Color Symbolism: Purple

Claude Monet, "Water Lillies"

Claude Monet, “Water Lillies”

In Woody Allen’s movie “The Purple Rose of Cairo,” Mia Farrow’s character, frustrated by her marital woes, falls in love with a character in a movie. The movie character also becomes attracted to her, and exits the screen to profess his love to her. The symbolism of the title is quite telling, a purple rose of Cairo standing for rare beauty and unreachable fantasy. The color purple is associated with the seventh chakra as the seat of archetypes, and the movie makes us ponder the ontological status of fantasy. The underlying thought seems to be that the real and the fantastical are not distinct: the spiritual realm is as real and has a direct impact on the main character’s life.

Violet is the highest vibrating color both in physics and in spirituality, which associates it with the crown chakra. In occultism, it is the color of the Seventh Ray of ceremonial order and magic. Chanelers of angel wisdom view it as the color of transformation, forgiveness and freedom. It is an extraordinary color rarely seen in nature. According to Manly P. Hall, tt was first obtained from “the blood of a sea shell-fish,” by the Phoenicians, who set an extremely high price on this rare and luxurious commodity. Purple combines the blue of spiritual heights and ocean depths with the energy and vitality of blood red. Only those with highest rank in society, namely clergymen and royalty, used to wear robes of that hue.

Mark Rothko, "Purple"

Mark Rothko

In Women’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets, Barbara G. Walker claims that for the ancients purple did not mean violet but actually dark wine red. This made me wonder because in my native language the adjective “purpurowy” does not mean violet but actually dark wine red. Walker writes: “Royal purple meant the same as royal blood: matrilineal kinship in a sacred clan. … Purple still meant blood color in the time of Shakespeare, who spoke of the ‘purpled hands‘ of Caesar’s assassins, stained with ‘the most noble blood of all the world.‘” In Christian symbolism purple is often associated with the sacrificial blood of Christ, and consequently with penance and expiation, which is supposed to lead to purification and transformation. Also, since it combines the coolness of blue with the hotness of red, it fosters contemplation and may have a calming effect on those suffering from disruptive, negative emotions. In purple the sublime meets passion and energy of earthly desires, creating a new and surprising quality. As Anodea Judith explains in Eastern Body, Western Mind:

 “The separation of spirituality from the rest of life leaves us spiritually homeless. In reflection of the archetypal divorce between Earth Mother and Sky Father, we are taught to seek enlightenment by denying the basic nature of our biological existence. This chasm between Heaven and Earth creates a corresponding abyss between spirit and soul that many fall into as they engage in ascetic practices, sign their will over to gurus, and disengage from the world. Denying our basic nature in order to achieve unity is a contradiction steeped in dualistic thinking, which will never lead to unity or wholeness.

Paul Klee, "Fish Magic"

Paul Klee, “Fish Magic”

The crown chakra is the thousand-petaled lotus. Most people think of the petals as reaching up into the heavens; actually, the lotus petals turn downward like a sunflower, dripping nectar into the crown and down through the chakras. In this way, the two ends of the spectrum are profoundly connected. … The crown chakra is a two-way gate to the beyond. It opens outward, beyond ourselves to the infinite, and it opens inward and downward to the world of visions, creation, and eventual manifestation.”

Ines Honfi, "Yogi" via http://www.ineshonfi.com/yoga-gallery

Ines Honfi, “Yogi”
via http://www.ineshonfi.com/yoga-gallery

Judith stresses that the goal of the seventh chakra is in equal measure transcendence and immanence, i.e. reaching out towards divinity, transcending the earthly plane, and finding divinity within, on the plane of earthly manifestation and embodiment. She calls transcendence “a cleansing bath in the waters of spirit a blissful relief from that which binds us to limitation.” The ultimate goal is to find the application for the treasures one acquired thanks to the expansion of consciousness. Immanence is about the soul’s individuality, transcendence about the spirit’s universality. The goal of individuation is to encompass both worlds and never lose a vital connection between them. Judith continues: “The soul is like a gatherer of spirit, forming the abstract into a composite being.” If the spirit does not receive anchoring and embodiment of the soul, the sacred process ends in a vacuum, not leaving the abstract realm. Also in occult traditions, the main work of the Seventh Ray is to infuse the spirit with matter. The ending of The Purple Rose of Cairo shows Cecilia immersed in the fantastical realm of cinema again, neglecting her immediate reality. She seems to have not met the challenges of the seventh chakra’s call for immanence, though she did leave an abusive relationship. True healing is achieved by aligning with the evolutionary soul purpose, materializing our highest potential in accordance with our soul’s archetypal blueprint. The movement is from below to above and simultaneously from above to below.

