Is there a witch that doesn’t work with colors and their meaning? I doubt it. Those of the candles, the robes, the altar cloths, and even the ink we use when doing talismans or writing, it always has a meaning behind. Color plays an important role in everything we do, whether magical or not, and although On Color, by David Scott Kastan and Stephen Farthing, is not about colors in Paganism, it proved to be a useful resource for this witch.
The book is the result of the authors’ friendship and ten years of conversations about colors, their meanings, their history, their uses, and even how we humans and animals perceive them. You find from biological analysis and history facts to how different cultures used certain colors, and even how they became recognized as colors to begin with, and I’m leaving many, many things behind the curtain for you to discover.
Despite the highly academic structure, reading On Color was more entertaining than I expected. David Scott Kastan and Stephen Farthing made it easy to understand what they explained chapter after chapter, and the long list of topics related to colors were linked one another naturally enough to see how they were related. There are references to popular culture, old and current tendencies and some facts that kept me going for more and more, guessing what I would read next.
Now, I have to mention that this is by no means a book intended to Pagans or witches of any kind. It is not its main target, since it has a more academic approach and uses the language intended for such readers. Not that there are not academic books about Witchcraft and Paganism, but is not that common nowadays as far as I can see.
However, it is easy to get used to the style and structure of On Color and go through all the pages with no problem at all. You may need to will the reading at first if you’re unfamiliar with academic writing, but Kastan and Farthing kept it as simple as possible, helping you in developing new meanings for colors.
About this, have you thought about Grey being the color of memory instead of just being related to cutting and banishing? What about Blue to represent not only water but also royalty or even magic? Those are just two examples of the new correspondences one can see while reading this book, which gives colors and magic an appealing perspective. I am inclined to reread it and take more notes, just in case I missed something.
The chapters also include several images, from drawing and paintings to photographs and more, to make it more visually appealing, and it worked. All those pictures, paintings, photos and more were used as perfect examples of what was being explained in the book, along with some anecdotes from the authors that added a good dose of familiarity to the charm of the book, as if you were having a conversation instead.
I would recommend you to keep an open for the new ideas and to read at your own pace. Although On Color is enjoyable and I would certainly like to get another book from the authors, either working together or on their own in a similar topic, the book gets a bit thicker when the style becomes more academic. It may be hard to swallow, but slow down and it shouldn’t bother that much.
About the Book
Print Length: 272 pages
Publisher: Yale University Press (May 22, 2018)
Expected Publication Date: May 22, 2018
About the Authors
David Scott Kastan, the George M. Bodman Professor of English at Yale University, is one of the general editors of the Arden Shakespeare.
Stephen Farthing is an artist, an elected member of the Royal Academy of Arts in London, and an Emeritus Fellow of St. Edmund Hall, the University of Oxford.
About the Reviewer
Bader Saab is a digital journalist and solitary, eclectic witch interested in the darker side of magic and divination. Besides reading and writing, Bader also enjoys studying the Gothic subculture, which he belongs to, learning new languages and making endless lists of movies, music and the like. He can be found on Instagram as @saab.bader.