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Colors in Turkish Culture


Photo credits: dhoku.com

Are you also one of us who is choosing the color of the outfit with considering the skin, hair, body shape etc... or don't we design our living areas or office with thinking of our target; like we would like to be comfy? or are we trying to look smart or impressive?


History of this land and its culture has something to tell you, stories of colors... Since centuries, Nomadic Turks had many chances to enjoy the advantages of green grass, blue sky, red fire, brown and yellow terrain... From the battle fields to the rituals, they put the colors of nature into consideration when they were choosing their garments and living spaces. Turkic legends such as "Dede Korkut" always underline the colors in stories. Lets cut the story short and get in to the meaningful background of colors... Before we go, thanks for one of the most amazing rug companies Dhoku for giving us a chance to use their pictures from their ---> website. BLUE

Let's start with the fraquently asked color, blue. With different meanings in different cultures it's probably the most tangled color with its past. Firstly blue used by Egyptians around 2000BC produced out of ground limestone, heated and they came by with blue glass which will be crushed and will be mixed with egg white to thicken the color. Then it reached to the Roman Empire. Azurite, malachite, lapis lazuri are accepted as the main sources of blue color, and it was found out the clothes can be colored in indigo blue with lapis lazuri stone which can be counted as mile stone for cheaper and colored clothing productions in history. This story will take us all the way from 16th century to 19th! The indigo color happen to be used even dying jeans in England. Manufacturing the cheaper costed jeans caused every people from all social status to reach the products easier. We can rely on this story of blue color and can go back in time to our childhood, from 1960's 1980's, blue jeans could be counted as a cheap clothing. However when we think about our culture with "blue evil eye" which is still in use my our moms, as wall hangings at the entrances of our houses, blue can be counted as a color providing "peace" and "happiness" and keeps bad eyes away from your place or you. As one of the main colors for Turkic culture which is mentioned at the very bottom of this blog, places with blue gives a feeling of "endless tranquility" of oceans and sky and "freedom" as you can "dream" and widen your imagine as much as you can... RED

Oh well, the color of love, lust, energy, and yes, fire... Red has billions of things to tell you. Many dreams of a bride, or a life of a warrior... Turkic myths used to say that there was a protector spirit, God of Fire, aka "Al ateşi(Red of Fire)". Some historians rely on this background when they are talking about the red color on flags of Turkic countries. That is a big different subject to focus on. But frankly, this color reflects the "power", "desire" and "royalty" today and it has a deeper and very logical reason, before being used in 19th century in Europe... Firstly we need to mention that red color is not quite new one for us. Starting from Upper Paleolitic period, 50000 years ago, we can easily see the red dye. Egyptians, Peruvians, Han Dynasty and Ancient Greece loved to use red color too. Roman Mythology is linking up red color with the God of War, Mars. But once we reached to the Roman Empire lets get to my favorite story of Murex... It's probably all of our, tour guides', favorite story about colors. When we tell you red during our speeches of architecture or garments of Roman Empire, we may mean brownish purplish red color, which is called porphyr! Historians mention about a shell which is called Murex Brandaris (link for you to read more on Wiki) which used to be found in Mediterranean shores and was dying garments into brownish red color. Its quite difficult to be sure about which would be more precious, purple or brown-red; but it was a unique color only used by the royal families. And they were quite sharp about the public were not - not - not allowed to wear anything red! When textile industry met with the beauty of red in Renaissence period, probably it was a lucky mile stone for this color. And it started to be used perfectly on silk and satin luxury fabrics! oh we should not forget amazing unique paintings of artists as well! In 18th century, after being used in every different meaning even as a political symbol, Turks decided to improve industrial red color with rubia plant and chemists started to call this specific one as Turkish red color, which was doing amazing job in industry with long lasting madder. By soaking the red fabric in olive oil, lye or sheep dung it took such a long procedure to produce it, but this process made the color one of the most reliable and more expensive ones. But history of red wasn't that all. It wasn't only pointing the royal or rich families, but also it was used in boondocks or tribes or villages... Still today, there are some families following their ancestors during their weddings. Accordingly, the wedding starts with -oh yes, make up, hair, pre wedding shooting etc.., starts with groom, visiting bride's home when she is waiting for him with her family. When groom is taking her from home, if bride has a brother, brother is tieing a red ribbon around her waist to show her virginity. There are many ways of explanations of this depending on cultures in different regions. We can tell it's a symbol of virginity...(and if it's used that way, i, personally, and girls in my social circle are completely against wearing red ribbon on our gowns, and shouting out loud our very private lives!) or it may mean a wish for a powerful, beautifully effortful marriage; or it may mean wealth for new family... But most importantly, in modern Turkey which is not a small percentage, it's all up to the bride if she wants to wear red ribbon or not. Out of these can we say red is the color of power, royalty, desire and energy? I say, y e s! YELLOW

