Restless Hecate has returned to give a short treatise on the wonders of synaesthesia. This topic has come up a number of times in conversation with my good friend, Jill. She has often told me that she sees numbers as color… A couple of days ago the BBC had an article all about it and because there are so many interesting conversations that began as a result of a tiny post thrown on Facebook, it was necessary to be done here, too. So many people were delighted to find out what kind of synaesthete they were! Besides, Styx has been hearing me jaw and jaw about this ad infinitum since the article was read. You can find it here:


Anyway, for those not familiar with the term, the sense of synaesthesia is defined as:

* A condition in which one type of stimulation evokes the sensation of another, as when the hearing of a sound produces the visualization of a color. Courtesy
** A condition caused by an unusually high number of connections between two areas of the brain’s sensory cortex, making two senses inseparable. Courtesy Dr.J Simner

Synaesthesia may be perceived in a variety of ways. One example really stood out to me-- in the case of space and time. For those who are stimulated in this way, a visual experience can be reached when thinking about time. The following graphic is courtesy of BBC.com, used to illustrate a possible shape that a space/time synaesthete sees in a year.

The shape of each time-space synaesthete's year is different
(photo courtesy of the BBC http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/8248589.stm)

This is but one example; there are many possible other permutations of colors and shapes and sizes for each synaesthete with this sort of perceptional ability. Some synaesthetes may be able to taste words, others experience what is called “ordinal-linguistic personification” wherein numbers or letters act as the ‘trigger’ (NOT colors) the impression of gender or a personality. Dr. Simner, a University of Edinburgh psychologist who studies synaesthesia uses the following example to illustrate this, ”you don’t know that number seven is green, but you know that it’s a maniacal husband who comes home from work and shouts at his wife.”

Per the article, there are 54 or more different variants of synaesthesia—“most people associate texture and shape with shades of colour. And most people have an intrinsic sense of the shade of different pitches of sound.”2 So there you go, Jill! And check out this super-cool blog written by British PhD Stephen Westland. (He’s also full prof at UK University).


Dr. Westland has been working in all things color for a quarter century including color chemistry, color physics, color engineering, color neuroscience, color psychology, and color design. He asserts that “although Newton observed 7 colours when he separated white light with his glass prism, most scientists today agree that it is really only possible to discern 6 colours and that indigo cannot be distinguished from violet in the visible spectrum.” So one wonders, how many colors do synaesthetes see that perceive the number/color variation? Reader, if this is where you are stimulated, let us know how many you see!

(photo courtesy of Dr. Westland http://colourware.wordpress.com/2009/06/29/colour-101/)

It was mentioned to me in earnest that some synaesthetes seem to be prone to some sort of savantism, and/or autism. To that Hecate cautions the ignorant to do their homework, synaesthesia is not a disorder—not a problem that needs some fixing. AND who wouldn’t want to boast of impressive powers of recall? Call me a savant if I’m blessed with such beautiful powers of the mind! According to the (albeit superficial) research that has been done by this blogger, it seems to be perfectly natural to experience these sensations, and Hecate for one finds it marvelous if you are a synaesthete of any kind! You may test yourself to see which sort of synaesthete you are, below is the link to the eyesight test:

And below you’ll see the link to the auditory test. For this one you may want earphones-- especially if you are testing this while at work:

Hecate signing off before early light from the Underworld-buona sera!


  1. Excellent post. I took the visual test-it was fun! Pa Dukes

  2. Thanks for the feedback! The visual test is interesting, no? Do you fancy yourself a synaesthete, Pa Dukes?

  3. also... synaesthesia is on the latest episode of Heroes.

    Hectate, you are so pop-culture.