Cardinal Directions and Colour

What Colour is your Compass?

Most of these admittedly are from wikipedia, which means that they are cited, however, as I don’t have access to the source material I can’t corroborate much of it. If you happen to know of another colour series, feel free to share it and I’ll add it to the pile.

The Cardinal Points, North, East, South, West, and sometimes Centre, have been fundamental ideas upon which much knowledge is built. Often, each direction is assigned a colour. These are often represented by circles divided into four quarters, sometimes with a central circle if appropriate. Like so:


Yellow is the East,  Red the South, Black the West and White the North. However, theAbysmal system has an image that represents the cardinal points (among other things). I’ve been referring to this as the mycelium of life (aka mushroom of life):

clockwise-myceliumAnother difference in my association is with the direction at the top of the image. As is the convention with most maps, north is at the top, east to the right, etc. However, I read somewhere (alas, anecdotal evidence, but it doesn’t really matter where it came from in the end) that in China, South was at the top. This made more sense to me, as a northern hemispheran living in the higher latitudes. If one pictures oneself at the centre, then the north is behind, the south before, east to the left, west to the right – as if one is facing the sun (southern exposure and all that), and facing the majority of the people on this American landmass. I think that north at the top makes much more sense for southern hemispherans for the same reason (but who am I to dictate?)

Alrighty, so here are the various “mycelia of life” for various colour symbol-systems, including theAbysmal’s version. If the central circle is blank and white, it indicates that the centre is not considered among the directions. If the central circle is white with the swirly pattern, that means the colour for the central direction is white.

Anishinaabeg
anishnaabegSioux
siouxPueblo
puebloNavajo
navajoLakota
lakotaCherokee
cherokeePurépecha
tarascanAztec
aztecMaya
mayaApache
apache

Kalmyks
kalmyks

China
china

Ainu
ainu

Turkic
turkic

Tibet
tibet

Slavic
slavicHere is theAbysmal Version. I’m not entirely settled on this, but it does resolve some issues (namely, I have no clue about design, especially when it comes to colour – notice how grey scale this blog is?) I wanted to keep white and black out of the equation, because those represent the directions up (white, where the sun and source of light is), and down (black, where the earth’s opaqueness hides everything from us). That settled, then it was a matter of arranging the four most common colours as felt appropriate.

Here’s a 3-D version I made some time ago for the Anishinaabeg colours. I don’t remember how I figured this out, however, I seem to have since forgotten.

3d

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