Sunday, November 21, 2010

Colors in culture

I thought this was cool. Someone put together a circular graph of what different colors represent to people in different cultures (click to embiggen or visit the original website).

The cultures are, from outer ring to inner ring, Western/American, Japanese, Hindu, Native American, Chinese, Asian, Eastern European, Muslim, African, and South American.  I know we could argue about what exactly a "South American" culture is, and I wasn't able to read about how they collected this data, so we do have to take this with a grain of salt.  It is, however, still an interesting concept.

Some of the "cultures" are consistent in their view of color.  For example, most agree that purity is white, evil is black, and passion is red.  Heat is red and cold is blue (for us light-skinned peoples, those are the colors our skin turns when exposed to these temperatures!).  Death, however, can be viewed as black or white (or even blue or green).

Color identifications with concepts are culturally dependent. 

Many pagan religious practices, for example, identify the cardinal directions with specific colors but different traditions assign different colors to the same directions.  For example, in neopagan Wicca, north is green, east is yellow, south is red, and west is blue (identified with Earth, air, fire, and water respectively).  Amongst the Laktota (Sioux) Indians, north is red, east is yellow, south is white, and west is black.  In some Tibetan mandalas, north is green, east is white, south is yellow, and west is red.  The Diné (Navajo) believe north is black, east is white, south is blue, and west is yellow.

Personally, I see east as yellow for the early morning Sun, west as red for the setting Sun, south as green since it's the direction of warmth, and north as blue, the cold winds.

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