The ROSE is the Western symbol for true love, desire, the obligatory gift for finishing school, passion and whatever artists want it to be.
Different Symbolism for the Rose
In Different Religions Past and Present
In ancient Greece the rose was considered a symbol of Aphrodite. In her stories with Hector and Aphrodite in the Iliad she is protecting his body with the “immortal oil of a rose”. A Greek writer Pausanias associated roses with the story of Aphrodite and Adonis, saying that roses are red because she cut herself on the thorns and her blood spilled on to the petals (this is pretty, but falls apart since greek immortal’s blood is by canon golden). Also the greek goddess Eos was known as the “rose-fingered goddess of the dawn” thus giving the rose the symbol of rebirth and dew. In Classical antiquity roses were put on graves, calling the ceremony Rosalia, offering roses to the dead in the month of May. The island of Rhodes was also known as The Island of Roses, an island sacred to Athena, thus giving her the association as well. Hecate also was said to wear a garland of roses upon her head, specifically five petaled ones, as the number was associated with cycle and rebirth.
When Christianity came roses became associated with the Virgin Mary. Hence the rosary as the symbol of creation and used in the rite of prayer. In iconography the rose has symbolisms as the flow of Christ’s blood and his wounds during the path to the cross. It also became the symbol of immortality and rebirth.
For Shadi of Shiraz, a Muslim mystic, the rose garden was a place of prayer and contemplation. “I shall pluck roses from the garden, but I am drunk with the scent of the rose-blush”. Indeed in Persian garden’s they are built not only for their beauty, but for their spiritual purpose.
Change and Time
Because of its circular shape the rose has been used to represent time and change. The Rose Window is usually seen in buildings of the Gothic style, mostly in churches. With normal glass outside, but painted glass inside so that when the sun hits the colours explode inside the dark building.
(Rose window from Strasbourg Cathedral in France)
In the film A Little Chaos (2014) about King Louis XIV and his gardener Sabine De Barra. There is a conversation about a rose, that is also about cycles of life, from birth to death, and that even beauty, hardly earner and achieved, is fleeting.
Now to the theatre! In the classical ballet Sleeping Beauty there are references to roses everywhere. When Princess Aurora turns sixteen she is having a birthday ball where four suitors are introduced to her with the hope that she will choose one of them. Her introduction dance section is called the ‘Rose Adagio’, where she dances with said princes, receiving the same pink rose from each of them before finally throwing them to the side, rejecting them all. The roses here are a symbol of offers of marriage and so symbolise her becoming a woman by having these offers in the first place. This is the first instance when we see the grown up Aurora and the steps are very difficult (think a half an hour resting or stretching while others dance the Prologue and then right after is your turn to appear with maximum energy!).
Later in Act 1 when the curse is enacted it is by the use of a spindle. Some productions have her receive one as a present from a disguised Carabosse and she starts to play with it. Now in the Opera Garneir production in Paris uses roses as a way to disguise the cursed gift. It is hidden in the rose bouquet which Princess Aurora receives and she unknowingly touches the spindle in it, thus falling in to her cursed hundred year sleep. Roses, at least in this production, are beautiful flowers with a hidden threat among them.
Roses, with their almost perfectly set of petals are an achievement for any gardener to make the most beautiful flowers in the garden. They are usually what people notice at first because of their beauty. They smell delightful and are used in perfumes because of it. Cutting a rose from a garden is taking one part of the perfection away, like in Mommie Dearest where the roses are cut as her world falls apart. She only wants perfection, neat and tidiness, but ends up destroying the natural beauty surrounding her along with her appearance.
Le Spectre de la rose or The Spirit of The Rose, is a short ballet choreographed by Michel Fokine in 1911. The story tells about a Young Girl who has just returned from her first ball, dressed in her nightgown and with a rose in hand she enters the room and falls asleep. She dreams of the rose coming to life, recreating her experience in the ball with The Spirit of The Rose dancing with her. The Spirit of The Rose kisses her and leaves jumping from the window as she wakes up. She kisses the rose for the memory and love it gave her, awakening her in a way.
Now thorns are the little prickly nuisance whenever trying to handle one, not trying to have your finger bleed or just to find the perfect places for your fingers is a challenge in itself. They are the only downside for the otherwise beautiful species of flower, but then again would they be such a nuisance if it protects these beautiful flowers from just being cut or pulled from the ground like weeds?
In Titanic (1997) there is a certain Rose DeWitt Bukater, dressed in red, with red hair and hidden thorns inside her, ready to fling them at societies conventions. She is headstrong, free spirited and has a lot of spunk and courage once Jack brings it out from her.
Then to one of the most recent thorns with a rose as their symbol, the Tyrell’s. Their symbol is that of a golden rose on a green field and their words are “Growing Strong”. They are a family who seem at the surface more beauty than brains, but that is merely to their advantage as they are one of the most cunning planners of the series. The golden field of their golden rose symbolises the fertile lands they live in and the golden rose is that of the money and fortune they have in both beauty and agriculture.
Just in American Beauty with ALL THE SYMBOLISM
There is soooooo many of them that The Take by ScreenPrism explains it better than I could. Also I am running out of time to write this post so here is the video of it.
In Different Colours
Roses of different colours have different meanings. Red is obviously for love ect. But there are other symbolic meanings that are dictated by 19th century etiquette, in a way what colour the rose was told more secretly if one knew the meaning at a time when men and women lived very separate lives conducted by courting and manners.
Blue, the most unnatural of nature’s colours and rarely shows up in real life means mystery, attaining the impossible as well as love at first sight. Blue roses are only created artificially and their pigmentation is closer to purple than blue. In medieval times in the Middle-East blue roses were achieved by dying the roots and dying white roses in blue dye.
