I like purple. I always have, it’s February’s birthstone, my birthstone. Amethyst, it’s a violet colored quartz. The Greeks named it μέθυστος methustos [okay, you can’t read that and neither can it] but it means intoxicated, meaning that the stone would protect the wearer from drunkenness. No. I can tell you, doesn’t work. Now, later on, in the middle ages, soldiers wore amethyst believing had healing properties, keeping the wearer cool-headed. Well, yay! I like that one, but, no, I can tell you, doesn’t work. At one time amethyst was considered valuable, but in the latter part of the 1900’s large deposits were found and well, too much of a thing and the value drops. So now, amethyst is a semi-precious stone. Pooh! I still like purple.
Purple, on the color spectrum is a combination of red and blue. But, ha! you knew that if you were anywhere near the political spectrum these past six years. We’ve had lectures on the non-partisan meaning of purple. I almost lost my love for the color over that, I mean, take a perfectly good color, sure it’s not a primary, but to malign it is such a way as to make it political, well, upsetting to say the least. I still like purple.
Purple is still the color of royalty. It is closer to the red on the color wheel, violet being closer to the blue. Do you really care, though? It is the color of royalty because of tiny sea snail; spiny dye-murex. Who knew, right? So it was expensive. The Phoenicians found it and it was called, imperial purple. So how did it become the color of Lent, of penance, of piety. Well, from what I can tell, back in the middle ages, the Pope, one Paul II, moved the Cardinals to scarlet for their robes, that tiny sea snail apparently having given all and the imperial purple no longer available. The lower orders and the university professors, who robed much like the clergy, took to wearing purple, but a not so deep and royal a purple, more like indigo with a red dye, less expensive than the imperial dye.
In the last century, purple still stayed with the royals, but then it became, along with green and white, the colors of the woman’s suffrage movement, Jehovah Witnesses were required to wear a purple triangle by Nazi. It’s one of the colors for the New Orleans Mardi Gras, along with green and gold. Jimi Hendrix wrote the song Purple Haze about hallucinogenic drugs. In South Africa the protest against apartheid has been called the Purple Rain Protest.
Why did I think of this? Because purple is the vestment color for advent and lent. It is the vestment color the priest wears in confession. It is the symbol for penitence.
I still like purple.