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How the rainbow reaches you!



I just love rainbows!


Whenever I see one I am excited, happy and fascinated.


I am sure you are to.


We just have to love them for their beauty, their sudden arrival and slow fading.


There is something in us that reacts to rainbows. And it was always like that, in all times, in most cultures and most religions.


Examples of Rainbows in different cultures and religions


  • The Greek Goddess Iris is the personification of the rainbow and a messenger between the Gods and humans.
  • In the Aborigine culture the Rainbow Serpent is the creator of the world and all beings.
  • In Hinduism Indra, the God of rain, thunderstorms and war, uses the rainbow to shoot arrows of lightning.
  • For Buddhists, the rainbow is the highest state achievable before attaining Nirvana.
  • For Jews and Christians the rainbow is the sign of the covenant God did with Noah.
  • In general is the rainbow a symbol of peace (together with a dove).
  • In Ireland, a common legend asserts that a “pot of gold” is to be found at the end of a rainbow, for the person lucky enough to find it. This treasure is, however, guarded by a Leprechaun.
  • Rainbows are common within the culture of Native Americans. The Cherokee for example believe the rainbow is surrounding the sun while in Navajo tradition the rainbow is the path of the holy spirits.
  • In the ancient beliefs of Japan, rainbows were the bridges that human ancestors took to descend to come to earth.


Scientific explanations


With all its beauty and mystic the rainbow forces some questions on us.

How does a rainbow appear in the sky?

Why is it a bow?  Or is it even a bow?

And can we reach the end of a rainbow?

Rainbows are not only beautiful, but also rare. To see a rainbow we need a rainy day and a sunny day at the same time. That way the sun can shine from one part of the sky, and the rain from another one.

rainbow with rain

Rainbows are a product of sunlight passing through small droplets of water. The sunlight takes a complicated path through each water droplet. It comes in the drop on one side and leaves on a different location with a different angle. Further, this angle is different for red light, blue light and the other rainbow colors passing through the water drop. That’s why out of the white light of the sun suddenly all the rainbow colors reach down to us. In other words, the water drops act like little prisms.


rainbow-prism prism


Now! To see a rainbow at all, the sun needs to be BEHIND us and the raindrops IN FRONT of us. If we were up above the rain, we could see that the rainbow is actually a full circle, but on the ground we see the bow, the semicircle of the rainbow, that is visible above the horizon.

We lose the rainbow once we move; and once the sun is not behind us and the raindrops are not in front of us.  And that’s why we can’t reach the end of the rainbow.

Rainbows in Songs


Songs are full of rainbows. In songs people ‘chase a rainbow (The seekers), find one in front of the door’ (Bob Sinclar), find a pretty rainbow (Roy Orbison), know there is a rainbow (Mariah Carey), sing a rainbow or go to the rainbow’s end (Fleetwood Mac). They sing about a rainbow country (Bob Marley) and ask “Make me a rainbow (Ella Fitzgerald).

In the love song I have heard in a concert last week by ‘The Celtic Tenors’  – while I had the idea of this post – two lovers asked romantically ‘Who puts the rainbow in the sky?’ while Mahalia Jackson tells us singing ‘God put a rainbow in the sky’, and Dorothy dreams in the Wizard of Oz about a world ‘Somewhere over the rainbow’. somewhere over the rainbow


Over to you


Even I could explain how the rainbow appears in the sky and reaches to you from there, I am still very emotional when seeing one. They touch my heart!

What about you? How is your relationship with rainbows? How do you feel when you see one?


Note: Rainbow picture courtesy:
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Hi I'm Ilka, a self-development writer and lovable scientist with a knowledgeable expertise in brain science. I help people realize the power our behavior has on our brain - and the other way around.

writerwannabe763 - January 22, 2015

To me they are another example of a miracle and just beautiful and being a Christian, I do think about God’s covenant with man, never to destroy the earth again with a flood… Diane
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    simplyilka - January 22, 2015

    Thank you Diane!

