What Does It Mean When You See A Rainbow? Rainbow Meanings & Symbolism Explained

Photo: chanchai duangdoosan /
woman in a rainbow field

Because of modern science, we now know that rainbows are optical phenomena that occur as a result of sunlight and atmospheric conditions. But there are spiritual and cultural rainbow meanings as well.

The first known attempt at understanding the physics of a rainbow is attributed to René Descartes in 1637, although he lacked the understanding of wavelength dependence that would follow with Isaac Newton and Thomas Young's contributions. 

Prior to this understanding, rainbows were seen as otherworldly symbols left behind by deities or spirits. To this day, many of these interpretations survive and linger within their respective communities and belief systems. 

What does it mean when you see a rainbow?

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1. Rainbows represent new beginnings. 

Just as they occur after rainstorms, rainbows symbolize a fresh start for those who've faced struggles. These new beginnings are seen as joyous ones full of opportunities to love and grow. 

2. Rainbows represent spiritual ascension. 

In Tibetan Buddhism, the term "rainbow body" refers to the transformation of the physical body into a vessel made up of five radiant lights. 

Additionally, many traditions see rainbows as bridges between the physical and spiritual planes. This represents the ability to grow spiritually and transcend the earthly realm.

3. Rainbows represent divine encouragement. 

In times of distress or uncertainty, rainbows can be interpreted as messages from angels, spirit guides, and deceased loved ones who are encouraging you to keep pushing through in the promise that better things await you. 

Double Rainbow Symbolism 

Like what's already been mentioned, double rainbows are also seen as symbolizing transitions. The first arc represents the material world, while the second represents the spiritual one.

In turn, it's often viewed as a gateway just as the singular rainbow is. 

Rainbow Symbolism in the Bible 

In the Christian belief, the rainbow is God's promise to never again destroy the earth and its people with a flood after what happened in the story of Noah's Ark.

Rainbows also represent God's willingness to grant humanity another chance at redemption in the light of his justness. 

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LGBTQ+ Rainbow Symbolism 

The flag was designed by Gilbert Baker in 1978 after Harvey Milk, who was one of the first openly gay elected officials in America, urged him to create a symbol of pride. Because Baker viewed rainbows as a "natural flag," he used the rainbow as his inspiration. 

Though today's flag only has six colors (pink and turquoise were removed), Baker originally used 8 colors for the stripes, with each representing something different:

1. Pink represented sex

2. Red represents life

3. Orange represents healing

4. Yellow represents sunlight

5. Green represents nature

6. Turquoise represented art

7. Indigo represents harmony

8. Violet represents spirit

Seeing Rainbows in Your Dreams

In dreams, rainbows are usually seen as positive signs alluding to good luck, blessings, and new opportunities. 

They also represent wish fulfillment, and dreaming of one after you've wished for something is a sign that your request is being granted. 

Rainbows also symbolize mutual love, especially between couples. They point to peace and happiness in the future union. 

Are rainbows good luck?

Rainbows are usually thought to be good luck symbols. Double rainbows are considered even luckier. Many cultures associate rainbows with divine blessings and better futures to come.

Although this is the most common perception of rainbows, it also depends on who you ask and which belief system they align with.

In the Navajo tradition, pointing at a rainbow will result in your finger being cut off. 

Some Amazonian cultures associate rainbows with evil spirits who cause harm, such as miscarriages and skin conditions.

In Judaism, rainbows represent human sin, and a generation that never sees a rainbow is thought to have attained a higher level of spirituality.

Regardless of your beliefs, you'll always benefit from paying attention to the signs around you. They're there — you just have to look for them! 

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Yona Dervishi is a writer who is currently working at YourTango as an editorial intern. She covers topics pertaining to self-care, radical acceptance, news, and entertainment.

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