The Origins Of Popular Superstitions And Customs  ~ Magick7





Few, if any, of the subjects dealt with in this book offer more items of interest for the student than this which has relation to the importance of colour. There has always been a superstitious use of colour in connection with astrology, the planets not only having a number, but a favourite hue, which those people whose date of birth falls within the sphere of the planet should be careful to cultivate. Hence the readiness of the West End occultist to furnish your number and colour as determined by your name. No doubt, from this point of view, the rationale of personal colour, sanctioned by fate or fortune, is just as sound or unsound as anything else in astrological lore. But the point of interest lies here: modern medical research has proved the importance of colour in a curative sense. Your native colour may be pink, and mine may be green, according to the lore of antiquity; it does not matter much one way or the other. But it matters a great deal whether we lie in a room of sickness with a red wall paper or a blue one, if there really be a traceable influence of colour on mental conditions.

Now is there such an influence? I think a fairly good case can be made out that there is. Take some of the lowest forms of life--infusoria, for example. Downes and Burns in Light and Colour have noticed that infusorial life develops faster under the influence of red and yellow light. Seeds germinate most rapidly under violet and blue rays, and the hatching of silk worms is greatly facilitated by placing the eggs under violet glass. It has been observed also that flies and other insects do not flourish, or are killed outright, by the light which comes through blue glass or blue gauze. When we come to the insect world, the very existence of flowers, with their almost endless gradations of colour and tint, must be taken as a reasonably clear demonstration that colour has some influence upon the feelings of flower-haunting butterflies, bees, and beetles, though even these feelings may be merely those of preference or indifference. Colour was of the highest significance to primitive man; it is to man as we know him to-day. Dr. Ponza, director of the lunatic asylum at Alessandria, Piedmont, cured many of his insane patients by confining them in rooms, the glass and walls of which were of some uniform colour, such as red, or blue, or violet. One taciturn melancholic became gay and talkative after a sojourn of three hours in a red chamber. Others, after having stayed in these coloured rooms for a time, shewed other equally great changes for the better in their mental condition. Chromotherapy is still a science hardly in its infancy, but, when it has received more attention than it has had up to the present, we may expect some interesting developments.

Now this is as far as we can go in matters relating to colour, at least with confidence. It is impossible to draw up a list of colours representing intellectual and moral qualities on a foundation of exact science. A list of dogmatic statements is the easiest thing in the world to produce, and a popular author has done it in his Colour as a Curative Agent. Thus on p. 35 I read the following:--

"Red--Love, affection, or lust.
Scarlet--Emotion, anger.
Deep Crimson--Animality.
Bright Red--Courage or confidence.
Dull Orange--Less understanding.
Brownish Orange--Worldly wisdom.
Light Yellow--Common sense."

and so forth.

In vain do we look for the basis of this ethics of colour; it cannot be found. We do not deny that in the Bible sin is scarlet, and that Mephistopheles usually appears in scarlet; one could from the pages of literature almost justify the list we have quoted from a popular writer. But we want more than that. Even though Fox and Gould affirm yellow and gold correspond to the intellectual, green to the utilitarian, red to the sensual, and blue to the spiritual, moral, or religious nature of man, we require the whole phenomena to be treated according to the scientific method before we can accept the ipse dixit of any writer. There may be a colour belonging to us as individuals; the month in which we were born and the planet that was in the ascendant at the time may have conferred it on us; each planet may denote a colour; but of these dogmas and many others nobody seems to know anything that can be dignified with the name of knowledge. The fact is they are rank superstitions.