    I agree that a rainbow is just beautiful 🙂
    Thank you for pointing out that the covenant means that no flood will ever destroy the earth again. This is wonderful. I know and adore how you live by the covenants of God my dear friend 🙂

    All the best, Ilka

Nini - January 23, 2015

Dear Ilka!
I love rainbows too – I still get excited like when I was a child when I see one. For me it has something positive and a rainbow cheers up a day. Because of its colours, its shape, its majestic size and its rarity. Something very special!

    simplyilka - January 23, 2015

    Hi Nini!

    I am glad you love rainbows too. I totally agree that a rainbow is very special. It is nice how you describe that the excitement is just like it was when you were a child. I can relate to the comparison 🙂

Harleena Singh - January 23, 2015

Hi Ilka,

Lovely post indeed 🙂

Like you, rainbows touch my heart too, and I just love seeing one, though that rarely happens. But when it does, I drop everything and just spend those precious moments feasting my eyes and heart – they are so beautiful.

I liked the way you wrote this post, covering everything one would like to know about the rainbow. Yes, while one knew a little about what they meant in different cultures and religions, I didn’t know about the deeper scientific explanation about it. Like, to see a rainbow, the sun needs to be BEHIND us and the raindrops IN FRONT of us. I’d keep that in mind next time I see one!

Ah…I love the rainbow songs, and my favorite remains- Somewhere over the rainbow…I just get lost in that one!

Thanks for sharing this with us. Have a nice weekend 🙂
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    simplyilka - January 23, 2015

    Hi Harleena!

    Thank you so much for your kind words. I am glad to hear that a rainbow touches your heart as well 🙂

    I am also glad you learned something new. It truly honors me that you could take something new out of this post.

    I so agree that ‘Somewhere over the rainbow’ is just one of the nicest and sweetest songs ever; lyrics and tunes

    Have a wonderful weekend as well 🙂

Rohan Chaubey. - January 23, 2015

Hi IIka ma’am,

Thanks for reminding me how the Raninbow appears on sky. I learned it when I was in 10th grade lol.

I rarely get to see rainbows as my locality is all covered with buildings here and there. But I saw it once when I visited a hill station. That’s so pleasing to see colorful bow!

And I enjoyed reading the examples of rainbows in different cultures and religions. I didn’t knew that. Thanks for sharing this with us on Aha!Now.

Have a great day. Your post reminded me of a small poem.

Everyone wants happiness.
No one wants pain.
But you can’t have a rainbow,
without a little rain.

    simplyilka - January 23, 2015

    Hi Rohan!

    Thank you so much for the little beautiful poem. It fits perfectly with the post. Thank you for sharing 🙂

    I am happy I could refresh your school memory. Looks like all the hard work of our school days is still around in the brain 😉

    I am always honored when someone takes something new out of my post. So I am honored you enjoyed reading about rainbows in other cultures.

    Hope you will one day see another amazing rainbow 🙂

Rahul Krishnan - January 23, 2015

Hi Ilka,
Beautiful post as a rainbow.
This reminds me the physics class in my tenth standard. There I learnt how a rainbow is formed.
Scientifically a rainbow is formed due to total internal reflection.
Thank you so much for sharing this awesome post with us.
Rahul Krishnan

    simplyilka - January 23, 2015

    Hi Rahul!

    I am glad you enjoyed the post. Instead of ‘total internal reflection’ you can also say ‘refraction – reflection – refraction’.

    Thank you for sharing 🙂

    JeffJo - February 20, 2015

    Total Internal Reflection, or TIR, has nothing to do with rainbows. In fact, it is impossible for sunlight in raindrops. TIR would occur if there was no angle (relative to the surface normal) at which the light could exit. But it can always exit at the same angle it had when it entered.

