WE beg to premise that the following fears are not our belief, but that they are educed from old traditions--old as England.
It is a very ancient idea, derived from the highest antiquity, that the colour 'white'--which, considered in the mystic and occult sense, is feminine in its origin--is fateful in its effects sometimes; and that, as a particular instance of its unfortunate character, it is an unlucky colour for the royal house of England--at all events, for the king or queen of England personally--singular as the notion would appear to be. We are not aware whether this sinister effect of the ominous colour white is supposed to extend to the nation generally. It is limited, we believe, to the prince or sovereign of England, and to his immediate belongings. The name John, which comes from Iona, a remote feminine root, has also been reckoned unfortunate for the king's name both in England and in France. The reason of this does not appear to be anywhere stated. The origin of the prophecy, also, as to the formidable character of the colour white to England, is unknown; but it is imagined to be at least as old as the time of Merlin. Thomas de Quincey, who takes notice of the prophecy of the 'White King', says of King Charles the First, that the foreboding of the misfortunes of this 'White King' were supposed to have been fulfilled in his
instance, because he was by accident clothed in white at his coronation; it being remembered afterwards that white was the ancient colour for a victim. This, in itself, was sufficiently formidable as an omen.' De Quincey's particular expressions are; 'That when King Charles the First came to be crowned, it was found that, by some oversight, all the store in London was insufficient to furnish the purple velvet necessary for the robes of the king and for the furniture of the throne. It was too late to send to Genoa for a supply; and through this accidental deficiency it happened that the king was attired in white velvet at the solemnity of his coronation, and not in red or purple robes, as consisted with the proper usage.'
As an earlier instance of this singular superstition, the story of that ill-fated royal White Ship occurs to memory, as the vessel was called wherein Prince William, the son of King Henry the First, the heir-apparent, with his natural sister, the Countess of Perche, and a large company of the young nobility, embarked on their return to England from Normandy. It might be supposed that the misfortunes of King Charles the First, which were accepted, at that time of monarchical dismay, as the reading (and the exhaustion) of this evil-boding prophecy, were enough; but there are some reasons for imagining that the effects are not--even in our day--altogether expended. The fatalities of the colour 'white' to English royalty certainly found their consummation, or seemed so to do, in the execution of King Charles the First, who was brought out to suffer before his own palace of 'Whitehall'--where, again, we find 'white' introduced in connexion with royalty and tragical events. Whitehall is the Royal 'White' Palace of England. The 'White Rose' was the unfortunate rose (and the conquered one) of the contending two Roses in
this country. This is again a singular fact, little as it has been remarked. We will pursue this strange inquiry just a little further, and see if the lights of Rosicrucianism will not afford us a measure of help; for it is one of the doctrines of the Rosicrucians that the signatures, as they call them, of objects have a magical marking-up and a preternatural effect, through hidden spiritual reasons, of which we have no idea in this mortal state-in other words, that magic and charming, through talismans, is possible; common sense being not all sense.
The colour white is esteemed both of good and of bad augury, according to the circumstances and the periods of its presentation. In relation to the name of our present King, the supposedly unfortunate prefix 'Albert' has been practically discarded in favour of 'Edward' only. This name of Edward is an historical, triumphant, and auspicious name; for all our Edwards, except the weak King Edward the Second, have been powerful or noteworthy men. Now, very few people have had occasion to remark, or have recalled the fact as significant and ominous in the way we mean, that the word 'Albert' itself means 'White'. The root of 'Albert' is, in most languages, to be found in 'white'; albus, white; alp, white; Albania, the 'white' country. We here recall the 'snowy camëse', to which Byron makes reference as worn in Albania. 'Albion' (of the 'white' cliffs), Alb, Al, El, Æl, all mean 'white'. Examples might be multiplied. Αλφος, αλπε, albus, 'white', are derived from the Celtic alp; and from thence came the word 'Alps', which are mountains always white, as being covered with snow. 'Albus, "white", certainly comes from the Celtic alp, or alb' says the historian Pezron; 'for in that language, as well as in many others, the b and the p frequently
interchange; from whence the ancient Latins, and the Sabines themselves, said Alpus for white. I consider it therefore as certain', continues Pezron, 'that from Alpus the word Alps came, because the mountains are always white, as being covered with snow; the words "Alp" or "Alb", and their compounds, meaning white everywhere. I conclude, also, that from the Pen of the Celtæ, Umbrians, and Sabines, which signifies a "head", "top", or "high place", they made Penninus Mons, the Apennines, vast mountains in Italy. Thus these celebrated words proceed certainly from the Gaulish tongue, and are older by several ages than the city of Rome.' The following are all Teutonic or German words: alb, alf (Qy. Alfred?), and alp, which' all signify 'white' as their original root. Thus much for white.
