What’s the Deeper Meaning of Seeing Two Rainbows?

Catching sight of a rainbow arc gracefully across the sky invokes a sense of awe and wonder. But on rare occasions, observers may witness not just one vibrant rainbow, but two overlapping arcs. What is the significance behind this strange and beautiful phenomenon known as the double rainbow?

Some view double rainbow sightings as deeply spiritual events filled with symbolic meaning. From signs of blessing to heralds of transformation, theories abound regarding the metaphysical messages encoded within these colorful displays. Yet double rainbows also have a firm grounding in science and weather patterns. Unpacking the optical illusions and atmospheric conditions that spawn two rainbows at once leads to a logical, if less magical, perspective.

What is a Double Rainbow

Single rainbows form when sunlight is refracted and reflected through water droplets in the air, often in the wake of a rainstorm. As light passes into and out of each spherical droplet, the white sunlight separates into the colors of the visible spectrum. Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet bands arc across the sky, creating the rainbow.

In rare instances, a second, fainter rainbow appears above the primary arc, formed by light reflecting twice within raindrops rather than the usual single refraction. While all rainbows are circular, these secondary rainbows showcase the top portion of the circle overlapping the main rainbow. These dual rainbow events are known as double rainbows.

Spiritual and Religious Symbolism

Connection to Mythology and Folklore

Many cultures imbue the rainbow with mystical significance, the appearance of two rainbows being especially supernatural. Celtic myth declared double rainbows were created when the goddess Danu touched her fingers to the earth. Some Native American tales describe rainbows as the pathway followed by spirits from life to the afterlife. Spotting a double rainbow was viewed as a message from the divine or a glimpse into the beyond.

In Hawaiian legend, seeing a rainbow meant one had the opportunity to make a wish. Witnessing two rainbows was an even luckier sign. Irish lore also held that rainbows granted wishes and carried messages from leprechauns and fairy folk. Rainbows frequently appear as magical bridges between worlds in fiction as well, the double rainbow lending an even more fantastical element.

Sign of Blessing, Luck, and Hope

The Bible contains one of the earliest written references linking the rainbow symbolically to God’s covenant with humanity after the Great Flood. For Judeo-Christian belief systems, the rainbow serves as a sign of blessing, protection and favor from the Divine. Spotting two rainbows intensifies the sense of promise and good fortune.

Rainbows in dreams are considered highly auspicious in many new age and spiritual circles. If rainbow symbolism features luck in one’s waking life, seeing rainbows during sleep or meditation amplifies the feeling of pending positive transformation. Double rainbow dreams especially indicate miraculous change and prosperity on the horizon according to most interpretations.

Scientific Explanation of the Natural Phenomenon

How Double Rainbows are Formed

Science says rare double rainbow formations occur through the exact same process creating single rainbows, just with light taking two trips through the interior of raindrops instead of one. After entering, some light reflects straight back out, while the rest reflects off the back inner wall a second time before exiting and heading toward the observer’s eye.

Since the secondary refraction and reflection dulls the light waves slightly, the second rainbow appears less vibrant. Also, red light waves are more attenuated than blue and violet wavelengths, so secondary rainbows may display a reversed color spectrum. The second rainbow’s wider arc results from the changed angle of light bouncing twice through the droplets.

Optical Illusions and Atmospheric Conditions

Interestingly, all rainbows are actually fully formed circles, but ground terrain obstructs the lower portion from sight. Sometimes, however, the atmospheric conditions necessary to see two overlapping rainbow arcs occur. Sunlight must refract through a retreating rain shower at an angle of 40-42 degrees while the sun itself shines from an angle of less than 42 degrees. The brighter primary bow stems from one refraction, the secondary ghostly echo rainbow seeing the light reflect twice internally.

Rarity aside, double rainbows essentially boil down to an optical light trick, without supernatural origins. Yet the symbolic meaning humans attribute to rainbows throughout history continues resonating. In an age where science reveals nature’s marvels logically, room remains for awe, wonder and metaphorical significance in rare displays like the dual rainbow.

Documented Meanings and Interpretations

Historical Accounts and References

Evidence of intense interest in rainbow symbolism dots historical records across cultures. Ancient myths abound depicting rainbows as mystical bridges and paths between heaven and earth. The Old Testament mirrors the sentiment of divine favor. Even Aristotle and other early philosophers studied optical phenomena including rainbow mechanics without lessening symbolic meaning.

A 17th century Christian text tagged double rainbows as heralds the Second Coming would occur within 1-3 years. Poets and artists across the ages featured rainbow themes prominently in odes celebrating nature’s beauty and representations of the beyond. Though not the magical portals described in lore, rainbows retained spiritual connotations despite growing scientific understanding.

First-hand accounts of reactions to seeing double rainbows illustrate the phenomena’s continued mystery and meaning for observers. Social media contains multiple testimonies of people moved to tears, filled with sudden joy, peace or premonition of good things coming after witnessing the dual rainbows. Children especially express feeling as if glimpsing proof that magic exists in the world.

Even self-described atheists and nonbelievers use phrases like “magical” and “awe inspiring” when describing double rainbow sightings. The resonant symbolism around rainbows appears indelible to the human psyche. While science strips away mysticism via optics and weather patterns, a sense of wonder yet infuses the double rainbow, rare moments where science and symbol seem to intersect.