Thursday, August 24, 2017
Color Symbolism: How to Read Color into your Tarot Readings
[The following is a submission by Charmaine Frapp, a longtime blog reader. She recently developed her own tarot platform, and would like to share some of her knowledge. I think you will find this interesting! Colors are very powerful, both symbolically and physically, and I enjoyed reading about their significance with regards to tarot.]
Although early tarot decks were printed in just three colors to accommodate the difficulty of early color printing methods, nowadays decks use every color in the rainbow making color a fun and informative element to use in performing tarot readings. In the Rider-Waite deck, the most important and symbolically charged colors are: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, black, gray, and white. Each color adds a layer of meaning, and you can use it to interpret each card alongside the other symbols such as suit and number. Keep in mind that a color’s meaning is not static and often changes over time within or across cultures and depending on your own personal associations with that color. Each color has both a positive, negative, and neutral meaning and should be interpreted within the context of the card drawn, the type of tarot reading you are performing, and the person receiving the reading. Here are some general rules for how to interpret color in your tarot readings with examples from the Rider-Waite deck.
RedThe color red represents lifeblood, passion, and robustness. It is often associated with royalty, meatiness, confidence, strength, and muscle as well as heat and fire. Many connect red to love, and it represents hot and intense sensual passion and physicality. It can also mean aggression, arrogance, and ruthlessness. For example, The Emperor - a Major Arcana card - is cloaked in red and has a red robe as well. It means he has his body on the line and that he is in touch with the extremes of physical human existence, both life and death, comfort and disease. If you draw this card, it means be strong and use your muscle. Alternatively, it could mean you have overexerted physically. On a different card - the Ten of Cups - red symbolizes something different. Red here is in balance with all the other colors of the rainbow and does not, as on the Emperor card, represent overexertion. Rather, this red implies confidence, happiness and achievement.
OrangeOrange represents creativity, change, and transformation. It is a bright, energetic color and is a mix of red and yellow. It is also joyous, radiant, and fiery. In the negative, orange can mean restlessness, paranoia, or living in a fantasy and putting too much emphasis on your dreams. In The Sun card, a naked child rides a horse and an orange banner flags out behind her. If you draw this card, the orange symbolizes adventurousness and playfulness leading to a new stage of maturity and understanding. However, on the Nine of Wands, the orange tunic symbolizes uncertainty: the character stands with shifty eyes, and if you draw this card, be careful not to take on more than you can handle emotionally.
YellowYellow is the color of the Pentacles or Coins suit of tarot and represents, earth, greed, drought, materiality, and superficiality as well as sunshine, hope, wistfulness, and yearning. In the Three of Wands, the sky is completely yellow as well as the sea - perhaps the sun is setting making the ground look aflame. If you draw this card, it could mean you are doing your work on earth but are not yet connected to a deep sense of spiritual purpose, and to find that connection, continue on your path with a sense of wistfulness. In the Nine of Cups, however, the yellow sky and ground and the yellow-gold cups represent a tendency toward greed and putting too much value on your own emotions. Conversely, yellow on this card means being a good listener and helping others transform hopelessness into positive energy.
GreenGreen means virility, vivacity, life, new growth, beginnings, fertility, harmony, good health, natural cycles, epiphany, and - of course - nature and the natural world. If you draw the Ace of Pentacles, on the bottom of the card is a verdant garden and cultivated archway. Here the green means your positive behavior toward the natural world has garnered you a heavenly gift and brought you a sense of fulfillment and peacefulness. It means you have found a way to live sustainably, or that you are trying to do so, and that if you succeed, you will be rewarded somehow. In the Four of Cups, green has a different meaning: patience. A young man wears a green vest and meditates on a green hill under a green tree. He is growing like the tree and seeking answers, but he must slow down for rushed epiphanies are not sustainable. If you draw this card, it means take a cue from nature: pause, reflect, and give things time to grow naturally and without too much prodding or artificial stimulants which produce false success.
BlueBlue has been called the most spiritual of colors. It represents transcendence, emotions, equilibrium, and also heaven. It can also represent detachment or coolness. While the Knight of Swords features an energetic knight in blue armor speeding on his horse through the blue sky, on the Two of Swords we see a calm blue ocean and still blue sky. If you draw the Knight of Swords, the blue teaches you to harness your mental energy and push to the ends of your ability in order to conquer an intellectual project or conundrum. It is also a reminder that as you pursue these mind-games, life continues and you may be surprised how the world has changed once you put your feet down again. Drawing the Two of Swords, blue means something else: unconscious emotions that you need to get in touch with in order to make a decision. The blue means quieting down your thoughts to achieve clarity. Additionally, if you draw The World card, blue can mean spiritual transcendence but also the loneliness that comes from this perspective.
BlackAssociated with darkness and mourning, the color black can also symbolize the unknown, freedom, concentration, magic, trying times, challenges, and difficult but important lessons. It also represents endings or the end of a cycle, emptiness, grief, and resilience. In the Nine of Swords, a sleeper wakes in the middle of the night, feeling anxious and unsettled. If you draw this card, the black sky behind nine floating swords represents your ability to contain difficult and mixed-up thoughts no matter how hostile they feel to you. Black here also represents coming into contact with a new aspect of yourself which is at once frightening and also expansive. In the Three of Pentacles card, there is black in the walls of a cellar where a young man is working alongside two priests. Here the black represents undistracted focus, arduous study, and the magic that comes from putting in hard word. If you draw the Three of Pentacles, the black means minimize distractions, hunker down, and focus on deepening your work even if it means temporarily losing touch with your more amenable and daily self.
GrayGray is associated with uncertainty, naivety, cloudiness, forgetfulness, melancholy, ennui, old age, dust, and ashes. It can also mean impurity, weakness, feebleness, and immovability, petrifaction, sternness, and stoicism. If you draw the Ace of Cups, you will see a gray bird, gray sky, and cloudy gray cuff; here the gray feels more tinged with silver than in other cards meaning treasure and gift. On this card, a cup seems to have been lifted out from the ocean by a large, disembodied hand and water fountains from it back into the sea below. The gray represents life’s monotony and jadeness, but the cup and water mean to expect a surprise and stay open to new experiences. In the Six of Coins, the gray ground and sky behind the wealthy man dispensing crumbs to the poor reminds you to be kind and fair to others because you never know how things can change, whether the gray sky forebodes a storm or sunshine.
WhiteInnocent and pure, the color white represents goodness, kindness, peace, and trust. In Temperance, the angel wears a white dress, and if you draw this card it means your actions are authentic and earnest. It could also be a reminder to get back in touch with an essential aspect of your nature that you may have stopped paying attention to. On the other hand, in the Page of Swords card, the roiling white clouds in the background, the page’s white color, and the white stripe on his sword represent eagerness to do good but also naivety. The page is ready to swing into action, but he is not sure what his calling is or just how to get to work at it. If you draw the Page of Swords, it means you are ready for action, so keep your eyes out for a chance to play and when you do, make sure you act with goodness in your heart or else your ignorance could get the best of you. In the Five of Cups, the white has a more complex meaning. The snow on two homeless beggars means coldness and harsh conditions, but also represents the purifying and cleansing effect of such trying times on the soul.
There are other colors on these cards such as brown which can signify masculinity and violet which can mean distant desire, but those listed above are the most meaningful and common. To add to your understanding of each color, pay attention to the palette of your life and use your observations to add depth and nuance to your tarot readings.