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Registered User
(11/4/02 3:11:56 pm)
Color symbolism in folklore... and uniting with color...
I know we've talked about the color of death, and the use of color in many fairy tales and folktales (especially red), but I was wondering about tales, myths, folklore, etc, where there is a definitely use of symbolism of certain colors. More to the point, are there tales, or maybe even just cultures, where colors are used as peaceful symbols? All I can think of is white (doves) and blue (Mary's cloak as depicted throughout art history). Perhaps a specific tale of peace that uses a certain color? Am I being too confusing/vague?

Not to bring everyone down, but I do want to share my thoughts with everyone for a moment, which might clarify my question.

Yesterday I went to a peace rally on Boston Common to protest the US going to war. It was a wonderful experience (estimated 15,000) and I will never forget it. There were chants rising from the crowds, often overlapping other chants, all for peace. Signs everywhere, from religious groups, Green Party candidates, and people who are simply upset with the government not listening.

Yet after all is said and done for the day, I feel like there should be some kind of neutral symbol, like arm bands or something, uniting eveyone, more than the yellow ribbons for the Gulf War, but something that unites across the world, not just the US. I don't know too much about symbolism that already exists, but I was thinking some color band that everyone wears. I know black is for mourning, but I've seen it also used for some hate groups. Can anyone think of something that would unite us all, something simple, yet meaningful, that we could all do? Thoughts?

Forest frosts,


Edited by: Kerrie at: 11/4/02 3:12:22 pm
Judith Berman
Registered User
(11/4/02 6:51:51 pm)
Color terminology systems have some kind of universal biological basis -- this was one of the favorite comparative topics in cognitive anthropology back in the 60s and 70s. The simplest such systems categorize all colors as either light or dark; three-term systems have words for light, dark and reddish; I think the next term added after that is blue-green. The contrasts recognized in basic color terminology proceed in a universal "order."

But color meanings are not universal. White is traditionally the color of mourning in China, if I understand correctly, while red is the color of celebration (I have seen beautiful red Western-style wedding dresses in store windows here in Chinatown -- interesting syncretism).

On the northwest coast, the traditional symbol of peace is white eagle down, black of war and mourning, and red has a very complex set of meanings, especially in myth and ritual, the underlying meaning perhaps being health and wealth. There is a certain kind of headdress that was filled with eagle down and a dancer would dance in such a way that the eagle down would float out of the headdress. People would also put eagle down in their hair to signify peace and good will.

Unregistered User
(11/5/02 7:19:06 am)

I don't know if it has any relevance to your original topic, but your post immediately made me think of Poe's "The Masque of the Red Death." I can still brings to mind the different colored rooms. Actually, maybe it does have something to do with your post after all. Maybe red is your color -- after in relation to the color of blood it signifies both life and death.

Carrie Miner

Registered User
(11/11/02 1:29:16 pm)
Red... and green...
Thanks Judith and Carrie! Just what I was looking for!

Red is quite appropriate, Carrie! They all seem to be, which has been my confusion in thinking of this. I really do like the idea of red/blood symbolizing life and death. It shows up in a lot of cultures.

Another thought: what about a green leaf pin? I was looking through LOTR images today and saw the green and silver leaf brooches that the Fellowship wore- it seemed like a fitting image.

Green- new growth, life, peace, nature, science, etc. Leaf- turning over a new leaf, nature conservation, growth, branching out, world tree, imagination, etc. It can be a pin or a leaf bead dangling from an armband or bracelet (perhaps a red one?). It makes me think of:

1 ) Tolkien- LOTR, Tree & Leaf ("On Fairy Stories" and "Leaf by Niggle")
2 ) Thoreau- Walden and Civil Disobedience
3 ) Bible- Garden of Eden, dove and olive branch
4 ) Frances Hodgson Burnett- Secret Garden
5 ) Norse mythology- Yggdrasil (the world tree)
6 ) Greek mythology- Daphne (laurel tree)
7 ) Celtic mythology- sacred trees, Green Man/Woman
8 ) British mythology- Robin Hood (Sherwood Forest)

I know there are tons more. Any thoughts?

Another thing I was thinking of doing is walking around with a teddy bear- you can never be too old for a teddy bear!

Forest frosts,


Edited by: Kerrie at: 11/12/02 1:04:33 pm
Registered User
(11/11/02 6:39:38 pm)
leafy green
I like the green/leaf/growing-thing idea, Kerri.

