Indigo and Violet (or Purple and Mauve?)

Posted on: December 7, 2009


‘Indigo and violet’ – these are the last two colours of the rainbow.  But I wonder how often we use these words for them in everyday life?  I don’t often hear ‘violet’ used to describe a colour – more often, it’s used to mean the spring wild flower – and most people refer to the colour indigo as ‘purple’.

The other day, I saw one of Alan Bennett’s ‘Talking Heads’ monologues on TV.   It was about a lonely spinster who writes letters of complaint to the local authorities.   She was offended at one point, by a policewoman calling her by her first name, even though she did not know her. 

Names are so important, and giving someone, or something, a name has special significance.   In the Old Testament Book of Ruth, the widow, Naomi, wants to change her name, as she is finding it too painful to be called ‘Naomi’ (meaning ‘pleasant’).  This happens on her return to Bethlehem, where she grew up.  Going back there makes her realise how painful the last decade or so has been. 

She says: ‘Call me “Mara”, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter.  I went away full, but the LORD has brought me back empty.  Why call me Naomi?  The LORD has afflicted me.’  She had good reasons to feel aggrieved, having lost her husband and both her sons, and now she is moving country for a second time due to famine.

It can be quite nice I feel to keep some names, or ways of expressing things, for high days and holy days.  There’s an expression, ‘that is my Sunday name’.   Tied in with this is the idea of respect.  Alan Bennett’s middle-aged lady would have felt that being addressed as ‘Miss Ruddock’ was respecting her right to privacy – ie allowing her to keep back something more personal for her to share only with personal friends and acquaintances.

Perhaps God wanted to change the way Naomi related to names, and the process of giving names.  Her two sons both died young, and both had negative names – Mahlon means ‘sick’, Chilion ‘weakening’ or ‘pining’.   The father normally named a child, but I wonder if Naomi influenced his choice.

When Ruth had a baby, it was Naomi’s friends, rather than Boaz, Ruth, or Naomi herself, who gave him his name.  ‘And her [Naomi’s] neighbour women gave him a name, saying, A son is born to Naomi.  They named him Obed.’  (Obed means God’s servant). 

God saw Naomi’s pain, when she said ‘Why call me Naomi?’ (‘pleasant’).  Maybe rather than being displeased with Naomi for speaking negatively and bitterly, God simply wanted to restore her joy.   Naomi had declared something negative about herself, to a group of people who seem to have meant everything to her (the people of Bethlehem, her birthplace).   The story ends with the same group of people, or some of them anyway, declaring positive things about her. 

In the Alan Bennett monologue, Irene Ruddock serves a Community Service Order for harassing her neighbours (which was actually done with good intentions).  It turns out to be the making of her!  She takes on new activities, and makes lots of interesting friends.  Like Naomi, disaster overtook her, but things worked out happily in the end.  I’m sure she would have found more people she was happy to be called ‘Irene’ by!

As for Naomi – I wonder whether anyone in Bethlehem ever did use ‘Mara’ instead of ‘Naomi’ as per her request, or if they ignored it, thinking ‘it’s just a phase’.

As you can see, I’ve combined indigo and violet into one post, and I’ll stick to this pattern – however to maintain the ‘seven colours’ pattern, I’ll write alternately about pink and white for the seventh post, each time.

Even though pink isn’t an official rainbow colour, I’m sure I’ve spotted a rosy pink blush at the inside part of the rainbow.  And as for white, the colours of the rainbow combine to form white – perhaps you’ve seen one of those children’s rainbow spinning tops, where it turns white when the top is spun fast enough?


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  • None
  • Carole: Beautiful!
  • Amy: Sounds like a beautiful color and dress. And I would love to see a picture of that tree! I do love trees of all kinds, and you make some great points
  • Amy: What a beautiful poem or song to God, love it! We're exciting to see spring here up in the northeast after a long, cold, snowy winter! Blessings, A


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