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Юрий Александров

Ladies in Red: The meaning of the color from pagan times to these days

Ladies in Red: The meaning of the color from pagan times to these days

Every nation perceives colors differently. One and the same color can have different or even contrary connotations. In China red is the symbol of wealth, but for the Ancient Egyptians it symbolized war and death.

For Catholics red is a symbol of martyrdom and sacrifice, particularly because of its association with the blood of those who suffered death for their faith. Orthodox Christians relate red to Easter.

Red is believed to stimulate action and not surprisingly has been often used in politics: by the Jacobins during the French Revolution of 1789, the British Labour Party and, most obviously, the Communists.

Red is a near universal symbol of love and passion worldwide.

In Russian culture red is elemental: Red Square, the red bricks of the Kremlin, the red flag of Communism…

However, Russia’s main square is named “Red” not due to the entourage of the Kremlin’s red walls or the red-colored St Basil’s Cathedral. “Red Square” in Russian is Krasnaya ploschad, and the first word used to mean “beautiful” (krasiviy in modern Russian).

Since pagan times, the Russian language has contained expressions such as “red day of the calendar” (compare “red-letter day” in English), “red word” a witty remark, and “red spring” as a symbol of new life and “red summer” as the culmination of it.

Red was used to describe women. Damask flower, poppy bloom and red berry are all expressions used to describe females in folk tales and legends. A “red beauty” meant a young girl on the eve of marriage.

This photo story is devoted to the transformation of maidens into brides in pagan times. Unmarried girls used to wear red belts and head ribbons, which they had to take off after marriage.

The symbol of marriage is gold, while red is the symbol of freedom. This step is always accompanied by the fear of the unknown and the fear of losing something ephemeral in exchange for a piece of gold on your finger.

“A lifespan of women was generally divided into 5 stages: red, beautiful, wise, wiser, elderling (which meant she had reached the highest level of wisdom),” the author of the project Uldus Bakhtiozina explains.

"I have used symbolism to represent this transformation through metaphors and colors. The main subject is the transformation and the legend behind it. "

The project was heavily influenced by my research into Slavic culture, etymology, roots and beliefs, which were destroyed hundreds of years ago, transformed into fairy tales and ballads, and lost the purity of their meaning.

The photo shoot took me 3 months. These photos involved 8 different models and head-dresses; the style and make-up were my own creation. All the photographs are analogue, tinted and scanned.

According to Uldus (though hers is not the only version), “red” or krasniy in Russian derives from Kra — the name of the ancient Slavic pagan goddess of tenderness and the daughter of Roda (the goddess of fertility).

Born in St. Petersburg, Uldus Bakhtiozina is a famous photographer, the first Russian to deliver a TED talk, and one of the BBC’s Top 100 Women of 2014.

Источник: Russia beyond the headlines