Chromatic Vibrations: Exploring Color Theory as Energy
Have you ever spent time to think about why we see the colors we see? How this information is translated in our brains, and if we all actually see colors the same, or if my red is different from your red? Do we all see the same shade of blue in the sky?
Beyond that even, what makes the sky blue?
Well… light travels in waves, when the suns light hits all the gases and particles in the air of our atmosphere, it scatters in all directions. Since blue waves are the shortest of the visible spectrum, they scatter more.
As the sun reaches the horizon, its light has more atmosphere to travel through, the blue waves get scattered even more, and the red and yellow waves are able to get through, creating what we see as a sunset.
I’ve always been fascinated at the way that our perception of color is just our brains interpretation of wavelengths of light.
Essentially, what we see is all energy.
Different colors have quite literally different vibrations.
In terms of our surroundings and our wardrobe, what we are drawn to is the energetics we feel we need at the moment. While each persons interactions and experiences with each wavelength differ, there’s generally a universal quality to color. GENERALLY being the operative word there. Red is fiery passion, white is purity or new beginnings, and blue is calming and spiritual.
There’s plenty of information of color meanings on the web, but I’d still love to add my two cents on how these colors can be used intentionally to affect our moods, blended with some history on how they have been used historically around the globe.
Fun Fact: The history of color theory is full of mysticism, the color Indigo was added to the spectrum by Isaac Newton because he felt that seven was the most divine number (seven days of the week, seven planets known at that time, etc.)
RED : like our blood, the molten core of our earth, red roots us in the physical. The color of passion, also the color of bravery and compassion in Buddhism.
Associated with the planet Mars, it is a color that inspires action and willpower. It is also the color of anger and overdoing things, so if that tendency is already excessive in your nature it may exacerbate the situation.
Knowing all this, it’s no wonder that red undergarments are prevalent in the romantic lingerie category, but you don’t need polyester lace in your buns to channel this fiery power. I love red lipstick for this (from Fat and the Moon, of course) or even some garnet or carnelian jewelry.
In the world of natural dyes, Madder Root is one of the strongest and longest lasting red dyes (though many fruits and flowers are red, their hues are not able to be extracted for use on fabric). Historically, it has been used in coming of age ceremonies, and also happens to be a treatment for the circulatory system in Ayurveda, actively breaking down blockages and stagnation.
ORANGE - still hot like red but with less intensity, orange is the color of creativity and play, stimulating new ideas. Blending the action of red with the pure joy of yellow, it’s a color that can be used when an energetic yet harmonious quality is needed. Most people prefer a warm peach or deep pumpkin / copper shade to a pure, bright orange, and these can be equally as effective.
Associated with the planet Mercury, orange not only stimulates new ideas but also helps communicate them. It’s a popular color for bringing vibrant aliveness to a space, and is also the color of the harvest which is essentially the source of our life force!
YELLOW - My true love, lemony sun, golden goddess, bright light of yellow. It was somehow always the only crayon left after everyone picked their favorites, and being resourceful since a very young age, I decided I’d make it work. I quickly learned it brings me so much joy, I wear it regularly and have even painted my desk yellow, and added a giant yellow sun to the wall of my studio to help stimulates focus in my work.
Associated with the Sun, yellow brings the bright healing power of this luminary force. It’s close relative, gold, is a symbol of wealth and prosperity in our culture due to its rarity as well as the way it catches light just so. I don’t own much in the way of gold jewelry, but I find brass does perfectly well in calling in abundance and joy to my day!
Some natural dyes that provide yellow are: Goldenrod, Dyer’s Chamomile, and Weld, all of which have healing properties - goldenrod has a variety of uses including topical healing, Chamomile soothes skin and digestion, and Weld, aka reseda luteola, is even an ingredient in Airborne, the immunity boosting formula!
GREEN - Writing about green in the depths of winter feels like I’m calling on a long lost lover! A sign of life, growth, and expansion, green brings in harmony and facilitates a sense of community. The integrative qualities of the natural world is a beautiful symbol of a unified body of individuals.
