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The Color Blue for Repelling Evil

by Theresa Mitsopoulou

In the Cyclades, next to white color, the prevailing color is blue-turquoise color. The preference comes from an old belief of man, that the sky-blue shade had the power to keep Evil away.  The radiation of the color composed an invisible shield, which prevented the approach of bad spirits.

Blue church cupolas, windows, doors, walls, staircases and fences, but also blue “belts” (samaria) around the buildings, will provide protection from Evil.  Blue-turquoise stones on jewelry, belts and weapons, will safeguard people and animals and even plants (chaimalia) against Evil. Blue “eyes” and blue stones mounted on gold and silver are presented to babies and small children as a talisman for protection, like the sky-blue scarf around the neck of boy-scouts.

On the murals of Santorini island (about 1700 BC) bracelets for the wrist, the arm and ankle, and necklaces, are made of precious or semiprecious stones, while the shaved part of the head of young people (male and female) is painted blue-turquoise.  It is amazing, that on traditional Chinese New Year’s cards, one can see the same fashion copied since thousands of years ago.  Small children also have their hair partly shaved in similar arrangement (two or three locks of hair) with the shaved part also painted blue-turquoise.  The artist used the turquoise color believing that it would provide protection for his heroes. Also, on special occasions like birthdays, initiation of adolescence, the shaved parts of their heads were smeared with blue paint, their face with white and their lips and cheeks with red (like actors used to do).

The ancient Egyptians were furnished with the turquoise-blue stone (cyanus, lapis lazuli) from the Sinai peninsula since the 4th millenium BC. The precious material is found in abundance in Tourkestan where its name originates.  It was also known in Cyprus but according to ancient writers, the best quality was the Scythian turquoise, whose origin was most probably Chinese.  Today, it is mined in North America (California, Arizona) in Central America (Mexico), in Australia, in North Africa and in Siberia. In North America the artifacts of the Indians decorated with the precious blue stone are well known.  In Europe the stone is imported mainly from Iran (province of Isfahan), where the best variation of the stone is found.  Its shape is opaque and very hard, but porous, and changes color (it turns to green) and “dies”, when it comes in contact with perfumes and cosmetics.

Its ancient name “cyanus” refers, apart from the mineral stone, to the artificial glass and to the paint as well.  The natural turquoise stone decorated mainly jewels and weapons, statues, like the statue of Zeus in Olympia had eyes of turquoise inserted and in this practice the Greeks imagined their Gods and heroes as blue-eyed. 

The turquoise paint that the painters used was the product of powder turquoise stone mixed with other ingredients or a mixture of copper from Cyprus and sand. The third and most expensive paint was made with the plant “Indian cyanus” (indigo, bluing). Architectural parts of public buildings, like the triglyphs and mutule of the Parthenon, as well as parts of villas in Pompeii and Rome, were painted in turquoise. In Athens, at Omonia square, on Dorou street No. 1 and on Stadiou street No. 58, blue friezes surround restored neoclassical buildings. Similar friezes are found in the Ionian islands, in the Cyclades, in the islands of the Argosaronic gulf and in Macedonia, in the villages of Mt. Paghaion.

The custom is of worldwide dimension, because even today in provinces of Spain (like in the Mancha of Don Quixote) buildings are decorated with blue bands and designs. Also, houses in Egypt, in the Arab villages of Israel, and entire villages in Moroco, have blue walls. The same turquoise color decorates the houses of Mexican Indians and strongly speaks of common universal civilization features.

Notice the similarities between this traditional Chinese New-Years card and the Fisherman from Santorini above. Both have locks of hair and their shaved heads painted blue

Hotel Attalos, Athens

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