Roses may be the quintessential flower of romance, but their meaning runs deep and complex. There is probably no flower with a richer mythological history than the Rose. It carries paradoxical associations, uniting purity and passion, perfection and desire, life and death. Let’s look at some of the Rose’s many meanings:
You’d be hard-pressed to find another flower so deeply associated with the divine feminine. It seems that every big-name Goddess who has made her mark throughout history has had Roses attributed to her. Roses may be a universal symbol of divine femininity. Read more in Dr. Joie Power’s article “Rose Essential Oil: Embodying the Sacred Feminine.”
- In the ancient Mediterranean, Roses were linked with Goddesses like Isis, Aphrodite, and Venus, who represented beauty, love, Springtime and fertility.
- The Rose motif proliferated in Early Christianity with the rise of Marian worship. The art of the Middle Ages depicts Mary with a Rose, rather than a scepter, symbolizing how her power comes from divine love.
- Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Virgin Mary of Mexican Catholicism, is often depicted surrounded by Roses.
Confidence & Honor
- To this day, a bouquet of Roses is one of the finest ways to say “Congrats” after someone’s performance or achievement. Rose bouquets communicate respect and admiration.
- Roses are the national symbol of England, Catalonia and Islamabad, as well as the official flower of 4 US States.
- Confidence also refers to confidentiality. In alchemy, Roses represent secrets, mystery, and an oath of silence.
- Rosicruceanism is a philosophical secret society “built on esoteric truths of the ancient past.”
- In Roman myth, the angel Cupid offered a rose to the God of Secrecy as a bribe to keep quiet the frolics of Venus.
- In Ancient Rome, the practice of hanging a garland of Roses over a table meant that anything spoken at the gathering was to be kept sub rosa – confidential. This symbol lives on in the design element of placing a Rose-shaped ornament in the ceiling of dining rooms and council halls, signifying trust and honor for the meeting.
Blood & Death
- Greek myth tells that Roses first became red when the handsome Adonis bled on them as he died at the teeth of a wild boar, allegedly sent by the Goddess Artemis.
- Christianity links the Rose with the blood from Christ’s wounds. The Rose also signifies martyrdom.
- Islamic legend associates Roses with the blood of the Prophet Mohammed.
- The thorns of the Rose symbolize love’s hardships.
- Black Roses, which are actually dark purple, symbolize death.
Purity & Pleasure
- The ancient Greeks also associated the rose with Dionysus, the God of wine, celebration and pleasure, in whose name debaucherous festivals were thrown.
- Legend has it that the Roman emperor Nero, notorious for his excess, dumped tons of rose petals on his dinner guests.
- Rose petals famously adorned the bedroom of Cleopatra when she courted Marc Antony. To this day there are few things more romantic than a bedroom sprinkled with rose petals.
- Roses took on a pure and virginal tone in Early Christianity, when the Virgin Mary was emblemized as a thornless rose, with the title “rosa mystica.”
- Bright red roses represent lust and romance.
- White roses signify purity and virginity.
We love this 19th century oil painting portraying the decadent use of Rose petals in an ancient Roman banquet.
Soul & Spirit
- A single red Rose represents the mystical center of a person – their heart, or true nature.
- In Islam, the Rose symbolizes the soul, flowering among thorns.
- Islamic art often depicts geometric Rose meditation gardens.
- Some Sufi Muslims anoint themselves with Rose oil during prayer.
- For Hindus and Buddhists, the Rose’s spiraling petals evoke the center of the mandala.
Psychiatrist Carl Jung named the rose the primary archetype for love between people:
“The wholeness which is a combination of ‘I and you’ is part of a transcendent unity whose nature can only be grasped in symbols [like] the rose…”
The Rose’s contradictions, its sharp thorns and lovely flowers, make it a uniquely profound symbol. Its layered meanings apply to many kinds of love… not just romantic. No wonder the Greek poet Sappho heralded the Rose as “queen of flowers.”
We enjoy rose with our Rose Essential Oils, including Rose Otto, Rose Absolute and Rose Enfleurage.
The symbolism of the rose: from death, to life, to love (formerly on Swide.com)
Metaphors on Relationship by Greg Mogenson