Most commonly associated with love and romance, rose is one of the most popular designs in tattoos. In fact, it’s one of the most beautiful flowers that you can give to show someone your love and affection, along with the expression of joy and sorrow. Apart from looking romantic, there are lots of symbolic meanings behind a rose tattoo, so let’s decode them for you to send the right message through your body art.
The Symbolism of Rose Flower
In Greek and Roman Mythology
Whether you believe in mythologies or not, you have to know that Greek and Roman mythologies are the same. It might be true that the Greek goddess Aphrodite also refers to the Roman goddess Venus, but that doesn’t mean the two cultures have the same belief. While ancient Romans worship their ancestors, ancient Greeks didn’t worship theirs.
Also, not all Romans and Greeks worship the same gods and believe the same stories. Just like any religion, the ancient mythology evolves as the time changes. If you believe in the gods and goddesses that were lived on Mt. Olympus, you’ll encounter some contradictions on different texts. However, we picked the mythologies that involve the mystical rose to help you decode the symbolism of your tattoo.
The Tale of Chloris and the Creation of the Rose
There is the story of Chloris—the goddess of flowers and spring. One day, she was out strolling and ended up on the dead body of a forest nymph. She made a decision to give a new life to her, changing her dead body into a flower. She called out to Zephyrus—the keeper of the west wind—to blow away the clouds in the heavens so Apollo could let the rays of the sun reach her body.
Aphrodite, Dionysus, and Chloris agreed that it was the most breathtaking flower, therefore called it as the “The Queen of Flowers.” On the other hand, Aphrodite called the plant as Rose—a dedication to her son Eros. In the story, Eros presented the rose as a bribe to the goddess of silence, Harpocrates to take care of his mom’s indiscretions which made the flower a symbol of silence.
Aphrodite and the Myths of the Rose
Do you know that in Greek mythology, the white rose represents chastity and loyalty? In fact, bushes of white roses bloomed when Aphrodite, the goddess of love, was born.
The other rose myth includes Aphrodite’s partner, Adonis, and how the white rose changed into red. When Adonis was out looking for a boar to kill, the envious Ares had privately sent the mad boar to hurt him. To avoid looking like a villain in the story, Ares warned Aphrodite to save his lover. As she runs to save Adonis, Aphrodite scraped herself on a white rose, spattering blood on its petals, and changing the flower red. Sadly, she was too late and Adonis already died. As Aphrodite cries, her tears drop into his blood, which gave birth to the anemone plant.
The Love Story of Cupid and Psyche
Romans also had the famous love story of Cupid and Psyche. Venus was jealous of Psyche because she’s the youngest and the most beautiful. Because of that envy, Venus assigned Cupid to support her vengeance, but he fell in love with Psyche instead and created a strategy to save her from the goddess’ wrath.
Venus made Psyche fall into a deep sleep, and Cupid rescued and eventually married her. Jupiter was so pleased by the marriage so he requested his daughters to create roses, spreading them into the land.
On the other hand, Eros was the reason behind the presence of a rose’s thorns. Do you know why? He actually loved his roses, but one day he was stung by a bee hiding inside the flower. He became angry and asked his mother’s help for vengeance. Not wanting to see her much-loved son so disappointed, Aphrodite gave Eros an enchanting quill of arrows to make a payback. Feeling justified, he returned to the garden, shooting arrows at the roses—and the thorns became the spots where Eros’ arrows made their mark.
Do you know that the rose was a symbol to show devotion to Roman goddess Venus? It’s also an icon that’s associated with Virgin Mary, which led to creation of other holy symbolism in Christianity like rosary and prayers.
Do you know that scents of roses were actually reported by people who made communication with angels in prayer? Some believe that angels use them as the sign of their presence. Also, roses are believed to be a symbol of love in miracles, while others believe that they are the symbols of the human soul.
It has been said that in the Garden of Eden when God created Adam and Eve, everything was perfect—and roses were without thorns. But when the two disobeyed God, they reaped the consequences of their actions, and the Bible states that the thorns appeared in the bushes, along in the rose.
In Ancient Egypt, roses were used to worship the Goddess Isis, the ideal mother and wife. When it comes to Sufism and Islam, rose has a place in their history from gardens to lyrical pieces and literature. In fact, some of their books include “The Rose Garden of Secrets” written by Mahmud Shabistari’s, along with the “The Rose Garden” by Saadi. Also, their Sufi master Jilani is most known as “the Rose of Baghdad”, showing that the beautiful flower has a sacred symbol in them.
In History and Patriotism
Do you know that the United States of the America adopted the rose as their national floral emblem? While Portland, Oregon got the “City of Roses” as its nickname, North Dakota adopted the wild prairie rose as its official state flower. Also, the red rose became a symbol of socialism in the United States.
