July is Pride Month and as strong allies, the CBUAG is launching a brand new column here on our blog where, for the next 6 weeks, we will be bringing you fun facts about each colour in the pride rainbow! These facts can be anything from their symbolism to their origin in paint production. Stay tuned to learn all about the colours: RED, ORANGE, YELLOW, GREEN, BLUE, PURPLE. This week we are going to look at GREEN and its place in history.
Here are 7 interesting facts about the first colour of the Pride Rainbow, GREEN.
1. The Name
GREEN, the colour of vegetation, growth, and nature, is derived from the Old English word “growan” which means “to grow.” It can also be traced back to the Old Frisian word “grēne” which means “fresh.” In many cultures around the world green is the symbol of growth and vitality so it is no surprise that it was named after it.
Like many things, GREEN symbolizes two things that are opposites. In some sense is can mean that something is expired or rotten,
1994 D. Nixon Hero of Beecher Island (1997) iv. 85 “When the men went to cut some flesh from the dead horses, they found that the meat was green and filled with maggots.”
However, it also represents a freshness. GREEN, in people, symbolizes a youngness, a naivety even. In other things it can mean something full of vitality, something not weathered or worn by time.
1583 P. Stubbes Anat. Abuses sig. Hviv, “The remembrance wherof is yet green in their he[a]ds.”
In a way GREEN is like an old growth forest. The balance between decay and life.
In Alchemy, solvents for gold, aka the anti-elixir as coined by Newton, were named “Green Lion” or “Green Dragon” by the alchemists. Such liquids were instrumental in the beginning of the alchemistic Opus Magnum. Alchemists are notorious for being secretive and speaking and writing in metaphors to keep their knowledge hidden so the GREEN lion devouring the gold sun was a popular representation of this chemical reaction.
In the 1860s, the United States issued a new form of currency called “greenbacks”. This was a form of paper money during the American Civil War. Before this, the only accepted currency was gold and silver coin or in some places, money orders. When paper currency was introduced, they printed it in green so that it couldn’t be forged as easily, since only black and white photography existed at the time. GREEN continued to be the colour of currency since it was a plentiful and durable pigment.
Cobalt GREEN, was one of the most unpopular green pigments among the artists of the 18th century due to its high price and minimal pigmentation. Contemporary scientists however, have discovered that it has great potential for storing energy due to its special magnetic properties. This pigment is now key in producing Spintronic instruments and making progress in this field.
Spintronic instruments are used in the area of computer storage and memory. Before the Cobalt Green discovery, spintronic devices only functioned at a chilly 200 degrees below zero Celsius or minus 328 Farenheit.
The future of spintronic devices, when they are finally harnessed to be used at room temperatures, is that computers would work at unheard of speeds. The goal, say scientists, is to be able to start your computer and have your operating system and software load immediately as in the turning on of a light switch. The other possible implication is that the new spintronic technology would require very little energy.
5. The Devil
Over the years the devil has been represented in a variety of ways. Originally, depictions of the devil showed him as being all black, more contemporary depictions are red, but in the 15th century, the devil wore GREEN. This is the colour that depicts tricksters and monsters, like dragons, leprechauns, ogres. Not only painters, but medieval poets also envisioned the devil as being GREEN. Chaucer describes him as a “green stranger” that you could tell was the devil from his smell.
6. Secondary Colours
The trickiness of dyeing in the color GREEN originally, was compounded by medieval guildsmen rules that forbade mixing colours. Indeed the dyeing trade was so specialized, those craftsmen who worked in blue were forbidden to work in other colors. In order to get GREEN, you had to source the colour directly from things like ferns, berries, leaks, and barks, but because these were natural dyes they faded rapidly. Green also suffered a demotion with Isaac Newton’s discovery of the color spectrum in the Enlightenment period. This discovery sparked much discussion in color theory, in which green was relegated to a secondary color, produced by mixing primaries blue and yellow. The fact that it was a secondary colour and that, until the 16th century with the invention of new pigments, it faded quickly, green was a symbol of the lower class.
7. Deadly Pigments
In 1814, Emerald GREEN, a new pigment, was invented. This gained major popularity due to its high pigmentation and its low cost to manufacture so it was used not only for artist’s paint but also to dye everything from wallpaper to clothes. Unfortunately, though, this pigment was made with a poisonous copper-acetoarsenite mixture. When anything dyed with this colour was damp the poison would be absorbed into people’s systems as fumes were given off and these had deadly consequences. It is believed that Napoleon’s GREEN wallpaper is actually what hastened his death during his solitude. The New York Times expressed its concern for the safety of the children who were dying from this toxic colour by saying, “What manufactured article in these days of high-pressure civilization can possibly be trusted if socks may be dangerous”.
Stay tuned next week for some interesting facts about the colour BLUE!