White, like its usual symbolism of silence or innocence, wistfulness, virtue, purity, secrecy, reverence and humility. Dried white roses on the other hand are more melancholy in nature with their symbolism being that of sorrow.
Black, the colour of night and a favourite of goths everywhere has the usual symbolism of death, hatred, farewell, rejuvenation or rebirth. It is also the symbol for Montreal anarchists and is a symbol on some anarchists leaflets and organisations. In history black roses have been achieved by burning the roses or dipping it with black ink. In Indigenous American history the black rose has been a symbol of love gone wrong, as well as death or death of a family member.
Yellow, bright and sunny colour, has the associations of friendship, jealousy, infidelity, apology, a broken heart, intense emotion, undying love and extreme betrayal. One can only assume that the situation dictated the meaning by this roses’ colour if given.
Pink, pretty pink, has many associations depending on what shade of it you use. Pure pink is grace, light pink is desire, passion, joy for life, youth and energy and dark pink for gratitude. It has not the naivety of the white rose, nor the deep love of the red. Simply, the pink rose is that of puppy love or the dating kind, as one would say. Not too innocent to be white but neither too passionate as the red that everyone hopes for at the end. The relationship can go either way, depending on the outcome.
Burgundy, my favourite colour and so rich and beautiful, has associations with the meaning of unconscious beauty. It’s the colour of red wine and the name comes from the region of France’s wine country of Burgundy or Bordeaux. The colour is for those not yet conscious of their inner beauty or the subconscious love you feel for someone you care about in your life (I swear I’m sounding like a freaking horoscope writer! Hahaha!). So this deep red, so red it’s not bright red love, but a much deeper kind that should be cherished.
Coral or Orange, deep in the sea and the colour of many fruits, has the meaning of desire and passion. It’s an unusual colour and often overlooked.
Lavender or Violet, of amethysts and flowers, has the meaning of love at first sight. In a way its like the magical moment of seeing someone and it is as if the world stops and they just sparkle and glow in your eyes. Lavender, specifically mauve, has also been associated with the LGBQT community from the 19th century. Any “confirmed bachelors” at that time wearing mauve were thought to be or were homosexual when this association came with it in the 1890s. With lavenders sweet colour mix of blue and red the lavender coloured rose has worked as a LGBQT gift on Valentine’s day gift as well as in weddings.
Red and White, in a curious mix of innocence and true love, this colour combination symbolises unification. Appropriate for the colours used.
Red and Yellow, this is a combination for aching to the Yellow, with its meaning of joy, happiness and excitement. Like taking a holiday with one’s partner as you have true love and there is nothing but adventure ahead.
Thornless, neither a colour but a modification, means love at first sight. Appropriate since the rose is not yet there, the hurt of the thorns is not present since the chance of rejection is not yet known, and the rose itself (if one even has the courage to talk to them) has not yet been born. This is for someone who you would like to know better and maybe soon you will know in what colour category you stand. Choose the roses’s colour before choosing the thornless rose, you want them to know what your intentions are.
Finally! Rose as Love, Desire and Passion
The rose has inspired artists from all over the world as a symbol for love from paintings to songs. Roses, with their sweet smell, soft petals have been compared to many things in women, because it is seen as a feminine and ideal and its easier to compare something like a rose to something then for example a periwinkle. It’s both a cultural and an artistic thing, but also a gender thing, where women are seen as flowers while men as animals. Just read any poetry from the past thousands of years and you see the theme popping up when talking about lust and passion, for men its is an animalistic thing, while for women its delicate like a flower.
A woman’s lips may be described as rose petals for their softness and shape, cheeks bursting red like a rose when blushing, their eyes giving someone a thorny look to even say that they are blooming like rose (or any flower) when they have their first period or are going through the awkward teenage years.
In one of Yash Chopra’s most romantic film Chandni (1989) the rose is in the poster. It is both foreshadowing what happens in the film and the theme of it. Chandni’s first song she is dressed in a pink choli, dupatta and lehenga, as pink as a rose. There is a scene with roses that is the most romantic acts one can make. I won’t spoil anything, but I recommend watching it this day. THIS IS THE MOST ROMANTIC YASH CHOPRA FILM AND I STAND BY IT!
In Mani Ratnam’s film Roja (1992) the film’s title character is a young village girl who marries a city man and the two of them move to Kashmir because of his work. Then, tragedy and separation ensues. Now the name Roja in Tamil means ‘Rose’ and it symbolises our main character as the flower of love in this dark, but brilliant movie. When her kidnapped husband misses her he sings the above song, crying out her name in this heartbreaking song composed by A. R. Rahman. Warning tears might arise when listened!
Finally to Beauty and the Beast (1991 and 2017) the rose is both a symbol of time as well as love, because there is a time limit and the rose’s petals fall slowly to mark the time. But the symbol of love is there too, because it is red and something the Beast cherishes and wants no harm to come to it. It is a symbol of his inner curse which he doesn’t speak of and a reminder of his deed. In a way it is like his heart which he tries to protect against pain. Love might in the end heal him, but it is only by the Enchantresses rose’s power that he is able to transform along with the words of “I love you”. Love and the rose are connected from the beginning, especially in the 2017 movie.
So Happy Valentine’s Day to you all! If you are single, then buy yourself a box of your favourite chocolates and watch a movie you like, because there is no better romance to have than one has with oneself. And for those in a relationship, hope you do something sweet for your partner in this day when clichés are loved and when hearts are (literally) on sale everywhere.
Dictionary of Symbols – Penguin Reference – Jean Chevalier and Alain Gheerbrant
The Truth About Love – Philip Ardagh