Slide 1 of 17
Colors are imbued with great symbolic power. Even in the modern English-speaking world, where superstitious beliefs have largely faded in the light of scientific knowledge, many colors have retained their ancient associations. Most people know that brides should wear white, that "seeing red" means being angry, and that one can feel "green with envy." But learning why these connotations exist requires a look back to the beliefs and practices of the ancients.
Red passionSlide 2 of 17
Red has a range of symbolic meanings, including life, health, vigor, war, courage, anger, love and religious fervor. The common thread is that all these require passion, and the "life force" that drives passion blood is red.
When people become angry their faces become flushed with color. When they're happy and healthy, they have rosy cheeks (whereas when they're sick or dying, they have a deathly pallor, lacking in red). When men fight, blood is spilled. In all cases, red blood manifests itself in connection to passion.
Colors were so powerful in traditional cultures that red objects were believed to convey health through their color alone. For example, most red stones such as garnets and rubies were believed to have health-giving and disease-preventing properties. In Rome, children wore red coral as a talisman to protect them from diseases, and in China, for similar reasons, children always wore a piece of red clothing.Slide 3 of 17
White puritySlide 4 of 17
In a wide range of cultures, the color white symbolizes purity and innocence, and white robes and garments are worn to convey spiritual and/or sexual purity. It isn't surprising that white became associated with purity, as even the smallest drop of dye, or a smudge of dirt, destroys the color.Slide 5 of 17
Black mystery/deathSlide 6 of 17
Many ancient cultures believed that black was "the color of mystery and of the mysterious ways and wisdom of God," the historian Ellen Conroy wrote in her book "The Symbolism of Colors" (1921). This was because night, as well as darkness the absence of light transcended human perception in the same way that the wisdom of God was thought to be beyond comprehension.
Of all mysteries, death may have been the biggest. Ancient people were completely "in the dark" about what would happen to them after death, and so it was (and is) represented by the color black in many cultures. There was the added coincidence of death sharing similarities with sleep, which happens in the darkness of night and when closed eyelids block out all light. [Why Do We Die? ]Slide 7 of 17
Purple royaltySlide 8 of 17