Harry Potter and the meaning of spell colors – do spell colors matter?
Spells play an even bigger part in the Harry Potter universe than one might initially think, even though magic is the basis for the entire story. It is not just a plot tool, but the visual components such as spell color and shape also seem to play a part in the nature of the spell itself and, potentially, its wielder.
It is very plausible that magic spells and their colors seem to indicate the true character and the intention of the witches and wizards who are using them. And this is not just a visual gimmick from the movies. This was also a part of the books, hidden in plain sight sort to say.
Spell Colors and their hidden meaning
Now, while there are some subtle hints J.K. Rowling gave here and there, there are only theories about the nature of spells and what their colors indicate. But it is certain that the color of the spell is as important as who is using it.
Green spells – Ex: Avadakedavra
Green is one of the two most prominent spell colors in the story for sure, with the other one being red. This is based on the fact that the main character, Harry, uses the red Expelliarmus, while green is the signature color of his nemesis Lord Voldemort, when using Avadakedavra.
Without knowing anything about principal photography, I did notice that the color scheme in the movies often changes. Particularly, when Lord Voldemort is shown on screen, the colors green, gray, and black seem to be kind of emphasized, almost as if they cancel out all other colors.
And Voldemort is not the only wizard using Avadakedavra in the movies, but his iteration of the spell seems to produce the strongest jet of very strong green color, sometimes a kind of a darker toxic shade and other times a bit brighter – when he wants to kill Harry for instance.
Now, throughout movie history, the color green was often used as an indicator of toxicity and vileness, when it is not nature scenery we are looking at, of course. Even in Lord of the Rings, where there are many beautiful green fields of New Zealand, the ghosts that owe a sworn an oath to Isildur are also a kind of sickly green color.
But perhaps the strongest association for the color Green in the Harry Potter universe is the fact that it is a part of the house Slytherin logo, besides dark and silver.
The Summoning of the Dark Mark by using the Morsmordre spell also conjures a sickly greenish lighting skull effect in the sky.
The darker the movies got, particularly after the fourth installment which is Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, the overall color tone of the movies became somewhat sickly greenish and much darker. This is widely observed by fans all over.
Lastly, when Severus Snape uses avadakedavra to kill Dumbledore, as per their agreement, in the movie the color of his killing curse is much paler green than that of the other death eaters. It is almost white or bluish, which perhaps betrayed his true intentions.
Red spells – Ex: Expelliarmus
Traditionally, the color red is often perceived to signify passion, heat, and anger maybe, but this spell color in Harry Potter universe represents power and strength in their most benevolent forms.
Firstly, Fawkes, Dumbledore’s phoenix, has a fiery red feather tone with a gold belly. And, it is quite a similar tone of red that Harry’s expelliarmus spell has. And, we know there is a special bond between Harry and Fawkes because the phoenix sensed Harry’s loyalty to Dumbledore.
Fawkes is a sort of a symbol of good, as is his color. This goes for books and movies both. And, the Gryffindor house colors are a similar tone of red and gold. It is a color combination representing courage, loyalty, and true intentions in the story.
However, we see Snape using expelliarmus at one point when he disarms prof. Lockhart. The spell color in the movie does have a faint fiery glee, but it is much whiter than Harry’s version. Nobody who is seen using expelliarmus actually produces that fiery red color like Harry (except for Dumbledore maybe) and that’s just when he is fighting the dark lord himself.
This may be because of the prophecy and because, as it is revealed in the books, Harry’s power levels are imbued to be especially effective against Voldemort.
White spells – Ex: Patronus
White is traditionally taken as the color of salvation, pureness, and light, and it is such in the Harry Potter books and movies. Almost every spell good characters wield has a lot of white tones, besides the color of the respective spell.
Also, the Patronus charm is overly white, with some bluish or turquoise tones. Harry’s Patronus is almost completely white, which also indicates the pureness of his happy memory, the strength it gives him, and the power of a mother’s love perhaps.
Pink and Purple Spells – Ex: Love potions
Spells colored pink and purple in Harry Potter books and movies usually have some sinister intention concealed behind this innocent and warm color tone. The best examples are the love spells and potions that look like pink smoke.
In Harry Potter, the pink/purple magic color represents deviousness, emotional entrapment, trickery, and even toxicity. In one word, that is true witchcraft.
Blue Spells – Ex: Aquamenti, Reducto
Blue is the color of water, so it is not a surprise that the aquamenti charm that conjures clear, drinkable water is colored that. However, reducto, a spell that shatters objects into pieces, is also blue. This is where the lines blur a little bit, and the theory on Harry Potter spell colors matching their wielders seems more plausible.
Harry Potter spell colors match the wielder’s nature theory
Let us take stupefy as an example. This spell is red when cast by the main characters of the story, Ron, Hermione, Harry, and the others. However, when their opponents use it, the evil characters, it is actually green. This is clearly stated in the books.
Also, JK Rowling herself gave a hint when she explained that evil witches and wizards do often show their evil tendency by wearing green, purple, or black garments. This is further supplemented by the fact that spells do differ in color with different wielders.
The spell color intensity theory
However, there is also an interesting fan theory that the pureness and the intensity of the spell color, which states that the stronger the spell color is in the Harry Potter universe, the more it is wielded with adherence to its inherent nature.
An example of this is again the avadakedavra spell Snape uses to kill Dumbledore. It is barely green and almost bluish.
Whatever the true significance of spell colors in Harry Potter, it is undoubtedly important and undeniable. This could be something compared to lightsabre colors in Star Wars, although it is much more complex than that. Firstly, we only see spell colors flash in short bursts. Secondly, there are many more spell types than there are lightsabres. But the use of color to communicate intention, and nature, and to better represent the characters and the story is a very strong visual tool.