Magical Powers of the Color Red

August 25, 2011 at 10:30 am

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By Billie Rubin, Hemoglobin’s Catabolic Cousin, reporting from the labs of Stanford Blood Center

Red, the color of blood, was once thought to have magical powers. Cro-Magnon man painted the sick and dead red, hoping to contain the life force. Early Egyptians painted their bodies with blood to ward off sickness. Later, pastes and dyes were substituted in the practice – a forerunner of makeup. In early England, red coverings were put on beds to treat smallpox, and strips of red cloth were used as cures for scarlet fever.

In many indigenous Australian Aboriginal peoples’ traditions, red ochre, a color-producing earth pigment, is considered “Maban” (a magical material), and is applied to the bodies of dancers for ritual. In some secret ceremonies, actual blood is used as it is believed to attune the dancers to the invisible energetic realm of the Dreamtime, the belief that an individual’s soul exist before their life begins and continues to exist after death.

What else comes to mind for you as an association with the color red?