By Hariulf OR
The white, the red and the black (sometimes black is replaced by dark blue or green) seem to be symbolic colours of great importance into the different Aryan mythologies. We find them both in the Veda and in the Edda but also in the Iranian Bundahism. Incidentally, the OR for its logo also chose those three colours. I don’t think it’s a coincidence.
Another thing that we can find both in Vedic and Eddic myths is the “trifunctional “ division of society and also of Gods. This trifunctional division of society seems to be of purely Aryan roots. The three functions are Sovereignty (for example Odin, Tyr- Mitra, Varuna), Military (Thor – Indra) and Productivity/fecunidty (Frey and Frey –Asvins). So we find this trifunctional division both with gods but also in mankind. The best example in Odinic mythlogy could be found in the Rigsthula where Heimdall/Rig gives the different function to mankind. He gives rise to Jarl (Sovereignty), Karl (Military) and Thraell (Productivity/fertility). We find the same system in the Vedic hymns where the society is divided in 3 principal “varnas” (castes) + one “varna” of untouchables: Brahman (Sovereignty), Kshatriya (Military), Vaishya (Productivity) but they also add a fourth caste: the Shudra (the untouchables, the non-Aryans).
Now, what is really interesting is that those “varnas” (varnar means colour) are symbolised by the white, red and black colours. White for the Brahman, red for the Kshatriya and black for the Vaishya.
In the Rigsthula the depiction of the different children engendered by Heimdal/Rig also use those three colours:
Great-grandmother bore a swarthy boy; with water they sprinkled him, called him Thrall. Forthwith he grew and well he throve, but tough were his hands with wrinkled skin, with knuckles knotty and fingers thick; his face was ugly, his back was humpy, his heels were long. Straightway ‘gan he to prove his strength, with bast a-binding loads a-making, he bore home faggots the livelong day.
Thrall depicts the third function: productivity/fertility
A child had Grandmother, Karl they called him, and sprinkled with water and swathed in linen, rosy and ruddy, with sparkling eyes. He grew and throve, and forthwith ‘gan he to break in oxen, to shape the harrow, to build him houses and barns to raise him, to fashion carts and follow the plough.
Karl depicts the second function: the “military”.
Then a boy had Mother; she swathed him in silk, and with water sprinkled him; called him Jarl. Light were his locks, and fair his cheeks, flashing his eyes like a serpent’s shone.
Jarl depicts the first function: sovereignty/priesthood.
When reading the Rigveda, I was reminded of this by reading the hymn I.36:
6. Three heavens there are; two Savitar’s, adjacent: in Yama’s world is one, the home of heroes, as on a linch-pin, firm, rest things immortal: he who hath known it let him here declare it.
It was not directly by the hymn itself but rather because the French translator put a note that I find really interesting with this hymn saying that these three heavens are the sky during, day, the sky during night and the sky during dawn/dusk. He also adds colours for each “sky”. White for the day sky, black for the night sky and red for the dawn/dusk sky. I think this really made sense. First in a natural observation because effectively the day sky can be seen as (white or fair), the night sky is obviously black and the dawn/dust sky is often red. These three colours are also described in the RV as the three different colours of Agni’s fires.
From all this emerges a hierarchy that can be outlined in the ordering of the three “areas” recognized for example by Julius Evola as being “taditional”: Thought, Speech and Action:
1. Clear (White) principle: the day-sky:
Thought is true to the “tradition”, straight, with no ulterior motive, thoughtful, aware of its purpose.
The word is rare, sensible, efficient and sometimes enigmatic
The act is technically perfect.
2. Red principle: dawn and dusk sky:
The mind is not very thoughtful, sensitive to “request”, oriented toward the act.
The speech, sometimes reckless, can cause the action, which can be an agent (heroic challenge).
The action is the “raison d’être” of the individual.
3. Black principle: related to the night-sky in its negative aspects:
The mind is empty, thoughtless, slow.
The speech is poor or reduced to idle chatter.
The action is all in obedience, without personal initiative.
I also think that those colours can be viewed in a more cosmic way: for example in connection with the four cosmic ages. White: Satra Yuga; Black: Kali Yuga; Red: Tetra Yuga and Dwapara Yuga. We can also maybe make a connection with the spring equinox (red), Summer Solstice (white), autumn equinox (red) and winter solstice (black).
