Octarine: The Imaginary Color of Magic

Octarine: The Imaginary Color of Magic

"Octarine" is a color name coined by Terry Pratchett in his Discworld novels. Octarine is said to be the color of magic, as it is apparent in the crackling and shimmering of light. The word refers to the "eighth color," in a spectrum of black, blue, green, yellow, purple, orange, and red. Octarine has been likened to a fluorescent greenish-yellow purple, a combination impossible to perceive with normal human eyes. Imagine, if you can, the marriage of these two swatches:

smile_magic magic_eyes

Scholar of magic Pete Carroll says he imagines Octarine to be "a particular shade of electric pinkish-purple," a common color in optical illusions. Who can see octarine with the naked eye? Legend has it that only wizards and felines can. That's because an ordinary eye, equipped with rods and cones, would see greenish-yellow purple as gray, black, or nothing at all, while a wizard's eye is said to be equipped with octagons. Some people claim to catch glimpses of octarine in peacock feathers, lightning bolts, rainbows, lens flares, soap bubbles, bonfires, and gemstones.

OctarineThere can be no doubt that octarine is an imaginary color. But is it preposterous to think that normal human eyes might one day be able to perceive a fluorescent greenish-yellow purple? The folks at the Conscious Entities blog posed that very question: "There has to be an octarine, doesn't there? The mere conceivability of another color shows that the spectrum is not an absolute reality. It seems to me that, just as we can always encounter a completely new smell, there would always be scope for a new color, if our eyes were able to develop new responses the way our nose presumably can. But I don't even need to rely on conceivability. Some insects can see ultraviolet light, for example, and some snakes can see infrared. They must assign to those wavelengths colors which we can't see, mustn't they?"

OctarineTheir conclusion, however, is negatory: "Look at the way the spectrum forms a closed circle. If we extended it downwards below red, we should simply get another, lower, violet. Now I grant you that the 'lowerness' would have to be expressed in some way - possibly as 'warmth.' The colors of the visible spectrum are differentiated in terms of warmth, so perhaps the lower violet would appear distinctly warmer than the one we're used to (great scope for interior decorators...). I repeat, the spectrum is a reality. You can call it a mathematical reality if that helps, but it's real. If we saw color the way we hear pitch, all this would be obvious. But the fact that we can't see color harmonies or more than a single octave of colors means there's never been any scope for a genius to come along and produce a regularized interpretation of the spectrum, the way J.S.Bach did for the musical scale."

The COLOURlovers library shimmers with magical colors, though as of this writing there's no color named "octarine." Some magic colors include:

the_magic magic_teal

magic_lime Purple_Magic

Magic_Power magic_blue

magic magic

magical magic

magic green_magic

magical_blue Black_Magic

Magic_Blue Magic_Red

magic Magic

Cover by Perla.

Craig ConleyAbout the Guest Author, Craig Conley
Craig is an independent scholar and author of dozens of strange and unusual books, including a unicorn field guide and a dictionary of magic words. He also loves color: Prof. Oddfellow


Are you inspired by the colors found here? Check out Creative Market to find some magical ideas for your project.

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Showing 1 - 15 of 15 Comments
ahhh, this stretches my mind, but it's very interesting.
Oh yes I made this one a while ago:
Maybe it is the color of those cars you see sometimes that shimmer between purple and green. It is a special paint that does it...
I've never heard of this before. Very interesting!
I once had a skirt that from one angle looked bluish purple and from another it looked green.

I totally agree with the theory that there are colors out there we cannot see. I mean supposedly dogs can't see colors, but we know red and orange and purple are out there. So just maybe octarine really does exist, we just lack the ability to see it!

Invisible Colors
Since we perceive color in three dimensions, (cones in the eye perceive levels of red, green, and blue), It is likely this color exists to other animals who's biology allow them to perceive four or more dimensions of color at a time. Our attempt to bring that version of reality into our own through color pallets hearken back to the Modernist study of spacial dimension, and cubist art. Like a dog creating it's very best representation of 'color' but only using black and white, is it the impossible goal or is it the tireless journey that really defines our humanity?
I was going to make the color "octarine" just to be the one who made it. Then I realized, if it's a color we can't see, it wouldn't be found in any hex code.
It may be like this color. It is not possible to map it exactly because it is out of bounds of the RGB area that we can show.
love this discussion and article. :)

and one i did a long time ago
kinds of magic
The Color Of Magic
i did this recently inspired by pratchett. i think octarine has to be the kind of colour you only see internally... not something that can be reproduced... it can only be conjured. www.etsy.com/listing/107467415/octarine-field
Octarine, here. ;)

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