I’m passionately involved in life:
I love its change, its colour, its movement.
To be alive, to be able to see, to walk, to have houses, music, paintings – it’s all a miracle.’

Arthur Rubinstein

In my article of 31st January, 2011 I wrote about some of the research done based on the way in which we see and interpret colours. In the last three articles I’ve followed the Chakra colours and researched red, orange, and yellow – today we’ll explore green.

Colour represents culture, social customs, emotions and is found all around us – nature, in homes, in art, in design, on web-sites, in graphics. Colour is unavoidable. Research has shown that colour influences people through psychological changes. Certain colours are associated with certain feelings. Certain colours are associated with certain meanings.

Green, like the previous 3 colours has a wavelength and frequency, which Newton included in his spectrum of colours. Red, yellow and blue; as the primary colours, are the only colours that cannot be ‘created’ by mixing other colours together. The three secondary colours – Green, Orange, Violet – are each a mixture of two primary colours; and green is created by mixing blue and yellow.

So how does green have an impact on our lives? Green is the colour that occupies more space in the spectrum that is visible to the human eye than most other colours. Second only to green is blue as a favourite colour. Green is the pervasive colour in the natural world, which is what makes it an ideal colour for the backdrop colour in interior design. The reason for this is that we are so used to seeing it everywhere. The natural greens – from forest green to lime – are seen as tranquil and refreshing, with a natural balance of cool and warm (this is due to the blue and yellow); and is also considered the colour of peace and ecology. Interestingly green has been chosen as an ‘institutionalised’ colour and is now associated with illness and in the USA, government issued green cards – both of which conjures up negative emotions. This is also true of the slimy and bilious greens.

Green is a colour that soothes us, relaxes us mentally as well as physically, it can help alleviate depression, nervousness, and anxiety. Green offers a sense of renewal, self-control, and harmony. The colour green is often associated with life, youth, and vitality. Green is the colour of Venus (the Roman goddess of love and beauty).

Green is the prime colour of the world, and that from which it’s loveliness arises.
Pedro Calderon de la Barca

Unlike some of the other colour names that we’ve explore or will explore, the English word green remains remarkably close to its original spelling and meaning. The ancient cultures connected the colour green with life, youth and vitality and that’s how we often connect the colour green. The word got its start from the word ‘gro-‘ which meant to ‘grow’, from the Proto-Indo-Europeans. The word didn’t change that much, and the West Germanic people used the word ‘gronja’. Today we see that those languages which were derived from West Germanic have similar words, with the modern German having ‘grun’ and the Dutch and Afrikaans ‘groen’. When the Saxon’s invaded England, the word changed to ‘grene’, which is an old English word that looks almost identical to the modern world of ‘green’.

Green is the colour of the HEART CHAKRA, which is also known as the Anahata. This chakra is located at the centre of chest area and is linked to the heart, lungs, circulatory system, cardiac plexus, and the complete chest area. The Heart Chakra is an important Chakra as this is the one that bridges the gap between our physical world and our spiritual world. When you select to open your heart chakra, you’ll find that you can love more, empathise, and feel compassion. Gemstones that will aid the Heart Chakra include jade and malachite. Elaine discussed this chakra in her article titled ‘The ‘list’, the fear, and the hope …’.

How is green represented around the globe? Worldwide the colour green is used to represent safety. In Portugal, green represents the colour of hope, as it is associated with spring. In Scotland, people wore green as a mark of honour. In Ghardaia and other parts of M’zab, those inhabitants who have painted their houses green indicate that they have made the pilgrimage to Mecca. This is also true of the Muslims who carry a green flag or wear a green turban after they have made their pilgrimage to Mecca. The Muslim prayer rugs are designed with a green background. In Iran, the colours green, blue-green, and blue are sacred colours as they symbolise paradise. Green is the national and emblematic colour of Ireland; where green also represents the vast green hillsides and Ireland’s patron saint, St. Patrick. In Japan, green is regarded as the colour that symbolises eternal life. Green was considered to be royal in the Aztec culture, as it was the colour of the quetzal plumes used by the Aztec chieftains. The only national flag of a single colour is that of Libya and it’s a solid green flag. In China, green denotes east, and the jade stones represent virtue and beauty. In fashion design, there is a superstition that sewing with green thread on the eve of a fashion show brings bad luck to that design house. In Egypt the floors of the temples were green. For the Greeks and Moors, green signified victory.

