“I love bright red drinks, don’t you? They taste twice as good as any other colour.”
L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables
Everything about red is passionate, strong and vital. It is the colour of the spectrum that demands our full attention, knowing that we can feel the life force of red blood flowing through our bodies. Red is the first colour that we recognize as babies; it continues to grab our attention into old age. For centuries, red has been associated with protection. Amulets made from garnets and rubies, bestowed invincibility on the wearer.
Kermes, a red dye, was first made in the Neolithic Period, by crushing the female bodies of a tiny scale insect (Kermes genus). It seems that the sap these insects lived on, primarily from the Kermes oak, produced the red. Assyrians and Persians used a different variety that lived on roots and stems, called Kermes of Armenia. The people in early North America made dye from the Cochineal, an insect from the same family as the Kermes.
Ancient Egyptians associated red with life, health and victory. Ancient Romans used red to colour the skins of their gladiators as well as the murals that decorated their luxurious villas. Over the centuries, red became known as the colour for celebration, pageantry and ceremony. Robes of scarlet have been worn by clergy and academics alike. The red velvet seats of opera houses and theatres enhanced the cultural experience.
On the opposite extreme, red is the colour of war, aggression and danger. In ancient times, it was the colour given to Mars, the god of War. Today, we hold the red poppy flower as our tribute to those who served their country. If I were the colour red, I would prefer being known for joyousness, rather than anger. As Eleanor Roosevelt said so eloquently, “No one won the last war, and no one will win the next war.”
“Red lips are not so red as the stained stones kissed by the English dead.”
Wilfred Owen, The Poems Of Wilfred Owen