The rose – myth and meanings
The custom of exchanging flowers may have less to do with romance and chivalry than with anxiety. For the shy or uncertain, handing over a bouquet is often the easiest way to express the sentiment.
Roses are among the oldest of cultivated flowers, with the first known to have grown in Asian gardens 5,000 years ago. In its untamed from the flower goes back even further; fossils of wild roses date back 35 million years.
Ancient myths, biblical stories, and fables all assigned meaning to flowers. In the early 1700s Charles II of Sweden introduced a new language to Europe when he brought the Persian poetical art called “the language of flowers” to the West. Floral lexicons were published throughout the 18th century, allowing secrets to be exchanged with a lily or lilac, and the entire conversation to take place in a bouquet. It seems the more popular flower, the more superstitions and meanings have been associated with it. The rose carries the most baggage by far.
The ancients explained the beauty of the rose through the myths of godly creation. The Greek goddess Chloris stumbled upon a beautiful dead nymph and turned her into a flower; Aphrodite added beauty; the three graces added brilliance, joy and charm. Dionysious donated fragrant nectar, while Zephyrus the west wind blew away the clouds so Apollo could shower the rose in the sun. The flower was then given to Eros, the deity of love, and named the “Queen of Flowers”.
The Romans had their own ideas on the rose’s origin. According to their legend, many suitors were lined up to marry a beautiful woman named Rodanthe, but she had little interest in any of them. These men were so full of love and desire that they became rowdy and eventually broke down the doors to her house. This episode angered the goddess Diana, who turned the woman into a flower and her suitors into thorns to teach them a lesson.
Whatever its origin, the rose is undeniably the best-known symbol of beauty and love. It is common knowledge that red roses mean I love you. A dozen of them makes the ultimate statement on Valentine’s Day, a tradition surely developed by those who measure value by quantity rather than quality.
Lesser-known nuances of meaning are attached to different colors and types of roses. If you are going to jump on the bandwagon and shell out the cash for your valentine, you’d better get the definitions straight. Red and white together mean unity, pink means grace and gentility, and yellow symbolizes joy. If you want to stir things up on February 14, send orange or coral roses to speak out your desire. Burgundy will compliment your sweetheart’s unconscious beauty (great to accompany a glass of red wine, not several bottles). Sweetheart roses are for couples who like nicknames, as they mean darling, dear, or honey, but if you call each other “Babycakes”, they should still do the trick. A single rose signifies simplicity, a nice statement to make if your pockets are empty. And don’t confuse white roses with white rosebuds; the first means you’re heavenly, while the second warns that you’re too young for love.
By Inger Lund
Did you know that…
– In countries such as England, the United States and Iran rose is the national flower.
– The oldest rose bush in the world grows in Germany. For almost 1,000 years it grows at the walls of Hildesheim Cathedral.
– There is such a variety of rose called Si (which means “yes”). Its buds are as small as grains of rice.
– Some varieties of wild roses can even be found in the Arctic Circle.
– Only in the 16th century roses were brought to Russia. And they were grown only in the palaces.
– Japanese biologists have brought a very interesting variety of roses, called Chameleon. In the morning its petals are bright red and in the evening they become almost pure white.
– Tale of Sleeping Beauty in some cultures is called “Wild rose”.
– In his poems Shakespeare mentioned roses more than 50 times.
– There are about four thousand songs about roses written in the US. The most famous – Moonlight and Roses, The Last Rose of Summer, Yellow Rose of Texas, Days of Wine and Roses, I Did not Promise You a Rose Garden, etc.