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.


Anonymous said...

You're overthinking this.

Who knew about color in the early GD? Moina Mathers.

Look at color theory of primary, secondary, tertiary, and quaternary colors from her time. What would she have studied and practiced?

Members didn't agonize over choosing a motto. They either used their family mottos or just picked one out of a book of mottos. No need to make something complex when it could be easy. The same is true of the colors.

Unknown said...

There is a slight problem with the idea of colours too in that the candidates didn't ever see any ritually until they entered the vault.
When I get a spare moment I will do an updated colour list for RGB colours. Mostly because I have had enough of fiddling around with different scales. The colours of Malkuth are a case in point. I think generally though it is fine so long as an order has them and sticks to them. But the ones i have tried do not make me particularly happy. :-) The GD had three colour scales at different parts of its history and was still thinking of changing some when it folded. Part of the problem, is that on one had it was supposed to reveal something (which is now a bit out of date) about light and cabbalah.
BTW anon Mina is unlikely to have anything to do with colours in the GD. That is based on a modern assumption that she was an artist and her husband listened to her... he didnt and he had his own views on colour. Anyway it was not particularly radical... all they did was use a colour wheel and a Windsor and Newton catelogue

Unknown said...

Dean, this goes out to you.

christopherdossantos3@gmail.com said...

My brother I left a comment on your other site. I would love to hear your views.

Namaste, beyond fear we find love was always present...

Anonymous said...

I think it's fairly clear what the intention was when one considers the colours that are mixed to form citrine, olive and russet. The colours representing Netzach, Hod and Yesod are formed by the combination of two primary colours; a similar principle applies to the colours of Malkuth, but the colour combinations are different (black is of course a combination of all colours). The best advice you could offer a student is to leave the technology alone, work with paint, and see the colours emerge when the three correct combinations are found. The palette is already there: meditation on what this means in terms of the influence of the higher spheres on Malkuth is worthwhile.

220 said...

When I made my first Pentacle, I learned a very subtle lesson about the elements and their corresponding colors. Citrine is the yellow of air, blended with red and a little tiny bit of blue. Russet is red, with a bit of yellow and a touch of blue and so and so forth. In Malkuth the elements are mixed. It really seems very simple to me.

Frater YShY said...

Hi Dean,

Good post. I blogged my own response so I could add a couple pix.



Rev. Scuirus said...

They seem seems to be to come from the higher Sephiroth, as Anonymous has mentioned.

So the logical answer would be to simply blend the hues, rather than worrying about 'earthiness'? I feel that the earthiness comes from the very colors themselves. No need to brighten or darken.

J.C. said...

I find a common problem with the colors, these attributed to Malkuth or otherwise, is the names. The old GD seemed to have an affinity for using fancy color names, such as crimson, scarlet, emerald, etc. The problem with these names is that they mean different things to different time periods, as well as to different artists. For example, I have seen the follies of someone reading a document where it says "scarlet" (which can in some cases actually be a red-orange), where it simply meant "red," and seen the incorrect use of color based off the misunderstanding of a word.
I think the same can be said of the names of the colors of Malkuth. "Citrine" doesn't necessarily have to correspond to the gemstone or the color of a fruit.

Frater S.M. et C.E.U. said...

The easiest way I find to make the colors is to mix complimentary colors of the color wheel, which happen to correspond to the colors of the elements:

Air - Yellow & Purple
Fire - Red & Green
Water - Blue & Orange

I do this with paint all the time, and I've even done it with sculpey to make a pentacle.

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