Monday, May 22, 2017

Rose Symbolism


"But he who dares not grasp the thorn, should never crave the rose." - Anne Brontë




The rose is the queen amongst flowers and her influence on our psyche is ever enduring.  From the ancient to contemporary, she has represented everything from the sacred to the sensual. It is no wonder that one symbolic meaning of the rose is immortality, for she truly is.

This is by far a favorite flower of mine and I love to receive them (wink wink, nudge nudge, to my husband, "Gomez"). Their imagery and symbolic meanings are also amongst my favorite and a source of inspiration for my current work in progress, working title Fresh Cut Roses. The dark red rose echoes the color of blood and the thorns, invoke dark feels. Inspiring beauty and pain, really, what's not to love?



Different color roses have different meanings. More meanings can be found in my Language of Flowers post.

Red - Sensual/Passionate, Immortality, Undying Love, Courage, Health
Pink- Beauty and Innocence, Gentility, Sympathy
Lavender/Purple - Majestic, Mystery and Unattainable, Enchantment and Magic
Turquoise(Green) - Prosperity and Rejuvenation
White - Purity, Spirituality, and Mysticism, Virginal/Youthful
Yellow - Happiness, Friendship, Maturity, Good Luck, but could also mean Infidelity.
Orange - Congratulations, Pride, and New Beginnings
Black - Yes, there is such a thing. Most black roses are really dark indigo/purple or maroon, but a true black rose variety does grow in Tibet. They can mean tragic romance, black magic and hatred, death, mourning, and farewell, but also can be used to mean rebellion and mutiny.


Here are some other Gothic associations and references regarding the rose.

Sacred/Spiritual
  • Rosary
  • Rose windows in Gothic cathedrals
  • Christ's blood and some say the blood of the stigmata smells like roses
  • The Virgin Mary "a rose without thorns"
  • Crown of thorns - Sacrifice
  • White roses at weddings "I am worthy of you"

Rose Window


Mystery/Secrecy
  • The rose on the Tarot card represents balance. Namely, the Magician, Strength, Death and Fool cards of the major arcana.
  • Secrecy - Roses suspended over tables in Roman times meant secrecy, and that what was said there was kept there. Roses were also painted on Roman ceilings to represent this secrecy and are where the meaning of "sub rosa" came from. This practice was mimicked in medieval times and placed on confessionals, even the Tudor Rose of King Henry VII is painted in his personal chambers where decisions made there were to remain secret.
  • Alchemy where the unfolding rose petals represent the unfolding of wisdom.  The rose cross is a symbol of the Philosopher's Stone of immortality, the ultimate goal of alchemy.
  • Harkens to Secret Societies like The Rose Cross and Freemasonry.
The Rose and The Cross

Love/Passion
  • The bud or flower denotes the feminine and the thorn the masculine
  • Aphrodite's sacred flower. Running to her mortally wounded love Adonis, she cut her feet on thorns and the blood formed roses on the thorns or she bled on white roses turning them red. In the Roman version, it was Venus and it was her tears over Adonis' death that created the rose. A rose bush is said to have grown from the pool of blood where Adonis died. Aphrodite also gave her son, Eros a rose to give to Harpocrates, the god of silence, to keep her sexual indiscretions secret, so the rose became the symbol of love and desire, as well as, of silence and secrecy.
  • Love poetry and prose mentioning the Rose too numerous to mention.
    • I am the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys; As the lily among thorns, so is my love among the daughters. - the Song of Solomon.
    • A rose by any other name will smell as sweet. - Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare
  • St. Valentine - Valentine's Day is a day of love and roses have become its official flower. This is mostly due to the language of flowers created during the Victorian times. It isn't the holiday that is gothic, but the tragic story of St. Valentine that urges me to include it here. In short, the Emperor decreed that young men couldn't marry, as they made better soldiers if they remained unmarried. Valentine continued to officiate marriages between young couples in secret. When discovered, he was ordered to death. In jail, Valentine fell in love with the jailer's daughter and his last letter to her was signed, Your Valentine, a sentiment still in use today.
  • Cleopatra's seduction of Marc Anthony included layering floors with rose petals and adorning the walls with rose garlands. It is also reported that her bed was covered in rose petals. I call that invoking the power of Aphrodite.
The death of Adonis,  a painting by José de Ribera, 1637


Other favorite references.
  • Morticia Addams, of The Addams Family, cuts the heads off her roses, displaying only the thorny stems.
  • Playing cards in Alice of Wonderland paint the white roses red.
  • The enchanted rose of Beauty and Beast.
  • The hedge of thorns in Sleeping Beauty, where many princes died a sorrowful death. But then turned to roses after a hundred years, which parted for the young man who came and kissed her, awakening her kingdom. She was also named Brier-Rose.
  • Grimm is a treasure trove of stories depicting roses,  like the two rose bushes, one white and one red in Snow-White and Rose-Red and so many others. I highly recommend researching them for inspiration.


Has your storytelling ever been inspired by the rose or any of its many associations? Are there other rose references you would include?


Stay beautifully haunted.🌹 


♥ Shadow.

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