Rainbows Everywhere: the universal symbol of hope and unity

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

There aren’t many people who don’t stop in wonder at the sight of a rainbow – it is a sight universally accepted in awe. They bring joy wherever they are seen. Throughout history, in all cultures and religions, the symbol of the rainbow is highly significant. During these dark days of the COVID19 pandemic, they are present in neighbourhood windows, plastered across hospital walls and shared across social media as signs of unity and hope. What is it about a rainbow?

Seven Colours of the Rainbow

Seven is a number that turns up often in symbolic thought. In Buddhism, there are seven levels of consciousness, resulting in the clear light of nirvana and Teresa of Avila’s seven mansions make up the Interior Castle that represents the seven stages of faith. Both peak in union with the divine. There are seven notes in the musical scale of which many combinations create harmony and melody in our world. There is no doubt there is significance in ‘seven’, separately, combined and cumulatively. The marriage of the seven elements points to something ‘other’.

The Science Bit

Rainbows are made when sunlight is refracted through water droplets, splitting white light into the multitude of colours it is made up of. Every colour of the spectrum is needed: just like everyone in our communities is. Everyone belongs, everyone plays a part. What’s more, you need lenses of every colour to see the whole spectrum. You can’t see its entirety if you look through the lens of only one colour: a red lens will only allow red light through. The more clear our ‘sight’, the more beauty we see.

Beyond Dualism

You need two ‘elements’ – sunlight from the heavens (ephemeral, untouchable and otherworldly) and water, (physical and touchable) of the Earth. Together, they produce something else. Something numinous. It is transparent yet concrete. Real, but just beyond reach. For me, this is reminiscent in the Easter story where Jesus, being both human and divine, ‘is broken’ to reveal the glory of the universe, of God.

Rainbow Bridge

People once believed that rainbows, with their hump-backed bridge shape, physically connected Heaven and Earth. The Buddha’s staircase was rainbow-hued, and the word ‘pontifex’ means builder of bridges; the pope is a bridge between God and His people.

A rainbow made by keyworker children still attending school.
As I left school the other day, I saw a family turn the corner and their little girl gasp in wonder, ” Loooooook! A huge rainbow!”

Of course, the origin of the rainbow is well known in Judeo-Christian culture as God’s promise to humanity, given through Noah, after the great flood. Since a child, this has confused me – it was hard to think about trusting a God after He had just drowned out most of the world. I always thought this was a bit harsh.

Nowadays, I see the rainbow as a universal symbol of unity. Union of parts that when combined produce something mystical and magical. Whether a symphony, hues of colour or union with the divine. No wonder it has existed as a human symbol of hope and transcendence throughout history.

If you can think of any other rainbow connections, I would love to hear them.

May rainbows continue to remind us of our inner divinity, the power of community and continue to bring hope as we join together to beat this virus.

Thanks to all who are working hard to keep us safe. God bless.

Image by skeeze from Pixabay

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Louissa Latham

    Hi there, PLEASE 🤗 I’m asking for support in helping spread hope for Coronavirus. Please click on my link below & join the group. We would ❤️ very much for your family/child to create a 🌈 picture/craft & post it in your window at home & to our Facebook page. Please share our page with all your friends/families & groups.
    Let’s see how many rainbows 🌈 we can all create from the USA 🇺🇸, to show our hope & love to the world. My hope is that it brings light,love & brightness during these unprecedented circumstances.


    1. sacredtinnedpears

      Done Louissa! May you continue to spread love, light, hope and happiness.

  2. Bill

    Hi Shelley,
    I really enjoy your themes, thank you.
    Keep Safe and Well
    St Barnabas Mat

    1. sacredtinnedpears

      Thank you, Bill.
      Keep safe and well, too. 🙂


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