rainbow foraging (and a history of rainbows)

rainbow foraging (and a history of rainbows)

Make your own rainbow box to encourage rainbow foraging. All you need is a box with different compartments and some paint. 

You don't have to be clever builder-type person for this DIY. You can also use an egg carton, an old painting tray, an ice-cube tray or a chocolate box. Simply paint each section with a different colour, wait til dry and then you are set for foraging. Ideal for bushwalks, park outings or neighbourhood walks. 

While you wait for the paint to dry, why not read all about the history of rainbows. We've kept it brief, but of course, fascinating.


Rainbow musings

It can be hard to imagine the world that existed thousands of years ago. How did people live? What did they wear? Did they ditch the kids at the in-laws before going to date night at that new cave restaurant around the corner with the paleo menu? While we may never know the precise intimate details of daily life, we can confirm rainbows were present. And, people loved them as much as we do now.

In Ancient civilisation, rainbows were thought to connect humanity to divinity. In Greek mythology, the goddess Iris embodies the rainbow and is the messenger of the Olympian gods. The colourful arc she leaves in the sky symbolises the messages she’s delivered from earth to heaven (in a delivery system way more poetic than a courier in a loading zone).

In the story of Noah’s Ark, it was the appearance of a rainbow in the sky that alerted Noah that the flood had passed. God had spared his family and animals.

And in Hindu philosophy, the colours of the rainbow embody the seven chakrasjust make sure your core is aligned.

The modern day rainbow

Today the rainbow represents hope and optimism for social movements big and small. The multi-coloured stripes have appeared on the LGBTQI pride flag designed by Gilbert Baker since 1978. They've also appeared on  other independent flags including the Italian Peace Flag and the original 1925 International Co-operative Alliance flag.

The colourful arc has also been the inspiration behind many this-song-has-been-stuck-in-my-brain-for-a-week hits from Kermit the Frog’s ‘Rainbow Connection’ to Israel Kamakawiwoʻole’s ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’.

You probably even wore rainbow socks under your regulation school uniform as a mark of self-expression disguised as teenage rebellion, because rainbows are even loved by angsty teens.

The positive pull of the rainbow is strong, especially when we look up into the sky. But the truth is that the multi-coloured arcs we’re fascinated by are simply optical illusions. Rainbows are formed when it is rainy in one part of the sky and sunny in another, and sunlight passes through rain drops. When light travels together it’s white light, or the type of ordinary every day light we’re used to seeing. But when light passes through a raindrop, the colours separate, and in turn we get the seven colours of the rainbow. Each singular raindrop projects its own mini rainbow and millions of rainbows together form the larger-than-life version in the sky.

In Medieval times it was believed a rainbow consisted of only four colours in a theory linked to philosopher Aristotle. It wasn’t until the 17th Century that this number increased after mathematician and physicist, Isaac Newton, proved white light passing through a prism contained seven unique colours. The arc shaped appearance of a rainbow is caused by the bending of light (refraction) and inspired the second half of its hybrid name because of its resemblance to an arrow bow. (And yes, this counts as your science lesson for the week.)

The unique nature of the rainbow

Rainbows are undeniably beautiful and the type of thing you’ll break your I-don’t-post-banal-weather-updates on social media rule for. But the next time your Instagram feed is flooded with a photographic stream of the same majestic rainbow after a downpour, know that each rainbow is actually unique. No two people ever see the same rainbow. Everybody’s horizon differs, even if you are standing next to somebody, and this means the perspective of the rainbow also differs.

If each rainbow is unique, how does one find the single pot of gold at its end? Irish folklore offers no clarity, and science tells us to savour our search efforts because the end of a rainbow can never physically be reached. Or maybe we’ve just been looking for magic in the wrong place when it’s been up in the sky all along.


Rainbow Foraging (and a history of rainbows) first featured in Lunch Lady Magazine Issue 16. Photograph by Anna Kövecses from her Abel's Toys project.


Tags Craft