The Gift of Roses: Some Meanings for the Rose
As a presence in
a room with its scent, color, and shape, a rose can take possession of the viewer's innermost
thoughts and emotions, making everything else look absurdly small in comparison.
Flowers are the messengers of our most sacred feelings. They have a
language of their own. As gifts they are capable of expressing all
shades of feelings and passions. The rose is especially noted, as it is the archetypal flower. The rose has endured as metaphor through
the ages, surviving a partial death for at least eleven centuries in
the West. The decline can be attributed to the difficulty and
ambivalence of applying its meaning to new religious beliefs, primarily Christianity.
Eventually the rose ended up as a predominant symbol of Christianity,
and the Virgin herself became known as La Rosa Mystica or the
Mystic Rose. The rose has deep meanings that cannot be destroyed. They can
simply be redirected.
The rose encompasses a magnificent territory that must be experienced first hand. Consequently, when we attempt
to construct a map of the territory we leave much of it uncharted. The rose transcends a specific meaning to a given culture and a given time.
The rose has been prized for thousands of years throughout a wide range of cultures, and has come to symbolize many different things. We can search for its meanings
through mythology, religion, art and literature.
Cirlot stated that the meaning of roses can be attributed to the
number of petals and the colors, to this I would like to add
fragrance. Our sense of smell is one of our deepest senses.
Fragrance is the secret substance that embodies the true nature of
the rose. Sartre once described the spiritual essence of scent as,
"A vaporized body which has remained completely itself but which has
become a volatile spirit". David Austin has said that scent is
the soul of the rose. It is something that we can not hold in our hands,
which is always shifting and changing. Jack Goody states that applying
meanings to flowers came from the East. Meaning can be highly subjective
but some thoughts are universally accepted.
David Dodd's Notes on Roses may also be of interest.
Art at the top of page: Rosa Papilio, Salvadore Dali 1968
©2000-2005 Daphne Filiberti