton, Goethe, Schopenhauer started to write about colours more and more research has been done and in each piece of research, under the heading of the research it has been determined that colours have meanings. Colour exists everywhere! Colour is omnipresent!

Colour represent culture, social customs, emotions, is used in homes, art, printing, design, web-sites, graphics. These days colour is unavoidable. Colours influence people through psychological changes. Certain colours are associated with certain feelings. Certain colours are associated with certain meanings. For example, last week Elaine went through a description of what each colour of the chakra’s meant.

Red is a colour with more personal associations than any other colour. It is recognised as a stimulant, an inherently exciting colour, it draws attention, and the amount of red is directly related to the level of energy. As an accent colour it can immediately focus the attention on a particular element. Red as a colour affects us physically – it increases enthusiasm, stimulates energy, can increase blood pressure, increases respiration, increases heartbeat, increases your pulse rate. Often someone wearing red will exude more confidence, be encouraged to take action. Red can provide a sense of protection from fears and anxiety.

Word detectives (etymologists) suspect he term first used to describe red was the Proto-Indo-European word ‘reudh’. Over the centuries this word travelled and in Greek the word became ‘erythros’ which medical professionals would recognise from the term erythrocyte (red blood cell). Red is not the only colour-related word in English that stems from ‘reudh’, words like rust, and ruby have their roots in the same ancient word. It is said that red was the first colour word in the English language and is often the first colour that children learn.

ChakraElaine explains in her article that red is the colour of the BASE CHAKRA. This chakra is located at the base of the spine and allows us to ground ourselves and connect to the universal energies. As one of the meditations that I learnt, part of the meditation process is that you focus on your base chakra and connect into Mother Earth. The base chakra is about groundedness, trust, belonging, lessens the feelings of mistrust. Gemstones that aid the Base Chakra include the ruby, garnet, smokey quartz, obsidian, hematite, onyx, and lodestone.

Red is the colour that is used to represent Valentine’s Day! It’s a colour that represents love in more ways than maybe you realise. Red is the colour that flushes the face (in our blushes), and swells the pelvis. It is a fine metaphoric mate for the complexity and contrariness of love. Red is the colour that we would spill to save the life of our loved one(s). Red is a bold colour and for this reason it’s long been the colour of revolutions.

How is red presented around the globe? In some languages and cultures it is just a colour, but in many languages and cultures it represents beauty (including in Russia). In the Chinese culture, colours correspond with the five primary elements, the directions and the four seasons. Red is associated with fire, south, and summer. Red is associated with good luck and fortune. In Japan, red is associated closely with a few deities in Shinto and Buddhist traditions, so you will often find that the statues of these deities are often decked in red clothing or painted red. In Sweden, Falun red (from the red pigment of the Falun mine) was reserved for the privileged class. The Greeks dye their Easter Eggs red and the expression ‘paise kokkino’ is said when two people say the same thing at the same time – this means ‘touch red’. It is believed that when this occurs, that it is an omen that shows that the two people involved will have an argument in the future – this will only be broken when the two touch the closest thing that is red. The Jamaican’s say that someone is ‘red’ when they are under the influence or drunk. Until recently red phone booths and red double decker buses were national icons in the UK. Since 1874 the mail boxes have been painted red. Indians believe that a red mark on the forehead brings luck. To the Hindu, red symbolises joy, life, energy and creativity. Islamic, Hindu and Chinese brides were read. For the Aztecs, Indian red dye was considered more valuable than gold; however it was the Spaniards who introduced the colour crimson (Cochineal red) to Europe in the 1500s. In the Aztec culture, red was connected to blood. Red amulets were worn in many cultures to prolong life. In Singapore red traditionally symbolises joy. Red symbolises feast days of the martyrs in the Catholic Church; whereas in Israel kosher clothing stores banned the colour red. The Chinese New Year is celebrated by wearing red clothing and decorating the house with red. Red envelopes with ‘luck money’ are given to children who are not married to bring them good fortune for the rest of the year.

Red also has political party associations, as with the US Republican Party and the UK Labour Party. Red is the colour that has always been associated with the Soviet Union during its communist reign.

There are a number of popular phrases that include red:

  • Red carpet treatment – giving privileged treatment to an important person
  • Caught red handed – clearly guilty
  • Red in the face – embarrassed
  • Seeing red – angry or angered
  • Not worth a red cent – having no monetary value
  • Red tape – excessive paperwork or formalities, generally in governmental processes
  • In the red – generally a term used when you are overdrawn in your bank account. Also used to describe an economic loss.

There are a number of companies whose brands identify them with the colour red – Coca Cola, Red Bull – for example.

‘The soul becomes dyed with the colour of its thoughts.’
Marcus Aurelius

How is red represented in your garden? Red is considered to be a warm colour in landscape gardening. Red flowers and foliage have an energetic effect, often give the impression of coming forward in the landscape, making your garden feel cosier. The red in the garden attracts the eye and is often used as the choice of colour when you want to draw attention to a specific area of your garden. Red’s complimentary colour in the garden is green.

How does the colour red impact your sense of taste? Red fruits and although not seen that frequently, red vegetables are full of flavour and are nutritious. The fragrance, sweet juiciness and deep red colour of the most popular berry fruit in the world – strawberries – can brighten up both the taste and aesthetics of any meal. Fresh cranberries contain the highest level of beneficial nutrients are at their peak between October and December. They add their flavour (tart, tangy flavour) and numerous health benefits to a festive period, when often we aren’t thinking about our health.

Some interesting information about the colour red – red is:

  • the highest arc of the rainbow
  • the first colour that you lose sight of at twilight
  • the longest wavelength of light
  • a negative direction in the financial arena (overdrafts, losses)
  • recommended by Feng Shui as the colour that you should paint your front door. This invites in prosperity to the residents.
  • the colour of divine love, the Holy Spirit, courage, self-sacrifice, martyrdom, all the warm impulses that belong to the great-hearted.
  • a colour that can be seen by birds, butterflies, and bats but cannot be seen by bees.
  • the colour that means ‘severe’ in any colour coded threat system.
  • the colour that means ‘stop

Driving a red vehicle gives a clear but unspoken message to the rest of the world … Vibrant Red: Sexy, Speedy, High-Energy, Dynamic. If you select a vehicle that is Burgundy or Blue-Red, then the message that you are giving out is similar but far less obvious.

When I was going through my wardrobe recently I found the most wonderful red (pillar box red) Jacques Vert jacket; and this took me back to the early days of my IT career (in the days I worked in the Corporate World) when I wasn’t comfortable with going into client sites for the first time. I used to wear navy blue skirt, stockings, shoes, blouse and this vibrant red jacket. Yes it gave me energy, confidence, and the underlying feeling that I could do anything … so I would walk into the reception of this client offices with my head held high. What I did learn though, from the lady who presented to us at the Women in Business meeting is that you don’t have to visibly display the colour you need to support you today, as long as you have the colour about you – your underwear, in your bag, in your briefcase. It can be something that you are wearing, something that you are carrying, or it could be a or multiple crystals. More recently I’ve found myself wearing garnets or rubies when I’ve needed the courage, confidence, and/or energy. So yes from my own experience I do agree that red as a colour:

  • increases my enthusiasm
  • stimulates energy
  • encourages action
  • raises my confidence
  • provides me with a sense of protection from my anxieties and fears.

We are like chameleons, we take our hue and the colour of our moral character,
from those who are around us.

John Locke

© 2011 Barbara J. Cormack
First published under Cormack’s Capers in Magna Intuitum