White is also a colour not auspicious to the Prussian royal family, although, again, in a contradictory way, the ensigns of Prussia (Borussia, or 'of the Borussi') are, as armorists well know, the original 'white and black' of the Egyptians, which were adopted by the Teutons and the Templars. These white and black tinctures are heraldically argent and sable: Luna, or pearl, for 'tears'; Saturn, or diamond, for 'sadness, penance, and ashes'. In these strange senses, the Rosicrucians accepted colours as in themselves talismanic, powerfully operative through their planetary 'efficients', or 'signatures', as the astrologers call them. These ideas, more or less pronounced, have prevailed in all ages and in all countries, and they lurk largely in suspicion through our own land. We are all aware, in England, of the objection to the colour 'green' in certain cases. It is the spirit-colour, a magic colour, the colour of the 'fairies', as the cabalistic, tutelary, miniature spirits are called, who are supposed to be very jealous of
its use. In Ireland, green, is universally regarded with distrust; but with veneration, in the spiritual sense. It is the national colour; for the Patroness of Ireland is the female deity, the. Mother of Nature, known in the classic mythology as Venus--equally Venus the graceful and Venus the terrible, as the Goddess of Life and of Death. The various verts, or greens, are the 'colour-rulers' in the emblazonry of the Emerald Isle. The presiding deity of the Land of Ierna, or of Ireland, is the mythic 'Woman', born out of the fecundity of nature, or out of the 'Great Deep'. This is the genius (with certain sinister, terrible aspects, marked out grandly in the old forms) 'who is 'impaled' or 'crucified'--in its real, hidden meaning--upon the stock, of 'Tree of Life', indicated by the Irish Harp. Her hair, in the moment of agony, streams Daphne-like, as 'when about to be transformed into the tree', behind her in the wind, and twines, in the mortal, mythical stress, into the seven strings of the magic Irish Harp, whose music is the music of the spheres, or of the Rosicrucian, assumed penitential, visible World. These seven strings stand for the seven vowels, by means of which came speech to man, when the 'new being', man (this is cabalistic again, and therefore difficult of comprehension), 'opened his mouth and spake'. The seven strings of the Irish Harp, it will be remembered, are blazoned 'Luna', or the 'Moon'--the feminine moon--according to the practice of the old heralds, in regard to all royal or, ruling achievements, which are blazoned by the names of the planets. The seven strings of the Irish Harp mean also the seven pure tones in music; these, again, stand for the seven prismatic colours; which, again, describe the seven vowels; and these, again, represent their seven rulers, or the seven planets, which have their seven
spirits, or 'Celestial Flames', which are the seven Angels or Spirits of God, who keep the way round about 'the Throne of the Ancient of Days'.
There is in most countries an objection to Friday, although it is the Mohammedan sacred day or Sabbath. Friday is the day of the 'Green'. Emeralds, or smaragds, are proper to be worn on Friday, and bring good fortune, as exercising occult influences on this particular day.
The breastplate of the Jewish High-Priest had its oracular gems, which were the Urim and Thummim. The reputed enchanter, Apollonius Tyaneus, is said, for the purposes of his magic, to have worn special rings, with their appropriate gems, for each day of the sevenfold week, to command the particular spirits belonging to the different days. The Hermetic Brethren had certain rules that they observed in relation to this view of the power of precious stones to bring good or bad fortune through the planetary affinities of certain days, because they imagined that the various gems, equally as gold and silver, were produced through the chemic operation of the planets, working secretly in the telluric body. They thought that gold and silver, and all the gems, had but one foundation in nature, and were simply augmented, purified, and perfected through the operation of the hermetic or magnetic light--invisible and unattainable under ordinary circumstances, and unknown, except to the alchemists. All yellow gems, and gold, are appropriate to be worn on Sunday, to draw down the propitious influences, or to avert the antagonistic effects, of the spirits on this day, through its ruler and name-giver, the Sun. On Monday, pearls and white stones (but not diamonds) are to be worn, because this is the day of the Moon, or of the second power in nature. Tuesday, which is the day of Mars,
claims rubies, and all stones of a fiery lustre. Wednesday is the day for turquoises, sapphires, and all precious stones which seem to reflect the blue of the vault of heaven, and that imply the lucent azure of the supposed spiritual atmosphere, wherein, or under which, the Rosicrucian sylphs dwell--those elementary children who, according to the cabalistic theogony, are always striving for intercourse with the race of Adam, seeking a share of his particular privilege of immortality, which has been denied to them. Thursday demands amethysts and deep-coloured stones of sanguine tint, because Thursday is the day of Thor--the Runic impersonated Male Divine Sacrifice. Friday, which is the day of Venus, has its appropriate emeralds, and reigns over all the varieties of the imperial, and yet strangely the sinister, colour green. Saturday, which is Saturn's day, the oldest of the gods, claims for its distinctive talisman the most splendid of all gems, or the queen of precious stones, the lustre-darting diamond, which is produced from, the black of Sab, Seb, or Saturn, the origin of all visible things, or the 'Great Deep', or 'Great Mother', in one sense.
