Colours in Ancient Egypt
Man has been born surrounded by colours and started to use them intuitively. In Ancient Egypt, Medicine also used colours as a therapeutic resource, making an analogy between the characteristics of the symptoms or of the illnesses and the colours, by using substances such as: plants, precious and semi-precious stones.
The plants were used by means of: leaves, flowers or roots, infusions, teas, plasters, cataplasms, ground with honey or aromatic oil, and applied to local dressings. They used precioius and semi-precious stones to produce lucky charms, ornaments, jewellery, which besides having an effect due to the action of the colour, exerted a beneficial influence because of the magical formula that they had engraved.
Yellow was used in the treatment of jaundice, which is characterised by the increase of bilirubin in the blood, this element is then placed on the skin and on the mucous membrane, which presented yellow colour, by the use of flowers and precious stones, under the procedures already mentioned.
In the case of haemorrhage, which is characterised by heavy bleeding, one can observe the presence of the colour red, as well as in the case of cardio-vascular illnesses; and they used a treatment with the colour red to treat such illnesses.
Cyanosis, which causes a purple-blue colour on the skin, is a result of insufficient oxygen in the blood and it is manifested in many chronic lung diseases, like fibrosis and emphysema, also in cardiac diseases, like congenial or serious diseases of the heart, i.e.: injuries in the heart septum. Cyanosis was treated was treated with blue flowers and precious stones.
All these practices that were based on the use of colour took into consideration the analogy between the colour of the manifested symptom or disease and the colour used for the cure. The Egyptian doctors believed in the neutralising property of colour, to such an extent that they irradiated, in a localized fashion, the identical colour of a given pathology.
Many temples in Egypt had the Hat Ankh, or Castles of Life, or still Sanatoria of Cure, which were built in stone or bricks, where the doctor-priests performed hydrotherapy, sleep therapy, hypnosis, and Chromo Therapy by the use of flowers and precious stones.
These procedures were rigorously supervised by the specialised priests, who were initiated in the mysteries of magic, and had a profound knowledge of healing herbs and stones.
The substances used in the healing treatments were: stramonium, belladonna, (used as anti-spasmodic as well as cardiac and breathing stimulator), â€˜meimendroâ€™ - from which the alkaloids hiocinamina and scopolamine, opium (the juice of the Poppy seed) â€“ whose alkaloids arÃªte morphine and laudanum, with anaesthetic, hallucinogen and narcotic effects. They knew the anaesthetic power of seeds of the lotus flower and of the poppy, which after being roasted and ground, were placed on the wounds. They also used the famous mandrake root.
Kom Omboâ€™s temple seems to be the only one that still has the Hat Ank that can be seen at the end of it, in a number of seven.
Also is Esnaâ€™s temple there is and invocation of the God Knum, recorded in the columns of the hypostyle room, that confirm that the Hat Ankh existed:
â€˜How beautiful is your face when you are in the Hat Ankh healing the ill delivering form Evil those who look for you.â€™
The majority of these Hat Ankh buildings that were situated behind the temple do not exist anymore, as they were destroyed by time. Dendera Temple has some vestiges of those installations and their ruins can be observed from the terrace of the main temple, according to studies carried out by a researcher called Daumas in 1957, who confirmed that those were used as healing sanatoria. However, today those ruins are called Roman baths, but can be used for medicinal ends.
These Egyptian Hat Ankh were the forerunners of the healing sanatoria â€“ AsclÃ©pias â€“ that the Greeks were going to have in their holy heaths, centuries later.
According to Prof. Reuben Amber, author of â€˜Cromoterapia â€“ A Cura atravÃ©s das Coresâ€™ (Chromo Therapy â€“ Healing through Colours, Egypt was the pioneering country in the use of Chromo Therapy). He reports that the archaeologists found evidence in Egyptian temples, of small rooms built with a small opening in the ceiling in order to allow the entering of Sun Light, where patients received treatment.
This professor also reports that the Egyptians also used water that had been exposed to Sun Light as medicine.
Some time later, it is probable that colourful glass had been used in therapies, in the same way as precious and semi-precious stones were utilised.
It is known that glazing was known in Egypt since the Ancient Empire and that the first glass factory was set up in mid XVIII Dynasty, and that they even manufactured translucid colourful glass.
A glass factory and several wrought glass objects were found in the city of Akhetaton, amongst them the colourful fish that is to be found in the Museum of London, the yellow glass chalice that is in the Museum of New York and the blue amphora that is to be found in the Museum of Cairo.
:: Main Colours used in ancient Egypt
BLUE symbolised the sky and the waters of the river Nile. INIDIGO represented the night sky. One can observe a in indigo blue with golden-yellow stars sky painted in the ceiling of the tumbs and temples.
Stones - turquoise and lapis-lazulli.
GREEN is represented by the papyrus, which means the vegetable greenness and youth. The papyrus is the symbol of low Egypt â€“ North.
The Egyptians associated green to the plantâ€™s cycle and also to manâ€™s life, saying: â€˜A tree loses its leaves in autumn, it seems to be dead in winter, it is re-born in spring and it blooms in the summer; becoming the image of resurrection and regeneration. Osiers is the symbol of this re-birthing, and it is called green Osiers’.
Stones - malachite and emerald.
GOLDEN-YELLOW (GOLDEN) it symbolises the colour of the Sun. It is the colour of the divine. Gold was considered to be the flesh of the immortals, represented in statues and jewels.
Stone - yellow jasper.
RED it is the symbol of life, as it is the colour of the sun during the sunrise and the sunset.
There is a papyrus with the representation of two lions with a hieroglyph on the horizon â€“ akhit â€“ which has the Sun, in red, between two mountains with the cross Ank, which is the symbol of life, showing that manâ€™s cycle of life is similar to that one of the Sun, which goes through its course eternally.
Stones - cornelian and sandstone.
Golden jewel with diverse precious stones, with a prominent Sun in cornelian (red) and a beetle in lapis-lazulli (blue).
Besides those colours, the Egyptian also used these shades:
White - it represents purity. The Egyptians always used to dress in white.
Black - it represents eternal transformations or transmutations.
Finally, we can say that Chromo Therapy had its origin in Ancient Egypt approximately 2800 B.C., starting with a therapeutic use of flowers, precious stones and semi-precious stones of several colours, according to their similarity to the disease that was manifested.
Afterwards, with the manufacturing of translucid colourful glass, and after medical research on the function of colours in patients recovery, Chromo Therapy was successfully adopted internationally.
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