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Beyond the Lone Islands

Tuesday, 25 May 2010


The other evening after a thunderstorm had passed by, I looked out my kitchen window and saw a rainbow in the sky. I went across the flat to the balcony, and from there I saw the other end of the bow.

So I grabbed my camera (and a jacket, because it was still raining) and went outside to see if I could catch all of it.

It turned out that from the edge of the football field, I could see the whole bow, stretching from one end of the open field to the other… But I could not catch all of it in one photo. I doubt that even with a tripod I would have been able to put a full panorama together. (I don’t have a tripod.)


When I tried to walk further away from it,  fence and trees and buildings got in the way.

So I had to settle for taking pictures of parts of it. But I stood there quite a long time just watching… I can’t remember ever seeing an unbroken bow quite as impressive.


For quite a while, there were even two bows. A double rainbow has reversed colours in the outer bow. The darker space between them (I just learned) is called Alexander's band (named after the Greek philosopher who first described it).


In Greek mythology, the rainbow was considered a path between Heaven and Earth. Iris, goddess of sky and sea, was the personification of the rainbow. As the sun unites earth and heaven, she linked the gods to humanity and acted as messenger between them.

In Chinese mythology the Goddess Nüwa used stones of different colours to repair a slit in the sky.

In Hindu mythology, the rainbow is the bow of Indra, the God of lightning, thunder and rain.


In Old Norse Mythology, a rainbow called the Bifrost Bridge connects the realms of Ásgard and Midgard, homes of the gods and humans respectively.

In Biblical Mythology, the rainbow is the sign of God's covenant with Noah and his descendants, that “never again will all life be cut off by the waters of a flood”. (Genesis 9)

In Sumerian/Mesopotamian mythology (The Epic of Gilgamesh, one of the earliest known works of literary writing),  the rainbow is the jewelled necklace of the Great Mother Ishtar (goddess of fertility), that she lifts into the sky as a promise that she will never forget the days of the great flood that destroyed her children.


In Australian Aboriginal mythology, the Rainbow Serpent is a common art motif. It is seen as the inhabitant of permanent waterholes and is in control of life's most precious resource, water.

In Irish folklore, a pot of gold is said to be hidden by leprechauns (a type of fairy) at the end of the rainbow.


The End of the Rainbow is in fact a place impossible to reach, because the rainbow is an optical effect which depends on the location of the viewer. When walking towards the end of a rainbow, it will move further away.


I decided to also do a Rainbow post in my Picture Book blog today, showing a few pictures a bit bigger and with the black background. In that post, you will also find a short note on the colours of the rainbow.


GB said...

Very informative and interesting. And to think I look at rainbows so often here and knew virtually none of the mythology. I do understand the optical science involved but I have tried to walk into the bottom of a rainbow below the house. It's quite a fascinating thing to do.

Anonymous said...

Fabulous photos and commentary!

Sandra said...

like all the info, i only knew about God's covenant. thanks for sharing your wonderful MOMENT

Ginny said...

Oh, my!! So much beauty for me to see and so much to say about it!! You are a masterful photographer!! That last picture, as well, the clarity of it!! I don't know If I've even seen a double bow in real life. But your info is astonishing, I love it so much! First off, I did not know that the colors reversed themselves in a double, and I CAN see that here! Nor did I know there was a name for the space in between! Hey, the end of that rainbow is shining right on a house!! I didn't know you couldn't get to the end, I thought you could, but it would just be real washed out up close and unrecognizable. And look at the way the clouds are weaving in and out between the rainbows!!! I adore the myths, especially the necklace one and the one about repairing the patch, the Australian one is rather ugly for something so beautiful. You and the rainbow are both amazing.


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