Page:Journal of American Folklore vol. 12.djvu/21

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The Color-Symbolism of the Cardinal Points. 1 3

account of its very natural association with fire and heat, it was chosen as the symbolic color of the South, — particularly as the people among whom it is found ascribed to the South are those who would have the greatest amount of heat to endure. The other colors attributed to the South beside Blue and Green, which have already been considered, are Yellow, White, and Black. Of these there are, however, but few instances. Yellow was attributed to the South by the Mayas, according to Landa, and may perhaps, with White, be explained as the glaring light and heat of noonday ; but this explanation is by no means satisfactory. Black as symbolic of the South is only found among the Omahas, I believe, and I have been able to find no reason for this seeming anomaly except in some particular religious significance which the South may have among this tribe.

It would seem natural that the North should be connected with cold and snow, and as such designated White ; but it is only in about one fifth of the instances that it so occurs. Black, on the other hand, is used for North in more than one third of the cases, and as such seems to be connected more with storm and bad luck than with cold. This is well shown, for instance, by the Irish symbolism found in the Senchus Mor. Here the North wind is Black, and the winds interme- diate between the North and West are Gray and Dark Brown, while those between North and East are Dark Gray and Speckled. Yel- low and Blue, which are in some half dozen cases used as symbolic of the North, seem to have no natural explanation ; the Cherokees, Apaches, and Omaha having the North Blue (the latter accord- ing to Dorsey), and the Sia, Zufii, and Mexicans Yellow. The latter is also used for the North by the Thibetans and the Ceylon Bud- dhists.

The last, but by no means the least, of the factors which determine the choice of colors, is religion. I have in this paper confined myself to the purely natural explanations which might be offered for the phenomena under discussion, and shall therefore not stop to consider any of the many religious ideas which have probably influ- enced men in the selection of the symbolic colors. I may, however, refer to a single cause of this sort, which would perhaps explain the ascription of Black to the West. The very frequent placing of the Land of the Dead in the West may, it seems reasonable, be the origin of the West being considered gloomy ; it may also be a factor in the association of Black with North, as the North is some- times regarded as a Land of Shades.

If we look over the list of American color-systems, and try to determine the representative color for each point of the compass, we find the result very unsatisfactory. There is little agreement

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