According to J. E. Cirlot, in A Dictionary of Symbols, "Colour symbolism is one of the most universal of all types of symbolism and has been consciously used in the liturgy, in heraldry, alchemy, art, and literature." Black has both positive and negative connotations. A symbol of the world, wisdom, and eternity, black is also a representative of desolation, the unknowable, and death.
Black is the color of chaos and is associated with black magic, the sinister aspect of witchcraft, and the black arts. In symbology there are two shades of black – one shade opposing red signifies ignorance arising from passions – one shade opposing white signifies ignorance of mind not necessarily confirmed by wickedness of heart. Black is a common symbol of death, sorrow, and the underworld. In precious stones diamonds, jet, and tourmaline represent black.
Black is the heraldic color called sable, symbol of constancy, prudence, and wisdom and is represented by lines forming squares or by deep black. In Alchemy, black is the color of the nigredo, the "black of blacks" which results when sulfur (masculine) and mercury (feminine) incubate in the materia prima and complete the first stage of the Great Work. Black is an elemental symbol of the direction of deadly or dry winds. Culturally, the color black has some universal associations and also has both elemental and directional symbolism. The Black Sun is represented by a black circle symbolizing the spirit of the solar or heavenly god during his cyclic passage to the underworld. In this aspect he is known as the hidden one, Amen, or the Lord of Death, Seker. His blackness is as intensely dark as the sun’s light is intensely light. As the Persian mythological son god's brother, Ahriman, and the Mesopotamian Negral-Ninib, the Black Sun represents the dualism of the forces of light and dark, good and evil.
For Amerindians, black is the color of the North, mourning, and night. Black is the Mayan symbol of the West, land of the setting sun, and death of an enemy. In Yucatán lore, black represents the West.
Black is the Chinese symbol of water, the North, yin, and winter. In Celtic mythology, black is the color of the North and the direction of winter. For Christians, black is a symbol of the Prince of Darkness, hell, death, sorrow, spiritual darkness and evil arts.
In Egypt, the color of rebirth and resurrection, black was also the symbol of the West; the color of Osiris at funeral rites; and the Thoth as a conductor of souls, who appears with the head of a black ibis.
Among the Greeks, black with a symbol of sacrifice. Black sails on vessels mark the ships of Athenian maidens and youths destined to be sacrificed to the Minotaur. In ancient Rome, men who wore the toga pulla, the black toga of mourning which express sympathy for a fallen political figure.
Black is the Qabalic Hebrew color of Understanding and the Kingdom. In Hinduism, black is symbolic of the South; Time; and Kali, the destroyer goddess. Black is used in sympathetic magic as the symbol of the blackness of clouds to evoke the rain. To learn one of the ancient Samaveda hymns known as Sakvari song, a student were black garments and ate black food to master Indra’s mighty weapon, the thunderbolt, and thus control the rain and the rain-god, Parjanya.
(see Bibliography category for references)