Is green a real color

Origin and symbolism of the five most important colors


Saffron yellow robes were once forbidden to the Chinese people, only the emperor and Buddhist monks were allowed to wear them. The noble color came from the pistils of saffron, a crocus that blooms in autumn and resembles the autumn crocus in our latitudes.

8000 flowers make 100 grams of brown-red, dried threads, from which the dye "crocin" can be extracted with water. Saffron has an incredible coloring power: even in a ratio of 1 to 200,000 the color remains visible. The spice was also considered an aphrodisiac and was used to color cosmetics and dishes.

The reseda plant and the cheap turmeric (turmeric) served as a substitute for the precious saffron yellow.

Saffron yellow was considered the color of love and later also of lust. Therefore, in the Middle Ages, the clergy declared yellow as the color of the prostitutes - they had to wear a yellow belt or something similar as a sign of identification.

Yellow was increasingly given negative connotations: Judas wore a yellow traitor's coat, under the National Socialists there was the yellow Star of David - as early as the 12th century, Jews had to wear a yellow hat for the same reasons. Terms like gall yellow or yellow with envy became commonplace. The sunny yellow also stands for knowledge and maturity.


There is no substitute for real purple. The royal dye is still the most expensive today. Purple symbolized power and so the kings of Israel and the emperors of Persia were already wrapped in purple robes. Under Nero, on threat of the death penalty, no one else was allowed to wear this color than the Roman emperor.

In 1468 Pope Paul II introduced the purple for cardinals. The color should symbolize loyalty to the Pope up to and including bloodshed.

Paul II introduced the cardinal's gown, a majestic, purple-red ceremonial robe to distinguish the members of the Holy Quorum from other clergymen. However, they soon made do with carmine red, which comes from the koschenille lice.


The color of fire, passion and blood is common in nature. Red pigments are made from iron oxide, red ocher, bolus, red chalk or cinnabar. Henna, madder, and the koschenille lice are also good painters.

All over the world, red has a tremendous symbolic effect. Adam is said to have originated from red earth and Chinese women wear red to weddings because it is the color of the feminine. Incidentally, red wedding dresses were still a lucky custom in this country in the 18th century.

Red was supposed to protect against evil forces, it was considered a magical color. Primitive peoples bathed their weapons in blood, like Siegfried the dragon slayer once did. Whoever wore a ruby ​​felt invulnerable and red bedding was supposed to protect against diseases.

The executioners were also given the color of power: their red robes signaled their function as rulers over life and death. Even today, the judges of the Federal Constitutional Court wear a gown made of red wool.

However, red also has negative meanings, is considered the color of demons and devils. Redheads were traded as witches in the Middle Ages and early modern times, and neither the red fox nor the "red devils" of communism were trusted. The color has been politically occupied since the Russian Revolution in 1907: The Russian word "krasnaja" means "red" and "beautiful" at the same time.

Red signals danger in road traffic: red lights indicate a standstill, brake lights and alarm buttons are also red. Animals also use the signal color during courtship or as a deterrent.


Green means fertility. Etymologically, the word comes from the Germanic "ghro", which means "to grow" or "to flourish". Leaves are green because of the chlorophyll, but the dye can be better obtained from green earth (iron (II) silicate, magnesium silicate with clay components), malachite or verdigris.

At the time of the minstrels, green was still considered the color of love. All young, unmarried women wore green dresses so that the young man could hope that his wooing would be heard. In Korea, a bride's wedding dress still includes a green shawl, which indicates that the bride is newly married.

However, the church was suspicious of its original symbolism of fertility, and so the color was associated with something disreputable: the devil, as the hunter of souls, wore a green coat. The combination with the negative yellow was aggravating.

The so-called Schweinfurt green from 1800 was remembered as a poisonous green. This paint was made from verdigris and copper arsenite and was one of the most poisonous paints - after all, it contained arsenic.

Against all odds, green still symbolizes hope and renewal: Holy Week begins with Green Sunday, Lent ends on Maundy Thursday. An old custom calls for the consumption of green vegetables on the last day of penance and fasting as a symbol of deliverance from sin.


Blue is the color of the gods - don't they live in heaven, that infinite blue? The water also knows all shades of blue, but the color pigment is seldom tangible. Lapis lazuli, azurite, woad and indigo are a few natural sources.

Gods always wear blue robes - in ancient Babylonia as in Persia and with the Nile gods in Egypt. Indian gods have blue skin, the blue elephant is a symbol of enlightenment. Frau Holle, the Heavenly Mother, wears a wide, blue coat - as does the Virgin Mary.

The state of matter at the beginning of the world is thought of as blue light in Hinduism and German poets circled around the "blue flower" of romanticism. Blue stands for spiritual depth, infinity and, last but not least, for loyalty. This explains the old custom that a sapphire should adorn the engagement ring.

Blue is not only a friendly light that brings hope in Grimm's fairy tales. The blue lights of rescue, fire and police vehicles also want to remind of this.