To expand on that theme just a little bit - in Celtic mythology the Ash tree is also known as the "world tree" or 'tree of life'. It represents harmony or a balance of opposites - the branches and root growth are generally equal in size, and symbolically link the gods/heaven (the branches) with humankind (trunk) and the dead/underworld (the roots). There are many different levels of meaning to the balance of the three different aspects of the tree - past, present and future or physical, mental and spiritual, or chaos, balance and creative force - any relationship where whatever happens on one level effects the other two. Everything is connected and no action is without widespread consequence... (And ash trees, drawn complete with their root systems, are very beautiful).

And of course, there is all the symbolism associated with death and ever renewing rebirth, fertility and hope with the greenman - and by extension, the 'greenwoman'.

The color green is also associated with the fourth (heart) chakra - love, emotional energy and power. Some other aspects associated with this chakra are: forgiveness, compassion, dedication, inspiration, hope, trust and the ability to heal oneself and others (apropos, I think).

Good luck,


Unregistered User
(11/12/02 7:20:31 am)
what about ...
having a multi-coloured ribbon? that way you don't have to choose between one particular colour. You could have black/white/yellow/pink/orange/red/purple/lilac/mauve/blue/indigo/fuschia etc ribbon. Don't ask for technical details on how to make it though but at least it would unite everything in one very mad-looking ribbon.

Registered User
(11/12/02 8:21:09 am)
Friendship bracelets...
Lizzi, your suggestion reminds me of the friendship bracelets I used to make (as did many others, I'm sure) as a teen, knotting embroidery floss in different patterns. I could see your suggestion in the arrow pattern, which could look like a series of multicolored leaves stacked together. Then perhaps dangling a leaf bead? Just a thought.

Here's something I wrote up last night:

In this time of pending war, when all of the world is united against it, we need to stand together, as one world, as the human race.

In times past, yellow ribbons and red, white, & blue ribbons have been worn to show patriotism within the United States of America, to show that we were, indeed united. But now others have joined in the cry for freedom, the cry for peace, the cry for unity. Let this, then, be our new mission- to unite, as we did with the United Nations, and show the world that we are bound together, in symbol, in heart, in sorrow.

I suggest we all wear green leaves- as pins, as patches, in embroidery, jewelry, wreaths, and more- to symbolize our unity on this planet Earth.

(Plus the part I wrote above re: what green and leaves reminds me of.)

Hang them from red cords, ribbons, threads. Wear them on copper chains. Let the red symbolize the blood already spilt to bring peace in the past, the blood we wish to avoid to keep it. Blood is the life force that courses through us all.

Stepping down from my oatmeal soap box.

Forest frosts,


Edited by: Kerrie at: 11/20/02 3:44:14 pm
Registered User
(11/20/02 6:18:32 pm)
Story behind Greensleeves?
This may sound off topic, but it does relate:

I was just wondering if anyone knew the story behind the song "Greensleeves", if there was a folklore background? I just wrote a song to its tune, to go with the "green leaves" theme. I can post it if anyone is interested.

Forest frosts,


Unregistered User
(11/21/02 11:02:38 pm)
dear Kerrie
just a couple thoughts

when a woman has trouble holding a pregnancy, we plait a green floss braid with a single strand of red floss on her bedstead, the vine of life, to better encourage the mother's heart and hope to hold the baby in the womb long enough for it to thrive outside when it is old enough. (This is from curanderismo)

secondly, the colors black, red and white, have been forever the colors of transformation from alchemy; black for the nigredo, the darkening of all that once was believed to be so, the red for the rubedo, the blood sacrifice of favored attitudes or fantasy/illusion, and the while, the albedo, the transformative new life. There are pages in women who run with the wolves detailing this with regard to the repetitive psychological pattern of individuation.

I truly love trees, and love your idea of the universal leaves.
con cariņo,

Registered User
(11/21/02 11:24:18 pm)
It has been rumored that Henry VIII wrote it for Anne Boleyn, but that is not terribly well substantiated.