In a number of religions, green is associated with the resurrection and regeneration. The prophet Mohammed wore a green cloak and turban. In the Celtic myths, the God of Fertility was associated with green. Green is the colour associated with Sunday in the Catholic Church, and the alter cloth is usually green for Sunday Services. While orange represents the Irish-Protestants, green is the colour that represents the Irish-Catholics. Early Christians (later in the millennium) banned green as it had been used in pagan ceremonies.

Green, which is Nature’s colour, is restful, soothing, cheerful, and health-giving.
Paul Brunton

Green also has political associations. Green has been adopted by ecological supports as the colour that represents their movement. More and more, the word ‘green’ is seen as a political ideology and is used to represent environment goals.

There are a number of popular phrases that include the word ‘green’:

  • get the green light – get approval to move ahead with a project or task
  • green corn – represents the young, tender ears of Indian corn
  • green thumb (USA) or green fingers (UK) – the individual has an unusual ability to make plants grow
  • green room – a room in a theatre or studio) where performers can relax before or after their appearances
  • greenback – the notes that represent money in the USA are often referred to as ‘greenbacks’
  • greener pastures – moving towards or onto something new.
  • green with envy – jealousy or being envious
  • greenhorn – novice, apprentice, trainer, beginner
  • green around the gills – looking ill, pale, sickly, nauseous
  • turn green – to look ill, to look pale, to look as though you are going to be ill – vomit maybe
  • going green – a phrase we are hearing more and more these days. Generally means when someone or something makes a change to help protect the environment. It could relate to natural power like solar, or reducing waste maybe by recycling, or reducing pollution maybe by walking or cycling rather than driving

Green has always been associated with Kermit the frog.

There are a number of companies who brands identify them with the colour green – H&R Block, BP, Heineken, Starbucks, Rolling Rock, The Masters Golf Tournament, Garnier Fructis, Save the Earth, Go Green, recycling, Energy Star, European Eco Label, Rainforest Alliance, Eco Bikes, Living Heirloom, Helping Hands for Pets. In logos green represents crisp, environmental, fresh, harmony, health, healing, inexperience, money, nature, renewal, tranquillity; it represents life and renewal. Green is used in logos as it is a restful and soothing colour and you’ll find it used in companies that now want to represent themselves as eco-friendly. It is also a suitable logo choice for a TV programme/channel that is focusing solely on nature and animals.

Pure emerald green, particularly if it has a dash of blue, is the colour of healing.
It is helpful, strong, friendly.’

Edgar Cayce

Green is used throughout the world to represent safety. When we see it as a colour at traffic lights (robots) we know that we can drive on. It’s the same in car racing, a green flag signals the start of the race and if necessary and the restart or resumption of the race. In Judo, the green belt symbolises green trees – just as a green tree is the tallest living thing, so should our own pursuit of knowledge be the same, aim high, keep the goal of our achievements in high esteem.

Green is the fresh emblem of well-founded hopes.
In blue the spirit can wander, but in green it can rest.

Mary Webb

How is green represented in your garden? Green is one of the cooler colours in landscape design and it brings in a soothing and relaxing element to your garden. Green plants visually recede, which helps to make a small space appear much larger. In the garden, green’s complimentary colour is red – red flowers stand out beautifully against green.

How does the colour green impact your sense of taste and smell? Green vegetables are abundant and are the most nutritious – green beans, snap peas, salad leaves (cabbage, lettuce), asparagus, brussels sprouts, avocado, peppers, garden peas, pak choy, celery, cress, spinach, cucumber, broccoli, to list just a few. Then there is the green fruits – not seen as often, but if we look at the kiwi fruit for example. This has more vitamin C than an equivalent amount of orange – yet the orange is always quoted as the fruit to eat to get more vitamin C. What about green tea? This is now gaining more popularity in the western world – it’s health benefits and to some, it’s natural aroma, make green tea appealing to many – both tea and non-tea drinkers. In relation to smell, green is often used to present scents that bring about calm. Lime is a fragrance that is refreshing, purifying, and often uplifting. It’s frequently the aroma that is used for cooling on hot summer days.

