Symbolism of Indigo

Rarely occurring in nature, its symbolism is shrouded in intrigue. The status of indigo as one of the colours of the rainbow is a point of contention: many argue that it does not belong on the spectrum at all, instead falling under the categories of one of its neighbours, blue or violet. The visual difficulty in differentiating its hue in the rainbow spectrum adds to its ambiguity, and supports the concept that it represents a mixing, meshing, and merging of two related, but different, ideas.

Traded since the fifteenth century and used to dye cloth, indigo has a rich history as a valuable commodity. It was imported in trade routes across continents via the Silk Road from India and traded for centuries, epitomising its role as a uniting force: in this case, that of East and West. Today, developments in dying technology mean that it can be produced artificially, making it ubiquitous in denim jeans. The tension between artificiality and authenticity, the manufactured form and the natural state, reinforces and reflects the new economic era into which we are entering, in the move away from the value of natural resources to that of innovation and creativity, driven by technology and man-made resources.

The colour indigo has also held a significant place in religious contexts. Christian art often depicts the Virgin Mary as clothed in a shade of blue.The colour indigo has been suggested as similar to the unidentified colour of techelet, the colour of the fringed robes worn by Ancient Israel’s high priests in the Second Temple in Jerusalem. Intense debate surrounds what exactly the biblical text meant by this colour; many attest that it is similar to indigo, and the search for its alleged natural source, the chilazon snail, continues, adding to indigo’s elusiveness.

Indigo as a personality trait is related to spiritual thought. People with indigo personalities are characterised as insightful, creative, resistant of authority and structure, and fiercely iconoclastic. This embodies a breaking of the norm, something that is highly reflective of the new era that we are entering into, one that lacks convention and is driven by innovation.