Red is the color of blood, health, vigor, sexual passion and aggression, red has had magical significance since the time of ancient Egypt. Egyptians linked red to death and to an evil dragon, Typhon; they mocked redheaded men in certain religious rites. red is the color of the Greek and roman phallic god, Priapus, and the god of war, mars. The Old Testament links sin to the color scarlet: “Though your sins be scarlet . . .” (Isaiah 1:18). Because it is the color of blood, red is used in the trappings of ritual Blood Sacrifice.
Red is also associated with witches. It is a widespread folk belief that witches have red hair, perhaps because red hair is unusual. In some places, it is unlucky to see people with red hair: fishermen in Scotland and Ireland believe they will catch no fish if they spot a red-haired woman on the way to their boats. In old Irish lore, witches were believed to don red caps before flying through the air to their Sabbats. They could turn pieces of straw into red pigs, which they sold at the market to unsuspecting customers. If the pigs crossed running water as they were driven home, they changed back into straw. According to another folk belief, a witch’s soul pops out of her mouth in the form of a red mouse.
Red works in charms against witches. The Pennsylvania Dutch draw red lines around barns to keep witches out (see hex). In Bohemia, it is believed that a charm tied in a red cloth and hung around the neck will protect one from bewitchment. Other charms to repel witches include red-painted carts and wreaths of rowan tied with red threads. Braided red cords or ropes hung in stables force witches to stop and count each thread before they can harm animals, according to one popular folk belief.
With its biblical association with sin, red figures prominently in old tales of witches’ sabbats and Black masses (see Black Mass). Abigail Williams, one of the accused Salem Witches in 1692, said witches consumed “red drink and red bread” at their sabbats. The priests who officiated at blasphemous Black masses often wore red garments and slippers and read from red-and-black books. In 1895 Prince Scipio Borghese of Italy was discovered to have a chamber in his palace which was devoted to satanic masses, furnished with crimson-and-gold chairs and scarlet-and-black silk curtains (see Satanism).
In contemporary Witchcraft, red is associated primarily with health, vigor and passion. In healing it is called “the great energizer” and is said to stimulate the blood. Red Candles and cords (see knots) are used in magic spells.