Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Colour Purple

I thought it might be a refreshing distraction to discuss the history of a particular colour.  Apart from the visual impact of colour, many have social or religious significance which have developed throughout the millennia. Take for instance the expression 'imperial purple'. This came from the period of the Roman Empire when robes were dyed with crushed shells (murex brandaris) from the Tyrrhenian Sea. They released a colour which became synonymous with power and over time became the hallmark of the Catholic Church. It came to represent penance in the Roman Catholic Church and was worn particularly for Lent and Advent. Both Bishops and Cardinals wear this colour... although the cardinals tend more towards scarlet. (Better in photography)  It faded from use after about the eighth century but had been popular with the Etruscans prior to the rise of Rome.

Fast forward to contemporary Australia... and although the purple robes of the Church are still worn it has also attracted other social meanings. Purple was a colour associated with the suffragette movement in the USA. It also was supposedly a colour which supposedly symbolised passion. It even has significance for the gay and lesbian movement. I'm assuming it would be hard to reconcile a colour for passion with the clergy of the Church in the same context! The outing of Tinky Winky for carrying a handbag (he was the purple one) has not damaged the Teletubbies in the slightest. 

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