The Rose


[From FTE, A Newsletter for Women (and interested others) Fall 1989]

...Living forms express ideas from the Real World, made manifest in the material world. To ease comprehension of this, symbolism was born. There is much lore of the symbols all around us and the ideas they represent.

Because we thought it would be fun, and because several people have asked what The Rose represents in Harmony Workshop's video production of Seeking the Rose, I have gathered, quite randomly, some of this lore about roses.

Amanda McBroom's song The Rose has been very popular. (In a television interview she said this song was different than her other work. She said it was pure inspiration, it just came to her, she only wrote it down. In my opinion, it is quite different from the bulk of her work.) It has been done in a soulful rendition by Bette Midler and almost hillbilly-style by Conway Twitty; and countless other interpretations in between. It seems to appeal to just about everyone. In the song Ms. McBroom suggests that Freedom To Experience--being free to lose, free to give, free to dance--will produce The Rose.

The rose is considered almost universally as the Queen of Flowers, ultimate beauty. Aphrodite represented the idea of feminine force. It was said that when Aphrodite first cried (experienced) her tears formed roses. She is associated with love; and rose is an anagram of eros.

The rose of Jericho is sometimes called the resurrection plant.

Ancient Hebrew lore says that thorns first appeared on roses at the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the garden. Thorns on the rose bush emphasize contrast between bliss and despair, existence and non-existence, pleasure and pain, gain and loss, etc., as well as the difficulty of attainment of something precious.

It takes about 40 roses to produce a drop of rose oil. Roses are traditionally given to the beloved in dozens. In esoteric symbolism, 40 = an infinite number; 12 = completion.

In Medieval times roses were equated with the Virgin Mary and represented the idea of mercy (Mary was--and is--seen as the interceptor between Heaven and Earth, between God and humanity, the properly functioning Awareness), as well as representing her ineffable beauty.

Sometimes roses represent secrecy, or mystery. There was a tradition of placing a rose above a dining table, or other meeting table, to demonstrate that all private conversations were to be held sacred. Today there are still buildings in Europe where a rose is painted on the ceiling of the meeting room. (Hence our term sub rosa, below or beneath the rose.)

Roses were considered protection. In ancient Rome they were worn as wreaths during feasts, especially as a preventative against drunkenness. (If drunkenness, in this case, represents sleep or unconsciousness, or lack of inhibition, roses can be seen to represent consciousness, discernment.) While some cultures scattered rose petals for good fortune, others said that to scatter them on the ground (debasing them?) invited evil. In Transylvania roses protected against witches. Romans put roses at funerals to protect the deceased from evil. In Medieval times to pick roses gave power over forces (fairies).

Roses are used to to express the ideas of transcendence.

In England a maiden picked a rose at Summer Solstice and saved ;it until Christmas. If it shriveled and died she would remain unmarried. If the rose remained living and fresh, she wore it on her gown, to be plucked by the man she would marry. Does the rose here represent the seed of Consciousness that leads to union of Awareness with Spirit?

Old ballads say lovers who die before marriage will be remembered by a rose and a briar planted at the heads of their graves.

In Western Europe roses were equated with the "mystic center," and thus the heart. The elaborate outer centerpiece of the Gothic cathedrals is called the rose window, representing the transcended higher Self.

A single rose is in essence a symbol of completeness, of consummate achievement and perfection. Both Apulius and St. Denis of France had been transformed into animals and regained their human form by eating roses!

In alchemy white and red roses symbolize the union of water (feminine) and fire (masculine).

Many of the Tarot cards, considered by some to be an old (if somewhat corrupted) Teaching book, use the rose as a symbol. White roses, purified desire. The roses on the robe of the man kneeling before the Hierophant represents subservience. Red roses represent strength, or in the case of the Magician, who is standing in a garden of roses, the culture of aspiration, the cultivation of desire (raising it up, as he is superior).

Roses represent love for the Divine in many teachings. Red roses, human passions transformed into love the Divine. Loving surrender.

The Sufis use the symbol of the Rose. Idries Shah states that the Arabic word wird (meaning dervish exercise, i.e., the Work) was used poetically as WaRD (rose).

The 700-year-old Sufi classic poem The Secret Rose Garden by Shabistari, remains with us today, vital and beautiful. the garden was planted with roses of Love and Adoration, of Reason and of Spiritual Illumination, of Knowledge and of Faith. In the center is a rose-tree of unequalled splendor, the tree the author planted with all his heart's adoration--the description of the perfect face of the Beloved.

And Shabistari admonishes us: "Do not seek with cold eyes to find blemishes, or the roses will turn to thorns as you gaze."

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