The Rainbow is also the Gay Pride symbol and while parades will not be as vibrant as previously, company’s large and small are showing support by colouring their logos on social media. So we thought we’d explore why the rainbow is used to evoke hope and bring acceptance.
Rainbows have been surrounded by myth and legend from as far back as Mayan Culture, Norse Mythology and many religious texts. In Christianity, Noah was sent a rainbow as a sign that the great flood was over, and people could live without fear. While Buddhists believe a rainbow symbolises the highest state that can be reached before enlightenment; and Hindu legend says the rainbow is the bow used by Indra (the God of thunder and war) who shoots arrows of lightning.
In Norse mythology there is a Bifröst (a rainbow) bridge that connects Asgard, the kingdom of Gods and Midgard, the kingdom of men. You will have already heard of this Norse mythology if you have watched a certain popular film franchise! While the Mayans of the Yucatan Peninsula, who rose to prominence in AD 250, thought the rainbow to be the crown of a mother goddess. There is a recognition in all these cultures, that the rainbow is associated with spirituality and optimism.
However some legends connect Rainbows with danger as with Irish leprechaun leaving a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. This legend was apparently stolen from Viking mythology but some cultures such as the MedoAmerican societies see rainbows as a warning. The Karens of Burma believe a rainbow to be a child-eating demon and both cultures are known to hide their children away when a rainbow is sighted.
However reverting to the positive associations, the first LGBT rainbow flag was designed by Gilbert Baker in 1978 and was taken to a Gay Freedom Pride Parade in the same year. LGBT rights activist, Cleve Jones, attended the parade and said, “We stood there and watched and saw the flags, and their faces lit up. It needed no explanation. People knew immediately that it was our flag.” The link between the rainbow flag and LGBTQ+ activists spread from there and is now the widely adopted symbol of Pride.
The original flag designed by Baker, consisted of eight colours (pink, red, orange, yellow, green, turquoise, blue and violet) but by 1979 this was reduced to six colours. Pink dye was very expensive at the time and the two shades of blue were changed to the one shade of royal blue that we see today.
The recent trend for domestic rainbows seems to have started in Italy which was initially hard hit by COVID-19. They have subsequently been seen across the world to thank key workers, instigating a smile on peoples’ faces and evoking feelings of hope. Many UK schools have encouraged students to design their own rainbow window display with ‘Chasing the rainbow’ becoming an unofficial lockdown sport to spot as many as possible when out for your daily exercise. A positive way of diverting attention from frightening abnormal world we find ourselves in.
As we can see, since the early mists of time the rainbow has been a symbol of hope, embraced for over 40 years by Gay Pride as the symbol for inclusivity and diversity. In recognition of this we are pleased to colour our social media logos in support and celebration of inclusivity and diversity within the wider CADS community.