The Life Force – Red

“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

30 thoughts on “The Life Force – Red

  1. Good morning Rebecca,

    I love the color red. It makes so much difference when you do photography. A little dot of red…

    Also I love the work of Jan van Eyck. The ” Arnolfini Wedding” is supposedly one of the most perfect, the most beautiful paintings ever. Do you like it? I can look at for ages, again and again, all this details…The color red plays an important role.
    Only if you are interested:

    Greetings from warm and sunny Norway


    • This is an extraordinary resource for colour! Thank you so much for the link! When I was young, my parents bought a book of art. I remember looking at it over and over. That was the first time that I learned about the “Arnolfini Wedding.” There are so many details in this painting that it is easy to get lost in the story. I like it very much! Greetings from sunny Victoria BC Canada. We are attending Victoria’s 150th year of Highland games.” The bagpipes were amazing! We were supposed to have rain, but the sunshine came instead! You must have sent it over! 🙂


      • I’m glad it worked, I try to send warm sunshine all over the world. We should not only share knowledge, but whatever makes us happy… Glad you like fit.
        Big hug from Fredrikstad


      • And it is still working! Sunshine in Vancouver! This weekend I happened to meet someone who will be studying in Bergen Norway this coming September. She was so excited!! And she will be blogging about her adventure. The blogging community continues to grow!


  2. Hi Rebecca

    Red isn’t my favourite colour but it sure is a colour that says, “Look at me!” Thanks for sharing all this information. You never know what you are going to find out when you visit you!


  3. I am fascinated to learn that red is the first colour we recognise as babies. Perhaps this explains why I find splashes of red in my home so soothing. Red is deeply elemental for me. I feel sorry though for all the little insects that were once squished for the purposes of producing red 😦


    • Red is a colour of extremes that evoke strong feelings and memories. The more I read about colour, I realize that there is so much more to understand. Colours represent ideals, values, cultural norms. Our reactions to colour are deeply rooted in past experience and future aspirations. I have just scratched the surface of this subject! Your comments and presence are very much appreciated. Thank you!


    • You are so right! St. Valentine would agree. I read that it was the colour chosen to represent courtly love back a few of centuries ago…the trend continues!


  4. Red is such a powerful colour! I’d love to wear it, but I never do, it makes me feel so pale! And I loved those red theatre seats! For a while so many theatres in the UK turned to blue – it just wasn’t the same. They are returning to red again! 😀


    • I am not surprised to hear that they are coming back! Theatre seats must be red! They anticipate the excitement that will be forthcoming on stage. And I always felt elegant sitting on red velvet. I agree – red is a powerful colour that stands out in any crowd. 🙂


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