Much like crystal healing, chakras, and astrology, auras and their energy are largely invisible, and so require a slight leap of faith to understand. But that’s what makes them so fascinating. If you’ve ever been to a psychic and heard them recite exactly what’s going on in your life without any clues or prompting, you can understand what it feels like to have an aura seer/reader tell you which vibrant colors shroud your body, and what they mean about you and your life purpose. This is what happened to me when I received four different aura readings in the name of trying to figure out exactly WTF auras are, and whether they’re real.
First thing’s first: Auras are, by consensus of the experts I spoke to, defined as electromagnetic energy fields radiating out of all forms of matter, alive or not. “With humans, you’re going to get stronger energetic fields because they’re living,” says Pamela Aarlyn, a spiritual alchemist based in the Salt Lake City area who reads auras and offers other spiritual channeling services. “Human auras have more layers, and when I look at them, I can see information about someone’s physical and mental health, life purpose, thoughts, and feelings.”
While the specifics on what auras actually look like vary—and it’s difficult to confirm, given that only a small percentage of humans can see them—everyone I consulted agreed that human auras have two basic components. Life colors are the hues that envelop your body, seeming to hover just over your skin. They change rarely, if ever, and are associated with who you are and what you’re here to do. “Your life colors reflect the choices you make for this lifetime,” says Pamala Oslie, a Santa Barbara–based aura expert and reader, and author of four books on auras, including Life Colors: What the Colors in Your Aura Reveal. “They show me what you’re here to do in terms of career, relationships, and larger life themes. It’s kind of like your zodiac sign—a broad categorization of your identity and tendencies.”
The outer bands of your aura, on the other hand, can extend anywhere from six to 30 feet around your body, and change with your daily mood or circumstances. “Red can flare up when you’re mad, or yellow when you’re relaxing on vacation,” says Oslie. “When women are pregnant, they often have blue in their outer bands. These change all the time without affecting your inner life colors.”
Having a tough time imagining what these colorful, swirly shrouds around our bodies might look like? So was I. So I ventured to a shop called Magic Jewelry in Chinatown, which has a special camera that takes photographs of people’s auras. This technique is called Kirlian photography, a.k.a. electrophotography, and supposedly works by capturing a person’s naturally occurring electric field on film by connecting that person to electrodes.
I placed my hands on two scary-looking boxes, took a deep breath as instructed, and—poof!—the machine cranked out a hard copy of the above photograph. Unsurprisingly, there are plenty of people who believe Kirlian photography is utter quackery; some say that if a human isn’t in front of the camera, it will snap a similar rainbow collage of colors. I can’t say, since my $20 only got me access to my photo, and a perfunctory interpretation of it.
David, the man who took my picture, told me that the colors on the left (green) indicated what was happening in my life the week before. Things had been stressful and not gone exactly according to plan. (True, but when does it ever?) The purple showed that I was currently experiencing a lot of creative energy. (Also true, but I’d told him I write for a living, so not sure how valid that is.) The blue was a hint that the week ahead was going to be calmer, he explained. (Said week is chugging along OK so far, so I’ll go with it.)
Next, I paid a visit to Brooklyn’s Maha Rose Center for Healing, which offers spiritual workshops and healing sessions. There, I had a session with Deborah Hanekamp, a seeress who reads auras as part of her Medicine Readings, which also involve energy balancing rituals and crystal and sound therapy. “Your life color is orange,” she told me. “That means energy, creativity, and fiery passion. You also have a lot of white opal around on the outside, which indicates a purity.”
Hanekamp has been to Magic Jewelry, but doesn’t see auras the same way the Kirlian camera shows them. “It doesn’t mean that the camera doesn’t work; it could just be that on film it picks up in a different way.” Different seers may perceive auras differently, too, she said—kind of like how people taste certain flavors differently. Oh, and fun facts: The Statue of Liberty has a yellow aura, and the biggest aura Hanekamp has ever seen was the Dalai Lama’s.
Oslie and Aarlyn, with whom I did phone readings, told me that my aura was yellow-violet and yellow-aquamarine, respectively. “Yellow means creativity and joy; violet means you need freedom and to make a difference,” said Oslie. “This color combination is one I see a lot in artists, musicians, and filmmakers—it’s the same one Oprah and Bono have.” Aarlyn said similar things about yellow—that it indicates joy, positivity, and idealism. (Eh, not inaccurate once you strip away my New York–acquired layers of cynicism.) Aquamarine, she explained, is all about authenticity and empathy.
Though Aarlyn, Oslie, and Hanekamp each had their own beliefs about auras, and saw different colors in mine, they agreed on one interesting thing about them: We’re all born with the ability to see auras—and tune into our general spirituality and intuition—on different levels. Tons of young kids can see auras, apparently, but they lose the ability when they grow up and adults beat the natural creativity and spirituality out of them (I mean … teach them the difference between what’s real and what’s not).
If you’re interested in learning about your own aura colors, Oslie has a convenient quiz that can help you figure yours out. Note that shades within each color family will vary in terms of characteristics. For more detail, check out the experts’ websites.
Below, a quick-and-dirty guide to what each color means.
Blue: Loving, nurturing, spiritual, expressive, unique, intuitive, sweet, gentle, loyal, patient, authentic, reliable, self-sacrificing, calm, grounded
Yellow: Joyful, positive, fun, free-spirited, energetic, optimistic, sensitive, playful, trusting, non-confrontational, social, easily bored
Pink: Loving, compassionate, accepting, calming, giving, balanced, unique, receptive, open, benevolent, tolerant, peaceful, kind
Red: Confident, sensual, brave, physical, strong, expressive, bold
Green: Intelligent, quick-witted, nurturing, motivated, likable, positive, empathetic, loving, peaceful, grounded
Orange: Thrill-seeking, flamboyant, energetic, spiritual, witty, discerning, articulate, introverted, flighty, social, sexual
Tan: Grounded, logical, loyal, practical, successful, driven, career-oriented, self-sacrificing, indecisive, analytical, detail-oriented, friendly, outgoing
Violet: Caring, balanced, loving, leader, value-oriented, driven, idealistic, independent, dependable, driven, creative