Black as Evil

Georg von Simson g.v.simson at EAST.UIO.NO
Wed Dec 6 17:53:30 UTC 2000

Swaminathan Madhuresan wrote:

>Jungian expression "archetypes", and applying his analysis approach
>may not be fit to be called "universal".


>On the opposite, black as God (Krishna, Rama, Narayana) and white as the
>for mourning is used in India for at least five millennia.
But white as the colour of mourning is not unknown in the West either. A
shroud is typically white, so are flowers used at funerals, and coffins may
be white (but normally not yellow or green or blue). White may indicate the
absence of (colourful) life, and poets thus compare the snow covering a
landscape in winter with a shroud.
It is true that in the black-white contrast black has negative and white
positive meaning (because sin is black and innocence is white), but in
other contexts the symbolic value of white is rather ambiguous. A "black
woman" of a fairy tale was mentioned in a previous mail, but lots of old
houses and castles in England are haunted by a "white woman". White is the
typical colour (or rather absence of colour) of a ghost and it is also
associated with lack of health  and fear.
There is no real point in contrasting the black god Vishnu-Krishna with the
white of mourning because these two items belong to different semantic
levels. Arjuna ("the White one") and Krishna ("the Black one") of the epic
are a complementary couple which certainly does not reflect ethical or
ethnological reflections on skin colour. As has been observed long ago,
this pair is a continuation of the Vedic pair of the gods Indra and Vishnu,
well attested already in the Rigveda; and - in contradistinction to Rudra,
who was a frightened god (associated with the colour red, by the way) -
Vishnu seems from the beginning to have been considered by the Vedic aryans
as a positive, helpful god.
I fail to see the use of all these postings (flooding our list for weeks
now) about "Black as beautiful" or "Black as evil". Are you so sure that
black never is asssociated with negative ideas in Tamil literature and that
white is just associated with mourning and never with anything positive? I
feel that most contributions are rather biased and that they do not do
justice to the complexity of the problems involved.

With best regards
Georg v. Simson

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