To me, the rose is the most sacred of flowers. It represents so many different stages of life in its bloom and yet it is beautiful in all of its stages. Beyond the rosebud, the stem bears its thorns. What is beautiful should not be taken for granted, and roses should defend themselves. The rose’s meaning is extensive, from a symbol of love and passion, to a meaning of confidentiality. In Latin, the expression “sub rosa” literally means “under the rose.” In ancient Rome, a rose was placed on a door when confidential matters were discussed. Anything that was said “under the rose” was intended to be secret.
The rose was sacred to Venus, the Roman goddess of love. It’s also linked to Cupid, the son of Venus. In one myth, he drops nectar and of the nectar grows roses. The rose was also sacred to Bacchus, the god of wine. Cleopatra was said to have had a floor covered in roses before her lover visited her.
In Catholicism, the rose is a symbolic element of the Holy Rosary. The origins of this date back to when Fra Angelico (an early Renaissance painter) saw the Virgin Mary in a vision with a group of Angels creating a crown of roses for the Virgin. This imagery is contrasted by the crown of thorns worn by Jesus. When united, the symbolism of these two crowns, is that the Mother of Jesus is the blooming rose and the thorns (Jesus) are a part of the rose. The Virgin Mary is often depicted with roses. The “miracle of the roses” is a miracle in which roses manifest as an act of God or a saint. This dates back as a spiritual experience to the 12th century.
Roses come in many colors. There is the red rose, the lover’s rose, there is the white rose of humility and innocence, there is the yellow rose symbolizing friendship and joy. Finally, my favorite, the pink rose symbolizing gratitude, appreciation, and admiration. The number of roses in a bouquet can also express different sentiments. For example, giving one rose can mean “love at first sight,” whereas a perfect dozen says, “be mine,” or two dozen communicates a deeper devotion and so on. There is so much to be communicated with roses and shared with many. I think attributing the title “Queen of Flowers” to the rose is not a mistake.
The rose can also be a stately symbol. The rose is the national flower of the United States and the state flower of New York, Georgia, Oklahoma, Iowa, North Dakota, and District of Columbia. June is the month of the rose; not surprisingly many weddings occur in June, as weddings are also often associated with roses. The rose is so versatile, it continues to share meaning in so many forms.
In Tarot cards, the symbolic meaning of the rose is balance. It expresses promise, new beginnings, and hope. Its thorns in Tarot represent defense, physicality, loss, and thoughtlessness. The blooming of the rose can be understood as the fleetingness of life and further, death. Life is beautiful… as portrayed in the blooming of the rose.