Early Christian painters, especially ones during the Byzantine period, always painted Jesus of Nazareth with a halo around his head.
Oddly enough, no one ever explains what these halos were—we simply take it for granted they are a sign of divinity.
Even Sister Wendy, sharp-eyed art connoisseur, whose tours of museums were shown periodically on PBS stations, didn’t talk about halos as she pondered the finest details of great paintings and pulled out meanings we’d never noticed in those works of art.
So what do the halos mean around the heads and occasionally bodies of Jesus, angels, saints or Jesus’ mother, Mary? Are they perhaps auras?
Ask any Christian if they call that band of color around Jesus’ head an aura and the result might well be met with a puzzled or skeptical look, or even a frown.
But let’s look at the colors used for Jesus of Nazareth’s aura in the early Christian paintings. The aura around Christ’s head is always white with shades of golden yellow in it.
The first aura I ever noticed a live person was a shining gold halo around the head of Bernice Johnson Reagon, the charismatic leader of the well-known singing group, “Sweet Honey in the Rock”.
Bernice was on a college campus talking to a minuscule but highly fascinated audience about her research at the Library of Congress into the history of the African-American music.
As she talked, the stage that Bernice alone occupied became crowded with a influx of etheric ghostly shapes vibrating softly. Were those angels?
I didn’t know. I’m not a believer in God or in angels. All I know is that Bernice Reagon is a very wise and powerful African American woman.
The color gold is often assumed to be named after the physical substance of gold, the most esteemed kind of metal there is in this world. But perhaps we’ve got it backwards. I think that ancient peoples could see auras. I believe they could do this because they were not constantly distracted by billboards, screens, and loud noises.
Thus, the color of golden yellow auras quickly became associated with men and women who were deemed wise.
This wasn’t just in the Christian world. The ancient Chinese and other Asian cultures also came to associate golden yellow with their emperors, gods and sacred animals such as lions and dragons, as well as the metal, gold.
Perhaps a reason gold metal was esteemed so highly was that the substance in it’s purest form bears the same color as the human aura that ancient peoples associated with exceptional wisdom.
What about the white part of Jesus aura?
One of the few times I’ve seen a pure white aura around a person was when I viewed my father’s body in the casket at his funeral. For years I fearfully associated the color, white, with death and dying.
But while browsing a bookstore in Calistoga, California, I came across a large bound book that had a chapter on auras and what those colors mean.
I was surprised when I looked up white. A white aura is a sign of “peace” or peacefulness.
I thought about that and then remembered how my father had always talked about wanting a big funeral. That was what he had that day. All kinds of people were at the funeral parlor, including many I didn’t know. Perhaps the white aura did mean that he was finally at peace.
So here’s why I think halos were painted around heads of figures like Jesus, Mary, and the Saints in early Christian art.
Up until the past few centuries most people in the world were illiterate. Ancient Christian painters needed to convey to people who couldn’t read who Jesus was. They did that with golden/white auras.
I suspect viewers of their pictures knew immediately from the colors of the halos that Jesus was a supremely wise man who believed with all his heart in peace. The early Christian paintings of Jesus told viewers the whole story of his life.
So, what is a halo? A halo is simply a particular kind of energetic aura. It is a aura that contains the colors golden yellow and pure white.
Other colors of auras exist, yet Western artists do not seem to have employed them in paintings or in stained glass windows in Christian churches.
In contrast, artists from Eastern religions simply painted the whole figure of a god or goddess or human being in a color that indicates their qualities.
Blue is the color often seen in paintings from India of Hindu deities, such as Krishna and Vishnu.
In Asia, the goddess Tara, in particular appears bearing the colors of many different auras: green, white, blue, yellow and red. Each color represents a different aspects of the goddess who is said to be the mother of all Buddhas.
Modern artists have even portrayed rainbow goddesses. One such example appears on the cover of composer and flautist Kay Gardener’s Rainbow Path album. Note the white-rimmed blue halo at the top of the goddess’ body.
Showing the colors associated with the energy centers in the human body called chakras, along with the halo for the rainbow goddess, on her album cover was no accident. Kay Gardener was an expert on auras and chakras as well as music.
After seeing Bernice Reagon’s speech on campus I was telling friends about the fascinating color I saw grow larger and larger around Bernice’s head and body when she was on the stage.
All of my friends were all laughing and teasing me about seeing ghosts when Kay came down the stairs from the guest room she was living in while in town to help classical music composer, Antonia Brico, conduct at a summer camp for young musicians.
“Of course it existed,” came Kay’s booming voice behind me,” That was an aura.” As my friends began looking sheepish, she added, “Haven’t you all ever seen one?”
Her scornful tone said it all. During her life Kay wrote extensively not only about ancient forms of music but also about chakras and auras and the significance of color in the healing power of sound and music.
Soon afterwards one of my friends invited her sister, Kathy, an intuitive healer, to come to to town and do a workshop on seeing auras.
Happily I watched as all of them sat and gazed meditatively at one volunteer from the group who sat in front of a white sheet tacked up on the wall behind her.
After a half hour or so, all of the women who came to workshop reported that they could see the sitter’s aura.
Anyone can learn to see auras—I keep an eye out for them every day, and rarely, I’m rewarded with the joy of spotting a halo that’s white or golden yellow.
Why didn’t Christians call a halo an aura?
This is my theory. In reaction to Shakespeare’s famous quotation from Romeo and Juliet, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” Gertrude Stein, an early 20th century poet wrote about a woman by quipping, “Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose.”
Stein was a lesbian writer living openly in Paris in the 20th century. Nevertheless, Stein knew that giving something another name could hide it quite readily from the view of prying eyes of those intending disparagement or suppression of her writings.
Gertrude herself used a double entendre in the title of her book of poetry, Tender Buttons, dedicated to her faithful lover of many years, Alice B. Toklas.
In a similar fashion, calling the golden circle around Jesus’ head a halo seems to have totally obscured the fact that halos are actually one type of auras, the electro-magnetic forces around the human body, other living things and even inanimate objects, that we can perceive.
I suspect the reason Christians used the word “halo” for the golden/white aura might have been because “auras” have long been considered the creations of pagans, Eastern religions, witches, and psychics.
Still, when I look at the moon and our nearby planets in the night sky they give my eyes the appearance of having auras of white, red, and blue—even on a clear night. And of course, our sun is a golden globe with a dark halo that we don’t dare look at directly.
So, I can’t help but wonder if perhaps somewhere out there in the universe there’s a planet or other big celestial body with a golden/white halo waiting in outer space for us to come and discover it.