Mishkan ha-Echad

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

The Colours of Malkuth

Recently I was asked about the colours of Malkuth by a member of my Temple and it brought to mind the multiple arguments that are possible over the shades, tones, and vibrancy of the colours we use within the Golden Dawn system, and how often different Temples and magicians disagree, or, in some cases, contest each others' use of those colours in important pieces of ritual furnishings, such as the Vault of the Adepti.

While the Vault itself requires a detailed study and is a Great Work unto its own, I will address how I view the colour schemes for something a little more basic, and that is the four-fold scheme for Malkuth.

The four colours traditionally used for Malkuth in the Golden Dawn system are citrine, olive, russet, and black, representing the four-fold division of the Elements, the Four Worlds, and the other four-fold schemata that are intrinsic to the Qabalistic teachings.

In many instances we encounter pictures of a disc, such as the Earth Pentacle, or the Seal of the Watchtower of the North which are poorly coloured, often in a manner that is so far from the four colours mentioned above as to be completely unrecognisable. This has led to great confusion among many magicians who are trying to work out the appropriate colours for their implements.

To address this we need to go back to basics and not rely on what others have done. We need to think of the reasons behind the choice of colours and make our decisions based on the symbolic and practical result of what we choose, as opposed to what some picture from a faded manuscript looks like after a hundred years of wearing away beneath people's thumbs and fingers.

This has led me to come up with two main schools of thought in relation to the colours of Malkuth: a school of earthy tones and a school of vibrancy.

The former relies on the idea that Malkuth relies upon earthy variations of the standard Elemental colours we are used to within the Golden Dawn system. Instead of red we have russet, which is a slightly more brownish colour. Instead of yellow we have citrine, which is not only a gemstone but a much more earthy orange. Instead of blue we have olive, which is a kind of dullish green. Black is earthy enough and doesn't change.

From the choice of colours alone here it is clear that earthy tones were intended, so this argument relies on that for an overall less vibrant colour scheme for Malkuth, reflective of the subtle variations seen in the soil of nature.

The second argument relies on the impact of strong, potent colours. This one relies less on the philosophical reasoning behind Malkuth's colours, but on the fact that the Golden Dawn system uses vibrant colours throughout its system to great effect, including the ritual tools and regalia which we use in Temple.

This line of thought has strong support in the "flashing colours" necessary for real impact in a ritual surrounding, such as when a Candidate, starved of light beneath a thick black hoodwink, gets his or her first glimpse of the strange world around him/her with its strong, impactful colours, which leave a mark on the psyche (and the aura of the individual) much better than a faded spectrum ever could.

Some people may be inclined to solve the problem by relying on advanced colour technology at our disposal, such as the colour selections available in Photoshop. While this may give us a technical answer to what is really intended by "olive", for example, it does not necessarily solve the problem, as we cannot be certain that what is technically the colour in question was what was intended by the original Golden Dawn magicians.

The intent behind the colour choices is far more important, in my opinion, than what is technically correct by a standard that has no consideration for the magical results of or reasoning behind those choices. In such cases I believe it is more important that we come to understand the why of colour instead of blindly accepting it. If we don't search for the meaning behind all that we do then we are still wandering in darkness, with the true hoodwink yet to be removed from ours eyes.