Fire and the color red are often associated with each other, and with love and passion, but why?
Beginning in antiquity, red was believed to have life-giving powers and neolithic people buried red ochre with their dead. Cave painters used red ochre or iron oxide to imbue the symbolic animals with fertility. Warriors colored their weapons, and indeed their bodies, with blood to endow them with magical power, just as Roman gladiators drank the blood of their dying adversaries. Some believed bathing a newborn in the blood of strong animals imparted invincibility, and red-painted amulets or red gems were worn as charms against the evil eye.
It wasn’t until Roman brides were wrapped in a fiery red veil that the color became associated with both love and fertility. Red garlands, scarfs and veils became customary wedding rituals in many cultures.
In Greek mythology, red roses grew from the blood of Adonis and the red rose became a symbol for the cycle of growth and decay. Through the mythology of Aphrodite, the red rose symbolized love and affinity. Christians associate the red rose with the Cross and bloodshed.
In contrast, biblical Israelites daubed their door frames with red blood to scare away demons. Red in ancient Egypt was the color of the desert and of the destructive Seth, demon of death and evil. An ancient Egyptian charm reads, “Oh, Isis, deliver me from the hands of all bad, evil, red things!”
The phoenix is the most recognizable personification of fire, and is generally perceived as being red. The phoenix symbolizes immortality, resurrection, and life after death.
When fire is displayed in a single color, the majority of flames are red, but is this generally accepted symbology consistent with physics?
The flames that most people today have access to on a regular basis are candles, natural gas for cooking, and wood-burning fires.
The flame of a candle has three distinct color regions: the innermost zone (directly above the wick) is dark and colorless; the middle zone is yellow and luminous; and the outer zone is light blue and not normally visible.
On a natural gas appliance, the color of the flame should always burn blue, nor orange or yellow.
Most wood fires have a strong orange color as sodium contained within the wood is burned.
Although the temperature of the fire and the material being burned are the factors that determine the color of the flame, there are no flames that burn in the red spectrum.
What does burn red are coals. Of the colors we can see, red indicates the coolest temperature and violet the hottest. While very hot, the red color of the coals in a fire indicates that the temperature is only about 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit. In contrast, the sun, whose color is more yellow than red, has a temperature of about 10,500 degrees Fahrenheit. A “blue hot” fire would be even hotter.
The next time you want to use color to describe fire of love in a human heart, wild passionate love is yellow-orange like a flame which quickly burns out, while deep, enduring passion is red like a coal filled with life-giving power, magical strength and invincibility, immortality and life after death.