The symbolic meaning of the rose is known by almost everyone on some level – otherwise it wouldn’t be the most popularly sent flower on Valentine’s Day (I know, I’m 2 weeks too late here).
The rose is associated with Aphrodite (Greek) goddess of love who was often depicted adorned with roses around her head, feet and or neck. In myth we track down this association when we discover that a rose bush grew within the pool of blood spilled from Aphrodite’s slain lover (Adonis). We can interpret the symbolism here several ways. The most common interpretation is that the rose symbolizes an immortal love or a union that will never fade – even through time or death.
Similarly in Christian lore, a rose bush was said to have grown at the site of Christ’s death. His blood serving as the association with a red rose, combined with its thorns is thus symbolized the ultimate sacrifice.
In addition to being a symbol of love, the rose is also representative of secrets or tacit understanding. The term “sub rosa” means under the rose and comes from the practice of Romans hanging roses above meeting tables. Here it was understood that anything said at this table, beneath the hanging roses, was forbidden to be repeated elsewhere.
Seeking symbolic meaning of the rose from an esoteric perspective, we can look at the Tarot, in which the rose is considered a symbol of balance. Here the beauty of the rose expresses promise, new beginnings, hope. This beauty is contrasted with its thorns which represents defense, physicality, loss, thoughtlessness. The rose is seen in the major arcana as: Magician, Strength, Death and Fool cards. All of these cards hold strong meanings of balance and equilibrium.
Yellow Rose: Joy, Protection against envious lovers, Mature love
White Rose: Purity, Sanctity, Secret admirer, Mysticism
Red Rose: Sacrifice, Immortal love, Health, Memorial, Passion
Pink Rose: First love, Innocence, Healing
Or, click here for Symbolic Rose Meanings in the Tarot
Are you interested in tattoos? Check out my Rose Tattoo Meanings here.
Now that we know a little history and symbolism of the rose, our giving of them to the ones we love can be more profound and rich in meaning.