On the Symbolism of Roses

 Sermon #70, August 13 2023

On the Symbolism of Roses

Today’s sermon and discussion is going to be about my favorite flower, the rose. We will be talking about the multiple cultures and philosophical organizations that revere the rose and incorporate it into their symbology, as well as the different colors of roses and their ascribed meanings.

The aesthetic value, enchanting fragrance, and graceful form of the rose has inspired many different cultures and spiritual practices around the world. In Islam, the red rose represents the blood of the prophet Mohammed, and the white rose is a symbol of martyrdom and sacrifice. Rosicrucians consider the red rose sacred and include it in their special symbolic expression. Roses can also stand for immortality and regeneration. For Freemasons, the rose is a symbol of the rising sun and resurrection. Christians, of course, associate the rose with Jesus and his sacrifice; there is a legend that a rose bush grew on the hill where he died.

Roses also used to mean secrecy and confidentiality. The term “sub rosa,” which originated in Germany and is used in confessionals and clandestine meetings, literally means “beneath the rose.” Roses were often carved into ceilings and above doors in dining rooms to remind diners that what was said at the table was kept in strict confidence. In ancient Roman mythology, Cupid gave a rose to Harpocrates, the god of silence, to prevent him divulging the indiscretions of Venus.

Humans have always loved and revered roses. There is a Greek myth that when the god Adonis was gored by a wild boar during a hunting trip, his spilled blood stained the nearby white roses red as he died in Aphrodite’s arms. This is probably why red roses are such a romantic symbol, and it is also the reason that we place roses on graves. The ancient Romans had a festival named Rosalia, which involved paying tribute to the spirits of the dead, usually in the form of roses. A garland of roses was thought to prevent drunkenness, and was often worn during the festivals of Bacchus for ancient Romans and Dionysius for ancient Greeks.

There are several literary references to roses, from Shakespeare to Beauty and the Beast to the television show The Bachelor. In the Dark Tower by Stephen King, the titular Tower is surrounded by a field of red roses called Can-Ka no Rey. The red rose is the one most commonly depicted, of course, but other colors of roses have their own unique messages: A gift of red roses signifies love and passion. Yellow roses stand for platonic love and friendship. Pink roses symbolize appreciation and gratitude, as well as first love, so they are often used for proms. White roses mean purity and innocence. Orange roses are given to mean energy and loyalty. Give somebody purple roses if you think they are enchanting and magical or you look up to them, and blue ones if you want to convey mystery or loyalty or to represent unrequited love. A bouquet of different-colored roses can almost communicate an entire sentence worth of intention.

Did you learn anything new about roses from this sermon?


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