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The Rainbow: From The Sacred To The Profane

Niagara Falls, Ontario is one of Canada’s natural wonders and if you’ve ever visited it you likely noticed a brilliant rainbow arching out from the misty water. Today a variety of rainbows can be observed in the sky including twinned, circular, supernumerary, monochrome, moonbows, multi-rainbows, and fogbows, as well as Alexander’s dark band (named after the ancient Greek philosopher Aphrodisias).

Throughout history people have marvelled at these vibrant bands of colour in the sky, revering them in their legends. In Ireland, a common myth asserts that leprechauns guard a crock of gold that can be found at the end of a rainbow. Those of you who are familiar with Norse mythology will also know of Bifröst, the burning rainbow bridge that reaches between Midgard (Earth) and Asgard (the realm of the gods).

Heimdall before Bifröst blowing into his Gjallarhorn by Emil Doepler, 1905

However, there is an even older Christian teaching about the origin and purpose of the rainbow recorded in the Old Testament. Yes, the Scriptures say that after the Deluge, when all of the wicked men and women on earth were swept away, Noah made an offering to God to thank Him for saving his family from the great flood. Pleased with his offering, God assured Noah that He would never again flood the entire earth and then rewarded Noah with the privilege of becoming the first man to ever see a rainbow. There is no separate Hebrew word for rainbow, so the normal word for “bow” קֶשֶׁת (keset/keshet), which means “to shoot arrows”, is used in the Bible.

The Story of Noah: God shows Noah a rainbow, mid-17th century, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

“I have set my bow in the clouds, and it will serve as a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. Whenever I bring a cloud over the earth, then the bow will certainly appear in the cloud.” Genesis IX: XIII–XV

Though some may assume a symbolic meaning, it can be ascertained that prophets in the Bible viewed both the Deluge and the sighting of the rainbow as an actual event, and that the waters of the Deluge referred to seas currently present on the earth. The tenth verse of the 29th Psalm states that “Jehovah sits enthroned above the Deluge” referring to the sea, and the prophet Isaiah affirmed God’s covenant saying that “the waters of Noah will no more cover the earth” (Isaiah LIV: X) which refers to the “firmament” or “expanse” (likely atmospheric gasses) mentioned in the seventh verse of the first chapter of Genesis. Hence it can be assumed that atmospheric conditions were such that, until “the floodgates of the heavens were opened” (Genesis. VII: XI), none before Noah and his family had seen a rainbow.

Regardless, if you think such a thing is not worth contemplating, or if you do not believe in the interpretations of biblical events, you can still appreciate that the rainbow in ancient times was considered a highly sacred symbol. In fact, the sacredness of the rainbow is also mentioned in Ezekiel’s vision of the throne of God. Ezekiel I: XXVIII states that “[t]he radiance of the encircling light was like a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day.” In the tenth chapter of Revelation of the Apostle John, an angel with a book descends from heaven wrapped in a cloud, with a rainbow over his head.

Saint George on horseback, with a rainbow in the background, Mary Evans Picture Library

When Christianity took hold in Europe, rainbows were widely seen as a symbol of God’s protection, as well as a symbol of hope for a better future. The rainbow has also been in use as a heraldic figure since the mid-15th century. According to the website Mistholme, “[t]he default heraldic rainbow has four bands; when blazoned” which include Or (Gold), Gules (Red), Vert (Green), and Argent (White).

Coat of Arms of the Bavarian city of Regen, Germany

During the 19th century both classicist painters like Joseph Anton Koch and more romantic artists like Caspar David Friedrich featured rainbows prominently in some of their paintings. The rainbow has also been known to inspire music as well. In the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz, the lead character Dorothy Gale (Judy Garland) sings a song called “Over the Rainbow” which is about longing for a place where “dreams that you dare to dream really do come true”.

This song was likely inspired by the popular Vaudeville song “I’m Always Chasing Rainbows”, written by the American songwriter Harry Carroll and adapted from the piano composition Fantaisie-Impromptu by the Polish composer Frédéric Chopin.

Today the rainbow has lost all of its sacredness and has become something entirely profane. Only professional nature photographers have managed to keep some of its majesty alive. But how did the rainbow lose its magic? According to findlight.net “[o]ur modern understanding of light and [colour] stems from experiments done in 1672 by Isaac Newton, where he demonstrated the ability of a prism to break up white light into its component colours as well as recombine the spectrum back into white light.”. Issac Newton was a religious man of the Enlightenment, and during his era all the magic in the world was slowly being replaced by secularist and rationalist principles.

Later it was realized that children were more attracted to bright colours and that children could be exploited to gain huge profits. This gave rise to circuses, cotton candy, bubble gum, and rainbow themed sweets such as lollipops, Smarties, and M&Ms. The effect that colourful sweets have on children is what gave rise to stories like Hansel and Gretel, where a little girl must save her brother from being fattened up and eaten by a wicked witch that lives in a house made of candy.

In 2011, the independent studio Whitestone Motion Pictures made a short film entitled “The Candy Shop” which used sweets as a metaphor for sex trafficking and paedophilia. The entire film is 30 minutes long and can be viewed here:

Then, during the hippy era of the 1960s and 70s, rainbows became associated with getting high on psychedelic drugs which in turn had the effect of stupefying the population, further leading them into debauchery and blind consumerism.

Putting all of this together, it becomes obvious that Drag Shows on children’s channels and Drag Queen Story Time at children’s libraries are nothing more than an attempt to take advantage of the vulnerable minds of our youth.

Referring back to Noah, the rainbow he saw has now been altered to represent the people who were destroyed by God’s wrath. As many have observed, these bright colours function more like a warning sign that one might find on a stinging yellow jacket or a poisonous beast. The Apostle Luke also tells us that “just as it occurred in the days of Noah, so it will be in the days of the Son of man; they were eating, they were drinking, men were marrying, and women were being given in marriage until that day when Noah entered into the ark, and the Flood came and destroyed them all.” (Luke XVII: XXVI-XXVII).

Noah did not allow his family to be destroyed but rather “through this faith he condemned the world, and he became an heir of the righteousness that results from faith.” (Hebrews. XI: VII) Therefore, in order to protect our families from moral corruption, we must, like Noah, denounce the evils of this world and do what is in our power to keep our youth far away from their influences which lead to the depraved and disgusting things that we have all witnessed.

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