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    Color in Sacred Spaces, a glimpse into color, compass directions and elements

    “I am of a little world made cunningly of elements, and an angelic spirit” John Donne



    The colors, direction and elements of nature work together in multiple belief systems.  Fire or sun, air or wind, water, metal and earth or spirit.  These components play an important role in sacred spaces. Many variations exist.

    Ancients and indigenous people used colors and the directions for health, healing or conferring with nature.  The Native American tribes called them Medicine Wheels a western name.  Each section of the wheel works with north, south, east and west directions.  The directions are in the colors white, black, red or yellow. In some wheels the colors are blue, purple or green.  Their spiritual names are Father Sky, Mother Earth, and Spirit Tree.

    Western metaphysical call the elements Air representing the east, Earth representing the north, Fire representing the south and Water representing the west.  Feng Shui elements are air, wood, fire, metal and earth.

    The plants of medicine wheel represent elements and directions. Cedar, mullein, sage, sweet grass, sweet violet, and tobacco are but an example.  In Western practices the plants are cottonwood, cilantro, oak, wormwood, and lavender.  Feng Shui examples are pine trees, tulip trees, jasmine, lilacs, hellebores or snowdrops.

    Colors are divided into three groupings. Each circle shows the compass direction supported by that color.  Included are the elements from Native American tribes, Wicca, Western metaphysical and Feng Shui.  I’ve included wording on what the color means.

    Cool Colors recede, appearing farther away.  A great design component for small spaces making them appear larger.  They offer serenity, soothing, calming and purifying attributes.  All are feminine energies reflecting and supporting the space around them.  They are colors of prosperity, positive communication, uplifting and encourage creativity.

    Quiet and restorative colors keep chi in your garden.  Use shapes that are tall, create movement and include wood.  Make them horizontal, vertical, thin and curvy or made of stone.  Arch shapes representing domes, ovals or circles round out the grouping.


    Warm Colors appear to advance and make spaces smaller.  They offer warmth, stabilizing, and protective attributes.  These colors are often in the background taking a supporting role. They are the life-giving colors, and many are feminine energies.  Shapes of these colors are pyramid, horizontal, vertical, thin and curvy and made of stone.  Warm colors support children and pets, two things often found in a sacred space.

    A side note:  Sadly, Warm colors are now called Neutrals.  Why?  Neutral is such a boring word and these colors are not boring.  The bright pink of a morning sunrise.  Queen of the Night tulips in a stunning terracotta container.  The glint of a copper iris as the light plays along its bloom?  Neutral, I think not.

    Hot Colors pop.  They are at their strongest in the full of summer to the crest of the fall equinox.  These are the social colors and attention grabbers of the color world.  Place them near activities of discussion; exchange of ideas, communication or innovative thinking.  Or to rouse the senses, they bring large spaces to an intimate level.  Masculine energies representing the force of the sun and sharing its vitality.  For therapeutic gardens these colors help when human eyes are fading.  Shapes are round and triangular.  Fire pits are representative of structures of the hot colors.  This group is best used in small quantities.

    This group is renamed to the Warm Colors.  The New Warms contain not one bit of warmth.  They make you jump up, move, and shake that booty.  They are meant for inner action, oohs and aahs.  I love the August festivals of Hot Jazz/Cool Nights.  Just the wording makes you picture the colors and actions of this group.