Red Throughout the Ages

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Author: Eveanyn al'Grace

Throughout all of history the color red has left its mark. It evokes more feelings and signifies more circumstances than any other color. This is an account brought to you by a humble Accepted of the Red Ajah to let all know what red has represented in the past, how it is thought of today, and most importantly, what red means within the Red Ajah.

Red in Antiquity

Red was the first color perceived by man. Neolithic hunter peoples considered red to be the most important color endowed with life-giving powers. It is thought that they painted animals in red ochre or iron oxide to conjure their fertility. Neolithic hunters and Germanic warriors used to paint their weapons and even themselves in blood of slain animals.

Protective powers of the color red against evil influence were common belief. Objects, animals and trees were covered in red paint, warriors painted their axes and spear-catapults red to endow the weapons with magic powers. Some of the Australian aborigines abide by this custom up to the present times. Roman gladiators drank blood of their dying adversaries to take over their strength. In other cultures, the newly born were bathed in blood of particularly strong and good looking animals. Red painted amulets or red gems, such as ruby or garnet, were used as charms against the "evil eye". Wearing a red ruby was supposed to bring about invincibility. Red bed-clothes were customary in Germany up to the Middle Ages as protection against the "red illnesses", such as fever, rashes or even miscarriages (famous example is the painting Arnolfini Wedding by Jan Van Eyck, dated 1434).

Cultural, Religious, and Mythological Connotations

Red garlands and red scarves were part of wedding customs in many cultures. Red wedding gown was en vogue in Nurnberg of the 18th century, but this tradition goes back to Roman times: Roman brides were wrapped in a fiery red veil, the flammeum, which should warrant love and fertility. Greek, Albanian and Armenian brides wear red veils even today. Chinese brides are wearing red wedding gowns and are carried to the ceremony in a red litter. Money in Chinese society is traditionally given in red packets. Neighbors bring red eggs to the couple after a child is born.

Israelites in biblical times painted their doorframes in red blood to scare demons. Red in ancient Egypt was the color of the desert and of the destructive god Seth who impersonated evil. "Making red" was synonymous with killing someone, and evil doings were referred to as "red affairs". Salvation from evil is the subject of an ancient Egyptian charm: "Oh, Isis, deliver me from the hands of all bad, evil, red things!" Writers of Egyptian papyri used a special red ink for nasty words.

The Emperor alone was allowed to wear purple robes during Roman times (and of course you know that purple is a saturation of red). Senators had to make do with purple ribbons on their togas. German emperors continued the tradition of wearing purple robes as a symbol of power and they were joined by the cardinals in 1468.

Strict clothing regulations were enforced in Europe up to the times of the French Revolution. Pure colors were reserved exclusively for the rich nobility. Wearing red coats was the exclusive right of the nobility in medieval times and the red robes of kings, cardinals, judges and executioners announced their power over life and death.

The Germanic god Thor had red hair. Animals such as the robin, the fox and the squirel were Thor's sacred creatures. Beard and eyes of Wotan, the Germanic god of hunt, were fiery red too. Advent of Christianity diminished the power of these two Germanic gods. They were transformed into the devil with his red hair and red beard. Red haired women were reputed to be witches and whores and the poppy became the devil's flower. Sexuality which was also associated with red was demonized in Christianity.

In Christianity, red represents the color of fire and so symbolizes the presence of God. It is the liturgical color for Pentecost. It is also considered the color of the Catholic Church, since red can also symbolize the blood of martyrs. It is sometimes used for Holy Thursday and during Eastertide. In Catholic tradition it is used for Palm Sunday in anticipation of the death of Jesus.

Being the color of blood, red was associated with the Roman mythology god of war, Mars, and the reddish planet Mars became named after him. The phrase "red-blooded" describes someone who is audacious, robust, or virile; it is sometimes used to contrast with a cold or effete "blue blood".

In the United States a red ribbon represents awareness of heart disease.

Hungarian has two words for red, medium piros and dark vörös, which are distinct colors the way red and pink are distinct colors in English.

