07.29.18

Yellow, my Name is Indigo Montoya

Exploring the dark past—and present—of the deep blue enigma:

  • Cultivated from the Indigo or woad plant, the ancient Greeks called the dye sindhi, and the Romans adopted the term indicum, or “product of India”.

  • Many believe these ancient cultures in 1600 B.C. were the first to utilize the plant, however there is evidence of its use dating back to 4000 B.C. in the region today known as Peru.

  • Used as a pigment and dye, it was believed for centuries to also have beneficial medicinal qualities. In fact, a 2,700-year-old remedy mentioning the plant was found on a Babylonian tablet.

  • In the 14th century, in the early days of the Renaissance, the plant, along with coffee and spices, was one of the most desirable imports from the East.

  • It is one of a select few colors (along with orange, rose and violet) to be named after an actual something.

  • Blurple? Indigo is defined as halfway between blue and violet, then halfway between blue and purple. For mathletes, that comes out to indigo being 75% purple, 25% blue and 100% impossible to identify with absolute certainty.

  • Despite their names, there are a few things in nature that, in the right light, are indigo in color, including:
    • Purple Emperor Butterfly: Found throughout Europe and in northern Asia, its wings refract blues, violets and indigos.



    • Indian Purple Frog: Bloated, blurple and unattractive even by frog standards, this amphibian shocked biologists when first discovered in 2003 in the Western Ghats region of southern India.



    • Indigo Snake: At up to 10 feet long, the Eastern Indigo Snake is North America’s longest snake. Immune to rattlesnake venom, these shimmering slitherers will often attack—and eat them.



    • Indigobirds: Known as whydahs, these finch-like birds are native to Africa, and have indigo as a predominate color in their plumage.



    • Indigo Bunting: From the cardinal family and native to North America, their plumage is primarily blue—while ironically, the Blue Grosbeak’s is primarily indigo.



  • One popular example in literature would include the novel Indigo. Written by Marina Warner, it’s a modern-day retelling of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, in which Warner embellished the character Sycorax (the dark witch) into the village academician, as well as the local alchemist, conjuring an abundance of indigo.

  • In the world of fashion: Indigo is considered exotic and intriguing. And while black is traditionally associated with wealth and elegance, wearing indigo adds layers of class and serenity. Which is why many designers often refer to indigo as black’s spiritual cousin.



  • In the world of military fashion: During the French Revolution, the French switched their uniforms from white to dark indigo. However due to a shortage of the dye, in 1806 Napoleon switched the colors back. Which could explain why they were such easy targets seven years later at Waterloo.



  • Groups: You may not have heard of all of them, but they are all so worth the listen:
    • Quartette Indigo: Improvisational string quartet, with styles ranging from jazz to rag to blues to bebop.
    • Indigo Spirit: Ariel Dahan’s electronic music project combines hypnotic melodies with infectious kickass bass beats.
    • Kid Indigo: Madison “Kid Indigo” Fischer is a young rising star from Portland. With his acoustic, angst-ridden tales of party regrets and lost love, he’s a big fav of the college crowd.
    • Indigo Girls: Grammy-winning folk duo Amy Ray and Emily Saliers are most famous for their hit "Closer to Fine" and their political activism for causes like the environment, gay rights and the abolishment of the death penalty.
    • The Indigos: Performing their own funky “indigroove,” this Muncie ensemble delivers bumpin’ rhythms and shreddin’ guitars.

  • Film: Colorful films with colorful titles:
    • Indigo: A photographer and recovering heroin addict solves mysteries and conquers demons after the kidnapping of his son.
    • Mood Indigo: Wealthy French bachelor and inventor of the “Piano Cocktail” (a drink-making piano), falls in love with a woman suffering from flowers growing in her lungs. Boy, not that tired old plotline again.
    • Indigo Prophesy: Bizarre thriller that includes a man in a trance, and unexplainable supernatural killings throughout New York City.
    • Indigo Hearts: Stark and provocative, this film probes the cause and ultimate failure of four marriages. Probably not a good flick choice for a first date.

  • Tunes: If you know it, sing along:
    • "My Indigo": Sultry strains of everlasting love from Within Temptation’s front woman Sharon den Adel.
    • "Indigo": Raw, emotional ditty from the former Genesis lead singer and always interesting Peter Gabriel.
    • "Turbulent Indigo": Awesome brooding and confusing hippie folk tune from Joni Mitchell’s classic album of the same name.
    • "Indigo Friends": A psychobilly ode to heroin overdose by the good Reverend Horton Heat.
    • "Mood Indigo": Whether you prefer Duke Ellington’s original, or one of the amazing covers crooned by Frank, Nina, Ella or Charlie Rich (we were just as surprised by that last one as you were), this 1930 jazz classic describes the feeling of being bluer than blue can be.

  • In 2008, scientists discovered that as bananas ripen, the chlorophyll in the peels breaks down. Then, when placed under a black light they glow a bright indigo. Because bats, birds and some insects are tetrachromats (possessing four types of cone cells in the eye and four channels for conveying color information), even in the darkest of caves, they can tell the banana is ready to eat. Blech, how unappeeling.

  • Regarding the psychological effects of indigo, it remains as enigmatic as ever, earning its title of the “drama queen” of colors.
    • Whereas some colors are considered responsive (i.e. red=danger, yellow=caution), indigo is considered more intuitive.
    • Embracing the strengths of blue and violet, indigo is associated with power, perception, devotion, wisdom, dignity, integrity and sincerity.
    • It inspires creative action, making it a favorite in areas such as art and theatre (and making the “drama queen” moniker seems highly appropriate).
    • Studies have also proven the presence of indigo activates creativity for those with mathematical and geometric skills. That’s on the good side.
    • On the not-so-good side, indigo is also related to being judgmental, intolerant, inconsiderate and is strongly connected to addiction, primarily with drugs, work and religion.

  • On the good side again, it’s been adopted as the unofficial color of the New Age Movement (or zeitgeist if you prefer). An eclectic structure of spiritual beliefs that began in the 1970s, it’s been viewed as less religion than designation of mind, body and spirit, promoting deep concentration and meditation to reach deeper levels of consciousness. Cool.

  • For decades, many have either been designated or identified as Indigo Adults. To find out if you’re one of them, here’s a fun check list:
    • You refuse to accept “just because” and insist on knowing why—particularly with questions regarding man’s inhumanity to man.
    • You don’t care for questionable domineering leadership—or more simply put, you buck authority, have disdain for traditional political systems and take active roles in encouraging change through forms such as social media.
    • You can’t stand to see others in pain—and empathize more than most when you see innocent people caught up in war, pain or disasters.
    • You’re a sucker for animals—and offer support to animal charities or rescue organizations.
    • You often have feelings of helplessness—this usually begins as a teen and continues into adulthood. These Indigos cannot fathom why others are cold and uncaring, try to avoid harmful gossip and work toward making a positive difference in the world.
    • You have weird spiritual experiences—you’re open to all things otherworldly, and often claim encounters with ghosts or angels.
    • You have a burning desire to find a special purpose in your life—living in a society that places a high value on financial success and power, many feel frustrated they are unable to achieve their potential.
    • The bottom line is that while being an Indigo Adult is exhausting, because of your special gifts and ambitions, you have the power to bring true change and light into the world around you. For that, we thank you.
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