It is winter now, utterly. I gaze out the window at snow falling on the landscape, covering the Earth in a blanket of sleepy contemplation. The world seems cleaner, sharper. I find myself sleeping more, and in my sleep, more dreams. Even while awake, I sometimes catch myself drifting in a stasis of no-thought, like an unconscious meditation.
Gently, gently, the whiteness covers all. The branches that seemed so verdantly green and brown in summer now appear as black twigs, reaching for the sky in stillness. “All is calm, all is bright.” Silence descends, and it seems as if there is no growth or life at all.
Yet beneath this monochrome veil, seeds germinate, little babies sleeping safe within the mother’s womb as they imagine and create their future forms, waiting to spring forth into birth.
A few days past, I had a dream of my mother, and her departure from this physical plane. As I mourned her passing in the dreamstate, (in a room with a white angel mobile, a twig frame covered in white plastic to resemble an androgynous figure with wings), she appeared outside the room. Separated by a pane of glass, surrounded by a nimbus of white light, she looked at me with a piercing glance for only a moment, as if to say “Hey! Do not mourn me, I will never be truly gone!” The glance lasted only a moment, then she turned and walked down a hallway outside, lit periodically with white orbs. I watched her disappear, thinking to myself in the dream that I had witnessed a miracle. I remember the peace I felt within the pain (pane?)– the absolute knowledge that she would always be with me, and that one day we would no longer be separated by veils and would touch once more.
This time of year has always been a time of death. The old ones of the tribes generally chose winter as a time of their physical departure, weakened by the cold and wishing to conserve food and resources for the stronger, younger ones. Left behind in the depths of winter, the people mourned. Yet their awareness of the natural world was more acute than our modern senses, and they took comfort in the solstice, with its message of light returning, and subsequently, life. While still they held sadness in their hearts, they celebrated the gain of new ancestor spirits to which they would pray and make offerings to in the years to come. Around the fires made to stave off the cold and the darkness, they told the stories of their ancestors and their deeds, that their wisdom, bravery, and knowledge would never truly leave the tribe, that their spirits may always remain close.
As a tribute to this season, and the thoughts and dreams it engenders, I write of the color white.
Scientifically it can be said that white is not a color at all- it is a reflection, a rainbow of all possible colors condensed and unseen. When we see white, all three types of cones in the human eye are being stimulated equally at once. In the “color temperature” index, the coordinates of white are RGB 255, 255, 255. In numerology, this breaks down to the number 9.
Nine is associated with qualities of all of our great spiritual teachers in history– generosity and selflessness to the point of sacrifice, idealism, concern with the well-being and harmony of the world around them, and egalitarianism.
In our modern-day Pagan practices, white has encompassed a vast array of beautiful concepts and associations. White is often used during full-moon rituals for the obvious connotations, and also due to the extra energy it may generate as it reflects the moonlight. It is also a color of protection in purity. Often when I feel threatened, for any reason, I calm myself and tune into the beam of white light connecting my chakras and keeping them whole, beaming in both directions infinitely, or connecting to the center of the earth and the heart of the sun. I then can envision a powerful, impenetrable white egg around me, protecting me and keeping my spirit whole whilst still remaining present in the moment. Along those lines, white can also be used for birth and rebirth rituals, purification, initiation, and in some cases, banishing of negative energy. White candles are considered acceptable substitutes for any other colors, due to the all-encompassing nature of the color.
White is the color of the top chakra, or Sarhasrara. This energy center is located on the very top of your head, directly in the middle. When activated in harmony with the rest of the chakras, it has the ability to connect one’s consciousness directly with the divine Source of energy. I form this connection before I do any magickal work, checking my energy system as I do so and correcting any imbalances before beginning the working. This chakra completes the circle of energy as it flows up the spine and out through the top of the head, joining and mingling with the Universal energy before cycling back down into the earth and the base chakra, to begin its journey again. It is the joining place, microcosm to macrocosm.
