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Peter Krausche

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The Traveler Series

Symbolism: The Rose

The image on the right by kind permission of Martin Witter. Click on the image or on the following link to go to his website:

The symbol of the rose has a profound tradition. A short introductory article on the subject was devised by David Dodd of the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs:

The Rose: A thematic essay for the Annotated Grateful Dead Lyrics

Here are a few excerpts from the article:

The rose was dedicated to the goddess of love, that is, to the eternal mystery of the continuity of life. As such it was the symbol of mystery and secrecy. "Mystery glows in the rose bed, the secret is hidden in the rose," sang the Persian poet and perfumer, Farid ud-din Attar, in the twelfth century. A more prosaic explanation is that the folded structure of the rose, by its nature, conceals a secret inner core. ... in Germany, we read in Sebastian Brant's Narrenschiff, [Ship of Fools] in the late fifteenth century: "What here we do say, shall under roses stay."
-- Gabriele Tergit, Flowers Through the Ages (p. 46)
A floral symbol sacred to Venus and signifying love, the quality and nature of which was characterized by the color of the rose. A symbol of purity, a white rose represented innoncence (nonsexual) love, while a pink rose represented first love, and a red rose true love. When held by a martyr, the red rose signified "red martyrdom" or the loss of life, and the white rose "white martyrdom" or celibacy. According to Ambrose, the thorns of the rose were a reminder of human finitude and guilt as the roses in the Paradise Garden had no thorns. A thornless rose was an attribute of Mary as the Second Eve.
-- Apostolos-Cappadona, The Dictionary of Christian Art (p. 296)

The Bible also mentions this queen among flowers:

Bride: "I am a Rose of Sharon, a Lily of the Valleys."
Bridegroom: "Like a lily among thorns is my darling among the maidens."
-- Song of Solomon 2:1-2, New International Version (NIV)
The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose. It shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice even with joy and singing. The glory of Lebanon shall be given unto it, the excellency of Carmel and Sharon; they shall see the glory of the LORD, and the excellency of our God.
-- Isaiah 35:1-2, 21st Century King James Version

At the time of the Old Testament, the rose was much esteemed in the orient for its beauty and fragrance, and was especially prized for the sake of its rose-water.

In the first passage above from the Song of Solomon, the Bride of Christ is compared to a Rose of Sharon and a Lily of the Valleys. Christ himself says that even Solomo in all his glory was not arrayed as one of them (Mt. 6:29). So in this instance, the rose symbolizes love and purity, a reflection of Christ's divine qualities.

Then again, the Prophet Isaiah uses the rose to symbolize spiritual fertility, as love, joy, and peace again dominate the land after a time of spiritual drought.


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