In The Way of Tarot, Alejandro Jodorowsky describes the color violet (one of the least prominent colors in his version of the Tarot de Marseille) as the “color of wisdom.” As a graphic artist I consider violet a “secondary” color that is a blend of the primary colors red and blue. In esoteric color theory, red symbolizes the root of ambition and action while blue represents the root of emotion and spirituality. If we mix more red than blue into the combination, we get red-violet: ardor tempered by sensitivity to create an impression of prudence or forbearance; and if there is more blue than red in the mix we achieve blue-violet, conveying spiritual calm leavened by passion and suggesting visionary aspirations. Depending on the medium (in some pigments the reds are far more intense than the blues), the ideal 50/50 ratio yields “true” violet, which partakes equally of both extremes. In explaining his “Justice” card, Jodorowsky speaks of violet as expressing the loftiest form of human judgment.
I’ve always thought of purple as the “royal” color, but nobility certainly doesn’t impart wisdom so its use in raiment was probably more about ostentation; the dye was very rare and extremely costly to make, requiring the mucus of thousands of sea-snails to produce a single ounce. Environmentalists would definitely protest that this isn’t a “wise” use of a natural resource. In parts of the world outside of the Mediterranean such fabric dyes were approximated using berry and beet juices, and now they come from chemicals. I’m afraid that the “Barney” cartoons have forever tainted my perception of the color purple.
Violet is also connected with mystery, imagination, sadness, mourning and “night-time.” For me, it always brings to mind Edgar Allan Poe’s “silken, sad, uncertain rustling of each purple curtain.” I’m not entirely sure how it makes me feel from an aesthetic perspective, although I can say with conviction that I’ve never viewed it as an energetic or optimistic hue. I might be more inclined to see orange as a color reflecting the inspired insight that can bring wisdom: the red of desire joined with the yellow of curiosity and intelligence to produce the inquisitive mind of the scholar and teacher (in fact, red-orange is the color of the Hierophant, the tarot’s paragon of higher learning). However, I believe orange in psychology is related more to business and industrial practices like marketing or signage, and it signifies cognitive or practical rather than philosophical savvy. Once again, wisdom is more than applied knowledge, it is the judicious application of lucid discernment and shrewd action (or sensible discretion) to the human condition.
Here is a fun link on the subject, although there are no esoteric associations in it: