The Ancient Egyptians had a rich culture full of advance communication, art & science. We know all this because of the record they left behind, but what we might not realize is how important color symbolism was to them, and how color plays an integral part in understanding that history. Color was often used purely as symbolism, rather then for realistic accuracy of a subject. A king might be painted with black skin, but it was only to assure the fertility of the land to his subjects, as black was used to symbolize fertility. Many other examples like this exist throughout their culture. By taking a look at the meanings behind each color, maybe we can gain a better understanding of this, or any, culture. Egyptian Color Symbolism
Here are some Egyptian color symbolism theories broken down by color.
The Egyptian palette was made up of six colors all created from minerals: red (desher), green (wadj), blue (khesbedj and irtiu), yellow (kenit and khenet), black (khem or kem), and white (shesep and hedj).
Night, Death, Resurrection, Fertility
- The black silt of the Nile.
- The king of the afterlife, Osiris, was called "the black one."
Omnipotence, Purity, Cleanliness, Simple, Sacred
- The holy city of Memphis meant "White Walls."
- Sandals, bowls and the Apis Bulls' embalming table used during holy ceremonies were white.
Life, Victory, Anger, Fire, Chaos
- Mummies of pharaohs contained a tiny reproduction of the human heart, which was always made from a red stone.
- Egyptians would paint their bodies with red ochre and would wear amulets made of cornelian, a deep red stone.
- Seth, the god who stood at the prow of the sun's barque and slew the serpent Apep daily, had red eyes and hair.
Imperishable, Eternal, Indestructible
- Mummy masks and cases of the pharaohs were often made of gold.
Vegetation, New life, Growth
- The Book of the Dead makes reference to the deceased becoming a falcon "whose wings are of green stone", referring to new life and rebirth.
- Wadj, the word for green, means to flourish or be healthy.
- Green malachite was a symbol of joy. "Field of malachite" was used when speaking of the land of the blessed dead.
Sky, Water, Heavens, Primeval Flood, Creation, Rebirth
- The phoenix, a symbol of the primeval flood, was based on the gray-blue heron and was usually portrayed with bright blue feathers to emphasize its association with the waters of creation.
Thanks to Iona for the suggestion.