In Europe, the Catalans celebrate Saint George’s Day to commemorate the patron saint while lovers give blood-red roses. In England, the Tudor dynasty created the Tudor Rose as their national flower—which dates back to the 15th century when a red rose represented the House of Lancaster and a white rose for the House of York, creating a War of the Roses between 1455 and 1487.
The Canadian province of Alberta picked the wild rose as its official provincial flower, while the capital of Jalisco—a Mexican city of Guadalajara—is called as the “City of Roses” too.
In Politics and Socialism
Do you know that the symbol of a rose with a fist was used by a French Socialist Party, and other social democratic parties in post-World War II in the Western Europe? The British Labour Party used a red rose symbol, and replaced it with a red flag. On the other hand, a black rose symbol was used by the Irish to signify rebellion against the British, who had a red rose as a symbol. In Germany, the White Rose symbolizes a World War II non-violent resistance group.
In Culture and Tradition
Have you heard the term “sub rosa” translated as “under the rose”? The phrase actually came from the ancient times where roses were used to mean secrecy or confidentiality. In fact, Romans would hang roses onto the ceilings during celebrations as a sign of secrecy—anything said under the influence of alcohol will remain confidential. In the Middle Ages, roses was a symbol that everyone used when swooning to secrecy.
Different Colors of Roses—and Its Symbolisms
A rose might be most known for being a symbol of love and romance, but do you know that different colors mean different meanings? Since it’s not just easy to change your tattoo colors, keep on reading for our guide, so you’ll know which color of rose suits you best.
Red Rose Tattoo
The symbol of love and romance, a red rose tattoo is perfect for someone who wants to show his appreciation for relationship. In fact, you might think of red roses when giving gifts to your loved ones, and having them on your tattoo will make you more romantic and lovable.
Most of the time, the thorns in a rose tattoo symbolizes sacrifice, though you may omit the detail in your tattoo if you want to keep it just romantic. Do you know that a bright red rose signifies romance, while a darker one means a love that has yet to be discovered? You might want to reconsider your tattoo color to reflect the perfect symbolism on your body art.
Yellow Rose Tattoo
A symbol of happiness, wisdom, and joy, a yellow rose tattoo is a perfect reminder for you to be always grateful despite the difficulties you’re facing.
Do you know that yellow roses are great for sending a joyful or even congratulatory message? In fact, it’s the perfect color of a rose tattoo if you’re seeking for a symbol of friendship. Just like the warm, cherry hue, the yellow roses can light up your life, making everything uplifting and alive. Do you know that yellow roses were first discovered in the Middle East? They actually lacked the sweet scent of red roses, but the European love affair for them emerged.
Orange Rose Tattoo
A symbol of optimism, love, friendship, and joy, an orange rose tattoo is perfect if you can’t pick between a red and yellow rose. If you have a deep love for nature, an orange rose tattoo fits your personality perfectly. Do you feel enthusiastic, passionate, grateful most of the time? Then an orange rose tattoo will speak for your mood and individuality.
If you’re feeling depressed, an orange rose tattoo will surely light up your day. However, you must know that an orange rose is not an organic flower. In fact, rose cultivators crossbreed the red and yellow roses just to create orange ones, giving a romantic flower a fun, cheery look.
Pink Rose Tattoo
The sweetest and most feminine rose color, a pink rose is great for expressing your thoughtfulness, passion, and appreciation in a more girly way. In fact, a pink rose tattoo is a symbol of grace and elegance too, giving you an edgy statement with your body art while keeping everything feminine and sophisticated.
Pink roses are a classic, but you may pick a certain shade to channel your individuality through your tattoo. While light pink roses are perfect for inspiring you to reach your life goals, dark pink roses are great for reminding you to be grateful each day in your life.
White Rose Tattoo
The perfect symbol of new beginnings, a white rose is the perfect tattoo design for you if you wish to start a new life whether you experienced setbacks, just got married, or shifted your career. A white rose tattoo can also symbolize chastity, innocence, and purity—perfect if you live in a conservative community or you were raised in a conservative family who view tattoos unpleasant.
The pristine white color of your rose tattoo can also express your hope for the future. Do you know that the white rose became the heraldic sign of the Duke of York in the 14th century? A great thing, it retained its connectedness to pure love and all things holy.
Black Rose Tattoo
Often associated with mystic things, sadness, grief, and death, a black rose is a common tattoo design for individuals with a gothic sense of style. Do you know that apart from skull tattoos, black roses are also the choice of Mexican people commemorating the Mexican Day of the Dead? Yes, if you want to honor your deceased loved ones, you may opt for a black rose tattoo too.
