Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Other Rainbow

Here's another one of those odd items that's always been there floating around in my head, dating way back to when I was a kid: I've always known that there are really two rainbows.

One is the ordinary rainbow, the one you see in the sky. You know, Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet. (And I'll thank you not to forget Indigo, if you please.)

The other is, well, the other rainbow, which has nine colors: White, Yellow, Orange, Red, Green, Blue, Purple, Brown, Black. (In some tellings, Blue comes before Green; and the rainbow runs from White on the inside of the arch, to Black on the outside.)

It's not quite clear to me what kind of a rainbow I thought this other rainbow, with its nine colors, was. Plainly not a rainbow you see in the sky. Maybe more like Black Elk's "red and blue days at the end of the world"? Or more, I think, like the way I always knew what color each day of the week is: "Monday is light brown, Tuesday is violet, Wednesday is red, Thursday is moss green, Friday is yellow, Saturday is luminous red, and Sunday is white."

Something more like that. I always just knew about the other rainbow, White, Yellow, Orange, Red, Green, Blue, Purple, Brown, Black.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah, but I've seen the "other" rainbow lots and lots. Children's artwork. Got to admit, I like the symetry of it.

Black Elk. Memories. Good times. Pointing out in religion class that he was an Episcapalian (?) elder for decades who seems to have thought that his "story" would include the story of his conversion to Christianity. Regardless, its a lovely book. Although I find it incredibly ironic that its been used to spark an interest among the younger native-americans in their native religion.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006 9:31:00 AM  
Blogger Paul Burgess said...

Yeah, I understand that Neihardt suppressed that side of Black Elk's account. Interestingly enough, the seminary class where I read Black Elk Speaks had in it several Lakota Sioux students from Dakota Presbytery. I lived with one of them in a house four of us seminarians shared that year. He had some interesting angles on things, I wish I could reproduce his detailed explanation of how dialect jokes work in Lakota.

As for those nine colors, it has occurred to me to wonder if there was some connection with Crayola crayons from when I was a kid— only the crayon boxes we worked with then had in them (I think) either eight or twelve colors, until I eventually got one that had 64 colors in it. I knew very definitely at that age that these nine colors were colors of a rainbow. It's always bugged me that I can't quite figure which order Green and Blue come in.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006 10:06:00 AM  

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