Sacred Symbols

Exploring the symbols, metaphors and archetypal patterns found in myth, pop culture, nature, literature, oracles, astrology, religion, psychology, Tarot, art and history.

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Seeing Red - Symbolism of Red for Romance, Love and Sex

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

Quick: Think of symbols relating to love, romance and sex.

If you're reading this near Valentine's Day, you've already been bombarded with ads, decorations and posts that likely feature many symbols tied to these areas.

Besides making for fascinating study, researching and understanding symbols also serve our spiritual, magickal, interpersonal, creative and artistic expressions. We can incorporate such symbols into rituals, spells, talismans, art, greeting cards, love letters, bouquets, homemade jewelry, gris gris bags, storytelling and more. 

Color Symbolism

I love this passage on color symbolism from my favorite book on the topic, The Book of Symbols: Reflections on Archetypal Images (Taschen):

Imagination built fantasies on the developing science of color, from Aristotle's mixing of elemental hues to Newton's prismatic splitting of a sunbeam into a spectrum of seven primary colors (correlated with the seven planets and the heptatonic musical scale), and Goethe's insistence on the importance of shadings. Colors convey feeling values, relationships and contrasts, dramas and tensions, the nature of matter and its processes and transmutations. They can suggest temperament, class, vocation and hierarchy. Colors define, differentiate and blend. While color is a means of expression, it evolved as a factor of survival.

Whether used for spellcraft (candles, ribbons, crystals, ink), artistic choices, floral arrangements, storytelling motifs, jewelry or clothes, color transmits specific information (even if only subconsciously)--especially with combined with specific, strong intention. The most common hue associated with romance, love and sex is the stimulating yet ambiguous color red.

Red Symbolism for Romance, Love and Sex

Red paint heart 500

Blood, fire, libido, vitality, desire--arguably the boldest we can perceive, red transmits a specific light wavelength that increases "muscle tone, blood pressure and breath rate" (Taschen, 638)--the same biological reactions to sexual arousal. In addition to passion and lust, red connects to the red planet, Mars, the god of war, violence and aggression.

Thus, the color red embodies an interesting push/pull dynamic: it attracts us, but also freezes us in our tracks (stop sign, anyone?). 

During sexual arousal, blood flows to our face, causing us to flush and blush, as well as to our reproductive organs. In some animals, red coloration of the genitals becomes quite pronounced, announcing "I'm ready to have sex!".  Red, plump lips are said to mimic swollen genital labia--the origin of glossy crimson lipstick. 

To convey romance or sexual readiness, teen girls make red hearts, women don red lipstick, dresses or negligees, and horny men visit "red light" districts. In an ancient form of sl_t shaming, the Biblical whore of Babylon wears a robe of red, while Hester Prynne was forced to wear the Scarlet Letter "A" (for adulteress).

In her book The Element Encyclopedia of Secret Signs and Symbols, Adele Nozedar notes the marital symbolism of red:

Red wedding dress

In India and China, red is the traditional color for weddings. Indian brides wear saris of red or pink, and the Chinese happy color will be surrounded by a veritable sea of red; clothing, souvenirs, and gifts. Even the home of the bride and groom are decorated with red banners and ribbons. Roman brides, too, favored red for their wedding veil, which was called a flammeum. This tradition is shared by modern Greek brides.

So if you're going to perform any love rituals or spells--or perhaps want to convey romance to someone via art, jewelry or flowers--red would be a perfect color to bolster your intention, transmit your feelings and speed up manifestation...Valentine's Day, or any day.

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Janet Boyer is the author of Back in Time Tarot and Tarot in Reverse, as well as the co-creator (with her husband, artist Ron Boyer) of the Snowland Deck and Coffee Tarot. With her teen son, she created the Boyer Charming Oracle and Animal Totems Charm Oracle. Currently, Janet is working on her third and fourth traditionally-published Tarot books, both forthcoming from Dodona Books—Naked Tarot: Sassy, Stripped Down Advice from the Cards and 365 Tarot: Daily Insights. As a respected, trusted Amazon Hall of Fame/Vine Reviewer, she's penned over 1,200 published reviews that have also been featured in print magazines and other online outlets. In addition to being a Tarot teacher, author, deck creator and professional reader, she is also a frequent radio guest (and former host), essayist, short story writer and homeschooling Mom. Her hobbies include cultivating flowers, tending biota, watching retro TV on DVDs (60s + 70s), trying new recipes (she's an award-winning cook), serving as a Patron of the Arts, photography and reading (especially mysteries/suspense). Visit Janet online at JanetBoyer.com.

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