The fragrant herb, White Sage has been used for centuries successfully to cleanse auras and remove negative energies from any space. It was most commonly used in the Native American traditional ceremonies, and is to this day. Visitors and participants in ceremonies are all cleansed with the smoke before they step into the circle. This past summer solstice, I was sitting quietly and cleansing myself with sage smoke, when I had a glimpse of tiny little particles of white light within the smoke, zipping here and there. I was instantly filled with a sense of well-being and calm joy.
I also found it interesting, while researching plants and herbs associated with this color, that some of the most healing and some of the most poisonous plants (which I did not include as many of) were both associated with white. In keeping with the spirit of this mutable color, I am reminded of the ancient herbalist’s quote, “The harm is the healer”.
Of all the colors, white is the one most often associated with the “Otherworld”, the worlds beyond this one, or life after death. Angels in the Western traditions usually appear with white wings and robes, Ascended Masters of the Theosophy tradition have white auras (indicating spiritual enlightenment, purity and awakening), and of course there is the Christian biblical reference to “pearly gates” through which the righteous pass through to Heaven. Christ’s mount for his second coming is believed to be a white horse. Many other traditions and cultures around the globe, including but not limited to Indian, Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese, and neo-Pagan, consider white the symbol of death, mourning, afterlife, and in cases where reincarnation is a belief, rebirth. It is commonly accepted in spiritualist circles that before death, one’s aura turns a bright white. It is interesting to note that many who claim to have been to the “Other Side”, and come back, speak of a tunnel of white light.
Along that same line, some psychics believe a white aura or white spots within to be indicators of imbalance, even drug use. Some claim just the opposite however, and assure us that white spots are a sign of emerging higher qualities and enlightenment. Also, it has been my personal experience that when one begins to see auras, they can all appear as white light until the “second sight” is more fully tuned.
White is the color of the snow, shades of it composing the winter sky. Dreamlike clouds, puffs of sacred smoke, the blank beauty and potential of the clean white page, ready to be manifested upon. It is the color of peace and reconcilitation, the white dove and the flag waved in the war zone. It is the unobtrusive color of most walls- a canvas upon which we embellish and create. The color of burial shrouds, Western wedding dresses, and christening gowns. It is the color of the brazen sunlight, the mysterious moonlight, the quiet stars as they twinkle from above in their myriad of rainbow colors. It is All and None- the harmony of the universe.
White is the joiner of realms, the color of potentiality. It is nothing but a pure reflection of light, unaltered.
And ever do the celestial bodies shine their pure light down to us, lifting our spirits and inspiring dreams. Beaming and reflecting off the snow, they create an otherworld right here on Earth, a winter wonderland that glows and sparkles. Our usually unseen breaths come as silvery clouds, seeming to highlight that there is more to this world than meets our physical eyes– that it is Below as it is Above. The newly reborn Sun God lifts his head and coos, and even now strengthens as he sleeps most of the day away below the Earth, dreaming dreams of cocreation.
Even here in Alaska, in the darkness that can often seem oppressive, the abundance of this magical color (or lack thereof) reminds me that even within the darkest shadows, there is light to be found. That nothing ever really dies, merely moves behind a curtain to emerge in a different costume. That we can never be truly alone.
Elements: All. Can be used as a substitute color for any direction or purpose.
Tarot Card: The Moon
Astrological Sign: Cancer
Planets: Moon, Saturn, and Venus
Plants: White Sage, Willow, Jasmine, Magnolia, Camellia, Gardenia, Baby’s Breath, Peace Lily, white Yarrow, Cow Parsnip, Orange Blossom (Neroli)
Stones: Clear Quartz, Howlite, Selenite, some Agates, Diamond, Pearl, some Opals, Herkimer Diamond, Moonstone
Peace, truth, justice, innocence, meditation, enlightenment, intention, universal energy, psychic pursuits, benevolence, kindness, purity, clarity, cleansing, sincerity, protection/warding, spirituality, strength, healing, Moon Goddesses, women’s mysteries, the Moon (most often full), the Lady and Lord together, astral travel, soulmates, age, respect, spiritual wisdom, authority, life/death/birth/rebirth, union, oneness, wholeness, all and nothing