In Turkish there are numerous words for red: Al generally refers to the color of blood and related things (blushing, Turkish flag); Kızıl is bright red, and generally refers to fire or rebellion (sunset, communist). Kırmızı is a more general word for red, without strong emotional meaning.


Red rose is the symbol of love and fidelity. According to the Greek legend red roses arose from blood of Adonis who was killed by a wild boar on a hunt. In Greek mythology red rose was a symbol for the cycle of growth and decay, but also for love and affinity. Red rose is dedicated to Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and daughter of Zeus and also to Roman goddess Venus. In Christianity the red rose is associated with the Cross and the bloodshed. The rose is symbolic of both peace and war...both love and forgiveness. Interestingly, the letters of "rose" when rearranged, form the word "Eros"...God of Love. In terms of the sentiments expressed by the different colors of the rose, the commonly accepted meanings are: respect, courage, beauty, passion, purity, loveliness, and most commonly, love.

Politics and Economy

Red is the most frequently used color for national flags, mostly due to its excellent visibility. It became the symbol of communism and socialism during the Russian Revolution in 1907. Red color had usually a positive connotation in cold countries like Russia throughout history. Red Army's alternative name was "Glorious Army" and Russian words for red (krassnyj) and beautiful (krassivyj) are very similiar. Western cultures frowned upon red color in its political sense. "Better dead than red" was popular in cold war days in the US. Black swastika of the National Socialists was painted on red background to suggest association with the working classes.

In North American stock markets, red is used to denote a drop in stock prices. In East Asian stock markets, red is used to denote a rise in stock prices.

Red is the national color of Wales.

In maps of political parties, red is traditionally used for the following parties:

Australia: Labor

Brazil: Workers' Party

Canada: Liberal Party of Canada

Finland: Social Democratic Party of Finland

Germany: Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands (Social Democratic party of Germany) and Partei des Demokratischen Sozialismus (Party of Democratic Socialism)

Malta: Malta Labour Party

The Netherlands: Partij van de Arbeid (Social Democratic party), Socialistische Partij (Socialist Party)

Portugal: Portuguese Communist Party (and the Unitarian Democratic Coalition, of which the PCP is part of)

Sweden: Swedish Social Democratic Party and the Left Party (Sweden)

United Kingdom: Labour Party

United States: Republican Party, since the 2000 presidential election, when contrasted with blue representing Democratic Party.

Effects of the Color

Infrared radiation is used for healing purposes due to its warming and pleasant effect. The general effect of red is stimulating and appetizing. Mere perception of red color enhances the human metabolism by 13,4 %. It is the favorite color of children. On the other side aggression and violence can be triggered of by red color. Barnett Newman's huge red canvasses were attacked and damaged by the viewers. Spanish bullfighters bait the bulls with red cloth. Red is the color of emotional outbursts: Shame, anger, or embarrassment colors our face red. Losing control lets one "see red".

Red is the color used for critical or important systems (such as emergency lighting) that operate in low-light or night-time conditions, as rod cells in the human eye do not respond to it and therefore does not interfere in the eye's ability to focus in dim environments.

A red filter used in black and white photography increases contrast in most scenes. For example, combined with a polarizer, it can turn the sky black. Films simulating the effects of infrared film (such as Ilford's SFX 200) do so by being much more sensitive to red than to other colors.

Oxygenated blood is red due to the presence of oxygenated hemoglobin. Red light is the first to be absorbed by sea water, so that many fish and marine invertebrates that appear bright red are black in their native habitat.

In the Military

Red is the color of the coat of arms of Ħamrun, Malta.

In the United States Army, red is the color of the artillery and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Brick red is the color of the United States Army Transportation Corps, while crimson is the color of the Ordnance Corps, and Maroon is that of the Medical Corps.

In the Finnish Army, red is the color of artillery.

Usage of Red

Red catches people's attention, and is often used to indicate danger or emergency.

It is the color of heat and fire. Taps for hot water are often labeled red. Red is commonly the color of fire alarm boxes, fire extinguishers, and the firefighter profession itself.

It denotes "stop" in, for instance, stop signs, traffic signals, brake lights, or the flashing lights of a school bus.

