Saturday, December 14, 2013

Y is for a Yellow Ritual

'Woman with Yellow Scarf' from
Color magic is the kind of magic that is intuitively understood by many Pagans, even the most early of beginners.  Looking at a love spell and seeing '2 red candles' listed as an ingredient just makes sense.  Using a green altar to attract prosperity seems like the most natural thing in the world.  It's so readily understood because the science of 'color magic' has been in general use in our society for a long time.  Hospitals paint their walls greens or blues to calm, night clubs often use big, bold colors to pump up their visitors.  Stanford even has a class on the power of color (I found one of the class projects, check it out!).

I want to talk today about the power of color in ritual.  In the same way that buildings can use their color schemes to project a feeling onto their visitors, we can also use color to help bring the group into the ritual mindset - or if doing solitary ritual, help to bring ourselves there.  Since this is a Pagan Blog Project post, and this week is the incredibly difficult to find a topic for Y, I'll be using yellow as an example.

Yellow is a color with a lot of associations both in general culture and for Pagans.  In our wider society, it is known first as a color of cheery, bright happiness; maybe the color of sunflowers evokes warm summer days, or daffodils remind us of the spring.  It is also the color of the sun, which has larger significance to many Pagans.  And yet, its most common use in the general population is a color of warning.  Yellow is the 'caution' of the traffic lights, it is the color of signs warning the floor is slippery, it is the color of school buses that bear our most precious citizens and need the most protecting.  This is because yellow, sitting right in the middle of the visible spectrum of light, reflects the most light back out towards its viewer of any of the colors - it is the most attention-getting, and the easiest to see at long distances.  For many Pagans, yellow is also the color of the East, and the element Air.

Now how can we use this information to weave color into a ritual?  First, we've learned that yellow is a strong, at times overwhelming color - so it ought to be used sparingly.  Other colors can certainly be brought in to complement yellow and the overall ritual theme.  Representations of the element Air, for example, should have some yellow on them; but the primary color should be different and softer, so as not to overwhelm or outshine the other elements.  For a ritual celebrating spring or a spring goddess, bringing in some yellow flowers would certainly be appropriate.  One fun use of the color would be to have a dark-colored altar cloth, like a plum purple or navy blue; but set bright yellow cloth napkins underneath the ritual items that are particularly important - this will help keep a group's attention focused on these items specifically.  If your group or practice is the kind that marks out sacred space, try using the color yellow to do that.  It will create a very clear delineation that will aid in seeing the sacred space as separate from the outer world.  One idea I've always liked, but have never gotten to try out, is the idea of a ribbon dance.  As Pagans, we do a lot of work on the sound side of things when it comes to dancing - we drum, rattle, and some groups add other more melodic instruments as well.  But not a lot of work is done on the visual side; wouldn't it be amazing to see a group of dancers (in a rather large space, mind you) waving ribbons of various colors specifically chosen to aid in the group's working?

For more information on a wide range of colors, you can visit; they have lots of interesting info to explore.  Use this to find some ways to incorporate more color and visual drama into your own rituals!

1 comment:

  1. Great post. You might enjoy looking at Santeria dances, as color is often prominently featured to identify Orisha.