In reading the Veda, we find the idea that three conditions are essential to the life: fire (or heat) – water – earth. The three colours illustrate these three criteria are: Red (Fire-Heat) – White (water) – Black (Earth).
Also, in the ancient Aryans writings from India we find that for the individual being, we speak of three “qualities” or three “spiritual principles”: the “three sons” (Guna). At each of these “sons” is attached a colour: Sattva (goodness) is a bright principle, bright white; Rajas (passion) is a red principle; Tamas (spiritual inertia) is a black principle, “darkness”.
We also find these three colours in more “recent” writing. For example we find them (with the addition of the green but I think that green, like blue can be equate with black too.) in the “Cligés” a poem by the medieval French poet Chrétien de Troyes, dating from around 1176.
“…As a young man, the future emperor Alexander left home to become a knight in King Arthur’s court, where he wedded Arthur’s niece and begat Cligés. Just before dying, he tells his son that he in turn should go to Arthur’s court and test himself against the king’s knights, remaining incognito. He should even fight with Gawain if the occasion arises. In due course Cligés sets off for England, leaving his beloved Fenice and taking with him four differently-coloured horses. A four-day tournament is to be held on the plain between Wallingford and Oxford in a fortnight’s time. Having arrived with the white equipment in which he had been knighted beside the Danube, he now sends three squires to London to purchase black, red and green sets of equipment, and to keep their purchases concealed.
On day I of the tournament Arthur, with some of his very best knights, takes up his position nearer Oxford. From his side there rides forth Sagremor the Unruly, ‘a pillar to equal any of the four best knights known’. Cligés, in totally black armour, rides forth from the other side on his black horse Morel. He defeats Sagremor and others, retires to his lodgings, hides his black arms and remains unrecognised. On day II, in green armour, he rides his fawn-coloured horse and defeats Lancelot of the Lake. On day III, in red armour and on his chestnut horse, he defeats Perceval. Though his identity and lodging remain unknown, the knights now realise that the black, green and red knight is a single individual. For day IV, Gawain modestly volunteers to challenge the stranger, who now rides his white horse and wears white. This time the fight is stopped by Arthur before either party wins. The stranger is invited to court, and now that he has fulfilled his father’s instructions, Cligés goes happily and promptly, dressed in the French style. After a feast he reveals his identity to the king…”
If we try to equate with the different three functions: Sagremor and Lancelot are in the third function (Sagremor productivity and Lancelot fecundity. It’s totally a personal and subjective view, but according to my knowledge of the Arthurian’s myths, I equate Lancelot with a kind of Elf). Perceval who is the Archetype of the Warrior in the second function and Gawain in the first function. Of course this is my personal intuition, what I feel with my guts and it’s maybe not really academic.
We also find these threes colours in several of our folk tales. For example, in Snow White: Snow White (obviously white), received a Red apple from a Black witch (the Black Queen). In the Little Red Riding Hood, a child dressed in Red, bring a small pot of White butter to her grandmother dressed in Black. In the Fox and the Crow, the Black crow drops his cheese (White) and a Red fox grab the cheese…
I’m sure that we could find many other tales, stories etc. in our mythology and folklore where these three colours are cited. To be honest, I don’t really think that we find so often these colours by chance. I think and I feel that they are more “lucky occurrences filled with meaning”. I think that these three colours that we find both in the Veda, Edda, folktales etc. are really very important symbols or archetype for the Aryans. They survive throughout our history in the “Folk Soul”, in the “blood memory” of the Aryan Folk because they are really potent symbols. Without wanting to sound political and simply staying at the symbolism level, I don’t think that it’s a coincidence that the NSDAP chose these three colours associated with the swastika as their flag. They knew that this symbol and colours would “speak” to the mind of the folk.
This is a very brief article about this subject because I’m sure that there are a lot of different things to explore about this subject. I hope to be able to go more deeper in the future. As I said at the beginning of this article, I don’t think that the OR chooses this colour per chance. It was surely another of those “lucky occurrences filled with meaning”.
Hael to The True Light of the Archetype.
Hael to the “blood memory”!
Category: Lore & Ritual