The primary symbolism of this colour is innocence, beauty, and virtue, for which reason it is favoured for bridal dresses and babies' clothes. However, it also has strong associations with shrouds and the pallor of death, and hence with spectral apparitions and death *omens. A blacksmith's wife at Ashington (Sussex) said in 1868:
   I shall hear bad news before the day is over; for late last night, as I was sitting up waiting for my husband, who had gone to Horsham, what should I see, on looking out of the window, lying close under it, but a thing like a duck, yet a great deal whiter than it ought to have been, whiter than any snow. I was all of a tremble and cried out quite loud, and off went the thing, faster than I ever saw anything run before (Latham, 1878: 54).
   She could not accept that it might have been a cat in the moonlight, for 'those white things were sent as warnings'.
   Most of the *flowers which should not be brought indoors are white ones, though white *heather is lucky. A correspondent in N&Q wrote in 1931:
   I have heard from a social worker in London that it is most unlucky - almost offensively unlucky, in fact - to give any white flowers, even those not native to England, like white chrysanthemums, to sick people. Apparently some implication that, being white, they would be suitable for the funeral, is involved. The people to whom these particular white chrysanthemums were given were quite young, moderately well educated, typical Londoners, and yet superstitious on this point - which they said was well known to everyone. (N&Q 160 (1931), 195)
   The strongest current taboo is against having *red and white flowers in the same vase without any of another colour; this portends death, especially if given to a sick person. The colours are said to stand for 'blood and bandages'.

A Dictionary of English folklore. . 2014.


Look at other dictionaries:

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