    And the rainbow is not formed because the colors separate. Red light is reflected at all angles (relative to the original sunlight) from 0 to 42; violet at all angles from 0 to 40. But each color is brightest at the very edge of this range, which is why we see colored arcs. The rainbow continues all the way to the horizon as a dimmer white band, clearly evident in the picture.

Vernon - January 24, 2015

Hi Ilka,

This is an awesome post! I can’t help but go back to my youth when I first seen a rainbow.

It was a stormy day and two tornadoes were spotted. The sky was black and one of my brothers took me to the fire escape to see them. Then Mothers made us go to the basement.

When the storm was over the whole sky was a rainbow and we were right up under it! 😀

I would never forget that day. I think I was five years old.

Thanks for the memories!

    simplyilka - January 25, 2015

    Hi Vernon!

    What a wonderful memory! The sky full of rainbow after a scary storm!

    Thank you so much for sharing this amazing experience 🙂

ikechi - January 24, 2015

Hi Iika

You remind me about a post I wrote about the beauty of a rainbow and how it made a difference in our lives.

Rainbows are beautiful but you amazed me in this post by delving deeper into nature’s beauty.

Thanks for sharing.
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    simplyilka - January 25, 2015

    Hi Ikechi!

    Wonderful that you wrote a post about the fascination and influence of rainbows. It is a great topic indeed 🙂

    I am glad you enjoyed the post and thank you for sharing your thoughts.

    All the best 🙂

Carl D'Agostino - January 24, 2015

Great post. So interesting.

    simplyilka - January 25, 2015

    Thank you Carl! Glad you liked it 🙂

David Hartshorne - January 24, 2015

Hi Ilka,

This is a lovely post, combining the many cultural beliefs about rainbows with the pure scientific facts. Thanks for reminding us of this phenomenon.

Also, don’t forget there was a 70’s rock band called Rainbow!!
– David
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    simplyilka - January 28, 2015

    Hi David!

    I am happy that you liked the post 🙂

    And thanks for pointing out the rainbow rock band. Hard rock is also an interesting combination with a rainbow. I actually remember that they gave a concert in Munich and their electronic rainbow messed with the electronic guitars.

    All the best, Ilka

Yvonne I. Wilson - January 25, 2015

I love rainbows llka! 🙂 To me they evokte the feeling of happiness. I see life and the beginning of something new and beautiful.

Just like you mentioned that it is the sign of the covenant that God made with Noah. And not just with him, but with all of us as a people that the storm is over now, that His anger with us has passed and no more will he destroy the earth again with a flood. The rain has stopped also and the sun is about to shine.

Thanks for sharing.
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    simplyilka - January 26, 2015

    Hi Yvonne!

    It is beautiful that you love rainbows and that they mean a new beginning to you. And that you see this new beginning also in the promise God gave to all mankind 🙂

    Take care and blessings to you my friend 🙂

Ella - January 28, 2015

Hey Ilka!

Nice post and great explanation. It was very enjoyable to have different aspects of the rainbow covered.

    simplyilka - January 30, 2015

    Thank you Ella. I am glad you enjoyed it. It seems that the rainbow triggers a lot in people 🙂

Sherri Matthews - January 29, 2015

Lovely post and so interesting to learn more about the science of rainbows from you Ilka! Also I found what rainbows mean to different cultures fascinating. Always love to see one shimmering in the sky, makes my day. And I hope you have a beautiful day my friend, see you soon 🙂
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    simplyilka - January 30, 2015

    I am happy you found the post interesting and fascinating. I am always excited to share and even more exciting when special people like you enjoy 🙂

    Enjoy your day as well 🙂

Marylin Warner - March 27, 2015

Wonderful post, Ilka. When I was in junior high and high school, I belonged to a girls’ organization called Rainbow For Girls, so I thought I knew everything about rainbows. But you’ve taught me so much more!
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    simplyilka - March 29, 2015

    Hi Marylin!

    I am glad you liled the post. Rainbows are wonderful. I am glad you learned new things about them 🙂

    Have a great day 🙂

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