Three Ways – Three Colours
by Uffe Christoffersen
Many-headed beasts occur in many places in mythology. Each head symbolises one way in which this beast can behave, a special power it has, for example a god with three heads can have three kinds of power. An example of this is found in Græco-Roman goddess Trivia, who has three heads. Trivia is the goddess of ghosts and magic. She is especially worshipped at crossroads, where she shows herself on moonless nights accompanied by mares, dogs and she-wolves. Her name, Trivia, means ‘three roads’ in Latin. She therefore symbolises a choice between three possibilities, or worlds as the Greeks saw it: Hades, the human world and Olympus. She also has three sides to her personality: a good side, where she among other things gives birth to women, protection on one’s travels, riches, victory and consolation, – and an evil side, awful and infernal, where she rules over spectres, nightly visitations and terrible demons. She is the witch who symbolises the unconscious, where savage beasts and monsters roam.
Whether it be intense, powerful, so sharp that is screams out, or wide and dazzling as molten metal, yellow is the most informative and most burning colour. It is difficult to extinguish and breaks all the bonds one tries to tie it down with.
The sun’s rays break through the azure of heaven and show the power of the divine sphere above: Amongst the Aztecs’ gods, Huitzilopochtli, who is the victorious warrior and the god of the midday sun, is always painted yellow and blue in the pictures.
Yellow is the masculine colour, which brings light and life into the yellow/blue duo, and cannot be made dark. It has such a tendency to remain light, that no dark yellow exists. Yellow is therefore closely related to white. It brings youth, strength and youthful eternity.
Golden yellow is often a means of communication between humans and the gods: In India they used a golden knife in the great horse sacrifices. In the Mexican cosmology the golden yellow colour is the colour of the ‘earth’s new skin’ at the start of the rainy season. It symbolises therefore the mysteries of renewal. For this reason Xipe Totek, also called the ‘skinless’ or ‘skinned’ ruler, who is the god of spring rain, is also the god of the goldsmiths. At the spring festival his priests bore skins of the executed human sacrifices, which they painted yellow to enlist the help of this terrible deity.
Blue is the deepest of all colours. It lets one’s gaze penetrate without hindrance and lose itself in eternity. It is as if it is constantly fleeing.
Blue is the most incorporeal of all colours: In nature it often occurs as transparency, like a concentration of a vacuum which for example could be air, water, crystal or diamond, which have no colour in themselves. A vacuum is precise, pure and cold.
Blue is the coldest of all colours and when it occurs alone, the purest, apart from a total vacuum, which occurs in neutral white.
Djengis Khan, who founded the great Mongolian dynasty, was the son of a wild deer and the blue wolf. The Turkish and Mongolian literature is full of blue lions and tigers…
The idea that nobility should have blue blood in their veins comes from the fact that it was a mortal sin to swear in the middle ages. The common people avoided swearing as a result, but the nobility took no notice of the prohibition. But one day a Jesuit enlisted the king’s help and forced them to cut out the name of God from their oaths. Therefore they replaced the word ‘dieu’ (or God) with the word ‘bleu’ (or blue). In this way ‘par la mort de Dieu’ (by the death of God) became ‘Morbleu’, ‘Sacré Dieu’ (Holy God) became ‘Sacrebleu’ and ‘par le sang de Dieu’ (By the blood of God) blev ‘Palsangbleu’. Even though the servants heard this latter oath, they only noticed the ‘sang bleu’ part (Blue Blood), and as they didn’t swear themselves, to separate the nobility from the common people they called them ‘sang bleu’ or ‘blue blood’!
Red is universally acknowledged as a symbol of life because of its power, its strength and its glow. But red, which is the colour of fire and blood, has the ambiguity of both of these, depending on whether it is light or dark.
The clear, light red colour, which is rich and extrovert, belongs to the day, is masculine, fresh and incites to action by covering everything with its glow like an enormous invincible sun. The dark, heavy red is on the other hand nocturnal, feminine, secretive and almost introvert. It is not a symbol of expression, but of the mystery of life. The former pulls one along with it, it is the colour used for flags, advertisements etc, the latter holds one back: it is the colour of ‘prohibition’, it is used for the red light bulb which prohibits entry to a film or radio studio. It is also the colour of the lamp outside bordellos. Its role was to draw people inside, which may seem a contradiction, but it was the most prohibited thing at the time.