What Does Black Symbolise in Other Cultures

What Does Black Symbolise in Other Cultures

Looking back to my childhood, I can recollect enough memories to fill a photo album of my mum feeling uncomfortable whenever a black cat appeared. Naturally, I just thought my mum was strange but this superstition apparently existed all around the world. Although if you were fortunate enough to spot a black cat keeping warm under your car or strutting across you in the UK, then it’s actually good luck. While many of us may inherently associate the colour black with gloomy subjects such as death and anarchy, this isn’t always the case.


If you’ve ever celebrated Chinese New Years or watched the lion dancing, mooncake eating ceremony, there’s no denying the abundance of red that overpowers your sight. About 5,000 years ago, the emperors worshipped only a single colour from the five elements: water, fire, wood, metal and earth as they were the source of everything in nature. And guess what colour represented heaven? The saying “heaven and Earth of mysterious black” transcended the once overshadowed colour into one that was worshipped longest in Ancient China. Immortality, knowledge, stability, power and emotional protection were all symbolised by black.


Many African cultures also perceive the colour black positively as the notion of new things getting darker as they mature, plays a huge role in their perception of the colour black. Black is symbolic of spiritual energy and unity with ancestral spirits. And in the days of the pharaohs and mummification, Ancient Egyptians connected black with fertility, new life and resurrection. It was also the colour of Osiris aka. ‘The Black One’ who was the resurrected God of the underworld. Creepy…



For centuries, colours have played an important role in Japanese art, dress and rituals, which are still kept alive today despite their rapid changes. Traditionally, black has been a colour of mystery, the night, the unknown and supernatural but like the Japanese Avante Garde fashion designers, the influence of Western culture has altered their perception. Black can also signify experience. Afterall, achieving a black belt is much more of an accomplishment than a white belt in Martial Arts. Who wouldn’t be impressed by a flying side kick like Bruce Lee’s? Another fun fact, until the 19th century, some Japanese women would dye their teeth black as it was thought to make them more beautiful. Oh, how times have changed.



And finally India, although known to outsiders as the country of colours with its colourful culture, stories and streets, black represented evil as much as it was used to ward off evil. Infants would be traditionally blessed with a little black dot on their chin or under the ear to scare off the evil eye.


So next time someone rambles on about how evil black is, chuck one of these cultural references back at them.

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