Seven colourful reasons to love a rainbow – each associated with one of the seven natural colours of the light wave spectrum.
Rainbows span a continuous spectrum of colours. The rainbow colours are the refractions of white light caused by the dispersion of sun-light by tiny water droplets that are present in the atmosphere. A rainbow’s distinct bands are created by human vision – no banding is seen in a black-and-white photo of a rainbow, only a smooth gradation of intensity increasing then fading towards the other side. For the colours seen by the human eye, the most commonly cited and remembered sequence is red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet.
That’s the science. But a rainbow is more than the science
What do we experience when we see a rainbow arc appear across the sky? Mostly it brings a smile – we feel lifted, a little more hopeful that things will change for the better. This is so, and has always been so in cultures and traditions around the world.
However ephemeral, a rainbow is our best natural and visible sign that hope is a reality.
Throughout the ages and across the globe people appreciate the rainbow as a bridge signalling that something better that is coming. As the beautiful arc spreads a cross the sky we have a sign – evidence – that clouds do break, that the sun will shine. However dark the present, the light will shine through. However stormy and dark the day, the sun is there unseen, yet ready to break through.
Green growth re-emerges from the challenge of blue with yellow, dark with light.
Potential and possibility
The arc is elusive – which is why the rainbow features in myth and folk tales.
The notion that gold can be found at the end of the rainbow is crazy. We know it’s not true. Yet it makes us smile, because neither is it a a lie. It’s a fairy tale.
The Irish tale is that if you left a few gold coins out at night, a leprechaun would come and fix your shoes. To protect their gold from being stolen, leprechauns will hide their hard-earned gold coins in pots at the end of rainbows. Now, if you were to catch a leprechaun putting gold coins into its pot while there was a rainbow, the you could demand the leprechaun give you all of its gold.
On the other hand, if you catch a leprechaun and choose to let them keep their gold, then you will be rewarded with good luck for the rest of your life.
The rainbow is optical illusion – caused by any water droplets viewed from a certain angle relative to a light source – is not an object. It cannot be reached and it cannot be touched.
Ever impossible to reach where it rests, or stand beneath its arch. Everyone sees it differently.
Impossible ever to see a rainbow at any angle other 42 degrees from opposite the light source.
If you stand “under” or “at the end of” the same rainbow I see, you will see a different rainbow—farther off— but at exactly the same 42 degree angle as seen by me.
So the legend of a crock of gold lying hidden by leprechauns at the end of the rainbow is not about the fact of the matter, it’s a metaphor. And it shines a light on how we relate to life and experience good fortune.
So perhaps we can be open to the possibility of a crock of gold being true, while also knowing it’s a fantasy – or is it both?
“Rainbows introduce us to reflections of different beautiful possibilities so we never forget that pain and grief are not the final options in life.” – Aberjhani
The rainbow inspired the Aymaran flag – the Wiphala – which is one of two official Bolivian flags. It is a checkered rainbow that represents the indigenous wisdom inherited from Andean peoples. The colourful flag symbolises the principles of Pachakama (universal order) and Pachamama (mother, cosmos), which is space, time, energy and our planet and of the transformation of natural environments into perfect harmony with human beings. Each colour has meaning – red reflects intellect and the cosmos; orange reflects culture and creation; yellow infers dual energy – masculine and feminine strength, unity and solidarity; white is time and dialogue that establishes reciprocity and harmony; green is hopeful renewal and the resourcefulness of nature; blue is cosmic space – the stars and natural phenomena of the universe; violet is the harmony that establishes justice and benefit for all
And the co-operative movement flag, created in 1924 as a symbol of hope and peace. The seven colours from flags around the world, fly in harmony with each of the seven colours in the co-operative flag.
- red: stands for courage;
- orange: offers the vision of possibilities;
- yellow: represents the challenge that GREEN has kindled;
- green: indicates a challenge to co-operators to strive for growth of membership and of understanding of the aims and values of co-operation;
- light blue: suggests far horizons, the need to provide education and help less fortunate people and strive toward global unity.
- dark blue: suggests pessimism and is a reminder that less fortunate people have needs that may be met through the benefits of cooperation.
- violet: is the colour of warmth, beauty, and friendship.
A bridge to the future
If we can be open to possibility, then, without any expectation, we can start to find the solution to whatever obstacles we face.
Whenever we hit difficult times. We can be overwhelmed with events and pressures and feel lost, downhearted, afraid.
This is the moment to remember the rainbow’s promise.
Just as the air clears after a shower of rain, we can find clarity inside the rainbow’s colourful prism.
“When it looked like the sun wasn’t going to shine any more, there’s a rainbow in the clouds.” – Maya Angelou