The rainbow looks like a giant bridge or gate and has been called the "Gateway to Heaven." Many people believe the rainbow is a ray of light falling to earth whenever Saint Peter opens the gates of heaven to let another soul in. In Hawaii, Polynesia, Austria, Japan and among Native American Tribes the rainbow is the path souls take on their way to heaven and has been called a bridge or ladder to higher or other worlds. The Russians call the rainbow the "Gate to Heaven." In New Zealand dead chiefs travel up the rainbow to their new home. Other myths say the bow is a stream of water that souls in heaven drink from. The Zulu of South Africa call the rainbow the Queens Arch because it is one of the frames that form the house of the Queen of Heaven. In Germany the paler secondary rainbow, sometimes seen above the primary rainbow, is said to be the work of Satan attempting to outdo God.
In Swabia and Bavaria the saints pass by the rainbow when traveling from heaven to earth. While in Polynesia it is the actual path taken by the Gods themselves. In Norway, a giant named Heimdal stands on a rainbow bridge, connecting heaven and earth. Heimdal's hearing is so keen that he is able to hear the sound grass makes as it grows. He guards Asgard, the home of the Norwegian Gods. The Valkyrie Maidens flying through the air on winged chariots carry dying Norse heroes over the bridge to Valhalla, a state of peace and bliss existing in Asgard. An old Norse story calls the rainbow Asbru, the bridge of the Gods.
In Greenland the rainbow is the hem of God's garments. The Samoyeds, a Siberian Mongolian people, and the Cherokee People say it is the hem of the Sun God's coat. The fact that Native Americans and Mongolian peoples share the same myth is perhaps one more piece of evidence that there was a land bridge between America and Asia and the peoples on both sides of the pacific do in fact share a common heritage. The ancient Welch believed it to be a Goddess's Chair. While in Croatia it is God's seat. The bible compares the rainbow to the brightness of God's throne. In Mozambique the rainbow is believed to be the arm of a conquering God. In Africa the rainbow encircles the earth and is a guardian to heaven.
In a German creation myth the rainbow is the bowl God used to hold his paints while coloring the birds. The Mojave Tribe of Arizona say the rainbow is a toy or charm the creator needs to stop a rain storm. A very bad storm requires all of the colors. The Luyia People from Kenya say that God created the rain and all the water in the world comes from it. To stop the rain when it is not needed God made two rainbows, the narrower male rainbow and the wider female. The male rainbow can not stop the rain by itself. When it is followed by the female the rain stops. Other Native Americans believe the rainbow is made from the souls of wild flowers that lived in the forest and lilies from the prairies.
A Japanese myth tells of the first man Isanagi and the first woman Isanami who stood on the floating bridge of heaven while creating the island of Onogoro. They then walked down to earth on this rainbow bridge, called Niji. They watched the animals and learned how to make love. They watched the birds and learned to eat with chopsticks.
In Kauai the Goddess of the rainbow is Anuenue. There is a story about a child named Ua, which means rain, who fell off a cliff. Anuenue used her rainbow to break the child's fall and save her life. The child grew up to marry Kulu-'i-ua, the son of the chief of a rival tribe. Their marriage created peace on the island of Kauai.
The Stoney Tribe believes giants inhabited the world when it was very young. One day, the chief of these giants reached into the sky and grabbed the giant rainbow to use as a bow for hunting. When he seized the bow it became colorless. He became so angry he threw the bow against a mountain. It shattered and its pieces fell into a lake. Sometimes at sunrise the colors of the shattered rainbow appear in the water of the lake. The spirit powers then made the smaller bows we see today.
Some Buddhists believe the seven colors of the rainbow relate to the seven planets and the seven regions of the earth. They also say the rainbow is the highest state of samsara before the clear light of Nirvana or heaven. In Arabia the rainbow is a tapestry draped by the hands of the south wind. It is also called the cloud's bow or Allah's bow. In Islam the rainbow is made up of four colors red, yellow, green and blue related to the four elements.
In myths of India the God Indra not only carries a thunderbolt like the Greek God Zeus but he also carries a rainbow, known as Indra's bow or weapon. A part of the Indian creation myth says the Gods created an ocean of milk from which all living forms emerged. Airavata, a sacred milk white elephant, whose name means rainbow, was one of the first creatures born from the milk.
In Christianity the rainbow is the pardon, the reconciliation between God and humanity. It is the throne of the last judgment. In ancient Christian symbolism the rainbows principal colors are red, blue and green for fire, flood and earth. It is sometimes viewed as the Virgin Mary bringing heaven and earth in harmony.
The Old Testament tells of God showing Noah a rainbow after the flood had stopped. It was sign that God was putting his "Bow" down and would never destroy the Earth by flooding again.
The Mayan book, the Chilam Balam, tells of the destruction of one of the Mayan worlds by a fiery rain that fell covering the heaven and earth with ashes. Those who escaped the violent trembling of the earth and avoided the falling trees and giant rocks saw a rainbow appear as a sign that the destruction had ended and a new age had begun. The Maya people believe that the Goddess of the rainbow is Ixchel the wife of the God Itzamna. She is also the spirit associated with the moon, sexuality, childbirth and medicine. A similar Mexican story, from the state of Michoacan, tells of Mauina the Goddess of fertility, who lives under the rainbow in the gardens of the rain and water.
The Navajo people believe Gods travel on the rainbow because it moves so rapidly. They know if you run toward the end of a rainbow it moves away before you get there, no matter how fast you travel. They also portray the rainbow as the bridge between the human world and the other side. They say the rainbow carries heroes between heaven and earth and there is a waterway where the rainbow bridges the earth. The Navajo's also say the rainbow is a Goddess who appears during ritual chanting to heal the sick.
There is a story amongst the Shasta people that the sun uses the rainbow colors to paint itself when it comes to the earth as a Shaman or Medicine Man. The Yukis of California believe the rainbow is the multicolored clothing of the Great Spirit who created all existence.
The rainbow is a bridge between the real and imaginary. It is looked at as a magic bridge on one hand, but on the other hand, people say a project doomed to fail is one built on a rainbow. A person who chases rainbows is someone who never accomplishes anything. I wonder what people think about us, rainbow makers.
People all over the world have different beliefs and different ways of looking at and understanding the same thing. We can be sure when a rainbow appears everyone is struck by its magic and its beauty. There is no doubt of that. What is the real meaning of the rainbow? Go look at one and you will know. Without words, without pictures, with a feeling inside you. Yes, there are things we just know and those are the important things in our life. The things that do not need words.