Black is mourning.
«It’s black today, everything I say is black today | I look at my hands, I touch my hair, it’s black today. | It’s black today, every thought of mine is black today | I wish I could disappear, I wish I could die, for real». (Massimiliano Pani/Valentino Alfano for Mina)
Seven are the colours of the rainbow. But, according to the European tradition, the colour of mourning is commonly identified with a non-colour: black. Pope Innocent III codified its use with these words: «We should wear black clothes on the day of sorrow and abstinence, for our own sins and for the deceased». Nevertheless, as early as in Roman times, black was generally considered the colour of mourning together with white and red. During the funeral feast in honour of Diocletian, for example, the crockery, the room as well as the clothes of magistrates and women were black.
Black is fear, anxiety.
«Black stood for all that she didn’t know, and while the white ran together to form little, and sometimes, larger islands, the black remained unchangingly infinite. This black emitted fear and agitation». (Robert Musil)
In the short story The Mask of the Red Death, Edgar Allan Poe conceived a magnificent place where Prince Prospero and his friends sought refuge to escape the pestilence. The abbey consisted of a series of rooms and chambers, each decorated in a prevailing colour – green, orange, blue… Coloured are the walls, the furniture, the braziers that light the rooms, coloured are the countless dreams that follow one another in each room. Except for the black room, that arouses great apprehension, a subtle fear. It’s not death, but all that comes before it and «the effect of the fire-light that streamed upon the dark hangings through the blood-tinted panes was ghastly in the extreme, and produced so wild a look upon the countenances of those who entered, that there were few of the company bold enough to set foot within its precincts at all».
Black is the void from which everything is born.
«We should respect black. Nothing can corrupt it: it doesn’t attract the eyes, it doesn’t awaken sensuality. It is a tool of the mind, much more than the most beautiful colour of the palette or of the prism». (Odilon Redon)
According to Jodorowsky, in the book The Way of Tarot, black refers to two opposite and complementary concepts: on the one hand the idea of emptiness, the negation of colour, the necessary condition to reach the Divine: to enter nothingness. On the other hand, the creative magma containing the origin of life, the alchemic nigredo, the amorphous mass of decay that is the humus of pureness, the darkness where every form of life germinates. In two tarots the characters’ feet sink into black soil: the arcanum XV, the Devil, and the arcanum XIII, the nameless one that is often identified with Death. The stepped-on soil stands for the unconscious, the vacuity, the deep mystery.
Black is elegance.
«When I find a colour darker than black, I’ll wear it. But until then, I’m wearing black». (Coco Chanel)
Now we know how to answer when somebody asks us why we are dressed in Black.