This is the day on which all green gems, and the colour green, should be universally used. Friday is the 'woman’s day' of the sevenfold weekly period; and therefore, as some ill-natured people might say, it is the unlucky day. Certain it is, however, that although it presents the exact contradiction of being especially the woman’s day, few or no marriages would be celebrated on this day, as popularly bearing the mark of ill luck, which suppositions few would like Openly to defy, or, according to the familiar expression, 'fly in the face of'. May is also forbidden for marriages, although it is the 'woman’s month', or month in which 'May-day' occurs, and in which
[paragraph continues] 'May-poles' used to be set up everywhere. (See figures of May-poles later in our book.)
But to return to the ill-omened colour to England, white, and to the important shape in which we find it to appear in the name borne by our present--'King Albert Edward;' inheriting his name 'Albert' from perhaps the most lovable prince whom this country has ever known as casting in his destinies, by marriage, with it, but whose end--in the prime of life, and in the fullness of his influence--was surely unfortunate enough, when the eyes of hope of all Europe, in various respects, were fixed upon him! The name 'Albert' has happily, however, been passed over in the person of the King as a name laid aside; and he is known by the name--the propitious name--of Edward only, 'Edward the Seventh'.
The 'White Lady of Berlin' and her mysterious appearances from time to time are well known to the writers of modern romantic biographical story. Whom she is supposed to represent seems to be unknown to all. Those who have recorded her fitful revelations of herself venture no surmise; but she is considered in some way the evil genius of the Hohenzollern family, much in the same manner as the unaccounted-for figure might have been regarded who revealed himself to Brutus on the Plains of Philippi, and who announced the crowning misfortunes of the next day. The Irish have a name for this supernatural appearance in the 'banshee', or the speaker, or exponent, of fate. The 'White Lady of Berlin' is supposed to be seen by some person in the palace before any pre-eminent disaster supervenes, occurring to a member of the royal house. The glimpses of this White Lady are only momentary and delusive--so vague, indeed, as to be readily contradicted or explained away (perhaps willingly) even by the supposed
seers themselves. It is also a fact not a little curious, when we come to consider it by the side-glance, as it were, that the colour white (the English unfortunate colour), besides being that of the 'White Rose' and of 'Whitehall', is that white of the unlucky Stuarts, whose history through centuries, both in Scotland and in England, was but one long catalogue of mishaps, woes, and disasters. Prince Charles Edward and his famous 'white cockade', and the evil fortunes of all his followers and of the Jacobite cause in general in' 1715 and 1745, emblemed in the virgin, holy colour white, supply a touching, nay tragical, page in public and in private history. Lastly, we may adduce as a supposed exemplification of the terrible general effects of this evil-boding name albus, and colour white, in France, the history of all the Bourbons, whose colour is white in particular, from the first of that name who displayed his snowy banner, and who fell by the dagger of an assassin, to the last Bourbon in modern history, whose fate we will not attempt to forecast, nor in any manner to seem to bespeak. Merlin, whose prophecy of the dangers, at some time, of 'white' to the kingdom of England was supposed to refer to the invasion of this country by the pale Saxons, whose device or token was the 'white horse', until further associations of white and misfortune in England came to dispel the idea, may even still have his original prophetic forecast unfulfilled. The colour white, or some strange, at present unimagined, association of 'white', may yet lie, like a dream, perdu in the future (of the chances of which no man can speak), to justify Merlin at once, and to astonish and bewilder, by the long-delayed evolvement of the centuries in which at last the realization and the misfortune become simultaneously apparent: for which, and for the possibilities
of which, we will terminate in the adjuration of the sublime Romans, those masters in the art of augury and of divination, 'Absit omen! But thus much we have chosen to explain about the colour white, in justification of the ideas of the Rosicrucians as to the supernatural power of colours; and as to the magical qualities of those occult influences which they determined, in their philosophical vocabularies, strangely and mysteriously to call the 'signatures of things'.