Some interesting information about the colour green – green is:

  • Brides wore green in the middle ages to symbolise fertility.
  • Leonardo da Vinci declared that green represented water.
  • Green means ‘go’. This is a worldwide presentation – traffic lights are a good example, but also when ‘all systems are green’ it does mean that everything is in order.
  • Green is youthful.
  • ‘A green’ is often used to refer to a common or village park.
  • People who work in green environments have fewer stomach aches.
  • Green is beneficial around teething infants.
  • Suicides dropped 34% when London’s Blackfriar Bridge was painted green.
  • Green was George Washington’s (the first president of the USA) favourite colour.
  • The colour green signifies mystical or magical properties in the stories about King Arthur.
  • Green is used for night-vision goggles because the human eye is most sensitive to and able to discern the most shades of green.
  • Bright green is the colour of the astrological sign ‘Cancer’.
  • Green ribbons have been used by a range of groups – environmental groups, symbolising organ donation and transplant, awareness of Bipolar Disorder, solidarity with Chechnya, support of the farmers in the USA.
  • NASCAR drivers have shared a bias against the colour green for many years. This is reported to having started after the accident that killed defending Indianapolis 500 champion, Gaston Chevrolet in Beverley Hills in 1920. It was the first known accident in the USA that killed two drivers and it was reported that Gaston Chevrolet was driving a green car. The fear of green is fading as the sponsorship rates increase. Tim Richmond once refused to be sponsored by Folger’s decaffeinated coffee (their primary colour was green); but accepted sponsorship from Folger’s regular coffee (whose primary colour was red). Green is now the primary colour of cars driven by Mayfield, Marlin, and Yeley as sponsorship reaches US$15million to drive cars splashed with the sponsors colours.
  • By the 1860’s Parisian cafes had established 5pm as the ‘l’heure verte’ (the green hour) because French soldiers drank absinthe as a prophylactic against disease in the 1840 Algerian wars. The French soldiers brought it home. Absinthe dates back to 1792 when Dr. Pierre Ordinaire commercialised it as a cure-all. In 1805 Henri-Louis Pernod founded the Pernod Fils absinthe company as he saw it’s potential as an aperitif.
  • Green is the one colour that represents ‘low’ or ‘guarded’ in the colour-coded threat system. Green quickly informs law enforcement agencies when intelligence indicates a lower of the terrorist threat facing the USA.

Driving a green vehicle gives a clear but unspoken message to the rest of the world. Selecting the colour of your vehicle is just an extension of your personality. Where we select a second-hand vehicle and are not buying new, colour still plays it’s part in our selection. I can remember in 1996 when I joined an international organisation and was choosing my car – the manufacturer representative offered me a car of metallic unusual blue and I can remember thinking – driving that for a year would be fun, but for two to four years – no way! What would people think if I had chosen that colour and then selected to buy the car when I left the company (as I did with my current car)? Dark green cars send the message that you are traditional, trustworthy, well-balanced. If you select to drive a bright yellow-green car you give the impression of being trendy, whimsical, lively.

Life is a celebration of passionate colours.
Leialoha Cator

This quote brings back some real laughs I’ve had this past week. I am back to house hunting and unlike in times gone past when you went to the town you wanted to live in, walked around all the estate agents, registered with each one and then sat back to wait for them to select the type of house that you might like to visit, view, and hopefully purchase; today I’m spending hours on the internet with some very strange search engine results. There I was trawling through one website … some fabulous properties … but the one thing that struck me was the colours that people chose to paint their rooms. I’ve seen bedrooms painted bright red; not peaceful, relaxing, calming but the opposite. I’ve seen living rooms with multiple colours on different walls. It made me wonder what makes people select the colour or colours that they paint their rooms. What type of environment are they looking to create?

Sometimes I imagine colours as if they were living ideas,
being of pure reason with which to communicate.
Nature is not on the surface, it is deep down.

Paul Cézanne

© 2011 Barbara J. Cormack
First published under Cormack’s Capers in Magna Intuitum