top of page

Rainbows: Mother Nature's Elusive Gift

“I believe the rainbow is the true flag of our planet”

Fred Stern - environmental artist

It is the rainbow so prevalent in the Zambian quartz, and the current global narrative of the pandemic that has inspired me to write about the beauty of the rainbow and it’s therapeutic qualities.

When we find a rainbow in a quartz or other crystal, it is a bounty that makes the crystal that little extra special. Rainbows are more topical than ever since the COVID pandemic appeared; they have been a symbol of hope and a way to boost morale and show support and solidarity for the NHS and key workers. Rainbows are also a symbol of diversity and are associated with the LGBT community.

It is not surprising that rainbows have held symbolic meaning down the ages and myth and legend from around the world abounds with rainbow symbolism. For many earlier cultures they represented a bridge, or path, from earth to heaven, from humans to the gods. The Ancients often personified the rainbow. In ancient Greek mythology Iris was a messenger of the gods and the personification of the rainbow that connects heaven and earth, gods and men. In Hawaiian legend the Rainbow Maiden would dance across the rocks and sky painting a bridge of colours. In Norse mythology the rainbow was known as Bifrost, the rainbow bridge, that reached between Earth and Asgard, the realm of gods.

For some North American Indians the rainbow is the path of the dead. In Hindu mythology the rainbow represents an archers bow, and in Australian aboriginal mythology there exists a rainbow serpent, that is the creator of all things. The Berbers of North Africa believe the rainbow to be the bride of the sky. The Turkish word for ‘bow’ is ‘bridge’.

In the Old Testament the bow was the sign given as a token of a covenant from god to Noah for all things on earth after the flood. In Revelations the rainbow was a halo or aura around the throne.

The Fon people of Dahomey in Central Africa believe in Danh, the serpent god who is the rainbow snake that encircles the world with his tail in his mouth as a symbol of unity and wholeness.

In shamanic traditions the rainbow is the symbolic road or path to the heavens and the realm of the gods. In Australian shamanic culture the rainbow is a serpent, which the shaman climbs up as if on a rope. These shamans also use rock crystals to work with the power of the rainbow.

In Buddhism the rainbow represents the state of Nirvana because in reaching true enlightenment one becomes a luminous and blissful rainbow body free from desire.

Rainbows are often seen in art and written about in literature and song. They are seen in religious paintings and many landscape paintings, often symbolically.

Noah's Thank Offering (c. 1803)

by Joseph Anton Koch

The rainbow serpent is commonly depicted in Aboriginal art.

Aboriginal Rainbow Serpent motif

The Romantic poets mentioned rainbows in their pastoral poetry to represent the permanence of nature in contrast to the fast developing industrial and commercial world.

My heart leaps up when I behold

A rainbow in the sky:

So was it when my life began;

so is it now I am a man;

So be it when I shall grow old.

Or let me die!

William Wordsworth

D H Lawrence in his novel The Rainbow depicted the rainbow as a symbol of life, hope, happiness and continuity. And we all know the famous song Over The Rainbow from The Wizard of Oz, where Dorothy sings about dreams coming true.

The elusive ‘pot of gold’ at the end of the rainbow represents hidden treasures in Celtic folklore. It is also seen as a metaphor for an alchemical cauldron or vessel for turning lead in to gold, representing the spiritual development and growth, and transformation of consciousness.

Through the ages there has been variants of the number of colours within the rainbow. In Homer’s Illiad ‘Jove paints the rainbow with a purple dye’, which suggests it is sho