In this society, our money is conveniently also green. While green magic usually refers to the incorporation of plant power in the natural world, green is also used to draw prosperity.
My favorite way of drawing in this feeling of harmony and aliveness is fresh plants! House plants, cut flowers or evergreens in vases, I’ve even painted my kitchen green to infuse it with aliveness year round.
Oddly enough, with allll that green in nature, there are not really any green natural dyes. Yup. Chlorophyll has many amazing qualities, none of which are use as a dye for fabric. I’ve seen mango leaves quoted as a source for green dye, but not living anywhere near a mango tree I can’t test this. Indigo layered with any number of yellow dyes is the best way to get green (unless you have a mango tree, in which case can you do me a favor…?)
BLUE - So calming and peaceful, the hue of the oceans and the sky, but interestingly enough it’s a color that doesn’t show up in many other places in nature. So ubiquitous that many cultures didn’t even have a name for it until much later in human history!
Related to the moon, blue is also incorporated when in need of accessing intuition, tapping into the unknown. Blue is a great color for bedrooms as it promotes rest, can easily be incorporated into the wardrobe, and blue stones can be worn to access this vibration as well. I LOVE kyanite for this, it’s varying tones of soft nearly metallic blue are incredibly soothing. I also use visualization to fill a room with blue light if the energy is feeling scattered or discordant.
INDIGO - Deeper than the deep blue sea, deeper than you and me…. as mentioned before, indigo was added to the ROYGBIV model that Newton developed simply because he found seven to be a more divine number. This deep blue is especially rare in nature (outside of sky and sea), its most popular source is the dye indigo.
Funny thing is, the indigo plant is not blue. It’s color is hidden deep inside, a mystery only accessible to those who know its secrets. It’s associated with accessing psychic powers and communicating with forces not of this world.
In my Secret Episode recorded for the Dream Freedom Beauty Podcast, I go into detail on the discovery of indigo as a medicine before it was used as a dye.
VIOLET / PURPLE - historically a color of royalty, a blend of calm blue with passionate red, purple to me is a color of balance and beauty. It is also frequently used in spiritual work.
Associated with the planet Jupiter,
With natural dyes in European history, purple was a color that required mastery to obtain which is why it is often associated with royalty, they were the only ones who could afford it! When Europeans discovered the Logwood tree while colonizing Central and South America, it totally transformed the dye industry, as a deep dark purple was now able to be obtained from one plant. Interestingly enough, Mauve was the first color of synthetic dye created, accidentally discovered by William Henry Perkin in 1856 when he was attempting to synthesize quinine.
BROWN - deep mysteries of compost and soil, brown is all about the earth, about the growth that happens underground, where it’s not visible but still makes a difference in supporting the self. Brown is one of the most prevalent colors available when working with natural dyes: Acorns, black walnut hulls, pomegranate rinds, and the extract from the acacia tree are a few of my favorites - though black tea and coffee work just as well!
BLACK AND WHITE - neither of which are actually colors because they are not specific wavelengths of light, but it feels irresponsible to leave them out of the discussion. White is actually all wavelengths of visible light, and black is the absence of light. Both are considered healing in different measures, white is clearing and black is absorbing.
Moonstone, howlite and selenite are some white stones that have cleansing properties, and black tourmaline and Onyx are thought to absorb negative energies.
When working with associations and energies, there’s not a whole lot of cold hard facts because our life experiences contribute to our reactions to these colors. These are my personal associations, and someone who maybe had a different experience with yellow (like, being forced to use the yellow crayon instead of choosing it) could have a bad reaction to it. None of this is set in stone. This is a blog of personal opinions by a human with no certifications or degrees in color theory or healing aside from a Bachelors Degree in Fine Arts.
Do you have any other relations to these colors? Have you found working with them useful for you?
Want to listen more about color? I LOVE this radiolab episode!