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The Color Purple

Aneline Purple Cloth

Today marks the 180th birthday of Sir William Henry Perkins. You have probably never heard of this man, but he is the one responsible for the most significant event in all of human history: inventing my absolute favorite color - purple!

Happy birthday, you beautiful bastard, you!

Ok, so that's clearly hyperbole on my part, but the fact is, aniline purple - also known as mauveine or Perkin's purple, or what I affectionately call dark purple or sometimes evil purple, like what you see depicted here - is my all-time favorite color.

Especially if it's paired with black, as you can probably tell by the aesthetic of my website, or from the Several Flag like you see at the top of my page, or from reading my Black Panther review.

It's just a very cool, very suave, very elegant, very dark (in a good way), very badass, very regal color palette that lends itself well to pretty much all the things I've come to identify with. Purple is even one of the colors associated with libertarian centrism and political moderation (as in the term "purple states" in contrast to Republican red or Democrat blue).

The other one is yellow, but we'll not get into that right now or how much disdain I have for so-called "complementary" colors, which do anything but complement one another.

Anyways, so what's fascinating about Perkin's discovery is that it largely happened by accident. He wasn't really trying to make the color purple, he was instead trying to make quinine, which is used in the treatment of malaria and other diseases. He stumbled upon it totally by happenstance in the course of his experiments, which to me just makes it all the more awesome. The fact that the color purple arose out of an almost divine miracle in the course of trying to heal people is just so incredibly synchronistic, I scarcely have the words for it. You could say it was almost some form of cosmic destiny, which is fitting.

The color purple is associated psychologically with mystery and magic and wizardry. Ancient alchemy was the precursor to modern chemistry, while also having elements of psychology and spirituality thrown into the mix.

It's associated with the third eye chakra or Ajna, which is the realm of the unconscious.

The Ajna is then linked to the art of divination, or the ability to pull knowledge and wisdom out of the ether, particularly from those places you might not normally expect to find it, just as Perkins did. The Ajna is also the chakra of light and the unification of all things. Indeed, the term 'ultraviolet' is known as 'the eighth light,' which is invisible to the naked eye, but visible to certain instruments or to the psychic sixth sense. The phrase 'eighth light' is also the literal translation of Hakku-Ryu, which is a form of martial arts I've studied that generally involves subtle, often unseen, motions to disarm and manipulate one's opponents in a way that seems practically magical.

Suffice to say, the color purple has been a fairly ubiquitous part of my life.

McLaren 570S in Mauveine

Depicted: My dream car in purple, black, and silver.

Of course, when I say that Sir William Perkins invented the color, I'm obviously referring to that specific shade of very bright, richly saturated purple. The overall hue itself was known since ancient times and was often associated with royalty for it being difficult to produce, as it rarely occurred in nature. [1]

Thus, only those with incredible wealth or power could afford it.

Tyrian purple, for instance, was first used by the ancient Phoenecians as far back as 1570 BC and was produced from the mucous of predatory sea snails found in the Mediterranean. The most prized shade was referred to as "blackish clotted blood," which just sounds awesome and totally macabre. During the 9th century, the Byzantines kept a tight reign on the color, hoarding it for the production of imperial silk as a sign of their wealth, status, and power. [2]

Historically, anyone born of a royal line was said to be "born in the purple" for this reason and, at one point in time, Tyrian purple dye was worth its weight in silver. This is just one of several ways in which purple and silver are also intimately linked.

Silver is another one of my favorite colors and I much prefer it to gold.

Black, purple, and silver are also associated with the moon, water, and darkness, and I am very much a creature of the night. In fact, I tend to be fairly nocturnal and it's my understanding that some people are even innately born predisposed towards being awake at night, despite the fact that we humans generally evolved to be up during the day. Not sure if that has anything to do with the fact that I was born at night, but there's just something I find so peaceful and serene about its quiet solitude.

Water as an element is associated with the moon but also emotion and the unconscious.

As a Pisces, water is my element, and Pisces is by far the most emotional, empathetic, introverted, and spiritual of the twelve signs, being highly mutable and flexible to different situations, while often delving in the realms of mysticism or the occult. Having metaphorically lived amongst the wolves and eldritch monsters of the darkest depths, I've found ways to coexist with them without falling prey to them or becoming them myself. In some cases, however, they are certainly dangerous and you need a method for dealing with them in that instance.

Suffice to say, this sort of archetypical symbolism has also embedded itself into my work at a deep level, bordering on unconscious divination:

The Flag of the Confederated States of Severa

In medieval heraldry, the color purple is referred to as purpure, with the black being called sable.

Silver is referred to as argent and you see all three colors used here.

In heraldry, the tincture purpure is symbolic of the jewel amethyst, which is a type of purple quartz said to hold mystical properties within the pagan magical tradition. The etymology comes from Koine Greek and means "not intoxicated," which relates to its espoused healing properties, particularly the warding off of drunkenness and also aiding the flow of chi throughout the energy body. It's a gem I personally consider to be quite aesthetically pleasing and it's even my birthstone (February 26).

Not sure which way the causality flows, but it's interesting nonetheless.

In the Western alchemical tradition, amethyst was associated with Jupiter, which used to be the planet that governed Pisces before the discovery of Neptune.

