Red Amongst the White

Sumac on Merry Christmas Mine Hill

I’ve been thinking about the color red recently. It’s a very magical color. Though, truth be told, any color is magical if you use it for magic. Still, red is special. It’s associated with blood and the lifeforce. Groups of prehistoric hominids used red ochre to decorate pottery and to cover the dead. We don’t know the purpose of marking graves with ochre–some say it ritually symbolized the lifeblood and rebirth; others theorize the red color kept people from accidentally digging up their dead. What we do know, however, is that the use of red ochre was purposeful, and there remains a relationship between the color red and the human will today.

Red is the default color for some charming traditions, as it represents power and protection. (You’ll notice that charm bags I make all use a red sachet.) In many neo-Pagan religions, red corresponds to the Mother aspect of the Triple Goddess. This goddess has three faces, each one representing a different phase of womanhood: Maiden, Mother, and Crone. The Mother’s traditional red color connects her with menstruation and the blood of childbirth.

That being said, I’ve never felt red was quite the right color for the Mother. Maybe this is because I work in a lunar religion, and I think of motherhood as the fullness of the white moon. For me, red seems more appropriate for the Maiden. I don’t think of the Maiden as the child but rather as the pubescent woman–she is the first step in going from sexless child to a sexual individuality. As the color of her first menstrual blood, red represents the Maiden’s burgeoning fertility and her gateway into individuation and autonomy. Red transforms the Maiden into her own woman.

Looking around the wintry landscape of the city, I see a lot of snow-capped buildings and trees dusted in white. Like a mother swaddling her baby, the white snow wraps around the sleeping world, keeping it safe until spring comes once again. As I look closer to the world around me, though, I notice small bits of red poking through the winter blanket–the sumac cones still sit atop branches; burning bush berries are strung throughout the undergrowth; and even many of the holiday decorations boast a bright red which lays in contrast to the shining snow.

These pinpricks of red seem to whisper messages of hope and patience. It is as if they are reminding us that winter is not an end, that she is in some ways a coddling mother who shields us until the time is right for us to claim our own power. The red amongst the white reminds us to be humble, to not always burn with the intensity that melts away the necessary freeze and to instead stand as hope in even the bleakest of times. I wonder, when I find myself in the winter of my soul, where is my spot of red hope? How does my winter nurture and give meaning to that red fruit?

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