Year 5, Piece Forty: 20. Yellow Purple

A technical one about the Major Arcana of Rainbow Squared

I don’t really know how to sum up this week’s color journey for you. And I think that is because this journey wasn’t meant for you exactly. It was for me. I mean, arguably that’s true every week, but usually the process here is that I bring you along with me and we all learn together. But Yellow can be a bit aggro, and Purple can be a bit mischievous. So somehow Yellow Purple reinforced at every twist and turn this week that this color combination is for YOU, “YOU” being me.

But who’s to say where I begin and you end? Part of what I love about divination is that once you start looking around for symbols, you see that everything can be connected. A deck of cards, an overheard conversation, a highway billboard, a particular flower, a two-factor authentication code. What we pay attention to weaves a fabric of meaning that is nothing short of the tapestry of our own lives. Consulting the cards lets you hover above the tapestry to consider it from a new vantage point, lets you study the warp and the weft and how they intertwine.

While I won’t tell you the details of my bucking bronco Yellow Purple ride, I will open the hood of this Rainbow Squared system a bit. Yellow Purple is the Power of Magic, the Power of Intuition, the Power of Awareness, the Power of Self.  Seems as good a time as any to look at the inner workings of this divination system developing through personal practice.

This is going to get kind of technical. I’m a Virgo, I love details. 

Rainbow Squared started as a formula for artmaking, and has turned into a formula for divination, or a narrative tool for gaining insight. Which would be funny for a project that started out as a postpartum marathon of tiny watercolors, but in retrospect the form factor was not unlike a deck of cards. Once I began the practice of Rainbow Squared in earnest the first year, I built Tarot into my weekly painting ritual, consulting three different decks before I ever set paint to paper. 

In fact, each of the first 23 color combinations in Year 1 incorporates one of the Major Arcana of the Rider-Waiter Tarot deck into its design. If you look closely at the Year 1 grid, you may be able to pick out which is which. (Yes, there are only 22 Major Arcana, but somehow I did The Moon twice without noticing. I think it was a trick played by The Fool who showed up last.)

I don’t pride myself on my painting skills, so it was really Year 2’s set of Future Trash images that I connected with most and ultimately printed as my own Rainbow Squared divination deck. This empowered me to randomize the color combinations for Year 5, drawing a card to determine what colors I will work with that week. And I still draw a tarot card along with it each week for good measure.

Which brings us back to Yellow Purple. Yellow and Purple are opposites of each other, making it a complementary color pair. There are 6 complementary color combinations, and along with the double colors they comprise the 13 combinations that I think of as the Major Arcana of the Rainbow Squared deck: 

1. Red Red
9. Orange Orange
17. Yellow Yellow
25. Green Green
33. Blue Blue
41. Purple Purple
49. Black White Black White

4. Red Green
12. Orange Blue
20. Yellow Purple
22. Green Red
30. Blue Orange
38. Purple Yellow

But Rainbow Squared isn’t just about color magic, it is about number magic. Each color combination has a number associated with it, as you can see.

I discovered this week that numerology is where the complementary color combinations get interesting: each combination boils down to the same number as its mirror.

Take Yellow Purple and Purple Yellow. Yellow Purple is 20, and Purple Yellow is 38. 

20 → 2+0=2 
38 → 3+8=11 → 1+1=2

The same process works with 4. Red Green and 22. Green Red (which both come down to 4), as well as 12. Orange Blue and 30. Blue Orange (which both come down to 3). 

Since the complementary color pairs exclude the seventh column and row of Black White, this numerological magic isn’t actually based on the full grid of 49, but rather a smaller grid of 36. 36 is two times 18, and since 18 is the numerological representation of the Hebrew word “Chai” which means Life, all multiples of 18 are considered auspicious in Jewish culture. 

And this is where more number magic comes in. A traditional Tarot deck has 78 cards, where about a quarter of the deck are the 22 Major Arcana and about three quarters of the deck are the 56 Minor Arcana, much like the numbered suit cards and royalty you’d find in playing cards. In Rainbow Squared, about a quarter of the deck are the 13 Major Arcana and about three quarters are what we could call the 36 Minor Arcana. 13 is also an auspicious number in Jewish culture. Beyond the 13 Major Arcana, each color shows up in the grid 13 times: 7 times as the background color and 7 times as the foreground color, with one time as both. 

Purple has already appeared 12 times this year, which makes Yellow Purple our 13th and final Purple for Year 5.


I am saying that I’m building a divination system here. While I swirl around wondering what the fuck genre this digital, devotional, epistolary, confessional, performance art experiment is, there has been something growing slowly and surely alongside it: a divination system that has been shaped by me but is perhaps quite beyond me. 

Rainbow Squared is just a formula. All of these animations and essays are exercises using that formula. The format, the structure, the medium, the subject matter could be anything and by anyone in any number of permutations. It just started with me. That’s why I keep iterating, and why I am so excited for other people to work with it. There is no final outcome here, only endless interpretations.

Even my current Rainbow Squared deck is just one permutation of a possible deck. I happen to really like it, and it is a deck that I am sending to each of the wonderful guest artists this year. But it is a deck totally customized from my own experience. Granted, using any divination deck comes down to harnessing your own intuitive associations with the imagery, even imagery you are unfamiliar with. But certainly reading from pictures of your own future trash will yield different insights than pictures of someone else’s future trash. 

So, what about your trash? What would a deck look like if YOU made and used it yourself, “YOU” meaning you? You and all of your ideals and associations and experiences?

As I sent this week to the guest artist taking on Piece Forty-Two:

I have spilled a lot of ink on what these colors “mean,” but of course it is totally subjective, and that is the point. You are not beholden to my or anyone else’s historical understanding of the meaning of these colors. Your work will either explicitly or implicitly answer the question: how might this (or any) symbol set operate as a lens through which to notice and make magical and narrative connections in your daily life?

This is endlessly fertile territory, and yet I think I have answered this question myself pretty thoroughly. One day I hope another individual might take on all 49 Rainbow Squared pieces at a time, but to start with, let’s see what happens when we have 49 individuals each take on one piece at a time. What would the resulting “deck” be? What resonance might it hold for that group of 49 people? What about anyone else who might use it? 

For now, I’ve got layers and layers of my own associations piled up in these color combinations. As perhaps a literal demonstration of this, I layered together all of the previous Yellow Purple images for animation you see above. Years 1, 2, 3, and 4 combined to become 5.

When I draw Yellow Purple, I think about so much more than just “Power” and “Awareness.” I think of making masks, think of hypnotization, think of navel gazing, think of secrets and jazz and the Moon and the Stars, think of the Hierophant as the gatekeeper on the path to visiting the High Priestess

When you draw Yellow Purple, you might think about the things I tell you they mean. And then I hope you’ll think about where Yellow and Purple have shown up in your life, what they make you think of, what they make you feel. In those associations will be what there is to learn, and from that what there is to share.

Yellow Purple is saying yes to your intuitive power. Saying yes to the sea of symbols where everything and everyone is connected, and yes, is it weird. Intricately, bafflingly, deliciously weird. All one and you alone.