Oh dear yellow. As one of the easily found pigments, yellow is used by Turks often. As a specific color of endless lands for nomadic Turks, it was also the color of empery, because of Turks' previous faith Shamanism! Thrones of gods were golden yellow. Just as it is, the center of the life must be golden yellow. However day by day, year by year, it's pointed out the yellow color with sadness, illness, sorrow. Because, as my linguist mum says, in Turkish poems and stories, "if a person can never reach to his belowed one, or if she leaves him, he fades away like a yellow rose..." Oh, poor... Did i tell you we Turks are a bit dramatic in love? even it's a legendary poetry. :) Besides there are also beautiful yellow things are mentioned in folkloric songs and poems, such as "a young blonde girl with her "boucle" hair is wearing her naive kerchief scarf" just like babushka is stealing the poet's heart. Or "yellow spring flowers are touching the souls"... etc... Looking over the yellow in Turkish culture, truly we can never relate it with pure love, but we should! Because if you keep quite for a second and try to understand the yellow Turkish rug, a shawl or "minyatur" painting, it will tell you many stories. Before we continue, we should always remember that yellow is always related to wealth and health. GREEN

In Turkish language green refers to "yeşil" (pronounced like yea-sheel) bases to the word "yaş" which means "wet", symbolizing fruitfulness through rain. Fresh newly grown grass is a symbol of hope, new beginnings, happiness and good intensions. In Turkish mythology it's mentioned about a protector spirit of favors "Yaşıl Kagan" was growing the plants. And as it's also mentioned about "Gokturks" used to wear green garments it would be a symbol of empery as well. Accepting Islam was an important step for the role of green in Turkish culture. As it's mentioned that one of the flags of Prophet Muhammed was green, this color took an important place of Islamic Turkish culture. Besides the importance of lovely green breccia marble was unique and used by Eastern Roman Empire in closer period, firstly in Paleolitic period the low quality of green out of birch tree was developed by mixing yellow ochre and blue azurit in centuries. Saffron yellow fabrics soaked in blue dye to have green color on textile industry. 16th century in Ottoman Empire was green's fancy noble period as it was used on jewelry, well we already know that? :) Especially emerald color, besides jewelry, can be one of brunette's favourites on silk or satin outfits. Doesn't a high quality dyied green color sound you such a cool, luxurius one? Out of this, honestly, as in Turkey our money is in different colors we cannot relate green color with money in our culture... But politics! Why? The very first time in history green party is recorded by Byzantine Empire in Constantinople city in 6th century! Chariot races were not only entertaining people but also these red,white,green and blue factions were political symbols in Eastern Roman Empire. When emperor Justinien was supporting Blue faction, Green supporters led a riot called Nika which will be terminated with a major massacre... You Go Greens! Bonus: According to the nomadic Turks, Black and White tents used to mean a lot too. If it was black it was symbolising they have son. If it was white, it referred to a girl. Bonus: Colors in Turkic Myths There are 5 main colors: black, white, red, blue, yellow. According to the researchers colors could be categorized like this. Share your stories with colors with us below. Cheers Y'all. Sanem Yucesoy



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