June is considered the month of love and one of its greatest symbols is the rose. Bettye Johnson has captured an indepth perspective on the meaning behind the rose.
Down through the ages the rose has been revered and treasured not only for its beauty, but also for its symbolism. I have been asked why I chose the rose for the book cover of Secrets of the Magdalene Scrolls. I chose it is because to me it represents what Mary Magdalene, her life and her legacy symbolize.
The red rose was chosen because the color of a red rose indicates giving of one’s self for the purpose of greater evolvement. Red also indicates the material plane that we are now living on.
Not only is the rose an ancient symbol, it is also an ancient plant. The rose originally came from Persia, however rose fossils that have been found in Colorado and Oregon have been determined to be 32,000,000 years old. Yes, that is 32 million! It isn’t only in the United States where fossilized roses have been found. There is fossil evidence of roses, which grew in Mesopotamia many millions of years ago.
The rose is mentioned all throughout ancient history. There is evidence that the Romans imported masses of roses from Egypt. There are also stories of Cleopatra having the floor of the banquet hall carpeted with roses 2 feet deep for Mark Anthony.
In the Song of Solomon in the Bible, it is written, “I am the rose of Sharon…” along with in Isaiah, “I rejoice and blossom as the rose…” According to these words, the ancients knew something important to leave a message that I am the rose and I…blossom as the rose. These are early clues that the rose has always been a sacred symbol.
In researching the symbolism of the rose, I have found many interpretations. The rose carries the meaning of purity or heavenly, passion, transmutation, completion, of consummate achievement and perfection in addition to being an ancient symbol of joy. The Persian poet Sa’adi of Shiraz wrote of the rose garden as a garden of contemplation. Today most people think of the rose as a symbol for love. It is all of these meanings.
The rose has been used as a sign of silence in addition to secrecy. This is where the words sub rosa came into usage and is defined as under the rose. When secret societies and gatherings met in medieval times, a rose was hung from the ceiling at a meeting indicating a demand for discretion.
In Roman times the rose was sacred to Venus. After the fall of the Roman Empire, the symbolism changed with the rise of Christianity and the ancient meanings were changed when the Catholic Church began incorporating them into their beliefs. Instead of belonging to Venus, the rose became the flower of the Virgin Mary and she was deemed to be the Rosa mystica. The Roman Jupiter Capitolinus became St. Peter’s and the Temple of Juno Lucina became the Church of Ste. Maria Maggiore.
The Catholic rosary is said to have first started with rolled up dried roses made into beads and used for counting which evolved into the name rosary. In researching the meaning of the rose, I came across one statement, which said that to the Arabs, the rose was a masculine flower. Further research indicates it may have meant the masculine to them, however my research indicates it is definitely a feminine symbol.
There is a legend that there has been and could possibly be in existence today the Sisterhood of the Rose. The sisterhood is said to be composed of twelve women who work for the betterment of mankind. In some circles it is considered a myth of Mary Magdalene creating twelve groups and each group composed of twelve women who were taught to be wisdom keepers of the sacred knowledge.
The Knights Templar was instrumental in the building of magnificent Gothic cathedrals in France and other parts of Europe. In the Cathedral at Chartres there is a glorious Rose Window and perhaps the most famous. Actually there are other Rose Windows in the cathedral with the window over the main entrance considered the most beautiful. The Rose Windows began appearing in cathedrals around 1200 in France and spread to England, Italy, Spain and Germany.
The origin of the round Rose Window came from the Roman oculus, a Latin word for eye, embodying the concept of completeness and balance. Originally the Romans used the concept in building a round opening in the top of a dome and this eventually grew into a round stain glass window in churches.
The Rose Window operates on many levels. The symbolic meaning may be different for each person and touch her or him spiritually, meditatively and emotionally. There is another aspect of the Rose Windows in that geometry is utilized on three levels such as manifestation, hidden and symbolic. The rose, with a characteristic five-petal shape imitates the pentagram – a five-sided star also a symbol.
The labyrinth on the floor in the Chartres Cathedral in France has a rose in the center. The cathedral was built incorporating sacred geometry and there is no known record of who the architect(s) was or the names of the craftsmen.
Chartres Cathedral, it is alleged, was built to represent the form of the human. Looking at it from the air, it appears to be in the shape of a cross, however if one looks at Leonardo DaVinci’s drawing of man with his arms outstretched and the pentagram overlaid, the cathedral could very well be to represent human form.
A sixteenth century lexicon states that the rose is a symbol that has many very profound meanings in all branches of the Hermetic mystery. The Rosicrucian esoteric fraternity adopted the rose on a cross as their symbol. The cross chosen was one of equal lengths and not the crucifixion cross. Sir Francis Bacon is purported to have been a Rosicrucian and went so far as to wear roses on the toes of his shoes.
The mystery of the rose deepens and there have been clues left indicating there is a deeper meaning and within the folded structure of the rose there is a prosaic explanation in that it hides a secret inner core.
Having read esoteric literature, studied symbols for a number of years with extensive research, I have my own interpretation of the rose and the secret it hides in its inner core. It could be that the rose represents a labyrinth. The rose as a bud has very little odor, but as it gradually opens the sweet aroma becomes more powerful. What do the thorns mean? It could be that the thorns represent the adversities we overcome to get to the sweetness that is in the core of each of us.
Each of us is on a journey to explore and discover who and what we are. With each lifetime, we shed a role and a garment we choose. We carry with us only the wisdom we gained. Each petal of a rose represents a lifetime of wisdom and the more the rose opens up, we reach that secret inner core – the God within – our Holy Spirit. There is a yearning within each of us for reunion.
It is my concept that the rose is the perfect symbol for Mary Magdalene because she represents the Divine Feminine with all interpretations embodied into one. The Divine Feminine contains love, joy, secrecy, silence, achievement, wisdom, manifestation and righteousness along with undying – the divine power of a forever being. It represents completion.