Within the Roman pantheon, Jupiter was the supreme monarch of the gods. In the comic Homestuck, Meenah Peixis (the character I use most often for my avatar) is a psychic Piscean empress - the supreme monarch of a race of alien trolls, with godlike power over life and death. She's very much in touch with her darker side, even revering and admiring it in many ways as an aspect of herself that will help her to ultimately fulfill her divine destiny. In the story, she journeys through the afterlife and encounters her Shadow self while on a date with Vriska Serket (whose sign is Scorpio - the other water sign ruled by Jupiter). Ultimately, she learns to embrace her dark side without letting it consume her to the point of malevolence the way it did in alternate timelines, and in fact she winds up using her powers to help save her entire species and even reality itself.

Meenah's associated with the color fuchsia, which is a lighter shade of purple closely resembling the natural color of amethyst quartz.

Meenah grinning

Are you beginning to notice the synchronicities yet?

Pisces is also a feminine sign (Meenah's a girl), a negative sign (Pisceans often tend to be pessimistic, cynical, nihilistic, or depressed), and a dualistic sign - one of four (along with Gemini, Capricorn, and Sagittarius) that embodies disparate aspects of one's self within the same person. I would argue this is in part what enables me to have the unique perspective that I do in being a bridge for both sides of the culture war, transcending my identity, and in wanting to #HealTheDivide.

Those of you skeptical about astrology and mysticism, just think of it as psychological personality typing based on epigenetic forces within the environment that occur at particular times of the year, which in turn shape your physiology. So like Pisceans are born in the dead of winter when the world is cold and dark and wet and people tend to be shut in and quite intimate. Contrast with, say, Leos who are born at the height of summer when it's warm and hot and light and dry and everyone's outside energetically basking in the sun's glory.

Fefeta from Homestuck

Which is one reason why Fefeta's so interesting,

as she combines aspects Pisces and Leo into one.

Anyways, returning to the topic of heraldry, the tincture purpure, is also tied to the alchemical concept of Mercury, which is symbolically regarded as First Matter - a substance out of which order is divined from the ethereal chaos and darkness. It's used metaphorically in the psychic transmutation of the unconscious into the conscious, and of ignorance into enlightenment, which is a form of mental and spiritual healing on the path of ascent towards godliness. In a mythological context, Mercury is the Roman equivalent of the Greek Hermes, the messenger god and divine trickster (what you might call a troll) who defines and transcends boundaries and who helps ferry souls to the afterlife.

He was also given the caduceus rod by Apollo, the god of healing and of art - and what am I doing here but tying to heal the world by communicating a soulful message to you all with my art?

Mercury's also known as quicksilver because of its color, which again is a link between silver and purple.

The Latin name for mercury is hydrargyrum, which literally means watery silver. Thus, mercury as a substance was linked to the concept of water and all the associated symbolism therein. You may recall that one scene from The Matrix when Neo takes the red pill and first wakes up, how the mirror world consumes him like mercury. Same thing.

Pay attention to what Morpheus (the god of dreams) tells Neo in this scene:

He's basically describing the idea of living inside a simulation or a dream, which is an ancient mystical idea. Purple is also the color of fantasy and dreams.

In Homestuck, Meenah's journey takes her through various Dream Bubbles, which is that universe's conception of the afterlife. The characters are even able to visit this realm in the dreams and often awaken from it profoundly enlightened. Meenah herself is a Derse dreamer, which the planet and her clothes while in the dream world are all purple. In an alternate timeline, her darker self even rules over Derse with an iron fist in place of the Black Queen until the heroes ultimately defeat her.

Part of what makes Meenah different from the Condesce is her abdication of the throne, seeing it as a form of enslavement (both to herself and others), whereas she just wants to be free to adventure.

Recall I said that black, purple, and silver were all related archetypically and that purple is the color of royalty. In the movie Black Panther, T'Challa is the king of Wakanda. These are also his colors - the colors of the good philosopher king who seeks to #HealTheDivide in both Killmonger and the world as a whole. At one point in the movie, Shuri presents her brother with prototypes for his new costume. He specifically chooses the one with the silver vibranium necklace as a sign of modesty.

Contrast that with Erik Killmonger, who lavishes in gold as an outward sign of his lustful zeal for the newfound corrupt power he's obtained.

The afterlife in the Black Panther universe is likewise colored purple and is reminiscent of a dreamlike state that the living can visit, either through dying or by consuming the purple heart-shaped herb and undergoing a trancelike ritual. Those who wake up from this realm are often profoundly enlightened by the experience, with the typical result being the king of Wakanda goes on to become the Black Panther, replete with all his otherworldly superhuman powers.

I could go on and on and on in this way talking about the symbolism of the color purple and why I love it so much, but I think you get the idea. It's a rich and historied and enchanting hue that continues to captivate me. Hopefully, you've come to better appreciate its significance by reading this and will join me in thanking the man - Sir William Henry Perkins - whose divine fortune blessed us all with this most beautiful gift. ^_^


1 - The color blue was much the same and, as an interesting aside, despite it being the color of the sky and water that reflects it, there's a theory which suggests humans couldn't actually see blue until we developed the technology to produce it synthetically. The evidence for this comes from ancient writings that describe the sea and sky as being green and many cultures (even to this day) not having a word in their vocabulary for the color.

2 - One of my favorite characters from Game of Thrones happens to be Tyrion Lannister and, in keeping with the color, he is associated with royal lineage, wealth, and knowledge.

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