Black, White and Red.
The colours white, red and black have been used more or less universally to refer to different stages of human life.
Alchemy refers to the three stages of personal development* as moving from the nigredo, the blackness of unconsciousness, through the albedo, the whitening of conscious awakening, to the rubedo, the red-gold of being fully awakened.
Many cultures understand life’s journey moving through these stages: for a man as moving from the initial red of passionate youth, to the white of growth and responsibility, to the black of age and wisdom, while a woman’s journey is understood as starting from the white of innocence, to the red of motherhood and worldly being, to the black of age and wisdom.
The ‘Mahia’, the traditional cloth of Swaziland and similarly of many other countries, are only allowed by traditional law to be permutations of these three colours.
The most common associations of ‘white, red, black’ are the aspects of the ‘Triple Goddess’, found in the mythologies of many nations. According to this understanding, these three aspects of the feminine, as the ‘triple goddess’, refer to ‘heaven, earth, underworld’, ‘maiden, mother, crone’ or ‘birth, life, death’. The youngest aspect of heaven-maiden-birth is white, the middle time of earth-mother-life is red and the last portion of underworld-crone-death is black.
Red is associated with blood as the life-sustaining vitality of this world. White, connected virginity and innocence and is not yet penetrated by this world. It is other-worldly. White is also associated with bones and spirits long departed. In many cultures, when a person undergoes a ritual journey or training, or for some other reason is designated as ‘cut off’ or separated from this world, because they are in that world, of ritual and sacred ceremony, they are often painted with white paint, or wear white clothing. On their successful return and transformation, and re-entering the normal world, they wear red or paint themselves with red earth to indicate their return to the world of the living.
The mystery of the hidden fourth dimension of the feminine is the Queen, whose colour is deep or sky blue.The more manifest fourth aspect of the King is often a purple-blue.
* Actually, in Western Alchemy originally were were four stages: black, white, yellow, red. The original Greek names. During the Renaissance revival, to fit in with the Churches doctrine of the Trinity, the humbling ferment of the yellow was dropped.