Georgia O'Keeffe, "Lavender Irises"

Georgia O’Keeffe

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29 Responses to Color Symbolism: Purple

  1. Pingback: Color Symbolism: Purple | lampmagician

  2. litebeing says:

    Hi Monika,
    Happy Eclipse! I thoroughly enjoyed this splendid homage to my favorite color purple. Did not know about the wine red reference ( very Scorpionic color). Hope this becomes a series, Fabulous post.

    love,
    LInda

    • Hi Linda,
      Yes I remember you mention it was your favorite color. I have been seeing it so much recently and having dreams and visions about it. I did write about blue some time ago and also on black. I do not know about a series because I need to be passionate about something to want to write about it.
      Have a joyful Easter. Jupiter direct!
      Monika

  3. ambfoxx says:

    This makes me want to reread Eastern Body Western Mind. (It was one of the required books in my Integrative Yoga Therapy training.) Wonderful choices of images. I liked the O’Keefe at the end, a nice Western balance to the Eastern OM. Reading this post I thought of the summer rainbows we get in the “monsoon” season in New Mexico, and how I get transfixed by them. The transition between each color is so subtle, I can never find a true border between red and violet, violet and blue, and yet each has its stripe of pure color between those blended places.

    • Hello,
      Thank you for a beautiful comment. The author of that book also made a short film called Illuminated Chakras. I think it is stunningly beautiful. About O’Keefe, her work just stimulates meditation and is so deeply symbolic. I once read a critic who said her flowers are like totems.
      Best,
      Monika

  4. Maria F. says:

    I looked up purple in Wiki and it says “While the two colors look similar [violet vs. purple], from the point of view of optics there are important differences. Violet is a spectral color – it occupies its own place at the end of the spectrum and it has its own wavelength – whereas purple is a combination of two spectral colors, red and blue. A “wavelength of purple light” does not exist; it only exists as a combination”, [violet and red], isn’t that amazing? It was impossible to get purple in ancient times, they could only extract it from a shellfish as a pure dye (as you said). So purple is actually existing in “ultraviolet”, in an “invisible spectrum”, along with x-rays and gamma rays. Neither magenta nor cyan exist either, yet we can detect their luminosity (in electronic devices through light and celestial objects). The luminescence indicates how much luminous power will be detected by an eye looking at the surface from a particular angle of view (opaqueness will only barely radiate light, but transparency and translucency will). This is why when painting pictures one has to use red and violet in order to get the true purple, and add white, because red and blue will not make purple, without the violet. White will always increase the “visible” luminosity.
    According to modern theories, purple is the most powerful visible wavelength of electromagnetic energy. It is a form of energy that is reflected or emitted from objects in the form of electrical and magnetic waves that can travel through space. Only Nature can “naturally” produce the color purple. We humans have to “chemically” produce it in order to see it, so purple is actually energy, as you very well explained. So are Cyan and Magenta, the true colors seen (with filters) when viewing astronomical phenomena.

    • Maria F. says:

      I correct myself, both cyan and magenta exist, but not as part of Newton’s visible “spectrum”. “Cyan was formerly known as “cyan blue” and its first recorded use of as a color name in English was in 1879. Further origins of the color name can be traced back to a dye produced from the cornflower (Centaurea cyanus)”-Wiki
      Same with “magenta”, which was originally “Fuchsia”, a vivid purplish red color, named after the flower of the “fuchsia plant”. The color fuchsia was first introduced as a patented dye in 1892, but changed its name to “magenta”. So Nature always had the colors, humans simply could not “see” the “spectrum” as Newton had described it. When photography came, they were finally understood as “additive color” (the RGB color wheel) through filters in b&w photography. Color was created by the combination of two of the standard three additive primary colors in equal proportions which produced an additive secondary color—cyan, magenta or yellow.

      • Dear Maria, Thank you for investing so much time into researching this. I tend to get lost in details and always try to distill them looking for the whole picture but I appreciate the information. I love the whole purple spectrum of colors. It is good to know that nature has all the colors.
        With gratitude,
        Monika

      • Maria F. says:

        I’m sorry that was so long Monika, but I was baffled as to why Newton didn’t get it in his visible “spectrum”, it was because of their luminosity levels that have different wavelengths, the naked eye cannot perceive.

  5. Are you going to do a series on color symbolism?

  6. I loved that Monika. I love purple and all its associated symbolism and history. I recall the bit about the Phoenicians, in World History. Really cool. Thanks!

  7. I found reading this post a deeply meditative experience, Monika! I have worn purple for decades, and love it. Did you know that in astrology, the colour purple is associated with Uranus/Aquarius?
    I shall share this post on my “Writing from the Twelfth House” Facebook Page – which is slowly becoming a symbolreader archive…

  8. …however, when I tried to post it, ( this has happened before) Facebook wouldn’t allow it because of the post’s privacy settings. Just letting you know, in case other Followers have had the same problem.

  9. Pingback: The abyss is the chasm between heaven and earth, body and mind – Beyond Meds

  10. Cherry Jeffs says:

    Thank you for providing me with some wonderful inspiration for teaching my yoga class on the 7th Chakra today 🙂 I had never thought of a relationship between art and chakras but having seen the wonderful purple paintings you selected from some of my favourite artists, I will have to pursue it!

    • Thank you for reading and a heartwarming comment. I have been immensely attracted to purple these days. If only I could attend your class but we are on different continents. Good luck today.

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