Before getting a black rose tattoo, you have to know that you cannot find it in nature—it’s actually dyed with a dark purple hue to a black hue. One of the most popular gothic and emo design on tattoos, a black rose combines the romanticism with a red rose while denoting the color of death.
Rose Tattoos with Other Symbolical Objects
When choosing a rose tattoo design, you have to decide how you’ll express your outmost personality in your body art, so don’t limit yourself to the lovely flower but instead think of other symbolisms that will complete your statement.
Apart from the color of the rose, you might want to think of a specific design or elements that will look great on you. Think of butterflies, crosses, clocks, barbed wire, skulls, wolves, moon, daggers, diamond, keys, vines, tree of life and such that will complete your story.
If you have a deep love for nature, you may even include trees, leaves, butterflies, mystical animals and earth on your rose tattoo. If you’re a spiritual person, think of the religious symbolisms you could incorporate into your body art. If you’re being sentimental, you could even think of a banner with a name of your special someone, along with your rose tattoo. If you want to move-on and forget that past hurtful relationship, think of incorporating a dagger with your rose tattoo to inspire you to move forward in your life.
Reasons to Get a Rose Tattoo
You value your privacy and you’re justifying your actions.
Do you still remember the “Tale of Chloris and the Creation of the Rose”? Aphrodite dedicated the rose to his son Eros, but he gave it as a gift to the goddess of silence, expecting him to cover up his mother’s indiscretions. Whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert, a rose tattoo can remind you the importance of silence and privacy from time to time, so you don’t have to push yourself to socialize with people when you don’t feel it.
You believe in the power of love.
The story of Aphrodite and Adonis made the white rose turned into red. If you feel like you’re going to do everything for the sake of love, a rose tattoo is a great reminder for you to be the best person for your beloved partner. If you like, you may even get a body art with your partner, so having the rose tattoo will remind both of you to do everything for the sake of your relationship.
You’re a devoted Christian who’s willing to do everything to obey God’s commandments.
With a powerful relationship to blood—that Aphrodite’s tears made an anemone flower grow—it is easily recognized how rose might be used to acknowledge the martyrs of Christianity. If you’re a loyal servant of God, you might use the rose tattoo as a symbol of your faith, and a reminder to do whatever it takes just to follow his commandments.
You have a deep love for your country.
The rose flower became one of the meaningful symbolisms in some political groups, as well as the official emblem of different states and countries. If you have your own stand in your government, a rose tattoo can be an expression on which side you do stand. If you don’t side with a particular political group, you can still get the rose tattoo to show your patriotism.
You’ll do everything to make your marriage a success.
Do you still remember the love story of Cupid and Psyche? Cupid fought for his love for Psyche even if it means bending the rules Venus gave him. There’s no perfect marriage, but there’s a successful one as long as you know what to do when the times of troubles come. Your rose tattoo can also be the perfect symbol for your successful marriage. In fact, some people even choose a rose tattoo design with a message of love to make their body art more expressive.
You want to show your appreciation on your femininity and beauty.
Rose is one of the most feminine designs in tattoos. If you wish to be expressive on your body art without looking too exaggerated and edgy, a rose tattoo will keep everything feminine and chic. In fact, it’s a great way to avoid looking like a hipster, especially if you were raised in a conservative community.
You want to be selfless and sacrificing.
The thorns in the rose can signify the pain and sacrifices you could do for the greater good. If you have some goals and beliefs that require sacrifice and comfort, you might think of a rose with thorns on your tattoo to give you a good reminder every time. If you like, you could even add the name of your loved one along with your rose tattoo to remind you to be sacrificing for that person.
Placement of Rose Tattoo
A rose tattoo is more flexible, and can be placed anywhere you like. A great thing, it will look great even if it’s just small. Depending on the design, scale, and expression you want to have, your rose tattoos could be placed on your hand, arms, back, legs, neck, and even foot. If you wish to add some beautiful quotes written along with your rose tattoo, placing them on your arm is the best idea.
When deciding for the placement of your rose tattoo, think if you want to include another symbol with it, or if you want multiple roses in one tattoo. A full set of roses with leaves will take more space than just a single rose. On the other hand, the rose tattoo without stems, thorns, and leaves will work best on wrists, hands, fingers, and even on the back of your ear.
Before deciding on the number of roses your tattoo will have, keep in mind that three roses say “I love you,” while one rose says “love at first sight”. While nine roses signify eternal love, ten roses mean “You’re perfect”. Yes, you can express more thoughts with the number of roses present in your tattoo.
By following our guide, you’ll be able to get the perfect rose tattoo that reflects your individuality.