A Red Cross, Red Crescent or Red Crystal flag signify medical personnel, facilities, or equipment, or the Geneva Conventions.

Red indicates extreme danger on Western color-coded scales, such as wildfire hazard signs or the U.S. Homeland Security Advisory System.

In auto racing, a red flag signals all cars to immediately stop.

The redline is the maximum speed an engine and its components can safely run.

Emergency exits on passenger aircraft are indicated by red signs and lighting.

"Redlining" is delineating a forbidden area (as on a map), for instance where a company denies or increases the cost of services, and is illegal in various circumstances in the U.S.

With ships on collision courses, the ship on starboard tack sees the Green for Go light on the ship on port tack, while the ship on port tack sees the Red for Stop light on the ship on starboard tack.

Rosso corsa is the traditional color of Italian race cars.

In Fiction

In the original Star Trek series, red uniforms are for engineering and security personnel. (On away missions, ensigns in a red uniform would often get killed.) From Star Trek: The Next Generation onwards, red uniforms are for command personnel.

In the Power Rangers and Super Sentai series, the Red Ranger is usually the leader of the team, and always the most powerful member. Most Red Rangers in Power Rangers and all Red Warriors in Super Sentai have been male, but there has been an exception in Power Rangers: SPD.

In the Star Wars universe, red is traditionally (although not always in the Expanded Universe) the color of light sabers used by the Sith, evil users of the Force. This is because a red lightsaber crystal is synthetically made, and therefore separated from the natural world. A red crystal is supposed to be stronger. The Jedi traditionally avoid using or making red lightsabers. In Knights of the Old Republic video games, red represents the dark side of the Force.

In the Magic: The Gathering trading card game, Red is the color associated with dealing damage, with direct-damage cards and creatures with large power in relation to toughness. See Seeing Red, an article by head Magic designer Mark Rosewater for more.

Red is the last film in the Three Colors trilogy by Krzysztof Kieślowski.

In the Disney/Pixar film, The Incredibles, red is worn by the entire Incredible Family. In the Disney on Ice play, Disney Presents Pixar's The Incredibles in a Magic Kingdom Adventure, Helen briefly has objections about how red her super-suit looks.

In the 1983 television mini-series V and V: The Final Battle (1984), as well as the short-lived weekly series that followed, all of the Visitors wear red jumpsuits.

Among the Ajah

Sadly, only two people answered this question, but please feel free to ask any member of the Red Ajah for their answer.

Adriana al'Tere Sedai: As an English major, I assign meaning to color in literary works. Sometimes, red is sex. Sometimes, it's sin. Sometimes, it's passion. I like the third one the best. Red is a saturated color, vibrant and full of life. In the last year, my outlook on life has changed drastically. I've taken the nickname "Red;" originally, it was because this was my ajah and I was the only Red at the party and a boy couldn't remember my name. Now, it's more symbolic to me. I've started living life to the fullest, with no regrets or guilt. It feels like I didn't start living until I became Red. I am passionate about whatever it is I'm doing at the moment, whether it's drinking, watching a movie, reading a book, exercising, eating, kissing, or hanging out with friends.

Osaka Sedai: As for how I see red personally, to me it kinda represents life in many ways. The red of the blood that makes you live, the red of a rose or a poppy, representing the beauty in it, the red of blood, but in the sense of pain. Also Red to me, is a sense off hastiness, it's pressing people further, and at the same time there are few things more calming then watching a nice red sunset. To me red represents to will to live on and take life however it comes at you, surpassing it's obstacles and enjoying it's beauties. I think that the red, above all have the best color to fit the ajah.

And as for myself, Eveanyn al'Grace, red is an all-encompassing color that reaches to the ends of the earth and unites people in passion, love, eroticism, and friendship. It can tear people apart in war, hatred, violence, and bloodshed. It is the plethora of meanings that makes me love red. That represents my ajah most completely, for we are everything. We are lovers, fighters, and sisters that are bonded together by something far stronger and deeper than can be imagined, but can be explained in one word: red.