Unregistered User
(11/29/02 6:32:26 pm)
Thank you for joining that amazing peace demonstration. ANd I think the idea your suggesting, I universal peace symbol, is really important. Something that is not politicized or religious, just pure humanity for humanity's sake. However, its gonna be difficult finding an unloaded color. I love the idea of red, the pulsing of the heart, bleeding of the womb that brings life, as well as the bleeding of the wounds that brind death. Unfortunately, most connote red with anger. But maybe we should be angry for letting things get so out of hand? Also, a lot of the flags of Arabic countries have a red stripe which symbolizes the blood shed in wars. As for green, it is also a great idea, nature, earth, growth, but it is also the color of Islam for some reason. I'm not sure why. The first Muslim conquerors wore black I think, so I'm not sure where green came in. Blue might be good. Except that the UN took and know how ineffectual it has been since its inception. Maybe it can be a different shade of blue. We should get a graphic designer to help us out on this one! Z.

Jane Yolen
Unregistered User
(11/30/02 3:47:35 am)
My 2 cents
Green was the color of the People of Peace (the fairies). The Queen supposedly wore a green gown.

The bad guys often wore red caps in fairy lore.

This is a gross simplification, of course.


Registered User
(12/1/02 6:37:44 am)
I think "Green Grows the Holly" ( ) was the song Henry wrote. (Kind of ironic, as it's all about fidelity!)

Actually, as I understand the reasoning behind Greensleeves, it has more to do with prostitution than forestry. During the Renaissance, English women wore white shirts with some sort of bodice over it. Thus, if one were spending a lot of time on her back in the grass, her white sleeves would be grass-stained. Thus the connection with Greensleeves. It may not be true, but it's what I'd always heard.


Unregistered User
(12/1/02 8:33:12 am)
grass stains?
Wow, i've never heard that explanation before. Do you actually know any sources that link greensleeves with lying in the grass?

By the way, I'm a big fan of nutella too. Z.

Registered User
(12/1/02 11:03:31 am)
grass stains
Sorry, I don't know of any formal sources. I'll ask around at school and see if anyone knows, though.

Unregistered User
(12/1/02 1:32:23 pm)
Looking for a colour?
I suggest Octarine.

Registered User
(12/4/02 6:32:07 pm)
Re: Greensleeves, peace, colors, etc...
Thanks for all of the info everyone!

I think the image of a woman who is promiscuous, unfaithful, greedy, etc. versus the image of a woman who stands for peace, compassion, hope, etc is a pretty strong image indeed. I think the lyrics of "Greensleeves" sung with the lyrics I wrote would mix well (I titled mine, "Green Leaves").

I have been wearing dangly earrings of little green leaves lately, and some friends from another discussion board have been making bracelets from ribbon with green leaf patterns. I'm not sure if it should be a specific leaf symbol (oak for strength, olive for peace, etc.) or just leaves in general. It seems like a general symbol of peace and new growth, and there seems to be vegetation in most, if not all, areas, that it would be universal enough. Ok, I'm babbling now.

Oh, and Octarine sounds fascinating- I've read a little bit so far, not too much info on it.

Forest frosts and sugarplum dreams,


Unregistered User
(1/18/03 3:21:02 pm)
I came across this discussion while I was looking up ideas about colour and symbolism. I was particularly researching symbols of hope.... and so far had found hope depicted as red in Ukranian easter eggs; the rainbow - as a bridge between heaven (or whatever) and earth; blue - mostly in Christian symbolism though I think.... and green - expressing new life, fertility, hope and even the 'green movement' and sustainability.

If I understand it correctly green is also the colour of the 4th chakra, the heart - so connected to love, forgiveness, compassion, hope, trust and healing... among other things of course!

Hope is of course an essential value in the human condition... and I like the idea of a leaf as a symbol of hope.... peace and the future.... so, thank you all, some interesting ideas here!!

Heidi Anne Heiner
(1/18/03 4:29:27 pm)
Color: A Natural History of the Pallette
Speaking of color, a good friend just recommended this new book to me. I haven't read it myself yet, but I am eager to do so.

Color: A Natural History of the Pallette
by Victoria Finlay

And here is the link to it on


Angel Feather
Registered User
(1/31/03 11:19:24 am)
Symbolic color
I would agree with the color of green. Red, white, and black have such powerful meanings in most cultures. Why do we want peace anyway? Because we don't want death and destruction. Green is the color of peace and healing. Green is the color of the earth and of life.

Aren't we so much more connected and the world so much smaller (psychologically speaking)? I think the leaves of trees also have too much symbolism. I personally love trees, so I would vote for a symbol of a tree (maybe green on white or white on green) that would represent the world tree, the connectedness. All of us who are alive today in the world are brothers and sisters in time. As Bono of U2 sings "We are one but we're not the same." Let's celebrate are oneness, but respect the differences.

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