Rose tattoos are among the most popular tattoo designs, especially in old school and classic tattoo styles. The rose flower is both beautiful and deeply symbolic, meaning that it will add artistic flair and meaning to any tattoo design. There are thousands of different rose tattoo design styles to choose from.
Like Love, Rose Tattoos Hurt
Rose tattoos are generally chosen because the flower represents love, passion and secrets. Ancient Celts associated the rose with their goddesses of love and beauty; Venus in Italy and Aphrodite in Greece. The stories of these two goddesses are so similar that there is a good chance that both societies were worshiping the same deity. Paintings of the love goddesses will often include rose flowers as a symbol of beauty, love and gracefulness. As a result, rose tattoos draw their meaning of love and passion from these two ancient goddesses.
Roses are associated with mystery and secrets. In ancient Rome, a rose was hung above a door when secret matters were being discussed in the room beyond. This practice inspired the phrase sub rosa, which translates to English as “under the rose”. The phrase is used in modern times in documents as a statement that the words to follow must be kept secret.
The association with love and secrets has earned rose flowers pride of place as the mascot of Valentine’s day, the festival of love. Alongside teddy bears and chocolates, roses are the favored gift for Valentines day, and often decorate the packaging of Valentine’s gifts. Rose tattoos will sometimes include other Valentines symbols such as hearts and teddy bears. Valentines day allows a person to give an anonymous gift to someone that they admire, becoming a secret Valentine.
Most breeds of rose flowers have thorns. Even the leaves are prickly, which means that cutting roses as a gift for a loved one can be a painful affair. In tattoo art, the meaning of a rose thorn is that love hurts. There is the pain of yearning for someone you love to return to you, the pain of losing someone you love and the pains of being in a relationship. So while roses smell sweet and the petals are soft, beneath this pretty presentation are sharp thorns that will draw blood if you do not move carefully.
A Rose Tattoo by any Other Name
In Shakespeare’s story of tragic love, Juliet says to Romeo, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” Essentially she states that it is the essence of a thing that is important, not the name that is given to the thing, that the sweetness of love and passion is not soured if it is called by another name. The use of roses as an expression of love appears again in the world of the theater; when an actor, singer or dancer has given an exceptional performance, the audience expresses their appreciation by throwing single roses onto the stage.
One of the world’s most famous rose designs is the Tudor rose. The years between 1455 and 1485 marked a series of battles known as the Wars of the Roses. These battles took place between the British families of Lancaster, whose family emblem was a red rose, and York, whose crest was a white rose. Henry Tudor finally brought an end to the fighting by taking the crown of England from Richard III in battle. To unite the two houses, Tudor (who was a distant relative of the Lancasters), married Elizabeth of York and combined the emblems of both houses to create the Tudor Rose emblem, a red rose with a white center. The Tudor Rose resembles a mandala, in that both designs are a symbol of unity, wholeness and balance. The Tudor Rose mandala is a popular tattoo design for patriots of England. Read more about mandala tattoos in The Spiritual Magic of Mandala Tattoos
The color of a rose tattoo can effect the meaning of the flower design. A red rose is generally given the meaning of love, passion and lust, whereas tattoos of delicate pink roses are a symbol of grace, desire and femininity. In times gone by, a yellow rose would have been associated with jealousy, but in modern times a tattoo of a yellow rose is a symbol of friendship and happiness. Blue roses don’t exist in nature – all blue roses are white roses that have been dyed to have a blue appearance. A tattoo of a blue rose is associated with mysticism, fantasy and royalty. “Black” roses aren’t pure black; they are actually either a very deep red or purple color. Red is the color of passion, love and danger, while purple is associated with spirituality, darkness and mystery.
Rose tattoos have been popular for a very long time and they have gathered several meanings over the years. Although many people agree that roses symbolize love, beauty and passion, few can agree on the more subtle symbols of the rose. So it is up to the person getting the tattoo to decide what the rose means to them and why they would like to include this beautiful flower in their tattoo design.
The rose is one of the few flower tattoos that is chosen by guys, and is a perfect accompaniment to tattoos of swords, dragons, skulls and other masculine symbols. For girls, rose tattoos can be small and sweet, or part of a large, elegant design that adds an erotic mystique to the feminine form.