The meaning of green

Even as I begin to create this page I feel the energy of the colour green. I feel its calming, balancing effect and I involuntarily take a deep relaxing breath. Green is a symbol of rebirth. It’s the colour of youth, prosperity, and progress. It has a freshness to it and although calming, in the same moment it paradoxically feels invigorating! 

As I look out of my window, unable to count the shades, tones and hues of green that fill my field of vision or even define, it is no surprise to me that it is one of the most loved colours – second only to blue. Indeed where the shades of green merge into blue … a teal colour … is the colour most commonly identified as a SOUL colour. 

GREEN lies in the middle of the electromagnetic spectrum between YELLOW and BLUE.  But what happens when we mix these colours?  Well it depends whether you are mixing PAINT PIGMENTS to create a picture, or LIGHT WAVELENGTHS as we do when we are creating DIGITAL ART. 

In terms of PIGMENTS such that are using in PAINT, GREEN is a SECONDARY COLOUR which means, as you will know from any child like exploits with paint, that those multitudes of shades of green can be mixed from Blue and Yellow.  This called SUBTRACTIVE COLOUR MIXING

In terms of LIGHT, as you can see in the image on the right, green is a PRIMARY COLOUR and adding equal amounts of Green wavelengths to Red and Blue creates white light … the light we see all around us emanating from the sun.  This is called ADDITIVE COLOUR MIXING and it is involved with all the colours that emerge on the screens of out tablets, phones and computers. 

Physically, the colour green has a relaxing, calming effect on our bodies which contributes to increased focus. Designers often use the colour green in spaces intended to foster creativity and productivity. Though many of our associations with green are very positive: progress, growth, balance, and youthfulness, we also have quite strong negative associations with some green hues.

But we have all heard these common idioms being used:  Green associated with envy and greed. And of course references to looking green around the gills or having a green colour when you feel sick or ill! 

In Western cultures green represents luck, nature, freshness, spring, environmental awareness, wealth, inexperience, and jealousy (the “green-eyed monster”). Of course, green is a positive, emblematic colour for Ireland, which earned its nickname “The Emerald Isle” from its verdant green landscapes.

That quality of calm and balance .....

Why do we feel calmer when we are surrounded by green? It cannot be by chance!  Some of the effect will be holisitc and connected with our perceptions and feelings about Nature.

However, as with other colours of the spectrum, our body responds physiologically to these wavelengths of light that we see as green.  Your pituitary gland is stimulated. Your muscles are more relaxed, and your blood histamine levels increase, which leads to a decrease in allergy symptoms and dilated blood vessels, aiding in smoother muscle contractions. In short, green is calming, stress-relieving, yet refreshing.

It does not surprise me that green tones have been shown to improve reading ability and stimulate creativity. That may not be the case for you but remember that our reactions and responses to any colour are unique to each one of us depending on the associations and society connections we amke with in throughout our life times

Meditation icon

Symbolism and language around green

The word green seems to be closely related to the Old English verb growan, “to grow.”  The etymology of the word green is not precise but the connection feels relevant.

Elsewhere in the world green is felt differently. Green has traditionally been forbidden in Indonesia, whereas in Mexico it’s a national colour that stands for independence. In the Middle East green represents fertility, luck, and wealth, and it’s considered the traditional colour of Islam. Although in Eastern cultures green symbolises youth, fertility and new life, it can also signify infidelity. In fact, in China, green hats are definitely forbidden for men because it signals that their wives have committed adultery!

In Alchemy, solvents for gold were named “Green Lion” or “Green Dragon” by the alchemists. Such liquids were instrumental in the beginning of the alchemism: Opus Magnum. Transparent green crystals symbolised the “secret fire,” which represented the living spirit of substances.

Green throughout the signifies LOVE for those familiar with Chakras, the mystical energy centres of the body. Green repesents the Heart Chakra

Anahata The Heart Chakra

Plants, Rocks and Crystals

The occurrence of green in natural world comes down to chemistry: biochemistry in terms of plants. It’s heart stopping to think that we wouldn’t be here if during the course of evolution a magical protein named CHLOROPHYLL was created with Magnesium at its centre that was capable of harnessing certain wavelengths of sunlight which was to provide the energy for the synthesis of sugars by plants : PHOTOSYNTHESIS.  These chlorophyll molecules are stashed in tiny organelles in cells called Chloroplasts. That is where the magic happens.  

I am an artist. love painting, using a selection of different media from pastels, oil paint and watercolours to naturally coloured materials.  The paints and pastels I use all contain PIGMENTS. These pigments are chemicals, many of which contain poisonous heavy metals but they were all initially derived from natural deposits in our earth. 

Perhaps the earliest green pigments used in any art form was MALACHITE.  I have found this to be  present in one of the most beautiful natural rock formations I have seen. Visiting the underground cave systems at Alderley Edge in Cheshire in the UK, a few miles from where I live, copper carbonate present in the rocks creates a magical eerie green glow. This is indeed where my research into pigments began …. In its beautiful crystalline form it is often used for jewelry and other decorative purposes.

Other metals such as Cadmium and Chromium also create chemical compounds which are uses as pigments. Again these are found in naturally occuring rocks and in crystals. Emeralds and Peridot are used widely in jewelry but so many astonishing green crystalline forms such as valuable Jade, Fluorite, Adventurine, and even Quartz and Agates display undefinable beauty in their varying green hues. 

I consider myself fortunate to study have studied chemistry to degree level early in my life. It was of academic interest at the time But it has throughout my life opened up a whole unexpected world as I realise increasingly I have been able to develop a deep understanding of how magical the indescribable beauty our Planet Earth truly is. 

To many, my varied rock and crystal collection is of little interest. But to me it is their composition and intensity and variation of colour that creates endless wonder. 

As I paint, my creation of green hues brings a great sensitivity to the significance of Green in our lives and cultures, and on a grander scale our beautiful planet Gaia